Steph found Abstinence Camp to be the most traumatic thing to her, but just like everything else, she locked the memories of Lumberaxe into a box in the back of her mind, locked it up and tossed it into the deep dark pit that she called her heart. She was already blocking out the memories of what happened. She didn’t want to continuously envision seeing the camp counsellors getting thrown at trees, exploding due to the prime nature of the thing that had thrown her. She didn’t want to envision the camp counsellor getting split in half, the sound of the axe against bone, crunching and crushing. She didn’t want to remember it at all.
She finished packing her things and sighed. She finally got to wear her own clothes, even if it was late august. She slid into a dark red flannel over a white crop top. She wore a black skirt over ripped fishnets and her sneakers. She put on her makeup, light due to the stickiness of the august heat, and pursed her lips together to ensure that her lipstick was applied evenly. She then grabbed her beanie, black, and placed it on top of her head. She looked at herself in the mirror and a small smile formed on herself. There she was. Steph Lauter. The mayor’s daughter. At least at Abstinence Camp she had been someone. She’d been more than the title she was known of because of her father. She’d been her own person.
She grabbed her suitcase and dragged it along the uneven path to the front entrance of Camp Idontwannabang, where a counsellor was holding out her phone to her. She took it, an emotionless smile on her face. Then, she made it out of the gate and saw Pete sitting, with his leg now in a cast and crutches by his side, on a chair by the councillor’s shed. She could feel her heart pick up and her body suddenly felt much lighter as she headed in his direction. He looked up at her, pushing his round glasses up on to his nose, eyes lightening up. He smiled, though his was genuine, and as she moved closer to him, hers became filled with the same emotion he was emitting as well. She gestured to the empty seat beside him in the ‘waiting area’ which was just a bunch of chairs from the arts and crafts cabin for kids to wait for their parents to pick them up. “Can I sit here?”
Pete laughed softly and nodded. “Feel free.”
She nodded and sat down beside him, looking at him. “So, who’s picking you up?”
“My brother.” Pete looked at Steph and gulped. “I take it it’s your dad picking you up?”
She fell silent and nodded. “Yep. Yeah, uh, he’s coming to pick me up. But don’t worry, I won’t tell him about us. I don’t think he’s ready to hear that I’ve got a-…” She was going to say boyfriend, but she wasn’t quite sure what they were. She licked her lips and looked down. “Yeah. I don’t think he’s prepared to hear I kissed a boy in the woods while escaping a murderous half human who hates sex.”
“You’re not just saying that because you’re ashamed of kissing me, are you?”
Steph looked at him and shook her head urgently. “Oh god, Pete. No. No-look, I know I mainly hang around with the popular kids at school and shit but oh my god. I don’t mess with people’s feelings. I don’t play around, and I don’t cheat. And I know you know about my reputation about my romance life, everyone does, but they were all one-night stands that I thought were gonna progress on to better things. They never did.”
“Well, uh.” Pete cleared his throat and awkwardly pulled out his phone from his pocket, trying to manoeuvre around his crutches. He grasped a hold of it and looked down at it when he’d retrieved it before offering it over to Steph. “I would like to take you to go and see that new movie that we were discussing during the campfire that one night, if you’re still up for it?”
Steph looked from him to his phone and set her own phone down on her lap. She took his phone, which he had unlocked, and carefully put in her phone number with the contact as steph <3 before handing it back to him. “I’d like that.” She said as a baby blue Studebaker pulled up.
She turned to look as, from the driver’s seat, a man in an oversized white hoodie staggered out, also in pyjamas and sneakers. He didn’t look particularly put together. He collected himself, a hand on his chest, wincing until he saw Pete where he calmly, but collectively, made his way over to Pete, wrapping him up in a hug. “Goddammit, Petey. I shoulda never let ya come here. Jesus fuck and a half, ya shoulda been at home safe! And look at you! Abstinence Camp is supposed to break your dick, not ya fuckin’ leg!”
Pete’s face was quickly squished against his older brother’s shoulder and he pat Ted’s back awkwardly, pulling away. “Ted, I’m okay, I promise.”
“I don’t fuckin’ think you are!” He took a deep breath and looked to Pete. “I’m so glad I got you in my custody because I can’t imagine what the hell mom and dad’d do if they saw ya like this. Come on. Let’s get you home.”
Pete nodded, and with Ted’s assistance, stood up. Ted wrapped an arm around his shoulder and Pete laughed. “I’ve had the entirety of summer on these things, Ted. Don’t worry ‘bout it.”
“I’m gonna fuckin’ worry.” He looked at Pete, who was busy sending a text to someone. Ted sighed and went to grab Pete’s bag off the floor but as he did, the car door of the Studebaker slammed shut and Ted rolled his eyes, already knowing what was coming. “I’m fine! I got it!”
“No, you do not!” A stern yet charismatic voice shouted over. Ted went to bend down again to grab it, but an arm snaked around his waist, keeping him upright. “Get your brother back to the car. I’ve got this, Ted.”
Ted inhaled deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know what, Bill? Fine. Fine, you-you win but it’s just because I’ve been worried about my little brother!” Ted turned back to Pete. “Alright, Petey. Let’s get you home.”
Pete nodded and turned back to Steph, smiling. “Bye, Steph.” He said softly as he hobbled back to the car, getting in the back, shortly followed by Ted, who, climbed in. Pete was too busy to notice the hickeys on Ted’s neck or the slight messiness of Ted’s hair. He was too badly occupied with attempting to figure out the perfect message to send Steph for the first time. He settled, eventually, on a simple ‘hi :D it’s Pete!’, and when he looked up, Bill Woodward was in the drivers’ seat, and he was smiling back at him.
“So, Peter,” he began. “How was Abstinence Camp?”
“Bill!” Ted scolded. “The kid almost died, leave him alone.”
Bill tutted and shook his head. “What is it with the Spankoffski brothers almost dying this summer?”
At that, Pete’s eyes widened, and the car fell into silence. Ted cleared his throat and looked back. “Look, Petey. I’d have picked you up sooner from the camp, but I got into a little incident myself and when I received news that you’d had your leg broken…I was in hospital.”
“I…god this is so stupid.” He snorted. “I went to the Honey Festival to try and find a girl and the girl I ended up choosing was a psycho who…shot me. Four times in four different places.”
“My shoulder, grazed past my cheek, my chest and right above my balls. Are you happy now?”
“No! I’m not happy! I-“
“I know. You want me to stop being such a sleazeball, want me to try and do better.” He said and took a deep breath. “I’ve been on bedrest these past few weeks, Pete. I ain’t had time to find a girl. But I found a guy instead.” He looked up to Bill. “And Bill’s been around these past few weeks helpin’ me out and…”
Pete’s eyes opened wide, and he looked straight ahead of him. “And I thought kissing Steph Lauter in the middle of the woods was the craziest thing that could have happened all summer.”
Ted whipped his head around. “You kissed Stephanie fuckin’ Lauter?!”
“You got together with Alice Woodward’s dad?!”
“Uh, yeah. I did. It’s still early days, Petey!”
“It was one kiss!”
“Oh, it’s what they all say. It’s where they all start out. One kiss and suddenly, you’re meetin’ the parents, and you’re off to college and-“
“Ted.” Bill spoke from the front seat. “This isn’t gonna be a Jenny situation, alright? Calm down.”
Ted huffed and glared at his brother. “My brother goes to fuckin’ Camp Idontwannabang and ends up kissing Steph Lauter. Goddamn. Where was my game when I was forced there?”
“You were forced there cuz mom wanted a straight son.” More silence. “I think we all need therapy.”
When school started back up again, Pete was still on crutches, and he wasn’t able to wear his iconic suspenders bow tie combo. And, for the first few weeks, while Pete was still recovering, he and Steph kept their distance, but it wasn’t long before they dropped the barrier, and they began getting closer with each other. Steph opted to stop hanging out with her jock asshole ‘friends’ and one lunch time hesitantly approached Pete’s table with Pete’s nerdy friends, Grace Chasity included, and took a seat beside him after being welcomed. The entire cafeteria turned to look at Stephanie Lauter in shock as she gazed lovingly at Pete.
They were spotted elsewhere as well. The first instance had been going to see that new movie. Most recently, it had been Steph sitting in Oakley Park in the early November night, a thick coat wrapped around her. She lay in Pete’s lap, stoned out of her mind, laughing at someone’s definitely unfunny joke. She knew that Pete had a pretty large friend group, but she didn’t think it had been that large. There was everyone there. Ziggs, who was their weed supplier because they worked on a pot farm, Ethan Green who was still a stoner outside of Hatchetfield High, Alice Woodward and Deb, the guy from the Cineplex who’d been quiet all evening and Danny and Sof, also providers of weed.
Eventually, it began to approach midnight and Steph knew she had to go home. She’d likely be in trouble with her father anyway. She always had been recently, and for as long as she could possibly remember. She took a final hit on the joint and linked arms with Pete, both of them stumbling home. They lived relatively near each other anyway. She had her keys in her hand when Pete wrapped his arms around her and kissed her gently. Goodbye. She smiled and kissed him back, telling him that she’d message him and for him to message her to let her know he got home safely.
She unlocked the door and stepped inside, immediately met with Solomon Lauter in the living room, the sternest of expressions on his face. She rolled her eyes so far that she was convinced they were going to get stuck in the back of her mind. He cleared his throat and checked his watch. “Stephanie, what time do you call this?”
“Time for you to shut the fuck up and let me go to bed?” She asked, eyes narrowing.
That definitely didn’t impress her father. “It’s nearly midnight. I don’t want you out and about after-“
“Oh, fuck off about your reputation, Solomon. You lost the election. Give it up already!”
“Bed, Stephanie! Now!”
“I was heading that way!”
So, she stumbled her way up the stairs and changed half into her pyjamas, eventually collapsing on her bed in her jumper and shirt. She must have been exhausted, for she fell asleep, lighter in hand. She already could guess the punishment that her father was planning on giving her, but she didn’t care. She was turning 18 in a few months. It’d all be fine, and she knew it.
She woke up the next morning and the first thing she did was send Peter an apologetic text, explaining that she’d gone straight to sleep after a brief argument with her father about getting home so late. She went to sleep, and she hadn’t given her father a second thought. There wasn’t any point. They were constantly fighting. It wasn’t exactly her fault. Her father wanted her to be the prime example of a girl that she could possibly be, and she, instead, wanted to party and get drunk which he definitely didn’t like. At that point, she’d given up caring. She shut her eyes, moving deeper under her covers to keep warm. She was half awake when he texted her back.
‘If ur having a shitty night with ur dad, that is’
‘Well, it’s morning but I think u get the idea’
‘I’ll be there in ten.’
Steph Lauter went to the Spankoffski household, and she smiled at Pete’s brother, making herself as presentable as possible. Ted was quite funny, she found, when he wanted to be. She could already tell that if she was going to be around a lot more that she and Ted would be getting along quite well. She didn’t have any problem with that whatsoever.
Pete took her hand and carefully led her up to his bedroom. Just like she’d expected from Peter Spankoffski, his entire room was decked out in space memorabilia and chemistry sets. She laughed at the irony of the situation. He laughed with her. He got himself in front of a chemistry set and she watched as he became comfortable in his element. She watched, fascinated, and she realised that she might be able to do better at chemistry this year if she had Peter by her side.
When Ted announced that he was going to work later on in the day because of his recently cut hours but also because of his gunshot wounds that still needed some critical attention to, Pete and Steph found themselves in awkward silence though they had no need to feel that way. Steph ended up taking a seat on Pete’s bed, removing her jumper when Peter came back in after cleaning up the leftovers of his chemistry set. The heating was on in the house, so it was already a little bit room. Pete looked at Steph and blushed slightly, and she blushed back. He sat beside her, and she shuffled closer. She kissed him first, he kissed back.
Steph Lauter entered the house single and left after taking Pete Spankoffski’s virginity and declaring herself his girlfriend.
They met up a lot more frequently. They invited Grace Chasity into their friend group, and she was absolutely delighted to see that Steph and Pete had gotten together. As an entire friend group, they slowly opened her up to the real world and why Christianity wasn’t all that great, and she was still a Christian, but she didn’t force it down other’s throats anymore. Ziggs became more of a mentor figure to Grace because they were nonbinary and they felt it the best to discuss the LGBTQ community with her, to introduce her to new concepts that (hopefully) she’d adapt and take on.
They all celebrated whenever they could. They celebrated when they were done with the semester or done with exams. They celebrated birthdays, Christmases, Halloween. Steph’s birthday was particularly special for them all, though, because it was the first time that the group truly felt as if they were finally being accepted. They’d somehow managed to befriend a ‘popular girl’ and she wasn’t making fun of them. She was accepting them for who they were. She wasn’t forcing herself to blend in with them. She genuinely enjoyed their company. Their company and their weed.
Pete and Steph got closer, of course, and by the time they graduated, they were the closest couple in the school, or one of them. Ted had accepted Steph as one of his best friends, and Alice had come to terms with the fact that her father might end up “professionally marrying” Ted Spankoffski, so she might end up as Pete Spankoffski’s sister. Pete enjoyed Bill’s company, and nobody minded having Steph around so often. In fact, they enjoyed her company more than anyone. Bill especially because Steph was better at Just Dance than Ted was and it was good to see his boyfriend humbled occasionally.
There was one person who Steph couldn’t let Peter meet at the time, and that was her father, who remained to having his chained expectations for wanting a straight A daughter. But, suddenly, she wasn’t going off to college and she was working at Starbucks instead of going into politics like he so desperately hoped. He believed that he should still have full control over her even though she was 18 now and he legally couldn’t. She was a consenting adult. She was someone who had her own job and was earning her own income.
If only he hadn’t divorced her mom. Maybe things would be better.
He used to be so kind, when her mom was still around, but suddenly, she packs up and leaves and her father turns cold, bitter and borderline abusive. Steph knew that and many others around her knew it as well but up until that point, she hadn’t been able to run. But, lately, she had been running. More specifically and more frequently, into the arms of Pete Spankoffski. She didn’t cry, but it was nice to get a cuddle off of someone who cared about her. Sometimes, Ted would hold her if Pete was busy, and sometimes it’d be Alice, or Bill. She loved Pete’s family. She hated her own.
She ended up packing her things one day and doing exactly what her mother did – cut off contact spontaneously and left. She arrived on the doorstep of the new Spankoffski residence where Ted waited with open arms and a bed for her to sleep in. Of course, Pete was downstairs in seconds after Ted had informed him what had happened. The fighting got too much, and she hadn’t dealt with it. She didn’t need her father’s money. She was earning her own income. She wasn’t going to go off to college and become the genius that her father wanted her to be. She was gonna be Stephanie fucking Lauter, and she was gonna rule the fucking world.
Things were quiet for the next year or so. Stephanie only texted her father when she really needed to, and that was if she needed to at all. He still sent her money, and she took it like it was candy. Every night, she ended up in Pete’s bed. He wrapped his arms around her, or sometimes his hands would be in her hair, but they always fell asleep close to each other. They always fell asleep close to each other.
Bill and Ted got closer as well, and many a time than not, they’d have movie nights where Ted and Bill would be snuggled up against each other, Alice and Deb would be doing something relating to Deb’s art project for school and Pete and Steph would be on the couch, trying to figure out what was going to happen in the narrative. It was a very peaceful situation that everyone often found themselves in and they became adjusted to it as fast as they became adjusted to their new, domestic routine.
And then Steph got sick. Five months after she turned 19, she got sick. Pete was 20 at that point and of course he was worried about her. She was practically bedridden for the time being, but she insisted he go to work and not to worry. “I’ve got Ted, after all, don’t I? And if it gets really bad, I’ll ring you.” So, Pete went off to work, and Ted came back from the store. He tapped on the door and passed Steph the bag. The smile in his eyes meant that Steph could trust him with the outcome of the results no matter what.
It was mental hell having to text her father that she received double lines on a pregnancy test. Ted had his arm wrapped around her as she shook, trying to hold back tears as he read the text that Solomon had sent her. He furrowed his eyebrows as it processed, and he looked down at her.
“What the fuck is he tryna do, tellin’ ya that you gotta take his money to get rid of this kid, hey?! Who the fuck does he think he is? Oh, god, I want a word with that man.”
“Then you can have a word with him, but I don’t wanna see him again.” She sniffled and swallowed thickly. “I never want to know him as my father.”
“And you won’t. I promise. It takes a hell of a lot more to be family than blood and genetics. That man definitely is not father material. And this is comin’ from someone who was disciplined his entire teenage years for bringing a boy home one day and supposedly giving him heart eyes.” He paused. “My parents made me feel extremely uncomfortable with my sexual identity and sent me to Abstinence Camp in hopes of proving that dating a girl would be more beneficial. I mean, I’m bisexual. If I wanted to date a girl, then I would.” He sighed. “And it took me several long years for me to finally accept that sure, I got a crush on my co-worker, and now we’re dating. I cut my dad off immediately. Cut my mom off too. When I found out that they were havin’ a baby boy, I took ‘em both to court. I got my boss’ assistance and I won custody of him because I was not letting my baby brother grow up around an alcoholic family like I’d done.” He paused and looked down at Steph. “You got me. I ain’t the best role model, but I’m here.”
Ted, a man of his word, had Solomon Lauter sitting down at his dinner table that evening. Bill was working late, and Alice was out with friends so it was Ted, Pete, Steph and the ex-mayor of Hatchetfield grouped around the one table, eating Ted’s finest meal that he could throw together. At that point, Steph had revealed that she was, in fact, late for her period to Pete and given him the physical evidence so he was aware, but the shock hadn’t fully subsided yet.
But the way Solomon Lauter decided to announce the fact that Stephanie was in fact not going ahead with the pregnancy because he’d already given her the money for the abortion had Pete riling with anger. He grabbed Steph’s hand from underneath the table and turned to face the man, shaking his head. “You take that back right now.”
“Well, you’re both 19-“
“I turned 20 a few months ago, actually.”
“But you’re so immature. You’re naïve and irresponsible! I mean, you can take Stephanie here as a prime example as to why she’d never be a good mother.”
“You take her name out of your mouth.” Pete bit fiercely, unexpectedly.
Solomon laughed and went in for the kill, but was blocked by Ted suddenly saying, “Mr Lauter, politely, get the fuck out of my house.”
When Solomon left, so did Stephanie. She didn’t give any notice. She clasped her hand with her mouth, and she ran off in the direction of Pete’s room. Pete looked to his brother helplessly and bit on his cheek. “Did I do something wrong?”
“Oh, kiddo, nah. Nah, ya didn’t. She’s been on edge all day and I don’t blame her.” He looked at him. “You need a hug?”
Ted nodded and moved his chair around to Pete, gently hugging him. “You know you’ve got my support. I’ll be here to provide advice to the best of my abilities, bud. I can’t say I’m a very good dad myself cuz I ain’t got a kid.”
“You got me? You raised me pretty well?”
“Exactly. So, I can offer some advice. So, right now, we give Steph her time and we let her cry it all out. If she asks for ya, just be there for her, kiddo. Okay?”
And there for her Pete was. For the entire nine months. He was there as much as he could have been. He read up, he studied, and he got himself a better job. He and Steph were supported immensely by Bill and Ted when it came down to things. If Steph needed to be left alone, then she needed her time. If all she needed was to be held, then all she needed to be held.
But there they sat, at home, three years to the day that marked their run in with Lumberaxe, the Mad Woodsman, with a baby girl cuddled up to their chest, Steph half awake on Pete’s shoulder. He smiled down at her, helping to support Steph with their daughter. He pressed a gentle kiss to Steph’s forehead and watched her smile. “I love you so much, Steph.”
“I love you too, Spankoffski.” She yawned and nuzzled into the crook of his neck, carefully placing their daughter in his arms. “You take Tia, okay? I need a nap.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Pete stood up carefully and looked at Steph. “Message me when you wake up. I’ll take her to see her favourite uncle.”
“Her only uncle.”
“Until they get married.” He reminded and flicked the lights off. He walked downstairs just as Ted walked through the door after his shift at CCRP. Pete smiled proudly. “Ya know, Ted, I know we named her Theodora and everything, but she does look a lot like me.”
“Goddamn you, Petey.” Ted ran a hand through his hair and walked forward. “Baby Theodora, huh? Tia?”
“Theodora Jeri Spankoffski.” Pete told him as he gently passed Tia over to Ted.
“Remind me to never, in the event me and Bill magically conceive a baby, or we get a cat. Remind me to never come to you for baby names.”
Pete grinned and crossed his arms proudly, pushing his glasses back up on his nose. Yeah. He was happy. This time, he knew Steph was. She was safe, smiling and asleep. That was how he wanted her. Safe and smiling. Everything had worked out. It was funny to reflect back on where they’d started and were they’d ended up, but it was okay. They came home with the new addition to the Spankoffski family, and nobody was complaining. In fact, they were quite happy to welcome her.
Everything was happy. Everything was okay.