As I pushed through AP English and Government, I was already yawning with exhaustion and was in no way energized for practice or the dinner out that my grandmother had planned.
“Sit down everyone, please!” Mrs. Penley shouted over the clatter of moving desks and laughter. We had just finished our discussion on the assigned chapters in Catcher in the Rye and were moving our desks back to normal position. The class was energized about the story. Half of them, I think, were thankful that it wasn’t a farming story like they thought, and everyone liked the idea of the rebellious teenager who smoked too many cigarettes.
The discussion had sucked for me. We’d been forced to move our desks into a circle, so that we could make eye contact with anyone that spoke. Jared kept flashing me smirks, no doubt fully informed of his progress on Operation Kill Tate and K.C.
The silvery feeling coursing down my arms and legs made me want to scream until the force of my upset made him magically disappear.
I wouldn’t care if you were alive or dead.
I hated admitting to myself that I did care whether he was alive or dead. I’d been stung every day he didn’t want me near him.
But that baggage that you aren’t letting out is weakening you. Grandma was right. I was in no better position now than I was before I decided to fight back.
“Now, class,” Mrs. Penley instructed from the front of the classroom. “Before we copy down assignments for homework, I want to touch base about your monologues. Remember, these are due in two weeks. I’ll have a sign-up sheet outside the door, and you can pick your day. Your monologue can be from the list I gave you or you can choose another one with my approval. Now, I’m not looking for Oscar-worthy performances,” she reassured, “so don’t get scared. This isn’t theater after all. Just perform the monologue and turn in the essay using the rubric I gave you explaining how that monologue reinforces the theme of the book or film.” Mrs. Penley drifted off as people started to get out notebooks and copy down the assignment from the board.
Acting like you don’t care is not letting it go.
Isn’t it about time you fought back?
I want your heart to be free.
Weariness wadded my heart. I turned around to look at Jared. His eyes lifted from his notebook, and his eyes sharpened on me.
I wanted to walk down the hall and know there was no pain around the next corner. I wanted him to stop. And yes, I admitted, I wanted to know him again.
But that baggage that you aren’t letting out is weakening you.
Before I could stop myself, I turned back around and thrust my hand in the air. Tightness knotted my stomach as I felt like I’d stepped into someone else’s dream. “Mrs. Penley?”
“Yes, Tate?” Mrs. Penley was standing at her desk, writing something on a post-it.
“We have five minutes left of class. May I perform my monologue now?” I sensed eyes and ears shifting my way, the whole class focusing its attention on me.
“Um, well, I wasn’t expecting to grade anything yet? Do you have your essay ready?” Mrs. Penley stuck the pen in her hand into her tight bun.
“No, I’ll have that by the due date, but I would really love to perform it now. Please.”
I watched the wheels turn in her head as she probably worried if I was prepared, but I flashed my pleading eyes on her to hopefully make her see that I wanted to get this over with.
“Okay,” she exhaled, “if you’re sure you’re ready.” She motioned for me to come up front, while she moved aside to lean against the wall.
I rose from my chair and walked to the front of class, feeling the burn of looks on my back. Turning to face everyone, my heart pounded like a jackhammer in my chest. I swept my eyes across the room before beginning. If I didn’t meet his eyes, I could do this.
“I like storms,” I started. “Thunder, torrential rain, puddles, wet shoes. When the clouds roll in, I get filled with this giddy expectation.”
Just keep going, Tate. I tried to envision that I was speaking to my dad or grandma. Keep it natural.
“Everything is more beautiful in the rain. Don’t ask me why.” My shoulders shrugged. “But it’s like this whole other realm of opportunity. I used to feel like a superhero, riding my bike over the dangerously slick roads, or maybe an Olympic athlete enduring rough trials to make it to the finish line.”
My smile spread with the memories. Memories of Jared and me.
“On sunny days, as a girl, I could still wake up to that thrilled feeling. You made me giddy with expectation, just like a symphonic rainstorm. You were a tempest in the sun, the thunder in a boring, cloudless sky.”
“I remember I’d shovel in my breakfast as fast as I could, so I could go knock on your door. We’d play all day, only coming home for food and sleep. We played hide and seek, you’d push me on the swing, or we’d climb trees. Being your sidekick gave me a sense of home again.”
I exhaled, finally relaxing, and my eyes drifted over to meet his. I saw him watching me, breathing hard, almost as if he was frozen. Stay with me, Jared.
“You see,” my eyes stayed on him, “when I was ten, my mom died. She had cancer, and I lost her before I really knew her. My world felt so insecure, and I was scared. You were the person that turned things right again. With you, I became courageous and free. It was like the part of me that died with my mom came back when I met you, and I didn’t hurt anymore. Nothing hurt if I knew I had you.” Pools of tears filled my eyes as the class leaned in to listen to me.