Read My Senior Year of Awesome Online

Authors: Jennifer DiGiovanni

Tags: #YA, #social issues, #contemporary romance, #teen, #love

My Senior Year of Awesome (8 page)

BOOK: My Senior Year of Awesome
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“Why would you need two understudies?” I ask.

“Come again?” Leslie frowns, confused. “Oh, no. No, no, no.” She cradles her face in her hands and forms an o with her mouth, suddenly comprehending our miscomprehension. “Audrey II isn’t an understudy role. Have you not seen the
Little Shop of Horrors
movie?”

She enunciates every word like this is completely unfathomable.

“Uh … no,” I reply, as a sweep of terror hits me. The play has the word “horror” in the title. I hate scary stuff. In fact, I pointedly avoid any form of blood and guts, even fake blood and guts. Geez, doesn’t everyone in this town already know I barely survived fetal pig dissection?

Just then, Ms. Cutler claps her hands to gain our full attention. Her carroty curls are piled into a messy bun secured with what looks like chopsticks. Heart-shaped purple glasses frame her pale blue eyes, one of which occasionally wanders in the wrong direction.

“Attention, people. And Derek,” she says, to the tune of laughter. Jana looks at me helplessly. Missing inside jokes is a bad sign. Breaking through Ms. Cutler’s circle of favorites to nab a choice role depends on our ability to scale a mountain of kiss-up, wanna-be Audrey IIs. “Let’s begin. Mrs. Bitty, hand out the parts, please.”

To set the mood, Ms. Cutler punches a button on the remote in her hand and party music blares from speakers mounted on the wall. Mrs. Bitty, Ms. Cutler’s silver-haired assistant and utilitarian piano player, shuffles around the room passing out sample dialogue sketches. She squints at a page titled “Audrey II” and holds it out in front of Jana and me. Together, we shy away.

“Which one of you wants the speaking part?” Mrs. Bitty cackles, revealing a toothless grin.

“Can we both talk?” Jana asks.

“No,” Ms. Cutler booms, cutting the music as she speaks. Everyone directs their eyes to Jana and me. “Handling the robotic animation will be enough of a challenge for one person. We need someone to provide a voice-over through an offstage mic.”

“I’ll do the offstage part,” Jana says. “I get stage fright.”

“Awesome.” Derek Jonas chimes in from across the room. Derek has starred in every school play during our time at Harmony High School. By sheer number of upper-class males present tonight (just him, unless a bunch of senior guys are hiding in the band closet), it looks like he’s a shoe-in this time around as well.

“Give Audrey II some Latina flair, Jana,” Derek says. “Say the lines real fast, and mix in some Spanish words, like Shakira.” He breaks into some sort of flamenco dance and snaps his fingers high above his head.

“Can you sing like Shakira?” Ms. Cutler raises her orangey eyebrows above her purple glasses. “Mrs. Bitty, play a few bars.”

“Stop!” Panic consumes Jana’s face. “Sorry, Ms. Cutler, but I’m no Shakira.”

“But you do a really excellent impression of her,” I add, helpfully. Jana’s at her screwball best when surfing along on a sugar high. I wonder how many Hershey bars it will take to get her to an Audrey II level of insanity.

“Jana’s vocal range won’t really matter if she’s mic’d offstage,” Leslie chirps.

“True,” Ms. Cutler agrees. “If you’re really that bad, we can always pipe in a recording from the soundtrack.”

“And Sadie’s size will be an advantage for the onstage part,” says Leslie.

“Why, is Audrey II an elf?” I ask. Everyone laughs. I usually ignore the insinuated insults, but by this point in high school, when everyone else has left me far, far behind, vertically speaking, the short jokes get old.

“What?” I ask, searching around for anyone willing to make eye contact and spill the truth. “If she’s not short, then what is she?”

“Leafy,” says one of the brave sophomore girls on the far side of the room.

“Define leafy.” I picture myself dressed as a wood nymph or some other gorgeous mythological creature.

“Audrey II is a plant. A hideous, man-eating plant.” Derek scrunches up his ruddy face in what I suppose is mock-horror. “Feed me, Seymour! You know that line, right?”

“I don’t know anything. Who’s Seymour?”

“The guy who works in the Little Shop of Horrors and loves Audrey the First,” Leslie says.

“Wait. Back up a second. Are you saying that not only is my part not a lead role or even an understudy, but it also is not human?”

“Our part,” Jana corrects me.

“Your part is a big plant puppet,” Derek says.

“But Audrey II
is
a lead role,” Leslie insists. “The show can’t go on without her. You’ll be front and center stage. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Do Jana and I get top billing on the sign in front of school?”

“Wait, Sadie,” Jana raises her hand, as if asking permission to speak. “If we get top billing on the sign, everyone riding by school will associate us with a flesh-eating plant.”

“Good point. But, if we take the plant role, will it count for our … thing?”

Jana’s head bobs up and down. “Leslie said the show cannot go on without us. Sounds like a fantastic achievement to me.”

“Okay, I’m in. But I want to be a sexy plant. With some green sequins or something.”

Fill It In – February 20th

Your Lazy Sunday Morning To-Do List

 

1. Definitely not running.

2. Not attending play practice.

3. Not working on mathlete problems.

4. Not waking up before ten a.m.

5. Not working on college applications.

6. Not cleaning my room. (Sorry, Mom).

7. Not studying for Driver’s Ed. (Really sorry, Mom).

8. Not eating breakfast, because there is not one scrap of food to be found in our kitchen.

9. Not waking my mother, because she will hound me about numbers six and seven.

10. I guess I’m going out. Time for an adventure.

Chapter Ten

 

 

Although Mom’s belly is probably way past full after last night’s dinner out with friends, mine sounds like a kitten mewing under my shirt. I hike a half-mile to the grocery store as the purring increases to a full-fledged growl.

Inside Market Fresh, I count out the last of my spending money. I’d done some sporadic babysitting and dog walking for my apartment neighbors, but held off looking for a real job, worried that any commitment to part-time employment will result in the whole awesome achievement list grinding to a dead halt. Jana depends on me to follow through on our mutual promises.

With a sigh, I shove the crumpled bills back into my wallet. Maybe we can rip through the rest of our achievements in time for me to build my bank account before the money drain of senior week and college. If I ever find a college willing to accept my late application.

Of course, I’m wearing ratty sweats and dirty fake Uggs reserved for sloshing through snow and rain soaked streets. I didn’t even bother to fix my ponytail before leaving the apartment, a surefire way to guarantee running into at least one person you don’t want to see. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I turn into the produce aisle and nearly smack right into Andy and his family.

The Super Ks, as I like to think of them, all spit and polished to perfection. Andy, the oldest child, is shadowed by his middle-school-aged twin brothers, impossible to tell apart, and his younger sister, lagging a few steps behind the bigger boys, chattering nonstop.

Watching the Super K men all shifting their long limbs back and forth awkwardly, obviously out of place in the busy supermarket, I can’t prevent a smile from breaking out on my unwashed, oil slick of a face. How Andy gets away with being such a mess is a mystery, because his younger brothers’ blond crew cuts remind me of newly shorn sheep. Even the baby sister’s shiny blond hair is arranged in tightly braided pigtails.

Hoping to escape notice, I dart behind a tower of crated oranges.

I’m an instant too late.

“Hey, Sadie,” Andy calls. I freeze mid-step and glance back to find him looking relieved. Apparently, I’m a welcome diversion to his family outing.

“Uh, hey, Andy.”

“Can this be little Sadie Matthews?” I feel Andy’s mom looking me up and down.

I paste a smile on my face and turn to greet her. “Hi, Mrs. Kosolowski.”

She pats the side of her blond hair, pulled into a tight bun and sprayed to the consistency of a stone monument. I pry my fingers from the handle of my shopping basket and shake her hand. It feels like the polite thing to do.

“Your mother showed me your graduation picture when I stopped in the office last week,” Mrs. Kosolowski says. “I told her you’ve grown into a beautiful young woman. Gorgeous.”

Heat creeps into my face. Gorgeous is not an adjective anyone uses to describe me. Jana is the gorgeous one. I’m her cute but boring sidekick. Too embarrassed to meet Andy’s gaze, I pick up a Granny Smith apple and toss it into my basket. He must also be mortified by the way his mother’s fawning over me. I hope she doesn’t know about our attempted arranged marriage, courtesy of the senior class.

“Sweetheart, have you eaten breakfast?” she continues.

“No, actually, I haven’t,” I admit, and then experience the awful realization that this was not the answer I should have provided.

“Then, please, stop by our house on your way home.”

“Mom makes waffles on Sundays if we don’t get thrown out of church,” one of the little short-haired Andy clones says, his voice dripping with fake excitement. The other twin rolls his eyes at the blatant bribery.

“Has that happened?” I ask, amazed.

“Only once. But Andy saw the dead mouse first. He told me to pick it up, so you wanna guess who got in trouble when Mrs. Dalton fainted?” twin one says.

“I said get rid of it. Instead, you dangled a dead rodent in the ninety-year-old woman’s face,” Andy says.

“Andrew never gets blamed for anything,” says twin two.

Twin one snorts. “Yeah, Mom won’t turn her head to look at him because she’s afraid Monsignor would catch her not paying attention.”

In the midst of their family squabble, my stomach sends a loud and clear message, deciding to accept the breakfast invitation without consulting my brain.

“Um …” I look to Andy for help. He grins, knowing full well how easily food entices me.

“Mom’s waffles are the best in town,” he says, with a touch of pride.

“Oh. Well. If you don’t mind an extra person.” I’ve never eaten an actual homemade waffle. My mother and I are Eggo connoisseurs.

“The more, the merrier,” Dr. Kosolowski says. Behind his bifocals, his blue eyes crinkle when he grins, exactly like Andy’s. I convince myself I’m suffering the effects of low blood sugar.

“I’m not really dressed,” I say, still hesitating.

“Don’t worry, Thadie. I’m ditching this dreth as thoon as I get home,” little Andyette chirps, her voice whistling through the gap in her mouth where two front teeth are missing. Everyone laughs.

“Okay, then. Uh, sure. I’ll come. Who can resist waffles?”

“I’ll help Sadie check out and walk her to our house.” Andy steps away from his family. “In case she doesn’t remember where we live.”

“Of course I remember,” I say. As if I could ever forget. His house is only a few blocks from downtown Harmony, across the invisible line separating those of us with tiny living spaces from those with huge Victorian-style estates situated on acres of wooded property. Kosolowski Manor is practically a landmark. Actually, I think it was recently designated a historical structure. I bet George Washington slept in Andy’s bedroom or something like that.

“So, do you always go food shopping together?” I ask, as he lopes along beside me on the way to the dairy aisle. My question must startle him out of some ultra-intelligent daydream because he takes a minute to answer.

“Oh, um, not really. Mom wanted to stop at the market since it’s on our way home from church.”

“Wow. I can see who wears the pants in your family.”

Andy grins. “She’s the boss.”

Apparently fearing I may bail on breakfast, he stands guard while I buy time carefully selecting a gallon of milk. I reach all the way in the back of the dairy case for the one with the furthest expiration date, allowing cool air to brush over my warm cheeks.

By this point, I’m having difficulty remembering why I even left my apartment.

I heft a gallon from the back row, trying not to bend forward too much when I feel my sweatshirt riding up my back. As soon as I drop the milk into my plastic basket, Andy reaches out to take it from me.

“I’ve got it,” I protest, swaying back and forth while we play tug-of-war.

“It’s no problem.” He stands firm until I release my grip on the handle. Maneuvering the basket higher on his arm, he heads toward the checkout counter. Halfway down the aisle, he reaches his free hand around to tuck in his shirt, revealing his ribbed corduroys stretched tightly over his posterior. My eyes immediately fuse on his retreating form. It strikes me how conditioned I am to seeing Andy in grungy sweats at school. Is that why I never bother to really look at him this way?

After a couple deep, steadying breaths, I emerge from a disoriented haze and remind myself Andy is still Andy, no matter if he’s dressed in sweats or nice pants. Before I’m led further astray by his argyle socks, I chase him to the checkout, cutting him off so he doesn’t pay for my groceries.

Chapter Eleven

 

 

Traffic sails by as Andy and I stroll through town. I take two steps for every one of his long strides, but at least he keeps the pace slow. As we walk, I tell him about the
Little Shop of Horrors
audition, and how I ended up taking on the role of a carnivorous plant.

Keep the conversation light and friendly
, I remind myself over and over. Just so I can surreptitiously observe Andy’s eye-crinkling and make sure that it’s not as cute as I imagined. Plus, Andy’s evil, axe-murderer/Muppet laugh should cure my current bout of irrationality. Seriously, the words cute and Andy cannot possibly belong in the same sentence.

But hunger-induced lightheadedness must cloud my senses. When Andy laughs at my description of Audrey II, his “heh-heh” sets off a flash of joy inside of me. Andy’s laughter has somehow morphed into a positive attribute. And combined with his blue eyes, sparkling like sea glass behind his heavy frames, he looks, I don’t know, on the verge of appealing?

BOOK: My Senior Year of Awesome
12.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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