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It Starts Again
The Planning of The Nameless Novel
Socialite. Girl. About sixteen. Only child.
Q .Why not a royal family? Nobody cares about socialites.
A. Because this isn’t the Princess Diaries for god’s sake. And even though [nameless seventeen year old girl] isn’t a b****y snob, people care about Paris Hilton! She’s boring. Plus, I care. But I’m biased.
Q. So who’s your audience, anyway?
Q. That’s lame.
A. That’s not a question
Q. What about your readers?
A. Well, what about them.
Q. You have to care what THEY want, don’t you want this book to be successful? Don’t you want to SPEAK to the reader’s? Send them a message?
A. I honestly don’t care about my readers. That sounded rude but it’s the truth. If my readers like what I write then that’s just awesome. If not, well –
Q. Well what.
A. Well then they don’t have to read it. Unless it was assigned to them to read in which case I will demand a recall of the books. Then kill whatever teacher assigned a piece of literature scribbled by a seventeen year old to children in an educational setting.
Q. Who said the setting was educational?
A. I did.
Q. Who said it wasn’t given to aspiring communists?
A. Who would give a story about a seventeen-year-old socialite to aspiring communists?
Q. You never know! People do crazy things with literature. They might use it in some twisted way to form their newest form of evil. Like the Catcher In The Rye.
A. Who says I’m even going to publish this book anyway? This book isn’t even for anyone to read! This book is for me!
Q. Why would you write a book and not publish it? That’s just stupid.
A. It’s not stupid! It makes complete sense.
A. It’s to complex to explain.
Q. If it’s too complex to explain than you don’t know it well enough.
A. Excuse me? Maybe there just aren’t words to describe it!
Q. A writer FINDS words to describe it. You can’t. Which makes you a terrible writer.
A. You’re not a very helpful rubric.
Q. You are misusing me. I am a QUESTION and I end with PERIODS. Where were you in second grade language arts?
A. ah-HA. You are a question NOW.
Q. You still have no idea what you’re going to write about.
A. I have ideas!
Q. Like what?
A. Like I am going to format my plot into a little box, with questions and answers, and a quaint little rubric! It’s going to be professional.
Q. How’s that going for you?
A. It’s a work in progress. I have quite a bit to go.
Q. Well, what do you have so far?
A. So far I have a seventeen year old girl. She’s a socialite.
Q. Ah. I see. You’ve been reading Pride and Prejudice.
Q. That sounds a lot like a skewed version of Jane Austen.
A. It does not! Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is nothing like my book!
Q. Is that what you’re calling this rubric now? A book?
A. You know what I mean.
Q. No, I don’t. If I knew what you meant I wouldn’t be a question.
A. I am failing miserably.
Q. Now you see the light.
SPARTANS, YEAH WE’RE ALRIGHT.
BLUE AND WHITE. LET’S FIGHT!
“Hell. Define Hell.” Taylor had her hood pulled up over her head, brown hair falling in her face as the two of us pushed through the crowd filing into Ridgebrook High.
Ridgebrook High Message Board: Welcome Back to School! Let’s put some Ridgebrook spirit in the new year!
Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.
“Fire.” I responded
“Fire doesn’t define hell, idiot.”
“Fire’s in hell.” I argued, pushing the people around me as we got closer to the prison
“No. Fire is warm, fluffy, and beauteous. Does that sound like hell to you?”
“Fire is fire is fire.”
“How about, once we get into school, we can make this huge bonfire, and then we can all stand around it.”
“Where the f*** did that come from?”
“I don’t even know. It’s September seventh. This is ridiculous. It’s two degrees out, and it’s September seventh. September seventh!”
“I won’t write the date wrong on any of my papers today.” I stated.
We pushed in through the puke-green double doors of the school.
“Ew.” Taylor stopped, putting her hood down.
“Do you smell that?”
I lifted me nose in the air, checking for the stench that was evident all over her face.
Hiking up her backpack, she pulled a rumpled schedule out of her notebook, ran her hand down to the first block class, and looked in the direction of the science wing.
Then she walked away.
We are here to help you learn! We are here to help you develop! We are here to assist you in reaching your full potentil!
Do you see what is wrong with the above statement? No, other than the fact it’s a lie.
All the teachers in our school have to wear these badges. On them, they have their faces and names, like little driver’s licenses. Except this one only proves they they are
here to help you learn! Here to help you develop! Here to assist you in reaching your full potentil!
I can’t imagine anyone being proud of that. Can you imagine, all of these teachers went through four years of college, Four plus years of Graduate School, lived on ramen noodles and bad Chef Boyardee to pay the rent and student loans, all to end up teaching at Ridgeback High School? All of their hard work, all of their late night studying, all of their goals and inspirations and thousands of dollars invested in their brain, and they are here teaching us? Here to
Help you learn! Help you develop! Assist you in reaching your full potentil!
The cards are four by two inches. Enough to fit the small poorly taken picture of the smiling-through-all-odds-faculty member, their name, and the reason they are here.
The teachers, who probably saw a sepia-colored world where we would sit in desks in painted rooms, raising out hands, eager to learn. We would want to be there. We would want to
Learn! Develop! Reach our full potentil!
Teachers who worked so hard, so hard, to make a difference. Went through everything to change the face of education, did everything they possibly could to become the best teacher ever, to get employed at Ridgebrook High.
Do you see what wrong with that sentence yet?
They didn’t spell potential correctly.
That always p***ed me off.
I checked my schedule for the first time since I had got it the year before, and the edges were still crumpled from being stuffed into my backpack in the mad rush to the door.
Block One, Period One – Chemistry Level II
Block Two, Period Two – Health
Block Three, Period Three – History IV
Block Four, Period Four – Pre-Calculus
Block Five, Period Five – Independent Study
Block Six, Period Six – English 12
This was going to be a great year. I could just feel it.
That’s a lie.
“Hi everyone, I’m Mr. Hemsworth. H-e-m-s-w-o-r-t-h.”
You know your school blows when an AP English teacher with the last name of Hemsworth has to spell it out for the class on the whiteboard.
In the seats behind me, two boys twirled their pencils, and one launched a paper fragment at their friend across the room. I’m in with an intelligent bunch, that much was for sure. When Mr. Hemsworth finished writing his name on the board, he turned around and put his hands on his hips.
When you first get a good look at him, you’d think he was attractive in that geeky, freaky way. He was all dressed up in his corduroy pants and startch-ironed shirt. First day of school wear, totally spiffy. You could tell it was partly because he wanted respect, but mostly because he needed people to take him seriously today, because his class was going to be a joke the next one-hundred seventy-nine.
“This is Advanced Placement English Literature. I want you all to take a look at these guidelines for my class – hey!”
He looked up at the two girls applying makeup in the back of the room
“This isn’t a beauty salon, this is a place of learning! Come on, guys.”
There was shuffling and the pulling out of binders, ready to snap his rules into the four rings, never to be looked at again.
He threw it on our desk
Advanced Placement English Literature (12)
Show up to class PREPARED
Show up to class with a POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Show up to class with a PEN OR PENCIL
Bathroom passes are to be used sparingly – you are here to learn, not take laps around the English wing.
This year is going to be a great one!
“I want everyone to get this signed and returned to me tomorrow. This is your first homework assignment, let’s start the year off right!”
Wringing his hands together he sunk behind his desk and disappeared into a teacher’s manual.
Twenty minutes left.
I took out my schedule and pretended to be really fascinated with the academic plan for this upcoming year.
I heard Heather laughing with Jamie behind me
“Totally skipped. Totally….hey.”
I looked up and behind me to see Jamie leaning over my shoulder. Her eyebrows arched and her lips pouted, in typical Jamie fashion. She hated when you teased her about that. That or her hair, which she got chemically straightened four times but you could still see where the curls were. Like that time, when they all took the car to the pier and they sat on the dock for four hours doing –
“Um, do you have a pencil?”
“a pencil. You know…” she mimicked writing with her left hand
“Oh…yeah.” I reached in my bag and grabbed the first pencil I gripped. Unsharpened.
“You’ll have to – “
And she was gone. This was how it was going to be, then. Not like I hadn’t expected this. I really should have expected this. What should I have been expecting?
The bell rang.
The lunchroom was crowded with bodies pushing each other in a smoky haze. Summer still hung over everyone’s heads, and you could tell some were reticent in accepting the fact that we were, indeed, not in Florida. The jocks sat huddled around a circular table, hunched over the monstrous lunches they had somehow gotten for the price of everyone else’s, the girls who wanted desperately to be popular but tried to pretend they didn’t, and then the table with them. The girls sat twirling their hair in the same fashion as the years before. Jamie, to the left of Ava, had her leg balanced delicately over the edge of Sara’s chair, and then an empty green plastic seat – skewed a little to the left of Ava, sitting in neutral territory. The trio leaned over the singular plate of fries, unsalted, talking undoubtebly about the newest gossip that had passed over the group in the past few weeks. Or months. How long had it been? I could hear Jamie’s voice right now;
“That’s all you have to do. It’s really simple actually.”
Smile. Hair twirl.
“We would have anyone else do it but-“
Lean in. eyes wide. Whisper.
“You’re the bravest.”
Deer in headlights, I stood there gripping my backpack for dear life. The straps cut into my shoulders and my throat caught, as Ava looked up and into my eyes. Then she glanced back down, and leaned into the group again. This time, all of them looked up. In the middle of the cafeteria, I stood alone. Students milled around me as if I didn’t exist.
I didn’t exist.
As if it was just another movement, Sara reached her manicured hand over the back of Jamie’s shoulder and held it there for a moment. The silver bracelet dangled off of her left hand, and her eyebrows raised in question.
Nobody cares. Nobody knows. It’s only you. In your mind.
A pit erupted in my stomach, churning the juices of my breakfast. Suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. I walked past the lunchroom to the corridor with my locker. Wrenching it open I reached into the back – which, given the state of it was a miracle, and pulled out my
“Mhm. Mhm. Okay.”
Mr.Hemsworth hung up the phone
I dropped my pencil quickly, covering the line of geometric figures I was scribbling along the bottom of my class work.
“They need you in guidance.”
There was no collective ‘oooooo’, like one that would have erupted had it been the main office that called me down, nor the concerned eyes received if the nurse needed to see me. I averted the gaze of twenty-two pairs of eyes, trying to figure out what I could have done, as I walked to the door.
What could I have done?
My hands sweat lightly around the hallpass as I walked down to the office.
It’s not about this summer. It’s not about this summer.
I had forgotten my homework in Biology, and I’m pretty sure I gave Ms. Harkness some attitude. It could be about that.
I’m sorry, Mrs. Lashey. It won’t happen in the future. I was just PMSing.
God that’s too much information.
I gripped the handle of the door and walked in.
The Guidance office was a lot like a psychiatric ward for suicidal toddlers, but it was plopped in the middle of the high school. All along the wall had pictures of smiling children with inspirational quotes, ranging from Einstein to Seinfeld, topics from Laughter to Persistence.
“Katie!” Mrs. Lashey greeted me at the door
“So glad to see you again!”
My heart rate increased.
It was not about this summer.
“Why don’t you step inside?” Gesturing to the couch adjacent her desk, I stepped inside and she shut the door.
Sweeping the hair out of her eyes she stepped and took a clipboard out of her desk.
“So, Katie,” She scratched my name across the top of her paper, underlining it a few times as if it needed emphasis.
“How are you doing lately?”
What a loaded question. Bad. Horrific. Angry. Frustrated. Bored. Annoyed.
“Oh, good to hear! I actually called you down just to check up on some things…”
the weight that hung around my abdomen loosened, and the air was suddenly breatheable again.
“I was looking at your SAT scores from last year, and it seems like you can definitely get some scholarships considering your GPA.”
College. Not exactly right up there on the to-do list at the moment.
“Why don’t you take these…”
She handed me a packet with lots of lines and seals of professional organizations, but I didn’t give it a glance.
“There’s a whole slew of things that I’m sure you’ll be interested in. I know you want to pursue something in Biology, am I correct?”
“Yeah, Biology or micro-biology or Math.”
“Wow, well you’re quite the ambitious young lady!”
My eyes wandered the the glass orb on her desk, keeping her papers from blowing in the wind. Strange, if you really thought about it, how one thing could keep the whole world from falling apart.
“Oh, yeah, thanks. Thanks. I’ll be sure to check these out.”
“Whenever you get the chance!” I stood up and made an about face, pushing my way out of the room a la’ Inspiration. Something about that place always made me a little sick.
“Oh, Katie!” Mrs. Lashey was leaning, smiling out her office door.
“How did your summer go?”
Pain. Sickness. Forget.
Her hair fell in her face, obscuring the smile as she held on tightly to the wall securely attached to the building, securely attached to the foundation, securely attached to earth.
“Hope to see you real soon.”
I half-smiled, the swelling beginning again, now in my throat. This was all going to pass.
I could feel her gaze bore into my back as I headed down the hallway.
Or maybe not.
I didn’t bother looking back.
In high school, they tell you a whole bunch of lies. Here’s what Webster’s Dictionary defines as ‘lies’
“a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood.”
Here’s what Urban Dictionary defines as lies:
“everything that’s ever been told to you.”
I love the twenty-first century.