CHAPTER 1 – EMI
I was upset to wake up on Friday and not Saturday. The disappointment lingers. I could have sworn I’d been through this same charade five times already this week, but I’d miscounted. It was only four.
My brother doesn’t bother to knock on my bedroom door before entering. “You’re going on Monday. If I have to drag you there, you’re going.”
“But I’m sick!” I tell him with a glint in my eye.
“What was your temperature this morning?”
“One-thirteen,” I explain. “I had to put the thermometer in the fridge for a few seconds to cool it down. It was a toasty one-hundred-three by the time Mom saw it.”
“You don’t think she’s got enough to worry about, Emi? Without your fake mystery illness?”
“I don’t care,” I tell him. “Can you get me a spoon?” I call out to him before he has a chance to leave. “I dropped the one Mom brought between my bed and the wall.” When they set up my furniture, the movers had left only enough room to make it impossible for me to retrieve anything from the crevasse. If I was stronger– or maybe just less lazy– I’d get up and attempt to move the bed.
“Another day, another pint,” he says, giving me his most judgmental look as he discovers the container of pistachio ice cream in my hand. Fifth day, fifth pint, fifth new flavor. I had to find a new favorite flavor. I’d never eat chocolate again.
“Get out of bed and get your own spoon.” He rolls his eyes before running down the narrow stairway to the first level of our new apartment.
“Have a good day, Chris!” I yell to him, making sure my voice sounds strained in case my mother hears me. I don’t want to see her again this morning, because I do care. I do feel guilty, but I don’t want to go to a new school. I shouldn’t have to.
I hate my father.
The ice cream container is already soft when I squeeze it. If I don’t go now, my breakfast will become soup.
Sliding out of my bed and into my fuzzy slippers, I make my way downstairs toward the kitchen. I peek into the room first, looking for my mom. I’m relieved to see she’s not there.
I have to pull open three different drawers before I find the one with the silverware. Does nothing make sense here? I feel so lost in this place.
I hate my father.
I start to walk away with a knife before I realize what utensil I’d grabbed. I swap it out for a spoon and start to go back upstairs.
“You should take a shower, Em,” Mom says from behind me, her voice hushed. “You might feel better if you do.”
“I’ll try that later. Right now, I just need something to soothe my throat,” I tell her as miserably as possible, keeping my back to her so I don’t have to perpetuate my lie to her face.
“Okay, well, Dad will be here in a half-hour to pick you up.”
I stop walking and turn around slowly. She’s got the phone tucked between her ear and shoulder and is already moving back toward her bedroom before I can confront her. I follow her quickly.
“He’s on the phone,” she whispers. “I just asked him to come get you.” Mom swings around and holds out the phone, offering it to me. I take three steps back, as if the phone was infected with the vile disease I’ve been faking. “Your dad’s really worried about you, Emi. He set up an appointment for you with Dr. Parson.” Mom cocks her head, smiling, and I can tell she’s challenging me. I knew five days was pushing it.
I have a half-hour to get ready and get the hell out of here.
“I feel much better now,” I tell her, turning around on my heels. “Have a nice day, Mom. See you after school.” Going through the kitchen, I stop only to put the ice cream back in the freezer and the spoon back into the drawer.
It’s not the right one, but I don’t care.
I hate my father.
~ * ~
I manage to catch Chris before his car leaves the driveway. “I’m coming today,” I tell him.
“Like that?” he asks, paying particular attention to my house shoes.
“No, of course not. Can you give me fifteen minutes?”
“Em…” he hesitates. “I don’t want to be late. You can catch a city bus… or it’s just six blocks, you could walk. We don’t both need to be late.”
“Seriously?” I ask him. “I don’t want to go in alone. I don’t even know where to go,” I whine.
“I’ll go check in to first period,” he says, glancing at his watch. “And then I’ll meet you at the entrance at nine. Do you think you can make it by then?”
I frown, but nod my head at his compromise. Mom’s on her way to work as I go back inside. She hugs me and wishes me luck, locking the door behind her. I have time for a quick shower after I mope for a few minutes, but that’s about it.
~ * ~
“Nice hair,” Chris says, staring curiously at the wet strands when I finally run in the front doors at three minutes after nine. Not having time to dry it, I’d brought some gel with me to try to make it somewhat presentable. So much for first impressions. I just need to find the ladies room. “Didn’t you sleep in that shirt?”
I did, but he’s the only one who’ll ever know.
“I had to get out of there. Dad was threatening to come over.”
“What for?” he asks, annoyed.
“To take me to the doctor,” I say, “also known as Mom’s manipulative way to get me to go to school.”
“You underestimated her,” he chuckles. I nod in agreement.
“What class are you in right now?” I ask him.
“Physics,” he says.
“God, I hope I don’t have to take that next year.”
“It’s an elective.”
“Nerd,” I tease him.
“Freak,” he comes back, the same insult he always gives me. As different as we are, we’ve always been close, all our lives. The recent split of our parents has only made us more reliant on one another. “Here’s the office.” He holds the door open for me, but doesn’t follow me in. “Meet you here after school?” I turn around and walk back toward him, suddenly nervous and not wanting him to leave.
“Unless I go home early,” I say, faking a cough and trying to get a little more sympathy from him. I barely smile, and I know he can see the anxiety on my face.
“You’ll be fine, Em. It’s not that bad.” He hugs me quickly before leaving me standing alone in front of three girls my age. They all have nearly the exact same haircut, with bouncy curls that I can only imagine would be crispy to the touch. I think about my own hair, though, realizing I have no room to judge them this morning. Only one girl– the blonde one– smiles at me, welcoming me up to the counter. The other two whisper back and forth to one another, holding a small slip of paper in front of their mouths. Way to be subtle.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m new,” I tell her simply.
“Is that your name?” one of the chattering ones behind her asks. I glare at her momentarily, trying not to get discouraged.
I hate my father.
“Emi Hennigan,” I talk only to the blonde. “It might be under Emily.”
“Oh, so that’s your brother?” the girl with black hair perks up immediately, twirling a strand of hair. She stands and walks toward me, her eyes bright with curiosity. “Chris Hennigan?”
“Yes.” And I’ll make sure you never have a chance with him.
“I’m Amelia.” She holds her hand out, showing off her long, red fingernails, in an effort to introduce herself. I wrote her off ten seconds ago.
I smirk and nod, looking back at the one friendly girl. “I’m late to class.”
Taken aback by my disinterest in polite introductions, she hands me the piece of paper with my schedule on it without a word.
“Did you need help finding your class?” she asks softly.
“No, but your friend might.” I grin cheekily, fluttering my eyelashes as all three girls stare at me, shocked. I turn quickly to make my exit.
That wasn’t such a bad first impression after all.
©2012 Lori L. Otto