Fiction

2018

Lila Jane

By Johanna Couture
Waring School. Class of 2019.

She stepped on her cigarette, stomping on it twice to put it out, and waved her hand in the
air to break up the remaining smoke. The last thing she needed was “Started fire in the West Side
bathroom” on her school record. Before tucking her lighter away in her boot, she held it in her
hand a moment. Her fingers traced over the worn out Sharpie markings that once so clearly read
“Maria Jane”. The lighter was one of her mother’s lost trinkets, untouched when she owned it.
Her mother discondoned smoking every chance she could, and would have been beyond
disappointed in her daughter, who was well aware of this. She leaned against the stall door for a
moment longer, closing her eyes, becoming content with the warm sting in her lungs as she let
the guilt burn her. She promised herself that this would be her last one; just as she had promised
yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. “Maybe today will be different,” she
sighed.

* * *

Lila Jane was the type of girl whose future was predetermined from the moment they set
foot into kindergarten. She was the girl who broke the tip of every blue crayon, the girl who
never brushed her hair, never used a tissue, spit on the boys who called her a weirdo, and colored
on her pink sketchers with black magic marker. Lila Jane was the type of girl who teachers
talked about in the break room. “Such a pretty girl- it’s a shame you know.” ,“What is she going

to do with her life?” Lila Jane’s mother would have said, “What do those snotty housewives
know? They had life handed to them. People like us, Lila Jane, have to work for things. But it’s
alllll up to the person working on them.”
To which her father would reply, “Bullshit, I tell you. I’ve worked. And here I am. Doing
nothing good of the sort.” He’d take another swig of Jack Daniels and mutter under his breath
until he fell asleep in the ratty brown arm chair in the corner of the living room. He loved that
chair; barely ever left it. And it sure was a good place for him- out of the way and passed out.
Lila Jane often wondered why her mother stayed with her father, which was a highly
complex thing for a six year old to ponder. It wasn’t because she loved him, and she was sure of
this. When Lila Jane’s father was just the right amount of drunk, you could hear him sing in the
softest, most peaceful manner Lila Jane had ever heard anyone sing in, “Raindrops keep fallin’
on my head… But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red, cryin’s not for me..” Lila
Jane and her mother would tip-toe to the doorway of the living room, stand perfectly still, close
their eyes, and listen. A soft smile would appear on her mother’s face, and Lila Jane swore that
once or twice a tear rolled down her mother’s cheek. After the song was over Lila Jane would
watch her mother walk over to her father, kiss him on the head and whisper, “Just like old
times.” “This.” thought Lila Jane. “This is why she stays.”
* * *

Lila Jane’s mother died two and a half weeks after Lila’s tenth birthday. Lila’s father
became more distant than ever. All he did was sit in his armchair in silence, drinking two fifths a
night instead of one. He never said anything, and never once sang again. She hated him for it.

Lila Jane didn’t talk to him for weeks, saying nothing more than, “I’m leaving for school now.”
and “I’m going to bed now.”
When Lila Jane got lonely, and when the silence in her house and the absence of her
mother became too much for a ten year old to handle, she would disappear for hours at a time.
Her father would do nothing but call for when the sun went down. He called for a few minutes,
whistled once or twice; but quickly got tired of the sound of his own voice echoing through the
empty neighborhood, and retreated back to his arm chair and Jack Daniels. Perhaps it was
because he knew that Lila Jane wasn’t wandering, she didn’t disappear; she had a place.
On these nights, she would sneak out the back door and run four blocks West to Joey
Timmon’s house on Crane Street. Joey Timmons was her very best friend- her only friend at that.
Their mother’s had worked together in the Labor and Delivery ward at Clarkstown Hospital.
Every Sunday night Lila Jane and her mother had walked the four blocks carrying some sort of
casserole- usually green bean- and have dinner with the Timmons. Their mothers drank wine and
talked about how the world seemed to have no good in it, how horrible their town was, and how
they only hoped that someday Joey and Lila Jane would find their way out of it.
Lila and Joey didn’t play together. They weren’t that type. Instead, they would run up to
Joey’s attic on the third floor where they had built a blanket fort in first grade, equipped with
Christmas lights and books and black finger paint. The sheets were covered in black handprints,
and each had signed their name on the corner of the fort. “Our place,” Joey would say. They
would take off their shoes at the entrance, (which was rule number one), shut off all the lights,
and crawl to the center of the fort where the ceiling was the highest. They would lay on their
backs, not really minding the cold attic floor, and stick their feet up in the air. Joey’s feet could
lie flat on the ceiling, and Lila Jane’s barely touched. They wiggled their socks and talked about

things like Mrs. Lennard's ugly cat, how far away Mars is, what worms might taste like, how
they would never get married, and how the hell- if ever- they would get out of this town.
Two weeks after Lila Jane’s mother died, she ran to Joey’s house for the third day in a
row. He greeted her at the door, smiled and said “Our place?” Joey always knew what she
needed, just by looking at her. The two ran up to the attic, unnoticed by anyone, and let the hours
tick by. After talking about what it might taste like if you dipped a worm in chocolate, Joey
abruptly stopped laughing, and so did Lila Jane. The soft purr of the heating system filled the
attic. Something in the fort became somber and melancholy. Joey looked at Lila Jane, who was
holding back tears, and told her that he knew there was so much more to life than just this. Lila
Jane thought that this was an awfully deep observation for an eight year old boy. But in that
moment, it was exactly what she needed to hear. Even though she didn’t understand at all what it
meant. Neither of them said anything for a long time. They stared at their toes on the ceiling and
watched the shadows from the Christmas lights. After a while, Lila Jane decided that she loved
Joey Timmons, and kissed him on the cheek. Joey abruptly stood up in the fort, which was
against rule number six, and ran out of the attic. No running in the attic: rule number thirteen.
His footsteps scrambled down the wooden stairs, all the way to his room, where he slammed the
door. That was the last day Lila Jane ever ran to Crane Street.
* * *

The years passed and Lila Jane stayed lonely. Not only because no one wanted her, but
because she didn’t want to be wanted either. She liked being alone- the world could be the way
she wanted it to be. Her own mind comforted her, and she believed that this made her stronger.
Lila Jane prided herself on being able to calm her own mind, create her own happiness, fix her

own problems, and kill her habits by herself. Being lonely meant that Lila Jane could do things
for herself by herself. She drank Jack Daniels everyday for three months in freshman year, until
she decided for herself that she never wanted to become her father. She skipped English four
times a week in the beginning of sophomore year, until one day she decided that maybe knowing
how to write an annotated bibliography might come in handy someday.
Lila Jane knew herself, and knew her motives. She knew what her mother wanted for her,
and she knew what she wanted for herself. Most importantly she knew that those two things were
the same. Nothing here would ever be enough for her.
* * *

The first period bell echoed through the bathroom. Lila Jane opened her eyes. Staring
back at her were the messy walls of the stall door, scribbled and painted on with Sharpie, carved
into with paper clips and pocket knives. Meaningless words and names of nobodies taunted her.
“MARISSA LEE IS A WHORE”. Screamed one boxed in phrase, written in purple Sharpie. She
scoffed, “Where’s the lie.” Marissa Lee is a whore. But she wanted to be. Words like this
wouldn’t hurt her if she read them- they’d probably boost her ego, which was the last thing
anyone would want.
Lila Jane reached into her back pocket and took out her favorite black pen. She scribbled
over the words as hard as she could, pressing the tip into the door until it retracted back into the
pen. A thick black square covered where the words had once been. There. One less egoistic bitch
today. She considered this a favor, and prided herself on doing something to improve the glum
Tuesday of the student body. She prided herself on doing some good.“Maybe today would be
different after all.”

She smiled to herself, raised her tattered Converse sneaker to the door, and kicked it
open. It hit the wall with a satisfying bang. Popping the collar of her black leather jacket, she
strutted out of the bathroom. Lila Jane walked out prouder than she had walked in.
Mrs.McKinley passed the bathroom on her way out. “Late for first period again Ms.
Jane.”
“Goodmorning Mrs. McKinley,” she smiled, acknowledging the pink tardy slip that was
being waved in her face. “I did something good this morning.” Grabbing the slip and carefully
folding it, she flipped her long black hair over her right shoulder and skipped down the hall
towards Mr. Klein's integrated geometry class. She gave Mrs. McKinley a smile over her
shoulder, somewhere in between sincere and sly.
Mrs. McKinley stood, baffled. Not because the pink tardy slip had for once not been
crumpled and thrown back at her, and not because she had just watched the embodiment of a
black cloud skip to a math class- but because it was impossible for anyone to believe that Lila
Jane could do something good.