Marlena Moves On

June 1, 2008
By Jackie Katz, New York, NY

City Girl

Marlena walked down Central Park West in New York City on a warm, sunny day to her school nearby. Her older sister Josephine walked alongside her, for she goes to the same school. The leaves of Central Park were turning a golden orange, and fresh smell of fall was in the air. It was Marlena’s first day seventh grade. She had just been school-supply shopping, and she was excited to break in her new pencils and notebooks.

“Marlena, we’re here!” Josephine snapped Marlena out of her daydream.

“Sorry, Josephine. I was just dreaming about what today’s going to be like.”

Marlena approached the steps of her competitive, expensive, New York private prep school. She took a breath, and walked up the freshly-painted stairs.

“I love the start of school. Everything’s new. Anything can happen.”

Marlena rushed to her first class, which was science. She immediately found last year’s partner, and her best friend, Natalie.



The two embraced after a long period of only talking on the phone.

“How was your summer?”

Marlena told her friend about her summer at luxury sleep-away camp, while Natalie chatted about her summer at her various country houses.

The rest of the day went on just like that. Marlena saw everyone she had missed all summer, and they gossiped about their experiences. After school, Marlena and Natalie walked into Central Park for some ice pops on this unusually warm September day.

“This year’s going to be filled with bar-mitzvahs! We need to go shopping ASAP!”

Marlena and Natalie made some shopping plans for the weekend at New York’s fashion center SCOOP.

“See you tomorrow, Nat.”

The girls said their goodbyes, and Marlena’s nanny, Rosie, picked her up. Rosie has worked for the Held household since before Marlena could walk. She took her back in a town car to Marlena’s six-story brownstone right off Central Park on the West side.

When Marlena walked in, her sister, who was pumping the music in the living room, greeted her. Marlena’s mother walked elegantly down the spiraling staircase, with a solemn expression. Marlena’s dad walked slowly behind her.

“Daddy? What are you doing home so soon?”

Marlena’s mom took her to the living room and sat her down on the white, leather couch.

“Honey, we have some not-so-good news.”

Marlena looked at both of her parents, trying to read their sad expressions. Marlena’s dad began to speak in his big, deep, stern voice.

“Marlena, Josephine, today when I went to the office, I came right home.”

“Why, Daddy?”

“The company hasn’t been doing well for a while now. And today, the company was dissolved. I had to let go every single company employee, myself included.”

Marlena and Josephine froze in thought. They looked around at their luxurious house, with its artwork, high-tech kitchen, magnificent furnishings. What was to become of their lives?

Small Steps

Marlena’s mom and dad stood before her different people—a less confident and less arrogant seeming people.

Josephine slowly started the conversation again. “Okay. So, what’s going to happen?”

“We are going to need to move. We can’t afford such a luxurious house anymore.” said Dad.

Marlena looked around. Her home, filled with all her favorite things. Her big, plush canopy bed, her walk-in closet, her custom-made desk, her beanbag chair, her flat screen TV. Those were the things that made up her life, that she shared so many good times with. Now what?

Dad continued. “We are moving to a smaller, simpler apartment, farther away from the schools. You’ll have to take the subway together. You will share a room. And unfortunately, Rosie cannot come along.”

Josephine turned toward Marlena. Their whole lives completely changed with just those 4 sentences. Their daily routine—gone, the comfort of their home—gone, the convenience—gone. Marlena ran toward Rosie, who was standing just outside the room listening. She was tearing up, although she had heard the news before already.

“Marlena, it will be okay. You are going to fine. Some adjusting, yes, but nothing horrible.”

“But, Rosie, what about you? I’ve known you my whole life.” Marlena sobbed into Rosie’s shoulder.

“We can still see each other. And this time, as pals, not worker to employee.”

“You know it what never like that, Rosie.”

Rosie nodded in agreement and held onto Marlena tight. Marlena’s parents watched sadly as they, too, saw their lives change before their eyes.

The moving process was pretty quick, but unfortunately, not painless. It was simple, because most of the furniture in the brownstone needed to be thrown away or donated; it was too big for the much smaller apartment. Marlena saw her things being taken one by one by the movers, as she remembered the first time she even bought them.

She remembered being just old enough for a ‘big-girl’ bed, and picking out the most beautiful princess canopy bed in the whole store. She remembered picking out her long, golden mirror that she kept in her big closet. She remembered it all.

Her parents had just purchased a less-fancy car, and together, the family drove farther uptown to their new home. Marlena watched the prestigious-looking, pre-war buildings on Central Park West transform into dirty looking, jail-like apartment complexes.

Marlena’s father made a left turn from Central Park West, until they reached Broadway. Marlena saw a combination of dirty and new. Some of the buildings looked clean and modern. Others looked worn and broken. Some of the restaurants looked cute, others looked dingy. She didn’t know what to expect.

The whole family parked and walked into their new building. They walked up a short flight of steps, and Marlena’s dad turned a key to open the front door, and used a second key for the next door. The family walked up two flights of steps.

“Where’s the elevator?” Josephine naively asked.

“No elevator. This is all the exercise we need.” Dad optimistically answered.

Josephine gave Marlena a frightened look that seemed to say, “Where are we?”

Marlena’s dad opened the door into a small, quaint apartment. It looked like one main room, except for the bedrooms around one hallway. The floors were an old, dark wood, and the kitchen looked like it hadn’t been replaced since the 80s and didn’t have enough room for more than one person. Marlena and Josephine automatically ran to their room, and then they gasped.

“Mom!” Josephine started to break down into tears.

“Honey, I know it’s not what you’re used to, but c’mon now. Don’t act spoiled.”

Marlena also felt overwhelmed, or underwhelmed by the room’s size. She checked out the closet. Not enough room for her clothes, let alone her and Josephine’s clothes.

The first family dinner in the house was one without conservation and excitement. The four ate and drank, with only the sound of utensils scratching plates accompanying them.
A Fresh Take

“Marlena! I’ve been going on AIM to video chat with you every night this week and you weren’t online once! HELLO! We need to talk about our upcoming shopping trip to SCOOP?”

Marlena was back at school right away after the move. She hadn’t told anybody about the move, because she didn’t want anybody to know about her family’s troubles. Fortunately, the school allowed for Josephine and Marlena to get financial aid and continue their studies at the school because they are good students.

Marlena couldn’t tell Natalie that she wasn’t online because a computer hadn’t been hooked up yet to her new apartment—she didn’t even tell Natalie she moved. Natalie was a snob, and they probably wouldn’t be talking right now if she knew the truth.

“Sorry, Nat. Been busy. Actually, I think I’m booked this weekend.”

“Booked?! You can’t be booked; we need this shopping trip more than anything. Keira’s bat mitzvah’s coming up and all the dresses I have I’ve worn before at least once. Can you say ew?”

“I know it’s important to you. But I don’t think I’m even going to that bat mitzvah anyways. Maybe Hannah is free to shop with you?”

“Not going?! Marlena, it’s only going to be the biggest party of the year. Everyone is going. It will look really weird if one of us isn’t there.”

Ever since the move, Marlena felt totally out of place with her friends. She didn’t have a huge home, she didn’t shop non-stop, she couldn’t buy whatever she wanted, she took the subway, she wore clothes more than three times.

Marlena told Natalie that she had to go home. The truth was, she didn’t want to be around such a stuck-up snob anymore.

“Marlena, what is going on with you? You’re totally not yourself. You wore those jeans twice in this one week, you ate the school lunch instead of going out, and I saw you get out of the subway station. I didn’t say anything at the time, but it definitely freaked me out.”

“Natalie, I’m the one that being completely normal. You’re the one who’s being completely arrogant.” Marlena couldn’t take it anymore; she was being criticized for things her other classmates did regularly. Why did it matter if she was the one taking the subway? She wasn’t different from anyone else.

Natalie simply stomped away and went over to a group of girls, probably to gossip and spread rumors about Marlena.

Josephine and Marlena swiped their metro cards and got on the 1 train uptown to their house. It wasn’t a big deal. They sat down and waited. Josephine read her book. Marlena did her homework. Yes, there were a few crazy people babbling and some homeless people begging for change. But Marlena learned to tune it out, and only hear the announcer call out 125th street.

The sisters got out on a busy, noisy street, with lots of street venders and food stands. Not quite like the peaceful prestige on Central Park West in the 80s. But not so bad.

Josephine bought Marlena ices from a street vendor, and they walked a little farther north back home.

Their house was fully decorated now. The small living room consisted of a white, cushy, leather couch, which had been part of a much bigger version in their old house. There was big bookshelf across one whole wall, filled with any book imaginable. Artwork hung from every open wall space, featuring Van Gogh and Monet. The kitchen was made complete with new accessories, like an adorable banana dangler, a bamboo cutting board, and a teakettle.

The girls’ room had a bunk bed on one side, with sky blue comforters. The walls were a happy light pink, which complemented the white armoire with pink knobs. Marlena’s favorite mirror had been saved and put in one corner. A tiny white desk sat with Josephine’s old laptop computer for the workstation.

The family was functioning normally again. Actually, more normally than before, because each of them got a clearer picture of the world outside their pompous bubble. Marlena’s dad got a new job as one of the managers of a company, instead of CEO, although one day he hopes to be back to his original slot. Marlena’s mother got a job, too, as a freelance interior designer.

Instead of eating alone or with Rosie, the girls ate with their parents. They actually talked to each other and spent time together. They sometimes would have Rosie as a guest. They were all happy. Happier than before. And if one day they would be back at the top, that would be fine, too, because now they know what the other side is like.

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This article has 13 comments.

jennareads said...
on Jan. 11 2009 at 4:39 pm
SO GOOD IGNORE THAT LAST COMMENT. That guy's obvi not from NYC, and also, sat for a good 10 minutes of his life and read your story, so it must be that good.

on Oct. 31 2008 at 12:37 am
It's a nice story, but feel like it was written out of ignorance. I didn't feel like that character was really really rich. It didn't rub off right. I mean, your writing is great, but this story was monotone. I'm sorry.

on Aug. 30 2008 at 1:33 pm
This is by FAR my favorite story I've read in the Teen Ink Raw fiction section. With a little bit more editing, I think it has such potential to be a hit with young girls everywhere. Put this in the mag to give it that chance.

MelissaGlass said...
on Aug. 21 2008 at 11:59 am
Such a great story. An enjoyable, light read that everyone will love.

Danster295 said...
on Aug. 16 2008 at 10:10 pm
This story reminds me so much of life in the city, and something similar to this happened to my friend. This girl is on point!

Sandy222 said...
on Aug. 15 2008 at 2:21 pm
I'm recommending this to my children, because they, too, go to one of these ridiculous New York private school's and are under so much unnecessary pressure.

Cutler320 said...
on Aug. 13 2008 at 8:13 pm
IM CRAZY ABOUT THIS! I know people who are so stuck up, but on the inside they're good people, and this story definitely shows that.

tracyb said...
on Aug. 12 2008 at 2:39 pm
I'm at a New York private school, and this story totally conveys what life is like there, while at the same time giving the real life story of seemingly perfect people.

Kayla4 said...
on Aug. 12 2008 at 12:20 pm
This story could be a published, really POPULAR book right now, and I know so many young girls who would read it and love it!

Tess893 said...
on Aug. 10 2008 at 10:06 pm
I loved this story! I love how it is written through the eyes of a child, so the reader can see how the child is affected by the lifestyle change. Brilliant writing!

on Aug. 9 2008 at 5:48 pm
I appreciate that this story reveals New York City's elite. This story shows money has nothing to do with happiness and I think many people out there will be inspired by this.

JensonRules said...
on Aug. 9 2008 at 5:43 pm
I'm from New York City, and this story is totally just like life in the city. So true!

HJ123 said...
on Aug. 7 2008 at 8:20 pm
I love this story! It has such a great message and rings true to so many real life stories out there. Put it in the print mag. I subscribe and would love to show this to my family!

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