Living Through the Years

An assignment for her sociology class leads Rachel to find out more about her family history, spanning nearly a century, from 1920s Chicago to present day Los Angeles.

When the stock market crashes, a man feels tormented after losing almost everything and leaving his family in poverty. And the only way to numb the awareness of his failures is by turning to alcohol.

Another seemingly happy young, successful father and husband struggles with his feelings for an African-American man who works for his wife's father, during a time when homosexuality is seen as a mental illness and racism is flagrant.

An addict tries to keep herself clean after she has a family but, as cocaine becomes the popular drug of choice, and a close friend dies, she falls hard back into her old habits.

And Rachel's own mother questions whether or not to keep her child after getting pregnant while attending university. That only opens up a whole argument about abortion she doesn't want to hear.

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5. 1.5

Slut.

That was the word she had to read first thing in the morning. It ran halfway down her locker in large, bold letters. Bold enough to be noticed from quite a distance away.

She tried to use her sleeve to wipe it off, not caring for the stains it would cause. Sadly, it wasn't manageable. The mark was permanent.

"Rachel."

Tensing up at the sound of her name, she swivelled around to see Mr. Adler standing in front of her.

"I didn't do this!" she exclaimed, her defences

shooting up.

"I didn't think you'd write slut on your own locker, then try to wipe it off," Mr. Adler said. "Do you have any idea who might've done this?"

"No," she replied. Half the school thought she was a slut; she couldn't use process of elimination to weed out possible suspects.

"That's why we have cameras," Mr. Adler said. "I'll get to the bottom of this."

That didn't make Rachel feel any better. Whether the person was caught or not, they still thought it about her. Getting in trouble for it wouldn't change anything.

"So I'm just gonna have this on my locker?" Rachel asked.

"We'll get the student who did this to scrape it off. Don't worry, we'll catch them." He gave her an reassuring smile.  

She smiled back weakly. "Good."

The second Mr. Adler was gone, the smile disappeared. She entered her combination and opened her locker, trying her best not to let herself cry. This wasn't worth being mopey over. The cameras would guarantee that the perpetrator would be found. Unless the person wore a mask, but Rachel doubted they were that clever. Or maybe that was wishful thinking.

"I wonder who did this," she heard Emily say. Rachel looked over to see the girl leaning against the row of lockers with her arms folded across her chest.

"It could be anybody," Rachel said.

"Well, it's true, isn't it?" Emily asked. She sounded accusatory and angry.

Rachel frowned, taken aback by the words. "What? Why would you think it's true?"

"Jeanie said you saw you all over Luke at Cole's party," Emily replied. "I thought we were friends! You know I like him."

"I am your friend, and nothing happened! We just talked!"

"Yeah, sure."

"You'd believe some girl you hardly know over your own friend?" Rachel questioned.

"Why would she lie about that?"

"I don't know, because she's a liar?" Rachel didn't know the answer. She didn't know Jeanie that well.

"I can't believe you, Rachel. You want to be a slut, at least be honest about it!" Emily spat. She straightened up and swiftly walked away without letting Rachel have a chance to further defend herself.

Her eyes were watering, but she forced the tears away. She wasn't going to let this ruin the rest of her day. If Emily wanted to buy the lies Jeanie spewed, then she wasn't a decent friend to begin with. She and Rachel had known each other since freshman year. How many words had Emily even exchanged with Jeanie?

_________

Her eyes were now glued to her phone. Words went into one ear and out the other, without her absorbing any of it.

It was stupid to allow her personal life to intervene with her schoolwork. At least at school she could leave those problems at the front entrance . That was the ethic her mother instilled in her. You leave your problems at home, you couldn't carry them around with you like a burden.

The problem was that these issues were presenting themselves at school. It wasn't easy for her mind to discard them. They were following her wherever she went.

The part that bothered her the most was that all of it stemmed from one photo of her. People were still commenting on it several days later. She was glad she didn't have Facebook because she was certain people would be attacking her on there too.

She went into her Twitter account and posted its a shame that people you thought were your friends resort to slut shaming you.

A lot of her classmates and friends were on Twitter too. She knew they'd see the post. And she didn't know how they'd react but it was the only platform she currently had where she could defend herself without post a dumb photo to correspond with it.

She mentally argued with herself to delete it immediately after hitting post. Sometimes people were more brutal on Twitter than on Instagram and she didn't know if she was ready for it.

She added another Tweet to follow her first one.

i know who i am. but i can't change how other people think. the people who care about me will be by my side and that's all that matters to me.

She didn't know if she believed those words herself. However, if she put up that front, maybe everyone would leave her alone. The part about the people who cared about her sticking by her was true, anyway. So the post wasn't a complete lie.

When she saw Tate, one of her classmates and the captain of the basketball team, like her Tweets and add, Fuck what they think. You're a great girl, Rachel, it brought a smile to her face.

"Rachel!"

Her smile dropped and her eyes snapped up. Mr. Wilson was staring at her, unamused.

"What?" she asked.

"I wouldn't want to have to confiscate your phone," he said. "Were you even listening to what I said?"

She sensed all eyes on her, making her nervous and purposely stall on her response. "No," she finally said.

"Put your phone away," Mr. Wilson demanded.

Hesitating, she leaned over her school bag and shoved her phone into one of the pocket. If it was inconveniently out of reach, she'd be less tempted to check it. She wouldn't manage to sneak a stare without getting caught.

"See, not so hard, was it?" Mr. Wilson asked.

He obviously didn't know what she was going through right now, otherwise he'd understand that it was hard.

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