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Truth of the World

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Ashlee Simpson was in her own world.

Her dad, Joe, had walked towards the dining area and caught Ashlee standing in the doorway, school uniform on and staring out the window as if she was in deep thought. She had always been a dreamer.

“Morning Ash,” Joe said, kissing Ashlee on the cheek and pulling her out of her trance. Ashlee looked up and smiled at her dad as he sat down at the dining room table, the newspaper in front of him.

“Do you want toast Dad?” Ashlee asked as she tied her red-brown hair in braids.

“Thank you sweetheart,” Joe replied. As Ashlee entered the kitchen to grab some bread, her mum, Tina, walks in while calling for Ashlee’s brother.

“David! Where’s David?” Tina asks her husband.

“David!” Joe calls out a little louder.

Tina then noticed her daughter standing in the kitchen and asks, “Did you finish Emma?” As the principal of the local primary school in Cronulla, Tina was always lending books from the library for Ashlee to read, mainly about female empowerment.

“Yeah it was great,” Ashlee just says, not noticing her mum smiling as she drank her tea.

Ashlee hears footsteps approaching the dining area. She turns her head to see David with only his school shirt on, no pants. “Can you put some pants on?” Ashlee asks with a little disgust in her voice.

“I have a strange rash on my inner legs,” David says with a bit of concern. “Up near my –“

“Yes David.” Joe interrupts, not wanting his son to continue what he was about to say. “Alright, breakfast is not the place.”

However Tina was already kneeling down to inspect the red rash on David’s thighs and says, “Oh you’re probably just chafing”, as if it was a normal topic to be brought up in the early morning over toast and coffee.

“Ah I’m with Dad, can we not talk about this while we’re eating?” Ash asks with more disgust this time.
Tina ignores her, however, already standing up and grabbing her schoolwork for the day. “I have to go. Ashlee, can you look after David please?”

Ash stops spreading the butter on the bread and turns to her mum. “You cannot be serious,” she says in disbelief.

“And yet you know I am,” Tina replies, patting her son’s hair goodbye before walking out of the room and to the garage.

David looks back to his mum and says, “I’m ten and she’s not looking there.” Ashlee stares at her brother in a mixture of disgust and shock, and then looks to her dad, who just gives her a look back and adjusts his glasses, continuing with the article he was reading.

--

Sarah Orzechowski was sitting in front of the mirror, trying to squeeze a pimple that had appeared on her chin.

It only made it look worse, so she gave up and grabbed the foundation from her dresser table, dabbing a little bit on her chin and on her forehead where she had popped another pimple. It was an improvement at least.

Sarah gave herself one last look of her reflection and taking in her features; her large blue eyes, long jet-black hair and sharp jaw line, before leaving her room and lazily walking across the living room towards her parent’s bedroom.

Sarah’s dad, Roger, was usually up earlier than the rest of family. It was part of his morning routine to take a drive to the beach, whether to just observe the ocean or have a surf, before coming back home to get ready for his job at his art studio. So it was no surprise for Sarah to see her mum, Pam, sleeping alone in their bed. Sarah quietly tucked herself in while trying to not wake her mum up, but the bed was a waterbed, so Pam woke up to the rippling movements of the mattress made by her daughter.

“Hey poppet,” Pam mumbled, still half asleep. “Are we late?”

“Yeah, I had a dream,” Sarah replied while snuggling in closer to her mum.

“Bad or good?”

“Well I was in this park,” Sarah continues dreamily. ”And there were all these rabbits around me, and they started talking to me.”

“What were they saying?”

“You’re pretty, do you have any carrots, stuff like that.”

“Hmm,” Pam mumbles again, and Sarah closes her eyes, almost falling asleep again. But then she heard footsteps approaching.

“Oh hello.” Sarah opens her eyes and smile as she sees her dad in the doorway. “Still asleep are we?”

“Mm, we are,” Pam responds.

“Well that just won’t do.”

Roger walks closer to the bed, looks at his wife and daughter, and jumps on the mattress.

Pam laughs while Sarah squeals as she’s rocked by the ripples caused by her dad, proceeding to fall out and land hard on the floor.

“Fell overboard!” Roger yells out jokingly while laying down in bed next to Pam.

“I hate you,” Sarah replies with lightness in her voice.

“Go and get educated, my darling,” Roger tells her as Sarah crawls across the bed and out of their room to get ready for school.

--

Ashlee and Sarah were sitting at their bench in science class. In front of them, a white mouse was scratching at the walls of the glass bottle it was contained in.

“He’s joking isn’t he?” Sarah asks, staring wide-eyed at the mouse.

“I don’t think so,” Ashlee says, looking at the blackboard where their science teacher, Mr Candy, was writing the procedure for dissection.

Mr Candy turned around and noticed their terrified faces. “Girls, don’t look so horrified. They’re not kittens, they’re rodents. And this is the most humane way.”
The last sentence was directed at the rest of the class.

“Looks like Lioness, you remember Lioness?” Sarah continues to talk to Ashlee, still shocked that they have to not only kill, but also cut open this little creature.

“Your neighbour?” Ash asks, confused.

“My guinea pig,” Sarah corrects.

Mr Candy continues on. “Now take your cylinders of carbon dioxide, attach the hose to the air hole,” he pauses as he watches his students follow his instructions. “That’s it, and open the cylinder. Try not to inhale. In a moment the creature will die.”

“If anyone doesn’t want to kill theirs I’ll do ‘em,” a voice calls out from the back of the room, resulting in the entire class erupting with laughter. It belonged to Joe Trohman, always the class clown and one of the members of the infamous Greenhills Gang.

“Thank you Dr Trohman, I think everyone’s just fine,” My Candy mutters without any amusement in his voice.

Ashlee looked back at where Joe was sitting, her gaze lingering at his wild curls and attractive face before her eyes caught someone else staring at her with narrow eyes.

It was Hayley Williams, another member of the Greenhills Gang.

It was known that there were three main sections of Cronulla Beach – South Cronulla, North Cronulla and the Greenhills. Everyone was trying to make it to Greenhills. That was where the prettiest girls and the best surfers hung out. They were the popular kids at school and were admired everywhere they were seen. Hayley was considered the Head Girl of the Greenhills, along with her friend Victoria Asher, or Vicky, as people know her. There were more girls, but those two were at the top.

Ashlee and Sarah were not part of the Greenhills at all. Instead they were stuck in South Cronulla, also known as Dickheadland. That was the section where the bad surfers, the wogs and the Bankies swarmed.

That’s what Ashlee and Sarah were. Dickheads.

Ashlee turned her head back towards the front of the classroom in embarrassment as Mr Candy kept talking through the process. “Ok people, now in a minute, grab your spiky things and we’re going to insert them into their eye to pierce their brain so to ensure that they are dead.

“Then,” the teacher continues with too much enthusiasm, “grab your scalpels, and we are going to look at the beauty of an animal, and its internal systems. It really is remarkable.”

“I can’t do this,” Sarah whispered to Ash with the colour drained from her face.

“Faint,” Ashlee suggests.

Sarah slowly slides off her stool and falls to the ground.

“Sir she fainted.”

--

Pete Wentz was basking in the sun with his eyes closed during lunch.

He had skipped his morning classes to go surfing with his best mate, Brendon, because his main excuse for missing English was this: he already speaks English.

It had been worth it. Both Pete and Brendon had caught some great waves that morning, and surfing was a form of escapism to Pete. He loves waiting out for the perfect set, the cold water that hits his face when he ducks under whitewash and the sense of euphoria he gets once he is standing up, riding the energy that propels him across the water.

It’s the thing that Pete does best.

The water is his sanctuary. His second home.

It suddenly gets dark and Pete opens his eyes to see his girlfriend Vicky standing over him, her head blocking the sun.

“I was looking for you,” Vicky greets him.

“Well I guess you can stop,” Pete greets her back, looking through his hair.

“Thought you were gonna meet me at the canteen.”

“I got busy. The waves were good.”

Vicky isn’t surprised with that answer. “Right. You better pash me then, make it up.”

“Do I have to?” Pete asks with a growing smile.

“Come on,” Vicky retorts back with a little seduction as she takes out the gum she was chewing. “Pash me off.”

Pete lifts his head to meet Vicky’s lips. With wide mouths and sucking each other’s tongues, the kiss is out in the open as the rest of the Greenhills look on, whistling and cheering for them.

“Vicky!”

Pete and Vicky break the kiss to look up at Mrs Grantham, the principal.

“Really? Next year, when you, no doubt, are a stripper you’re gonna clunk one.”

“Sorry, Mrs Grantham,” Vicky mocks as the principal walks away to continue monitoring the rest of the students. “Didn’t mean to make you jealous.” The gang cheers on Vicky for her retort.

Further away at another bench, Ashlee and Sarah look on, admiring the Greenhills from a safe distance.

“That Pete guy is so good looking he’s like a god,” Ashlee says to Sarah as they both stare at Pete with his mates, Brendon, Patrick and Joe, surrounding him.

They take in all of Pete’s features. His sun-kissed tan skin, his slender body with strong muscles, his black hair that clumps together from weeks and months of soaking in saltwater. His wide smile that crinkles his eyes and lights up the room.

“Better than,” Sarah agrees and turns to look at Ashlee. “I’d let him do it with me.”

Ashlee scoffs at that. “He can’t be your first, you don’t even know what to do.”

Just as she says this, Ashlee’s boyfriend, Ben, had walked up to her, holding her favourite ice-cream in his hand.

“Hey. Got you a Splice.”

Ashlee happily accepts the ice-ream. “A Splice is nice I could eat one twice,” she sings. Sarah just stares with a little embarrassment.

“Right. See ya,” Ben says.

Sarah keeps staring at him as we walks away and says to Ashlee with a shrug, “You have to drop him.”

“He’s nice, he got me a Splice and a Splice is nice –“

“Ashlee!” Sarah cuts her off before she can finish.

“What?”

Sarah looks back to where the Greenhills were sitting before turning back to Ashlee.

“We can’t be one of them, if you’re pashing dickheads from South Cronulla.”

Ashlee looks back to where Ben walked off to, and quickly turns to watch the Greenhills again.

Sarah was right. Ben had to go.

--

Ashlee and Sarah were walking out of the main building after the final bell rang to signal the end of another school day.

“I have to go see my mum,” Ashlee tells Sarah as they descend down the stairs towards the bus stop.

“Oh hurry. I want to sit at the back of the bus,” Sarah replies before Ashlee walks away.

Ash chuckles at this because the back of the bus is reserved entirely for the Greenhills. “We can’t just sit at the back of the bus Sarah, just change seats like that.”

“Well not at the very back of the bus but close to them.” Sarah lowers her voice and looks over her shoulder to see the Greenhills walking behind them. “They see us as goody-goodies.”

“Well, we’re not,” Ashlee responds as she starts walking off. She then quickly turns to her best friend and brings two fingers to her lips. “We should start smoking.”

Sarah brings her two fingers up to her lips as well, making sure Ashlee sees before she runs towards her mum’s office.

And Ashlee made it just in time before their bus arrived. The two girls had made sure to be the first ones on the bus and to get the seats that were furthest from the front, but not so far back as to avoid invasion of the Greenhills.

Of course, as they were waiting in their chosen seat, a girl had walked up to them, waiting from them to move to the front.

“What?” Ashlee asked, feigning innocence. “You’re up there now.”

The girl scoffs. “No way moll.”

“Knick off or I’ll smash you!” Sarah says back, standing from her seat as if she would fight. The girl gives them a look, and then gives up, moving to the seat next to her.

Ashlee and Sarah burst out laughing but then quickly smooth their faces as the Greenhills come on the bus. Meagan gave them a confused look, so did Hayley. The boys didn’t notice them as they were talking about going to the beach. Once they were all settled in their seats, it was done.

Ashlee and Sarah had successfully sat at the back of the bus.

“We did it,” Sarah whispers to Ashlee as they relax in their seats.

Unfortunately, Sarah gets pelted with something wet.

They didn’t have to turn their heads to know who did it.

They stayed seated as Meagan and Hayley threw sucked orange segments at their heads.

--

Dale Wentz was standing at her ironing board, staring out the window in a trance when she heard the door click open and then shut.

“Pete?” she calls out as she resumes ironing her dress for tonight.

“Hey Mum,” Pete greets her as he walks over to the kitchen.

“I made some Anzacs for you.”

Pete sees the oat biscuits still on the baking tray. He stacks two of them on top of one another. “Thanks,” he says before biting the sandwiched biscuits at once.

Dale chuckles. “Classy.”

Pete looks up to his mum and sees her black hair all wispy. “Your hair, what’d you do to it?”

“I had it done,” Dale remarks, seeming proud and shy at the same time. “Don’t you like it? It’s very modern.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say. Looks kinda like the Opera House.”

Dale laughs. “Really? What, bad?”

“Mum, I’m teasing you, looks great,” Pete smiles at his mum as he stuffs more Anzac biscuits in his mouth.

“We’re going to go to the club tonight.” By ‘we’, Dale meant herself, Pete and his dad, Peter, who works as a dentist in the city. “Your father will be home at seven.”

Pete takes more biscuits and just says, “Ok”, before heading out of the kitchen towards his room.

Dale just looks on as he walks away. She looks down at the pink dress. “Maybe I should wear the blue dress.”

“Yeah sure,” Pete calls out, not really paying attention.

“Your father likes me in blue,” Dale mutters to herself before staring out the window again.

A few hours have past before Dale is opening Pete’s door, her son not noticing as he has Richard Clapton blasting in his headphones while reading his surfing magazine.

“Hi,” Dale calls softly. “Sorry, Pete.” Pete turns his attention to his mum. She’s wearing the blue dress for the club.

“Your father’s so tired he’s going to stay in town.”

Pete scoffs and continues to read. “Right.” He’s not surprised. It wasn’t uncommon for his dad to stay over at a hotel for a night or two.

“Yeah, he’s got an emergency root canal in the morning so it’s best than coming all this way in traffic.” She sounds upset, but Pete continues to ignore Dale as she starts picking up his clothes from the floor. “So I thought maybe I could cook dinner and we could chat about school. Or we could get fish and chips and bring them back here and you could have half a cheeky beer?”

Pete knows she’s trying but he shakes his head. “Nah, I’m still gonna go to the club Mum. And I reckon you should come too, meet some people.”

This time it’s Dale that shaking her head. “Not without your father.”

“You could make some new friends.”

“It’s not really right.”

“Jesus.” Pete sounds exasperated. He knows his mother is shy and timid, always cooped up in their home. It wouldn’t hurt for her to go out on her own for just one night.

“So, fish and chips then?” Dale keeps suggesting but Pete ignores her again, only looking back up once she is out of his room.

He lets out a sigh as he throws the magazine on his bed, swinging his legs over until an idea pop in his head. Pete quickly removes the needle from the record before climbing onto his desk, crawling out of his window and heading to the club.

--

The Simpsons are seated at an indoor table at the local club, three of them scrolling through their menus as Tina decides on her usual ham steak and pineapple.

“Can I just get sweets?” David asks.

“How about you just get a clip around the ears instead?” Joe threatens, not looking up.

David thinks for a second. “And then just sweets?” Both parents just laugh.

As Ashlee decides on a bowl of chips, Hayley and her mum, Cristi, walk in with a baby stroller, carrying a little boy. Tina looks up and says a hello to Cristi, who smiles back.

Tina then greets Hayley. “Hi Hayley.”

“Mrs Simpson,” is all she says back.

“Hi Hayley,” Ashlee tries to call to her but she’s already walking away, obviously ignoring her.

“Who wants to start?” Tina suddenly announces.

Ashlee groans. The Simpsons played this game once every week over dinner. Every member of the family had to say something about the week that was interesting, or at least the biggest thing that had happened to them. “Do we have to?”

Joe seemed very excited as he set his glasses on the table. “I’ll start. We got a new computer at work today. It’ll calculate all the statistics of a month of research, in a day. It’s truly amazing.” Tina and David seemed legitimately intrigued about this but Ashlee only put on a disinterested smile.

David was next. “I made the cricket team for the grand final next week.”

This confused Tina. “I thought you were averaging six runs a game.”

“I was, and then I got dropped. And they put Phil in, but he’s done three golden ducks in a row, so I’m back in.”

“Oh, congratulations,” Tina said as both she and Joe clapped for their son. Ashlee wasn’t paying attention though; she was looking for Sarah to show up.

“Ash, biggest thing for you this week?”

“Um” – quickly, think of something – “the book Mum gave me.”

She was talking about the new book Tina lent her; it was Persuasion by Jane Austen. Her mum seemed pleased by this. “Oh do you like it?”

“Yeah mum it’s great.” Ashlee wanted this to be over now. “Mum, what about you this week?”

“Um, my fourth grade teacher is looking a bit shaky, 10% of my budget got slashed, but no fatalities so that’s a bonus.”

Ashlee started standing form her seat. “Can I go see if Sarah’s here?”

“When dinner’s finished,” Tina replied sternly, making Ashlee sit down again.

As Joe was asking what drink she wanted, Sarah walked in and Ashlee was out of her seat in a flash, pushing Sarah towards the door to get outside.

“Ashlee!” Tina called out but Ashlee was gone. She then saw two figures with a drink in their hands walking to their table. They were Roger and Pamela Orzechowski.

It was funny that while Ashlee and Sarah were best friends (some could call them inseparable), their parents could barely be called acquaintances. Roger worked as an artist for his own design business, while Joe studied marine life at the pier. Pam was a free spirit who left everything out in the open, whereas Tina was grounded and kept her emotions in check. Both sets of parents were complete opposites.

Pam was the first to say something. “Hello there.”

Joe gives a small wave as Tina looks over Pam’s colourful dress. “Oh, you look nice.”

“Yeah, you too.”

“Haha, thanks for lying,” Tina replies, almost self-deprecating.

“She’s tired,” Joe only says. There’s an uncomfortable silence before Roger breaks it.

“How’s school?”

Tina smiles to Roger. “Great.”

“You realise that you’ve been at that school since you were five?”

“I try not to think about it.”

“I think it’s nice to have that continuity,” Pam comments.

“And she’s great at it,” Joe says as he looks over to his wife smiling at his compliment.

Roger continues. ”To think the stories that I could tell those impressionable kids about their Headmistress.”

Tina lets out a chuckle. “Boring stories of me trying to do the right thing all the time?”

“Yeah.”

“And it’s Principal now. I’ve always hated Headmistress, it always sounded like I was the chief whore.” Tina says this proudly and both Roger and Pam burst out laughing. Tina has a giggle herself but her husband isn’t going along with the joke.

“Tina, it’s not appropriate.”

The laughing stops and the uncomfortable silence is back as the adults down their drinks.

--

“Look at him.”

Ashlee and Sarah were standing by a random car in the carpark, observing the Greenhills from a safe distance as they were sprawled out in their panel vans, smoking cigarettes or joints of weed

Earlier they had seen Ben and decided that it was the right time for Ashlee to drop him. It had actually been easy. Mainly because Sarah offered to do it. All it took was for Sarah to walk up to Ben, say “You’re dropped” and walk away.

Now they had all their attention and admiration on one guy in particular. He was the oldest in the gang at 19 years of age and by far the top surfer out of all the boys. Bleach-blonde hair, light stubble on his face and a little shorter than average, but just as gorgeous as all the others. The girls around him were laughing at something he said.

“Billie Joe Armstrong, he’s a complete doll,” Sarah remarked.

Ashlee had to agree with that. “He looked at me at the shops the other day.”

Sarah gasped at this. “He didn’t.”

Ashlee nodded vigorously. “Yeah. Almost had a heart attack, thought I was gonna die.”

They turned their attention back to where Billie was until they heard someone run out of the club and vomit all over the ground. Oh dear.

“Mr Candy?”

Their science teacher looked their way. “Morning girls,” he managed to say without spewing again before stumbling back inside.

Ashlee and Sarah just stare at each other before bursting into giggles, as it was not often that you see your teacher on a Friday night drunk.

Ashlee then goes to open her purse. “Look what I stole.” Sarah looks inside to see a fresh pack of F & J Castle cigarettes.

Sarah was impressed. “Unreal.” They turn their attention back to the Greenhills when they notice Hayley and Vicky walking toward the toilet blocks. Maybe they could use the ciggies to good use, so Ashlee and Sarah started following them.

They stopped just outside the opening as they could hear the girls talking.

“How’s Pete?” That was Hayley’s voice.

Next was Vicky. “He’s not even talking.”

“Cheer him up then,” Hayley is suggesting as Ashlee and Sarah decide to walk in. Hayley stops playing around with her red hair as she sees the two girls in the mirror. Both her and Vicky turn to look at Ashlee and Sarah, who just stare back wide-eyed and suddenly mute, as they had not planned on what they were supposed to do now.

Sarah is the first to break the silence. “Hi.”

Hayley and Vicky continue to stare blankly as if she had spoken another language, clearly disgusted because why the fuck are they here, in their presence?

Sarah remembers the ciggies. “Want a smoke?”

Ashlee holds her arm out in a dramatic gesture and opens the pack. “It’s your international passport to – “

“Shut up and give us one,” Hayley cuts her off while grabbing two cigarettes. Ashlee and Sarah both remain silent as she walks out, Vicky following behind who grabs two for herself.

“Molls.”

Ashlee and Sarah both stare in astonishment. That was the most interaction they got from anyone in the Greenhills ever. It was a start.

--

Pete was lost in his thoughts as Brendon offered the bottle of white wine he was drinking. “Round of vino?”

Pete lets out a deep sigh as he grabs the bottle from Brendon and takes a big swig. It usually took a couple of joints to help him loosen and open up, but tonight, he wasn’t feeling it. It was like the energy had been sucked out of him from staying in his house for too long because of how lifeless it was, even though it was lived in.

Pete looks over to where Vicky is talking to Hayley. They catch each other’s eyes and Vicky tries to give him one of her seductive smiles but it falls flat when Pete doesn’t smile back.

Brendon has noticed how quiet he’s been so far. “So you gonna talk tonight?”

Pete turns away from Vicky to Brendon. “Piss off,” he says as he gives the wine back to his mate.

Brendon seems happy with that response when he smiles. “That’s better, just takes a bit of practise.” He takes a swig for himself.

“Come on, let’s go to the beach.”

“Trick, no.”

Both boys turn to see Patrick with his girlfriend Ashley-with-a-‘y’ (or Halsey, as she called herself), backed into a car. Halsey is trying to push him away but Patrick’s just laughing, refusing to give up his need to get off.

“Just a quicky.”

“Trick, stop it!” Halsey finally pushes him away and tries to leave, but Patrick keeps persisting as he hauls her up by the hips. “TRICK, STOP!”

Everyone is now watching the scene happen in front of them, with Halsey shouting to get down and kicking her legs out, but Patrick still has a firm grip on her. No one is intervening; they’re all too stoned to do anything so they just laugh.

“Who’s that?” Ashlee asks as she and Sarah are watching the commotion happening from the balcony of the club.

“I think that’s Ashley-with-a-‘y’. Halsey,” Sarah clarifies.

“Isn’t she supposed to be smart?”

Sarah shrugs her shoulders. “Maybe, she’s not that smart if she’s with Trick though.”

“Hmm,” Ashlee responds with as they snack on snake lollies, watching as Patrick carries Halsey away and her yelling from the top of her lungs.

--

Tina is mingling with a group of people at a table when she notices her husband, sitting alone, drinking the Scotch in his glass. She walks over and asks, “What are you doing?”

Joe turns his gaze to his wife. “I’m sitting.”

“Well you could be sociable.”

Joe huffs in resignation. “I was. There’s only so much talk about how the Sharks are going to do this year or whether Malcolm Fraser’s a poofta I can do. I’ve done it.”

Tina’s disappointed. Joe has always been the introvert but she was hoping for her husband to just try and interact with someone. “It looks weird, like you’re up yourself.

“You could sit with me.”

“I came to have a good time,” she stresses as she walks towards the dance floor, drinking her wine and leaving Joe alone again.

--

Pete and Vicky had left the club an hour ago and now were at the headland, where the entire town of Cronulla was stretched along the coast and the streetlights make up for the starless sky. The roar of the ocean filled the void between the two as Pete was throwing rocks and Vicky was trying to think of something to pull her boyfriend out of his daze.

“Do you like my jeans? Ace huh?” Vicky asks and Pete looks over. It’s working, so Vicky continues the story. “Five finger discount. God, I was packing death. I put them on in the change room and I walk out, and this security guard follows me all the way to the front and I’m thinking ‘I’m so dead’. But nah,” she huffs a little and cocks her hip slightly. “He was only checking out my arse.”

Pete looks down at her jeans. The light blue denim is tight around her hips and thighs and then it flares past her knees. He nods. “Yeah, they’re nice.”

Fifteen minutes later, Vicky is on her knees and her mouth is wrapped around Pete’s cock, while Pete is threading his fingers through her hair as he just stares at the night sky.

“Do you ever watch clouds float by and think, ‘can’t believe you’re full of rain’?”

Vicky lets go of his dick with a slick ‘pop’ because she’s getting tired of this now. “Are you gonna finish or what? My jaw’s killing me.”

“Sorry, yeah,” Pete apologises and his dick is warm again. Vicky keeps sucking hard and Pete doesn’t tear his eyes away from the pitch-blackness above him even when he comes in her mouth.

--

The drive home was dead quiet.

Joe had flicked through the radio stations and landed on one that was playing jazz, to try and fill the void of silence inside the car. It only lasted about five seconds before Tina turned off the music, deciding that the rumble of the tyres on the road was better for white noise.

Joe tries to catch his wife’s eye but she’s already looking out her window in the passenger seat. He knows why Tina is upset with him, but small talk with lots of people isn’t something that Joe is the best at. He prefers keeping to himself most of the time, even if it makes him look like a snob.

“I think I saw a –“

“Shut up.” Ashlee does not want to hear what David has to say.

“You shut up,” he tries to argue back.

“You’re such an idiot.”

“Just making conversation.”

It’s silent again.

Tina keeps looking out the window. Tonight, she just wanted to not be Tina Simpson the Principal, because that’s who she was for six hours a day, five days a week. She wanted to lower the shield of authority and just have fun, socialise with people that weren’t students or the parents of those students. And it did work for a small moment.

However, Joe couldn’t play pretend for a few hours, wasn’t able to come out of his introvert shell. Tina loves her husband, but it was almost irritating.

“You’re close to the gutter.”

“I’m fine,” Joe deadpans.

From the backseat, David asks Ashlee, “Why’d you drop Ben?”

Ashlee whips her head around because she does not want to have this conversation at all. “David, I’m warning you.”

But he still goes on whining. “He used to always give me a Red Skin, and then I just saw him and he Chinese burned m. Look –“

Ashlee rolls her eyes and thumps David on his thigh, causing him to yell out.

“OW! Mum, she hit me!”

“He’s being an idiot.”

David pushes his sister at that retort and instantly it’s turned into a hitting-and-shoving competition. “Enough!” Joe attempts to control his children but it’s obviously not working as they’ve now got a hand in each other’s hair, grunting in pain. Joe takes his attention off the road to smack both of them on their legs. “Settle down or you’ll walk home!”

Ashlee and David stop fighting, but not without giving each other the death stare before turning back to their windows.

“Might be safer if we did,” Tina remarks with sarcasm dripping in her voice.

It’s silent again for the rest of the way.

--

The drive home was quite eventful.

It was easy to tell that Roger and Pam had a wonderful night as they were laughing and singing together, even if it was evident that the both of them were clearly drunk.

Pam turns her head to the backseat where her daughter was sitting. “Was it a good night sweetheart? Kiss any boys?”

“Mum,” Sarah groans as she rolls her eyes, but smiles at her mum nonetheless.

“Camptown ladies sing-a dis-a song,” Roger continues to sing and Pam is in hysterics again because he got it absolutely wrong.

“No no. It’s, ‘The Camptown ladies sing this song, doodah doodah’.”

The two adults continue to bellow out the Camptown Races song as Roger turns left onto the next street, however he turns the steering wheel a little too sharply, which causes the car’s front wheels to jump the kerb and the whole family violently jerks forward as the car comes to a stop on a grassy hill.

“Dad!” Sarah yells out, but her parents seem unphased.

“Well,” Roger concludes as he looks out his window. “I think it’s possible that I’m too drunk to drive.”

Pam bursts out laughing again, which in turn makes Roger laugh with her. “I certainly am.”

“Are you alright back there, darl?” Roger asks Sarah as she stares at the sight of her parents in disbelief, wondering how they just brushed off the fear of a near car accident.

Suddenly, Pam smacks her husband on the arm. “Hey I’ve got an idea, follow me.”

Both parents exit the car, their daughter still sitting in the backseat as she watches them run up the hill through the windscreen. Sarah doesn’t know what they’re up to and who knows what they could do in their drunken state, so she bolts out and chases after them.

Sarah slows down as she sees her mum and dad run onto the beach, Pam’s dress halfway off her body and Roger starting to unbutton his pants, his shirt already discarded on the sand. She quickly figures out what’s going to happen next.

“No you can’t!” Sarah yells out from the steps of the surf club, the lights illuminating the water in front of them.

“Oh you young people, you’re so conservative!” Pam’s dress is now fully off, leaving her in her underwear, which she is quickly pulling off her legs.

“COME ON!!” Roger screams to his wife, completely naked, as he runs towards the icy cold water and Pam follows suit once she is exposed too.

Sarah just sits on the steps, watching her parents skinny-dipping with no care in the world. “How embarrassing,” she mutters to herself, looking over her shoulder to see if anyone else is watching the scene in front of her.

Sarah turns her attention back to the beach and as she sees her dad do a handstand, she can’t do anything but smile at their silliness. They’re kind, carefree – even if it’s borderline embarrassing - and they just love life. Sarah loves her family, so she keeps an eye on both parents to make sure they don’t drown from having too much fun.

--

Everyday after school the following week, it was becoming easier for Ashlee and Sarah to secure their seat on the bus in close proximity to the Greenhills. A few of the girls were starting to acknowledge their presence with small grins. Hayley had even spoken three words to Ashlee, even if those words were, “Shut up, moll.” Despite the oranges still getting thrown at their heads, it was progress.

On a hot Friday afternoon, the two girls were basking by Sarah’s pool in their bikinis, with Ashlee listening to Sarah reading from Dolly magazine while adorning her fingers with Cheezels, munching on them one by one.

“10 Ways To Tell If Your Man Is Cheating On You.” A very important article, so Ashlee listens in.

“One, he starts going to the gym.” Very interesting.

“Two, he buys a new hairpiece.” A dead give away.

“Three, he’s got scratches on his back and lipstick on his thingy.”

Ashlee turns her attention to Sarah and narrows her eyes. “Does not say that,” she accuses while cracking a smile, Sarah confirming her joke with a giggle of her own before eating another Cheezel from her finger.

There’s a comfortable silence as they soak in the sun, then an idea pop in Ashlee’s head. “You should wear your crochet bikini tomorrow.”

The two were planning to go to the beach tomorrow, specifically where the Greenhills hang around. If they wanted to be in the gang, they had to make an impression somehow. Sarah thinks on Ashlee’s idea and smiles. “Sure will. And won’t the Greenhills boys love it,” she agrees as she pushes up her breasts.

“They’ll swoon,” Ashlee says as another idea forms. “Wish we had a horse so we could ride up, make a grand entrance.”

Sarah lets out a laugh. “It’ll look like a tampon ad.”

“Exactly.” Ashlee lets out a sigh as she taps her fingers together like those villains on TV. “Alas, our natural beauty will have to be enough.”

Sarah widens her eyes as she stares at Ashlee beside her, looking so confident about this plan they have. “Oh my god.”

It’s silent only for a second and suddenly Ashlee lets out a squeal. Sarah also gives a squeal for herself. They go back and forth before the both of them burst out into laughter. It’s amazing that they’re able to act silly and goofy one day and the next they’re confiding one another with their deepest secrets. Both Ashlee and Sarah like this dynamic, it’s what makes them enjoy each other’s company.

“Sarah! Don’t get sunburnt again, will you?” Pam calls from inside the house.

“We’re sitting in the shade!” Sarah yells back. “And it’s almost all peeled off anyway. I’m fine again.” Another Cheezel enters her mouth.

--

Pete is walking to his room as he hears the rumble of his dad’s convertible reversing into the garage. He stops in his tracks as Pete watches his father, fumbling with a bouquet when exiting the driver’s seat.

Peter spots his son at the door. “Pete! How are you mate?”

“Hey Dad,” Pete greets back, still staring at the flowers, wondering what they’re for.

“Bought some Chin takeaway, can you grab it out of the car?”

Pete continues to watch his dad as he enters the house, wondering why Peter would be bringing home dinner if he knew his wife would already be cooking. Pete brushes that thought away and as he goes to collect the brown paper bag still sitting on the passenger seat, something catches his eye.

Pete ignores the food as he examines the ashtray. It’s no secret that his dad is a smoker, it’s actually quite acceptable, but it’s one particular butt that has all of Pete’s attention. He picks it up and brings it closer to his face to confirm what it is.

Half of the butt is coated in red lipstick.

Suddenly, it all clicks into place. The overnight stays in the city, the food, the flowers.

Pete feels a small spark of anger igniting, but he suppresses it down as he puts the butt back in the tray and grabbing the warm bag, slamming the car door. As he walks along the hallway towards the kitchen, he can hear Peter with Dale, keeping up his act as he showers her with compliments.

“Sometimes, I forget how beautiful you are. And then, wow,” he says with admiration.

Dale is obviously falling for this as she laughs off the comment. “Stop it.”

“I can’t. I see you and I just can’t.”

It’s gone quiet when Pete decides to present himself. His parents are in the middle of a sweet kiss as he places the food on the counter. “Dad got Chinese.”

Peter is the first to break apart. “And flowers and wine,” he acknowledges the rest of his gifts as Dale just gasps with surprise, because to her, this was seen as a romantic gesture.

Pete knows this better as a cover up to his recent infidelity.

“Mum was cooking dinner,” Pete argues back.

“Yeah and now she’s not. So let’s sit down, and eat,” Peter responds back as he goes to sit at the dining table.

“She spent the last hour cooking and –“

“It’s fine, I feel like Chinese,” Dale says to calm her son as she starts to put away the prepped vegetables into Tupperware. “This will keep.”

Pete wants to defend his mum some more, but he knows she’s blinded by her husband’s supposed faithfulness and will stand by him. He also knows that he can’t give away his knowledge of his father’s recent ‘activities’ without raising some suspicions.

So, he does the next best thing and joins his parents at the table. Dinner was going really well so far. Pete does like it when they eat together because he gets to listen to his dad’s horror stories at the clinic. He’s in the middle of one right now, plates and takeaway containers all empty and all three of them laughing their heads off.

Peter continues the story. “And I swear to God. He opens his mouth, and there are fleas in there.”

Pete gasps in fascination. “He didn’t.”

“Except they weren’t fleas, you know what they were?”

“Termites,” Pete interrupts his dad before he can say the answer. “He had wooden fillings.”

Peter just looks at his son with a hint of disdain. “Well that’s right smartarse, they were termites,” he deadpans, the smile wiped clean off his face.

“Well that’s icky isn’t it?” Dale tries to keep up the livelihood, but it’s too late. The damage is done. No one is laughing or smiling anymore, the silence uncomfortable among the family.

Peter is the first to break it. “Well go on Pete, clean up you lazy prick.”

Pete just gives him a look of disbelief before sitting up and carrying away his plate. He’s a little disappointed that his mum didn’t do anything to stand up for her son, or talk some reason in her husband. Except it seems that she’s loyal to Peter first, Pete second.

Pete can hear his mum from the kitchen. “You look tired sweetheart. You work so hard I thought, maybe we could go away on holiday? Just a week.”

There’s a pause, which means Peter is mulling over his thoughts for any excuse to not go. Pete thinks to himself that this may be a good time to call out on his bullshit without giving too much suspicion.

“Can’t do it, love.” That’s his cue. Pete holds his dirty dinner plate over the kitchen sink. “You know I wish I could, but I actually have to go to a conference in Terrigal next month.”

Bullshit!

Pete drops the plate and the clatter of cutlery and shattered porcelain is echoed through the house.

There’s a beat of silence before Dale speaks again. “I could come.” God, she sounds so hopeful.

“No no, boring for you love. Wouldn’t subject you to it.” That’s his dad again and Pete rolls his eyes at that as he picks up a wine glass left on the counter. “I’ll have a shower.” He’s still holding the glass as the sound of Peter’s footsteps fade away towards the bathroom.

“Nice of your dad to bring food.”

Bullshit!

Glass shatters all across the kitchen floor.

--

It’s a sweltering Saturday morning as Ashlee and Sarah make the trek to the beach from Sarah’s house. The humidity was making everything seem sticky, the jeans cladding both girls’ legs not helping them cool down.

“It’s so hot,” Ashlee is complaining. “I’m gonna get bad BO.”

Sarah lets out a little chuckle. “You will. I don’t sweat I perspire.”

Ashlee attempts a lame comeback. “Me too. Droplets of perfume mostly.”

“Oh how lovely for you.” Sarah lets a frustrated sigh as she uses her shirt as a fan. “Crap it’s hot! I think I’m gonna melt.”

“Melt into Billie Joe Armstrong’s arms,” Ashlee sings, playfully bumping Sarah’s shoulder, but she knows that her friend has a point. “Seriously, we cannot walk an hour in this. Maybe we should stay home today, swim in the pool, come back next week.”

Sarah thinks this over. It does sound appealing. “We could make Anzacs.” She turns her head and what she sees coming makes her eyes widen. “Shit.”

Ashlee follows her gaze and she’s just as surprised as Sarah when she spots the dark blue panel van, knowing exactly whom that car belongs to. “It’s him.”

“Billie Joe Armstrong’s bloody panel van.”

At that moment, they can see Billie with his bleach-blonde hair, adorned with sunnies and sipping a milkshake as he drives towards the beach, the music from the radio blasting out the window and his surfboard strapped to the roof.

“It’s a sign!” Ashlee exclaims.

“Of what?”

“That we’re gonna get in.”

Sarah scoffs. “Of course we are. Women like us don’t fall off trees.”

“If they did, then they would sit under the trees all day waiting.”

Sarah looks to Ashlee, a growing smile forming on her lips as if this really was a sign from the universe that they could potentially be one of the Greenhills.

Sarah returns the smile and they start running down the street screaming.

--

Pete is in the garage prepping his board for the beach with fresh wax when his dad stumbles down the driveway, sweating all over and puffed from his morning run.

“You alright Dad?” Pete asks with a cheeky grin. “Looking a bit red.”

Peter is bent over with his hands on his knees and still trying to catch his breath when he looks up to his son. “I’d outrun you any day, smartarse.”

Pete lets out a little chuckle as he starts carrying the board, a beautiful and sturdy red and yellow fish, under his arm. “See ya.” He begins his journey to the beach –

“Where are you going?”

Pete stops in his tracks at his dad’s harsh tone, implying that he may have taken his comment the wrong way. “Dad I was joking,” he reassures, a little uncertainty in his voice now.

But Peter’s not worried about that. “There’s stuff to do around here,” he says, still puffing and points in the roof’s direction. “Those gutters need clearing out.”

“I’ll do ‘em this arvo,” Pete dismisses before making his way to the beach again –

“Put the board back!”

Pete turns to face his dad again at that harsher tone, scared because he knows he’s pissed now. As Peter approaches him, Pete looks away, unable to look his father in the eye, as he gets up close to his face.

Pete decided to push him. “No.”

A dull blow is rewarded as Peter smacks him from behind his head. No noise comes out of his mouth but Pete’s holding back tears as his father continues to degrade him, his index finger pointing in his face.

“You need to extract the smartarse, and dump it off a cliff somewhere. You got me?”
Pete continues to avoid his father’s gaze as he suppresses his rising emotions. “Yes?”

“Yes Dad,” Pete finally answers, his voice turning shaky.

Peter seems satisfied. “Ok,” he says, and that’s Pete’s cue to turn back towards the garage.

He couldn’t understand his dad sometimes. It was just like last night, when Peter had suddenly switched from being the family man, laughing and smiling, until one comment pisses him off and he goes the rest of the night straight-faced. It was frustrating and hurtful.

Pete has rested his board against the back wall when suddenly, “Nah mate,” Peter is saying behind him. “Do them this arvo. You go and surf, I hear there’s a pretty good swell.” Pete stands in his spot in disbelief and refuses to look at his dad when he approaches him again. “Just, you know, don’t pull shit with me all the time,” Peter concludes their conversation, but not without a couple of taps on Pete’s cheek before he enters the house.

Pete can’t be in his house anymore, so he snatches his board and finally makes his way to the beach, letting out the tears and sniffles.

--

The two girls have finally made it to the beach, but they still have a long way to go to get to their destination.

“Only two miles to go,” Ashlee comments, but Sarah doesn’t say anything back because she suddenly spot two boys, specifically Bankies, walking up to them and following from behind.

“Hey, how you doin’?” The first one asks, an Italian looking boy.

“Fine”, Ashlee bluntly says, the two continuing to walk.

He tries again. “Do you wanna go swimming with us?”

“Politely declined.”

The second boy speaks, “What, are you being a smartarse?”

Sarah decides to retort back. “You smell like a freeway, are you from Bankstown?”

“Fat arse moll,” the first boy yells, which riles Sarah up.

“Rack off, you bloody Westie wog!”

“I don’t care if you’ve got a fat arse, I’d still root you.”

“ Oh piss off, or we’ll get Billie Joe Armstrong and our guys to bash the shit out of youse!” Ashlee hurls back, which causes the Bankies to finally stop following them. She gives Sarah a look and they both start running onto the sand to avoid the boys coming back, laughing as they do.

Half an hour and many piggybacks later, the girls had reached the Greenhills, just in time to see the boys coming in from the water. They could make out each one; Billie was leading the pack, Pete talking with Patrick and Brendon following close behind the two. As the rest of the boys followed suit, Sarah noticed something was missing.

“No girls?”

This didn’t bother Ashlee. “Let’s go sit near them.”

With a silent agreement, they continued walking, getting closer and closer. However, as if on cue, the pounding of hooves came from behind and all of a sudden, Vicky was circling them, riding her horse bareback and wearing only her bikini. Three other girls rode past them and were dismounting their own horses when Vicky spoke.

“Where are you two going?”

“Hi Vicky,” Ashlee greets, giving Vicky her best smile.

“We’re just gonna sunbake,” Sarah adds on.

Vicky gives them a look to say ‘as if’, and points to a patch of sand. “Over there.”

Both girls obey Vicky at once and they walk a few metres away from the group. They’re about to lay their towels down when –

“Further!”

Ashlee and Sarah walk a few metres more and Vicky trots away to join the rest of the Greenhills, seeming content with their distance. They finally get to lay their towels down.

“We’re pretty close,” Ashlee remarks, happy with what they’ve achieved.

“Yeah,” is all Sarah says as both girls sit down on their towels.

“She could’ve got all the horses together and trampled us if she wanted to.”

“Exactly.” Sarah and Ashlee watch as the boys hoe into their meat pies and pass around Polly Waffles, their girlfriends draping towels over their shoulders to dry off. “Such spunks.”

Ashlee continues to admire, hoping that maybe one day, that could be them. “So cool.”

--

“And when I’m rooting her, I swear she made this sound like a dolphin,” Billie then makes a high-pitched, stunted moaning sound that mimics a dolphin call.

Both Brendon and Patrick laugh at this, with Patrick choking on smoke from his makeshift bong, as Billie is telling his story about having sex with Melanie. Or was it Meagan? No, Brendon’s with Meagan, so it must be Melanie. Who knows? Pete’s not paying attention right now.

“Which is weird,” Patrick comments with a raspy voice caused by the weed, “ ‘cause you’d think she’d sound like a moll.”

Billie and Brendon have a little chuckle at that as Patrick holds out the plastic bottle for any of them to have a smoke.

Brendon’s the one to grab it as he recalls a story. “I had Hayley once.” He smiles at the memory. “Total dead root. She was just lying there like she was dead and I was like, ‘Can you move your eyes a bit so I don’t have to call for an ambo?’”

This earns a laugh from both Patrick and Billie as Brendon takes a hit from the bong.

Pete would say something to him about making fun of dead people, but really it would just be contradictory because he’s done it too. It’s what they do everyday. Once the sun has set and all the girls have gone home, the boys will then share stories of the girls they fuck, whether it be how they dress, whose breasts are bigger than whose or who gives the best handjob.

It’s a sick game of show-and-tell. The relationships among the gang aren’t real. There’s no emotional connections, no shared feelings, no consideration for the other person. It is just sex.

“Yeah, I’d root a dead girl. She wouldn’t even have to be warm.”

“You’re sick,” Brendon laughs, but Pete remains silent. Even in his daze, Pete is sickened by and frustrated with Patrick right now. He’s too caught up in his mind right now.

Billie notices that he hasn’t contributed anything. “Hey Pete,” he says to try and catch his attention. “How about Vicky?”

“What?” Pete asks, a little annoyed.

“Yeah, go on. Spill,” Patrick encourages, poking Pete with his toe, which Pete swats away. He really doesn’t feel up to this today.

However, Brendon is pushing him. “She’s a screamer, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, she looks like she’s begging for it.”

Ok. That’s it.

Pete smiles and stands abruptly from the boot of Billie’s panel van and turns to face Patrick. “Aw mate, she fucking screams like she’s being stabbed.” He faces the rest of the boys. “She goes off like a landmine and she’s wet like the Pacific, and after we root she runs to get me a Chiko roll which she feeds to me by hand! Happy?!” The three boys aren’t smiling anymore, but Pete doesn’t care. He needs to get away. “You’re a bunch of dickheads, I’m going back out.”

Pete snatches his board form where it’s laying on the grass and runs back towards the beach. He can hear Billie calling out for him, but he doesn’t give a shit right now.

What Pete needs is to do is get back to the sanctuary. He needs to feel the cold ocean wash over his face, to freeze the thoughts that overload his head. He needs to stop thinking about his cheating father or his timid mother. Riding the waves helps him to be free. It seems to be the only place that he can be himself.

Once he’s paddled out back, he waits.