Submitted by Heidi Hanson to Contest #14 in response to: It's a literary fiction story about growing up.... view prompt

I refuse to leave the car. 

I sit in the passenger seat and watch as people rush by, trying to get to first period before the late bell rings. 

I’m currently trying to wait out my father, who is sitting in the driver's seat, parked in front of the school, trying to convince me to leave the car. To go inside. First day of high school. First day of school ever, really. At least, that’s what it feels like. 

I’ve been home schooled all my life, but out of nowhere, my parents decided that I needed to go to a real high school. A public school. At least for freshman year they said, and then I can choose if I want to be home schooled for the rest of high school. 

But I know that if I give in to this now, they won’t let me stay home next year. 

I try everything. 

“I left my backpack at home.”

“No I saw you put it in the trunk.”

“I’m on my period and don’t have pads.”

“Then go get some from the nurse.”

“I’m sick!”

“Nice try kid.”

He sits patiently, parking brake on, arms folded over his chest, and waits. He thinks that he can just wait me out. That I’ll get bored eventually and leave the car. But I’m stubborn, and I have no intention of giving up.

“Fine. Maybe I just don’t want to go.”

“That’s the whole point. You have to learn how to do things you don’t want to do.”

“Well then can’t we start somewhere else?”

“Not a chance.”

Dad reached over and pops the buckle on my seat. It slides slowly up my chest. I stop it halfway and click it back into place, holding it there so that dad can’t unbuckle me again. 

The tardy bell for first period rings, and the students still outside run to get to class. 

“See dad, I’m already late. I can’t start the first day like this!” 

“It’s better than missing it completely.” 

He unlocks my door, and I push the lock back down, and hold it there until I’m sure he won’t try again. 

“Come on kid, we can’t sit here forever. I promise you’ll thank me later.”

“Yeah right.”

“Well, If we sit here much longer I’m going to be late for work. Gotta get out now kid. Time for your first day of school!”

I’m getting frustrated. And the frustration is making my eyes burn with tears. If we don’t start driving away from this place any second now, I’m going to cry. I hate crying. Especially in front of my dad. With my mom, crying usually breaks her. When I cry around her, she softens and eventually melts. But with my dad… it hardens him. 

I press the heels of my hands against my eyes. Stupid tears. I try to force them back with sheer willpower. 

But I can feel them wetting my palms. 

I’m forced to give up. If dad sees me crying, he won’t be happy. Sure, he’d take me home, but he’d make sure that I wouldn't enjoy my time at home. 

TV remotes would disappear. My bedroom door would be locked from the inside out. My phone would go into his back pocket, and a list of chores would be waiting on the fridge. Even if I get my way, I won’t win. 

I unbuckle. 

Unlock the car. 

Walk around to the trunk and retrieve my backpack. 

I hear the window roll down behind me but don't turn. Not even to respond to dads “I love you!”

I rush to the bathroom and leaned against the wall, holding paper towels to my eyes and letting all the tears out. I redo my mascara and lip gloss, tears having cleaned them both off. I sit on the floor for a little while, taking deep breaths and working up the courage to go to first period algebra. 

The door opens, and I’m on my feet in a split second, pulling my backpack on and trying to look like I have a real reason to be in the bathroom. 

A girl enters, a blue bathroom pass swinging from the back pocket of her jeans. She waves, and immediately goes to a mirror, touching up flawless eyeliner and concealer.

“You new?” she asks while she applies lipstick and makes kissy faces in the mirror.

I nod. And make to leave, but the girl touches my arm and forces me to look at her. 

“I get it. It’s rough. I just moved here from Texas. Had a breakdown in the car this morning.” she laughs at her own pain and shakes her head. 

“I’d give just about anything to go back.” 

She goes back to her makeup, still talking though. 

“What’s your first period?”


“With who?”

“Um…” I pull my crumpled schedule from my back pocket. “Ms. Brown. Room 201.”

“Hey, no way! Me too. I’ll walk you to class.”

She puts her makeup into a stained pouch, and then into a small bag hanging from her shoulder. 

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

I walk behind her to class. She leads me in, and tells the teacher, “she got a little turned around.” Ms. Brown rolls her eyes, like she’s seen the same thing a thousand times today, although it’s barely into first period at all. 

The girl sits me at a desk right next to hers and leans across to me, whispering in my ear, “I’m Tabby, by the way. You?”

“Kathren. Kat. Kitty. Kathy. I’ve heard ‘em all.”

“Okay then. Ever had anyone call you Ren? Like the end of Kathren. Kathren?” she puts emphasis on the last three letters of my name.

“Nope, that one’s new.”

“Good. You’re Ren now.”

Ms. Brown shushes us and hands me an incredibly boring looking syllabus and my first day of school officially begins. 

Three years later:

I sit in my own car, outside my high school. Tabby is in the passenger seat, singing along to loudly to our music as I park in the same spot that my dad did exactly three years ago today. 

Tabby unbuckles and gets our bags from the back seat, tossing mine onto my lap while I stare at the school at remembering how three years ago I would have given practically anything to not leave the car.

“Come on Ren. Senior year! Let’s get this over with!”

I turn of the car. Open the door, and walk with Tabby to first period, which, for the first time since freshman year, we actually have together. 

I’m so glad I got out of the car the first day of school in the ninth grade. And I’m so glad that I chose to go back for tenth. 

And eleventh. 

And now I’m almost done, and I can honestly say that I’m going to miss this place.

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6 likes 4 comments

01:54 Nov 19, 2019

Hey, Heidi! I would have been interested in a little background for this story. Why was she home schooled all those years and then forced to go to high school? I also would have liked there to be more to the story, like some ups and downs of school, maybe some of her trials, instead of she walks in, makes a friend, three years later and everything's good. I think it feels like a section in a longer story, maybe about someone's life, instead of a story by itself. I would love to read a longer version!


15:37 Nov 19, 2019

Thanks for pointing that out! I felt that if I tried to put everything else in, it would've become to long. Maybe too drawn out or boring. But I can answer your questions here. She was home schooled because her parents believed that she should spend her early teenage years and childhood surrounded by family, rather then the influence of other people. They had her go to high school because they wanted her to learn how to be around other people and how to deal with the pressure of more strict deadlines, people, and how to stay strong in the in... read more


04:27 Nov 20, 2019

Thank you for the backstory! I was home schooled myself, and can imagine some of the struggles entering that other world might bring.


18:35 Nov 20, 2019

I'm glad that cleared things up! I was home schooled too, and my parents had me go to a public middle school because they didn't want me to become too introverted. (It didn't help)


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