Fiction High School Sad

TW:CW- Sexual assault


“Where are you going Bree?”

“Jason Pembrooke’s end-of-year party.”

The keys to our family car jingled between the house key,

And the key to our family’s cabin, that unlocked my childhood memories. 

My mom was always nervous when I left the house after dark.

I beat her to the question.

“I’ll be home at about 1am.”

I’d only be gone a little while.

The plastic keychain card for the library dug into the fleshy pad of my hand.

A reminder that I had to study.

Even smart girls have to study for the MCAT;  

To assess problem solving, 


written analysis,

and knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.


Lorraine and Harry Florence. Lingered. As they always did,

At the big bay window looking at the lights of the car pulling back.

Pulling away from them, as children are meant to do.

They thought the lights to be metaphorical.

Bree their glow.

It wasn’t too long ago they bandaged her knees.

Wiped her tears.

Held her tight.

How did the time go so fast?

Lorraine and Harry Florence wondered.


I’m early, where are you????


I’m going to let Kyla have it when she gets here.

I’ll wait out here in my car for a little while until she shows her face.

This was all her idea. 

These shorts- also her idea.

What’s a 6 inch inseam when you’re 5’10”?

A false modesty perhaps. 

Kyla begged through text with only the best memes,

For me to go to Jason Pembrooke’s end-of-year party. 

The party of all parties. “Not to be missed Bree.” “Anyone who is anyone will be there.”

I’m not really anyone important, but I agreed anyway.


“Where were you Kyla? I’ve been waiting for 15 minutes!”

Kyla Jorgenson had a head full of ideas that would collide off one another

Her head, a roulette table of spontaneity.

Kyla had ideas about how to become someone.

It started with this party and the parting image of Noah Lohan’s

Muscular arm draped over her shoulders

And a red cup-


That’s how Kyla left her best friend Bree Florence.



If my state of aloneness is any indication of my ability to think critically, I might reconsider majoring in English and not medicine.

Cells can be isolated from tissue for observation, or so I learned.

To isolate uniform cells a disruption of the extracellular matrix needs to occur.

I think that’s how it works, maybe?

I could be studying. I need to be studying.

Because what the hell is an extracellular matrix anyway?

But Kyla and I are uniform cells connected to the tissue that is one last high school party.


“Do you have anything in that cup, or are you sipping air?”

She rolled her eyes some, but most girls this age typically did. 

Her cup tipped forward. 

Empty. An opportunity to be filled.

“I’m Kevin.” 

Kevin Burns was mostly a nobody, but also an opportunist.

Kevin had ideas about shooting his shot and taking aim.

He knew targets quite well.

“Let me fill that up for you.”


Kevin and I shared an English Lit class and nothing more.

We never spoke or shared tasks in a group project.

He was often soundless. Isolated even. 

In class we read Oates.

We used our critical thinking to read what wasn’t being said directly.

Over our heads, but Oates could be like that sometimes. 

I heard Kevin, his voice hushed. 

“They want to hurt her, it’s obvious.”

Was it obvious? Not to me.


“Here, a drink. How’s the MCAT going?”

Kevin had knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.

Like isolation. Bree separated from Kyla. 

Correlation isn’t causation, but it could be. 


How did he know about the MCAT? 

It wasn’t obvious how he knew.

Not to me.


Lorraine and Harry Florence rolled toward one another in bed.

“Harry, I forgot to tell Bree to call if she needs a ride.”

“Lorraine, she’s a smart girl. She knows what to do. If there’s any trouble.”

Bree would only be gone for a little while. 

Bree always stood by her word.


If you asked me now if I wanted to go to that party-

No. I’d say no. 

But here's the thing; you can’t study for flashes of time that aren’t here yet.

Like this one. Solving for the unknown is fairly easy in mathematics but not in real life.

Not when I am pinned like a slice of anatomy to view. 

Until a moment comes along and you cannot scrub it from your mind. 

Not with steel wool.

Or new facts; Like how cells have a finite lifespan.

Pinned and immovable and under a boy's microscope.

I did say no.


Kevin pressed about the MCAT.

“Have you memorized the six scientific principles?” 

Kevin knew that extraordinary claims needed extraordinary evidence. 

“Can you prove where you were going and where you might have been Bree?”

He looked down at his feet, his hands pressed behind his steady back.

“People will say that you followed me to this room.”

Kevin had strong evidence and alluded to Oates. 


"If you're asking us if we knew where our daughter was tonight, then the answer is yes, of course we did." 

Lorraine and Harry Florence sat separately on cold metal chairs,

their hands interlocked beneath the table united. 

They didn’t speak about the cold they sat upon.

The chill that ran down their spines when…

Firstly it’s important to note that they were a powerful pair in the community if there ever was one.

Lorraine oversaw the household and braised the pot roast on Fridays.

A woman of authority-

Superintendent of the school district.

Rightfully so, by default that meant her daughter


The flesh and the blood of the very fingers that rubbed the perfectly shiny watch face on Harry’s wrist,

Was equally authoritative right?

Lorraine was rarely shaken.

She put on her bra and a swipe of lip stain.

Harry put on his watch prior to leaving the house.

Bree was only supposed to be gone a little while.


I wasn’t trying to get anyone’s attention.

I explained over and over that I was separated from Kyla.

An isolated cell.

That I never understood the complexity that was Oates.

“Can I go now? I really have to study for the MCAT.”

The police officer sighed a touch, not with relief.

“He said that you two talked extensively about the MCAT. How’d he know so much about you?”

It wasn’t obvious to me. 


“I told Bree she should wear that outfit, yes. Why?”

Because. She looked hot. That’s why. 

Kyla thought her best friend should be seen the way she saw her.

Gorgeous. Radiant. A young woman that could enjoy a high school party in the evening and cram for a medical test in the morning.

“What do her clothes have to do with anything?”


If this was the real test. 

The one that determined whether or not I could move forward as a-

Problem solver. 

Critical thinker.

To have my written confession analyzed.

My knowledge of drinking and the invasion of being under his microscope.

I would relish the notion that all the cells in my body had a finite lifespan.

I could be someone new before I even returned home.

To the place where I should have been. Studying. 

August 06, 2021 03:04

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Shea West
03:05 Aug 06, 2021

Taking some chances this month. Feeling a little squirrely with style, what can I say? This is a big nod to Joyce Carol Oates story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" I recall reading it in high school and completely missing the implied violence of the whole thing. I was a smart girl myself and still didn't understand. The numbers, another nod to the same story. Anyhow, thanks for reading!


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K. Antonio
14:33 Aug 09, 2021

As someone who has read Oates I could really appreciate this story. Loved the format, the allusion, how a lot can be inferred. The switching was pretty seamless and easy to understand. I enjoyed the setting, the omniscient narrator didn't feel intrusive at all! Great stuff, I was pleasantly stunned by this!


Shea West
14:50 Aug 09, 2021

Thanks K.! It was another attempt at doing hard things on my end😂


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Scott Skinner
21:54 Aug 09, 2021

Interesting format - it read very consequential. I haven't read Oates, but now I want to check her out. I thought you handled the subject matter well - giving us just enough to understand what took place. Strong answer to the prompt!


Shea West
23:17 Aug 09, 2021

Thanks Scott :)


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H L Mc Quaid
08:13 Aug 09, 2021

Fantastic. powerful. Loved the format and the allusions to biology. And including just enough detail that we can construct what happened. Think I spotted a typo, not sure if it's too late to fix: "He was often soundles."


Shea West
13:28 Aug 09, 2021

Thank you Heather!! I'll fix that now, thankfully hasn't been approved.


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A.Dot Ram
01:48 Aug 08, 2021

Amazing! The way you incorporated the cells, and tied it together with the studying, and Oates. I've read Oates. You used her well. Good risk.


Shea West
01:55 Aug 08, 2021

Thank you Anne!! I was feeling brave I suppose... And I'm a fan of Oates!


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Blue Green
19:56 Aug 06, 2021

This is excellant, a very daring take on the prompt. I love the format, each sentence strong and standing alone, the crucial scene is so simply written, but oozes hidden violence. I have to admit I don't know Joyce Carol Oates, so I can't compare it to the story you mention. What is the meaning of the numbers in the title? The end lines "I would relish the notion that all the cells in my body had a finite lifespan / I could be someone new before I even returned home." are just brilliant. Great writing!


Shea West
20:31 Aug 06, 2021

Hey Blue! The short story I referenced is one of her more well known. At least for me anyhow. The main character in the story mentions these three numbers as secret. Interpretation is that they are Biblical from Judges 19:17 as a highlight to the character's sexual deviancy or possible encounter with the devil. Anyhow, if you read it let me know! It's dark. Thank you for taking a chance on reading something a bit different. I knew that this could go either way and it's possible there won't be fans of the way that I formatted it. But my ...


Blue Green
21:04 Aug 06, 2021

Thanks, I like dark stories, so that's going on my to-read list :-)


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Andrea Magee
11:44 Aug 19, 2021

Very good read. Now I have to read Oates to see your nod.


Shea West
12:00 Aug 19, 2021

Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been? Is a dark one. Thanks for reading!


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Beth Connor
21:30 Aug 10, 2021

Brilliant and brave. I'm so glad you took a chance on this!


Shea West
21:47 Aug 10, 2021

Thank you Beth, I'm not letting the salt blocks get me down.


Beth Connor
00:20 Aug 11, 2021

They belong with the donuts...buahaha


Shea West
00:27 Aug 11, 2021

DECEASED. Like the Where's Waldo Zombies.


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Mary Sheehan
12:31 Aug 06, 2021

Such a creative take on the prompt. I was blown away by this. Phenomenal, Shea!


Shea West
14:01 Aug 06, 2021

Thank you Mary😍


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Yolanda Wu
10:38 Aug 06, 2021

I absolutely loved the format of this story, Shea! When I first saw this prompt, I was like, how would anyone write a story with that, wouldn't that be so jarring? But you proved me wrong, the shifts from third person to first person wasn't jarring at all. I love how you made it like a poem with the separate lines, each line was so soft but also resonant, and just had me constantly scrolling to get to the next line. The way you painted the character of Bree, and the other characters at the party gave me such a clear image of them in a short ...


Shea West
14:04 Aug 06, 2021

I'd wanted to do 1st and 2nd person.... But that wasn't the prompt😂 Thank you for your genuine comments, they gave me the feel goods. I was a bit nervous to submit a format like this, but I thought what's the point of writing if it doesn't dredge up some nerves!


Yolanda Wu
00:16 Aug 07, 2021

Yeah, 1st and 2nd person would have been really cool. I love when writers try out different formats for their stories, it definitely worked!


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Edgar David
01:59 Nov 13, 2021

Hello pretty happens to me if Instagram🥺


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