Monday, August 4, 2014
1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Allen
Name: Kathleen S. Allen
Genre: YA dark contemporary
I can do this.
Ponytailed girls dressed in blue and white cheerleader uniforms whisper to one another as I pass. My cheeks flame and I cast my gaze down.
Don't think. Walk. One foot in front of the other.
The crowd opens as I approach, absorbing me into their center disgorging me out on the other side. A group of freshman boys jabs one another in the ribs, dragging their black-soled shoes along the shiny floor, making scuff marks on the newly waxed surfaces. I quickly maneuver around them. One sticks out a foot and I trip. My bag flies off as I land and the two of us skitter along the dirty tiles and come to rest against an olive green locker dented from years of abuse by the hard kicks of bad grades or lost football games.
My stomach---full of spoon-stirring fiends who threaten to expel the Frosted Flakes I had for breakfast---churns. Laughter bounces off my back as I scramble to retrieve my dignity and my bag before I’m trampled by the swarm. Disoriented, I nab my bag and walk in the opposite direction. My boots echo through the unfamiliar hallway, each step reinforces my desire to be elsewhere.
I search for the classroom listed on the schedule I have tucked into the top of my boot. First Hour: Study Hall: Room: Library. I move a strand of purple hair out of my face. Dark kohl liner I put on with a shaky hand this morning rings my eyes, and I swipe at an itch on my right eyelid, leaving a smudge of black on my finger.
A bubble of hot liquid pushes against my breastbone when I realize I’m going the wrong way according to the sign on the wall. LIBRARY----->
You're not dying. It'll pass like it always does.
I finger my necklace. The sharp points of the Star of David dig into my palm as I walk. A tiny brown Buddha I found at a flea market bounces against the silver cross my so-called Life Coach gave me for luck. The pale blue and white Virgin Mary charm I discovered under my bus seat last year makes tiny clicks. The blue paint is chipped off in spots. But even without the paint if you peer at it, you can see the indentations of her features. I run a nail-bitten purple-polished finger over it. Hail Mary, full of grace…It’s the only part I know. I heard it on a TV show.
Please don’t let me pass out.
But the bubble swells. Breathing slows. Heart races. Stomach twists. Skin sweats then chills. Shivers rack my bones. Doom and dread are coming for me. Footfalls behind me propel me to race to the partially open door I see off to the side. It leads to a field, empty of people but full of the smell of the rain. It is indeed raining. Clutching my bag in front of me like a shield, I venture out. My eyes dart to and fro looking for a sign. An omen of hope. Maybe a rainbow. My throat closes and I’m close to oblivion. The bell rings for first hour.
Welcome to the first day of high school, Zoey. Congratulations, you made it a whole ten minutes.
Careful not to get too wet, I duck under the eaves to watch the rainwater gush from the ends of the half-broken gutter pipe onto the dirt. It makes muddy puddles at my feet. Glass panoramic walls afford me a view into the school. But if I can see in, my classmates can see out, at me.
I scoot around a corner and jump when I encounter a boy who smiles and it’s the smile of a thousand white-hot stars all packed into one. The kind of smile I wish I could keep in my pocket and bring out to brighten the grayness of the daylight hours. Or to dispel the loneliness of the middle-of-the-night terrors. I blink, caught in its brilliance like a deer caught in the headlights of a car speeding down a country road late at night. Frozen deer-girl, blinking stupidly at this boy. His smile deepens and bright blue eyes whisper secrets. If I’m still, as still as I can be, I’ll hear those secrets and I’ll know how to be happy. He blinks and I’m freed from his spell.
I edge away with the intention of going back inside. The overhang doesn’t afford much shelter and I’m getting wet. A sharp crack of thunder in the distance draws my attention. I don’t notice him reaching for me until he already has the strap of my leather satchel in his hand. He tugs on it. I’m tempted to give it to him. Inside is a clean notebook ready to receive the words of knowledge the teachers impart, along with one black pen and one blue, both with chewed off tops. There’s a wallet. A picture of a random girl graces the front. She looks bright and cheerful so I kept her.
Sometimes I pretend she’s my imaginary sister, Mandy. That’s what I call her when I take my wallet out and show it to someone. This is Mandy, my older sister. She’s in college at Brown. Sometimes I say she’s at Wellesley or Harvard or Michigan. She’s either an English Literature major, pre-med, or pre-law. Once she was an Indiana Jones wannabe and was doing field work in China. There’s no money in the wallet though. My mom’s work phone number and our new home number hide within my phone along with a pair of earphones. There’s a small zippered pocket where I carry extra tampons, lipgloss, and my dark purple lipstick. At the bottom is a dog-eared copy of The Complete Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. I found a black feather once that I’m sure is from a raven and I use it as a bookmark.
Still, I’m not sure why he’d want my satchel so I tug back. He pulls harder, jerking me closer to him. His body blocks mine. I am invisible to the world. My gaze drifts to the ground, and the forming puddles. I can scream if I need to.
“Stay out of sight,” he says. “Or they’ll find us.” His tall, lanky frame lounges against the side of the building and I relax against the cool bricks. My grip tight on the strap of my bag.“I like the rain too. It doesn’t rain much here so we have to enjoy it when it does.” His soft, soothing voice surrounds me like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer. I long to wrap myself in his words, cocooned inside them.
“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”
“Langston Hughes,” he says as if it’s a pop quiz: Name the poet.
The rain beats down on the overhang and gathers into fat red drips before falling.
“It was night and the rain fell; and, falling, it was rain, but, having fallen, it was blood. And I stand in the morass among the tall lilies, and the rain fell upon my head-and the lilies sighed one unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation.”
“Edgar Allan Poe,” he says. “And the red is from rust on the roof.” He inspects me as if he’s never seen a Poe-spouting girl before. “Do you write it or read it?”
“Both,” I say.
My insides quake. He opens his mouth like he’s about to say something. Instead, he runs a hand through dark curly hair too long to be considered fashionable, unless he’s in a rock band. His eyes sweep from the top of my head to my muddy Doc Marten’s and back up again to rest on my eyes.
I blink and his grin expands. “Freshman?”
I’ve already shared more than I usually do. I’ve done something wrong because his eyes turn back to the now-muddy parking lot. Dismissed, my tenuous peace shatters like pieces of stained glass from a broken church window. I clutch my necklace and mumble a silent prayer, hoping someone listens, except I know no one does. His cool blue gaze is on me again.
I inhale the scent of the rain as it seeps through my skin to keep it there as a memory for future rain-starved days. He watches me but is silent.
A shift of his feet and he’s standing. A move toward me makes me tremble, an earthquake of one. I brace myself on the reddened-bricks spider-like, fingers splayed adhering me to the wall. My eyes dart to the left side but there’s only another building, another brick wall. A nook carved prison just big enough for a small goth girl. I edge over toward it, my messenger bag a shield against his intentions. I keep my gaze on his face as he scrutinizes me.
He reaches out a hand to my hair. I freeze and close my eyes, anticipating the first touch of his long fingers. I shiver breathless as he swipes at the top of my hair. A finger flicks at my cheek. “Got it,” he says. I open my eyes blurry with visions and he shows me a tiny insect. “This critter was in your hair.” He puts the bug in the grass and it skitters away grateful for a stay of execution.