Three years ago today I finished one of my stories! Usually a “book birthday” is the day the book was released, but I’m considering this my book birthday, marking the finish of one of my stories. 🙂
In celebration of this, I decided to post the first chapter of the story on my blog! 🙂 (It’s not going to look formatted correctly going from a Word Document to my blog, but just pretend… ;))
(In other exciting news I’m done with my finals and have completed my first year of college! I was about to write high school… my brain has been dead for, like, two weeks, but I’m hoping it’ll come back to me during break…)
Most of the time, I prefer to be alone, but every now and then I long to be with someone who truly cares about me.
Obviously Dad and Margie, my stepmother, must care somewhat, at least in a Florinda is still alive, right? Because I’m pretty sure accidentally killing her would look really bad way.
All I can say is when you’re alone, warm showers can act like the hug no one else is willing to give you.
A sigh escapes as the shower beats down on my back, relaxing my muscles. Taking a deep breath of the steamy air, I turn around and turn off the water. For a moment, I rest my forehead on the shower wall… just breathing. There is only ten minutes left for me to eat breakfast and get ready for school, but sometimes being in a rush is somehow reassuring, like it tells me, “You have some place to be. You’re here for a reason.”
The extra mile I jogged took more time than I thought it would. Training for a Suicide Awareness Marathon takes work- there is no way I’d be able to do that if I didn’t push myself. I dry off quickly and pull my hair in a messy ponytail.
When I get to the kitchen, Margie’s pouring herself a glass of orange juice and Bobby is in his highchair babbling something as he bangs his fists on his tray in front of him. My fingers run through his soft brown-red hair as I pass him on my way to the cabinet.
“Remember to look people in the eye.” Margie goes the fridge. She gets the milk and hands it to me. I nod and get a bowl out of the cabinet. She chews her lip for a moment, going over the same words she said to me every morning this week before school.
Here it goes. The speech she thinks is helpful. The speech I’ll smile and nod too and then completely disregard as soon as I get to school. At school I’ll have one goal—be invisible.
“Smile, and walk confidently.”
My head bobs up and down as I pour my cereal and milk, and get a spoon from the drawer. I continue my nodding, even though now that I’m crunching on my cereal I can’t hear a word she says.
Margie always nags me about going too fast, running too fast or eating too fast, and as I look down at the empty bowl I know—this time at least—she’s right. With nothing to give me an excuse not to listen I hear her rattle off her last few tips.
“Work hard, but try to make friends.” Her eyes plead with me. Plead that I’d give this place a chance, try to be happy. Sure I can try to be happy– I can even pretend, but I doubt I’d ever actually make it to being happy. With her in place of my mom? Yeah, I doubt it.
She smiles and reaches up to brush some of my corn-silk blonde hair behind my ear, but stops and pulls her hand back. “How has your first week at school been going?”
“Fine.” Surrounded by strangers and getting lost at least once a day. But how did she think I’d respond?
She nods. “Good.”
I shift from one foot to the other. I should probably tell her something. Thank you, maybe? Instead, I put the empty bowl into the sink and say, “I’ve got to go, or I’m going to miss my bus.”
Margie follows me to the back door and gives me a hug before I can prepare– before I can move away. “Bye, have a good day.”
“Thanks, I’ll see you later.” I pat Bobby on his head. “Bye, Bobby.” Grabbing my backpack I force a smile at them both. I go out the back door, but walk to the front porch to wait for the school bus.
A few minutes later the bus stops in front of the house. I pick up my backpack and start walking towards the bus. After slinking near the back of the bus, I slide into a window seat. I put my backpack on the seat next to me in hopes that no one will ask to sit there.
Chances are no one would ask to sit there anyway since I’m still new and haven’t gotten to know anyone, but just in case, I’m prepared. I hope.
I put on my headphones and listen to my mp3 player the entire trip to school.
When the school bus finally pulls into the parking lot, I grind my teeth together. It’s so big, and with so many people. Maybe one day I’d get used to it, but I guess it isn’t going to happen in the first week.
As I get off of the bus, I remind myself over and over, I will get through today and I will be fine. Just breathe and smile, I tell myself. It will be okay.
But…. if I was going to draw this school, what would it look like? The looming one story brick buildings don’t look all that scary, so why do they fill me with fear? To do these buildings justice with how it’s making me feel, I’d have to draw bars on the windows and cobwebs in the door frames.
“Come on, be positive,” I mumble under my breath.
In reality, the pearly white pillars in the front of the building seem to make it stand tall and proud. I stand behind a tree to block myself from the slight wind, but also to take a moment to prepare myself for going in.
Life is so much easier when I can bury my face in my sketchbook and block out the world with the music. Unfortunately, things like school often get in the way.
Several people glance at me as I weave between them to my locker. The hallway echoes the voices of every talking student.
All week Margie would ask me what my locker combination is—making sure I had it memorized. Not that I’m comfortable with Margie, but it’s so much easier to recall it when I’m not surrounded by strangers. Fortunately, it’s getting easier to remember. It had been much harder to remember on Monday, but it’s easier today. Hopefully I won’t forget it over the weekend.
A few minutes later, I have everything I need and I turn to the exit. The school is larger than I thought it would be when we first moved here—small town, small school, right? I guess not. Apparently every teenager from all of the neighboring small towns collaborates into this gigantic high school. I head out the main building that contains the gym, cafeteria, office rooms and lockers. Outside, as I stand under the covered walkway, I glance at the other buildings. Which one is my first class in?
It was the same questions every day. What’s my locker combination? Where is my next class? As far as first weeks go mine was fine, but next week should go even better. Pretty soon, I would automatically remember….
Pretty soon this all would be normal.
I start my best guess and start walking with my heart pounding as if I just went running. As I walk towards where I hope my first class is, I watch my fellow students. Some of them notice me, but too others I’m invisible, just the way I prefer it.
Somehow I get my homework finished fairly soon, even though I keep doodling in the notebooks I’m supposed to using for school. A glance at the clock makes me smile. I have time for a walk before dinner. I grab my cell phone and mp3 player and hurry down the stairs where Margie is chopping up onions for dinner.
“Hey, Flo,” She greets me.
Flo. The nickname makes me want to gag. When Margie found out Mom made a special nickname for me, Rindy, I guess she thought I’d be all for having another nickname. “Hi. I’m going to go for a walk, ok?” I hold up my phone so she knows I can contact them if I need them. “I’ll be gone thirty minutes at the most.”
“Ok, I’ll see you later.”
Once I get on the road I put one of my ear buds in my ear and start a slow walk. Whenever I went for a ‘walk’ I never end up walking the whole time. Maybe Margie is right about me moving too fast, I always have to be going. My feet were made to run. I just can’t help it. The thrill of having the ground pass under my feet and the labored breathing is a strange, comforting reminder that I’m alive, that there is something to this life… or there seems to be.
Ten minutes later I get to a small park surrounded by houses. I sit down near a tree and pull put my mp3 player to switch to a different album. This would be a beautiful place to draw… maybe I could draw myself well here.
Whenever I sit down to draw myself, I always do it wrong. Somehow, no matter how big I drew the smile, it looks fake, no matter how I drew the eyes they always look like they were holding back tears. Obviously that can’t be how I look in real life or more people would notice me and ask me how I am… so why did I always see myself like that?
Closing my eyes, I lean against the tree, concentrating on the music and trying to ignore the nipping cold air. To draw this place properly takes more than a look at it. You need to get the feel of the place to draw it correctly. Maybe that’s why I always drew myself wrong, because on the inside I’m–
Beyond the soft music, I can hear someone coming, walking on the rocks by the swing set.
As soon as he is in view he stops in surprise. He smiles a little in a ‘I didn’t know anyone was here, but don’t worry—I’m not a killer’ kind of way.
So I smile back.
“I’m Sam Hamilton,” He moves his book from one hand to the other and sticks out his hand.
With my heart flipping, I reply in a wobbly voice, “Rindy.” I shook his hand. Why, why did I have to tell him my name is Rindy? Florinda, or even Flo like Margie calls me would’ve been so much better. No, though, I had to say Rindy. And with the nickname comes a flood of memories of Mom calling me that.
“You’re new around here?” His blue eyes meet mine.
His book is probably far more interesting than me… so why did he stop to chat?
“Yeah, just moved in. Have you lived here long?” Even if my heart is pounding so hard I can feel it in my chest, if a cute boy like him wants to talk to me, I should be polite.
“Yeah, almost two years.” Sam sits on the ground about two feet away and leans against his own tree.
I put my phone in my pocket.“What’s the book you’ve got?”
“Oh,Lord of the Rings.” He shifts his hold on the book so I can see the cover. “I was told by a friend to read it. Have you read it?
“No, I haven’t.” I start to stand. “I should go.” How can I just sit there and talk to a stranger like that? Just because he is an attractive stranger doesn’t mean I should just have a chat with him.
“Oh, no problem.” He stood also and steps closer to shake my hand. “It was nice to meet you. Rindy… right?”
I nod, looking up a few inches to meet his eyes. “It was nice to meet you too, Sam.”
As soon as I am a few steps away from Sam, I put my headphones back in and press play.
Dad is getting out of the car when I get home. He waits for me by his car, his jacket in one hand and his tie hanging loose around his neck. “Hi, Dad.” I give him a hug, my arms wrap around his waist. Maybe if I close my eyes hard enough or maybe if I hug him tight enough I can forget everything that happened in the last year.
He hugs me back, tightly. “How are you, Flo?”
I pull back with a sigh and shrug. “Fine.” The typical lie he doesn’t see through.
It isn’t his fault. Well, not exactly. Okay, so it is, but I can try to pretend it isn’t—he is pretty good at pretending after all.
“Let’s go see what Margie’s made for dinner.”
So maybe Margie’s only five years older than me, but if she makes Dad happy… I could live with her. Unfortunately I have no choice to live with her until my eighteenth birthday… which is coming right up at the end of June.
Dinner is pretty silent. Daddy tries to get conversation going, ‘How was your day’ ‘What did you do’, but Margie looks tired and I already said everything I want too.
“I bought chocolate pie today,” Margie smiles. She pats Dad’s hand. “I know it’s your favorite.”
Well, no, it’s Mom’s—specifically Mom’s– homemade apple pie, but I don’t say that.
“I’ll take a shower first, I think.” He stood up from the table, kisses Margie and leaves the kitchen.
Margie picks up Bobby and starts to coo, “Come on, Bobby, let’s read a story.”
I look at the empty seats at the table. If Mom were here… Nope. Not going there. I clear the table and fill the dish washer. I finish just as Margie and Dad come back to the kitchen.
“You going to have some pie, Flo?” Dad asks as he starts to get a few plates.
“No, thanks.” I dry my hands on the hand towel, and take a couple of small steps away from them. Enough so that it will be easier to make my escape, but not enough to be noticeable.
Dad and Margie sit at the table and get absorbed in chocolate pie and a conversation of their own, so I slip away upstairs to my room.
By habit, I pull out my sketchbook and a sharpened pencil. Ten minutes later my pencil marks are taking a shape of their own. With each line drawn on the paper, I try to push the events of today away. When I finish a picture of my high school, though looking dramatically more evil than it really does, stares up at me.
It’s getting late fast, so I prepare for bed and grab a book. Outside my bedroom window, I see raindrops soaring past and the dead Christmas lights decorating the house across the street. Who knew people left their Christmas lights up past December twenty-fifth? Dad is always adamant that they come off the day after Christmas. It was a little weird last Christmas. Margie expected the lights to stay up for a little bit afterwards, ‘just a week’ she said with a shrug. Down they came though, because what Dad wants, he works until he gets. Yet our neighbor has them up still, halfway through February.
I crawl into bed and cover up with my favorite red blanket. The sounds of the house might be different, my bedroom walls might be a different color, but there is something nice about having the same mattress under me, the same blankets over me, and the same familiar clean smelling sheets wrapped around me.
This is home, not chocolate pie, and forced conversation over spaghetti, not pretending we were a real family when we weren’t, but comfortable, wrapped up and warm