Sunday, January 4, 2015
First 5 Pages January Workshop - Pierson
Name: Kim Pierson
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Title: Skipping, Jumping, Leaping
I felt the guy’s eyes on me before I saw him. Don’t look up, I told myself.
But I did. I always did. It was like taking a really stupid dare. I knew that nothing good could come of it, and still I couldn’t resist. I’m not sure if that makes me crazy or just stupid.
His eyes were waiting for mine. Damn. He stood up as soon as we made eye contact, taking it as an invitation, or a challenge, maybe. He started walking over, his lanky frame temporarily eclipsing part of the limp “Welcome BU Class of 1999” banner that hung behind the bar.
I was sitting all the way on the inside of an oversized booth, the crowd of girls I'd just met a wall between me and any guy who might be tempted to approach. The wall technique had worked before. Not today, though. Didn’t even slow this one down.
“Evenin’, ladies,” he said, his voice a faux drawl.
Maybe, just maybe, he was going to hit on someone else.
“My friend over there,” he said, pausing to look over his shoulder, presumably at someone at the bar, “bet me a drink that that isn’t your real hair color.”
Even if he hadn’t been looking right at me, the hair reference had to make it clear to everyone at the table who he was talking to. The girl next to me rolled her eyes. I couldn’t even judge. If I had been watching this unfold, I’d roll my eyes, too.
“Tell your friend he owes you a drink,” I said evenly. Although it appeared he may have had one too many already. I raised my eyebrows at the girls around the table. “Like anyone would choose this color,” I said, in what I hoped was a self-deprecating tone. I was trying to save the evening — which meant getting rid of this guy as quickly as possible. Tonight was supposed to be about making friends. Girl friends.
It was too late, though. The girl who had rolled her eyes got up. “I want to dance,” she said. “Maybe you want my seat?” she offered the guy, closing the door on any hope I still had of extricating myself from the situation. Most of the other girls stood up too. Shit.
“Oh, yeah, great, thanks,” he stammered, nervous now that he had made it through his script. He tripped over the exiting girls in his haste to slide into the booth.
“I’m Jason,” he said, to no one and everyone, although his eyes were on me.
The two girls who hadn’t deserted me for the dance floor introduced themselves. They'd told me their names before, back when I'd first come in, but there had been too many people for them to register. And I have to say the names slipped past me this time, too. I was distracted. And I wasn't used to paying attention to the names of other girls.
I went last. “Ping,” I said.
“My name. It’s Ping.”
“Ping. Really? You wouldn’t be bullshitting me, would you? Isn’t that the sound a radar makes when another sub is getting too close or something? Ping, ping.” He made a “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” hand gesture with each “ping.”
It was too early in the evening for this, I thought. And besides, that was sonar.
“Yes,” I said, cutting him off in as cold a voice as I could muster. So cold that I could practically see the word dripping icicles as I said it, like in a comic strip bubble. “It’s short for Penelope Ann.”
“And how the heck is ‘Ping’ short for ‘Penelope Ann’?” the guy scoffed.
How indeed? Maybe he wasn’t as drunk as he seemed.
“It just is,” I replied, trying to keep my voice neutral. “No cute backstory. It’s just what they call me.”
“How ‘bout you give me your number so I can call you?” he suggested, winking broadly.
Could I have given him a better opening? Really? I’d been dealing with guys like this ever since I turned twelve and got boobs and I couldn’t do better than that?
“Sorry,” I said with a small smile. “Hey, I think—” I paused a second here, unable to remember Eye-Roller’s name, before just saying the first name that came to me “—Karen wants us to come dance,” I said to the other girls. I pushed my way past him. “Have a good evening, Jason.”
“You, too, Penny,” he replied. “Hey, Penny!” His voice grew louder as I reached back to grab my purse before walking away from the booth. “Now there’s a name that suits you! You’ve got hair the color of a penny!” He was shouting by the time I reached the dance floor.
Penny. I’d always secretly wanted to be called Penny. To the point of putting “Penny Lane” somewhere on every mix tape I made. Because everyone needs a signature song.
Hearing the name from this frat boy’s mouth, though, I was happy to stick with Ping. The guy gave me the creeps.
I was a little surprised when I realized that the two girls who'd stuck it out with me at the table were following me. I had planned on just walking straight through the dance floor to the exit. But now I hesitated. And then the taller one said something.
“What?” I hadn’t thought the music could get any louder, but apparently we were now next to a speaker. The evening just kept getting better.
“Does that happen a lot?”
“The name thing?” I asked, feeling as though I was practically screaming up to the girl’s ear. Jesus, she was tall.
“No, the hitting-on-you thing.”
“Yeah, pretty much,” I said, finding a quieter place for us to stand. “Actually, I get both that and the name thing a lot.”
“Well, we’ll try not to hold it against you,” she said.
“Sue will, though,” the other girl put in. “That’s her name, Sue. Not Karen. And she will hold it against you.”
“What?” I felt like I seemed to be saying that a lot. But who the hell was Karen? “Oh, no, I just made up a name to get away from the table. Today’s my first day. I don’t really know anyone’s name yet.”
“We’ve been here a few days,” the girl continued. “But I went to high school with Sue.” She made a face. “I’m Jenna, by the way.”
I shook her hand. “Ping. But I guess you heard that.”
“You actually handled him pretty well,” the tall girl said.
“That’s Emily,” Jenna added.
“I told her my name at the table,” Emily protested.
“I know, but who could hear anything?” Jenna responded. To me, she said, “We’re roommates.”
“That’s cool,” I replied. “Mine’s not here yet. I was all for waiting for her instead of doing this mixer thing tonight, but the RA was insistent.”
“Have you already met her?”
I shook my head. I wished I had. We’d written each other a few times since the school had contacted us with room assignments, sure, but all I really remembered was that she was a vegetarian. I figured her for an art major. Or maybe philosophy.
“Did you two know each other ahead of time?”
“Nope,” Jenna said, “just got lucky. The only person I knew ahead of time was Sue, and I figured I was better off taking my chances.”
I nodded. Probably smart.