This is from one of my works in progress, so needless to say, it's rough. Red is an average teenage girl who just got sucked into a whole new world. Not in an Aladdin way either. I wanted to share this just in time for Halloween. Part one is today, and I'll have part two up on Monday. Enjoy!
The next day began like nothing out of the ordinary had even happened the night before. Red woke up to see that Sarah was already out of bed and probably dressed and eating breakfast downstairs. Red was rarely awake in time to eat breakfast with the other girls. She sat up in her bed, and grabbed her hands and stretched her arms straight up above her head. The stretching sensation caused her to yawn and breathe in as much air as she could. Then she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and then ran her hand through her unruly red hair. Then she looked at her clock.
Her carpool ride to school would be here at 7:10, and she had to be downstairs and ready before that so she could see when they arrived, since she wouldn’t hear the horn honking. She kicked the blanket off her bed, and then half rolled, half slid onto the floor, where she struggled to stand up straight. She picked up the closest pair of jeans off the floor, and held them up to make sure there were no unseemly stains on the legs or knees. She had a bad habit of wiping her hands on her pants when she ate. These looked good, pretty clean. Then she brushed them up against her nose, and took a brief whiff. They smelled…okay. These would do for the day. She never bothered looking in her drawers for pants. All the girls were in charge of their own laundry, and she struggled most of the time to keep on top of hers. She grabbed a semi-clean t-shirt off the floor and threw it over her head.
It was late March, which meant early Spring for her new Rocky Mountain home. That meant the weather could be anything. Rain, sunshine, snow, hail; and that was just Monday. It didn’t really matter, though. She always wore a red hoody. She preferred pullover nodded sweatshirts, but she had a few that zipped. Her favorite was hanging in the closet, so she swiped it from the hanger and threw it over her t-shirt. Her well worn, slip-on sneakers were waiting for her by the bedroom door. She slipped her right, then her left foot into the shoes, sans socks. The “well-loved” shoes fit her naked feet like a comfortable pair of gloves. Who needs socks? She picked up her backpack and slung it over one shoulder, and then grabbed her phone from the charger on her desk.
On her way to the stairs, she ducked into the bathroom, checking the time on her phone. 7:00.
She had about five minutes to brush her teeth and try to tame her hair. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too bad. She looked in the mirror at it. Maybe it was best to skip the toothpaste this morning. She was going to need all the time she could get for her hair. She grabbed her toothbrush, ran it under the water, and then took one pass on her teeth and spit. Next, she wrestled her curly, red hair into a ponytail. Her bangs never stayed pulled back, and usually ended up in her face. It wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do for now.
She raced out of the bathroom and down the stairs, checking her phone one last time.
She was one minute later than she wanted to be. Hopefully she her ride wasn’t here yet. She hated it when she felt like they were waiting for her. As she got to the bottom of the stairs, she saw that Sarah was still here, finishing up her breakfast. Phoebe and Valentine were already gone. The high school started earlier than the middle school, and was a little further away. Red sighed in relief. She had made it. She leaned against the counter to catch her breath before their ride got there.
Her break was short lived. Right as she had placed her hand on the counter, Sarah jumped up and was kissing her mom on the cheek. Their ride was here. Red began to turn toward the front door, when her aunt Virginia caught her arm and signed I love you. It was probably the extent of her sign language skills. Red smiled at her. She still wasn’t comfortable signing it back to her aunt. She just nodded awkwardly and then headed for the door.
As they arrived at school, she looked at Sarah, wondering if last night was the beginning of something new between the two of them. Maybe they would be closer, almost like sisters. She would settle for friends first. Anything was better than what she had now, or what she didn’t have. She didn’t have to wonder long. As soon as they all got out of the car, Sarah walked off toward her friends, not even looking at Red. The same cold ignorance she had experienced all year. Red shrugged her shoulders, pulled her back pack onto both her shoulders, and then walked toward her first class with her head down. Just another day.
As she walked through the halls, she tried not to think too much about how the other kids always seemed to be looking at her. Everyday it was the same. She was different. They knew it, and she knew it. She could feel herself shrinking under their stares. She hated feeling small like this. She thought of what her dad had told her about times like these. People who make others feel unimportant because they are different are only trying to feel better about themselves, because they feel unimportant. We should try to find ways for them to see their own importance. She scoffed to herself. Sure, Dad, great, but how do I do that when it’s the whole school? She just shook her head as she kept walking.
She felt someone tapping her on the shoulder, and caught herself jumping in surprise. No one ever stopped to talk to her in the halls. She looked over and saw short boy her age looking at her with a dopey grin on his face. He had light brown hair, bowl cut, obviously by someone who had no idea what a straight line looked like. His glasses were a dark thick plastic frame with even thicker lenses. His face was pretty typical for the boys in her grade, in that the nose was larger than it should have been and and his zits outnumbered his chin hairs three to one. She had decided as she entered seventh grade that the ugly duckling stage was much worse for boys than it was for girls, except boys never realized how ugly they were, and girls could never stop thinking about their imperfections. It was one of life’s cruelest jokes.
For a few seconds, the two of them just stood there, him smiling stupidly, and her counting his pimples. Finally, her eyebrows raised quizzically. That seemed to break him out of his stupor. He shook his head, like he was trying to get his brain to start working, and then smacked his forehead. She was pretty sure she saw him mouth the word idiot, so she decided to mess with him. She put on her best offended look, and then pointed at herself. He realized she thought he was calling her an idiot, and vigorously shook his head. Then he pointed to himself repeatedly while saying idiot over and over. Then he began alternating between that and then pointing to her and saying, “No, no, no!,” then pointing to himself again and repeating idiot. She tried to suppress it, but she couldn’t help laughing. He froze, and his whole face turned bright red. She almost felt bad for him, but this was the most fun she’d had in weeks.
She kept walking to her class, leaving him frozen in place behind her. She had recognized him right away as her new lab partner, and she realized this whole thing was probably going to make first period really uncomfortable for both of them. She still felt like it was worth it. She couldn’t stop from smiling.
She walked into the classroom, as most of the class was shuffling in. Her table was at the front of the room, closest to the door. It was also closest to the teacher so she could try to make out what he was saying. Her aunt and uncle felt it was important for her to fit in with everyone else, so they had requested no interpreter. They were expecting her to just figure out how to get along without it. “They don’t have interpreters everywhere in the real world, so you need to adapt,” he said. This was a big reason why she hated school. She never had any idea what was happening.
The boy from the hall, her lab partner walked in sheepishly, and quickly sat down next to her. She looked at him and smiled her friendliest smile. His face turned bright red again. This time she felt more than a little guilty. She decided she would try to break the ice. She took out her notepad, flipped it to an empty page, and then scribbled down a quick message. She then slid it over to him.
His face started turning red again, but she suspected it wasn’t from embarrassment this time. He took a pen from his pocket and scribbled his reply.
It’s okay. I was just wanting to say hi, and introduce myself. My name’s Jamie.
She wasn’t sure if she was reading his writing right.
No, Jamie. My parents swear it’s a boys’ name, but I have my doubts. I think they wanted a daughter.
She chuckled as she read that, then she wrote her reply.
Nice to meet you. My parents named me Genevieve, but no one ever calls me that. Call me Red.
He looked at her, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion. She pointed to her hoody, with her eyes wide, letting him know it was the inspiration for her name. He nodded his understanding, then confusion set in again, and he scribbled something onto the pad.
What if you wear blue or purple or yellow? Do people call you yellow then?
She shook her head, laughing. I only wear red, she wrote.
The rest of first period flew by. For the first time, Red felt good about school and her class. She felt like she was making a connection with another human being, and she liked it. Sure, it was awkward to communicate through writing notes back and forth, but at least she was communicating. Plus, Jamie wasn’t so bad. He didn’t have as many zits as she had originally thought, and his messed up hair almost made him look hip and edgy. Ok, maybe not, but it wasn’t so bad.
After first period ended, Red and Jamie went their separate ways, but she found herself looking forward to seeing him the next day. Apparently, having a lab partner wasn’t so bad after all. If everyday was going to be like today, she could really get used to it. It almost felt like a having a friend again, and she was feeling happier than she had in a long time. Things were beginning to look up for her. In fact, if this had been the end of her day, it would have been one of the best days she’d had in a long time. Unfortunately for her, this wasn’t the end of her day. She still had six more periods and lunch to go. Red was feeling good, but she was also nervous that the rest of the day would not go so well.
She had reason to be nervous, since most of her days were pretty rotten. She made her way to second period, which was math. Math was a tough subject for Red. It always had been. She struggled always seeing how the numbers and patterns fit together. It was hard for her to remember all the rules, and it frustrated her that he answer was either right or wrong. She preferred other subjects, like English or History, where she could argue her points in writing, and there wasn’t one specific right answer. That had always made more sense to her.
Math was even harder at her new school. Without being able to hear her instructor, and relying on her interpreter for the information, she found it even harder to keep up. Sometimes, her interpreter was trying to describe a concept she herself barely understood, so she would get it almost right, which in math was the same as completely wrong. Red tried to do the homework each night, but would usually give up part way through, when it became clear she didn’t really know what she was doing. Her test scores had been awful, and she rarely turned in her completed homework because she rarely completed it. Despite all of this, she was somehow passing the class. It didn’t make a lot of sense to her, but she suspected that the teacher felt bad for her, and didn’t want her to have to repeat the class. Maybe she should feel grateful for that, but she was pretty sure she would just be at a further disadvantage when she started her math class next year.
Today was no different. She tried to pay attention and take notes, but the whole thing just felt foreign to her. None of it made sense. Her happy feelings from earlier in the day were now almost gone. It was beginning to feel just like any other day, and somehow that made her feel even worse than usual. She just wanted to cry as she wrestled with the concepts the teacher was describing, but she fought back the tears.
Third period was U.S. History, a subject she normally enjoyed, but not this year. She still enjoyed reading about the events discussed in the lessons, and seeing how they all fit together. History, to her, was like the greatest story of all, and she loved seeing how one event led to another and how each generation built themselves on the previous generation. She loved stories in general, and loved that History was a never ending story. Unfortunately, her instructor found a way to make this year’s class more boring than she ever imagined it could be. All he cared about was quizzes. He was so concerned about just having them all memorize dates and people, that he left out the why of History, which was the best part. She hated the class, and it made her sad. She had been looking forward to it, and Mr. Klunkner had ruined it completely.
Fourth period was English. Her teacher in that class seemed to think that Red couldn’t really keep up with the rest of the class, and would often assign one thing to the other students, and then an easier, less fun assignment to Red. She had tried to explain to Ms. Williams that she could write the same papers and assignments as the other kids, she had even tried to do that and then turn in the assignment. Ms. Williams didn’t even read the paper she had turned in. Instead, she just failed it because it was not what was assigned to Red. She had been crushed. Now she didn’t even make eye contact with the teacher and just kept her head down.
After English class, she had her lunch time. This was her favorite time of the day. She normally brought her lunch from home, so she wouldn’t have to spend time in the lunch line with the other students who were getting their lunches. Instead, she found a table in the corner of the cafeteria where she could eat alone, and she could eat quickly. She did this every day. She did it so she could spend the bulk of her lunch break in her favorite place in the school: the library. She went there every day, and loved it. She could be alone there and spend time with the only friends she had left. Not really friends in the strictest sense of the word, but she thought of them as friends. They were the characters in the books she read, and she loved each of them. She loved finding some of her old favorites and spending an afternoon with them, but she also loved meeting new ones. Books were the one thing that hadn’t changed since she lost her parents. They were, collectively, the one thing she still had left, and she clung to them with everything she had. That’s why she was always in the library.
The librarian, Ms. Grayson, had always been the kindest person to her at the school. She always greeted her with a warm smile and a wave. She had also started having stacks of books ready for Red to read. She had suggested some great stories, and Red was always eager to see what new books Ms. Grayson had found for her. It made her feel at home, and somehow she felt closer to Ms. Grayson than she felt to her aunt and uncle. Ms. Grayson was the closes thing Red had to what felt like a family. She couldn’t wait to go see her.
She finished eating her food, and was cleaning up, she felt the table move. She looked up and saw Jamie had decided to sit at her table. She was happy to see him, and then she felt a little sad. She was getting ready to head to the library, and now it would probably be delayed. Then she felt a little angry at herself. It had been a really long time since anyone had wanted to join her for lunch, and now she had someone sitting at her table, smiling at her, and all she could think of was how disappointed she was that she couldn’t go right away to the library. All of this happened quickly in her head, and without missing a beat, she simply just smiled at him. He pulled out a small notebook and began writing.
Sorry, I hope it’s ok. It looks like you were getting ready to leave.
It’s fine. I usually go to the library during my lunch, but it’s always nice to have company, she replied.
She had intended for it to mean that she was glad that he was there at the table with her, and that she was glad to stay and visit with him instead of going to the library. That wasn’t how he took it, and his response made her even happier.
I love the library, he wrote, I would love to go with you. I’m sure Ms. Grayson has some new recommendations for me.
With that, he packed up what was left of his lunch and put it in his backpack.He shrugged his shoulders, as if to say he’d just eat it later. He slung his backpack over his left shoulder, then slid his right arm through the other side, and then smiled at her as he motioned for her to go ahead. She smiled at him as she pulled her own backpack on and the two of them walked toward the library.
The got to the library and walked in, and somehow it felt different. Red couldn’t explain it, but something was definitely different. They both paused as they walked in the room and looked around. Judging by the look on Jamie’s face, he felt the difference as well. The two looked at each other, and he shrugged his shoulders. The two walked over to the librarian’s desk to see Ms. Grayson. That is not who they found there, and what they did see was a surprise.
Sitting in Ms. Grayson’s chair was a man. A big man, in a black sports jacket and a dirty white, button up shirt. His hair was black and greasy and hung straight down to his shoulders. His face was hardened and old, much older than it should have been. His skin looked leathery and rough. He had stubble on his face, but it didn’t look like it was on purpose. His nose was large and crooked, like it had been permanently broken. Then they noticed his eyes. They were a golden yellow. He did not smile when the two came into his line of vision. Instead he sniffed in a deep breath through his nose like he was trying to smell the air. Then he looked right at Red. There was something familiar about those eyes. He smelled the air again, and then he smiled a big, toothy grin.
“Who are you?” Red could make out the words on Jamie’s lips as he asked them. Lip reading wasn’t an exact science. Even the most expert lip reader was still guessing a lot of the time. A good lip reader took in clues from the environment and context of the conversation to piece together what the person was saying. In this case, Red figured it was the only question that made sense.
The man in Ms. Grayson’s chair responded, but Red could not make out what he said. He barely moved his mouth as he spoke. Jamie, on the other hand could hear it all. He heard the growly, gravely voice as he answered the question. Red took out her note pad and wrote, then handed it to Jamie. The man behind the desk looked with interest at her as she did it.
What did he say?
Jamie took the notebook and wrote his reply. It took him a few moments, as he had written quite bit, and then he passed it back to her.
He said that he is a substitute for ms. Grayson, and that she was probably not coming back this year, so he may end up being permanent. He also said he has been waiting all day for… here he had written something and then crossed it out and next to it wrote the rest…well, not us, you. He was wondering when you would come. I think there is something strange about him. We should leave.
Why was he waiting for her? She had no idea who this man was, and she doubted he knew her. She agreed with Jamie that this all seemed strange, but she was also curious. Part of her wanted to leave right now, as Jamie had suggested, but part of her wanted to know more. That was the part that won out. She wrote her response to Jamie.
Why was he waiting for me?
Jamie took the note pad and read it, then turned to the man. She could see him ask the question. The man looked at Jamie, and then turned to Red, and flashed her another toothy grin. Then he turned away from both of them as he stood from his chair and walked back to a table behind the desk where there were stacks of books. He picked one of the stacks up and brought them over to the desk and set them down. He then smiled again at Red and motioned for her to come over to him and see the books.
She guessed that these might be books that Ms. Grayson had left for her. Maybe this man had spoken to her recently, and she had told him about Red, and that she came every day during lunch. That would explain why he was waiting for her, and why he had a stack of books waiting for her. Ms. Grayson knew how much she loved her lunch breaks in the library, and probably knew how disappointed Red would be when she wasn’t there. That seemed to make sense to Red. She was still hesitant want to go up to where this man was. She didn’t want to get much closer than she already was, but he kept smiling at her and motioning for her to come over to the books.
As she started to slowly make her way to the desk where he was standing, Jamie put his hand on her arm, trying to stop her. He shook his head quickly, trying to get her to stop, a look of concern on his face. She just smiled and patted his hand. Maybe he didn’t understand how much Ms. Grayson meant to her, that she really spent every day with the librarian. She took his hand off her arm gently, and saw him tense up.
As she walked closer to the books, the man’s smile grew larger. He began to vigorously nod his head and wave her on with his hand. He was getting more and more anxious for her to get to the stacks of books. She began to think about how strange he was and how strange his behavior was, but she pushed those thoughts out of her head and made it to the desk. She reached out for the books, and as she did, she felt something grab her wrist. She looked down, expecting to see the mans hand. What she saw was much harrier than a human hand, and it had claws. She frantically looked up at the man, and then she screamed.
Standing behind the desk was a giant wolf.
Jake Dietz is a story teller. In addition to the writings on this site, he is also the host of The Geeky Mormon Presents... -a weekly podcast on all things geek. He is also a husband and father of six beautiful children. He loves a good story and will take it in any format he can find.
© Jake Dietz 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jake Dietz with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Original artwork is © Samuel Norton 2016.