The Swan

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She was nervous, a little nauseous, and completely clueless as to how the rest of the week would go. She was young and worried. Rose wandered the halls with her new principal, as he showed her around the building. He was a long and lanky man who walked with a large stride and spoke with a confident voice. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy here, Rose,” he concluded and brought Rose to the door. Then added, “Your dad is outside waiting for you, I’ll see you first thing tomorrow morning.” Tomorrow morning. Rose only had a few hours before she was back in school, her least favorite place. With everything that had been going on lately, the thought of having to turn her thoughts back to academics made her feel sick.

“How’d it go?” her dad asked as she got into the car. Rose was a quiet girl and the only response she had was, “Fine.” Rose’s Dad was a bubbly person and used his background to his advantage in his profession, he was a motivational speaker. He loved his job and the only thing he loved more was his children.

Rose sat shotgun in her dad’s old black pickup truck. She put her head back and looked out the window. The suburban landscape was unfamiliar to her, she was used to the quiet countryside, and here, there was always something going on. The drone of the truck’s old engine had always calmed her down, Rose closed eyes, enveloped in her thoughts until her dad broke the silence, “I’m sorry Rose, I know it’s hard for you to start over, but I love you and this is where we have to be right now. You’re such a strong girl, your mother would have been so proud of you,” her father said as his loud voice started to soften. Her mother. Another topic that made Rose nauseous, if not the topic. Ever since Rose’s thirteenth birthday she’d been wishing for the same thing, her mom.

They pulled into the driveway and her dad stopped to get the mail, Rose sat wishing that she could jump behind the wheel and drive far away, to anywhere but here. She didn’t want to be in some stupid suburb away from her comfort zone, she didn’t want to be living with her grandmother, she didn’t want to hear her dad apologize, and she most certainly didn’t want to go back to school.

After dinner, Rose took her younger brother Tommy up to bed. Tommy was an adorable little boy in his ducky footsie pajamas. He loved ducks. With her dad still dealing with the loss of his wife and now living with his mother-in-law while trying to focus on work and kids he got overwhelmed and Rose did as much as she could to help with Tommy. Tommy loved Rose almost as much as he loved ducks. Every night he would beg Rose to read The Ugly Duckling, and though she would suggest different books, he always has his heart set on that one. Rose hated upsetting her brother so she would read the same story every day of the week, and by this point, she just about had the book memorized. Her dad cracked the door to say good night and Tommy hushed his father because Rose was at his favorite part. After apologizing for interrupting, he kissed both of his children and left the room as Rose continued to tell the story about how the ugly duckling really turned out to be a beautiful swan. “Night Tommy,” Rose said as she left the room.

That night Rose sat in her bed listening to her father’s snores compete with the sound of the rain hitting her window. Images of unfamiliar classrooms and throngs of children in hallways was all she could think of. She swallowed hard and whispered to herself, “High school.”

The next morning came way too quickly and Rose was trying to fight the sunrise. “Maybe if I just don’t move,” she thought to herself. In a few seconds, her dad sprung into her room and was encouraging her about going to school. Her dad was an excellent motivational speaker, but not even he was convincing this morning. She moaned and said she would be up in a minute. Her body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. There was no way that today would turn out okay.

Rose stared at the boring tile floor and her worn Converse sneakers as she waited in the office. She was sent into her principal's office and took a seat. He answered his phone as “Dr. Milton,” which she found strange. He didn’t come across as a doctor. After a few short answers, Mr. Milton put the phone back on it’s receiver and flashed Rose a giant smile. “Why do you look so down today Rose?” he asked. “Just a little tired I suppose,” Rose answered. Dr. Milton went on the explain how he would call a fellow Freshman down to take Rose to her first class and introduce her to other people.

Tyler arrived at Dr. Milton’s door in a few minutes and introduced himself. He was an averaged sized kid with a sense of sophistication that seemed as though it didn’t belong in high school. He had a warm handshake and a shy smile, but Rose wasn’t focused on that, her top priority and only thought was making it through the day in one piece.

Tyler walked Rose to her first period class; math. What an excellent way to start out the day, not. Rose hated math about as much as math hated her. It was the equivalent of a foreign language to her. Tyler took her to a seat in the back of the room and got her a book. He filled her in, “That’s Mr. Balori, he’s a really cool guy, but you might need to stay after a few times a week if you struggle with math at all.” Rose was already upset, she hadn’t even made it through a class yet. On the way out of class, Tyler pulled a girl named Lily over to meet Rose. She was a short girl, but her size didn’t seem to determine anything, everyone seemed to respect her. “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you!” she said enthusiastically. Rose smiled and followed her to their next class; biology. Rose liked biology, but not here, and not now. She sat next to a boy who was more concerned with finding ways to text than with the actual school worked. Frustrated, Rose tuned out most of the class.

Rose then had to tackle maybe the biggest obstacle of her day; lunch. The lunch room at her old school was relaxed and everyone was friends with everyone else, but Rose got the feeling that this lunch room would be nothing like that, she couldn’t have been more correct. The lunch room was chaos, kids and food everywhere. She was lost like a small child in the grocery store. On top of being overwhelmed she was still sick from stress and eating may have been the last thing on her mind. She began to walk out of the cafeteria and make her way back to the bathroom where at least she could hide. As she tried to make her frantic exit, she bumped square into someone with a large back pack. She regained her balance and ran straight out the double doors without apologizing. She was embarrassed and uncomfortable. “You know it’s bad when you are searching for sanctuary in a public school bathroom,” she thought. She was wandering the halls when someone ran up behind her and grabbed her wrist. “Woah, you better watch where you’re walking next time.” Rose couldn’t have been more relieved to turn around and discover that Tyler was standing there, making fun of her for running right into him in the cafe. “Sorry, I’m just....,” she grabbed hold of Tyler’s torso and pulled tight. He was shocked and was unsure what to do. Rose hugged the boy as he hesitantly returned the gesture. She used every power she had to fight her tears. She didn’t want to be here in school or hugging a boy she had met only a few hours ago, she didn’t want to be at her grandmother’s house, she wanted to be back home and she wanted her mom.

“I’m going to guess that asking you if you’re all right would be a stupid question so I’m going to go ahead and ask what I can do to help you,” Tyler said. “Nothing,” Rose said as she released Tyler and backed away towards the bathroom, “I’m just having a really bad day.” She continued her way down the hall staring at the walls that appeared to have acne. She was sad and disappointed, right now, she felt just like the ugly duckling.

She took the bus home and walked down her driveway. Rose entered the old house and kicked of her shoes. Her dad was there and could tell that she had a bad day. Without even asking what went wrong he started right into his habit of motivation. “Oh Rose, I hate to see you like this, but days like this just show you how important tomorrow is. I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning and ready to give school a second shot, you just need to give it a chance.”

“No dad, I don’t, I hate it and everything about being here at all. I wish we were home and I wish I didn’t have to get up and go back to that place tomorrow. Those people don’t care about me, they barely even glance to see there is a new person in school,” Rose fought back.

Her dad paused and tried again to console her, “Sweetie, it’s high school, no one said it was easy, but I bet ya it’ll all be worth it, you’ll make plenty of friends, give them time.”

This is the last thing Rose wanted to hear. She told her dad to save the motivation for someone who needed it, Rose didn’t want motivation, she wanted her old life back. Rose shut herself in her room and flopped face down on her bed. About an hour passed before she heard her grandmother’s soft voice on the other side of the door. “Rosie dear, may I come in?” Rose allowed the feeble woman to enter. She found a comfortable spot to sit as the sun streamed in through the window and on to her face. “Rose I understand you had a rough day today and I’m not here to ask you about it or try and solve your problems, but I want you to know that many kids struggle especially in new schools, you actually remind me a lot of a really sweet girl I once knew.” Rose was comforted by the company of her granny and with her face in her pillow, she mustered up, “Who?”

The elderly woman gazed out the window and smiled, “Your mother.” Rose heart filled with happy and sad emotions all at the same time. She was excited that she resembled her mother but sorry that her mother wasn’t there to tell her that herself. Her grandmother touched her head with her weak hands and told rose that she would let her be but she wanted to give her a note that her mother had left for her while she was in the hospital. After she exited the room Rose picked up the envelope nervous and excited. The note read:

“Rose, if you’re reading this it probably means you’re having a rough time. I want you to know that everything may seem a mess, but everything will work itself out, not to sound too much like your father. He does his best and I love him dearly. He cares about you and Tommy more than life and you always need to remember that. I’m sorry I can’t be there with you now, but I’m always with you in spirit. Whatever it is that you’re dealing with I promise you that your father and I raised you strong enough to deal with anything and everything that comes your way. I have faith in you. If it’s boys that you’re dealing with, they’re silly anyway, or if it’s high school, just take it one step at a time, relax and have confidence in who you are. I love you, Rose, always.”

A tear hit the note and Rose fell back on her bed, the sun had now shifted to the wall beside her closet. She went and kissed Tommy good night then went downstairs. She found her grandmother in her rocking chair watching Wheel of Fortune, and thanked her for knowing exactly what to do. She nodded and smiled in return. She moved towards the kitchen and found her dad hunched over a bunch of scribbled notes about his next lecture. She hugged him from behind and apologized for what she had said. She made her way back up to her room, changed her clothes and washed her face. Rose turned over in bed that night with a smile on her face. For the first time in a long time, she wasn’t nervous or nauseous, she had a feeling that tomorrow would be a much better day and that high school would be something that she could definitely handle. Maybe she was a beautiful swan after all.

Join the Discussion

This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

Revere1960 said...
Jun. 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm
Your ability to describe feelings and evoke empathy for your character was very well done.  You have a wonderful talent.  Keep on writing.
wex1964 said...
Jun. 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm
jteach said...
Jun. 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm
Holly, This shows amazing talent!  Your use of description is exceptional, as is the themes within the story that you carry through with, for example the motivational speaker.  Hope you keep writing!
EricK said...
Jun. 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm
I'd love to see more from this author.  Thank you for sharing!!!
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