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Friday, October 26
At 2:09 in the morning Clara’s phone vibrated on her bed. She turned toward the glow groggily, temporarily hating whomever was texting her this late. Or was it early? Clara wasn’t awake enough to decide.
She pressed a button to stare at the text she had just received:
Are you awake?
Another button pressed and Clara could see the name of the idiot asking this question so late. Early. Whatever. It was Evan.
The coordination normally available to her during waking hours didn’t come to her quite as naturally now. She fumbled with her fingers to get her reply down. At last, she managed to type out her message: Nope.
She pressed a button to send her reply and began to drift back to sleep. Rather abruptly, her vibrating phone woke her once again.
Clara rolled over and went back to sleep. She didn’t need this nonsense this late. Early. Whatever.
Wednesday, October 24
Are you freaking kidding me? There’s something stuck in my eye and it will not come out. Should I ask Mrs. Teacher if I can go wash it out in the bathroom? No. That’ll look like cheating or trying to get out of this test. I wish I could get out of this test. But I wish this thing would get out of my more. Blink. Blink again.
Stop messing with your eye, you’re attracting stares.
Yes you are, see? Kevin’s looking at you.
Who cares? I don’t like him and he certainly doesn’t like me.
Then why is he smiling at you?
Because I’m doing something stupid, that’s why. There’s no other reason for him to be smiling at me unless- oh my God this thing in my eye is driving me crazy!
It was 1:55 in the afternoon and Clara sat arguing with herself in her psychology class. She didn’t exhibit schizophrenic characteristics normally; this past week had just eviscerated her. Many conflicts chose this week to converge like clouds over Clara’s head and they had finally begun to rain down on her. But right now, she had to focus: if she didn’t pass her psychology test, things wouldn’t get any better.
Her problems stemmed from being a teenaged girl as well as from odd other circumstances. For one thing, she visited the doctor this past weekend, a trip which “enjoyable” didn’t exactly describe. She had gone knowing that she would get a physical and two shots, but she left with scoliosis, information pamphlets on dealing with anemia and two sore arms from four shots. And then of course there was always the awkwardness that came with discussing your physical and emotional status with a perfect stranger in front of your mother. Imagine answering questions like “Are you happy?” and “Do you and your parents get along?” in front of your mother. That trip did not qualify as pleasant.
School had also begun to take its toll on Clara. English, usually her best subject, had quickly become one of her worst, mostly because Faulkner wrote like a mentally retarded person. Also, the pressure of the upcoming dance frenzied most of the senior class. Clara would like to have gone with Evan, but this option did not readily present itself for the following reason: Sean.
Sean had been Clara’s best friend for as long as either of them could remember. Because of this, Clara felt obligated to fix him up with the girl he wanted to go to the dance with. The only problem was that Sean had the social graces of a particularly ugly frog. He himself didn’t come across as ugly, on the contrary he was rather decent-looking, he just had a hard time with his peers. For instance, he made Clara laugh all the time one-on-one but didn’t have the courage to let anyone else experience his humor. And he was a wonderfully chivalrous person if you didn’t count the time he accidentally knocked over an old woman in the middle of a busy crosswalk in his haste to get away from one of the boys that was continually bullying him for his quiet nature. At least he helped her back up. And then ran for it.
Clara had to tackle these problems before the upcoming dance or she would have to go with Sean instead of the boy she really liked.
So, first things first: Clara had to pass her psychology test.
Thursday, October 25
Evan woke up just before his dream ended, before he had had a chance to kiss Clara. Just like it always did.
Ever since the night that she had moved in next door to him, Evan had wanted to get to know her. He saw her through her window that night. She hadn’t yet put up any curtains or blinds. He wasn’t a pervert or anything and she hadn’t been doing anything particularly embarrassing, just reading a book. But he had never seen a girl read a book with such intensity. He became entranced with her. She was astoundingly talented, how she managed to make reading a book look so adorable. It was lovely, really.
Apart from Clara, there was little in her room that night, or in fact any night since she had moved in. It seemed as though she had never unpacked. Boxes of music and books littered the floor and a guitar was propped up next to her bed. Except for these things and a small pile of clothes lying on the floor, the room consisted of nothing but walls. Essentially, the room was nothing but books and music and Clara. Evan didn’t know what she was about. This made Evan a little sad and concerned.
* * *
This morning, Sean had dragged Clara to the hallway where he had taken to stalking a certain girl that he liked, a girl that Clara had promised to help him go to the dance with. This particular girl, in Sean’s opinion, was gorgeous. She was a junior and this was all he knew about her. However, he went out of his way every morning to see her walk down the hallway, brown hair brushing by him as she walked to her class. He had talked incessantly about her to Clara for the last three days and Clara had finally agreed to see who this mystery girl was.
When Sean pointed her out to Clara, Clara turned and saw her, a pretty girl, but not particularly gorgeous. Clara questioned Sean about her but found that he knew essentially nothing. Still, undaunted by this complete lack of information, Clara decided to find out more.
Moving around behind her to better hide himself, Sean tried to stop Clara from approaching the girl. What if she embarrassed him? Clara rolled her eyes. Why should Sean continue to stalk the mystery girl for who knows how long instead of just walking up to her and-
“Hi, I’m Clara.” Before she had even thought about it, Clara had done what Sean had only dreamed of doing for the last two nights.
The mystery girl seemed slightly taken aback by this rather sudden introduction but recovered quickly. She smiled, amused, and extended a hand. A short introduction followed and then Clara learned something she had not expected. Katie (the girl Clara just met) seemed to think that Clara lived next door to her.
This puzzled Clara. There were many things that Clara was, smart, pretty, tricky, and funny being a few of them, but if there was one thing that Clara was not, it was Katie’s neighbor. However, Katie seemed to think otherwise. Turning this to her advantage, Clara, tricky girl that she was, changed this confusion into information. She pretended to also think that Katie was her neighbor until she found out where the two of them supposedly lived. Then she confessed that while they did live in the same neighborhood, they were not neighbors and Katie had probably just seen her around. This of course was a complete lie: Clara did not live in Katie’s neighborhood, had not ever, and had no plans to. But she figured this little white lie would cover up her deception at the beginning of their conversation quite nicely. After politely stating that it had been nice discovering her almost-neighbor, Clara scampered off to report to Sean, who had long since disappeared.
* * *
Sean was practically hyperventilating. During fifth period, Clara had forwarded him a text from Katie. Katie actually wanted to get to know him. How exciting.
This morning, he hadn’t even had a conversation with Katie and now she wanted to get to know him. He had almost peed his pants when he read that text.
There was only one thing that bothered him and that happened to be about Clara. He worried that she had made up the text and sent it to him to make him feel better, that Katie hadn’t sent it at all. No matter how many times Clara told him that the text was genuinely from Katie, he still refused to be assured. He told Clara that he would ask Katie about it when he saw her next.
But Katie had written it, as Sean found out later. They made plans to meet after school. The minutes until he saw her again ticked by slowly. Unbearably slowly.
* * *
At about six o’clock, Clara got another text. Katie and Sean had decided to go to the dance after all. Thank God. Now she could go with Evan.
Friday, October 26
For a third time already that day, Clara’s phone buzzed, awakening her. 5:15 am. Time to get up. She picked herself up from the tangle of sheets around her and went downstairs to the kitchen. Because she wanted to do something nice (that mood happened upon her), she baked cookies for Evan O’Dorney.
6:05 am: I just made ten of your favorite cookies. Actually she made about 25 but she thought she’d keep the rest.
A minute later: Yeah right.
No, really. I’ll bring them to school. Clara sighed and went upstairs to get dressed. She always made cookies in her pajamas.
* * *
At school, she gave Evan the cookies. She fought hard to stay focused but her attempt was virtually worthless. Instead of writing, she drew some kid in her class. A request from her guidance counselor during 5th period did not induce perkiness.
According to the counselor, Clara needed to decide where she wanted to go to school but Clara disagreed with this entirely. Even though she had the grades to go anywhere, Clara didn’t care. She wanted to become a tattoo artist. Her counselor did not approve.
The counselor’s final advice: “Stop lying to yourself, Clara. You won’t be happy making barely enough money to live off of when you could be anything you wanted. Be more serious.”
Clara told her counselor that she’d be an engineer. That pleased the woman seated before her. Too bad she had no intention whatsoever of becoming an engineer.
This afternoon, she’d engineer something better: she’d persuade Evan to go to the dance with her.
* * *
I think that I was an accident, that my parents didn’t mean to have me. They love me and all but I thought about it the other day and it really doesn’t make any sense that they planned me.
What are you talking about? They’re both level-headed people.
Exactly. They would have wanted to have me when they were more financially capable. For God’s sake, Dad was about to deploy when I was born. I don’t think that they would have wanted that. Could there have been a worse time?
These thoughts plagued Clara’s mind three minutes before her life as she knew it would end. She would ask Evan and he would say no. She knew it.
Yet three minutes later, her bravery inspired her to be standing in front of him, asking him. She watched it happen as if she were someone else. She watched him as he shook his head and her hands began to shake as well. He whispered his apologies but she felt as if he was screaming at her. She knew why he said no. He couldn’t trust her. He didn’t know her. Poor Clara. But she had done it to herself. No one trusted her, or knew her. Not even she did.
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FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE- MUHAMMID ALI