Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WIP Wednesday

Hooray, a WIP Wednesday where I'm not scrambling (or, er... skipping...) Here's a brand-new, just written yesterday exceprt from The Other Side of Light (NaNo2010):

I’m almost out the door when I notice an unattended table at the end of a row. There are a few brochures stacked on a corner and a few loose sheets of paper, but nothing else. Curious, I pick up one of the leaflets and unfold it. Inside are listed individual study opportunities. “Save the cost!” reads the first page inside. “Study with the College of Autarchical Studies and learn what you want on your own time, resulting in a degree you can take pride in- because you created it!”

I raise my eyebrows when I read this sentence. This sounds like those types of for – profit colleges that you hear about on t.v. and I’m kind of surprised that the school even let them into the building, let alone set up a table. I guess it’s an option, but not for me. I’ve just put the brochure back on top of the pile when I hear someone come up behind me.

“Interested in our school?” the man says. He’s so tall that I have to tilt my head back to see his face clearly. He makes it easier by coming around the table and sitting behind it so that we’re eye to eye.

“Um… just looking,” I respond, not wanting to be rude.

“Well, we’re taking applications now and the benefits of our school are great, especially if you don’t have the funds or time to go to a full – time university.”

“Oh,” I say, wondering how I can sneak away without too much more conversation. “Sounds… convenient.”

The man is still trying to hand me the paper, smiling widely behind his brown moustache. “Oh, it is. Take a look at our website when you get home, you’ll see what I mean.”

“Okay,” I nod, scanning the people around me for someone I know so I can pretend to need to talk to them. Sadly, I see no one.

“And maybe,” the man says, still grinning widely and holding out the pamphlet, “Someone from the college could pay a visit to you and your family? Explain to them a little about our mission and what you can glean from the program. Does that sound good?”

Now I’m getting weirded out. “Uh… I don’t know, we’re all pretty busy.”

“I’m sure we can work something out. Does your mom work?”

“My mom isn’t… around,” I answer and immediately regret responding at all. “I really don’t know if a meeting can be arranged.”

The papers are still being waved in my face. “Well, at least take the brochure. I’m sure you’ll see the benefits if you take the time to look into the program.”
Finally, I give in and take the booklet. “Sure. I will,” I say and scurry away as quickly as possible. The bell rings and I shove the brochure into my bag and take the steps two at a time.

At lunch, I set my tray on the table and plop down next to my best friend, Michelle. If you look at us quickly, we seem like an odd match. While we’re both thin, she’s about four foot nine and the tininess suits her, whereas I walk around next to her feeling like a giraffe. Where I’m awkward, she’s graceful. While I sit there in jeans and a t – shirt, she’s dressed in adorable little skirts and cute blouses.

“So where have you been?” Michelle inquires, putting aside the bread from her chicken sandwich. “I haven’t seen you all day.”

“Yeah, sorry. This morning I had to talk to Mrs. Taylor about going to McKinley in a couple of weeks to take the SAT-2s again. I want to get my writing score by at least a hundred. And then physics got out early for the college fair. Speaking of -” I open my iced tea. “Did you see that one table, the College of Autarchial Studies or whatever?”

“No,” Michelle says. “What is it? Sounds weird.”

“It was, and not just because of the ridiculous name. First of all, I can’t believe Principal Foeller would let them in – they didn’t look or sound very reputable. And then the guy running the table was just a creeper. He wasn’t there when I got to it, and then he came up behind me and started asking me all of these weird questions. I didn’t want to be rude and be like, ‘There is no freaking way I am going to your school, so bug off,’ but he wouldn’t let me go.”

“Awkward,” Michelle remarks, drinking her water with a straw.

“So you didn’t see him?”

“I didn’t even go.”

“Michelle!” I exclaim.

Though you might not be able to tell, Michelle’s crazy smart. She and I have been best friends since second grade and when we were kids, she was just as outwardly nerdy as I was- the books, the glasses, the constant raising of the hand. These days, she hides her intellect behind contacts and slightly too-short skirts, but in reality, she’s reading on her Blackberry, not texting, and she could whoop your butt at calculus while carrying on a conversation about the latest issue of People magazine. But as intelligent as she is, I sometimes suspect that she has no common sense.

“You need to get on this stuff,” I chide. “The process has to happen eventually; why not get a jump start? College is just around the corner.”

Michelle examines her perfect manicure. “Lyddie, calm down. It’s March of our junior year. I’ve got plenty of time. We all don’t need to be you, okay?”

A little stung, I take a sip of my tea and don’t say anything. Sometimes I forget that people aren’t as manically committed to things like perfect SAT scores and early decision as I am. Admittedly, I can get jealous of these people – they somehow find the time to relax and go to concerts or whatever. I wish I could be more like these people, like my best friend – she knows she’s smart and that’s all she needs; she doesn’t feel compelled to constantly prove it to others and to herself like I do. All of those tests she gets As on barely get a passing glance, while I pore over my A minus wondering how I can talk it into an A plus. What is it like to be calm about these things? I guess I’ve never considered that maybe Michelle isn’t hiding her smarts; maybe she’s just gained those I haven’t. I do have the contacts, though. Maybe that’s a step in the right direction.

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