Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Part 2

Hello everyone. I guess I can update you on part 2. We decided not to be in a relationship and that's perfectly fine with me. I'm actually happy it turned out that way. I'm not sure either of us are ready to leave that infatuation stage into serious relationship zone. I feel the same way that I did when this 6th boy at the English camp was adorably crushing on me. It's cute but I don't think it could ever be more than cute, which is fine. It's already apparent that he likes me a lot more than I like him. I'm just scared that this is all going to break his heart. I'm going to be really careful not to let that happen. 

Today we watched Up and I only cried once which is an accomplishment for me. I don't know how I can blog about this. I don't want to reduce my blog to this strange love story. He put his head on my shoulder and I put my head on his head. I then freaked out because he said his thumb lost circulation! After the movie we just sat outside the grass and it was nice. 

Well enough about my life. Here's the story I've been writing. It's not going to be as long as Coffee Shop because I'm not going to make tons and tons of characters. I did, however, add one new character named Sylvia. I have also finished Things Fall Apart because it was mandatory English reading. It was not that bad but not a riveting read. 
I was sitting in the hot staff room without any air conditioning. A box of melted donuts sat at the center of the table. It was my first ever staff meeting. I smiled at Logan. He was the only other junior intern that was picked to sit in. It was a huge moment for both of us. He returned a crooked, half smile. I suppose it was better than nothing. He wasn’t exactly the nicest person at Bio Life. I had worked too hard to first get in to Bio Life and to sit in this meeting to have him ruin everything.
“Well we have a pleasant surprise,” Mr. Plath said in his deep, broadcaster voice.  Everyone leaned a little bit. I saw someone give me a dirty glance. Mr. Plath hadn’t even bothered to introduce everybody. Strangely enough no one was glaring or glowering in Logan’s direction. “James Higgins, the James Higgins, is coming to Bio Life to give a talk.” Excited squeals came from every direction. 
“Sylvia, would you mind getting the coffee?” Mr. Hines asked just as Mr. Plath was giving the specifics of Mr. Higgins’s visit. I was one of the only girls here and Mr. Hines had just asked me to get coffee. Everyone expected me to get the coffee. Ms. Louis Hampton even started to tap her pencil in impatience. I scowled at Logan but slunk up from my seat.
“I prefer decaf and two creamers,” Logan said, being the jackass that he always was. The staff room was a wonderful place. It was airy and spacious and I didn’t see how everyone didn’t spend all day here. It was equipped with microwaves, a refrigerator, and a high tech coffee machine. The chairs were all plushy and the tables always sparkled and smelled of lemon. I pressed the button to turn on the coffee machine and waited for it to gently purr. I returned with three coffees, a regular for Mr. Hines, decaf with a huge shot of espresso for Logan, and an Italian roast for me. Neither of them said thank you. 
“He will be visiting in two months,” Mr. Plath was saying. “We’ve got to prepare the new lab for him to see. All right everybody, meeting dismissed.” I got up holding my cup of coffee and almost made it out the door before Mr. Plath started to cough discreetly into his sleeve. I waited by the door until all the other staffers had left. Logan didn’t even make eye contact with me. 
Mr. Plath was a middle-aged man who was unfortunately going through a balding stage. He was wearing an obnoxious bowtie that didn’t match his brownish pants. He was one of the nicer people around Bio Life. 
“Sylvia, I was really disappointed with you today.” I set my Italian roast down. 
“I’m sorry,” I said with a questioning look.
“You are a strong female. That’s why I hired you. I don’t want you ever leaving in the middle of a meeting to go get coffee for some male chauvinists.” 
“Thanks Mr. Plath,” I said with a smile. Perhaps working here wouldn’t be so bad.  
pastedGraphic.pdfHazy Afternoons 
The wind was cheerful as I walked along the dirt path. Mousy brown hair was in my face but it seemed picturesque. This was the secret, round a bout way of getting home. My backpack was slung across my back and my sweater loosely tied around my stomach.  The Pemberly Rose emblem was clearly visible on the burgundy sweater the school issued. My pleated skirt was hiked an inch above my knees and the whitish socks were sliding down again. It was still high afternoon and half a day was still waiting for me. Although my mind was barely functioning, midterms still had some benefits. When was the last time I ran down the Chardonnay hill? They called it Chardonnay hill because it used to be vineyard maybe fifty years ago. There were still remnants of grape vines until Claret Richards moved here. I never saw any family hate grape vines as much as the Richards’ did. 
I raced down the hill, kicking up dust, and stepping over the little daisies. I tripped on one of the gnarly roots tucked under the long grasses. I tumbled down the rest of the way, the contents of my measly lunch lurching. I landed at the bottom stomach first, relieved that Claret hadn’t seen me. I limped to the back porch. The key was always tucked under the little spot under the bristly rug. 
“Pop! I’m home!” I called out. It was more of a formality because I knew he wasn’t home yet. I threw my backpack next to the couch and went upstairs as fast as my twisted ankle could carry me. I took the home phone off the charger in Pop’s room. My phone was out of minutes. Yes, I was one of those people who still used cell phones to call. I sat in my office chair and stretched my legs out up onto the desk. 
“Hello?” It was Friday afternoon, which meant an hour-long conversation with my best friend, Lucille Edmonds. Lucille had moved away right before freshman year partly because of her parents’ jobs and the hefty Pemberly Rose tuition. We agreed to spend an hour on Fridays just talking about everything that had happened. It worked out perfectly and we were still best friends. 
“Lucille! It’s me,” I squealed into the receiver. I curled the phone cord around my fingers. Although it was an old phone there were too many memories attached to simply throw it away. We had both registered to take the SAT tomorrow. I specifically chose the school she was taking it at just so we could see each other. She said something about her school being full. Although we didn’t live all that far, it was still hard to physically meet. 
“Oh, uh hi Willa.” 
“Are you okay?” Where the overly cheery and chipper Lucille? 
“Yeah, pre-testing struggles I guess.” Lucille nervous? I couldn’t even fathom that. 
“Don’t worry, Luc, it’ll be fine! You’ve taken it before, haven’t you?” 
“Can I tell you something Willa?” Her voice shook. 
“Sure, anything,” I said wondering whatever could be on her mind. 
“I’m not really taking the test tomorrow.”
“I hired someone,” she said. Lucille was now sobbing into the receiver. I could tell that heavy, fat tears were rolling down her cheeks. “They promised I’d get a 2300 in the mail. I had to, Willa, I had to.” I could barely understand what she was saying. 
“You did fine last time.”
“I need to go to college and, and,” her words trailed off. 
“Lucille, it’ll be fine. It’s not too late to cancel. Who’d you say? Rosaline? Donna?” Rosaline and Donna were both girls on Lucille’s softball team. I could still remember their twin haircuts and the snobbish way they carried themselves. I had met them once when we all went out to ice cream together. They couldn’t stop talking about their high SAT scores. 
“Well Donna told me a rumor about this group of people that takes the SAT for you. It was a long process and this jumbled maze of websites.” Nothing she said was making sense.
“Did Donna ask someone to take the test for her too?” 
“No, no, it’s just something Donna heard. I already paid my grandma’s inheritance for this test. It’s too late to back out.” What? 
“So you don’t even know the person taking it for you?”
“No, I don’t.” Lucille’s tone hardened and she took on a defensive tone. “You don’t know anything Willa!” 
“I know, I know. I’m just trying to make sense of this all. How, how do you know it’s not a scam?”
“I just know, okay?”
“Okay,” I said taking a deep breath. “It’ll be fine, I promise. Everything will be fine.” 
I didn’t believe that. How could Lucille have done this? I hung up a few moments later saying that I needed to walk the neighbor’s cat. I had a premonition that something was going to go terribly wrong.  I closed my eyes and pulled out a notepad from the desk drawer. This would eventually make sense. 
“Sylvie, are you sure you don’t want to come out with us?” Egan was leaning against the lab table and I couldn’t help but think that she was showing off her figure again. She was wearing one of those bodycon skirts that were all the fad recently. If that wasn’t bad enough, she was also wearing a low cut tank top and a pair of flats. Recently she had some unfortunate knee surgery done and the hospital gave her some meds. The side effects included major weight loss. Even though I was Egan’s very best friend, it was hard to believe. Especially since for the three years that I’ve known Egan, she’s counted every single calorie and has been an on and off anorexic. 
“Who’s us?” My reddish hair was tied up in a simple ponytail and I hadn’t taken off my goggles yet. The bulky lab coat was a half size too big and I was wearing the obnoxious flats that Egan hated so much. 
“Oh you know, Brielle and Janice,” Egan said with a new girly giggle I hadn’t ever heard before. It was the almost summer but that was hardly reassuring. “You never do anything fun. We’re going clubbing.” Egan operated in a different way from most people. She went through obsessive phases and no one could ever stop her.  There was once a time when she’d eat nothing but avocadoes. Another time she only wore the color blue. There was no apparent reason to her actions other than the fact that she wanted to do it. Clubbing was her new hobby. I went with her once and decided never to go again. Why be surrounded by a bunch of drunk teenagers who wanted nothing more than to grope you? I already faced so much sexism in the lab. Did I really need to be around more jackass male characters for fun? 
“You know how much this internship means to me, E. I’ll be more available next year, seniors!” She yelped a bit. She always did when I mentioned anything about senior year. 
“Sylvie, you know you could be really pretty.” I froze. She never usually mentioned anything about me. In our friendship, I played the role of listener. She rarely knew I was feeling crummy because it wasn’t her job to listen to my problems. “I see the way that fellow looks at you?” Firstly, whoever still used the word ‘fellow’? 
“What? Logan?” I lowered my voice. She couldn’t be serious. Logan was one of the only people who stayed in the lab this late. Mr. Plath was in the staff room looking over paperwork today. I stared to see that Logan was standing in this direction. He was probably staring at her perfectly shaped thighs and hourglass waist. 
“You guys would be adorable and nerdy together! He is actually really cute.” 
“Stop it, Egan! He’ll see you looking over. Stop it!” 
“I’ll call him over.” I covered my face. Was she listening to anything I was saying? I didn’t even try to change her mind. Once Egan made her mind, it was set in stone. She smiled before flailing her arms everywhere. To my demise, Logan actually came over. 
“Sylvia, you never said you had a gorgeous friend.” His tone was still a snarky and cold as it always was. Egan looked flattered as she tucked her short, blonde hair behind her ear. 
“Well you never asked. There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.” 
“Sylvie, aren’t you going to introduce me?” 
“Logan, this is Egan. Egan, Logan.” 
“Do you mind if I borrow him for the night?” I made a disgusted expression at her. I couldn’t imagine Logan at a club, with Egan. 
“Go ahead,” I said with a smile. I watched Egan leave and I had the feeling that I was being replaced, permanently. It was my own fault for turning down every invitation. Even Egan had a limit to what she did. I watched them leave and felt a small pang in my stomach. What was that feeling from? Her arms were interlocked with his and I could hear her girly laugh even when they had left the room. 
I took a deep breath before walking into Skyline High School. It was a rather nice school with salmon colored walls and a large swimming pool by the parking lot. It was my first time here but maybe not the last. I looked like any other high schooler: cropped yoga pants, a messy bun, and Sperry’s. I walked from the bus stop touting my Longchamp bag. It was a gift to myself last Christmas and now a testing essential. My ambling came to a slow end and I was finally amidst the large crowd of students. 
“I’m so nervous,” one girl with streaming blonde hair chattered to her other friend. Her friend was crossing her arms and didn’t look amused at all. She didn’t look frightened either. It was obvious that this wasn’t her first time here.
“Is this your first time?” The same girl asked. I looked around for a quick moment and realized that she was talking to me. Not once had someone ever sparked a conversation. Conversations were dangerous but the girl’s eyes had widened in zealous anticipation to hear my answer. 
“No, hopefully my last,” I said trying to look hopeful. “I’ve already taken it three times.” She looked comforted and went back to speaking to her other friend. 
“Do you know her?” The other girl whispered, still loudly enough for me to hear.
“No, do you?” 
“She looks really familiar.” The blonde girl shrugged. 
“Well she said she took the test three times so maybe you’ve seen her before.” The other girl nodded but it was palpable that she didn’t believe that. I tried to smile but couldn’t help but wonder if I had caused a mountain of problems. I walked off to another corner. Solitude was safe. The bell rang and everyone flooded into the main building. I followed, just one body among at least fifty. I found the room relatively quickly. The proctor, a younger leggy brunette, was standing outside. She couldn’t be more than twenty years old. She was gripping her clipboard tightly as she snatched ID cards out of students’ hands. I gave her a smile and handed her a student ID. She scrutinized my face before allowing me to pass through the door. I felt at ease once I saw math equations that had escaped a janitor’s wrath. There were no cheesy posters or any sign of personalization. The board was spotless sans the few neatly written equations. A teacher’s name was written nowhere and there was not a single picture on the standard, wooden table. The proctor nervously paced around. Her leather bag was thrown on the floor right under the whiteboard. I could see all sorts of snacks tossed in somewhere between legal flowpads and a spare pair of yoga pants. She was definitely not a teacher and it bothered me that she was the proctor. 
The proctor shut the door right at 8:05 AM and picked up her instruction manual. I had heard the same script so many times that I could recite it. I couldn’t figure out why she was so nervous, or why she was here. Didn’t a rather attractive brunette have other places to be on a Saturday afternoon? Proctors did earn money after all for being here. Maybe it was to afford yoga lessons at a pricey gym. Maybe proctoring was a smarter way of making money than taking SATs for worthless, rich kids who had no other prospects of getting into college. Parents could force their children to volunteer in Africa, start a charity, and become school president. They could bribe teachers to give their children good grades or even fund a new building for a college. But they couldn’t force anyone to give their children a high SAT score, well until they found her that was. 
“Please write your name on the white slip of paper,” she said with an unnerving smile. I stared at the small rectangular piece of plastic on the edge of the desk. The Ziploc bag full of pencils was under my desk as was the calculator. I wrote Lucille Edmonds precisely as I had seen.  
Lucille Edmonds. She wasn’t the usual suspect. Lucille was a quiet girl from somewhere in New York. She had excellent grades and a bounty of extracurricular but an exceptionally low SAT score. Lucille had something I couldn’t afford to have: comfort. The form itself was hard to find. This was an illegal practice and jail was always looming over my head. There was no defined form but rather a jumble of clues left behind on a dozen different websites. I only took business from the most dedicated, the most desperate. Somehow these people couldn’t figure out geometry to save their life but they found the form all right.  She had sent everything from the handwriting sample to an ID card to a voice recording. A $1000 check also arrived ensuring a month of housing and food for my sister and me. I hated doing this but how else could I survive? Only those stupid enough to be caught were punished. 
The proctor released us promptly at one and I bolted out the door. No one stopped me and no one gave me weird looks. I was free. I always felt like such a caged bird while taking all these different tests. 
The highway was unsurprisingly packed and I felt my face baking in the sun. I slipped on the cheap plastic sunglasses that my sister had bought me a couple years back for my birthday. After a thirty-minute drive, I reached the modest apartment complex called the Archstone. The walls were tattooed with spray-paint and there was even a security guard in front of the lobby door. The black letters spelling out The Archstone were never replaced after they fell off. We lived upstairs from a Chinese restaurant and the Zimmerman family. The smell of greasy Chinese food encompassed the whole block. 
“Hi Marvin,” I said with a tiny wave. I was probably the only person who acknowledged that Marvin was a person. Marvin was wearing his uniform like usual, cap and all. His shoes looked shinier today than they had yesterday. He raised his hand and through the years I learned that that gesture was an indication of hello. I opened the door past him. 
I passed the elevator and pushed the door to the stairway. The elevator was old fashioned, like everything else. It was sealed behind a door and the elevator would only function if the door was closed first. The elevator always reeked of someone’s piss and I was scared that it would suddenly stop working. 
I trampled up a flight of stairs before reaching the dingy second floor.  It smelled liked Indian food followed by the soft scents of the laundry room. I knocked on the front door after digging my pockets fruitlessly for the key. 
“Ronny, you’re home!” Even though my sister saw me all the time, she still acted like I was some long lost relative she only saw twice a year. 
“Of course I’m home. Where else would I be, you idiot?” I gave her a hug anyway. Ten year olds tended to be way more sensitive than any other age group. 
“How was work?”
“Fine,” I said. I gave very little information about what exactly I did on most Saturdays. “We have two whole Saturdays to go have fun.” I saw that she had already scribbled in movies for next Saturday. 
“Do you have to work so much?” 
“Lanie, you know why I have to work so much. Do you want to be in an orphanage or out in the street again? Or would you rather live with Uncle Frank again? Do you not remember those years? Should I remind you?” My voice was brimming with anger. I knew I was being harsh on a ten year old but how could she still be so naïve and innocent? 
“I never see you, Ronny. You leave at two ten to work and don’t come back until eleven at night. You even work on some Saturdays!” Melanie didn’t stop until she got what she wanted. It was easier to give in than argue with her incessantly. 
“I can ask the restaurant to let me go an hour early. Would that make you happy?” I absently tapped the calendar. 
“Yeah, that would,” she said with a little smile. “What are we going to do when you go to college?” There was still a year and a half before I had to even worry about college. 
“I’m not going, Lanie. I told you.”
“I can take care of myself, Ronny. I’m ten,” Melanie pleaded again. She made that face and widened her eyes. I just sighed in frustration. Ironically enough, I had taken care of Melanie and myself ever since I was eight. 
“What do you want?” This was all leading up to something. Melanie only mentioned college when there was something that she really wanted.
“Madison and Paige are having a party and I really want to go.”
“What kind of party?” I raised my eyebrows. I certainly was not having parties when I was ten. 
“Paige’s eleventh birthday! I’ve been telling you this forever,” Melanie said when in fact this was the first time she had ever mentioned it. 
“When is it?”
“Next Friday and Saturday,” Melanie said. She was speaking a little bit faster with each question. “I really want to go.”
“Sure, sure you can go.” It was odd because Melanie had never before asked for such direct permission. “But what aren’t you telling me?”  
“Fine, boys are going to be there.” I simply shrugged. I just didn’t have time for all the little details and interworking of Melanie’s life. She still stood there in front of the door, cornering me. There was something else she wanted.
“What else?” 
“It’s a formal party, Ronny. I need a dress.” I rolled my eyes. All my hard work would not be wasted on something so worthless as a dress.
“Go sew your own then.” I left her, mouth gaping. 
After school I headed to the café again. It was just my spot to be. My sister Kelly was visiting the family from Atlanta, Georgia. She was ten years older than me and dragged her annoying boyfriend Thomas too. The last time I talked to her she wasn’t in a serious relationship. A month later she brings this college dropout home. My parents were less than pleased. It was the most I could do to get out of their hair. I was curious about Veronica and my time was winding down. I only had two more weeks to get a hold of more substantial information. 
“A regular?” Sarah asked approaching me with a frown. That was new. I glanced over to the prime spot by the window. No one.  Oddly enough no one had taken that seat even though everyone longingly stared at it. 
“Where’s Veronica?” She was usually here all the time, like me. 
“Your eye candy isn’t here, Arthur,” Sarah said with an edge to her voice.  “It’s weird when someone shows up to a coffee shop every single day.” She left without making a joke or any small talk. Perhaps she was busy.  
I unzipped my backpack and took out my history binder. There was a test tomorrow I remembered as I apathetically flipped through the notes about Nixon and Watergate. It would’ve been easy if I could get any tapes or videos of Veronica. But alas here I was, stuck without the efficient funds or time. 
“Here you go,” Sarah said almost throwing my coffee at me. The watery black liquid sloshed about in its cup and a little puddle formed under the saucer. I stirred in a spoonful of sugar with the dirty spoon Sarah brought from some hidden cabinet. She did this whenever she was slightly unpleased with me. The best thing I could do was act like it didn’t faze me. 
“Sarah,” I said hinting that she was still lingering around the table. “I’m sorry. I just need to find out more about Veronica before next week.” 
“Top secret job,” I said gritting my teeth. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about this. “You know I’m part of the school paper.” Sarah scoffed.
“What, is it like investigation of Veronica’s prom date or finding out if she has a boyfriend?”
“Sarah, please just help me. Just once,” I pleaded. I bit my lip for good measure. I hated doing that but sometimes using boyish charm was the only way to get anything done. 
“Fine,” she said storming off angrily. People had their headphones squished in their ears and they melodiously pounded their laptops. They looked up once when the swinging kitchen doors pounded against the wall and immediately looked down to restart their Internet search or whatever it was they did. 
Two minutes later, Sarah came back with a manila folder. The folder was so stuffed with papers and other documents that everything was just falling apart. How long had Sarah been investigating her? She slammed the folder on the desk and just left.
“I owe you,” I whispered after she left. I gulped down the watery mess that Sarah called coffee and flicked through the folder. Needless to say, the history binder went back in the backpack.  The first part of the huge pile was all receipts. I shoved all the papers back in and left. 
It was one in the morning but I was still looking through all the information Sarah had given me. I was craning my neck to read the small print under the dim light of my lamp. My parents thought I was asleep. They were the type of people who didn’t understand that sacrificing sleep was sometimes necessary. I rubbed my eyes and tried not to doze off. 
After another hour, I had finally read every single document and receipt. I learned that she ordered everything from frothy lattes to a regular cup of Joe. Usually she never ordered anything more than five dollars. Veronica had never ordered anything to eat. Her last name was Bennett and she was the girl I was looking for. 
I wrote down the address in neat print before falling asleep. I had made up my mind.
“Hello?” The door opened a crack. My beat up Volkswagen was parked along the curb and I wondered why I had left the comfort of everything. Had I come to the wrong place? I was gripping my reporter’s notepad as if my life depended on it.  

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