My So-Called Life

My ears drowned out the irritable voice of my History teacher, Mr. Listen, as I pressed graphite onto lined notebook paper. During History class, most students doodle on the back of their notebook, drawing hearts around their crush’s name or penciling down random objects. I, on the other hand, waste my time writing, which is more intelligent than scribbling ‘I love Jimmy’ all over my notebook.

“Ellie.”

I looked up and noticed the whole class looking at me. I was suddenly thrown under a fairly large microscope like a slide containing a plant cell.

“Yes?” I inquired softly, shutting my notebook.

Mr. Lister repeated the question he had asked me: “When did world War Two begin?”

“Um . . . 1776?”

The class burst out into laughter. I rolled my eyes, doubting any of them knew the real answer.

Mr. Lister called on someone else, who answered the question correctly. Honestly not caring, I re-opened my notebook. I was consumed in my writing that I didn’t hear the knock on the classroom door a few moments later.

“Oh, hello, Miss Kessler.”

My head shot up, and I saw the lanky figure of the school guidance counselor. Actually, Miss Kessler was my guidance counselor: I was the only person in the whole ninth grade that visited Miss Kessler weekly. Miss Kessler had made it clear that I has to talk to her for a whole hour each week so we could discuss my ‘issues’ I had supposedly developed ever since my parents had put an end to their relationship.

Miss Kessler was on the northern end of thirty, on her way to the big Four-Oh. She wore her shoulder-skimming blonde hair down, brown roots revealing her true hair color. She had on a white blouse, a black pin-stripe skirt, and black boots that slithered up her calves. She was hanging onto the slim glimpse of youth she had left. Miss Kessler tried to pass off as a young thirty, but it ultimately failed on most occasions. She was a school guidance counselor and she couldn’t disguise the fact that the occupation was again her.

Being forced to be my therapist probably didn’t help Miss Kessler’s mental state, either.

Before Mr. Lister could tell me that I could go, I had stuffed my things into my black and red tote, slung it over my shoulder, and exited the room. Miss Kessler shut the door behind us, and we walked the familiar path to her small office.

I opened the door and took in the over-familiar layout of the room. The desk near the eastern azure wall, a large bookshelf containing books about teenage mental problems pressed against the western side of the room, a chair sitting in the middle of the egg-shell colored carpet, a black leather couch in relation to the southern wall, and doctorates, diplomas, and other framed certificated with highly-official bragging right bestowed on them covered the empty space on the walls.

Yeah, everything was the same as it was last Tuesday.

I sat on the sofa and placed the bag beside me. The scent of lavender and cherry blossoms filled my nose the same way it did a week ago. I wrinkled my nose, not liking the sweet combination what-so-ever.

Miss Kessler closed the door, retrieved her yellow legal pad from her desk, and sat down in the chair that was posed in the middle of the room, a few feet away from where I sat.

“So, Ellie . . . anything new since we last saw each other?” Miss Kessler inquired, flashing me a smile. A smudge of red lipstick graced her upper left incisor. Charming.

I responded, “No.”

The smile faded.

“Nothing? That’s interesting.” She scratched something down on the yellow paper.

I picked at my cuticle as Miss Kessler finished writing.

She asked, “How is your parents’ separation going?”

I corrected, “The word ‘separation’ implies that my parents are still married but living apart. The more adequate term in this situation is ‘divorce’.”

Ellie, shut up and stop being a perfectionist.

“I’m sorry, Ellie. I thought ‘separation’ was a non-emotive replacement for ‘divorce’.”

She probably thought I didn’t know what she had said, but I clearly understood where she was getting at.

Miss Kessler pried, “How is the divorce? Are you okay?”

“As okay as I was last week when you asked me,” I said, my voice ice cold.

Ignoring my attitude, Miss Kessler scribbled down more words.

“Interesting. So, are you crushing on the high school quarterback or maybe the captain of the baseball team?”

I replied, “Uh, I don’t ‘crush’ on boys; it’s against my nature. I’ve never had a boyfriend, and I’ll never will. Also, I think the exposure these boys get for throwing a ball or running bases is non-essential and lowering our academic standings in relation to other schools in our school district.”

There you go again, Ellie; you’re over-analyzing everything to hide your own emotions.

Miss Kessler wrote down everything I said, and then stated, “You have a point Ellie, but I’m more concerned about how you view the world and your social standing in this world. Do you think that your opinion about everything is somewhat biased?”

“Yes,” I replied, “

“Why do you have biased views of your surroundings?” Miss Kessler questioned.

“So I need an explanation for everything I do?”

Scribble, Scribble, the pen went.

“Ellie,” Miss Kessler began, wiping something off her skin-tight skirt, “I think you are beginning the first stage of psychosis: your attitude is fairly rude, you have problems with being accepted by your peers, and you are also demonstrating developed symptoms of paranoia. I think we should extend our meeting to twice a week for an hour each session.”

I stated, “Or, maybe, I’m just experiencing the aftermath of my parents’ divorce. This is why I hate guidance counselors; you guys pick and prod at your ‘clients’ to let their emotions out when they are on the verge of an emotional break down and then, you get paid every time someone leaves your office crying! It’s an irrational occupation that is suppose to help people step away from the edge but you end up pushing them over it instead!”

Silence surrounded us for a few minutes. Then, Miss Kessler shattered it.

“How does that make you feel?”

Sitting back down on the couch, I let myself release an agitated sigh.

****

Shutting the door behind me, I closed my eyes. The rest of the hour with Miss Kessler was pure torture and I didn’t want to think about it. I went to the high school office, needing a hall pass to return to class.

“Hello, Ellie,” the secretary, Miss Carter, greeted me, a smile on her face.

I replied, “Hey, Miss Carter. I need a hall pass.”

Nodding, Miss Carter looked down at her desk where the pad of passes should have been.

“I must’ve run out of passes. I’ll be right back.”

With that, Miss Carter went to the back room, swinging her over-sized bottom as she went.

I leaned against the desk and drummed my fingers on the surface in waiting. Behind me, the door opened and someone entered. Not bothering to look, I began to twist a long strand of my fire-red hair around my index finger and snap my gum.

“Um, excuse me?” A voice asked, the verbalization having a southern strum to it.

I turned and saw a boy about my age standing behind me, a book-bag slung over his shoulder. He had light blown hair flopping over ice blue eyes. He wore a tucked-in flannel shirt, Wrangler jeans, a belt with a belt-buckle the size of his head, and cowboy boots. Not even trying to act polite, I snorted a laugh.

“I’m sorry but the rodeo is nowhere near here.”

The boy smirked and replied, “Actually, I’m looking for the secretary. Where is she?”

I answered, “She’s in the back room . . . nice outfit, checkers.”

“You’re a very sour grape, aren’t you?” He asked.

“The sourest of the bunch,” I stated, adding fake pride to my statement.

Sticking out his left hand, the boy introduced, “I’m Shane Moore.”

I looked at his hand as if it were diseased. Rejecting it, I said, “I’m Ellie Parker. Where do you hail from partner?”

“Galveston, Texas. I’m new here.”

I pointed out, inspecting him and his outfit once again, “Apparently; nobody in Reno wears flannel shirts.”

With sarcasm, Shane said, commenting on my long-sleeved pale blue sweater, dark jeans and my Converse, “Thanks for the advice, Ellie; you of all people are just perfect to tell me what to wear.”

I raised my eyebrow, surprised that he was using my own attitude against me.

“You know, most people are smart enough not to mess with me.”

Shane told me, “Well, let’s just say that I’m not as smart as most people.”

I chuckled and Miss Carter finally returned. She had a pad of white passes in her hand. She sat down in her chair and scribbled down the necessary information, ripped the piece of paper out of the pad and handed it to me.

“Hello, how may I help you?” Miss Carter asked Shane. She sounded and looked like a fast-food restaurant worker who snuck nibbles at customers’ lunches.

Shane answered, “Yeah, I need my class schedule; I’m new.”

Wow, that boy loved stating the obvious.

“Oh, you’re the boy from Texas. You’re in Mrs. Holland’s class.”

I looked at him crazily, mouth open and eyebrows raised in feedback. Oh my God, he was in my class.

Miss Carter handed him a white piece of paper and said, “Follow Ellie back to her classroom; you two are in the same class.”

Shane smiled at me, trace amounts of smugness evident.

Sighing, I stated unwillingly, “Let’s go.”

I exited the office, my new classmate trailing behind me. He caught up and began to walk beside me, as if he had known me for more than two minutes.

“What’s your problem, anyway?”

I looked at Shane and asked in reply, “What do you mean?”

“I walk in and, within the first thirty seconds of my arrival, you insult me. What is your deal?”

“My deal is that I hate guys like you who just keep trying and trying to become friends with some, when they clearly don’t want to even talk to you. That is my deal,” I answered.

Shane stated, “You’re a sociopath.”

“You’re an idiotic cowboy who tries to hard,” I snapped back, almost walking into Mrs. Holland’s classroom door.

Shane mumbled, “I hate girls like you.”

With my hand on the metal door handle, I replied, “Everyone does.”

I opened the door and walked into the classroom. I was met with eighteen pairs of beady eyes, and they were all focused on the dead-beat behind me. For once, I wasn’t going to be the center of their mockery, so I exhaled a sigh of thankfulness.

“Welcome back, Ellie . . . and who’s this?” She gestured to Shane, who stood behind me staring at the speckled floor.

I answered smoothly, “He’s a stray. He kept following me and begging me for food.”

The class sniggered and Mrs. Holland commanded, “Back to your seat, Ellie.”

I slipped the white pass onto her desk and walked to my desk at the back of the room. I pulled my notebook out of my tote, opened it, and continued to write with my mechanical pencil. Mrs. Holland was talking about how the class should treat Shane as if he had always lived here, politely offer to show him around, blah, blah, blah . . .

“Shane, you can sit in the empty seat next to Ellie,” Mrs. Holland directed, her voice cutting through my clouded thoughts.

I glanced up, scowling. This day was just getting better and better, wasn’t it?

Shane sat down in his new seat and immediately looked at me.

“Maybe we should get to know each other more,” Shane whispered as Mrs. Holland ranted about some experience she had when she was our age. Scared to know what it was about, I turned to listen to look at Shane.

I said, the words spitting out before I could consider them, “You talk to me and I will kill you and make it look like an accident.”

Shane sat sideways for a moment, then turned back to stare at Mrs. Holland. My eyes stayed loosely glued on his profile.

Ellie, you are so mean. You complain about having no friends and when someone actually wants to be your friend, you turn them down cold. You can be a total-

“Ellie!”

My head shot up and Mrs. Holland gave me that look she always gave me when I wasn’t paying attention. Saying nothing, she turned back to the board.





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