Once, I promised you a post of Great Meaning. This was a long time ago.

I promised a story involving personal growth and epic realizations and redemption.

Well, maybe without so much loftiness.

Okay, what I did promise was that I’d tell you what happened when three things finally conspired to shake my wallflower status to its very foundation. We’ve come to the culmination of those Three Things.

Up until now, my entire high school career has consisted of me sitting patiently in one corner or another (thanks to always being the very last person on the roll sheet), watching the world lumber by, and documenting pretty much everything.

What happens next is not on my hypothetical agenda. I could not have predicted it. What I’m saying is, it is so unexpected that it should be fake. It should be an after-school special. It is that thing I didn’t know ever actually happened.

Pugsly is short, loud and wildly good at extreme sports. Later, he’ll go on to compete in the X Games. He is the personal hero of one of my friend’s little brothers and is featured in real-live skate videos. I’ve never actually had a class with him, but we have PE in the same gym and he spends most of the period throwing the volleyball at his teacher. He is out of control. He is—how can I put this?

Pugsly makes Pierre look like a model citizen.

How this relates to me:

In delicate terms, I am what’s known as a late bloomer. More frankly-put, I don’t have a lot going on back there. Or up top. Or anywhere, really. I am diminutive in the sense that I might as well be a twelve-year-old boy. Sometimes, I feel vaguely self-conscious about this, but for the most part, I just go with it. I’m not really in the market for male attention, and there are benefits to being shaped like a very short flagpole—the main one being that I tend to wander through life unmolested. I assume that I am safe.

On this fateful day, I’m standing in the lunch line, waiting to pay the cafeteria lady for my sad gray cheeseburger. Cheeseburger obtained, I plan to meet Catherine by the trophy cases, go out to the courtyard, and spend the next fifty minutes trying to ignore the fact that the day is only half-over. I’m not crazy about this plan, but I’m content. At ease. Metaphorically, speaking, there is circus music playing in my head, and a tiny car, and some trained seals, and a bear on a unicycle. It’s a good place to be.

And then, the thing is . . . Pugsly grabs my ass.*

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The White Trash Club

Today, I’m finally going to talk about something that happened to me (as opposed to describing events that took place in my general vicinity). As far as Spanish class goes, this story is actually kind of commonplace. To be expected. About average.

And it cements every tiny, fragile piece of resolve I have.

Up until now, I haven’t said much (anything) about Spanish. This is because I hate it. Not the language, just the class. I hate it so much that in the course of my 10th grade journal-keeping, I mostly pretend that it doesn’t exist.

There are several reasons for this. Mainly, it is both agonizing and deeply boring. For one thing, I am surrounded by half the basketball team and most of the wrestling team And for another, Pierre.

Perhaps you will remember Pierre from that time he licked my face. This is certainly what I remember him from. The interesting thing is that despite the gross, wet indignity of having his tongue touch my cheek, I do not actually dislike him.

Even though he can be a total jerk, I still see his antics as a game, and this gives our interactions a strangely competitive quality. His job is to crack my veneer. Mine is to not respond. When he crouches next to my desk and starts panting in my face or rifling through my homework, I stare back at him blandly. When he makes fun of my shoes and asks me if I had Wonder Bread and margarine for lunch, I tell him no. I tell him I only eat my Wonder Bread with Karo syrup. I do it with a straight face, even though I have never eaten Karo syrup in my life and the one time my health-conscious hippie mother bought white bread, it was for a papier mache recipe.

Socially speaking, I have very few natural talents.* But I’ve got one or two, and my best trick is recognizing where someone rests on the power continuum. Pierre is somewhere near the bottom—wherever it is that class clowns generally fall—and it seems probable that he wouldn’t constantly act like such an ass if Pharaoh and Trout and the other sports-boys ever congratulated him for anything else. I may be relatively new to the social dynamics of teenage boys, but I know pack animals when I see them. Pierre is loud, unpredictable, and disruptive, but he is not an apex predator. And until the day he breaks character, I am secure in the idea that I know exactly what I’m dealing with.

The other player in this weird little non-drama is Valentine. She’s taller than me, with long blond hair and pale sled-dog eyes. She wears heavy black eyeliner and boys’ jeans. She’s sexy, but not particularly feminine. She’s scary in a thrilling, austere way. And by scary, I mean that I kind of want to be her.

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The Second Thing


Well . . .

Well, it’s been quite awhile since I sat down and wrote a good solid blog post. What was the hold-up, you might ask?

Here is the short version: I turned in the latest revision of Book 2, then fell into a sleep resembling something out of a fairy tale only my hair didn’t look as good and I was wearing mismatched socks. After a week or so, I woke back up, made the bed, did the laundry, and now things are starting to return to normal.

There’s still work to do, of course. Next will be line-edits and copyedits, and hopefully a cover reveal pretty soon here, but things are definitely moving along. Also, I put this on the calendar weeks ago and then when it actually rolled around, I completely spaced it—but The Replacement came out in the UK yesterday! It has a British book-birthday! I’d somehow gotten used to the idea that it would be released there in the future and then failed to grasp that the future is now the present. This is an example of how I am very bad with time.

Here is another: literally months ago, I said I was going to talk about how I stopped being completely passive—specifically these three defining things that happened in close succession. I’m going to talk about the second thing now, but since it turns out that the posts themselves are not remotely in close succession, you have to imagine these events taking place within days of each other.

The second thing that happened did not happen to me. (Not that Dweezil getting yelled at happened to me—it just happened near me. But, you know.)

First though, to set the stage for my next mini-revelation, we have to go back in time.

A few weeks before the second thing, the Hobgoblin pulled me out of the lunch line one day and told me he was worried about me. I assumed that he must be confused, misled by my timid demeanor or my silence or the fact that I was standing in the lunch line alone waiting to buy two slices of terrible pizza—all of which could be construed as very worrying things. I hastened to assure him that I was fine. I was spectacular. I was fan-freaking-tastic. Really.

He regarded me gravely, then told me that I needed to stop hanging out with Irish.

I was immediately gripped by crushing despair. Or, what passes for it in Adolescent-Brenna World. So, moderate perturbation.

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Dweezil (Alternately Titled: The Time I Almost Got Yelled At)

As promised, news and announcements are taken care of, the contest is all squared away, and it’s time for another high school post!

Looking back over my First Semester Ever of public school, I’m beginning to notice a pattern. We might call it a pattern of inactivity. Or, we could just be honest and say that sixteen-year-old Brenna is wildly, tragically passive about a whole parade of highly unacceptable things—watch-theft, face-licking, etc. In a perfect world, I would cue the voiceover and say, “But that’s all about to change . . .”

Unfortunately, this is the actual world and profound transformations don’t happen by the end of the episode. However, I will make allowances and say that it’s all about to change a little. This is because of three things that happen in relatively quick succession and today, I’m going to talk about the first thing.

Some quick background: there are 24 boys on my bus route, but I only like three of them. Irish, naturally. And Trip, because he’s slow and sleepy and once SugarRay (who can be a total jerk) slapped him in the face and made him cry, which was very embarrassing for everyone involved and then I felt sorry for him.

The third one is Dweezil.

Dweezil is fifteen, with dark shaggy hair and half-closed eyes. He’s skinny and sullen-looking and most of the time he doesn’t wear a coat, even when it’s obscenely cold out. I like him for various reasons—how flat his voice is, how completely tasteless his jokes are, but mostly I like that on days when Irish would rather sit with SugarRay, Dweezil will sometimes flop down next to me and not ask first if it’s okay. He never talks to me, but I like the way he nods sometimes and doesn’t quite make eye contact. I like that when he tells jokes, he includes me in the audience. On his radar, I am completely, perfectly neutral, and that is the most relieving thing.

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The Curtis Brothers

Being almost-friends with Irish meant inside jokes and laughing all the time and singing harmony to “Yellow Submarine” and getting written up for stupid things like how many times we sharpened our pencils, and feeling like I actually existed. But it also meant spending a fair number of mornings sitting alone next to an empty chair because he was hungover or missed the bus or just didn’t feel like showing up to class.

I missed him on the days he didn’t come, but I wasn’t one to take his absences personally. I considered them to be the result of a kind of social impasse. He was not the kind of boy who felt obligated to attend Geometry on a consistent basis just to see a sometimes-friend, and no matter how many times he invited me to come with him, I was not the kind of girl who ditched class.

I started to notice the times I spent alone, though. It’s a strange phenomenon, but when you are used to being alone, the outside world starts to blur into the background. Alone means no intrusions, no distractions, and the page in front of you is the realest thing.

But when you are sometimes not alone, it gets hard to slip back into the trance you inhabited before, staring at the board while everyone else is giving each other French manicures with Wite-Out and flicking paper footballs. The sense of isolation was still there, but it had stopped being comfortable. It was with great reluctance that I came to a realization: I needed some more almost-friends.

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