Authors: Megan McKenney
Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McKenney
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
“So do you find out today?” Brad asked. He checked his hair quickly in my vanity mirror as I grabbed my backpack off of my desk chair. He was at my house, like he was every morning, to pick me up for school. We had been dating since freshman year, so we were both comfortable with this procedure.
“Yes,” I smiled. Bumping him slightly with my hip, I bent down and looked at my own reflection in the mirror. I styled my nutmeg brown hair so that the long bang was partially covering my left eye. Today I had straightened my hair, though I still looked like a rock star when I wore it naturally wavy. I had been nominated for Best Hair for class of 2016, and I was positive that I would be winning in the category at school.
“Jenna,” my dad called from the bottom of the stairs. I rolled my eyes, gesturing to Brad that we needed to get going.
“Yes?” I asked as we walked down the staircase. My dad was dressed in his usual business attire and eating his granola bar like he did each morning. He was a successful business man, well, a lawyer to be exact. He knew the key to the perfect lie and exactly how to make someone believe every word he said. Maybe that was one of the reasons why he got the most business. And with more business, came more money.
“Did you turn in your application for Yale yet?” He asked, taking a bite of his breakfast.
I nodded, putting my backpack on. “It’s in the mailbox, stamped, and ready to go.”
“That’s my girl,” he said proudly. He gave me a smug smile. It wasn’t a secret that he wanted me to attend the same college as he did. In fact, he and my mom had pretty much already decided from birth that Yale was the one and only college I would ever attend. So I was going to.
Letting out a chuckle, I started back down the stairs. “Bye, dad.” I quickly grabbed his granola bar out of his hand and ran out the front door to Brad’s car. I waited patiently for him to unlock it.
“Hey!” Dad laughed. “That was my breakfast. Oh, I almost forgot, call me as soon as you find out.”
“I will, dad!” I rolled my eyes at my dad’s constant nagging. Brad unlocked the car and we both piled in.
“Oh, is Jenna leaving?” Mom ran to the doorway next to her husband. She still had curlers in her hair, and she was wearing her silk bathrobe. “Good luck today, sweetie.”
“Thanks, mom.” I answered.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed. You would make a great valedictorian.”
“Thanks, mom,” I repeated. This time I shut the car door, drowning out their compliments about me. I was used to them obsessing over me. They were always talking about my perfect grades, my perfect hair, my perfect personality, and my perfect boyfriend. I was used to it, but frankly, it was way too much pressure.
“You’re nervous. I can tell.” Brad pulled out of the driveway, turning down his typical hard rock music that he kept on full blast whenever we were in the car. I shrugged my shoulders, still biting at my chipping nail polish. He grabbed my finger from my mouth. “Jenna, I don’t know why you do this to yourself. You’re perfect. You’ll be valedictorian.”
“Wish I could be so sure. Brenda Leswill has been my opponent since Kindergarten. Her grades are just as good as mine,” I whined, hoping for the day to be done. After this all my worries would be gone – well, some.
“Brenda Leswill isn’t Senior Class President, nor is she the Yearbook Staff Editor, or Cheer Captain. Come’on, Jenna, when are you going to see that you’ve got everything? Your life is perfect,” he flashed me a gorgeous smile. “And you’re a great girlfriend.”
I sighed, smiling to myself slightly. “And you’re a great boyfriend.” I kissed him as we sat at the red light right before the entrance to the school. “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, I’ll be running a bit late for work tonight. Cheer practice is going to run a little over schedule.”
“Oh, so you don’t need a ride?” Brad asked sadly. He hated going to work without me. We both worked at a small private-owned ice cream parlor on the boardwalk. The owners were in their late eighties, obviously on the edge of death. They pretty much let us come and go as we pleased, as long as there was at least one of us there. Brad and I were always assigned the night shift because of school, but it was a nice haven from home after school. We were always busy, which made the time go by faster. The nice thing about living in a tourist town – there was always a need for an ice cream shop, even in Michigan’s winter months.
Yes, Sprinkles was a pain (especially the bright pink shirts that
employee had to wear) but it was nice to work with Brad and get away from our familys’ pestering questions about our relationship. Everyone, especially our extended families, always questioned us about when we would get engaged. Yes, we were both only seventeen years old, but they expected us to get married straight out of high school. That was another pressure that I had to live with.
I shook my head. “No, I already talked to Tom. He knows I’ll be late. But I’ll try to wrap up the practice as soon as possible,” I said quickly as he parked the car in the parking lot. We both got out, swinging our backpacks over our shoulders. He grabbed my hand and we walked next to each other as bystanders stood in awe at our presence. At school…we were superstars. Students parted like the Red Sea as we walked through the hallway.
“Where’s Lacey?” I asked once we reached my locker. She had been my best friend since middle school. We did everything together, and she always waited for me in the morning with my usual Chai Tea Latte. I quickly scrambled for my cell phone and dialed her number.
“Hello?” Lacey answered. Her voice was scruffy, and she sniffed continuously.
“I’m taking it you’re sick?” I laughed as I placed my books in my locker. I balanced the phone between my shoulder and ear.
“Ugh!” She exclaimed. “I knew it was bound to happen. I told you last week that I was beginning to feel drowsy.”
“That sucks,” I answered. “I’ll take super good notes for you today in Literature and drop them off after work.”
“Thanks, Jenna. You’re an awesome friend.” She sneezed loudly into the phone. “Sorry,” she giggled slightly. “I told you that I’m sick…”
“Oh, I believe you. Well, get plenty of rest today. I’ll call you tonight before I come over. Do you want me to pick up some soup for you?”
“No, but thanks. Alex is going to skip school and take care of me. Isn’t he so cute?” Lacey had only been dating Alex for only a few weeks, but she was smitten with him. Though I didn’t approve of Alex and his slacker ways, I was happy that Lacey finally found someone that made her happy. She had always lived in my shadow as the overweight girl who followed me everywhere. But, even those who teased her secretly wished that they were the ones following me. I was popular, it was just something that I had gotten used to.
“He’s pretty cute,” I laughed. “Anyway, I’ve got to get to class. Love you tons, girl!”
“Love you. Hey, tell Brad I say hey, ok?”
“Lacey says hi,” I told Brad out loud. He smiled and said his condolences back.
After saying goodbye to Lacey, Brad took my hand again as we walked through the crowded hallway. Several nervous students walked up to me holding layouts for the yearbook. They asked me quick questions and then scrambled away once I answered them. I was used to people stuttering around me. It wasn’t like I was a celebrity or even a model, I was just involved in everything and everyone knew every little detail about me. It wasn’t like I did things for extra attention or to have rumors spread, it just always kinda happened. “Have a good day,” I smiled at Brad once we got to my Literature class.
“I love you,” he answered before kissing me lightly. “See you at work.” With that, he turned around and walked to his classroom.
My desk was in the front of the classroom. In fact, I always sat in the front of every classroom. I felt like it was easier for me to pay attention. If I was going to be valedictorian, then I was going to focus on the subject and only the subject. In fact, Brad and I even requested not to have classes together because of that exact situation. I didn’t need any distractions in my life.
“Okay, class,” Mr. Thomas tapped his gavel against his wooden podium that he kept in the front of the classroom. That was where we had to read our papers. He thought that public speaking was something that everyone should be good at. It was definitely something that I was good at…I had been writing my graduation speech since I was in fifth grade.
“Today we are going to talk about a famous play. Can anyone tell me what existentialism means?” Mr. Thomas took a sip of his coffee that he always had on the podium.
My hand shot straight up in the air. He called my name without even looking up from his notes. He knew that I had the answer…I always had the answer.
I cleared my throat. “It was established in the 19
century by famous philosophers who focused on human existence.” I smiled to myself as I finished my sentence. I was used to the usual eye rolls that I got from my peers, but no matter what, they still loved me.
“That’s correct,” Mr. Thomas answered. “Existentialism is –“
“Not necessarily,” a guy from the back row called out. I buried my brow and turned to look at him. No one ever tried to correct me. “It’s about the way a person thinks, or how they feel…like their emotions. I mean, the philosophers were more concerned about why a person felt the way that they did…guilt, happiness, pain, love…” He pushed his curly blonde hair off his forehead. His eyes flicked towards me just for a second, and then back down on his lined paper, where he was sketching a picture. I slowly turned back towards the front of the classroom.
“Very good, Mr. Lawrence. You are absolutely right.”
“No. I’m sorry but that’s not absolutely right,” I retaliated. Spinning in my chair to face the new guy once again, I could feel my cheeks starting to turn red with frustration. “I, clearly, already stated what you said. Human existence is the way that every individual lives their life. Thus, their emotions and everything.”
“No,” the guy corrected. “Existence could be humans just living everyday life without thinking about why they’re doing it. What Mr. Thomas asked was what existentialism was, not a hypothesis.
, making your statement correct, but not to the standards of what he wanted.”
“I know what Mr. Thomas wanted,
. Everyone knows that human existence has to do with how a person perceives this world,” I looked at Mr. Thomas for support, but he was leaning against his wooden podium, his arms crossed against his chest. He looked like he was actually enjoying himself.
“How do you perceive this world?” The new kid smiled. There was something about his relaxed personality that annoyed the snot out of me.
“Well, I…” I started, unable to come up with an answer.
“Tell me, how do you deal with anger?” The new kid crossed his own arms and stared at me as though he was trying to burn a hole into my skin with his piercing eyes.
“Shut up,” I snapped. Several other students giggled at my sudden outburst.
“Okay, okay, that’s enough,” Mr. Thomas finally stepped into the conversation. “Both of you are correct, but Keiffer seemed to hit the nail right on the head.” Mr. Thomas glanced down at me, catching my sour attitude expression. “By the way, do you mind standing up, Keiffer? Class, this is Keiffer Lawrence.”
“Keiffer? What kind of a name is that?” I breathed out angrily. Keiffer looked down at me, obviously smirking at my comment.
“You’re new here from Florida, right?” Mr. Thomas asked. “Please tell us something about yourself.”
“Well,” he ran his fingers through his curly blonde hair. He had extremely tan skin; something that stood out among the rest of the students in the school. “My name is Keiffer, obviously. I’m seventeen, a senior. I lived in Palm Beach my whole life and just moved here, like, two days ago.” I took note of his tan cut-off cargo shorts and his black shirt with a surf logo on it. “Oh, and just to state the obvious, I’m really into surfing.” He pointed at his shirt. “Guessing you guys don’t get many waves here?” He was joking, but I still couldn’t help feeling annoyed by him. Of course we didn’t get waves here. We were a tourist town on Lake Michigan…there were no waves.
He sat back down and we continued with the lesson. “So your assignment – you need to write a speech on existentialism that applies to another person. Dissect who that person is. Discover them as an individual. This whole course we will be going over screenwriters, short stories, and movies that all deal with existentialism. I’m going to give you until the end of the year to write it, and will be worth seventy-five percent of your over-all grade.” He read off the pairs and I froze when he called my name…I was paired with the new guy. I scowled angrily and crossed my arms across my chest.
“Who knows,” Mr. Thomas called over the chatter of the pairs. “Maybe you’ll find out something about yourself that you didn’t know before. I want each partner to observe the other for the next four months. That means, you guys, that you have to actually hang out after school.” He dramatically made a gasping noise. “The whole point of the assignment is to study the other person in your partnership. You’re to figure out how they express their feelings. How do they express love, guilt, anger…what’s their reason for living.”
I rolled my eyes when the new guy sat down at the chair next to me. He was grinning from ear to ear. “What’s up?” He asked.