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In Fifteen Years
She’s not the kind of person you read stories about. Stories need heroes and she, in her plain dress and worn stockings, isn’t dressed the part. Perhaps she could be the great underdog, if only her eyes showed some fire of ambition. But she merely sits in the back of my English class with her hair tucked behind her ears.
“I need you all to copy down the prompt for the last few minutes of class. If you don’t finish in class it will be homework. Your prompt is to describe who you want to be in fifteen years.”
Describe who you want to be in fifteen years.
I forget about the girl and copy the prompt at the top of my notebook page, as slowly as possible. The teacher paces towards me, a hideous wall of pink dress, and I start scrawling out a paragraph of crap for her to read over my shoulder.
In fifteen years, I want to live in a mansion with a huge yard. I will have graduated from college and I will be an engineer.
She wanders away to torment somebody else. I sit back and stare at the red hand of the clock- only 3 minutes left in class. The girl next to me scribbles huge letters and flips noisily to yet another notebook page. Several football players sit in the row behind me flicking crumples of paper at each other. The skinny Abercrombie girls in the front giggle and flip their hair for the football guys. And the girl in the back still sits with her hair tucked behind her ears.
I erase the words I just wrote and blow the dust onto the Abercrombie t-shirts. My hand itches to write about a little apartment in the city, with a desk for typing up manuscripts and a shelf to put my published novels on. A coatrack by the door on which to drape the fashionable scarves I wear when I go out with my friends, who are numerous and genuine. Pictures of my boyfriend and I in hand carved frames to put on the desk. I scribble it all onto paper as the last minute of class ticks away.
The bell rings and I have 5 minutes to get to Biology. I dive into the hallway mob and I’m so busy trying out different curtain shades for my mental apartment that I barely notice when the English notebook is knocked out of my hands by a stray elbow.
My cheeks they seem to prickle with heat. My mind jumps to the scene of a crowd of letter jackets and Hollister shirts, clustered around the entry I just wrote for that prompt, flipping their hair back and laughing. I replay the part where they all look over their shoulders, meet my eyes, and completely ignore me as I melt into a thin film of shame on the linoleum.
“I think this is yours?”
She’s got my notebook. She with her kind eyes, her simple dress, her beautiful pair of stockings. Relief shocks my face into an oversize grin. She smiles back as I sniff and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand.
I kneel to slide the notebook into the security of my backpack, and I don’t know why I’m so surprised to see her there when I stand up again.
“I didn’t read it.” She says.
We laugh at the same time and turn down the hallway again. For some reason I’ve started telling her about the apartment, the manuscripts, and the friends, and she’s listening and not laughing. She says she’d read a story by me any day. It’s perfect because she’s just the kind of person I’d write a story about.