up in flames - coldplay
alexandra albright
the luck of the irish 


I knocked roughly on Ryan’s door and called; “Can you drive me to school?” I lit a cigarette in the process, inhaling deeply. I looked out the window where it was pouring rain, then looked down to my petite, sheer dress. I sighed deeply as I knocked on the bedroom door once again.

“Walk!” I heard him call.

“If you care to know, it’s pouring rain outside.” I decided to just walk inside, pulling the blankets off of my brother. I wasn’t in the best mood this morning, mostly because of last night’s events. I didn’t know how everyone else felt, but that was not my night. “Fine, I’ll just take your car.”

Ryan bolted out of bed and chased after me. “I need the car. How am I going to get to work? It won’t kill you to get a little wet.” He reached for the keys but I pulled them away.

I shrugged my shoulders and walked across the room towards the door. If I were to leave at this very second, I would still be late for school. Ryan glared at me from where he stood. As much as I loved my brother, sometimes he brought out the worst in me. “Why don’t you just ask Carrie for a ride?”

“What is your problem, Alexandra? Why are you such a /biitch/ to her?” He spat.

I blinked twice, as I was not sure I had heard him right. Of course he had called me names and spited me, but he was never truly angry towards me. Ryan was my best friend; he was the one who supported me no matter what. But he had crossed the line. I was not going to stand for something like this.

Instead of saying something rude back, I gripped the keys tighter in my hand. With my free hand on the door, I spoke slowly. “If you’ll excuse me, I wouldn’t want to be late for school, now would I?”

Even though I was exhausted and of need of a cigarette, I went to school and did my best. Well, I don’t know if would have called it my “best”, but I managed to put up with the ignorant teenagers that attended my school and barely listened to the stuffy, drug-addict teachers. 

When I got home, Ryan was still at work, something I was glad about. I didn’t want to talk to him or even look at him, so I decided to call Taylor. He arrived within two minutes, seeing as he lived right upstairs. I watched him walk through the doorway so effortlessly while smoking a cigarette, and somehow all I could focus on was that tiny sliver of happiness that my friends could bring me. That, at least, I could enjoy. 


The only thing keeping me going in school was looking forward to the weekends. I managed to do the work (well, most of the work…) and suffer through all the looks teachers and students alike were giving me. I ignored most of them and in third period, snuck outside behind the gymnasium.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” I heard a familiar voice come out from the shadows. I took a drag of the cigarette in my left hand and shrugged.

“I probably should be, but shouldn’t you be there as well?” I told Taylor, who was always disappointing his parents by skipping classes and smoking on campus. His family had a lot of expectations – sometimes too many for him to live up to. That’s where I sympathized with Taylor. You see, my parents, when they were around, just wanted me to make it through high school. They had zero expectations of our family and that, somehow, made it easier.

Taylor chuckled to himself. “You and I both know I never go to Mr. Murphy’s class, Alex. His class is just a bunch of bull. But you don’t usually skip… why the sudden change?”

“Oh, Ryan and I have been fighting for the past two days and he had the nerve to come and check up on me in school. So I’ve been avoiding the teachers to the best of my ability,”

“That plan hasn’t worked out too well, now has it?” We heard a stern voice call. I spun around and saw out principal standing on the edge of the basketball court. I immediately dropped my cigarette to the group and swallowed hard.

I wasn’t an A+ student, but I rarely got into mischief. I was (mostly) well behaved. I had never, not once, been sent to the principal’s office. It’s almost laughable how good I was. I looked at Taylor with a hint of panic but he seemed to have this under control.

I watched as he walked across the basketball court and exchange a few words with the principal, then come back to me. “Alex, just go back to class. I got this one.”

“But-“ I started to say, but Taylor just shook his head and told me once again to go back to class. I know I should have stayed and demanded that we both get punished, but something inside me knew I should take this opportunity. So I ran back inside, sprayed myself with perfume that would never cover up the smell of smoke and returned back to class, all eyes on me.

Later, I found out that Taylor got two days suspension. 
All for me.
I didn’t know how to thank him, so I let him take some records from the shop, free of charge. I couldn’t think of a better way to pay him back.

As for Ryan and his rules, I would deal with that mess later. 


Jodie Larken had never been a friend of mine. 

But a party was a party and I would not miss that opportunity. I went with Ben and watched as he got absolutely wasted. And we had only been here an hour and a half. I sighed heavily and took another drag off my cigarette to try and get my mind off of the fact that I was always, without a doubt, the designated driver.

I suppose you could say that my parents taught me well. They were alcoholics – nearly threw their whole lives away for the stuff. After they abandoned me when I was eight for a month long vacation, I promised myself I would never touch alcohol of any sorts.

Sure, temptation was strong. Especially times when I wanted to scream or tear my hair out or just curse the world for the way I lived, but I resisted it each time. I knew that the second the warm liquid touched my lips I would be hooked, and end up just like my parents.

Who, coincidentally, were home tonight. They had just spent six months in Mexico, going God knows what. I didn’t want to know, even if they would tell me. My parents were very secretive, that much I knew. Somehow I knew that Ryan would be coming home from work early, trying to make the apartment appear as if it wasn’t a dump.

Truthfully, neither of us had a knack for cleaning. Our rooms were almost identical in the fact that you could hardly see the floors. The living room and kitchen weren’t as disastrous, but my parents would not be happy when they saw it. Then again, I didn’t know if they would be sober enough to realize. 

But something told me that my mom would be trying her best not to resort to the tiny bottle of scotch in her purse, mostly for me. Despite all her faults, my mom tried her best to make a little cash on the side to at least pay for a few weeks’ worth of food. 

I felt my cell phone buzzing in my pocket. I answered it reluctantly, seeing it was Ryan. “Hello?” I answered anyways, walking outside where it was a little quieter, away from all the chaos inside.

“Alexandra, where the hell are you? Mom and Dad are going to be here in half an hour and you need to make a good impression on them. They’ve been gone for a month!”

I rolled my eyes. “Make a good impression? They’re my fucking parents, they don’t need a good impression.” I sighed heavily. “Listen, Ryan, I’ll be home before they even get there, don’t worry about it.”

“You better-“ I didn’t let him finish, because I clicked the ‘End’ button and stuffed my cell phone back into my pocket. “Ben, I have to go. You think you can get a ride from your sister or something?”

“Uh,” Ben grunted and waved me away with his hand. I shrugged and figured he was man enough to find a way to get home. So, like the good daughter I was, I fixed my appearance in the car and headed home, through traffic.

When I walked through the door, Ryan was pacing the living room (which now only had a few beer bottles scattered around) back in forth. “You don’t look so well.” I laughed a little bit to myself and retreated back to my bedroom.

Ryan was right behind me, though, nearly on my feet. “No. Get out there and… I don’t know, act like you’re a good student. Do your homework or something. Do the dishes. Change your clothes; Mom will not approve of that.”

I sighed for what felt like the millionth time that night. “I’m not doing my homework, those dishes have been in the sink for ages and this outfit is fine. I don’t think she’ll be worrying about me when she sees you.”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“You smell like you haven’t taken a shower in weeks.” I told him.

Ryan outright laughed. “Yeah, well, cold showers aren’t very enjoyable and good shampoo is too expensive.” 

To be honest, I hated the way we lived. We were poor – we could barely make enough to pay the rent and then buy food. I had a job at a coffee shop down the street but I was mostly just a fill-in. I didn’t think I needed a job but Ryan had forced me in it. I had considered resigning more than once and picking up some hours at the record shop.

My thoughts were cut into by the front door slamming. “Anybody home?” I heard my father’s scratchy beer voice. 

“No fucking around,” Ryan warned me and together, we walked out into the living room, fake smiles plastered to our faces. “Hi mom,” He enveloped her weak body in a hug. She had a slight beer belly and her hair was thin. She didn’t look good… almost like she was sick. 

“Ryan, my baby,” She cooed and watched as our dad hugged him. Next, they turned to me and their smiles faded just the slightest. I knew they didn’t want me to see the disappointment in their eyes but I still caught it. “Alexandra, what the hell happened to your hair?” My mom walked forward, a disgusted look on her face. 

My eyebrows knitted together. “I cut it. I like it better like this.”

She shook her head disapprovingly, a sigh escaping her lips. “Well. How are you doing in school?”

“Fine,” I told her. “I’m getting C’s in all my classes.”

Again, I could tell she was disappointed. Both her children would never become anything grand – I would never be the star student, or the star anything for that matter. I had no extraordinary talents and I would never become what my parents wanted me to. 

As we sat down to a dinner of day old pizza and beer, I realized that my parents were disappointed by everything about me. I realized that I could never make them proud by being myself. I didn’t want to end up like them and I would try my best not to. I didn’t have to make them proud – I could make myself proud, and that would be all that mattered. 


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