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Speak by Laurie Anderson alternate ending: Melinda's New Beginning
Summer school sucks. Everyone here hates it except Mr. Neck. I think it’s because he can finally terrorize kids again without David Petrakis in the room. The first day was definitely the worst. When I walked in, I felt all eyes on me. The Gossipers huddled in the back of the room making rapid hand gestures that surely had to do with me and It, I mean, Andy Evans. My therapist, whom I started seeing after my parents filed for divorce a few weeks ago, says I should call Andy by his name to help me realize that he is a real person and what he did to me really happened. Whatever. At least she’s better than the school therapist. But I didn’t have any therapy advice on how to deal with gossiping girls yet. So I just sat down in a random chair and began doodling a tree.
My new trees have long, healthy branches, and I sometimes draw people like Rachel and Mr. Freeman sitting in them. Rachel came over the day everyone found out about me and Andy, and now we’re best friends again. But she’s about the only friend I have because everyone else is too weirded out to approach me, and Heather can’t deal with the guilt of abandoning me when I really needed her.
After several moments of doodling, I realized that the whispers had become substantially subdued. Did I do something wrong? I thought. But then I looked up and saw this guy wearing a pink bedazzled shirt that said “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!” After further inspection of his appearance (perfectly coiffed hair, black skinny jeans, and futuristic glasses) I was able to determine that he was gay. Perfect Hair gazed around the room, soaking up the awkwardness and beaming as if he enjoyed it. He then winked at me and put his leather shoulder bag in the chair next to me. “What’s up, Melinda?” he asked. “Can I call you Mel? It’s much more sophisticated, don’t ya think?”
“Umm…I guess so,” I said with a timid smile.
“Cool. My name is James, by the way. So is it true that you’re testifying against that dirt bag Andy? He is sooo gross. I don’t know what girls see in him. Sorry, SAW in him. Everyone knows how nasty he is now,” Perfect Hair/James rambled. Realizing that I had just made my first new friend in a very long time, I began to talk to him. I mean really talk to him. Not the kind of conversation I’d usually had with people, where I assured them that I was okay, and thanked them for their present or card. Me and James talk all the time now during and outside of summer school, and have fun causing Mr. Neck lots of anxiety by hiding all the chalk and unplugging the computer.
Not that he needs any more anxiety. The court battle between the Petrakis’ big time lawyers and Mr. Neck’s court appointed lawyer started yesterday. Tons of kids are volunteering to testify against Mr. Neck. He tried to get us summer school kids to sign a contract that we won’t testify against him, but word got around to the Petrakis’ and now they’re using that little tidbit against him too.
Summer school’s over, at least for today. James and I walk down the hall, talking about our plans for next semester. I hear the loud footsteps of several girls running down the hall. Six or seven girls appear, racing to the water fountain. Nicole is one of them. I haven’t really seen her since she found Andy and me in the closet. Nicole laughs at a joke that one of the girls makes, but stops when she sees me. She stares at me like I’m a ghost or something. I stare back. After a few awkward moments, one of Nicole’s friends say, “Um…we’ll see you in the gym, Nicole. Okay?” Nicole nods as James gasps.
“I totally have ink stains on my pants. Be back in a few, I gotta go scrub this off,” He winks at me as he ducks into the boy’s bathroom, leaving Nicole and me alone in the hallway.
“So…Doesn’t it feel weird to be here during summer? I’m here for lacrosse camp, what about you?” Nicole asks with a nervous smile.
“Yeah, it is weird. But lacrosse camp is probably a lot more fun than summer school,” I reply.
“Ouch. Isn’t that teacher with a really big neck in charge of that?”
“You noticed that too? I call him Mr. Neck,” Nicole laughs at that.
“Yeah, it’s basically his dominant feature.” After a few minutes of surprisingly natural conversation, Nicole says what I’ve been waiting for her to say. “Melinda? I’m really sorry. About everything. You were such a good friend to me, and I should have at least asked for your side of the story about what happened at the party. So are we cool now?” She looks at me with a vulnerable expression. I can tell she feels extremely guilty, and wants to be friends again. So I say the right answer.
“Yes,” I respond. Nicole gives me a big bear hug. Once she finishes, James comes out of the bathroom and I introduce him to Nicole.
“Girl, your hair is so shiny! How do you do that?” Nicole launches into a conversation about hair care, mentioning several brand names I’ve never heard of. James nods enthusiastically, and we begin to walk down back towards the gym so Nicole can get back to camp.
As I walk down the hallways of the building that once was my prison with both new and old friends, I feel optimistic for the coming year. This year, I get another chance at high school. My freshman year was just a jumble of days wanting to not be there. For my sophomore year, I’m gonna actually try. I’m planning on playing a sport, either basketball or tennis. I’m might sign up for Drama Club, and now that my lips are unstitched, I can do much more than just fake different kinds of smiles.