Another excerpt from a work in progress, The Hornbeam Door. School hasn’t gotten any better for Oona. She’s still an outcast and she’s still hearing the voice. Only now it’s giving her directions: a set of coordinates located in Codell, a little town about an hour away. In class, she struggles to ignore the voice, but it keeps repeating the coordinate numbers.
It snowed over night, but not enough to close school, so I went through my day trying to pretend to be normal. Since nobody spoke to me, it wasn’t that hard, except for the urge I had to yell, “Shut up!” I was fighting that during Language Arts, where I was supposed to be writing an essay about “some issue that’s important to you.” Really, that was the assignment. In the AP English class, they were probably already doing the literature essay. I tried to start my assignment, but the heat was on too high, so the classroom was hot, and behind me, Justin Troost smelled like pot and peppermint. Good and bad.
Fifteen minutes in, I still hadn’t started my “essay.” I was writing the numbers over and over.
I got caught.
“Are you having trouble getting started, Oona?” said Mr. Hildenbrand. I’d never seen him until the day I got moved to his class. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t want to make friends either. He was a symbol of everything that was screwed up in my life. I wasn’t supposed to be in his class. I was supposed to be in Mrs. deMaars’ AP English class with Katelyn.
“I don’t know what to write about,” I mumbled and moved my arm to cover up the numbers.
“How about the rule against freshmen leaving campus for lunch?”
“I don’t care. I’m not a freshman.” It was a Justin Troost answer and after a month in that class I was starting to understand why Justin was the way he was.
“What about the presidential election?”
“I can’t vote.”
“How about the issue of evolution vs. creationism?”
“That’s a false controversy.” Not a Justin Troost answer. Mr. Hildenbrand frowned at me. I wanted him to leave me alone, so I picked a topic: “I’ll write about how they should legalize marijuana.”
“Yeah!” Justin said.
Mr. Hildenbrand raised his eyebrows. “I expected something more…”
I think he was going to say “something more original from you,” but he didn’t, because he looked down at my notebook and went a little pale. While I was talking to him, my hand kept writing the numbers until it filled the space on the page and spilled onto the desk.
He blinked a couple times and said, “If that’s what you want to write about.” After looking at the numbers for another minute, he turned and walked back to the front of the room.
“Hey, Justin, why should they legalize marijuana?” I said.
Justin leaned forward, breathing his peppermint candy breath on my neck and told me this whole long random list of reasons. I wrote it down. I’d never done anything like that. It felt like cheating, which was a laugh. The Language Arts class was so lame we didn’t even have to do research. It’s not like I was plagiarizing. I just took what Justin told me and wrote it down in my own words.
When the bell rang, I scribbled my conclusion: “So that’s why, in my opinion, marijuana should be legalized.” Then I got up and handed in my paper. Mr. Hildenbrand shook his head, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything, except making the voice stop. Even if I had to skip class and go to Codell to make that happen.