In one week, my book will be available to you! As a bit of a teaser, here is the first chapter:
The day I found Beth’s journal, Sebastian broke up with me for the last time. Or I broke up with him, depending on how I chose to tell the story.
That Monday morning began with a case of the common fight shared between mother (my lovely mom) and daughter (me). I told my mom I hated her. I certainly didn’t mean it. I wasn’t one of the teenagers who regularly used the “h” word to describe the person who gave birth to me, but Mom had made me so angry. To hear those words come out of my mouth surprised her just as much as it did me. We were fighting about Sebastian—my boyfriend, when I can call him that—and how much time I spent with him. Mom told me weekly that I needed to slow down my relationship, but I fought harder against her this time. I had just received a chip from Ryan telling me that Sebastian had gone back to Kinsley Stewart, and that made me angry.
Don’t even get me started on Kinsley Stewart.
I knew there was no need to continue fighting with Mom about Sebastian if he went back to ignoring me like he did last time he got back together with Kinsley, but if I told her that, she’d be proven right. Seeing the look she gave me as I walked out the apartment door was satisfying, if only until the guilt hit my stomach. I didn’t want to hurt Mom as much as I wanted to win the argument.
On most days, my brother Chester and I would take the same pod to school. He went to Palin Middle School, while I was a proud fighting bear at Bramble High School. Though his school was two miles farther from home, Mom preferred us to go together so that I can make sure he gets there on time. Of course, she received a chip as soon as the school registered his brain chip, but Mom was old-fashioned like that and preferred me to see that he got into school with my own eyes. She didn’t know that I put on the next chapter of The Turn of the Millennium as soon as the pod door closes behind Chester and never actually saw him walk inside.
The Turn of the Millennium was my latest favorite show. My best friend, Ryan, didn’t get the show and could care less about history. True, the show was a bit like school at times, but at least it wasn’t Ms. Sydney droning on and on about the Great Depression. The music on the show was cheesy—clearly meant for an audience much older than high schoolers—but I loved to watch anything about the 2000s. The Turn of the Millennium was narrated by Noveb White, a 70s crooner whose slicked back hair is the color of his name. On the show, he was always dressed in a corny gold blazer, though he at least changed his outlandish bowties between episodes.
As the pod arrived at Bramble, I turned off Noveb White and unthinkingly replaced it with my music. I don’t really like silence: it tempted me to think about Sebastian. I don’t want to think about him right now.
But apparently I had to think about Sebastian, as he was the first person I saw when I started walking towards the school building. I wish I had taken the time to dutifully watch Chester walk into his building this morning as that would have delayed me enough to have avoided seeing Sebastian altogether. I thought about turning around when I saw Sebastian, but just when I made up my mind to do so he spotted me…and waved. I turned pink, or at least I assumed I did because my cheeks were hot. I raised my right hand wiggling my fingers just enough to qualify it as a wave. It would never have won me any points with the judges at a beauty pageant. My hand felt like lead, but I didn’t want to ignore his gesture because people were watching.
As I waved, I heard the clicking of heels coming up from behind me. These heels were attached to long, tan legs: the long, tan legs of one Kinsley Stewart. Unlike Kinsley, I had short legs paired with a long torso. My skin was a toasted light brown color—my favorite attribute about myself—but my eyes were too wide and dark for my tastes.
If I had been pink when I saw Sebastian, I must have at this point turned red. Kinsley was the one Sebastian was waving to, not me. While I was glad that he hadn’t seen my wave, I didn’t like the fact that I was so easily overlooked by the boy who until last night I assumed was my boyfriend. I wondered whether he would even notice me if I walked right past him.
As I was thinking this, I was thrown once again. As Kinsley passed me to reach Sebastian, he leaned toward her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, a move strictly prohibited by the Bramble High code of conduct. The forbidden intimacy was quickly followed by Sebastian’s lingering hand on her nearly bare shoulder.
The two gestures were certainly sufficient confirmation for the chip I received from Ryan last night. Couldn’t Sebastian have had the courtesy to officially end things with me before kissing her ten feet from the front door of our school? Was it not enough for him to choose her over me? Did he have to rub it in my face?
I was already thinking about what I would tell the school gossips. I’d tell them that Sebastian and I had come to a “mutual understanding.” That sounded very mature and amicable. I just hoped I wasn’t pressed for the details, as I might get tripped up in my lies. For the moment, I turned up my music as loud as it would go and tried to think of something, anything, to distract me.
Thankfully, I was soon at the door of Ms. Oscar’s classroom. As I passed through the doorway my favorite song by Eminem turned off with a quiet click. It might sound strange that I listened to music old enough to have been my great grandma’s favorite in her teenage years, but my love of the 2000s extended to my music preference.
I would have continued to listen to my music in class if I could, but this was one place it wasn’t allowed. The minders were smart enough to know that we wouldn’t do our school work if we were allowed to access our chips. Instead of watching videos internally via chip, we have to view all our lectures on our desk screens, so the minders could do what they did best: monitor that we’re on task. We even had to use old-fashioned ear buds for audio, so they wouldn’t have to worry about us overriding the lectures on our chip audio input. Mom told me in her day when chips had first come out they didn’t have the technology yet to block them. Many of the students then would sit in class and listen to their chips instead of the teachers. That was before minders, too. I guess teenagers have always been one step ahead of their elders when it comes to technology.
As I walked past the rows of desks in Ms. Oscar’s classroom, I headed to the back row where Ryan was already seated. She nodded to me as I slid into my seat, and I could tell from the curious yet sympathetic look she was giving me that she wanted to bring up the one subject I had tried and repeatedly failed to avoid. At the moment I would have actually rather discussed geometry or even the latest choose-your-own-adventure episode.
“Amala, how are you doing?” Ryan leaned over and whispered with a pitying look. I just shrugged at her. We had stayed up late last night chipping, so she already knew every feeling I could express about Sebastian. Well, everything before the kiss I had just witnessed. Now knowing that I had no way of denying the truth of Sebastian’s betrayal, I felt even worse. I guess I still carried some hope last night that his betrayal was just a rumor.
Thankfully, I was saved from having to answer Ryan by Ms. Oscar. Usually I disliked how punctual she was with starting class, but today it was a desired respite.
“Now, class, it’s time to turn to your screens and begin your work. I expect you to get through your math and English lectures before lunch.” Why Ms. Oscar had to remind us of this protocol every day, I didn’t know. Perhaps she was reading from an invisible script, or even monitored herself, and not allowed to collect her measly paycheck if she didn’t repeat these lines each day.
“Kaysah, Ming, and Ryan, you all have math tests today, so come up to the front, please.”
I was grateful that I didn’t have to begin Monday morning with a math test, but I was feeling a little bit guilty that I kept Ryan up so late last night chipping about Sebastian when she had a test the next day. Ryan said she didn’t need to study more but we both knew better. I turned to my own math lecture, putting in my ear buds. I was thankful they didn’t have cords like the ones I saw in The Turn of the Millennium. I think that they would really get in the way.
On my screen beside the video of my math lecture, I had my math eNotebook open. Around the geometry proof Professor Larry had me writing, I was doodling a continuous border of flowers. Apparently calling our math lecturer by his first name, Larry, allows us to relate more to him. His outfit, a red and gray striped sweater over high-waisted pants, circa 2089, makes the task more difficult, though. I’m thankful that Ms. Oscar hadn’t walked by to see my embellishments—it’d be hard to claim that the proof that two triangles are congruent required the floral decoration. There were too many sharp angles in math.
As Professor Larry wrote the next step of the proof on his screen, he called out my name. Of course, my name is not in the original video, but it has been added for my benefit to make sure that I’m paying attention. Got to love technology, right? I was a bit behind the 16-year-old class’s average in math, but I was okay with that. If I had tried harder, perhaps I could move through the lessons at a quicker pace, but I didn’t really see the benefit of getting to Algebra II any faster, because that was the last math class required before graduation. If we finished early, we just got the “reward” of continuing our math studies.
After Professor Larry’s lecture and English with Ms. Julie Anne, Ryan and I headed to the cafeteria for lunch. We quickly clicked our music in sync, listening to the latest release from Restra, Ryan’s favorite band. Ryan and I had been friends for a few years, and though things sometimes got tense between us, we’ve been able to remain BFF for over two years. As we sat down to lunch, Ryan looked at me expectantly. I knew the conversation would focus on Sebastian and me.
“So, Amala, are you going to confront Sebastian about what we heard?” Ryan blurted out quickly, sounding almost excited about the plight of her best friend’s latest relationship. She must have been holding it in all during her math test and English lecture.
At that moment, we both turned our heads towards the serving line, as our attention was drawn by a big clatter followed by laughter and shouts of “Peg-leg Ming is at it again!” Ming, a fellow year 16, had tripped and thrown her plate of mashed potatoes and pinto beans under a nearby table where several popular kids were seated. She was busy scrambling under the table, rescuing the few beans that had sloshed off of her plate. Ming had a bad leg that made her walk with a pronounced limp, though she was often “helped” in her clumsiness by her classmates who liked to trip her.
Ryan was only momentarily distracted. “I told you Sebastian was a jerk from the beginning,” she said, taking a sip of her watery apple juice. I remembered nothing of the sort, but hindsight was 20/20, right? In fact, it was Ryan and her boyfriend, Tate, who had convinced Sebastian and I to get together in the first place. But Ryan and Tate broke up last week, and ever since then, Ryan has claimed to have known both Tate and his best friend Sebastian were jerks all along.
“Who cares, I never was that into him,” I say to shut Ryan up. Actually, it’d be truer that he wasn’t ever that into me.
(c) 2011 Ronnica Z. Rothe