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My Valentine to You…an excerpt

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a dreaded holiday for many, indeed. Drew is no exception. The following is the Valentine’s Day chapter from Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year.

Your True Colors

I guess it didn’t really matter what day of the week Valentine’s Day fell on.  Even if it had been a weekend, the SGA would have found a way to force us to celebrate it.  All week long during lunches people could buy various colored anonymous hearts for their friends, crushes, girl or boyfriends, which in turn would be delivered during classes that Friday, the official V-day.  Every delivery held the classroom occupants captive, everyone secretly hoping it was for them, but trying to be nonchalant about it, while those who were recipients would feign embarrassment. I had contemplated faking sickness myself that morning just so I could miss this torturous routine, but I could only miss four more days for the year in order to be exempt from any of my exams (I would also have to have an A or B average in the classes), so I decided to soldier on.

White meant someone thought you were cute.  Red was love, of course.  Pink was a crush, and yellow was for friends.  It was sweet that my friends didn’t let me down, but a white or a pink would have been nice, you know, for variety and all.  But, alas, only yellow came my way that day, and I had to watch so many others loaded down in pinks, reds, and whites.  Anne was so adorably happy in chorus with her red hearts from Shane that I didn’t vent to her at all. Yet I was so frustrated with Mona flaunting her twenty-nine pink hearts, and I wanted to get out of that class as fast as I could, that I completely forgot to stop at my locker before photography.  When I entered the room and didn’t see Adrienne, I unhappily remembered that she left early for a dentist appointment.  Lucky!

Mrs. Ansel kept us busy that day, but Dustin kept sneaking glances and smiling at me.  It was weird, even for him. In the last five minutes of class, three last minute heart deliveries were made, and somehow I received a white one.  Someone thought I was cute. It was my turn to act like I didn’t care, but I was actually thrilled to be cute to somebody, even though these hearts were sent in secret and I didn’t know who it was.  And then I remembered I would have to stop at my locker, the opposite direction from the bus.  When the bell rang, I bolted.  Without Adrienne, I would miss the bus on my own, and mom would be less than thrilled.  Make-out girl, with more pink and white hearts than I had seen on any one person all day, and a huge teddy bear with several balloons, was lip-locked with yet another guy when I got to my locker.  It took a while to nudge them out of the way, and all my belongings I had been hurriedly stuffing in there all year came tumbling out.  As I scooped it all up, pulling aside what I needed and cramming the rest back into the locker, Dustin showed up beside me.

“You need some help?”

“Yes, please.  I’ve still got to catch my bus.”

“Uh, they just pulled out.”

I closed my eyes and threw my head back in annoyed disbelief. “No!” I cried out to the ceiling.

“That’s pretty dramatic, Drew.”

“Not really.  My mom is not going to be happy with me for missing the bus. “We practically live in another country and she likes to plan trips into town like they did back in pioneer days.”

“There’s a guy down my street who owes me.  He gets home at about 5:15. We can give you a ride home then.”

“Ok.  I still need to call her though.”

“Sure.  I got a quarter,” he said, offering up the coin and gesturing towards a payphone at the end of the hall, close to the gym.

When I called my mom, she was unsure about a stranger giving me a ride home, but I told her Dustin would be there and I think her not wanting to drive into town won out. “Ok.  Be careful.”

“Of course, Mom, always,” I replied. As I hung up the phone, Dustin grew a smile.  “So, what are we going to do?”

“It’s actually a kinda nice day.  A little warm for February.  Let’s walk.”

“Ok.  Where to?” I asked.

“Wherever.  We’ll just go and see where we end up.”  Flawless strategy.  So we walked the opposite way from Dustin’s house and ended up under the bridge and by the river.

Along the way, I asked, “So, no plans with Alyssa today?”

“Nah, you were right about her.  She’s with Jonathan.  I’m trying not to get mixed up in all that anymore.  She just makes me feel bad, you know?”

“I do.  Have you ever been here before?” I asked, certain he must have been at some point since it was close to his house. It was a stupid question, but a distraction from the Alyssa topic.

“Yeah, but not in a while.  This tends to be a redneck hangout. I’m surprised there’s nobody here now.”

“I discovered the rednecks last time I was here.  Let’s hope they don’t show up again,” I said as I sat on a boulder.  Dustin took a seat on another nearby rock. “It is nice out here though,” I said.

“You going to keep wearing those hearts?” he asked.

“Oh, I actually forgot about them.  I guess I must have gotten one from Adrienne, Nadine, Anne, and Carmen.”

“And the white one?”

“It’s a mystery.”

He laughed at me.  “Not anymore.  That one’s from me.”

“So, let me get this straight. You think I’m cute or pretty or whatever, and you know I like you.  You have to. So why don’t you want to go out with me?  I feel like there’s something wrong with me.”

“Yeah.  You’re too good.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m not good, and I don’t really want to be good either, and I don’t want to corrupt you.  I’ve thought about it,” he said, eying me up and down with his left eye, “but I,” a pause, “respect you too much.  You know.  You’re sweet and innocent, and I want you to stay that way.”

“Dustin, that’s a load of crap!”

“No, it really isn’t,” he said as he threw his hands up in defense. “I’m a typical teenage guy and there are certain things I want out of a girl, and I’d love that with you, but it’d be wrong ‘cause you’re not one of those girls.  And don’t tell me that’s crap again because it’s hard to do the right thing with this, but you really do mean a lot to me.  You’re the kind of girl I’d want when I’m done being a jerk, but I don’t have that kind of self-control right now.

“All those girls with all the hearts today are more or less targets,” he continued.  “You know, the ones who put out. Once they’ve all been used up, guys will want a challenge, so be careful, ‘cause they’ll move on to girls like you. But you’re better than that. You’re special, and I need you to be my friend and keep me in my place.” His eye did not stray from mine through any of that, so I knew he was being genuine, even if the intensity of it made me uncomfortable.

“Yeah, I’m always a friend, never a girlfriend.”

“You don’t need all that anyway.  You’ve got talent and a big heart.  Hold onto your values and be careful. Trust me, more guys are going to start noticing you soon.” What was with the guys I liked being so full of wisdom?

“So, you’re going to hang out with easy girls like Alyssa, and I have to just be good, even though you might like me.”

“Yes.”

“That’s a double-standard.”

“Sure it is, but that’s how it works, because guys are driven by pretty much one thing, so they do stupid stuff.  I don’t want to be stupid with you…well, I do,” he said with a twisted smirk, “but I know I shouldn’t.”

“You are really confusing me, Dustin,” I said, annoyed. “You always confuse me.  I even wrote a poem about it.”

“Really?  About me? Can I read it?”

“Well, it’s kinda stupid.” Why did I bring it up?  It just slipped out.

“Nah, I doubt it.  Do you have it with you?”

“Well, yeah.  We got our journals back today,” I said as I dug through my backpack, sifting through all the crumpled papers floating around in it. I opened my decorated spiral notebook to a specific page and handed it over reluctantly.”

“You’re not going to recite it to me?” he asked.

“If you don’t want to read it…” I said, grabbing for it.

“No, I’m just kidding.  I can read it to myself.” And so he did, and I sat uncomfortably waiting for his reaction, and feeling like it was stupid to let him read it in the first place, especially after our conversation, but I couldn’t very well time travel, so I had to just sit and wait and avoid eye contact.

 

When Will Your Sun Rise?

When it is bright and sunny out,

What is it like inside your heart?

When everyone around you smiles,

Do you insist to wear a frown?

When all the world hears music playing,

Why do you keep the sound out?

When you are asked to join in something,

Is that when you run and hide?

When everything is over,

Why don’t you let it be?

When you hear the birds above,

Do they seem to turn to vultures?

When the day grows pale and dim,

What is it like inside your heart?

Tell me now about your life.

When will your sun ever rise?

 

“Wow,” came Dustin’s reaction.  “Sure this isn’t about you?”

“Maybe we’re a bit alike, but I was thinking of you when I wrote it,” I said quietly to my feet as he handed back my notebook. “Like I said, you’re confusing. I never know where I stand with you.  Well, I didn’t before anyway.  And you’re always at least partly sad, like there’s so much going on, but you keep it all inside.”

“Not all of it.  I meant it when I said you were special.  I guess you’re really my best friend.  I mean, I’ve told you stuff I don’t talk about, and when I was feeling so down at Christmas, I was thinking of some bad stuff, man.  I was in a dark place.  Knowing you were there helped me not…kill myself,” his voice quietly trailed off at the end of the sentence.  “I wanted to talk to you about it the night we all went to Joey’s, but that douche Danny was there, so I didn’t get a chance.  And actually I’m sure he’s a nicer guy than I am, but I just didn’t like him liking you.”

“Well, if you don’t want to go out with me, you can’t hate everyone who comes along and might like me.  And he went home, and we talked and are also just friends.  Apparently that’s what I’m good at.  But I’m glad if it kept you from hurting yourself,” I added.

Dustin checked his watch.  “It did, and now we should head over to my neighbor’s.”  He stood and extended his hand to help me up, and then he gave me a big, yet short hug. “You’re more amazing than you realize.  Thanks. And can I get a copy of that poem?  I’m a big fan.”

“Uh, sure.”

So I had endured another satisfying yet confusing heart to heart conversation with a guy I liked, who needed to keep me at a platonic distance.  I was cursed as a nice girl.  I cannot even go into the details of the romantic gestures that came all the way across the country to Angela from Ryan that day.  It makes me ill just to remember. And, yeah, she rubbed it in.

 

Copyright 2014 Terri Klaes Harper

 

 

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- Father of the Bride

Here’s another holiday excerpt from Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year.

Family of the Bride

Not since National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (still my family’s favorite holiday film) had my family attempted to go see a movie together, and that had been two years ago.  This Christmas, however, we were not all going to be together, so my parents wanted to make sure we got in some quality time before we flew Angela off to California to spend the holiday with her soon to be in-laws.  So what feel-good, yet funny family film could we see?  The Father of the Bride.  Of course.  After all, Angela was getting married and it was all she had on her mind. There were no Griswold moments, but Steve Martin was a funny guy, too.

Of course, just preparing to go to a movie as a family was an event.  We had to stop at a grocery store on the way to purchase affordable candy bars and cans of soda.  Winter was the best time of year for a movie because all of these snack items could easily be stashed away in our winter coats.  My parents (and Han Solo) taught me the value of smuggling.

The only theater we had around at that time was in Remington, at the mall.  My dad’s patience was thin when it came to dealing with the mall, and we were there the last Saturday before Christmas, so we drove up and down every row in search of a parking spot.  My dad was pulling into one when we all realized it was already occupied by a motor scooter.  I heard some indecipherable mumbling coming from the driver’s seat, and we remained paused halfway in that parking spot for at least thirty seconds or so while I’m pretty sure my dad contemplated running over the scooter. Fortunately for said scooter, someone a few spots down was leaving, so my dad threw it into reverse, almost giving us all whiplash and snagged the spot, much to the chagrin of another circling family in a minivan.  A grin of satisfaction spread across my dad’s face.

The content of the movie was too much for an emotional bride, and when we walked out of the theater people were confused as to what we had just seen because Angela was crying uncontrollably, and quite vocally.  I cried a little to myself, only because we had been surrounded by people with popcorn, but we had none.  Even if we’d popped it at home and found a way to stuff it in our coats, it wouldn’t have been fresh by the time we got there.

The next day was a day of snow flurries and we had to drive through it in order to get Angela to the airport.  Nothing was sticking, but people panicked anyway.  Passengers were still allowed to have their loved ones escort them all the way to the gate to see them off back then, and Angela cried the entire way through the airport- while walking, riding the moving walkways, checking her suitcase- the whole time.  She calmed down a bit when we sat and waited with her.

“I left presents for each of you under the tree.  I won’t be there to see you open them, so take pictures, Mom, please,” Angela said.

“Hope you don’t want to see those pictures until next Christmas,” I joked.  My mom was notorious for not getting around to dropping off the film for development.  Thank goodness for the more recent advent of the digital camera.

“Drew, that isn’t funny,” my mom defended herself in a playful way, knowing I was, in fact, correct.

Angela was laughing a full belly laugh when her boarding announcement was made, and she immediately snapped back into a sobbing mess.  “I can’t believe I’m missing Christmas with you.  I’ve never missed Christmas with you.”

“Honey, sometimes you have to compromise when you get married,” Mom said.

“I don’t even like Ryan’s family!” and she sobbed harder.  “What if this whole thing is a mistake?  I don’t really want to be related to them for the rest of my life.”

“Now is not the time for this, Angela.  Your plane is boarding,” my dad said, and she sobbed even harder, then she threw herself onto my dad and wept into his chest.  My dad was a loving man, but he never really knew how to handle emotional, girlie moments, so he just stood, eyes large, deer in headlight look on his face, and patted her back for a few seconds, his arm bent stiffly.  My mom saw his need for help and gently stepped in, slipping her arm around Angela and scooping her away toward the gate.

“I love you guys, even you, Drew,” Angela called back as she moped down the gate hallway to the plane, glancing over her shoulder several times before she went around a curve and we lost view. Soon after, the doors closed.

“Can we stay to watch her plane take off?” I asked.  I always loved watching the planes when we went to the airport.

“I think we’d probably better, just to make sure she doesn’t come back,” my dad said, and we watched until the plane taxied away and then rose into the sky a distance away.  It was going to be strange having Christmas with just Mom and Dad.  We all sighed simultaneously, and then Dad said, “Well, we better get going.  It looks like the snow might start sticking and we don’t want to be stuck driving in that mess.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- Deck the Halls

I have decided to post a few Christmastime excerpts from my second book (Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year) this week. Please follow the title link  if you are interested in more.

My favorite Christmas movie...

My favorite Christmas movie…

Deck the Halls…and Everything Else Too

My favorite time of year had arrived and I was prepared.  Mom had a habit of getting tired of old home decorations from Christmas to Christmas and would decide to restock with a new theme every few years.  I was surprised so much of our old stuff had made the cut to travel when we moved, but she’d had a year off since we didn’t really have Christmas that year. However, she’d seen it all again last year and it was now time for a change.  I scavenged most of the stuff she set aside to donate or toss out and used it to decorate as much of my bedroom as possible.  Most of it no longer matched, but I didn’t care.  It was festive.  It was one of the only times of year when the creepy red carpet in my room actually wasn’t so creepy.

As I Scotch taped a string of colored lights around one of my bedroom windows, I could see the Phillips’ car driving down the cul-de-sac with an enormous tree strapped to the roof, which I thought was strange since I remembered seeing them bring a tree home sometime earlier in the week.  In a few minutes, while I was wrapping blue tinsel garland around the ends of my curtain rods, they left again, treeless.  Then, about an hour later, when I walked out to get the mail, they drove back home with another huge tree.

It was the Saturday a week and a half before Christmas.  Mom always wanted to wait as long as possible to get the tree so the needles didn’t all fall off too soon and we could leave it up through New Year’s, but we were pushing it this year.  I was afraid all the good trees would be gone, so I’d begged to go that day and it was time.  My mom knocked on my door.

“Come in,” I called.

“Ready?  Angela just got home from work and your dad says it’s now or never.”  She took a look around my room and shook her head.  I knew the haphazard array of colors was not quite to her liking, but it was my room, so she didn’t say much, just, “The red carpet seems appropriate now.”  There were a few ways I could take that.

We sifted through the selection at the make-shift tree lot for at least an hour before we found the right tree.  My mom had brought along a couple of her more heavy ornaments to really test out the tree’s branches, and she had re-measured the spot where we would place the tree so we knew how tall and wide we could go.  A man dressed as an elf prepared our tree for travel.

As my dad was paying for our tree, I spied the Phillips talking with another elf at the tree lot.  “Ok, so you will hold those three trees for us?  I can take the big one now, and I’ll be back for the rest tomorrow.”

“Yeah, sure.  Phillips, right?”

“Yes.”

“Writing it down now.  I’ll put reserved tickets on them for you.  You need help getting the other one loaded up now?”

I walked back to my family.  What the heck did the Phillips need so many trees for?  How many did they have and where were they putting them all?  So weird.  Then I noticed that the Christmas sweater and dog lady was with them.  Of course.  That made perfect sense.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

 


 

Christmas in October, a Peek at Drew’s Freshman Year

Chrsitmas in October

While many people are attempting to write a book in one month, I’m admittedly a bit slower.  I’ve been working on my sequel to Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages since June, and I’m not halfway there yet.  I’m ok with that as I would rather take my time on this project.  I have mixed feelings about the continuing story of my heroine Drew, and I just want to get it right and keep the integrity of her character, even as she stares high school in the face.  She will not be tainted by the horrors of teenage angst!

To prove that life does go on for Drew, here’s an uncorrected excerpt from Drew’s Halloween.  Remember, the year is 1991.

Christmas in October

My friends and I all met at Joey’s Pizza Palace the Saturday night before Halloween so we could plan our attire for the day and for the collection of goodies that night.  We all landed on the theme idea of Christmas, mostly at the prodding of Adrienne and me, who had recently amassed a collection of crazy Christmas socks and planned on wearing them as often as possible.  We only had until Thursday to gather our costumes, and none of us could drive, so we had to be resourceful, and this seemed like a theme we could pull off.

Amid the scary masks and cutesie prep costumes, the red and green splendor my friends and I brought to campus was jolly indeed.  Since Adrienne and I had been wearing our Christmas socks for about a month already anyway, we knew we had to add color and accessories.  I wore red leggings under a pair of black shorts and a green silk blouse hanging loose over that.  I couldn’t decide between my dancing reindeer or Frosty socks, so I wore one of each.  Adrienne and I had both streaked our hair with alternating green and red food coloring stripes, wore wreath earrings, and decorative garland as boas.  When my friends all gathered together that morning we all had to congratulate Anne for actually showing up dressed as a Christmas tree, adorned with ornaments, lights, and strung together popcorn.  “Excellent costume. Nice trunk,” Shane said as he pulled off a piece of popcorn, tossed it up and caught it in his mouth.

Anne tried to playfully slap his hand, but without full range of motion, she simply swatted at air.  “Don’t eat my popcorn, Shane.”

“Yeah, ok.  It’s a little stale anyway, I think,” he replied, gagging a little for effect.

By lunchtime, Anne had only a few random kernels of popcorn hanging on.  “I kid you not.  A bird dive-bombed me when I was walking between buildings.  I will never wear food again.”

Halloween is pretty much an eat junk and do nothing in school day, so my good mood could not be ruined, not even by Chip and Mr. Bunson or Mona and Violet.  I had gotten back my first set of journals for Ms. Finch’s class and received an A and an encouraging note about my writing talent potential.  It was a good day.

Mona was wearing a New Kids on the Block t-shirt with a balloon stuffed underneath.  We made regretful eye contact when I entered chorus.  “Ugh- what a scary costume ya’ll have’on. Yer givin’ me th’ begeevers, yer mask is sooo frightnen’!”

“Ugh- your insult is sooo unoriginal.  And what the heck are you anyway?” I asked, because in spite of myself, I was curious.

“Jordan Knight’s preggers wiyfe, obviously,” Mona exclaimed, holding up her left hand and flitting her ring finger at me, on which she had placed a silly plastic dress-up ring.  I hated to admit it, but it was original.  So I only admitted it silently and to myself.  Audibly, I simply grunted acknowledgement as I turned and flung my silver tinsel garland over my shoulder, purposely hitting Mona in the face with it.

While I scanned the costumes in the room after entering photography, Freddy Krueger snuck in behind me and placed his creepy blade-fingers, which were thankfully just plasticy-rubber, on my shoulder.

“Dustin?  That better be you, so I can punch you.”

“You don’t like my costume?”

“Freddy gave me nightmares and I never once visited his creepy Elm Street either.  I hate horror movies!”

“You’re pretty passionate about it.”

“Yes.  Just the previews to those movies always freak me out, and there’s a poster up at the video store where his eyes follow you around,” I shivered.

Dustin laughed a bit at my misfortune.  “Sorry. I was trying to decide between Freddy Krueger or Freddie Mercury, but I was out of wife beaters and spandex, and I already had this dingy red and black striped shirt.  And it looks like you both, what, robbed the Polar Express?” he added, indicating Adrienne and I with a wave of his hand.

“Something like that,” she responded with a smile, pressing a button on her reindeer necklace that started playing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

(Just in case you’re wondering, yeah it’s copyrighted.)