by Brenna Pinckard
2013 Young Adult Runner Up
Chapter One: Ready
It is the middle of June. School has ended, and there is a sense of enchantment in the air. The dream of summer has become a reality; the mere thought of it causes my body to buzz with energy. This buzz is reflected on Katie’s face as she looks over at me from her place in front of the mirror. I can see it in her – she’s lighter, happier. School isn’t just over for the year, it’s over forever. And that makes the idea of this summer, the fact that we have ten beautiful, hot weeks stretching out in front of us, seemingly for eternity, all the more appealing.
I’m sitting on Katie’s bed, my usual spot, with my bare legs dangling out in front of me, my toes just brushing her carpet. She’s peering into her mirror, applying makeup, as evening sunlight filters into her room giving the entire scene a golden, serene glow. It’s nice, but it doesn’t match the feeling that’s burning up inside of me. I feel rejuvenated, eager, refreshed. Perhaps the right word to describe it – to describe the beauty of summer in a tourist-trap town, the end of four long years, a period of rest before a new beginning – perhaps the right word to describe my feeling is ready. I’m ready. Although for what, I’m not sure. Maybe for anything.
“All I keep hearing in my head is those same words I’ve been saying all day,” Katie says suddenly, meeting my eyes in the mirror. She smiles a little and tilts her head to the side. “Thank God, thank God, thank God.” She repeats the words like a prayer although I know she is nowhere near religious, closing her eyes and sighing. “I just… I feel so free, you know?”
I nod. I do know. I know exactly.
When my name was called, the words Lila Prescott uttered in a formal, cold tone – as if I hadn’t lived in Maybrook my entire life, as if I hadn’t attended that high school for four years –I felt nothing. There was no rush of nostalgia, no sadness creeping in, no tears threatening to spill. The principal spoke my name like a foreign language, unfamiliar and unrecognizable, as if I didn’t fit in this town. All I could do was pray she was right. I hope I don’t belong in sleepy, dull, tight-knit Maybrook. Because of this hope, when I reached out and took my diploma, and when I shook Principal Addison’s hand, I wasn’t sad. I was relieved. There was more to the world than Maybrook, and now because of that single white piece of paper, tied up nicely in red ribbon, I’d have the chance to see it.
I knew Katie felt the same way I did, if not even more so. While I want more, I don’t dislike Maybrook. I have a fondness for the town the way one has a fondness for a childhood playground game, or a pet goldfish. Katie, on the other hand, hates Maybrook. And rightfully so. Katie Fisher is too big for a town like this. I think that if she stays here a moment longer, Maybrook will burst at the seams. It’s not that Katie can’t handle Maybrook; it’s that Maybrook can’t handle Katie.
Katie turns on her stool, her sharp green eyes zeroing in on my face. Katie has one of those looks can cut right through you, see into your soul. It’s part of the reason why I like her so much. I like that I know I can’t hide anything, that she sees it all without me having to tell her. That there’s no point in being anyone but me.
“Lila,” she says evenly, intensely. Another thing about Katie: in her world, dramatization is a must. “You know that this summer will be different, right?”
“I know,” I admit, not sure if I’m referring to the same reasons she is. “It’s the last summer that will be this way, before we both leave. It makes me sad, but a nice kind of sadness.” I try to smile, but Katie’s still got that harsh look on her face, so I stop.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” Katie says flippantly, shrugging off my comments. “But that’s not what I mean. I mean that, now that high school’s over – hallelujah – we don’t have to care anymore. About anything. We can just do what we want.”
I must look confused because Katie goes on, “We don’t have to worry about what people think. And that’s why…” she trails off, and there’s something worrying about the mischievous expression on her face. “We’re crashing Mason Mcevoy’s party tonight.”
I groan, dragging my hand down my face, matching Katie in theatricality. “No, Katie, no. Not this whole scheme again.”
“Oh, c’mon. Don’t be like that. You know it’s kind of tempting, don’t you?”
That’s the problem. I do. But it’s the wrong kind of tempting, like the temptation of a No Trespassing sign or that of playing with matches as a four-year-old. Nothing good can come of it, but the punishment could be massive. I’m not sure why Katie always wants to crash these parties. The people who attend them are not our crowd – frankly, my and Katie’s crowd pretty much includes only each other. In fact, the people who attend these parties are the people Katie is always making sarcastic remarks about, rolling her eyes at me every time one of the girls from that crowd walks through the hall like she owns the place. Katie thinks they’re fake. Yet, she’s always yearning to crash their parties. We’ve never actually done it, and I’m thankful for that. I can’t see it ending well.
“Maybe they’re fun. But we don’t know that for sure. However, we do know that movies and popcorn are a for-sure, hundred-percent guaranteed rollicking good time,” I grin, trying to distract Katie from her goal. I know it’s going to be difficult though. Once she sets her mind to something, it’s tunnel-vision from there on out.
“No it isn’t. It’s an alright time. And I’m absolutely sick of alright times.” She huffs, folding her arms across her chest. “I’m tired of the popular kids – well, popular in their minds at least – getting to have all the fun. Why don’t we get fun?”
I have to admit, I’ve never seen Katie quite so passionate about the issue before. So I tread carefully when I say, “It might not be as fun as it seems.”
Katie softens at my words, and there’s a glimmer in her eyes as I realize she’s taken my words and purposely misinterpreted them as a form of consent. “Well then, why don’t we go find out?”
Mason Mcevoy’s house is only a few streets down from Katie’s, so I have less than ten minutes to calm my nerves as we walk. I don’t like the idea of showing up at a party that you’re not invited to. It seems like something only an incredibly foolish person would do, and an incredibly foolish person is not something I want to be labelled as. I don’t dislike the popular kids the way Katie does; much like with Maybrook, while her opinions on the matter are fiery and relentless, mine are more neutral. I try to not be too judgemental, and to accept things as they are. It’s nice to live that way, because then you’re never very disappointed. If you look for things wrong, you’ll find them. So I don’t look.
The popular kids aren’t mean. They’re not special. They’re just people. People who just happen to have the right connections, and the ability to say the right things at the right time. Two things Katie and I lack. Neither of us know much of anyone – that comes from rejecting any and all extracurricular activities. As for saying the right things, I don’t say much of anything, and whenever Katie opens her mouth, you’re likely going to be offended. We don’t meet the popular-kid criteria, which for the most part, is fine by me.
I mean, I suppose I’d like to be noticed more. Blending into the background can be an advantage at times, but it can also get a little… sad. High school is supposed to be about laughter and cafeteria tables and varsity jackets, but I didn’t get any of that. I got essays and science labs and every day, lunch with Katie on the steps. It’s easy to fly under the radar, but it also isn’t very exciting.
So I guess that’s why Katie talked me into this. I guess that’s why I’m wearing my pretty new white camisole, eyeliner, and my long, dark hair curled into ringlets that I can feel bouncing against my back. I guess that’s why I’m glad this is happening, despite my better judgement and the knot in my stomach. I guess that’s why I look over at Katie and smile – a big, ready smile.
About this Story
I wrote this story when I was 17 and very inspired by The Great Gatsby. I studied the novel in high school and noticed many parallels between the novel’s themes and what I was going through at the time. Many of the characters are inspired by people I knew in high school. I ended up finishing the first draft of the manuscript a few months after the Novel Marathon.