The Lies and Excuses of an Outsider

Submitted into Contest #40 in response to: Write a story about one event from the different perspectives of multiple friends.... view prompt

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General

-Alabama-

           The last note of my song fades away into the sanctuary of my grandparents’ church. I stand up from the piano and bow for my sparse and distracted audience. It’s a gathering of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents from my dad’s side of the family. My grandparents sit right up front. They’re the only ones really paying attention. The little kids are wiggling in their seats, poking at each other and giggling. My other cousins, from ages eleven to seventeen, are definitely not paying attention. My aunts and uncles do their best to pretend to be engaged in the performance, but this was never really a musical family.

           My grandparents clap enthusiastically and the rest of my family (save for the little kids) look up and clap along with them. They all seem to be relieved that this is over. As I look out on their bored faces, I just wish that the one person who actually enjoys listening to me – and not just out of love for me, like my grandparents – could be here. I invited my friend Alessia to our Christmas gathering, because her family never hosts one and we all like her, but she didn’t show up.

           “Way to go, ‘Bama!” My cousin Katie stands up in the fifth row. She’s seventeen and only a few months older than I am. I know she wasn’t really listening, but I give her a mock salute anyway.

           Everyone starts standing up to return to the dining hall for snacks and games. My younger cousins barrel past me like a tornado, running for the doors to have another bike race outside. I hear one of them, in the other room, yell, “When are we going to open presents?”

My grandparents approach me as I walk down the steps. “You did wonderful, Alabama,” my grandma says. “You’re going to be a big showstopper when you’re older.”

           I grin. “Thank you, Grandma,” I say.

           “Ya did great, kid.” My grandpa pats me on the back. I follow them out of the sanctuary.

           I get various compliments from my aunts and uncles as I walk back into the dining hall. The boys and a couple of the girls have restarted the Super Smash Brothers game in the corner. They shout and laugh. Alessia and I would be gathering up my cousins for a big game of Clue or something. Since she isn’t here, I pick up a deck of cards and play a game of Speed with Katie.

           I can’t understand why Alessia would bail on me. She’s always loved coming to gatherings with my family. I mean, we included her in the gift exchange this year! She’s basically family. I keep glancing at the door to see if maybe, just maybe, she’s late. Deep down, though, I know she’s not late. I told her exactly what time people would start arriving. If she wanted to come, she would have come early. That’s just how Alessia is.

           “Hey, why isn’t Alessia here?” Katie asks as she deals for a third game of Speed. She’s beaten me twice already and I’m sure she will this time, too. “I wanted to play Twister against her.”

           “I don’t know,” I say. “I think she had a family thing.”

           I think Katie can sense that I don’t really want to talk about it. “Okay, cool. Ready to get creamed again?”

           “Hey, why not?” I joke.

           We play card games until the little kids come inside, all shivering from the cold. “Is it presents time?” Harley asks. He’s five.

           “Yes!” his mom, also known as my aunt, says.

           All of the cousins shout and gather around the tree. The fourteen-year-old twins distribute presents from the pile against the wall. Everyone gets two presents: one from Grandma and Grandpa, and one from another cousin’s family. Alessia was included in all of this. Grandma and Grandpa even got her a gift. She just didn’t show up. Now Jesse, one of the twins, is stuck with just one gift – the one from Grandma and Grandpa. He looks disappointed, and I can see why.

           “We’re going to start opening, youngest to oldest,” Grandpa says. I see my mom eyeing Jesse and then looking to me. She’s probably mad at me. I’m the one who suggested we include Alessia in the gift exchange, and now she’s let Jesse down.

           When everyone has opened their Grandma-and-Grandpa gifts, we start back at the youngest kids. Three of them have viciously torn open their exchange presents when I hear, from the entryway:

           “I am so sorry I’m late, I had to do something for my family and then my phone was dead so I couldn’t text Alabama, and I need a charger, by the way, and I have Jesse’s gift, and I hope I’m not too late!” Alessia appears around the corner, holding a huge present. Her long spring-coil curls are loose around her face, which I’ve never been happier to see. She hands a smiling Jesse his gift and plops down next to me. “I’m so sorry,” she whispers.

           “Later,” I whisper back. Jesse hands her the last Grandma-and-Grandpa gift, the one for her. She tears it open and finds a new novel.

           We finish the gift-opening and Alessia pulls me into the small room off to the side. It’s full of games and we pick one out like we always do. “I’m so sorry I’m late. Did I miss your piano performance?”

           “Yeah. It’s okay. At least Jesse got his gift.” I move a Monopoly game out of the way to look under it. “What did you have to do?”

           “My dad made me clean basically the whole house before I could go anywhere else,” Alessia says. “Sorry.”

           “It’s fine.” I hold up Twister. “This work?”

           “Yeah.” We walk out of the room and I hold up the game.

           “Who’s going to play?”


-Alessia-

           So: it’s weird being part of two families. I barely know my biological family, and they never get together and do giant gift exchanges like Alabama’s family does. Alabama heard about this, and now I’m basically an honorary member of her enormous family.

           I love the Carters, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that… when I go to anything of theirs, I kind of feels like I’m intruding. I’m the awkward friend who randomly shows up and eats their food and beats them all at Twister. Then, this year, Alabama got them to put me into the gift exchange. I have to buy Jesse a gift, and then Alabama’s branch of the family is getting me something. I was excited at first, because I always felt kind of outside when they did their giant gift openings. I was guilty that I never got anything for anyone.

           But, in true Alessia style, I overthought things and actually decided not to go. If I felt like an outsider for so long, no matter how hard they tried to include me – so why would I even go?

           Then I remembered. I was supposed to get Jesse a gift. People were getting me gifts. I’ve seen how much Jesse loves the family gift openings. I couldn’t leave him without a present! So, I picked him something up. I figured I could just pick up the gifts to me afterwards from Alabama. I made up a story about how I had to clean up the house and how my phone died. I didn’t know what else to do.

           It’s too bad I get guilty. When it was about two o’ clock, I thought about Jesse’s gift. I couldn’t bear to give it to him late. I decided to drive up to Alabama’s grandparents’ church. I know they won’t open gifts until at least four o’clock, but I go ahead anyway.

           I pull into the church and walk in the entryway. I’m sticking with my story. “Hey, sorry I’m late…”

           There’s no one in here. I faintly hear people talking in the sanctuary. They must be getting ready for Alabama to play them a song on the piano. I’m about to go in when she launches into the song. It’s her composition that she’s been working for months on. She always says it’s for me. My song.

           I can’t believe myself. She’s performing for her family and I’m not there. I can’t just go in in the middle of her song. I don’t want to sit down and wait for them to come out, and let them realize that I came and didn’t watch the performance. I can’t just drop the present and leave, either. I don’t want to leave.

           I decide to wait out here and listen to the song. When it ends, I’ll leave and come right back.

           The song ends a couple of minutes later. Alabama played it flawlessly.

           I hurry out the door and drive away. I glance at the gift for Jesse.

           I drive back to the church. For some reason, I park around the back, where no one goes. I leave Jesse’s gift. I walk around and peer into the window of the sanctuary I see Alabama’s grandparents congratulating her. I hear her younger cousins run outside.

           Why can’t I have something like this with my family?

           Alabama leaves the sanctuary and I go in the sanctuary doors. I stand at the closed piano. I imagine Alabama’s fingers flowing over the keys, pressing them just right in a composition for me.

           “Why am I so useless?” I whisper to no one. Alabama made an entire song for me. Alabama made me part of her family’s favorite tradition. Alabama made me part of her family.

           And I can’t even show up.

           I walk out and sneak around the side of the church that the kids aren’t on. I go back to my car and sit.

           I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot. I may have just ruined what Alabama made me. I have to go in now. I have to pull out and go in.

           There’s not a way to do that where the kids won’t see, so I wait until they run inside. When they do, I leave the church and run by the store. I grab an extra bag of candy for Jesse, to make up for bringing his gift late, and stick it in the gift bag. I drive back to the church and park outside. I grab the gift. I decide to still stick to my script.       

“I am so sorry I’m late, I had to do something for my family and then my phone was dead so I couldn’t text Alabama, and I need a charger, by the way, and I have Jesse’s gift, and I hope I’m not too late!” I exclaim as I shut the door. I round the corner and see everyone crowding around the presents. It looks like they’ve already opened one round. I see two gifts against the wall – and, when I come closer, I see they’re labeled as mine. My heart breaks a little bit. Jesse’s face lights up, though, when he sees the gift in my hands. I give it to him and sit by Alabama. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper.

“Later,” she replies.

Jesse gives me my gift from Grandma and Grandpa – yes, I call them that – and I open it. It’s a novel I’ve wanted for a long time now.

After we open gifts, I take Alabama into the small games room. We dig through the games to find one to play. “I’m so sorry I’m late.” I say. “Did I miss your piano performance?” Why’d I ask that? Of course I missed her piano performance. Why can’t I tell Alabama the truth?

           “Yeah. It’s okay. At least Jesse got his gift,” Alabama says. I don’t think it’s okay, but I can’t make myself come clean. “What did you have to do?”

           “My dad made me clean basically the whole house before I could go anywhere else,” I say. Why am I still lying? “Sorry.”

           “It’s fine.” Alabama holds up Twister. “This work?”

           “Yeah,” I say. We leave the game room.

“Who’s going to play?” I ask. We are crowded by Alabama’s cousins.

The whole time we play, I wish I could make myself tell Alabama the truth. It’s like I’ve been held hostage and can’t say what I want. Inside, I’m exploding. Outside, I’m playing Twister.

Why? Why do I have to make up so many lies and excuses?

I don't know. I don't know if I'll ever stop.

May 02, 2020 18:45

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25 comments

Zea Bowman
11:59 May 05, 2020

I loved it! You did a great job writing the story so that we could understand how the characters were feeling. The only thing I recommend is connecting more of your sentences; sometimes they sound a little robotic as I am reading it. Overall, amazing story; you have a knack for writing!

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Claire Taylor
20:41 May 05, 2020

aw thanks! thanks for the feedback!

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Vrishni Maharaj
00:20 May 27, 2020

Very interesting story!

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Claire Taylor
02:55 May 27, 2020

Why thank you!

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14:49 May 12, 2020

This is great story. Note: There are just a few typos in here, so keep an eye out for those in the future.

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Claire Taylor
18:25 May 12, 2020

Got it! Thanks!

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L. M.
23:59 May 11, 2020

This is an interesting story with good insights and internal dialogue. Good job.

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Claire Taylor
12:09 May 13, 2020

ooh thank you!

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L. M.
19:06 May 13, 2020

You're welcome!

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23:51 May 11, 2020

Hey, Claire! This is Brooke, giving you feedback like you asked. (Which surprised me since I'm a couple of years younger than you.) This story was amazing! I loved Alessia and Alabama's friendship, and I almost cried when I found out how Alessia felt. (I'm a really over-dramatic person.) Other than a few grammatical errors, I don't think there was anything wrong with your story. Keep on writing!

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Claire Taylor
12:10 May 13, 2020

Oh thanks! I like to take feedback from anyone, no matter their age, haha. I'm glad you liked their friendship! You keep writing too!

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Maggie Deese
04:56 May 11, 2020

This was a fantastic story, Claire! You captured the character's emotions perfectly and I could really the dynamic between Alabama and Alessia. I agree with the other comments, theres always room for improvement. I think if you keep practicing, your writing will get better and better. You sure do have a talent, so keep writing!

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Claire Taylor
18:07 May 11, 2020

Aw thank you! I mostly joined Reedsy to improve my writing (I'm just about to start high school, so I'm pretty young) and thanks again!

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Tvisha Yerra
19:04 May 07, 2020

This is pretty good! Of course there's always room for improvement. There are no descriptions, I don't know what anybody looks like. I don't know where this is, or what year this is. I hope I'm not being rude, but the story overall is really vague. How long have Alessia and Alabama been friends? Is Alessia getting bored of Alabama, or does she just not know her enough? Again, I'm sorry if any of this sounds rude.

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Claire Taylor
18:09 May 11, 2020

Thanks for the feedback! I feel like they've been friends at least for a while, and yeah, I think they were starting to grow apart when this story was written. When I make up characters, they kind of pick their personalities themselves sometimes and I don't always decide everything - it's kind of like the characters have their stories and I'm finding them out instead of making them up. You didn't sound rude! Thanks again!

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E. Jude
07:56 Jun 14, 2020

Cool story!! I liked the vibe you gave off!! I would love it if you could check out my stories too!!! XElsa

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Sadia Faisal
08:01 May 25, 2020

nice story, please like my story if you like it and follow me

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Ndekwoh Ojen
08:23 May 12, 2020

Nice story. Keep writing and keep improving. We all do.

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Claire Taylor
18:25 May 12, 2020

*tips hat at you* yessir

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Karthik Bonthala
14:47 May 04, 2020

The storyline is sooo good and I absolutely loved the story.❤️ There is room for improvement but I think you have a good chance of winning this round... Hoped to be competing against you this time but am busy with my exams for my college now! Hope to challenge you anytime soon! Also, I don't want to feel like a critic but you should prefer grammerly for using in your stories... Hope to read more

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Claire Taylor
18:14 May 04, 2020

Aw thanks! I don’t have Grammarly, but I’ve heard it’s really nice

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Karthik Bonthala
18:41 May 04, 2020

Y do you need Grammerly app... The website in pc is available... Also free version helps you way much and can provide good quality of book

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Claire Taylor
20:42 May 05, 2020

oh! I didn’t know that using the website was free! I’ll definitely look into that then... thanks

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Karthik Bonthala
14:43 May 04, 2020

Hey... Thanks for liking mine earlier... This is how I think I can repay you...

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Claire Taylor
18:15 May 04, 2020

👍🏻👍🏻

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