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Tiberius
January 30th, 2014, 07:14 AM
I've put this up in the prose section, but I'd like to try it in the YA section. I've fine tuned it from what I have put up there.

***

Mum sticks her head out of the bathroom and yells at me down the hall. “For God’s sakes, Kylie, would you hurry up?” I can barely hear her over the sound of the hairdryer she’s waving about her head.

“I’m almost finished,” I call out, but I have a mouthful of half chewed ham and cheese toastie, so it doesn’t come out clearly.

“Have you got your lunch?”

I swallow my mouthful. “Yes, I’ve already made it.”

She comes hurrying down the hall. Her hair is still damp from her shower. “Oh, Kylie, you haven’t even got your tie done up!” She pulls me up out of the chair and tries to fix it, but she has to take it off and tie it around her own neck. My uniform is horrible. It’s a horrid thing, with a maroon skirt and a white blouse that didn’t fit right around my hips so I had to get a size larger which hides my boobs and makes me look twelve instead of nearly sixteen. And seriously, who thinks that a tie – a tie – is an appropriate part of a school uniform for a girl? Mum finishes knotting it and presses it back into my hand. “Hurry up and put it on,” she says.

I sigh and put it around my neck. I don’t tighten it all the way.

“Have you got your timetable?”

“Yes mum.”

“Your folder?”

“Yes, mum.”

“Pens? Have you got pens? Where did we put them?”

“Mum! It’s fine! I’ve got everything I need. Honestly, woman, you’re stressing more than me!”

Mum turns to look at me and she laughs a little. She does have a habit of stressing out over little things. I figure it’s because she’s got an obsessive streak somewhere deep inside her which drives her crazy. Once, she made me clean inside the smoke detectors while she cleaned the back of the fridge. She can be quite scary sometimes. “So you've got everything?”

“I have my folder with lots of blank paper,” I assure her. “My pens, and my lunch. I’ve got a book to read if I have lunch by myself. I have a few dollars in case I need to call you. I have pepper spray if I am mugged, and I have a squadron of flying monkeys in case I need to get the ruby slippers from Dorothy.” Okay, so those last two were a joke. Mum needs to lighten up anyway.

Mum just glares at me. She’s been worrying like this for the last few days. I can’t really say I blame her, not entirely. It’s my first day at a new school in Cairns after moving up from Gladstone. We move every few years. Not because we get tired of living somewhere, or because we piss off the neighbours or anything like that. We move because Mum’s a photographer. Every few years she publishes a book, filled with spectacularly huge double page spreads of landscapes, each book looking at a particular part of Australia.

So I’m kind of used to all the moving now. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve done it. Before this we were in Gladstone, before that, Adelaide, and before that, Perth. Before that it all kind of blends in together, but I know there’s been an outback town at some point and I also remember some place that was very cold. And before that, my mum says we lived in Europe. So I’m used to uprooting myself every few years. But I don’t like it. I wish I could have some actual stability in my life rather than just an illusion of it that fades after a while.

I suppose another result of this constant moving around is that my mum and I are closer than the usual mother and daughter. My parents divorced five years ago, and it’s been just the two of us ever since, and we’ve really only had each other to rely on for a close relationship. She’s never had any serious relationships either, at least not since my dad. I don’t just mean boyfriends either, I mean any friends. My mum’s job has us moving around just way too much to put down those kinds of roots. I guess she’s doing the same thing as me. We’ve latched on to each other as the only long-term relationships we can possibly have. It’s strange, in a way. Sometimes she is all motherly and parental towards me, but other times we can sit and giggle like school kids and talk about who the cutest guy on TV is (it’s Rider Strong, and if you disagree with me, then you are very mistaken).

I cram the last of my toastie into my mouth and grab my bag.

“Plate, Kylie!”

I sigh and go back to the table, pick up my plate and put it in the sink.

“Hurry, Kylie!”

“Oh, we’re not going to be late, mum,” I say, picking up my bag. “School doesn’t start for half an hour.”

She ignores my protests, hurrying me down the hall towards the front door.

As she closes the front door behind us, I walk to the old yellow Datsun parked out the front and toss my bag in the back. “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive,” I call out to her. I’ve been nagging her to let me go for my Ls for ages now.

Mum just glares at me, and I laugh as I open the passenger side door.

*

Mum pulls me over to her when we stop in the drop off bay outside the school. She plants a kiss on my cheek. “Have a good day, darling,” she says. “Try to make some friends, and see if you can find out about joining the school band, okay? I’ll pick you up at three.”

That’s one of the things mum just doesn’t get about me. I’ve never been good at making friends, due entirely to the fact that we’ve moved around so much. Not that I couldn’t. More that I’ve just never wanted to. Really, what’s the point of making friends when you know you’re just going to have to leave them before too long? When I was a little girl, probably about six or seven years old, I remember having best friends and thinking we’d be together forever. But when we moved I was so upset at leaving them, and ever since then I’ve tended to shy away from forming such close relationships with people. But there are times when I look at people who are out with a bunch of their friends, laughing and having a great time, and I feel jealous of them, and I wish that I, like them, just had the chance to be friends with other people my own age. I hate that, because I know it’s never going to happen. Not while my mum and I are moving around.

So I’ve developed the habit of turning to other things instead, and one of them is my music. I’ve had lots of practice. The music’s good for helping me deal with my feelings. I’m not sure that’s a particularly healthy thing to do though, but it’s got me through some tough times. Sometimes I think that’s a sad thing, but the truth is that I’ve never really had it any different, so it feels normal for me. But a sad normal.

But I try not to let it get to me, and that’s why I immerse myself in my music. My mum thinks I’m a prodigy, but I’m not. Sure, I’m good, but it’s something I’ve had to work really hard at. Nothing about it was easy. No innate understanding of music. But when you’ve been playing piano for a decade, you get to be a good player, especially when you started at five, like I did.

I step out of the car.

“Thanks mum,” I say, getting my bag out of the back seat. “Love you. See you this afternoon.”

“Bye honey!” says mum, and she drives off.

There’s still about ten minutes before the school day officially starts at nine. There’s a building in front of me, the admin block according to the sign bolted to the wall. The main gate is off to my right, and I head towards it. There’s a crowd of other kids still arriving, but the noise coming from the other side of the admin block tells me that most of the students are already here. I follow the students ahead of me through the gate and into the quadrangle.

I’ve been to two other high schools, and my first look at this one tells me that it’s much the same. The quadrangle is nestled between four buildings and there are handball courts marked on the concrete. Around the edges there are wooden benches, filled with students catching up with each other. What they did during the holidays. Who broke up with who and who they’re dating now. The half hour before school starts is the most important social time of the day. And today it’s even more important. It’s the first school day of the year. A day for everyone to re-establish relationships that have been neglected for months. It’s been that way everywhere else I’ve gone, and it’s the same here. Good to know some things don’t change, huh?

I find a spot on one of the benches and start reading The Hobbit. I get lost in Beorn’s hall, because the next thing I know, the bell rings and the students start drifting towards different areas of the quad, lining up to face the doors at the back of the admin building. I pack my book back into my bag and look around, trying to see where the Year 11s are heading. The older students seem to be heading towards the rear of the quad, so I head back that way as well. They start forming ranks going across the quad.

“Year eleven?” I ask a girl who’s standing at the end of one of the ranks.

“No, I’m year twelve,” she says. “Year eleven is in front.”

“Oh, thanks,” I say. I walk forwards a couple of rows. “Year eleven?”

The guy I ask grunts, which I take as a yes. I make my way down to the end of the row. I’ve got no idea if the students are arranged according to any system, but I figure that if I’m in the wrong place someone will tell me where to go.

After a few minutes, the students have finished lining up and a teacher appears at the far end of the row. He walks along, ticking names off a clipboard. When he gets to me, he gives me a blank look, as though my being here has broken his routine. “Who are you?” he asks.

“I’m Kylie Schobel,” I tell him. “I’m not sure if I’m in the right place though.”

“Which roll class are you in?”

“Uh, I’m not sure,” I say. I know what house I’m in and what year I’m in, but no one said anything about a roll class.

He sighs. “Just a moment,” he says, and heads off towards another teacher who’s just finishing marking her roll. They talk for a moment, and I see her check the names on her list and nod. The teacher I spoke to waves me over.

“You’re Kylie Schobel?” the female teacher asks me, pronouncing it wrong. She says “Skobbel.”

“Schobel, yes,” I correct her. It’s Show-bull, by the way.

“Okay, go and stand down there next to Mark,” she says. “The tall guy.”

I look down the line and see a tall student with short curly hair. “Thanks,” I say, hoisting my bag back over my shoulder and heading down there.

I jostle my way in with a mumbled apology. “Who are you?” Mark asks me.

“I’m Kylie,” I say.

“Late?”

I shake my head. “No, just new.”

“Cool, fresh blood.” He gives me a half smile and turns back to the admin doors.

Okay then, I think to myself, not knowing what to make of that. Just then, a woman comes out of the doors and stands at the top of the stairs. Standing off to each side are other teachers. I realise she must be the principal, Mrs Chelten. She sent me a letter about joining the school this year, the usual clichés about how important education is, how thrilled they are that I’ve chosen to go to their school. Yadda yadda yadda.

“Welcome students!” she says, her voice amplified by the microphone. “Welcome to the start of the 1996 school year here at Clarendon Beach High School, and on behalf of my fellow staff, I hope you had a very happy holidays.”

Yeah, I had a great holidays. I got to fly down to Brisbane for a week and do absolutely nothing because my mum was discussing the final details of her latest book with her publisher and didn’t trust me enough to let me leave the hotel room by myself.

Chelten speaks for a few more minutes before another teacher takes the microphone. He tells us that sports sign up will be in the hall tomorrow afternoon after lunch. He speaks for a little bit longer about the various sports teams, but I tune him out. I’m not a sports person.

After the sports teacher, a good looking teacher comes forward. “Hi guys and gals,” he says cheerily. “Back to it today. So before you get too swamped in all the homework I plan on giving you, I’ll have the drama club sign ups today at lunch in the library. We’ve lost a few people with graduation, but I know there are still some of you who will be back for more this year. And for those new faces, come on by and have a look at what we’ve got. We’ve got A Midsummer Night’s Dream for our end of year term performance, which is always fun. So drop in to the library at lunch to sign up, and I’ll see you in class.”

I hope I’m in one of his classes. He’s hot.

He turns and another teacher steps up, who speaks about how there are going to be healthier options at the canteen this year (an announcement met with a loud groan). Several other teachers follow before Mrs Chelten comes back and dismisses us all. The crowd of students disperses.

I look at my timetable again. First period is science with a teacher named S. Holmes. I laugh at the name. Sherlock Holmes indeed. The room number is D.G.4. I think for a moment. Probably D Block, ground floor, room four. Looking around, I can see the signs on the buildings. A Block is the admin building. D Block is on my left and I head over there.

I find the room easily enough, and there’s a line of students about my age waiting to enter. I go to the back of the line. “This is Mr Holmes’s science class, isn’t it?” I ask the boy standing there

“Yeah,” he says. “It’s Mr Holmes.”

“Thanks,” I say.

It’s only a few minutes before Mr Holmes appears. He’s short, round and balding, with the smiling expression of someone who is constantly about to giggle. “Welcome, welcome,” he says, opening the door and fumbling with the stack of papers he’s carrying.

We file in and after he takes the roll, he speaks to us, telling us what we’ll be studying that year. Starting with some chemistry, then on to biology, some astronomy, a bit on energy and then information and communication. Throughout the whole thing, he sounds quite excited, and he tends to rush his speech at times. All in all, I think I’ll do pretty well in his class. Sure, he’s a little odd, but he’s enthusiastic about the subject.

I spend the class sitting next to a girl with red hair and too much make up. I guess she’d be attractive to guys, but only the sort of guys that value looks more than anything else. I recognise her type. She’s undoubtedly part of the “beautiful people”, those who think life revolves around fashion and boys and looking good. I've seen them in every school I've been too.

“Hi, I’m Jessica,” she squeaks quietly. “What are you doing for recess?”

“I’m not sure yet,” I say.

She smiles at me. “You should come and sit with me and my friends,” she says, as though it’s a wonderful and exciting idea. “I think you might fit in with us.”

“Actually, I’ve got to get my bus pass from the office,” I say. It has the virtue of being the truth.

“That’s okay,” Jessica says. “You can come after.”

“I’ve got some reading to do as well. Don’t you just love reading?” Okay, so I’m yanking her chain.

Jessica gives me a disappointed look. “Uh, yeah, that’s cool too. If you change your mind, we sit down near the pool, okay?”

I smile politely, not sincerely. “Thanks,” I say. Even if I was interested in making any friends here, it certainly wouldn’t be a girl like this. Then I realise that one of the beautiful people asked me to join their group. Oh my God. Do I really give off that vibe? A shallow, superficial feeling? God. Maybe she just thinks I could use a makeover. A pity invite. I’m certainly not good looking enough to be part of their group.

After the class finishes, we have recess. I head to the office and pick up my bus pass and head back out to the quad. I don’t know anyone well enough to sit with them, and I’m definitely not going to sit with little miss pretty, and since I don’t really feel like sitting and reading my book (I’ve read The Hobbit several times already anyway), I decide to go and have a look at the library. It’s on the bottom of B Block.

The librarian, a woman with grey hair pulled back tight into a bun, looks up from her desk at me when I come in. She looks stern and I make a mental note not to let myself bring books back late. The sci-fi and fantasy section of the library is woefully small.

After recess, I head back to D Block for my double period of maths. The timetable says it’s in room D.G.11. D Block is a big square, with a small courtyard and the classrooms around it. It’s double storeyed, with an overhanging roof, and the tree growing in the courtyard means it isn’t brightly lit along the classrooms. The dark brown bricks make it even worse. I find room 7, and walk further, past room 8, then rooms 9 and 10. But that’s in the corner, and the next room is room 12.

Bugger. I’m going to be late. There are students filing into the other classrooms, and I watch where they go, but none of them are going into a room 11. After a moment, the courtyard is empty. I look around helplessly. Maybe I can find a staff room, ask one of the teachers where room 11 is. But as I’m looking around, I see tucked into the corner a small alcove with a door. It’s labelled D.G.11. I open it cautiously. The rest of the class is already inside. The teacher looks up at me as I stick my head in.

“Can I help you?” he asks. His voice is clipped. Very business-like.

“Yeah, sorry, I think this is where I’m meant to be,” I say. “Mr McKinney?”

“And you are…?”

“Kylie Schobel.”

“Ah, Miss Schobel,” he says. “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming. You may take your seat next to Miss Cunningham.” He gestures towards a black-haired girl sitting near the back of the class.

“Thanks,” I say. I walk in, feeling the eyes of everyone in the class on me, and I sit next to the girl McKinney indicated.

“Hi,” says the black-haired girl named Cunningham.

I’m instantly jealous of her, because she’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. Her face is a soft oval shape but still elegant, her skin is flawless, her hair is styled in a way that’s at once careless and attractive, and her makeup is subtle enough to be natural looking, but it still makes her deep brown eyes look larger. How is it fair that she can make her uniform look good when it sits on me like a tent?

“Hi,” I say.

“Best not to be late to Dick’s classes,” she says, keeping her voice very quiet while the teacher is talking.

“I couldn’t find the door,” I say.

She flashes a friendly smile. “Yeah, this room is a bit of a dungeon. I’m Sarah, it’s great to meet you.”

“Kylie,” I say.

“Is there something you two ladies would prefer to discuss?” McKinney says, and we both look up.

“No sir,” I say.

“Then kindly keep quiet and pay attention.”

“Yes sir,” I say.

McKinney goes back to the chalkboard, where he’s giving us a quick refresher on some algebra thing. I pay attention, taking down notes, and Sarah says quietly, “We’ll chat at lunch, okay?”

“Uh, okay,” I say, and McKinney turns to glare at me again. I sink back in my chair and keep quiet for the rest of the class.

***

If anyone's interested, I've got a second chapter to go up as well...

LeeC
February 1st, 2014, 07:16 PM
Hmm, to me it has the dreary weight of the commonplace, and the potential impetus of escapism. YET, somehow your writing style kept me reading to see where it might be leading.


If you are setting the stage (frame of mind so to speak) for some more uncommon eventuality in Kylie's life, it shows how the mundane can be incorporated to help the reader identify with the characters, and to flush out the realism. It's a technique oft-employed, and very effective (even necessary) in good balance. The net worth, of course, depends on where you are headed, and how integrated it seems to the reader. By "some more uncommon eventuality" I mean something that makes the journey worthwhile to the reader, or at least doesn't disappoint them as a pastime.


In short, you seem to have a grasp of the bricks and mortar in this snippet, but there's a lot more involved in a cohesive and engaging story. I hope this personal perspective has been some help, and I wish you the best.


Lee C

Tiberius
February 2nd, 2014, 10:48 AM
Hmm, to me it has the dreary weight of the commonplace, and the potential impetus of escapism. YET, somehow your writing style kept me reading to see where it might be leading.


If you are setting the stage (frame of mind so to speak) for some more uncommon eventuality in Kylie's life, it shows how the mundane can be incorporated to help the reader identify with the characters, and to flush out the realism. It's a technique oft-employed, and very effective (even necessary) in good balance. The net worth, of course, depends on where you are headed, and how integrated it seems to the reader. By "some more uncommon eventuality" I mean something that makes the journey worthwhile to the reader, or at least doesn't disappoint them as a pastime.


In short, you seem to have a grasp of the bricks and mortar in this snippet, but there's a lot more involved in a cohesive and engaging story. I hope this personal perspective has been some help, and I wish you the best.


Lee C

Well, she's not going to get any magical powers or anything. It's just a coming of age story, showing how Kylie goes from being this lonely girl who doesn't want to develop any relationships to falling in love and all that. She starts out as someone who just follows her mother around because it's all she's known, but by the end of the story she's going to be making her own choices and starting to live her own life. And in between, I'm hoping to recapture the feel of what it was like to be a high school student in the 1990s. I get rather nostalgic about those days (sigh).

Have you ever read "Looking for Alibrandi"? Great book. But that's the same kind of feel I'm going for here. This first chapter is to establish Kylie's life and her relationship with her mother as well as establishing her situation, and it's the meeting with Sarah that's going to lead to the changes in her life.

LeeC
February 2nd, 2014, 05:14 PM
I wasn't suggesting magical powers, or anything else beyond the realm of believability by "some more uncommon eventuality." What I tried to say was that your writing style kept me reading through the groundwork, and that I hoped you were headed somewhere "that makes the journey worthwhile to the reader, or at least doesn't disappoint them as a pastime."


No, I haven't read "Looking for Alibrandi," but in questioning my daughter (the academic) was told that it was the age old coming-of-age journey written in an enlivening twist of style.


In thinking about what might make this type of story more memorable, it seems to me that there are at least two avenues. One would be to plow new ground of insight and/or situation, and the other would be to plow the same old ground in a refreshingly new way. If it's the latter you're shooting for, you are taking the path less accomplished, being the more difficult — my hat's off to you. The pitfall is that if all you achieve is reminiscing school days, then the result is better left to a personal diary. A suggestion I might make is that, if you haven't already, you familiarize yourself with the writings of the likes of Garrison Keillor, who had an uncanny ability of portraying the commonplace uncommonly.


Again, my best wishes,
Lee C

Justin Rocket
February 16th, 2014, 03:30 AM
This is wordy which is why it feels so dreary of a read. Is that intentional?

The following removes some of that wordiness



Mum yells at me down the hall. “Kylie, would you hurry up?” I can barely hear her over the sound of the hairdryer she’s waving about her head.

“I’m almost finished,” I mumble around a mouthful of chewed ham and cheese toastie.

“lunch?”

“ready.”

She bounds down the hall. Her hair is still damp from her shower. “Oh, Kylie!” She pulls me up out of the chair and tries to fix my tie, but has to take it off and tie it around her own neck. My uniform is a horrid maroon and white thing. The blouse doesn't even fit. And seriously, who thinks that a tie – a tie – is an appropriate part of a school uniform for a girl? Mum finishes knotting it and presses it back into my hand. “Hurry up,” she says.

Hitotsmami
February 22nd, 2014, 04:11 AM
I also feel that it is a long road of reading where I'm constantly on the lookout for the main event which sets some conflict for Kylie other than the regularities of the first day of school. However, I also enjoyed your writing style and I wanted to stick through with it until the end. I would enjoy reading more to see exactly where this goes! Thank you for posting!

A_Jones
March 14th, 2014, 04:08 PM
I also like your writing stile. You put in the mundane, and the mundane makes things more realistic. The mothers hair dryer and the mouthfull of food in the first few lines is a good example of this. Readers love to be able to imagine things completely.

scaryclone
March 21st, 2014, 03:00 PM
a lot of little routines here, somewhat agreeing with others, makes it very lengthy and you think: is this all there's gonna be?

reflects new starts and opportunities for young people well overall so far