School is just absolutely nuts this month, because of finals coming up and everything. I only had time to write a little over 1k yesterday because I had to spend so much time on homework and figuring out my schedule for the next few semesters (I’m thinking of adding a minor, which means restructuring when I take other classes to make room for the new ones). I was up until almost 2:00 AM doing that, then so far today all I’ve done is work on more Spanish homework. And I’m still not done with it.
Hopefully I’ll get a couple hours to write today. And hopefully my weekend doesn’t turn out nearly as busy as it looks like it’s going to be, because I am falling seriously behind on my schedule for NaNo.
In the meantime: The winning option for this week’s Wordy Wednesday is an excerpt from the novel I’m writing this month. Reminder that this is really rough and hasn’t seen any real editing yet.
Read Chapter One here.
The Recruitment Assembly doesn’t take place until after lunch, but the bathroom is already flooded with girls unbuttoning their uniforms and helping each other zip themselves into nice dresses by the time I excuse myself from the table. I try to slip past them to a stall, but the moment Stephanie Jones meets my eye in the mirror, they all stop. The rustle of fabric and happy chatter cuts off like someone has pressed pause in a movie scene. I ignore them and hurry into a stall. I lock the door.
“I heard it’s her fault the Ram got so hostile.”
“Didn’t they used to be friends?”
“Who cares. Nobody even knew who either of them were before Amelia got involved, and thank God for that, because the Ram is loca.”
I lean my forehead against the door and let the cool metal leach the heat from my skin. My body feels like it’s turned into one of those vintage Easy Bake Ovens at the Cultural Museum in downtown. The curator let Ramsey and me try to make cupcakes in one once, on a fieldtrip when we were ten. They came out mush.
The memory does not help.
My stomach flips, and it’s nice to know I have a toilet within reach should the three bites of salad I managed to swallow in the cafeteria reappear. I don’t know what’s making me more nervous—not knowing whether or not Ramsey will actually follow through with the threat, or the fact that the entire school seems invested in if she does.
The girls in the bathroom go unnaturally quiet again. Footsteps clack against tile, approaching the stalls.
What if Ramsey’s come for me early?
I step back from the door and my calves slap against the toilet. I can’t move. Someone knocks. My heart slams against my ribcage.
“Alexa, are you in there?”
I exhale and close my eyes. “Goodness, Amelia, you nearly gave me a heart attack.”
I should not have to be this on edge in my own school.
“Oh, come on, even the Ram isn’t heartless enough to attack someone while they’re peeing.” I can practically see her roll her eyes from the other side of the stall door. “Eric wants to know if he should continue to keep an eye on your—and I quote, ‘nasty lunch of evil’—or feed it to the trash can.” The door creaks as she leans against it on the other side.
“What time is it?”
“Thirteen oh five. We should probably get ready for the Recruitment Assembly in ten, so up to you on if you want to eat any more between now and then.”
“I’m not sure I could keep much more down right now.”
“I’m sorry.” Her words are nonchalant but sincere. “I understand that. I’d be pretty nauseous if I were you. Let’s not forget how Brad Jennings puked his guts out that time she hit him in the stomach with a tennis racket.” Amelia forces a laugh, like just the sound could lighten the mood, although it doesn’t. The rest of the bathroom is still quiet, listening in. “Honestly, I’d like a little bit of a bully scare of my own, right now. I could stand to lose a couple pounds.”
I nudge the door with my shoulder. It shifts just enough to let her know I think she’s an idiot.
“You know the Ram’s going to go after you one of these days, too. And you will not be nearly as accepting of the situation when that happens.”
“Honey, I created the Ram.” Amelia’s vowels are rounder than mine, more polished. Not nearly as European as her accent was when her family first came to North America for her mother’s job, but enough that she sounds like she knows exactly what she is talking about, even though right now, I know she’s just trying to keep my mind off what will happen once I leave this stall. “She’s just a bully—a big coward. She’d never dare threaten me.”
“You positive about that?”
“Shush.” Amelia nudges the door back at me.
“I’m just saying, you seem to think rather highly of your—”
“She’s not going to hurt you at the Recruitment Assembly.” My best friend’s vowels go even rounder, like she’s losing some control of the way she speaks. Her words are quiet, and harder than usual. “I promise. Nobody will touch you.”
I unlock the door. She stumbles as it swings inward under her pressure.
Amelia is only two inches taller than me, but half a world more confident. The fact that, as I absorb her words, her lips tug down at the corners and she looks away, smooths her blouse, scares me.
“Do you know something I don’t?” I tilt my head and raise an eyebrow. “It’s just the Ram. Sure she has a penchant for turning everyday objects into weapons, but it’s not like she’s going to kill me.”
“You never know with her.” She straightens and her ponytail swings back and forth like a pendulum.
The bathroom is so quiet the voices of other students passing in the hallway are audible. I turn an exasperated gaze on the other girls all standing there, watching us, and they blush, look away, but don’t apologize. They return to applying lipstick and bobby pins.
To Amelia I say, “I’m just worried the Ram might give me a black eye for Homecoming. But you sound worried about more than covering a bruise for pictures. What’s bothering you?”
“Just the same.” Amelia shrugs. “Of course. Now, should we let Eric dump your salad before it becomes sentient, or what?”
Off to go attempt not to drown under my mountains of homework!
PS. ONE. DAY. TO. CATCHING FIRE. AHHHHHH!