The fiction contest is winding down! I'm almost done reading the entries, and only a few finalists remain to be published.
Today's story, by crazycrayon, is assured and funny story right from the first sentence. Stories about disaffected rich kids are always fun, but stories about disaffected rich kids narrated in poised prose are downright delectable.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when my mother wins. Tonight, for example, I am condemned to one of her several hopelessly boring galas. I should probably explain this. As a socialite, my mother feels the constant need to entertain guests and otherwise get attention by throwing events with the botox-faced harpies she calls friends. They always claim the events are for different purposes, but this is really just to disguise the fact that they’re doing the same thing over and over again, only with different color schemes and dinner menus. Invariably, I’m forced to dress up like I actually care about these materialistic bimbos to go to these things. When I was younger, I tried to tell myself that the next one would be better, but then I realized that society events are just one of the many things in life that just have to suck. Tonight won’t be any different.
I make my way through the event hall, past crowds of eerily similar people, smiling and waving like a pageant queen. From the looks of things, this gala looks even worst than the last; some people are already drunk. I start to think that I’ll have to gouge my eyes out for entertainment, but right then, I see a glimmer of hope. There a guy sitting on a sofa towards the corner of the room, reading a book and carrying the exact look of apathy I’ve had since I was eight. He looks about my age, with dark hair and rectangle-framed glasses. He, like everyone else, is wearing a suit, but it looks like he didn’t bother to have it pressed, which is oddly refreshing. I figure I’m going to waste away unless I do something, so I decide to talk to him.
“Hey, I’m Mara,” I begin, “Whacha reading?”
He looks up from his book, which I can see now is Animal Farm. He has a kind of bony face, with a sharp nose and jawbone.
“I’m Ben, and this is Animal Farm,” he replies. “Nice hair, by the way,” he adds, referring to my blue Edie Sedgwick-style hair, which my mother calls “the atrocity.” I can’t tell if he’s saying it sarcastically. Before I can ask him, he asks me a question.
“Do you wanna go outside? I don’t think we’re going to miss much in here.” I answer with a yes. He hesitates for a moment, then says, “Look, I’m not sure you can tell from the way I look now, but I’m probably not the kind of guy your family wants you hanging out with.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.” I respond. “I haven’t grown up in a cave. I know plenty of people that are like you think you are. Besides, I don’t think my family is going to call the cops over a nerdy guy at a society event, and this really won’t go anywhere.”
“Well, aren’t you Ms. Judgmental? You don’t know that I’m a nerd. I could be a highly trained assassin, sent here to kill you. People aren’t always what they look like. You, for example, don’t look like a socialite, but you are one.” He smiles, which softens the words. It’s a nice smile. “Anyway, let’s go.”
We go out into the backyard, almost to the edge of my family’s property, where it meets the woods. It’s a sizeable distance away from the house, but for some reason, my father has a gazebo built out here. We sit down on the bench inside and start talking about everything, even things I’d never expect to tell some one I just met. I tell him the reason why I cut my hair like this, and what my mother said to me when I was eight that made me give up trying to please her. It’s strange how easy it is to talk to him. He’s so different from me, and thinks so much differently, but the way he listens makes me feel like he actually cares. He’ll nod his head when I make a point, and he’ll ask questions about things. After years of my parents, and teachers and brainless classmates, I’ve gotten used to being ignored.
Ben tells me things about his life, too. His parents are divorced and he lives with his father, who’s not there much so he’s mostly on his own. Apparently the guy is a big shot real estate agent, the kind who gives you all kinds of magnets, notepads, and pens with their picture on them. He also tells me abut his fear of goldfish, and the time when he was seven and was seated on the wrong airplane going to Lima, Peru instead of London. I tell him that’s a depressing story. He tells me mine was worse. By now we’re chatting like good friends who’ve known each other since Pre-K.
We realize that hours have passed since we sat down, and most people are starting to leave.
“Don’t you have to go home now?” I ask, anxious for the answer.
“Nah, not really. I drove here, so I guess I can leave whenever I need to,” he says, and I feel, strangely enough, a surge of relief.
“Uh-oh. Am I ever going to get you to leave?” I tease.
“Is that a challenge?”
“That depends on when you leave.”
“Fine then. We are going to stay here all night talking, and I am not going to leave until tomorrow morning.”
We laugh and we talk more. We try to keep talking for as long as possible, but neither of us had any caffeine. Eventually, our eyelids get droopy and we can’t talk too much any longer. Despite my efforts, I fall asleep first. I wish I could say I had tons of meaningful and insightful dreams, but I’m really just sleeping.
I wake up, excited to see if Ben is still asleep. He’s not there. I feel my heart sink, until I find a folded up piece of paper underneath a pebble next to me. It reads:
I’m not sure you’re free, or if you even want to go out, but I guess I’ll find out tonight at 7. Please, for the love of God, don’t wear a frilly dress. It doesn’t match your hair.
I laugh. I think I like this boy.
Based on "Young Folks," by Peter, Bjorn, and John
What are your thoughts on this story? What did you like about it? Where do you think it could be improved?