“Josie Griffin?” The judge looked down her nose, over the rims of her small rectangular glasses. I popped up from my seat and sent my chair clattering backward.
“Yes, your honor,” I said as sweetly and innocently as I could muster. Kevin must have been laughing his ass off, seeing me like this. A flowery blouse buttoned up to my chin and a skirt down below my knees. I had my nose ring out and my hair (its natural dingy brown again) pulled into a low ponytail, exposing the dots of sweat lining my forehead. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of glancing his way, though. I was sure he was all slicked out in a jacket and tie like some young Republican. Asshole. He steals stupid things like gum and tennis balls and regularly buys pot from a guy in an ice cream truck, I wanted to yell. And he should be slapped for how terrible he kisses! But of course, I didn’t say any of that because my lawyer had warned me to be docile as a doorknob that day.
The judge glanced through her notes one last time then she removed her glasses and stared at me. “Seems to me, Miss Griffin, that you’ve been a pretty good kid up until now.”
I nodded and tried to look like the old version of me. The polite girl who was a cheerleader, the treasurer of her junior class, the straight-A student, the one who volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and organized bake sales for earthquake victims. The one my mom was always bemoaning got lost somewhere this summer.
“I guess you could call this a crime of passion,” the judge said while glancing at Kevin’s table.
Gag. I wanted to roll my eyes and say, He wishes, but I kept it all to myself, something I should have done a month ago before I got myself into this mess.
She looked back at me. “Do you have anything you’d like to say to the court?”
I cleared my throat. Ms. Sheldon, my lawyer (who looked more like a hockey player in a pencil skirt than a legal professional) had prepped me for this moment and my parents made me rehearse it like a 1000 times the night before as if I were prepping for the talent portion of a Miss Repentant American competition. Chin up, Josie! Mom would say. Confident but not so cocky. Try to look at least a little contrite.
“Your honor, I apologize for my actions,” I said, keeping my voice as steady as I could. “I know that I was wrong. I should not have bashed Kevin McDaniel’s windshield in with a baseball bat. I was upset and emotional over his treatment of me, but that’s no excuse for my behavior. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been in trouble.” Okay, so that wasn’t exactly true, but technically I’d never been in trouble with the law, so my lawyer said it was okay to say it under oath. “And I promise you, it will not happen again. I’ve learned my lesson and I would like to get through my senior year without another incident so I can go to college.”
Judge Levitz sighed and looked back down at her papers. “Very well. Judge rules you shall pay damages in the order of $950 to Mr. McDaniel for repair to his car, plus court fees in the sum of $50. You shall also be on probation for one year and perform 30 hours of community service. If your record remains clean for one year, you may petition the court for expungement of the charges from your permanent record. However, to ensure that you can control your temper in the future I am sentencing you…”
I stumbled backward. Sentencing me?
“…to six weeks…”
I gripped the chair behind me and nearly gasped. Was she sending me to juvie?
“…of anger management group therapy.”
I stood up straight. “Huh?”
The judge looked at me annoyed. “What’s that?”
Ms. Sheldon grabbed my elbow. “Nothing, your honor,” she said, squeezing my arm. “Thank you, your honor.”
“Case adjourned,” the judge said.
My mom threw herself at me as we headed into the hallway. “Oh thank god!” she sighed as she clung to me. “For a minute there I thought she was putting you in juvenile detention.”
I tried to look unconcerned even though my heart had just started beating normally again.
“It’s a little harsh,” Ms. Sheldon said as she swung her rain coat around her broad shoulders and pushed us through the crowded hallway. “I didn’t expect her to give you community service and anger management, but I guess the city has funding for a new therapy program so they’re ferrying a lot of kids into it as an experiment.” She chucked me on the shoulder and I nearly tripped. “Sorry about that, kid.”
“God, how lame.” I unbuttoned the top of my stupid blouse which was about to strangle me. “Anger management therapy? Will I have to talk about my feelings with a bunch of hot head losers?” At least it would be good material for my blog.
“Hey,” my dad said. His forehead, which you could see more and more of those days, was bright red. “You ought to be grateful, missy. What you did…”
“I know, I know, Dad. Please. I’ve been through enough today.” I untucked my shirt, and loosened a few more buttons, exposing the white tank top I had on underneath.
“A thousand dollars! It had to be the ’69 Camaro, didn’t it?” He shook his head and I rolled my eyes because I was so sick of hearing about how I defaced a beautiful vintage Chevy as if it were a Rennaisance sculpture. Whatevs. Kevin’s daddy has a whole lot full of those stupid vintage muscle cars. “You will pay me back every red cent,” my dad said.
“I know,” I told him for the ten millionth time since I bashed in Kev’s windshield.
“Jo. Hey, Jo.” Kevin’s voice came from behind me. I stopped and stiffened for two seconds, but I didn’t turn around. I kept weaving through the other people in the hall toward the big red door to freedom. “Jo!” he called again. “Come on, babe.”
The babe was what did it. I whipped around and pointed my finger at Kevin McDaniel’s chest. “Don’t you ever call me that again!” I spewed. Then I poked him in the sternum with every syllable, “I. Am. Not. Your. Babe.”
He held up his hands and stepped back, probably afraid I was going to punch him next. He looked like an idiot with his blonde hair parted to the side, wearing some stupid tan sports coat and blue and green striped tie—all of which I’m sure came right out of his father’s closet.
“You look like a used car salesman,” I told him with disgust.
He cocked an eyebrow at me. “And you look like yourself again.”
“Bite me,” I said and just as I was about to turn around, I saw Madison peering out from behind him. She wore a body-hugging purple dress with a raggedy asymmetrical hem and black slashes across the front. “You!” I growled. “I can’t believe you would have the nerve…
“Josie, I…” Madison started to say but I shot her the look of death and she shut her mouth.
“And in that dress!” I said.
She looked down at herself, smoothing the fabric over her hips. “What?”
“Zombie Apparel?” I rolled my eyes. “Then again, you never did have any imagination. Which is why you had to steal my boyfriend instead of getting your own!” I stopped. It wouldn’t do me any good to go after my ex-best friend right outside the judge’s chambers.
“Come on, Josie.” Mom caught my elbow and turned me toward the doors. “They aren’t worth anymore of your trouble. You’d only regret it.”
Mom pulled me into the gray drizzle of that mid-August day and I breathed in deeply. “I’m glad that’s over.” I raised my face to the sky, letting the moisture cover my cheeks.
“Me, too.” Mom searched her bag for an umbrella. “I hope we never have to do this again.”
While we stood there, Kevin and Madison came out the door. He had his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into him. They whispered together as they hurried down the courthouse steps toward another person standing at the bottom under a giant red golf umbrella. Chloe. Bitch. My other ex-best friend who didn’t have the courtesy to mention that Kevin and Madison were screwing around behind my back. The three of them huddled under the umbrella beneath one of the Zombie Apparel billboards that had sprung up like mold around the city in the past few months.
“God, I hate those ads,” I said.
Mom opened her sensible brown umbrella to cover both of us. “Poor girls look emaciated,” she said, studying the sickeningly skinny stick figures in the billboard, all hip bones and dark eyes under masses of long tangled hair. The center girl in the ad wore the same dress Madison had on. Across the bottom of the billboard, scrawled like blood red graffiti, were the words “Zombie Love Attack!”
A sharp barking noise, almost a laugh, leapt from my mouth. “It’s the perfect caption, though, isn’t it?” I had half an urge to snap the shot of my brain-dead ex friends beneath that stupid catchphrase and post it on my blog, but they moved away before I could get out my phone.
As I watched them go (no doubt heading to Kevin’s latest meat-head muscle car plucked right off his daddy’s lot) my chest hurt, but I wouldn’t cry. I pushed down that sadness and let it turn bitter in my gut. “You know what?” I said to my parents as the rain began to fall in quick sharp pellets. They both looked at me and waited. “I don’t regret what I did for minute.” My mom’s mouth dropped open and my dad looked like I’d sucker punched him.
“Good god, Josephine!” Dad ran his hands through what remained of his hair. “Maybe you do need anger management therapy.”
“Maybe so,” I said as Kevin, Madison, and Chloe turned the corner out of my sight. I closed my eyes and remembered the aluminum bat in my hands. The way it thunked down on the trunk of his car as he scrambled out the passenger side door, yanking up his pants. I saw Madison’s face, staring at me in horror from the backseat. For just a moment I smiled as I remembered slamming the bat over and over onto the windshield. But my glee was short-lived because that feeling of the glass cracking into a thousand pieces under the weight of my fury was the same as the shattering of my heart that night.