Renaissance Online's second serial story, "Dear Dreadful Book" will appear over four months, concluding with the November 1999 issue.
SHARON E. SVENDSEN, an English teacher and writing instructor, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. She makes her home in Bremerton, Washington.
DEAR DREADFUL BOOK
Mom went shopping with Lizzy today. When they came home they were all happy and Lizzy stayed to have some coffee. They sat down at the kitchen table with me. I had been sitting there all by myself thinking all these crazy thoughts about kissing Larby. I didn't see him at all today. He went to some statewide awards banquet thing downtown. Anyway, I had been sitting there by myself, trying to remember what it had felt like on prom night when he kissed me, and all I could remember is that it was gentle and sweet. I was wondering what it would feel like now, when I don't feel so sad, and what it would feel like if I actually kissed him back. At the same time, I was feeling bad, because if I kissed a friend like that, it would be sort of like teasing him, wouldn't it? I mean, if he likes me better than I like him, I shouldn't take advantage of that, should I? I don't want to hurt him. But part of me just wants to kiss him and kiss him and kiss him. I must be a schizo. Mom and Lizzy started telling me about their shopping trip and I guess I was kind of crabby. I just said, "That's nice," kind of unenthusiastically and I came up to my room. I really didn't mean to be rude. I just wanted to be by myself for a little while. But then I just felt so restless. I went to McDonald's to see Trina. She was able to say, "Hi," but she couldn't talk very much. It made me kind of sad. Not because she couldn't talk, but because I saw her there with her new co-workers, and I could tell that some of them are becoming her friends. It's like we've been together in this same tree trunk or something and now we are both going off on our own branches. Things are changing all over the place - and I was happy the way things were.
Mom and Dad have been saving for my college since I was like a zygote or something. That's nice. It means I don't have to get a job this summer, unless I want to.
Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby. Larby.
Tomorrow is the last day of school. It doesn't seem real. It seems like we'll come back next week or next year, like everything will go on just the way it always has, but it won't. Tomorrow is it. After that, everything will be different. It's been nice this year, because people have started to treat me like a real person instead of like a kid. It's like people are saying, "Ah, you're a senior. Now you can think for yourself."
I think I'm going to get two A's, four B's, and one C. Respectable. If I'm really lucky, Mr. Burmaster will give me an A- in History, but I'll probably get a B. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get A's in French and geometry. I could get a B in Biology, too, if I'd murder a frog, but I won't do it. Trina wouldn't do it, either. I asked Larby what grades he thinks he's getting. He said he thinks he's going to get straight A's. Good for him! It's a good thing he isn't taking art!
We didn't really do much today except sign annuals, say good-bye to people, clean out our lockers and pick up our caps and gowns. Commencement is a week from tomorrow. As I was leaving, I tried to tell myself this was the last time I'd walk down these stairs, but it didn't seem real. It seems like I'll be coming back. Graduation is going to be held at the Harnett Pavilion, at the fairgrounds.
Larby is losing weight. The seats of his pants are loose. I said to him, "You're going to need to buy some new clothes," He said, "I'll have to tell my mom. She buys my clothes." (I knew it!) I said, "Why don't you tell her just to give you some money, and we'll go shopping together?" he said, "Buy my own clothes?" I said, "Yes. Do you think she'd let you?" He said, "Sure. Davey does it all the time." I said, "Why don't you?" He said, "I don't know. I guess I just thought I wouldn't be very good at it." I said, "I'll help you." He said, "That would be great."
I had dinner at Larby's house. I tried to help his mother in the kitchen, but she wouldn't hear of it. She's like a doctor or something, but she's still the one who cooks. I was a little bit afraid of Mr. Douglass at first. He's real big and quiet. But I found out he has this really funny, offbeat sense of humor. When Larby told him I was staying for dinner, Mr. Douglass said, "Good. We haven't poisoned a guest for at least six months." At first, I thought: poisoned? Then I realized he was joking and I laughed. All evening long, Larby was kind of looking at me, like he was afraid I wouldn't get his dad's jokes, but I got them all right. Larby's brother Dave is two years younger than us, and he really is a bit of a creep. He was treating both Larby and me like we're both just so uncool. And he's just a silly little Sophomore. He doesn't know anything.
Mom practically forced me to call Aunt Lizzy and personally invite her to my graduation party. I said I would but she made me call Lizzy right then and she stood there while I talked. I just tried to think about how nice Lizzy was to me when I was a little girl. Like the time I got Chinese Checkers for Christmas and she was the only adult who would play it with me. Or like when she would watch me at her apartment and it was fun. We'd bake cookies, or she'd let me play dress up with her clothes, or she'd let me rearrange all the bottles of perfume and stuff on her vanity, or she'd let me brush her hair and put it in ponytails or braids or whatever-she let me play with it - and the way she always found out first what I wanted to watch on TV and we watched that, and how she was the only person who remembered that I wanted a Mitsi Cleghorn blouse when I was eight years old and she even remembered to get it for me in pink. "Hello Lizzy?" "Cindy?" she said. I told myself to think about how she used to take me to feed the ducks at Somerset. "I wanted you to know that I really want you and Rose to come to my graduation party." "You do?" she said doubtfully. "Yes." Mom was standing there with her arms folded watching me. "I really want you to come," I said. For a second or two, I really did. I said, "It just wouldn't be a good party if you weren't here." Even I could tell how insincere I sounded. But Lizzy said, "You're sure?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "I can understand how it's difficult for you." I didn't believe her. How can she know how embarrassing it is for me? But I said, "I really want you to come." Then I said, "I won't take 'no' for an answer." "All right," Lizzy said, "don't worry. We'll be there." I said, "Good," and we said our good-byes. "Now are you happy?" I said to Mom. She asked, "Are they coming?" I said, "Yes. Lizzy said they are coming." "Then I'm happy." At least you are happy, I thought, but I didn't say it.