Song 33 ♪ Must Stop

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Quinn's mom looked about half his size but twice his might, which had the interesting effect of reducing us all to half our age.

"I didn't raise y'all," she said as she pointed at us, and then pivoted around to face her son. "But you, you I did. And I've told you a million times that if you want a better life than what your dad and I have had, you need to be better than anybody else. That includes no visits to jail!"

He flinched, and so did the rest of us.

"Yes, mom."

"You are lucky that your friend's father is a good man and got you all out of that place without a blimp in your records but Lord help me, that's one too many scares for my poor heart. You hear me?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry."

"We're sorry, Mrs. Montgomery," Ashton said, hanging his head. "It won't happen again."

She harrumphed and didn't continue the speech, like she'd already lost steam. We stood outside of the precinct, waiting for Jem to arrive. The twins' aunt was in town, having driven over from Sarasota with Ayrton and she'd been the one the boys called as soon as our belongings were returned to us. She was picking up the van and driving it over to take us back to the school.

What a fiasco.

I kicked a pebble and looked down at my scribbled on sneakers. Was this what happened when I had fun? If so, I was ready for a life of routine and zero excitement.

Someone slung an arm around my shoulders and I looked up to Leti's grin. I grimaced in response.

"Why do you look so happy?"

She shrugged. "I'm used to being a bit of a troublemaker, tú sabes? So I'm kind of proud that you also have it in you."

I rolled my eyes. "Well, I'm not."

Jem arrived not long after with a grim line on her lips. She parked the van by the curb and got out. When I met her she'd seemed so carefree and full of life, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that we were in for another lecture the entire way back to school. We thanked Mrs. Montgomery before filing into the van. Just before her son did, though, she pulled him back and caught him in a hug. From my vantage, I could see as Quinn's face morphed into shock, but his arms came slowly about her small frame and returned the affection. I could imagine how scared she'd been when she got his call. I looked away and decided to stop that train of thought before my mood got any worse. I hopped into the van and noticed that all our instruments were in it. Clearly Jem had rescued them, too.

A few minutes into the drive, Jem sighed really loud. The twins said in unison, "I'm sorry."

"This is a new low, even for you guys," she said. At a red light she twisted around and asked what I then realized should have been the first question coming out of anybody. "Are you all okay?"

We all said yes with various degrees of excitement.

"Sneaking out of school past curfew and going to a college party are not terrible things." I choked as she said this. Then she continued, shaking her head. "But getting caught by the cops? Gee, not even I managed that during my years of rebellion."

Ayrton chimed in. "You make it sound as though your years of rebellion ended a while ago."

Jem laughed slightly, and I felt something uncoil a little inside me. Like I'd been as tense as though I'd been expecting a chancletazo out of nowhere.

"Good point. I guess the rule of thumb is to not do what Aunt Jem would do."

A false sense of security had fallen over us that drifted away as if carried by the night breeze as soon as we got out of the van by the school gates. The guard greeted us, along with two women that I could recognize in my sleep.

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