Toughing It Out
Nicole, Age 16, Lebanon, NJ
It was five o’clock in the morning. The sky was still pitch black, no sign of stars left in the bleak morning horizon. My room felt empty. I could barely see my own hand in front of me. The only brightness in the room was a sliver of light creeping under my bedroom door from the barren hallway on the other side. Today, September 9th, was my birthday, and unfortunately the first day of 7th grade. In past years, I would be jumping for joy, but today I wanted to do anything but that. Today, I was turning the lucky thirteen; finally a teenager with all the perks. At school, I was no longer one of the small kids on campus, though I wouldn’t be an official big kid on campus until next year. I wasn’t a little kid anymore, and I would be treated more like an adult. Sure, I would be able to stay up until eleven o’clock, and stay out past curfew, but it wouldn’t be all fun and games. Responsibility would be thrust upon me, and I wouldn’t get away with as many things as I used to because I wouldn’t have the excuse, “I’m just a kid.”
I sat in my room as light gradually came in. I looked at my alarm clock, and watched the numbers change. It was now 6:49 A.M., and I would be a teenager in less than a minute. I wondered if my body would feel any different and if I would think unlike I’ve thought before. The clock turned to 6:50, and I waited for something to feel different. I just lay in my bed staring at the ceiling waiting for the change to take place. Then my alarm clock went off.
“Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” I threw a pillow at it to shut it up. It smashed to the floor, breaking in a million pieces. It was never going to wake me up anymore.
“Callie, get up, you’re going to be late for school!” My alarm clock might have been silenced permanently, but I knew my mom wouldn’t fail to take over its job.
“Whatever!” I shouted down the stairs. It was nearly seven o’clock in the morning, and I officially turned thirteen at 6:50 a.m. It hadn’t even been five minutes since I had become a teenager, but I could already wield the vocabulary like a pro.
I turned on the faucet, hoping that it would drown out the worry in my head.
“Are you up yet? The bus will be here in ten minutes, and if you miss it, you can forget about a ride to school. Don’t forget, you’re thirteen now. You’re not a little kid anymore. You’re going to need to be more responsible for your own actions!”
There it was. Confirmed. Nothing was ever going to be the same again.
I raced out to the bus spilling Fruit Loops all over my lap in the process. Maybe those Fruit Loops were trying to tell me something. That all the things I didn’t want to happen would fall into my lap.
“How are you, girl?” This was the first time I had seen Morenna since the last day of 6th grade. She was my best friend, but I couldn’t hang out with her all summer because she went to Italy and didn’t get back until last night.
I’m great, aside from the fact that today is my birthday, and my mom is getting stricter by the second. “Good, I guess. I’ve been better.” I said it with a good-like-I’ve-been-hit-by-a-truck-at-fifty-miles-per-hour-on-a-major-highway look in my eyes.
“Get a move on, kids!” The bus stopped in front of the school, and we stepped off. I tripped on my shoe lace. Great. The day has just started, and I knew that that was an omen of the day in front of me.
After I got into the school I knew Morenna could see right through
the lie I told her about me feeling fine. I
know she wanted to ask me how I really was, but we were
trampled by the crowd of eighth graders rushing to beat up the
new meat in school: the 6th graders. Then the
school bell rang. Morenna’s mother would kill her if she ever found
out Morenna was late to her first class on the first day of
school because of me.
It was during first period, math, that I realized that times were really going to be different. All my “kid” good luck had run out. I’m normally really funny, and get the whole class on the ground cracking up, but today, no one even cracked a smile. Math seemed to go on forever, and I was glad lunch was next. At least now I could relax, and maybe then someone would laugh at me, in a good way. During lunch, it was a totally different story. Jerry, a guy with a helium voice and a habit of wrinkling his nose ever five seconds, threw mashed potatoes at Craig, a mini football player at only four feet, eight inches tall. Pretty soon everyone was covered in mashed-potato-creamed-corn-smashed-pea soup from head to toe. Just as I was about to throw a spoonful of green gelatin at Maya “I’m-the-top-of-the-popularity-ladder” Albertson, the principal, Dr. Jenkins, grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the cafeteria to his office at the other end of the school.
“Callie, why on earth would you think that throwing gelatin at Maya would be a good idea? This is the first time I’ve had to call you down here, and I don’t like why you are here."
“Dr. Jenkins, relax, it was a harmless food fight. It’s not like anyone got hurt?”
“That’s beside the point, Callie. Someone could have gotten hurt, and what’s with the attitude?”
The truth was I didn’t know where it came from. I just woke up with it, maybe that was the change I was looking for this morning, and maybe it just took a while for it to happen. “I don’t know.” I looked down at my feet hoping that Dr. Jenkins would just forget about it.
“Callie, I have no choice, but to call your parents and tell them what happened. I’m very disappointed. You’re usually a model student, but this action is not acceptable behavior. Do you have a preference whom I call, your mom or dad?”
“My mom.” I really didn’t want him to call my mom, but he really didn’t have a choice. After all, I didn’t know where my father was. After all, I haven’t seen him since I was born. He left the day after I was born.
He called my mom, but thankfully, there was no answer. He told me he was going to try again later.
“Ok well, you’re off with a warning, but I better not see you in here again for a reason like today.”
I hated this. Ever since I’d become a teenager, things had gone down hill. That, however, wasn’t the worst part of my day.
You would think that gym was the time of the day that I could just let all my problems escape like the sweat that dropped from my forehead as I ran the mile. The problem was my newly thirteen-year-old body was in the process of maturing, and I wasn’t ready for it. I looked over at Melina who was taking off her silk shirt, and dropped it on the floor. She seemed so comfortable with her body, why couldn’t I be like her? I put that thought to the back of my head.
I looked up from changing my shirt, and saw Kristy, Ally, and Melina smoking in the corner by the bathrooms. Kristy was the robot of the group; whatever Melina said, Kristy would say back, and whatever Melina did, Kristy would do exactly the same. Ally was the rebel of the group; whatever Melina would do, Ally would do the opposite, and whatever Melina said, Ally would say the opposite. Melina was the leader of the pack. She always stood in front, and was the boss of Ally, and Kristy.
“Hey Callie, wanna smoke?” Melina had a hint of evil in her voice.
“Come on, girl, you want to be popular don’t you?”
I was thinking I would rather stick my head in a pile of dried up dog poop, than fill my lungs with smoke. My uncle was a smoker, and his skin nearly touched the ground, it was so droopy. He and my mom said it was from smoking, and if I had to wake up with that every morning, I don’t know what I’d do. There were better ways to die, I thought, but I did want to be popular plus you only live once, right?
“Sure, what’s the worst that could happen?” I knew it could mean getting in trouble, but at least I’ll try it, and how could anything get any worse. I took a huge puff and coughed so hard I nearly blew the roof off the girl’s locker room.
“Shhhh! You wanna get us in trouble, loud mouth!”
Right then and there, I realized how much I hated them. They’d been in my class since kindergarten, and they thought that everyone loved them but the truth is that everyone is afraid of them. I used to want to be a part of their group, but I guess I never really liked them, as much as I liked the fact that whoever they thought were cool, were cool in everyone else’s eyes. That’s all I wanted.
I walked out of the corner until Melina was out of sight, and I threw the cigarette on the ground and it landed on a piece of Melina’s high-end silk shirt from Spain that her father brought back when she was born. Her dad kept it in her closet until she was big enough to fit into it. I walked away, but I knew something was going to go down. I looked back as I turned the corner to go into the gym, and noticed smoke coming from the shirt heaped on the yellow-tile floor. She talked about that shirt 24-7. “It’s one of a kind,” she always said. I didn’t want Melina to find out. She was still in the corner smoking so she didn’t notice any extra smoke billowing in the room. I threw water on the shirt, but silk wasn’t meant to be watered. I knew she wouldn’t let me forget it if she found out it was me. (I’m already unpopular as it is.) I was doomed.
“Ladies, get out here now, or you’re all running two miles every day from now until June!” Mrs. Karen was our gym teacher. She was a tall woman and was as scary looking as my mom in the morning, and that’s terrifying. Mrs. Karen had “mean” written all across her forehead, and the stench of “if you get on my bad side, I’ll show you what hell is like” coming off her manly figure. “I’m coming in there right now and if you’re not dressed that’s too damn bad!” Uh-oh.
“Shhh, we don’t wanna get caught. Go in one of the stalls.” Melina was the leader of the pack, and like usual, Kristy, followed her, but Ally, the rebel that she is, just stood there still smoking.
“Ally, let’s go!” Kristy screamed softly.
At this point, I went back to changing my shirt as if nothing had ever happened.
“I smell smoke. What in tarnation is going on in here?” Mrs. Karen walked over to each corner of the locker room and smelled. “I smell smoke coming from the back corner, anyone care to explain?” The three musketeers were still hiding in the corner, and I could imagine they were shaking in their high-performance running sneakers.
“N…” Great I had to open my big mouth. Today was full of bad decisions.
“Callie, what were you saying? Come on, I know you know something. Just spit it out!” Mrs. Karen sounded determined.
“All I said was no. Feel free to search, smell, do whatever, I’m clean.” I didn’t want her to smell me; after all I just had smoked so I would of course smell like smoke, plus I didn’t want anyone, especially Melina to find out about her silk shirt that now was ruined. Teenage years suck.
“Come with me, dear. You have a lot of explaining to do.”
“But it wasn’t just…” Great, there goes my big mouth again. Why don’t I just staple it shut. It would be a lot less painful than being yelled at by Mrs. Karen.
“Wasn’t just who? Wasn’t just you? Then who?”
“Melina, Kristy, and Ally, who else do you think would do that!” Oh my god, what is wrong with me? All in one day, I’ve become a trouble-maker, a liar, and a snitch.
“Melina, Kristy, and Ally, the jig is up, come on out and quit hiding from the smoke detector because I can sure smell it, and see it coming from the corner by the bathrooms, don’t make me come over there and drag you out”
“Callie, you’re going to pay for this!” For once, Kristy talked for herself.
“Kristy, way to blow our cover!” Melina was annoyed at me and decided to take it out on Kristy. Kristy came out of the bathroom and dragged the other girls with her. They looked at Mrs. Karen at the other end the locker room. The look of you’re-in-deep- trouble was present in her eyes.
“Come with me girls!” Great, the 2nd time I’m going to the principal in one day.
“Callie, good to see you again. What brings you here for the second time?”
“Oh it was nothing, just smoking in the girl’s room.” Yet another perk of teenage years: sarcasm.
“‘It was nothing?’ Smoking in the girl’s locker room is a big deal. I’m seriously talking to your mom, and telling her what has gotten into you. I’ve been so busy lately with all the new students’ permanent records, that I haven’t gotten around to calling her yet, but now I have two reasons to call her. This time however, you are not going to get off so easy. I am ordering you to two weeks of detention.”
“What about the three musketeers?”
“Oh don’t worry about them, I’ll talk to them. Please try to stay out
of the principal's office.”
I was relieved to be home; I threw my backpack on the floor and flung myself on the couch. I hoped I would be able to relax and clear my mind, but no, my mom’s voice popped in. Normally my mom would be at work, but today being my birthday and all, she asked her boss if she could leave early.
“Callie Jade Lorrenda get up here right now!” My mom’s voice carried through the house and hit me in the head so hard I nearly fell over. I went up the stairs to her bedroom, and the hallway felt like it was closing in on me. My mom’s face was red like fire, and steam was coming out of her ears and nose. “Care to explain why I got a call from Dr. Jenkins for two separate instances today?”
“Um none of your business, it’s between Dr. Jenkins and me.” As soon as I said that I knew my mom was going to blow.
“CALLIE, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? You think just because you’re a teenager, you’re the queen of the world. I have told you time after time, that you are responsible for your actions, whatever they may be, but I’ve also taught you better than this! Now please Callie, don’t get in any more trouble!” My mom usually told me the story about my father when she gave me this speech, but I guess she felt I ought to know it by now.
“Now go to your room and think about the real reason Dr. Jenkins called me today.” She knew the real reason because Dr. Jenkins told her, but she wanted to hear it from me personally. She thought that was what made me responsible for my actions if I told her what I did.
I would have expected all this from a father, but since my dad left
the day I was born, I guess my mom figured she
had to take over his role.
All I wanted to do now was run away, and then I wouldn’t have to deal
with it. I would just have to live my life;
the string that held me to my ordinary life would be cut. I
would finally be free. Why couldn’t I have a normal family like
all my friends’? Why did mine have to be so
chaotic? Of course, if I ran away, I would be just like my mom, and I
didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being right, that I
was making the same mistakes as she did.
My mom was so mad after the whole principal thing that afternoon that she told me she didn’t want to celebrate my birthday with me, and told me I had to eat my dinner and my cake in my room.
I looked at the clock, 6:50 P.M. I had been thirteen for half-a-day
now. All that was different was the strictness
of my mother, my attitude, and the fact I got two principal
talks, a two-week detention, and an
all in one day, and it just happened to be on my birthday. I
hate teenage years so much, and I wish they
never existed. Wait, this is only the first day of being a teenager that
means I have six more years to go. Great, this day is getting
better and better.
I couldn’t sleep at all that night, all I could think about was teenage years and how much they really do suck. Who ever said that teenage years were the best years of your life, probably never lived them. I hoped this was a dream. I finally fell asleep, but was woken up by my alarm clock. Oh no, here we go again.
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