The last thing that was on Serenity’s mind was eating dinner with her family. She would have done anything else. She would have thrown herself into a volcano to burn to death rather than have a sit-down dinner with her family. But the closest volcano was too far away and she was stuck.
Serenity’s family wasn’t the worst. By no means was it the worst. But to her, they were too proper and fancy. Unpleasantly pleasant. Every day, expect for weekends, they were forced into eating dinner together.
“Serendipity, could you set out the glasses?” Calliope, her mother, called as Serenity was coming down the stairs.
If there was one thing other than her lungs that Serenity hated about herself, it was her name. Serendipity Hero Wioax. She didn’t think that it suited her at all. She preferred being called just Serenity, but often her parents or grandparents said Serendipity rather than just Serenity.
“I can’t.” Serenity said. “I’m busy.”
Calliope sent her a look. “Busy with what?”
“Um, homework.” Serenity lied. As if she would ever put the effort into finishing her homework. “I have to grab a book for a report.”
Calliope sighed. “You should be getting that done before dinner.”
“Can I go?”
“Serenity, set the table and you can get your book after dinner.” Her father, Arrow, called from the living room.
Serenity rolled her eyes. She walked to the counter and picked up the plates. “How come Salvadore never has to set the table?”
“Salvadore gets his school work done.” Calliope said.
“Great for him.” Serenity mumbled. She dropped the plates onto the table, glancing over her should to make sure that Calliope wasn’t looking and went to hurry up the stairs.
She turned to the right of the hall to go to her room, almost colliding into Daphne. “My goodness child, where are you going in such a hurry?” She asked.
“Just to grab my inhaler.” Serenity said.
“Be back downstairs for dinner, Serendipity.” Daphne said. Serenity moved over to the side to let Daphne pass her and went towards her room.
Salvadore peeked into her room as she was shuffling through a collection of papers on her desk. “Doesn’t look like you’re grabbing your inhaler.” He commented. “Your room is a disastrous mess too.”
“Shut it, Salvadore.” Serenity snapped. “Why don’t you ever set the table?”
Salvadore shrugged. “I do the dishes.”
“We have a dish washer.”
“It’s no different from what you do.” Salvadore said. “You take the plates and utensils, put them one place. I wash them off and put them in another place. Yet I don’t complain.”
“I will if you tell me what’s bothering you.” He said. “Come on, Reni. I know that something is bothering you. You’re not that good of an actor.”
Serenity shot him a glare, pushing back a page. She stopped shuffling through everything when she noticed it. She’d kept plenty of the old pictures she'd drawn as a kid. She pushed away the old shaky picture of a dinosaur.
Salvadore moved from her door to see what she had been staring at. “Did you draw that?” He asked.
“No.” Serenity said. “Get out of my room.”
“I didn’t know that you liked to draw.”
“I didn’t draw that.” Serenity snapped, pushing it under a pile of papers. “Can you just get out of my room?”
Salvadore pressed his lips together. He knew that something was up. “I’ll set the table for you.”
“Don’t. I’ll do it.” Serenity said. “Just get out.”
“Would you tell me what’s wrong?”
“Get out.” Serenity repeated.
Salvadore sighed in defeat. Serenity was impossible to fight with. “Fine. But if you need to talk, I’m always free.”
Serenity scrunched up her nose. What did he want? She’d come to learn that people would be nice to her if they needed something. She shifted through a few of the papers, finding the homework that she’d had off to the side. At least she could get away if she was at the library.
She set it on her chair and went downstairs to finish setting the table. “So, Serenity. How was school?” Dominix, her grandfather, asked as he pulled out his chair to the regular seat.
Awful. Serenity thought. Every day was like the last. When she spent a lot of time in the hospital, days used to mush together. She’d forget what day of the week it was. All she knew was that she woke up and it was a new day.
“It was fine.” Serenity replied. “Like any other day.”
“What’d you learn?” Daphne asked, taking her seat next to Dominix. Talking to her family was the worst part of family dinners. The absolute worst part was that they always wanted to know about school and she was constantly flunking.
As for what she learned? That school was pointless. “A lot.” Serenity said. She doubted that it would pass, but it at least gave her some more time to think of an excuse.
“Ah, Salvadore.” Daphne beamed as he was coming down the stairs.
Serenity would have scowled or rolled her eyes if Salvadore hadn’t just gotten her out of another lecture. It was hard not to be envious of the way people lit up when they saw him, versus the way they were around. She hated that they were right too. Salvadore was perfect and she wasn’t.
“Hello, Grandmother.” Salvadore said, shooting Serenity a look. “What were you talking about?”
Of course he had to. “I’m going to help Mother.” Serenity turned away to help Calliope with dinner, even though she was positive that Calliope would be better off without her help. Serenity could burn water trying to make noodles.
“What did you learn in school today, Salvadore?” Daphne asked.
“A bit about calculus. Although it’s harder than I expected.” Salvadore said. “I’m curious what Serenity learned.”
This time Serenity scowled. “I learned about the start of the nation.” She lied. Anything in history was her escape route to what she learned about in school. It was easy to name wars. “I guess the Revolutionary War.”
“You guess?” Arrow asked, stepping into the kitchen to help Calliope. “Did you learn about the fighting?”
“Well, the Declaration of Independence... and stuff.” Serenity said. Why did they need specifics? It didn’t matter what she learned. In 20 years, she wasn’t going to have to know every battle in the Revolutionary War. She just needed to know why it started and how it ended and she’d known that for years.
“And stuff?” Salvadore asked.
Serenity shot him a glare. She diverted her eyes so she didn’t get caught. “You know, like the reasons that it started.”
“So why did it start?” Arrow asked.
Serenity shrugged. “Because we were tired of being taxed from across seas. We thought that Britain was making too many laws.”
“Dinner is finished.” Calliope said. “Go to sit down, Serenity.”
Serenity let out a breath of relief. She wasn’t interested in dinner, but at least she didn’t have to talk about what she didn’t learn in school. “Liar.” Salvadore said under his breath as she passed by him.
There had been a time where Salvadore and Serenity had been a team. Back when she used to get stuck in hospitals, he’d be happy to visit her. She used to tell him some of the stories Atlantis told her and he’d tell her his own. They’d been a unit.
Then Serenity got out of the hospital and everybody was against her. Salvadore turned sides too. Or rather, he left her side, but didn’t join the opposition. He was in the middle. He wasn’t her friend anymore, not really, but he wasn’t a tormentor either.
Salvadore tore his eyes away from her. Serenity knew he would have scowled at her remark if he hadn’t been in front of their parents and grandparents. Serenity knew her brother well. She knew that he was nearly just like her. He was just better at hiding it. That or he hadn’t given up trying to hide it.
Serenity wasn’t interested in the fish that Calliope and Arrow set on the table for everybody. She’d never been a fan of fish. Meat wasn’t even that great. When her parents had been so concerned about her mental health, they had noticed that she often didn’t eat when Calliope made any sort of meat.
She’d push her food around on the plate with a scowl and then throw it all away when she offered to take the plates to the sink. Since she wouldn’t eat her normal food, they resulted in making food she would eat.
It was a nice enough thought, so Serenity didn’t complain about the food that was served. The problem was that she had to eat salad pretty much every day. But it was better than eating nothing every day.
“Here you go Serendipity.” Calliope said, setting down her bowl and kissing the top of her head. “If you want fish, there’s plenty.”
“Why does Serenity always get salad?” Salvadore asked. “What if I want salad.”
“Then suck it up and ask.” Serenity said under her breath.
“Serenity, be nice.” Arrow scolded. “If you want some she is right though, you can just ask before dinner and we’ll make some.”
“Thank you, Father.”
Serenity rolled her eyes. Of course he was trying to be perfect. Being perfect. Not trying. He didn’t have to try. It was easy for some people and Salvadore was one of those people.
If family dinner could have gone any faster, it didn’t try to. Most of the time they were at least an hour. The TV wasn’t allowed and neither were cellphones or any other electronics. They were too much of a disturbance.
All they talked about was school and work. Serenity didn’t like talking about school. She never had anything to talk about, so she was forced to listen to everybody else taking about it. “Anything interesting today, Salvadore?” Dominix asked.
“I suppose so.” Salvadore said. “I think Serenity might have a new interest.”
“What?” Serenity asked. What interest did he think she could possibly have? “What do you mean a new interest?”
Salvadore gave her a smile. “The dinosaur picture in your room?” He asked. “I think that Reni has gotten into art.”
Daphne laughed. Serenity’s face started growing red. What was Salvadore doing? Didn’t he realize that their family thought art was pointless? “Art, really?” She asked. “I suppose we can work up from that.”
Serenity clenched her hands into fists under the table. “Why work up?” She asked. “I’m happy with art.”
This time, Dominix and Daphne both laughed. “Darling, you can’t be serious about art.” Daphne said, shaking her head. “Art is for museums. Galleries. You’d never make money off it.”
“I could sell it.” Serenity mumbled.
“You’d have to be spectacularly good to sell it.” Arrow said. “That could take years of practice, and learning. It’s not worth the trouble.”
Serenity wished she could have smashed the table. She wished she could have shouted at Salvadore for bringing it up. Had he done it just to embarrass her or to crush her dreams? “Yes, art is a nice hobby. It’s not a job.” Calliope added in.
As if the rest of her family hadn’t said enough. “Maybe I’ll give it a shot.” Serenity said.
“Oh, dear. You shouldn’t.” Dominix said. “It’s a waste of time to try. You should focus on profession.”
“Art is a profession.” Salvadore said. “You can take a major in it, I’m pretty sure.”
Would Salvadore just shut up and stop making it worse? Serenity knew that her parents wouldn’t support her if she wanted to go to college for art. She didn’t even want to go to college in Virginia. She would have to pay for it if she wasn’t going in Virginia and they’d never support her taking art.
“A major in art for four years is an even bigger waste of time.” Daphne said, laughing again. “Serendipity, if you’d like to try art for a little while now, I welcome you to. High school is a time to see what you’re good at and what you’re not. But art is not a stable job. You’d have to be good at it.”
Serenity had enough. Her family was deliberately making fun of her. Salvadore was just encouraging it. What was wrong with him? “Happy?” She asked, glaring at Salvadore and scooting back from the table to leave.
“Serenity, where are you going?” Calliope asked.
“Anywhere that isn’t here, apparently.”
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Great story! This story deserved a win or at least to be shortlisted! :)
Wow, you did an excellent job of portraying the world-is-against-me teenager! I remember feeling exactly as your protagonist did. I feel like there's a part II of this story - she proves her family wrong about her art, and/or she realizes her family really does care about her (and clearly they did). Great job of getting in the character's head!
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!
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Yeah, I definitely do need a few new ways to express annoyance in characters. Thank you for the feedback!