Tuesday, January 13, 2015
First 5 Pages January Workshop - Rev 1 (second attempt!)
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. Here we go, I thought. He stood up as soon as he 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 Future Class of 1999” banner that hung across the rec center wall. Then he stopped to pull out a flask and take a not-so-discrete gulp. One of his buddies slapped him a high five.
I was sitting in an oversized booth, all the way up against the wall. The crowd of girls I'd just met formed a barrier between me and any guy who might be tempted to approach. It was a technique that had worked before. Not today, though. Didn’t even slow this guy down.
“Evenin’, ladies,” he said, his voice a faux drawl.
“Hey there,” the girl sitting next to me said, looking him up and down.
Maybe, just maybe, he was going to hit on someone else.
“My friend over there—” he began, grinning over his shoulder at the group of guys behind him. One of them flashed him a double thumbs-up. “He bet me twenty bucks that isn’t your real hair color.”
Even if Future Frat Boy 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 who’d said hi to him 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 some money,” I said evenly. 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 pushed her way out of the booth. “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.
Of course they did.
“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. The names actually slipped past me this time, too. I was distracted. And I wasn't really used to paying attention to the names of other girls. I could count on one hand the number of girls at my high school who’d still talk to me after the details of my sister’s accident had gotten out.
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.” His hands mimicked explosions with each “ping.”
It was way too early in the evening for this. And besides, that was sonar.
“Yes.” I cut him off in a voice that was as cold as I could muster. So cold that if I’d been speaking in comic strip bubbles, he’d have been able to see the word dripping icicles. “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 tried 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 me to come dance.” 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.
The color of a penny. My sister had said that about my hair, too, back when I was about six. Then she shook her head sadly and added that it was too bad that all copper eventually turned green, like the Statue of Liberty. I’d checked the mirror every morning for over a year, hoping to catch a verdant glimmer. No such luck.
I squeezed my eyes together tightly, making everything go black. I thought I’d managed to block out my memories of my sister.
Except apparently I hadn’t done all that well, since she’d been the only person to ever call me Penny, and “Penny Lane” was on every mix tape I ever made. My signature song. Because everyone needs one.
I scowled, and people on the dance floor cleared out of the way. It wasn’t enough that Creepy Frat Boy had ruined the evening for me, he had to go and ruin my signature song as well. Asshole.
I’d almost made it to the door when I realized that the two girls who'd stuck it out with me at the table were following me. I hesitated just a minute. 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 felt as though I was practically screaming up to the girl’s ear. Jesus, she was tall.
“No, the hitting-on-you thing.”
I stared at her blankly a minute, not sure whether she was serious. Most people realize right away that I must get hit on a lot. “Yeah, pretty much.” I finally spit out. “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. She’s used to being the one all the guys are after.”
“What?” I felt like I seemed to be saying that a lot. I was still a little dazed, I guess, from having spent the better part of the past two days stuck on a cross-country trip in a U-haul with my mom.