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Authors: Rebecca Paine Lucas

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Sophomoric

BOOK: Sophomoric
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Table of Contents

Copyright

Sophomoric by Rebecca Paine Lucas

Dedication

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

Epilogue

Sophomoric

By Rebecca Paine Lucas

Copyright 2012 by Rebecca Paine Lucas

Cover Copyright 2012 by Dara England and Untreed Reads Publishing

The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.

http://www.untreedreads.com

Sophomoric
By Rebecca Paine Lucas

To Breadloaf ’09, Miami ’10 and Amanda: my support, my editors, and, I’m proud to say, my friends.

“They still dream of experimental realization of their social utopias…of setting up a ‘Little Icaria.’”

—Marx and Engels,
The Communist Manifesto

1.

Cookie decorating for World AIDS Day was where I drew the line. Somehow, though the freshmen at my high school were organized enough to already be inflating their résumés for college applications, they weren’t smart enough to grasp that making themselves look good wasn’t exactly of service to the community.

This particular culinary delight was only the last straw in a string of disasters that characterized the fall of my freshman year. My personal favorite was a misguided campaign to bring cookies to children at the “craniotomy” unit of a nearby hospital.

In hindsight, I wasn’t exactly surprised that I didn’t fit in with my freshman class.

Even at the time, I had to acknowledge: I had always been
that
kid. The emphasis suggested precocious and inquisitive, if you viewed it positively. It was also an interesting contemplative pause if you were the one who had to keep me from eating play-dough or convince me to leave the training wheels on until I had actually ridden the bike—especially true since the training wheels came off anyway. If you know where to look, there’s still a small solar system mapped in faded bloodstains on my grandma’s eggshell carpet.

By the beginning of high school, I had traded up from Happy Meals to Value Meals and abandoned my bike for a learner’s permit. Still, the events of that year conspired so that, when the opportunity came to apply to a boarding school for my sophomore year of high school, I sent in an application, convinced that I was grasping my life in both hands, taking control.

I should have realized: I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Second period of the first day of classes at Icarian College Prep and I was already late. Intro to Acting was on the other end of campus from my first period precalculus class and the late August heat kept everyone at a crawl. By the time I pushed open the heavy auditorium door, there were already nine students sprawled across the stage and each other. The carpet muffled my footsteps as I walked down a side aisle, past row upon row of seats. I remember thinking “fish out of water,” which still just makes me think of picture books for little kids and big dead eyes staring up passively at the ceiling.

The class was mostly freshman girls; I recognized the tan limbs, black eyeliner, rolled-back shoulders and puffed-out chests from the four days of New Student Orientation. A few of them were sprawled near a group of guys who looked too tall to be the prepubescent-looking freshmen I had seen so far. Apparently, the freshmen ignored the senior girls’ advice to abstain for at least the first week. There was also the question of what, exactly, an interested senior wanted from a wide-eyed freshman. Even I figured them out. We used to call the freshmen that made their way around the varsity hockey team “puck sluts.”

I put my bag down on one of the auditorium seats. Two more steps took me to the edge of the stage, which curved around to the stairs. I smoothed my hands along the sides of my white and navy uniform kilt. The new pleats were stiff, long and awkward after a summer of jean shorts and bathing suits. I missed break already.

“Come on up!” The teacher was a middle-aged man, slightly balding, with a paunch visible over too-short pants and a checked flannel shirt that made it clear he probably hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in decades. The fanatical glint of Tom Stoppard, one that spoke of jumping on couches à la Tom Cruise, was dim but visible behind his glasses. Maybe it was the lack of bright stage lights.

Carefully, thinking about the angle of my legs the whole way down and trying not to look like I was trying, I sat on the stage, folding my calves underneath me. A freshman behind me giggled, and I fought the urge to turn around, just to be sure it wasn’t me she was laughing at. It might have been my kilt. Even the polo I had pulled down past my hips couldn’t hide that it still had the standard knee-length hem and armpit-high waist. Most of the other girls had followed the older girls’ example; new and old alike had abbreviated their kilts, bought their shirts in the smallest size possible and accessorized with Tiffany’s hearts and brand-name ballet flats. The closest I came was a fraying embroidery floss of a Chinese Staircase under my right kneesock and a knockoff of the latest ballet flat fad.

“Ladies and gentlemen, quiet down.” The teacher was flapping his hands, imitating a drag queen in thrift store sequins or a bird flailing to take off. Somehow, people still stopped talking. “Welcome to your Introduction to Drama. This class will give you the necessary oratory and acting skills for your life after this class. More importantly, you have the opportunity to work with unique, original material.” The gleam was worse, accentuated by the deep crevasses running the length of his forehead and sprouting around the corners of his eyes as he smiled.

One of the freshmen giggled again.

“This summer, I completed my work on an adaptation of
Dracula
and I thought I would give you, my students, the first opportunity to bring it to life.”

Even I had to bite my lip in order not to laugh. I could taste the burn of residual mouthwash beneath the any-berry taste of ChapStick.

This was definitely going to be a unique class. Lucky, lucky us.

Our drama teacher wasted no time reminding me why, despite career plans including professional cake taster, dolphin trainer and fairy princess, “actor” had never made it onto my list. Even then, I knew that, had I ever tried my hand at the whole Broadway thing, I would have starved in an abandoned alley.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the one embarrassing myself on stage at the moment. Cast in this first attempt as a dismissive hand wave, my current staging was off to the side with a couple of kids who grumbled about the state of the theatre equipment and criticized the lighting of last year’s spring play. The freshmen were across from me, draped over stage left and, still, over the seniors.

Dracula, a short, skinny freshman, studied his script from his place at center stage with intense concentration, awaiting the opening confrontation with Jonathan Harker, the poor unsuspecting tourist. Unfortunately for Dracula, our drama teacher had inexplicably cast a taller senior as Harker, who currently slouched downstage, smiling at his freshman fans in the wings. He shouldn’t have been handsome, with eyes that were too big and cheekbones that were too strong, but the freshmen had been hanging off of him anyway, hands on his bony shoulders, arms around his narrow hips.

“And scene!” Our teacher waved his arms dramatically from the audience: no longer flapping in vain, he was now making a fully fledged attempt at flight.

Dracula cleared his throat and chewed a fingernail before spreading his arms in an awkward, unwelcoming gesture of hospitality.

“Welcome to my house!” He struggled to make his voice lower, more impressive. “Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!”

The corner of his costar’s mouth curved up in amusement as Dracula’s voice cracked on “a—piness.” Like his eyes, his lips were too full for his face, more than the thin lines that would have been proportional. I definitely wasn’t the only one looking as a wave of giggles echoed from stage left, a beat behind the appearance of a dimple on his right cheek.

Dracula stiffly extended a hand, which his costar took in a quick clasp. The wannabe vamp was still shaking his arm up and down as the senior let go, completely ignoring the stage directions to rub his hand, “seemingly unconsciously, to indicate the unnatural strength and temperature of Dracula’s hand.” Then again, the freshman probably had a weak, sweaty palm, which was probably making Harker smirk even more, two dimples now parenthetical to his unspoken amusement.

“Count Dracula?” The senior sounded bored, a hand in the pocket of his uniform khaki pants, his weight on his upstage foot. His voice was still deeper than Dracula’s.

The freshman just made the scene worse when he tried to bow with a flourish.

“I am Dracula and I bid you welcome, Mr. Harker, to my house. Come in; the night air is chill and you must need to eat and rest.” Without looking at his costar, the freshman turned and walked in an awkward stride, nose in the air, to the front right corner of the stage. I was a little worried he’d fall off since I don’t know how he saw past his oversized olfactory organ. Harker still stood there, a hand in his pocket, the lines curving from nose to chin still bowing out at the expense of his unfortunate costar.

The sound of a single round of applause came from the audience: the drama teacher. “Excellent, excellent.” He checked his class list. “Benjamin, excellent characterization. You certainly inspired the uncertainty, the awkwardness, of Harker’s predicament. Bravo.”

I watched him shuffle through his extensive notes on the scene and adjust his wire-framed glasses further down the bridge of his nose, ignoring the giggles continuing to echo from stage left. He turned to Harker. “Devin, try to carry yourself with more, ehm, poise. And it’s ‘Count Dra-cu-la.’” He over-enunciated, exaggerating the movement of his lips and probably spraying the edge of the stage. I didn’t look at Devin to see if he kept a straight face. “Move your lips more.”

“I’m sure he moves his lips just fine,” one of the freshman girls whispered.

The teacher ignored the comment and yet another round of giggles rippling through the wings. A few of the lines around the corners of his mouth deepened before he waved the two boys off the stage. Devin’s amusement stretched, extended the corners of the apparently omnipresent (and quite possibly omnipotent) smirk, before he turned his back on me to approach his freshmen, running a hand through his hair.

It really was too bad that the arrogance just made him hotter. A shrink probably could have conducted extensive analysis about exactly which dreadful things that said about my personality.

The only person approaching me was Benjamin, still taking awkwardly arrogant strides on short, prepubescent legs. Behind Benjamin, Devin was joking with two other guys in the wings while the freshmen looked on.

I still don’t know what they call the freshmen who just try to get around their Intro to Acting class.

2.

It wasn’t until I reached the dining hall after drama and looked out over the long red tables and scattered, multihued heads, that I realized I was trapped in the classic, cliché first-day scenario: no one to sit with. With less than a second’s hesitation, I lifted my head and wove through the crowd toward the plastic containers of bagels and industrial-size toasters. Lunch to go.

While the creaking wire belt conveyed my cinnamon raisin bagel, I kept looking around. Maybe I was looking for someone I knew, but even if I was, there was no one to see. Instead, I looked up at the mural on the back wall, above lines of hungry students. Of course, Icarian Collegiate would choose to decorate their dining hall with a larger-than-life unofficial mascot: Icarus. I always felt like watching the wax drip from his wings should have killed my appetite.

But we got used to it. Icarus (or, as the dark-haired girl behind me at matriculation had commented, “that dumbass adrenaline junkie kid”) found himself shamelessly abused in every matriculation, commencement and pre-break address, embodying the reminder that we shouldn’t think ourselves above the risks of inappropriate Internet pictorial finds.

BOOK: Sophomoric
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