(ran TP edition)
Summer vacation is payback time for these teens _ no alarm clocks, just lots of TV and hanging out with friends. But it all ends soon.
Normally, a story that trails someone's day begins with a ringing alarm clock. But this story cannot begin that way because Ashley McIntyre, 15, has deliberately removed the batteries from her quartz butterfly alarm clock. She wakes in a room decorated with trophies and porcelain dolls, whenever her body feels like it, which is about noon or 1 p.m.
It is payback time, she said, for the rest of the school year, when she and her twin sister, Christy, both rising juniors at Sickles High School, have to be in class at the ungodly hour of 6:45 a.m. Plus, Ashley endured the additional strain of having biology first period.
So during the summer, they veg out.
Their schedule, for the beginning part of the day at least, reads like a television guide:
At 2 p.m., Ashley watches Jerry Springer. Her legs up on the leather ottoman in the living room. Her eyes glued to the big-screen TV. "They have some weird stuff on here," she said.
Christy goes into her parents room to watch As the World Turns, where the storyline of Lily and Holden's adopted baby has absorbed her.
"The baby is actually the chief-of-staff's grandson's baby," explained Christy. "It was his alcoholic son that got a street girl pregnant. It is all coming out now."
At 3 p.m., the twins reunite in the living room for Guiding Light.
At 4 p.m., they switch to channel 53, the Cartoon Network. It's time for Toonami! _ afternoon cartoons.
First, there is Sailor Moon, a Japanese cartoon about a high school girl who fights crime wearing a sailor outfit.
The twins know the opening theme by heart:
"Fighting evil by moonlight. Winning battles by daylight. Never running from a real fight. She is the one named Sailor Moon!"
After that show, comes Reboot, a computer animated show in which computers rule the planet.
After that is DragonBall 5 and then Jonny Quest at 5:30 p.m.
Snuck somewhere in the "morning" routine is 25 minutes of running on the tread mill and riding the stationary bike.
"You don't want to just sit in the house all day," said Christy.
This is a glimpse of Ashley and Christy's summer, your average teenagers. Yes, they spend a lot of time watching television, sometimes until 4 a.m. when all the stupid horror movies come on. They also play Motor Racer on the computer, go bowling, to the movies, to Busch Gardens because they have annual passes, and hangout with friends, who pop into their Carrollwood home, after Toonami, to swim, play foosball, gossip or simply turn up the music and dance.
During the school year, the girls study hard and play basketball. Summers serve a different purpose.
It would seem that time - three whole months to be exact _ is wasted. But being at home is exactly what the McIntyres, who own their own construction supply business, wanted this summer. Usually, they go on a cruise to Mexico or Cozumel or the Bahamas.
Or the girls go to camp: cheerleading when they were younger, basketball when they were older.
They have enrolled in educational programs. In one, they learned the ins and outs of running a small business. In another, called Camp AnyTown, they met with other teens and discussed issues like racism and peer pressures.
But this summer, no such plans were made.
In September, their older brother, Jeris, 18, starts Auburn University, following in his father's footsteps and playing football and majoring in business. In two years, the twins will also go off to college.
The household will change, says their mother, Jeraldeancq McIntyre. So this summer, as quiet as it is, is special.
"This is the last summer all of us will be a home," she said.
Instead of exotic locations, they find another retreat.
"I'll be in the computer room with my sister and my dog," said Christy. "Then, my parents will come in there. We'll all start talking. My brother will come in.
"We'll all start chilling out," said Christy, "in the computer room."
The afternoon school let out, the girls went to see a movie. Which one? No one remembers. There have been so many: The Mummy, Wild Wild West, Midsummer Night's Dream, Notting Hill, which they loved, Star Wars, Matrix, The Haunting, American Pie, which they also loved.
Doesn't matter if it was rated R.
They have a will and a way.
"American Pie is rated R, but it is about teenagers. Hello? We're teenagers," said Ashley.
Sometimes teens don't even see a movie. They circle the food court at Citrus Park Mall because that is where Sickles students hang out.
"You don't even have to make plans to meet someone there," said Ashley. "They will be there."
Their rounds include visiting the people from Sickles who work at the mall.
Sometimes, their mother drives them there. But mostly _ especially since Ashley and Christy are almost 16, they go with Kristen "Debo" Larson, a friend from basketball who is 17 and gets to drive her father's black Ford Explorer.
Another person who has been driving them is Jeris, which he has never done before this summer.
This is the brother who teases Christy because she likes to watch old movies like Oklahoma and My Fair Lady. The brother who _ when they were little _ would have kick fights. All three would get under the covers and on the count of three would start kicking like maniacs until one fell out.
Now, he was allowing them to tag along when he hung out with his friends from Tampa Catholic. And he would hang out with them, working out with them in the mornings.
"He acts more like a brother now," said Christy.
He has even gone to Club Joy on N Dale Mabry Highway with them.
During the summer months, the club hosts teen nights on Sundays, starting at 8 p.m. The entrance fee for the non-alcohol night is $10. Soft drinks are $1 extra. Yet, the place is packed, crowds averaging about 500, said Christopher Scott, the club's owner.
It is a taste of adulthood the suburban teens love. The girls deck out in platforms and skirts with high slits. The guys prance around with cell phone.
'"Gentlemen, show me everything in your pockets," says the doorman, conducting the mandatory frisk of all male patrons. Purses are checked on the girls.
The club has strict rules on teen nights: No hats, no gang symbols, no excessively baggie jeans. The girl with the pill vial has to give it up at the door. She can retrieve it when she leaves, says the doorman.
"We want to keep it safe," said Scott. "Make sure everyone has a good time."
Ashley and Christy's dad drops them off, along with best, best friends, Mercedes Brown, who lives in the subdivision near them, and Denisha Crawford, 16. It is Denisha's first time to Club Joy. Ashley and Christy have been twice.
The evening goes like this: Dance, walk back and forth, hug guys they know, complain about the techno music.
Finally, a song they like. They push toward the dance floor.
"If only we had a place to hangout like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer," said Kristen.
Oh, another thing teens do a lot during the summer: Complain about how there is nothing to do.
Their mother sets them straight. Her childhood was spent in Alabama in the '60s and '70s.
"I wasn't allowed at the bowling alleys or the community swimming pool. We weren't allowed to go because of being black," she said.
Activities revolved around the church or the home of Mrs. Clark, a teacher who was also a parent. At her house, teens would gather for dances and sock hops.
"She was the one who would put up with us. That was our teen club."
She looks at her daughters. "They don't know how good they have it," she says.
"We do," they reply. "We do."
At the end of July, the McIntyre family caravaned to Auburn to drop Jeris off. He's been calling twice every day since. "He's a baby without us," said Ashley.
The house already seems a little empty, Mom says. Thursday, school starts for the girls. The batteries go back into the alarm clock and the long summer, which at times seemed to drag, shortens to a quick memory.