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2 pointsnote before we begin: this is about a gay girl who has to stay with her homophobic aunt and her family in a small town after her mom goes to a rehab center for mental illness. the bumper stickers mentioned are some alt-righty, hateful ones. also, i'm realizing there are some issues with voice and motivations of other characters. if anyone has advice it'd be much appreciated. CHAPTER 5- ELISE I look through the guest room drawers three or four times before I pick out what to wear, and then once I walk down to breakfast I can't stop fidgeting with my sleeves. “Elise, dear, calm down.” Aunt Delilah says, glancing at me from the table. Anna sits with her, picking at her eggs. I don’t know how to respond, so we’re all just quiet. "So, I was thinking I should drop you all off at school!” says Aunt Delilah, breaking the silence. "Mom. No. God no.” Anna says, like she's just broken the most sacred rule of high school. "Anna.” she says, her voice dripping with disappointment. “Please don't use the lord's name in vain.” (Put that on the growing list of habitats I need to break to survive here.) Anna knows better than to roll her eyes at her. (Lines I can't cross.) Delilah clears her throat and restarts. "So, I'm taking you guys to school today!” she says. “Besides, it'll give us a nice chance to show off some of those new bumper stickers!” I spontaneously combust, on the spot, and no one notices. Anna complains through the whole car ride, until Aunt Delilah firmly tells her to stop as she pulls into the parking lot. I get out and I look up. The school is big, but the football field, of course, is bigger. It’s a nice brick building, with signs with the school mascots haphazardly placed around the entrance. HOME OF THE SEA HOUNDS reads the- well, reads pretty much everywhere I look. “Uh, what’s a seahound?” I say, trying to keep the skepticism out of my voice. “It’s those… those squirmy things in the lake” Anna says, almost slamming the car door behind her. I wave goodbye to Delilah, and Anna… Anna declines. “Do you mean crayfish?” I ask. "No, they’re blue. With purple dots, and tentacles.” Okay, no. Those don’t exist. "Are they water bugs?” I try. "Sometimes they’re yellowish?” she says, looking at me like I’m the stupidest person to ever live. “Seriously, none of this ringing any bells? They don’t have those in the city?” “I don’t think so...”I say. I want to sink into the ground. “Is this like an urban legend or something?” I say, laughing nervously. "Well, for one thing,” she says, her voice rising and her eyes cutting into me. “We aren’t in a urban area. And two, maybe don’t accuse me of lying when you’ve never even visited here. The main office is to the right of the security desk.” She storms off, joining a group of other sophomores by the field and I try not to panic but, fuck, I just lost my cousin in a sea of people I don’t know. On the first day, like I’m that stupid, like, couldn’t I have waited at least a day before blowing everything up? Am I just that bad at being a normal person? Panic is rising in my stomach, and Anna’s friend’s gazes are just burrowing into my skin. I’m just standing here, and worse thoughts rush up to me. She hates you now. You’re so alone. You aren’t ever going to have friends. Everyone will hate you and then you’ll end up stuck in this town, alone and alone and - Okay, no. I have a brain. I can walk into an office, by myself, without exploding. My world’s still spinning with panic but I take a breath, and put one foot in front in front of the other. I go in and I notice that the school seems too big for the number of kids. In the city 3,000 kids would probably be in this building, but it’s so small. A bunch of people glance at me from the corner of their eye and I feel a million sirens going off in my brain. I know it’s irrational, but everyone here feels like a land mine that could go off at any moment. But, it’s irrational. It’s irrational, and I just have to keep moving. I feel like Jonathan Byers walking down the hallway of Hawkins High School. (Except I don't take weird pictures of girls at parties, and I think Barb is cuter than Nancy.) I reach the office feeling like I just ran a marathon. (Or, what I feel like a marathon would be like.) (I’m way too much of a stereotypical nerd to know.) A woman wearing a red, floral dress at the front desk smiles at me. "Hi!” she says.” I’m Ms. Rodriguez, are you our new student?” "Y-yes. Yes. Hi. I’m- I’m Elise. I'm here for a schedule.” I give a weak smile. “Yep! Got it all right here.” she says, gesturing to a file. I realize that I probably look panicked, and I should've come to the office an hour earlier so I could get to my new locker and not get completely lost and...ugh. It's too early for this. Ms. Rodriguez looks unfazed. She opens The File and gives me my schedule. "Thank you.” I say. "No problem! If you need anything, free free to come down and ask questions. Your guide will be here in a second.” "Guide?” I try not to sound like I'm two years old when I say it, but right now I'm just trying not to pass out so the bar might be a little low. "The student that will help you find all your classes for the day.” “Oh. I didn’t. I didn’t realize…” My voice trails off. "I know it’s overwhelming here at first, but you’ll figure it out. Don’t worry.” she tells me. I guess I look unconvinced, because she keeps going. “Both of my parents were in the army when I was little, so I moved around from base to base a lot. I’ve had like… 10 or 12 different first days of school?” “That sounds exhausting.” I say. I wouldn’t be able to handle that. She shrugs her shoulders. “It wasn’t too bad. The worst thing that happened was showing up in the wrong classroom. So, just take it from an expert. You’ll be fine.” “What if I’m not?” I don’t mean to say it out loud. It just slips out without me thinking, and I literally put a hand on my mouth hoping I can somehow reel the words back in. She looks at me, thoughtfully. "Here’s a secret- it’s your senior year, so it’s just one year of your life. Most normal people hate high school.” A little bell on the door rings, and a boy with a Legends Of Zelda shirt comes in. "Hi, Mrs. Rodriguez.” he mumbles. "Darien!” she says. “How was your summer?” "It was fine.” he says, distracted and pretty much monotone. Well. At least he’s too tired to care about making awkward, invasive small talk. And if the silence gets way too unbearable, we probably have a fandom or two in common. "So,” Mrs. Rodriguez says. “ Elise Simon, this is Darien Hill! Darien Hill, this is Elise Simon.” I can hear her rethinking her life choices to work in a really small town with really antisocial kids. “Hi.” I say. "Hello.” he says, a million miles away. We leave the office to my first class and, well, at least I’m not alone.
1 pointThe family is here. We go for a walk today, string out along the trail then spring back together to recuperate in the shade. Normally, I hike quickly. My goal is to get to the gleaming lake, or the cold, clean-cut peak, then begin my structured revels. There is a process for this. Today, though, my grandmother and I walk slowly. There are several ways to walk slowly: regally, with measured paces, lazily, with loose hips and soft ankles, and perhaps another: leaning forward, arms swinging, heels solid. My grandmother and I walk lazily. I feel the rock in my shoe, notice the valleys scoring my grandmother's face, and feel the sun embracing my arms.