“Come on; let’s go!”
We raced towards the school’s front doors six minutes before the morning’s homeroom rang.
As my best friend and I scampered to make homeroom so we were not late on the eighth day of our first year in high school, we zoomed right past, ignoring the stares and jeers all freshmen unjustly received at the mercilessness of the fifteen and sixteen-year-old juniors and seniors standing on the grass on either side of us. I encouraged myself by telling myself, I hope Mackintosh and I make it! Even as we pounded our sneakers on the bland, everyday white squared sidewalk outlining our school’s property, I had full confidence we would make it.
When Mackintosh and I burst through the heavy dark blue double doors of Silver Falls High School, we had to maneuver past hundreds of other teens swarming towards lockers, dashing to homeroom class if they were smart and even stealing off to the lunch cafeteria. We dodged sprawling notebooks, ducked under flailing backpacks and careened towards an open spot—a gap graciously calling to us. I lunged right for it, Mackintosh leaping in like a gazelle.
“Watch out!” I cried as I turned around and saw Mackintosh head right for the wall. Fortunately, her hands were right where they were supposed to be—in front of her to save her from smacking into the painted brick wall enclosing all fourteen to eighteen-year-olds until three o’clock today.
“Yeah!” Mackintosh leaped ahead as we continued to head towards the homeroom smack-dab right in front of us after we careened to the right.
A few more steps! I found myself sitting at my desk, Mackintosh telling me that we had two minutes until the bell rang.
“Thankfully.” I turned to her, watching the black-and-brown-highlighted teen instead slip her phone out of her jeans pocket. She faced me, raising her eyebrows and looking from me to her cellphone.
You got it, girl! I dug my phone out of my jeans pocket (we both wore jeans today, as we always wore the same thing on the first few weeks of the start of every school year) and then I faced the front. I looked down and texted Mackintosh our plans for our sleepover this weekend.
The bell rang just as Mackintosh sent me her message. I looked up at her and she mouthed, Continue at lunch?
Yeah, I nodded, and she jerked her head up and down.
I slipped my phone away and paid attention to the woman at the front, Ms. I. We then exited homeroom, Mackintosh and I beginning our day as nomads, moving from one class to another. I only stopped at the water fountain twice before lunch hour clocked into my usual, casual, everyday life.
Lunch finally approached. I walked into the cafeteria like a child sees the destination he’s been waiting for while riding in a seemingly unending car ride.
I went through the food line and then took my tray to one of the rectangular tables we students at Silver Falls High School are forced to sit in front of like they’re pretty furniture. I hated sitting on plastic chairs in front of plastic grey tables, but I decided to go with what our cafeteria provided by waiting for Mackintosh to settle down with her lunch and start eating with me.
As I split open a bag of Cheetos, Mackintosh turned to me with her pudding cup and filled me in on what she was going to do regarding auditioning for the Seussical and whether I would like to get involved as well.
I snorted. “That was back in third grade, Mac! I’m not going to walk around on stage, barely knowing my lines and just making things up!”
“It was fun.” She contradicted before putting a huge spoonful of chocolate pudding in her mouth. “Besides, you were great!”
I stuffed one of the Cheetos in my mouth to keep from correcting her and sat up straighter in my chair. As I was chomping on it, my eye suddenly caught someone sitting in the near distance, like a lone person on an island surrounded by other islands too busy to pay attention to that one rogue sandy area.
“Hold on, Mackintosh.” I pushed my chair back and decided to invite the loner over to my table.
“Hi.” I shot up a hand, and the blond girl noticed. “You can join us; we’re right over there.” I pointed behind me.
“Besides, I’m Alex. My friend, Mackintosh, and I would love to have you. Do you want to sit with us? I don’t want to leave you lonely.”
I also smiled to help lighten the mood. “If you want.”
She looked a little timidly again over at the table at which Mackintosh was sitting.
“Okay, I guess.” She got up and pushed her chair in, taking her backpack in one hand and the tray in the other. Walking over to a chair seated next to Mackintosh, the girl put her tray down and seated her backpack on a chair next to one she sat down in. I returned to my seat.
I was about to introduce Mackintosh to the new girl, but apparently, Mackintosh had already taken the reins. I leaned over while chomping on the rest of my Cheetos and saw that Mackintosh’s hair was in front of me and her mouth was moving a little faster than the words could be coming out. All the while, the girl nervously answered with, “Sure” and “I’ll see about that. Thanks!”
By the time the lunch bell had rung, I had a whole earful of Mackintosh’s schedule with this girl I heard herself say was Chasity. And it didn’t include me.
Maybe, I thought as I walked out with Mackintosh and Chasity beside me, I need to pipe up. I’m not a theatre girl, but the way Mackintosh is owning the conversation, I better say something before she goes off on something I want nothing to do with!
So I contributed to the conversation as much as I could, but Mackintosh was seemingly upset with me. No, she just didn’t talk to me the way she had just done back in the lunchroom. I even said good-bye to Mackintosh, but she just flicked a hand up and down before turning to go in the opposite direction.
That’s weird. Maybe it’s because she’s giving Chasity a whole view of the school’s future. I shrugged, not wanting to get too down into it lest I thought something that wasn’t true. I walked into my fourth period class knowing that I’d settle it all once we were on the bus together.
I found myself plopping backpack down on the floor between the chair in front of us and our—Mackintosh, Chasity and my—chair we were all scooting into. Once we were settled for the rides home, I turned to Mackintosh and asked whether Chasity knew how prepared she had to be in order to make it on stage final night.
“Yeah, she knows. She just needs to think about it.” Was all Mackintosh said.
Why is she so stubborn today? Just this morning we were striving to make it to homeroom. Now, it’s like she needs to let me know that I am bothersome or something.
Just to make sure, I pulled Mackintosh aside and motioned for her to turn around so we could talk privately.
She did, but reluctantly, sighing and a little frustrated, maybe?
“So, why are you excluding me?” I inquired in a low voice.
“Well, maybe if you were a little more open about going for what seems to make you a little bit boring, then I would not want to cut our relationship off.” She put a hair behind her ear and looked at me intensely. “Alex, I feel like you kind of have an ordinary life, and you don’t really want to do anything else. A I-go-to-school life. A I-want-to-write-for-the-plays life. Nothing really new shows up. I’m not a showbiz girl either, but I want more out of life than just showing up at your house and then you bringing brownies to mine every weekend.
“Ya know?” She gave a half-smile and twisted around in her seat, leaving me to process what she was saying.
I froze, completely blown away. It was a full half-hour before I started thinking about all the things Mackintosh and I did ever since I met her at the nursery back when we were toddlers. And then I compared those things to myself. Were they not fun enough? I kept thinking about how I was causing Mackintosh to change from best friend to bored student even as she got up and said goodbye to Chasity and then walked off the bus and towards her home a few blocks away. Then, when the bus dropped me off, I kept thinking, hoping that I was wrong.
Stepping numbly up the rickety stairs leading into my small house, I used the copper railing as a support so I could let myself walk straight while still digesting what Mackintosh had told me.
I entered the house, being greeted by my mother who was placing cups and plates on a checkered tablecloth as she walked around the oval table, moving chairs in and out of place.
“How are you?”
“Mom—” I cut right to the matter, pushing the door closed and standing there importantly. My mother stopped her table setting and stood there, concern showing itself plainly on her face.
“—I need to talk to you about Mackintosh and me…”
At the sight of my blinking back tears, my mom dashed around the counter to give me a hug. I quickly wrapped my plaid shirted arms around her wooly sweater waist and didn’t let go, letting my tears spill down onto her.
A few minutes later, I backed out and walked over to get my backpack. “Going to do homework.” I told my mom, who let me know dinner was going to be ready in an hour. Nodding my head so she could see it and smacking tears away in the process, I ran into my bedroom and threw my backpack on my bed. I heard footsteps just before I was going to swing the wooden structure closed, and looked back to see my cat waltz in uninvitingly, hurl himself onto my comforter and snuggled down as if he were attending a sleepover.
“Lemon Ice!” I shut the door. I unzipped my backpack, telling the Savannah that I would make it if I try.
“Make Mackintosh see that she could be friends with me and Chasity.” Much of a goal? No, but it was worth it. Little did I know that I was heading for a much longer path down a much rockier road than I had planned …
“And the results are in.” My school’s theatre director, Patty Ladd, announced, standing brightly in front of us as those having auditioned for the upcoming Seussical in early December were seated in three of the ninety other twelve-seat rows.
I watched her tell us who got the parts for lead characters and other amazing details as whoops and volleys of “Yeah!” filled the air. However, I struggled to keep listening as Mackintosh, who was one of the ones yelling “Yes!” to Ms. Ladd, and Chasity had their heads together, discussing in whispers what they were going to do the whole time up until the show’s first night.
Feeling now completely betrayed after I heard Mackintosh say, “At my house tomorrow, okay?” I silently walked out of the auditorium and went straight to the girl’s room. I leaned against the wall in front of the sinks and mirrors. I didn’t care that Mackintosh and Chasity got their parts; all I wanted was for me to reunite with Mackintosh again, including Chasity but remaining the best of friends. If Chasity didn’t like that, then she could go over to the thirteen other tables filled with five or seven other people eating lunch and befriend one of those groups.
I then returned to the auditorium, but everyone had left. A tall girl told me she was told to tell me that I needed to speak with Ms. Ladd. I nodded my response, walked past her and reached Ms. Ladd.
She seemed upset.
“Yes, Alex.” She stopped shuffling her notes and looked at me sternly. “I wanted to talk to you. I briefly saw you leave. I didn’t say anything and definitely didn’t make it obvious. But I want you to know that you could make it if you try.”
“Make what?” I blinked under the bright theatre lights shining mercilessly down on me and on Ms. Ladd’s straightened red head.
“Make the play. If you want, I can switch you with Chasity. She seems a little quieter than you, so I think it’d be better if you have her part. I just chose her because she auditioned. We’re having last-minute auditions tomorrow and Friday through next Monday.” She laughed a little, like she was wondering how Chasity could want to be on stage.
“Ms. Ladd, I don’t want to act. I want to write the lyrics and lines.” But as I said it, I tasted failure and defeat.
“Okay…” Ms. Ladd looked down at her papers. “I’ll get in touch with the lyricist and playwright tonight and let you know tomorrow afternoon. Sound good?”
I slipped out a quick “Sure!” before I spun around and walked quickly away. Maybe Mackintosh was right—I needed to buck up and stop focusing so much on the usual things I was doing. Maybe I could try out for a role in the play to prove to her I wasn’t just an ordinary student attending this high school.
I was who I was, regardless of the fact that she decided to betray me for a more “fun” person.
That night, I laid it all out on the table before my mother and my father—how I never saw Mackintosh’s betrayal coming, talking with Ms. Ladd regarding helping out with the lyrics and lines and how I was going to “make it if I tried.”
I stopped talking and looked up at my mom. “Yes?”
She gave a small smile and said, “Dear, we just want you to know that we don’t want you to think that you are getting involved in the Seussical because of the split Mackintosh forced between you and her. I want you to use your talent because you have that talent.”
Suddenly, a chair sounded as if it was scraping backward. Chewing, I looked up and saw my father standing up and moving around my mother’s chair so he could come sit next to me.
“Go away, Lemon.” Dad murmured, swishing Lemon Ice away with his hand and then placing it on my shoulder once he sat down again. But the Savannah apparently had other plans. He launched up onto the table, disrupting my milk so it swashed in its cup, and walked princely around the table.
My father thundered, snapping up from the table, his fists balled. He hated any disruption, especially from Lemon Ice, “that insolent cat!” My cat instantly scrambled off the table, messing up my mother’s tablecloth as well as almost causing her milk to spill. She shot a hand to still it and straightened the table cloth, me shooting up out of my chair and dashing off to save Lemon Ice from escaping onto my bed and curling up into an ever-tightening ball of fur and sassiness.
“Lemon Ice!” I finally found him under my bed, his dark eyes gleaming mischievously.
“Lemon Ice, come here.” I beckoned, but his eyes told me they were too busy glowering back at me with proud laughter and excitement for the next launch of hilarity once dinner approached tomorrow night. I sighed and gave up. Returning to dinner, I straightened everything my mom wasn’t fixing and sat back down, calmly telling my resituating parents that Mackintosh had found a new friend.
“Oh, and Lemon Ice is under my bed. He’s not coming out—he’s basking in the glory of making you mad.”
My dad nodded his head indifferently. “Good—he’ll stay there. Anyway, going back to Mackintosh, it seems that she may going through a phase. Do you think she could go through something and then come out the other side soon?”
I didn’t know. I just wanted to move on to what I did know—writing for the Seussical and watching everyone repeat my lines and sing my lyrics.
“She could.” I responded to my dad. “I just feel as if maybe I’m a little bit too boring for her. Maybe she doesn’t have an interest in the things I do anymore.”
“Well, it’s not like you’re still into Barbie dolls or robots anymore. That was first grade. You’re into the play, too, save for the acting and writing differences. Still,” my dad shrugged argumentatively, “you can be friends.”
“You’re right, but I’ve seen Mackintosh’s new attitude…” I trailed off as I saw my dad wave his hand in opposition.
“Eat your food and we’ll continue this later tonight.” As he pushed his chair in, my dad started mumbling about high school drama. “…should’ve made her stay home with books and notes and binders … homeschooled is better than this nonsense …” He trailed off, and I shot a look to my mother. She was looking sympathetically up at him, telling him that Alex would be okay. She’d reunite with Mackintosh soon.
I finished dinner, envisioning myself waking up to her setting a big pile of pancakes on the table for Mackintosh and I to eat for breakfast before the school bus came …