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Coming of Age LGBTQ+

The school library is totally empty. Makes sense. Nobody's ever in here on a Saturday, not even the librarian. The janitor is here, though. He nodded at me on my way in, not even questioning why I was there in the first place. So drunk he probably thought it was just another school day. 

I'm here because the principal, Mrs. Garcia, lent me the library for the afternoon. She's made an exception for me, since we don't have a computer at home. My family's not the richest, okay? We can't afford stuff we don't really need. At least that's what my dad always says. What do we need? Water. Electricity. Groceries. Definitely not a computer for me to study on.

I dump my stuff onto a table in the back of the room. Six-foot houseplants form a mini-forest around me. The library is always full of plants. The librarian says they brighten up the room. Digging through my bag, I decide I'm fully equipped for a daylong study session. 

Textbooks? Check.

Notes? Check. 

Earbuds? Check.

Energy drinks? Peanut butter-filled pretzels? Check check.

Oh, yeah. I'm ready. I sit down, separating my snacks from my notebooks, organizing everything into neat little piles. It's kind of nice, being in here all by myself. No loud noises, no distractions. That is until someone else comes strutting into the room. "Maeve? What are you doing here?" says Andrea FitzPatrick, tossing her shiny, platinum-blonde hair.

"Um, studying? In peace? Or trying to." I mutter that last part under my breath. 

"Oh, really? So am I! Garcia said I could come down to the library today. To use the computers. She said…no one else would be in here but me." She raises an eyebrow, placing a hand on her popped hip. 

"Huh. Weird. She said the same thing to me," I say, equally confrontational. 

"You're right. That is weird," Andrea presses her hands into the table, leaning over.

"Listen, Maeve,” She whispers. “Maybe you should just leave. You know that if anyone's getting that grant, it's going to be me. Why even bother trying? Just go home, honey." 

I scoot my chair away from her, tensing up. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Fine, then. You can stay," She says cooly, sashaying to the opposite side of the room. "Just as long as you're quiet."

“Hey, uh, news flash, FitzPatrick! The library doesn’t belong to you.”

She doesn’t even hear my witty comeback. Her earbuds are already jammed in. I pull out a textbook, flipping through the pages so fast I tear a few. Okay, deep breaths, Maeve. Forget about her. Focus. I put my earbuds in, too, trying to tune her out with the vocal stylings of Kate Bush. After a minute or two of head-bopping, I’ve calmed down a little. 

Maybe you’re wondering why Andrea hates me so much. It wasn’t always like this. She used to be the sweetest person I knew. We used to be…friends, almost. Then, high school happened. We started competing for the same grant. Ever since, she’s been a complete and total bitch.

Despite this, though, I’ve always had something of a girl crush on Andrea. She’s the girl I wished I was in middle school. Tall, skinny, white. I envied her with a burning passion. Over the years, though, that envy turned to hate. 

There’s one thing Andrea and I have in common, though. Our families are poor beyond belief. That’s why we both need to use the school computers. That’s why we both need the same grant. At the end of the year, one of us is going to get enough money, provided by the school, to get into a decent college. And if I keep letting her distract me, it’s going to be her. 

“Hey, Maeve?” I begrudgingly take out an earbud, giving Andrea the death glare. “Turn your music down a little,” She says, smiling bitterly, “I can hear it all the way over here through your cheap-ass headphones. Makes it hard for me to think.” 

“Ugh, fine.” I roll my eyes, turning the volume on my MP3 player down a little. 

“Better now, princess?”

Her face burns bright red. She scoffs and goes back to studying. “Whatever, Maeve,” I hear her mumble. 

Huh. Weird that I made her so flustered. 

***

Three hours later, I’m done studying. Along with having good grades, an email explaining to the school board why your family is so poor, why you really, really, really need a grant is also necessary. I exaggerate my family’s story a little. My parents came to America over twenty years ago, not even knowing how to speak English. That’s a lie. My mother was just about fluent. She’d spent all of her life in China watching American TV, memorizing words and phrases. Preparing. They were jobless for months. Nope. My father got a job within a month or so of living here. Not a very high-paying job, mind you, but still. They were treated unfairly, not taken seriously, discriminated against, all because they were poor, all because they were different. This part is…actually true. Things were getting better for them by the time I was born, but my parents tell me constantly how difficult it was for them in the beginning, adjusting to this strange new country. I was born an American. I’ve been American all my life. I went to American schools, I ate American food, I made American friends. I grew up this way. But they didn’t. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like for them. 

Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Maeve Zhang.

Send.

“No. No, no, no!” I hear from across the room. Andrea is violently shaking her computer. The screen is dark. It must’ve crashed. “No!” Andrea cries, slamming her fist into her computer a couple times. “No, not right now. Oh please, not right now!” I cautiously tiptoe over to her. 

“You know…punching it isn’t gonna do anything.”

“Do you have a better idea?!” She whips her head around, throwing her arms out.

“Yes, I know how to fix it.”

“I don’t need your help, Maeve!” Andrea says, slamming her head against the table, covering herself with her shaky arms. “I need to do this on my own.”

“Well, I’m helping you anyway,” I say, pulling up a chair to examine her computer. “Mostly so you’ll stop crying. Makes it hard for me to think,” I say with a smirk. I wonder if she can even tell I’m mocking her.

She sobs hysterically while I restart her computer. It’s an easy fix, really. I don’t know what got her so worked up. 

Eventually, she uncovers her head, peeking up at the computer screen to see if I’ve made any progress. 

“I was…I was writing an email. You know, the email. And-and it was, like, twenty paragraphs long. And I just lost…a-all of it.” She says, gasping in between words, biting her thumbnail nervously. 

“That happens. Let’s check your drafts, see if it’s still there.” 

It’s not. 

“Yeah, uh, I don’t think it saved. Sorry.” 

“Fuck.” She cups her hands to her mouth, her eyes welling up with tears. “Shit.” 

“Hey, it’s okay. Just…rewrite it. You remember most of the stuff you wrote down, right?”

“Y-Yeah,” She sniffles, “Kind of.” 

“Okay. Start there.” 

I sit there for a minute as she wipes her puffy eyes, twenty pounds of mascara running down her face. 

“Are you, um, okay?”

“I’m f-fine.”

“You sure?’

“Yes.”

“Okay. Guess I’ll just go back over there, then.” 

“Wait, Maeve,” She says, placing her hand on my arm. I can feel the warmth of her palm through my shirt sleeve, her fingers gently but somewhat desperately clasping my shoulder. It feels…kind of nice. Weird, I know.

“My mom…she’d kill me if I didn’t get into a good college. After everything our family’s been through.” She bites her lip, thinking of what to say next. “We...weren’t always completely broke, you know. My dad got involved in this scandal. A lot of our money got stolen from us. And, um, things haven’t been the same since. I feel like, I don’t know, the future of my family is in my hands.” 

“That must freak you out sometimes, huh?” I say.

“It does. It really does.” Andrea takes her hand off my arm, running it through her shiny hair. She smiles at me. It’s soft. Genuine. Then it fades. She backs away.

“I don’t know why I’m even telling you this. Just go study or whatever.”

“You got it,” I sigh. I guess it couldn’t hurt to take a few more notes before I wrap things up for the day.

“Hey, Maeve?” Andrea says as I’m heading back to my seat.

“Hm?”

“Thanks for helping me out, I guess. I don’t know why you’re being so nice to me all the sudden, but…it means a lot.” She says, looking up at me. She’s not smiling, but her eyes are. 

“Uh, y-yeah. No problem.” Now it’s my turn to get flustered. 

As I sit back down, I realize something: As much as I need that grant, if Andrea FitzPatrick ends up getting it instead of me, I’d be really, really happy for her. 


November 10, 2023 00:38

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3 comments

Jasey Lovegood
01:11 Nov 10, 2023

Hey, Mars! I noticed you're pretty new to Reedsy, so welcome! I really liked this piece, (honestly, any "academic rivals" just ooze romantic tension) and the growth of Maeve's mindset from beginning to end was super wholesome. Keep up the great work Jasey xoxo

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03:26 Nov 10, 2023

thanks jacey!! your words mean a lot :) so glad u liked the story, i would love to check out some of yours sometime!

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Jasey Lovegood
03:24 Nov 11, 2023

My pleasure :) Sure, I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on my work Jasey <3

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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