[OT] Sunday Free Write: Sunday Squee Write Edition

Hey all. This is an excerpt of a project I'm working on. A coming of age novel.

    My hair sticks against the window of the school bus. I try not to think about all the dead flies and mosquitoes that have been plastered against the glass. The September sun radiates warmth through the window, so in spite of my misgivings, I can’t help but lean further into it. The school bus has only a dozen or so students on it. I can’t be bothering am I? No, I don’t think that’s possible--nobody is sitting in the seat next to me, or in either the seat immediately in front of, or behind, me. 

    I sigh deeply and reach down to pull my backpack up next to me. I’m not even fourteen until October—with all my textbooks, my backpack probably weighs more than I do. No...On second thought, that probably isn’t true, but it certainly feels that way. Four different textbooks for homework tonight. Honors Geometry, Honors American Literature, Civics, Honors Biology…I did most of my homework in study hall, but I still have more to do.

    The bus pulls to a stop and three of the kids in the back get off. One of the kids, a tall gangly junior in a baseball jersey pulls himself upward and practically vaults across the seats. He’s making jokes with everyone and hi fives at least four different kids before getting off. The back of his jersey reads “Jenkins.” I can’t help but wonder what that’s like—Jenkins seems to just radiate happiness and he’s getting along with everyone. Most of my classmates seem…off-put by me, like they don’t know what to make of me. And I’m often ignored—most of the sophomores already have made their groups of friends, so I’m often ignored. 

    Which makes sense, I suppose—skipping ninth grade and having an early birthday makes me two years younger than most of my classmates. Not many people at Jefferson High even went to my middle school—there was some redistricting two years ago, so quite a few schools saw their students shuffled

It’s a little lonely, but it makes sense, and I really have nobody but myself to blame for how things are right now. But things will improve, once we start having group projects. Once I can work with my classmates, show them what I can do, prove my worth, prove that I can contribute, prove that I’m good enough, then things will get better. Things will get better…they have to.

    The bus comes to a stop again, jerking me out of my trance. This is my stop. There’s only three more kids on the bus, and they live two more blocks down the line. I’m alone. I slide my backpack over my shoulders and start the walk home. My dress shoes click against the concrete sidewalk as I walk up the street. Prim and proper, neat and tidy Sycamore Street, with every house in its place, each one near identical to its neighbors. It’s like they’re part of a matching set. I turn up my driveway and I stop short—there’s a red Lexus parked there. 

    My father’s car.

    My thoughts begin to raise, and I can feel my heartbeat accelerate. My father, Victor Clark, is a well-liked accountant, and he’s a junior partner at his firm. He works long hours, and he often isn’t home until it’s almost time for dinner. It’s not like him to be home this early—I haven’t even been out of school for an hour. And Daddy’s been working even longer hours than usual the last few months; he’s been missing dinner entirely a lot, and every now and then, he hasn’t gotten home until I’m already in bed. The last time I can remember Daddy leaving work early…it was when my Grandma Patricia had died. If Daddy’s home early…could something be really wrong?

    “Daddy!” I break into a run, dread and anxiety building my chest. This can’t be happening, not again. It hasn’t even been a year since Grandma Patricia died—I don’t want, I cannot say good-bye to another person I love. I race up the driveway and bolt through the garage, into the kitchen. The heels of my shoes click against the linoleum. My father, Victor Clark, stands in the living room, dressed in one of his three-piece suits. I fling my arms around him, questions stumbling out of my mouth. “What’s happening? Is anyone hurt? Why are you home so early?”

   “Calm down, Julie. You’re almost hysterical.” Mom? My mother, Robin Clark, is standing at the doorway to the kitchen. How didn’t I notice her? She’s wearing one of her business suits—she’s home early too? Wait a moment, that actually makes sense. My mother is a pharmaceutical sales representative. She travels for business and she’s away for weeks at a time, but then she’s home for at least a week, usually two weeks between assignments. And she only came home from her last business trip three days ago. Is it Mom? Is Mommy sick? No…I don’t think it’s her…she doesn’t look sick, not really anyway. But she does look…tired. Tired and put-upon and I think even defiant, but not sick.

    “Sit down, Julie.” My mother gestures towards one of three hard kitchen chairs that she’s arranged into a rough triangle. “We need to have a Family Meeting.”

    Oh. Family Meetings. Those only happen when my mom and dad have something really important to tell me. The intent of the triangle of chairs is supposedly equality—each of our voices is meant to be equal, that my parents won’t automatically disregard my opinions on the subject at hand. It’s been that way since I was little—though sometimes I wonder whether or not I actually have a voice in these matters. No, I shouldn’t think like that: my parents love me, and they do value my opinions. I’m just not experienced enough yet to know how things should work.

    I walk over to one of the chairs, the sound of my shoes clicking against the kitchen floor is deafeningly loud, and take a seat; my knees knock together and the knot of dread in my stomach has only slightly decreased. Family Meetings aren’t among my favorite memories. We had Family Meetings the day my parents told me they were giving our dog to a farm; the day they told me I would be skipping the ninth grade; the day I was told my Grandma Patricia was terminally ill…I grip the sides of my chair tightly, the wooden seat pressing into my palms. Don’t be bad news, don’t be bad news, don’t be bad news. Dear God, don’t let it be bad news.

    Daddy sits on my left side, Mom sits on my right. We’re equals…we’re supposed to be equals. We’re in this together. Equals have to help each other. If I love them, then I have to help them with whatever’s going on. Cold sweat soaks my brow and my hands almost slip off the chair. Things are going to get worse…I cannot let them get worse. 

    “Sorry about the outburst…I just panicked…Daddy, the last time you were home early…I just, sorry.” My face flushes red with embarrassment, even though nobody saw what happened. I don’t like making Mom and Daddy upset and that…

   “Julie,” Daddy smiles at me. Daddy’s in his early thirties, and while I can see some wrinkles around his eyes, he does look a few years younger. Maybe it’s because his hair is mostly blonde, so it’s hard to see any of the gray, not that there’s much in the first place. Or maybe it’s the way he carries himself—like he can get through any obstacle. I like that. “You don’t have to be so worried. There’s going to be some changes for us, but it’s all going to be for the better—for all of us.”

   For the better? What could that mean? But if things are going to better for all three of us, then that has to be a good thing. But what could change things for the three of us, and be beneficial? The last Family Meeting was about me being pushed forward in school, and short of me going to college earlier than expected, I’m not sure that’s had much of an effect on either Mom or Daddy. But this could be our chance…something we would actually face as a family, something that would make us all better… 

   “Your mother and I have come to a decision, Julie.” Daddy clears his throat and Mom nods at him. “We are no longer in love. We are getting a divorce.”
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