At sixteen years old, Marti Venturi was clearly related to both Edwin and Derek. She'd been blessed with Edwin's brains and Derek's attitude toward life, but she'd managed to add her own personal touch to the mix, instead of just imitating her two older brothers. She was well known at Thompson High, even before she officially set foot in the building as a student. She was a Venturi after all, and naturally Derek had refused to let anyone with his name be unpopular. But she'd also proven that she deserved that reputation.
Marti's grades rivaled Edwin's. She almost effortlessly earned straight A's, only bothering to really put an effort into her studies if an upcoming test or project counted for a significant part of her grade. Otherwise she let the pieces fall where they may. Like Derek, Marti rarely chose to settle down in a relationship. Instead, she liked to keep her options open and make plans on a date by date basis. And just like Derek, she could always find someone more than willing to take her out for the night.
But unlike her brothers, Marti was not defined by either of these characteristics. She didn't care to spend her free time observing the people around her and taking extensive notes the way that Edwin had. And if Marti had to spend a Saturday night at home without a date, so be it. Sometimes she even preferred it that way.
Marti was more of the free spirited artistic type, and if it hadn't been for the Venturi name, she was sure that most people in the school would have written her off as a freak and relegated her to the back corner of the cafeteria by the garbage cans where the rest of the freaks sat within the first week of high school.
The first thing that anyone noticed about Marti Venturi was her slightly unconventional wardrobe, not necessarily in fashion but definitely not out of style either. It could be most accurately described as bohemian chic. She tended to wear clothing a step up from casual and was rarely ever seen in jeans, tennis shoes, and sweatshirts unless she was lounging around home. Her wardrobe also included a touch of her artistic side, just enough to set her apart from the crowd without making her look ridiculous. Her outfits were almost always accented with large hoop earring and bangle bracelets. She still loved the color purple and illustrated that with vibrant streaks in her dark hair and her fingernails were almost always painted to match.
Instead of trying to follow in her brothers' footsteps at Thompson High, she had carved out a niche for herself within the drama department, easily earning herself decent sized roles in every single one of the school's productions. No one in her family had been surprised when she'd gotten into acting, especially considering how much of her youth was spent pretending to be a cat. It was undeniable that Marti had become a full fledged drama geek by the end of grade nine.
On the last day of school before Christmas vacation, in true Venturi style, Marti decided that it wasn't worth her time to go to some of her more boring classes. It wasn't like either the students or the teachers were planning on getting anything important done. Everyone was too full of sugar from all the candy canes and Christmas cookies their friends had brought in to share to even consider trying to sit still for a whole class period. Marti was fairly certain that if any of her teachers were foolish enough to try to teach new material, they'd just end up re-teaching the same lesson when everyone returned to school in January.
Marti would have preferred to leave campus for the rest of the day, but she had no intention of missing the end of semester celebration her drama class was having that afternoon and she had a test in another class after lunch. She had no idea what her teacher was thinking trying to give a test before break but it meant she'd have to stick around on campus for the rest of the day and just hope that she didn't get caught skipping any morning classes.
She deftly made her way through the hallway crowded with kids slowly trying to make it to their next class, and headed toward the school's auditorium. The place was her home away from home. Her sanctuary. She just plain loved it there. Today, the curtain was up and the stage was littered with half painted set pieces for their next performance.
Down on the stage, Marti could see a blonde girl kneeling on the ground in front of one of the set pieces. She was still too far away to tell who it was, but Marti was almost certain that it was Kayla Manning. Marti quickly made it to the stage and saw that she'd been right. Marti kneeled down next to her and draped her arm across Kayla's back in hello.
"Thought I'd find you here," greeted Marti. She knew that Kayla had study hall this period. Technically it wasn't a free period and she was supposed to be in a classroom, but Kayla viewed that as more of a suggestion than anything else. And Marti knew that.
"Took you long enough," laughed Kayla, though she had only gotten there ten minutes earlier. Marti grabbed a paint brush and got to work on the same section of the set that Kayla was working on.
"Had to talk to my brother. Derek's sent me about a hundred text messages do far today so I figured I should call him."
"Everything okay?" asked Kayla, scrunching her eyes in concern.
"Probably. He's worried about Casey though. He swears that something's been bothering her all week but every time he asks her she says it's just work stress."
"And he thinks you know something else?"
"Apparently?" Marti shrugged. Anything else she was going to say was cut off by her phone alerting her to another text message, this one from Edwin asking if she knew what was bothering Lizzie. "These two are going to drive me crazy, I swear."
"Well, good thing you got me to keep you sane," replied Kayla.
"Is it wrong to hope that everything will blow up while they're all home so I can have a front row seat for all the drama?" asked Marti, only half joking.
"Not at all. Especially if you invite me over for it."
"Deal," Marti agreed. "Hey Kay? You've got something on the tip of your nose." Kayla raised her hand to brush away whatever it was and then looked back to Marti for confirmation. "Here, I got it," said Marti, motioning for Kayla to lean closer. As Kayla did so, Marti quickly drew her hand holding the paintbrush through the air to leave a bright red dot of paint on Kayla's nose before she even realized what had happened.
Marti grinned evilly.
"Oh yeah? Well, you've got a little bit of red right here," said Kayla, quickly drawing her own paintbrush across Marti's cheek, leaving a bright red streak in its path. The next few minutes were spent trying to mark the other person with a much paint as possible. Marti and Kayla sunk to the ground in giggles, trying to scrub the paint off their clothing and skin. But without any water to scrub with, they only managed to smear the paint around a bit.
"You've got some green in your hair," Marti pointed out, still trying to control her giggles. Kayla raised her left hand to her hair to see if there was any hope of getting the paint out of her hair. "No, wrong side. Here, I've got it," offered Marti as she leaned closer to Kayla.
The paint was still wet to the touch so Marti figured there was very little they could do at that moment without actually rinsing her hair.
"Come on, I can wash it out in the bathroom," said Kayla as she pushed herself into a standing position. She extended a hand to pull Marti up as well, which she gladly took. Once Marti was standing however, Kayla didn't drop her hand. Instead, she pulled Marti closer to her so they were a fraction of an inch apart.
"We should probably wait for the bell to ring," suggested Marti, trying to catch her breath a little bit. "No use getting caught skipping."
"Probably a good idea," agreed Kayla before finally closing the gap between them and kissing Marti. Eventually they were forced to pull apart, their need for oxygen overpowering their need for each other.
"Took you long enough to do that," joked Marti softly once she'd taken a few deep breaths of oxygen. There was no need to raise their voices much beyond a whisper. The room was practically silent and their faces were still only centimeters apart. Marti's fingers lazily played with a lock of Kayla's hair. "Girl could get old waiting for you to get the hint."
"I make the first move plenty," Kayla insisted.
"Prove it," Marti challenged, her voice never losing the teasing quality but also making it clear that she was waiting for Kayla to follow through on her claim.
Kayla cast a glance up at the auditorium doors. Neither girl was ready to go public with their relationship. The halls of Thompson High would be merciless and they would undoubtedly become the focus of most gossip for some time. A select few of their friends knew, but that was all.
Marti knew what Kayla was thinking when she glanced at the doors. Anyone could come in at any moment and the stage was far too exposed for either of their tastes. Kayla took Marti's hand in hers and led her to a more secluded spot backstage before kissing Marti once more.
Neither girl was aware of how much time was passing while they were thoroughly distracted and caught up in one another. They were so wrapped up in each other that they failed to notice the sound of approaching footsteps. It was the sound of a throat clearing that eventually made them jump apart. Kayla and Marti found themselves staring up at the face of their principal. They both suppressed a groan at being caught by the absolute worst person to get caught by.
Principal Lassiter had been uptight when Casey and Derek attended Thompson High. Casey had never managed to redeem herself in their principal's eyes, while Derek had eventually fallen from his good graces and taken his rightful place as the administration's most wanted, much to Casey's delight. Unfortunately, Principal Lassiter had assumed that both Lizzie and Edwin would be carbon copies of their siblings and immediately had it in for them as well. By the time Marti became one of his students, she'd had the reputations of four of her siblings working against her and had no hope of getting into his good graces. Instead of antagonizing him like Derek and Edwin did, she just chose to avoid his as much as possible.
Lassiter was also known for his intense homophobia and bigotry. It was unlikely that Lassiter would bat an eyelash at a guy and a girl groping each other against the lockers. School rules forbade him from punishing a same-sex couple for that reason alone, but if they were caught breaking any rule, he'd jump at the chance to punish them twice as harshly.
And Kayla and Marti had just handed him the ultimate Christmas present. Two girls in a compromising position skipping class for the umpteenth time. They knew they were looking at some serious detention time and were already moving towards the auditorium exit when he ordered them to his office.
* * *
"Two weeks of detention?!" Roared George. "Two weeks!" Marti could see the anger written all over her father's face. His cheeks were flushed and he was pacing in front of her like he was still trying to figure out what to do with her.
Of course, Marti's attitude probably wasn't helping matters much at the moment either. She was slumped on the couch, a cool defiance radiating from her. It only served to infuriate her father more. Nora was keeping her distance, letting George get most of his anger out of his system but ready to intervene if needed.
"Don't forget suspended for the rest of the day," added Marti smartly. In addition to her two weeks of detention, she had also been sent home for the rest of the day. She wasn't complaining about that part, it just meant that her Christmas break was going to start a few hours early. George and Nora had been called into the principal's office to come and pick up Marti and the car ride home had been quiet enough to hear a pin drop. The only sign that indicated how angry George was, was how tightly he was gripping the car's steering wheel. Tight enough to turn his knuckles stark white. Marti knew she was in for a nice long lecture once they were home.
"Now is not the time for that tone," George snapped. "You are grounded."
"What?! For how long?!"
"Indefinitely!" George shot back.
"That is so not fair!" protested Marti. "Derek pulled way more shit when he was my age-"
"Marti! Language!" scolded Nora.
"-and never got punished this way!" She continued, completely ignoring Nora's scolding. "While I skip one class to hang out with my girlfriend and I get grounded indefinitely! How the hell is that fair?!"
"G-g-girlfriend?" sputtered George. "Kayla's your girlfriend?" Principal Lassiter had informed her parents that she'd been caught skipping class and making out with Kayla. Neither Nora or George had been able to hide their shock when they'd heard that their daughter was kissing a girl. Apparently, they'd been too angry to process what that meant.
"My girlfriend," affirmed Marti, rising to her feet to look her father defiantly in the eye. "That's what this whole punishment is about, isn't it? You're grounding me because I was with Kayla. You don't care that I was skipping class, you're pissed off because of Kayla. You two are just like Lassiter. The only reason that bigot gave us two weeks of detention is because he's so damn narrow-minded! Look me in the eye and tell me that's not why you're grounding me!"
"Marti, that's not it at all," Nora jumped in. "You're grounded because you got caught skipping class. That's it."
"I seriously doubt that." Spat Marti.
"I don't care what you believe right now! It's the truth. Your being grounded has nothing to do with Kayla and you know it!"
"Then why are you being so unbelievably unfair?! No one else in the family got treated this way!"
"No one else in this family has ever been suspended for three days and earned two weeks of detention in one day!" Yeah, in addition to being sent home for the rest of the day, Marti had also been suspended for the two days following Christmas break as well. Again, that just meant she had a longer vacation.
"I only got that because Lassiter's a fucking bigot and I'm starting to think that you are too!"
"You are so far out of line!"
"That's enough!" Screamed Nora. She'd had to yell as loudly as she could to be heard over George and Marti's voices, which had been consistently increasing in volume for the duration of their argument. The loud outburst was so unexpected from her that both George and Marti jerked their heads to look at her. "You both need to cool down. George, go outside and take a walk."
"It's December!" He protested.
"Go for a drive then. Just get out of the house for an hour to clear your head and start thinking rationally." Reluctantly, he grabbed his keys and jacket and left the house.
"Thanks Nora," said Marti wearily, collapsing back onto the couch.
"Don't thank me yet. You're still grounded. But I'll see if I can get your sentence reduced to a few days. Think you can handle that?"
"I guess." Sighed Marti.
"Good. Now, you wanna talk to me? How long have you and Kayla been together?"
"A few weeks," she reluctantly admitted.
"How long were you going to hide it from us?"
"Until I was ready to tell you. I didn't exactly have a choice in the matter today."
"No, I guess you didn't, did you?" Agreed Nora. "I hope you don't think for a second that I'm mad that you and Kayla are together."
"Can you blame me with the way Dad reacted?" Retorted Marti, still steaming from their argument.
"He'll calm down. You remember how mad he'd get when Derek or Edwin landed in the principal's office."
"Did either of them get caught skipping class with their boyfriends?" At Nora's silent stare, Marti answered her own question. "No, didn't think so. Look, I'm gonna go to my room. I really don't want to be here for round two when dad gets back."
"That's probably a good idea. Just to be on the safe side." Agreed Nora.
Marti pushed herself off the couch and ran up the stairs. Halfway up she turned back around. "Nora? Can we keep this between the three of us for now?" Marti certainly hadn't been ready to confide anything in her parents about her relationship with Kayla so she was still reeling from the fact that they knew. She wasn't sure if she could handle anybody else finding out just yet.
"Of course," agreed Nora immediately.
As she closed her bedroom door behind her and flopped down on her bed, one more thing occurred to her. She and Kayla could hang out at her house and not have to worry about who might walk in on them and blow their secret. They wouldn't have to sneak around as much. As far as most people in their lives were concerned, Marti and Kayla were best friends, but nothing more. If they wanted a moment together, they'd have to wait until either of their houses were empty or drive somewhere half an hour away where they could be sure they wouldn't run into anyone from school. Now, they could have as many moments as they wanted at Marti's house, no longer having to jump at the slightest sound that could have indicated that her parents were home. Even if the events of the day hadn't completely sunk in yet, and even though she was still fighting with her dad, she was beginning to see the silver lining.