HOW COULD SERENA have allowed herself to be talked into doing this? It was a suicide mission. It truly was.
Her best friends, her closest circle of girl friends, knew that she was an excellent writer in *all* forms—poetry, lyrics, stories, essays, scripts—but she absolutely *hated* being recognized for it. It made her feel incredibly nervous, although she *did* have to admit that what she felt in her heart was expressed best in her words.
She didn't even to put "creative writing" down as an elective, and yet she still managed to put it down for her *third* alternate, not even her first or her second, but her *third*, her "last resort" as Papa Roach would appropriately call it.
And how the hell did she get stuck with a creative writing class anyway? She was guaranteed to get the three electives she wanted: sociology, (a new program meaning that not many would join in the first few years), independent living, and world cultures. Her first two alternates were French and health. What twist of fate led the independent living teacher, Ms. Barkman, to resign from teaching the class, thereby leaving a teacher-less class and a number of holes in incoming freshmen's schedules?
Serena was one of those freshmen.
For some reason though, she didn't get her French class or her health class. For some reason, the computer—or whoever it was that put the schedules together—went all the way to her *third* and final alternate: the creative writing class.
She was reluctant to go. She didn't like putting herself in the spotlight *at* all and she was too scared to share her work with anyone but her closest friends.
Apparently the creative writing class had been instructed by a frail, feeble yet gentle elderly woman named Miss Lakewood. She had been married with three kids who were all grown up now and she was widowed only three years ago. Teaching her students the creativity and imagination and beauty involved in writing provided her the joy for the last few years before her retirement. But at age sixty-four, she retired over the summer before the new freshmen arrived.
The only thing that eased Serena into feeling good about seeing that hideous class on her schedule was the fact that Miss Lakewood sounded like one of the best teachers ever and she was excited to get to know her. However, a week before ninth grade started, the news was delivered that Miss Lakewood, who was planning on retiring at age sixty-five, decided abruptly to quit her thirty-one years of service to Ave High School.
Her world was over, Serena knew. Not only was she stuck in the one class she *didn't* want to be in, she wasn't going to have the teacher she wanted either, the only feature of this class she was looking forward to.
Damn. Life sucked and didn't she know it?
She had been so confident to think that there was *no* way possible she would get creative writing, so on a dare from her best friends, she *did* end up putting it as one of her alternates. Why did she ever listen to them? She was going to be miserable.
And then, on top of everything already going wrong, Serena found out that the teacher replacing Miss Lakewood was some guy the school has supposedly hired "off the streets", some brand new guy who was a stranger to the district and he apparently a young fellow too.
Serena had heard about that from one of her best friends, Lily Scott, and that just worried her even more.
"You got creative writing, right?" Lily had asked her four days after they had picked up their schedules and Miss Lakewood had announced her retirement.
Scornful, even though she knew she was at fault too, Serena hissed, "Yeah, thanks to you, Christine and Aurora."
Lily laughed. "Yeah well, cheer up. There may *still* be some good news."
"I can only hope the school screwed up on my schedule and they'll put me in French or health," Serena said.
"*No*," Lily told her. "Why do you hate creative writing so much anyway? You haven't even taken the class yet. You never know, you might actually enjoy it. I wouldn't be surprised if you decided to take creative writing again during your sophomore year."
"Trust me, Lily. That *isn't* going to happen."
"We'll see about that."
"So what's that 'good news' you were hinting at earlier? Is Miss Lakewood coming back?" Serena's tone had sounded optimistic, even though she knew it wasn't going to happen.
Lily cleared her throat. "Well, I heard that the new teacher is some new guy they hired just a few days ago. He's new to the district, hasn't taught or subbed in this area before, but he's got his teaching credentials in the English department, so they hired him."
"*That's* supposed to be good news? You might wanna recheck your definition of 'good' then," Serena smirked.
"I'm *getting* to the 'good' part of it. That was just the 'news'."
"Oh, forgive me, then," Serena remarked.
"The guy happens to be like twenty-something, fresh out of college. He graduated from UCLA with his Ph.D., I think. And he's supposed to be *very* good-looking. Even the female population of the faculty is drooling over him already," Lily ended with a nice conclusion.
Serena shook her head. "And the fact that he's *younger* and obviously far less experienced than Miss Lakewood is supposed to make me feel better?"
"Just thought you'd be interested in knowing that your new teacher is the hottie on campus," Lily intoned.
"Like that really matters to me," Serena shrugged. It didn't. It made her curious, but it didn't change the fact that she was going to hate the class she was venturing upon. "Where do you *get* this info anyway?"
"I have my sources," Lily replied slyly.
That fond memory made Serena laugh, but as she approached her final class of the 8-period block schedule "silver day" (there were "gold and silver days"; the school colors), nausea filled her stomach and twisted her gut into jump ropes.
She clutched her stomach, wrinkling the lavender class schedule in her hands, and took a deep breath as she gawked at the room number: 640.
The bell for class to start had already rang seconds ago, but not only had she gotten lost, she had suffered a case of anxiety. That was why she could never be the talented actor she knew was inside of her. She was just too damn shy to put herself out there for the entire world to see, naked, vulnerable, and exposed.
Mustering all the courage and all the hours of practicing her smile, Serena Kristall unknowingly opened the door that would, in time, not only become her sanctuary, but also the place that would change her life forever.