A/N: This is just something I'm writing to prove a point to myself (namely, that I am capable of writing and continuing a story to the end), and hopefully amuse others as much as I am amused by it. I'm not making claims to being completely un-cliché, but I am trying to stir things up once in a while, just to keep it interesting. Puzzle of the day: What word has six letters, starts with an r, ends with a w and can be done by clicking on the pretty button at the bottom of your screen?
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize (for example, if you see Pizza Hut, and think "store that sells pizza, must order one tonight," then chances are I didn't make it up). But everything else (for example, any flying pigs or interesting characters that choose to rear their heads) is mine. And if you want to do something with it/about it, let me know in a review. Damn, I spoiled the puzzle.
Part 1: Enter Me
Twenty-two years ago, in good old 1983, a twenty-four year old wannabe hippie met destiny in a bar in the form of a twenty-nine year old Latin scholar. An instant connection was made (as the Hippie later recalled, "Five minutes after we met, I was sharing my soul with him and he was sharing his with me."), though it was later revealed that this may have been because both were completely and utterly drunk. Nevertheless, they forged a relationship out of peace, love, dusty old books, and non-existent salaries (the Hippie sold jewelry and the Scholar delivered pizzas while working on his PhD), and married some six months after their first shared hangover.
Character studies conducted over the subsequent years yielded the results that these two very, very odd people (she spent a lot of time hugging trees and boycotting synthetic materials and he listened to lectures on Virgil and single-handedly kept the town library financially afloat with late fees) should never have been in the same room together, much less allowed to procreate. The same studies calculated that the probability of the Hippie and the Scholar producing a healthy, normal, attractive child was about one in a million, so when they did (in 1984), 999,999 genetically warped potential zygotes perished.
And that was how I saved the world by being conceived.
They named me Noleta. Which means "unwilling" in Latin. Guess whose fault that was? The Hippie constantly excuses herself for agreeing by saying that it was true – I hadn't wanted to come out of her womb, and had to be forcefully extracted through a C-section. With parents of Hippie-Scholar caliber, is that really such a surprise? Luckily, I acquired early in life the common sense not to encourage them; when they tried to teach me my name at the age of one year, I stubbornly insisted that it was Noli. Noleta Makepeace (yes, I know, ha ha) was relegated to official forms and the New Teacher Ritual (otherwise known as the First Day Roll-Call Intervention).
The first fourteen years of my life were uneventful – meaning that not only the Hippie and the Scholar, but also everyone else did nothing they could not have been expected to do. The Hippie and the Scholar had jobs as a boutique owner and a Latin professor, neither having given up their respective predilections toward life au naturel and life à la bibliotheque. People were born, people died, dictators gained and lost power, and people blew each other up with the regularity of the sunrise. Nothing out of the ordinary. So let's skip straight to the fifteenth year: 1999.
Part 2: The Heartbreaker
Among the other fortuitous details of my birth, I forgot to mention my actual birthday. February 29, 1984. I am a Leap-Year Baby, and most of the time, I'm pretty happy with it. People always looked at me as special, from the first time I revealed my birthday in pre-school onwards. But the year I turned fifteen (or three and three-quarters), the midnight between February 28 and March 1 (I figured that midnight would be as close as I would get to February 29 in Non-Leap-Years) proved to be the worst midnight of my life. And it was because of the usual suspects: my parents.
I never really had a lot of good friends. At first, it was because the Hippie and the Scholar had very set ideas about how I should spend my time. This usually meant spending my afternoons playing chess and learning Latin and my weekends demonstrating for the Cause of the Week. It was at this point, I think, that my peers labeled me "anti-social." However, by the time I was fifteen I outgrew obeying my parents and started approaching people on my own terms. The problem became not one of following orders, but of really bad character judgment.
That was my killing social flaw; I could never spot a loser. Or a jerk. If someone smiled at me (male or female) I would look no deeper, and accept them into my life (until they hurt me).
To put it simply, I put myself through one bad relationship after another like Homer Simpson sticking his finger into an electric socket. First, there was Tammy, my "best friend," who invited me to her Sweet Sixteen and then trash-talked me to her family. Then there was Joel, who went out with me because I had, and I quote, "Great tits and a cute ass." (He told me this after I told him how much I liked his sensitive personality and deep mind.) The final straw, in both the friend and boyfriend departments, was a guy named Frederick, who refused to be called Fred or Rick, had big brown eyes, and dyed his hair a different color every month. I was his Purple month, and he was my god. When August 31 rolled around, he dumped me, colored his hair platinum blond, and took my former "best friend" Allison to the concert I had been dying to see.
So I sat at home and brooded in solitary silence (after the Hippie said "I told you so" and the Scholar quoted Plato at me), and I came to the conclusion that I was the one being stupid by getting attached to all kinds of morons. Solution? Easy enough. Don't get attached. And so began the great game of my life, in which I modeled myself after Frederick the Many-Hued; I would give relationships (friendship or romance) one month tops, no matter how well they were going. In a word, I became a female player, a "playgirl," I guess I'll have to call myself.
The Big Ugly Truth was that I had a blast. That's right; I enjoyed being a womanizer of men and possessor of a thousand acquaintances (you couldn't really call any of them friends, they were just the people I hung out with). As time passed, I became a sort of connoisseur of people. I have zero idea how it happened, and I probably couldn't do it again if I tried, but I built up a reputation of such "utter coolness" that by going out with a guy or hanging out with a girl I could make or break their social career. Talk about a power trip.
And of course I loved throwing my weight around. I made it so that people would have to play their cards perfectly to get near me, developing a "one slip and you're dead" system, and people went along with it! It was completely crazy, but somehow I made myself the queen of the school. Sometimes, I couldn't believe it myself, and I would feel certain that it wouldn't last. On bad days, I would wind up hating myself, and wondering what was so wrong with me that I couldn't have real relationships with anybody. But then Jody would beg me to come to her party ("If you come, it'll be like, the coolest party ever!"), or Frank would say, "Noli, you are a goddess." And that would make me feel like I was on top of the world. Sure, it was shallow. Sure, I probably missed out on a lot of good things just because of that one month limit. But no one hurt me anymore now that I was the one doing the hurting, and that attracted me more than anything.
It must have been some sight, me striding through the halls surrounded by fawning admirers, like some kind of celebrity. I constantly had a circle of people around me, and more trying to get close. It wasn't even as though I was particularly good-looking. Sure I was pretty, but I was nothing compared to many of the girls who valued my opinion so much.
Even the teachers bought into my image. It was always, "Noli, great job on that paper!" And, "Some of you should take a lesson from Noli here, and actually do your work." Because, you see, I was a good student; reasonably smart, and whatever I lacked intellectually I made up for by slogging or bribing the Harvard-Shoo-ins. There was no way I could drop in academics with the Scholar as my father. I was Noli the Perfect, Noli the Goddess, Noli the Cool One.
So I marched through middle school and high school saying "Yes" some of the time and "No" most of the time (and breaking hearts left and right). I was perfectly content to live life on my terms, or at least, that was how I saw it then. There was always someone who would play second fiddle to me, so that if John was busy Saturday night, I could drop him like a hot cake and pick up Andy within an hour. The same went for "Girls' Night Out" the last Friday of every month; girls wanted to be invited so badly that I could just point and they would cancel any and all plans. After all, who didn't want to be seen with the Great, the Fabulous, the Beautiful (fame hides all flaws) Noli? What guy didn't want to have his masculinity affirmed by going out with her, and what girl didn't want to be made "cool" by being seen with her in public?
I was happy, but my parents apparently did not see it that way. They felt I was becoming "flighty," the worst thing possible to both the obsessively socially conscious Hippie and the obsessively bookish Scholar. And so they put their eccentric heads together and came up with a plan they were sure was foolproof. Through recent conversations, I've managed to re-construct almost the exact thought process that went through their minds. (I must warn you, it's not for the weak-minded.)
Part 3: The Fix-Up
God I hate reading the newspaper. Nukes…Rape…Murder…Exhibitionism…Wait, are they really going to try to…? Must call Maggie, we need to make posters…Ah the posters at the abortion protest last week were great…Why must people try to kill each other? Too much blood…Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to Mom's ruby necklace…Pink Floyd…How does it go? "We don't need no education…"…I wonder how Noli's doing at school? She never talks to me…Always going out with Steven…I guess it's good to see her happy …Wait! Steven? What about that other one… Mason…No, Morris…Mike…And there was someone named Damian…Richard (was he on drugs or not? Can't ever tell with rich kids)…Suppose I ought to talk to her father about this…No, no, free love…free love…free love…Om…Om…Ooo-Oh pooh.
When did this get so dusty? Shoot. Achoo. Okay, where're the tissues? Tissues, tissues…Didn't I put a pack in my back pocket? No, no, wait, yes! I can feel them. How they got there…Damn, must have been half-asleep or something…What's this? How did this get into my underwear? Wait! I wrote this. I wonder why…It just says "Plastic." Plastic? Well, I did fix the…Oh, I remember! Noli! All those boys…Is she off with one now? Never tells me anything…I suppose I'll have to talk to her mother…
The Ensuing Conversation:
Both: You first. No, you.
Hippie: I'm a little worried about Noli.
Scholar: Me too!
Hippie: Really? Why are you worried? Now you have to tell me, because if it's different from why I'm worried, I have to worry about your worry as well as my worry.
Scholar: Well, I guess it rather seems as though Noli appears to be becoming a shade…flighty.
Hippie: Oh, that's wonderful!
Scholar: No, no, I don't think so. I mean, flitting around from one boy to another like this she could get hurt…I mean, someone might get the wrong message, and then…
Hippie: No, no, I meant that it's wonderful you're worried about the same thing I am, so the two of us are worried about the same thing and we can split the worry 50-50.
Scholar: I see.
Hippie: You do? Good. I feel a whole lot better.
Scholar: Me too, but –
Hippie: But I still think we need to do something.
Scholar: I'm not talking to her.
Hippie: Well, neither am I. We'll just have to be a little creative. You know, guide her in the right direction without being too obvious. She needs us right now.
Hippie: I know! What if we set her up with someone so perfect for her that she won't need to flit from one person to another? Someone who completes her, because I'm sure all this flightiness is just a way of trying to find herself…
Hippie: But who?
Part 4: Swing and a Miss
And so it was that at midnight on February 28, 1999, I was not having a fabulously exclusive party of "friends," or even spending time with my parents. No, I spent my fifteenth birthday in the company of a pasty-faced, noodle-limbed sixteen year old by the name of Gregory Peter Corelli. Two hours of the most excruciating torture, watching him do everything wrong when it came to approaching me and being unable to escape. I spent most of the time cursing the Hippie and the Scholar mentally; after all, what kind of parents actually forced their teenage daughter to spend her birthday with a member of the opposite sex? Especially when the boy was such a bumbling incompetent.
Well, actually, there was nothing really wrong with Gregory. He was just your average teenage boy, slightly shy, kind of serious, and very, very unsure of himself. He wasn't completely repulsive to look at, and you could tell that when he grew into his features he'd be quite handsome; he had these humongous brown eyes (girly eyes), a straight nose, and a firm chin, as well as a shock of curly black hair (his dad was Italian). Gregory was, in fact, perfectly normal (I can say all this is hindsight; it took me three years to shake off my impression of him as a freak of nature). But I wasn't used to normal, I was used to prematurely sophisticated, wild, even dangerous. And so he bored the hell out of me.
We both made lame attempts at conversation ("So what kind of music do you like?" "Well, I mostly prefer the neoclassical composers, but occasionally one of the Eastern Greco-Romanic harmonists produces some good stuff." "Oooookay. Right." "Did you see the latest documentary on the blabbidious blabbii?" "What the hell?"), mine tending towards the finer things in life (music, movies, and shopping) and his towards the unpronounceable. It didn't work too well, and we trailed off into silence ten minutes after the birthdate-from-hell had started. He watched me, and I watched the clock.
Gregory was a year ahead of me in school, a sophomore. We passed each other once in a while in the hallways, but I always completely ignored him; his parents were good friends with mine, so sometimes I had to spend time with him out of school, but not often and never voluntarily. We knew very little about each other; he knew me by reputation, and I knew him by sight. I was vaguely aware that he was some kind of scientific genius (his parents bragged about it often enough), and that he had a handful of friends of his own. But his crowd didn't really run with my crowd since my crowd looked down on unnecessary academic focus. The few glimpses I did catch of him, he seemed to be perfectly happy. Of course, he had a crush on me, he made it pretty clear. He'd always smile and say hello in the halls, and when our parents got together he would try to hang out with me. So he was not a complete stranger, but I didn't know him well, nor did I care.
That night, therefore, I made it perfectly clear how uninterested I was in him. Normally, with other people, I made an effort to be polite, though not necessarily welcoming. But after a point, I almost blatantly ignored Gregory, and didn't say a word to him through all of dinner. However, shortly after we finished the soup, his bewildered glances changed to amusement, from which I gathered that he thought I was playing hard-to-get (which was very frustrating because I so clearly wasn't). Soon I realized that all I could do was wait for him to make his move, and then shut him down entirely. In fact, I began to anticipate that moment with more enthusiasm than I had mustered all night (perfectly reasonable, considering he had turned my favorite day into a nightmare). So when the clock chimed midnight and he said "Happy birthday, Noli," with that look (the look most guys get just before they ask you out), I smiled at him brilliantly. I swear, he blushed from head to toe; my pearly whites had given him the boost he needed to pop the question.
We were on the balcony, and I was leaning out over the railing to "look at the stars." The truth was that I was freezing my ass off, but I needed the darkness to hide any amusement my face might show. I was going to play this straight until the very, very end, and I didn't want my expression to give away the joke. It turned out that I almost lost it right at the start, because Gregory was just so laughably inept.
He said, "I'll never forget the way you look tonight." I choked, and had to fake a sneeze to cover it up. I had a slight cold, and I certainly didn't look my best in the disgusting yellow dress the Hippie had insisted that I wear. I remember thinking, So this guy is blind as well as stupid. What a loser. But luckily, he intended to make it short.
"Sorry, that sounded dumb. I mean, you look great, but…Anyway, look, Noli. I really like you a lot, and I know I'm not the kind of guy you usually date, but if you just give me a chance I'll prove to you that I'm worth it. I mean, I may not be the best looking guy in the world, but I care about you…Say something!" Well, what could I say to that? I wasn't sure he was finished, so I said, "Ummm?" Gregory took it as a cue to press his suit. "Come on, just one date. I promise you, I'll blow you away." I don't know whether or not he meant the sexual overtone, but it certainly came across in the way his hand was trying to grope me, ostensibly going for my waist, but actually settling somewhere around my butt. I took it as a cue to end the farce.
"Look, I don't know if I gave you the wrong idea, but I didn't mean to. I'll be honest; I need a man, not a boy. And let's face it, you're not exactly a man. So, too bad, so sad, you'll look back on this and laugh in twenty years, good-bye." It was bitchy, but I was torn between laughter and annoyance, and beautiful speeches were beyond me. The look on his face was priceless; throughout our little interview, he had been blushing slightly, but now his face went white. Then it flushed brick red before going whiter than before. He looked as if someone had knocked the wind out of him, and feeling slightly cruel, I smirked in his face. His eyes narrowed, and his voice shook a little as he called me a "fucking heartless bitch" and a "shallow idiot." Needless to say, this was the last thing I expected, especially on my birthday, and it completely threw me off. Before I could respond, with tears or a retort, he was gone, slamming the front door behind him.
The Hippie, sporting a swollen redness of the nasal passages that indicated she'd been listening at the keyhole and become another victim of Gregory's dramatic exit, stormed into the living room. She was followed closely by the Scholar (limping, not storming, because the Hippie had stepped on his foot in her pained thrashings). I was spoiling for a fight, furious because they'd fixed me up with a jerk, and because I knew they would take his side. Apparently, they were spoiling too, the Hippie because her plan had swung and missed and the Scholar because he became truculent when injured.
So, when I call it the worst midnight of my life, I'm not exactly exaggerating; it was the first time anyone had ever called me names like that, and it was the first time my parents and I had fought with an actual intent to hurt each other. Some of the things we said that night can never be forgotten, even though we forgave each other after about a year (though the Hippie still brings the fight up every time she wants to make me feel guilty). That it was my birthday just made the whole thing a lot worse; my parents refused to give me any presents (actually, they completely ignored me for a week and by then the moment for giving had passed), and somehow, the entire year seemed to have gotten off to a rotten start.
As for Gregory, he moved to California the next day.
A/N: Please review!