Read Anything but Normal Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

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Anything but Normal (11 page)

BOOK: Anything but Normal
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“You’d think we were planning our weddings,” Sophie said as she and Carrie Anne took their lunch trays to the drop-off area. “Why all this obsessive craziness?”

“Because it’s fun. Plus it’ll be good practice for the prom.” “So you’re already planning to go to the prom now?” Sophie frowned as she dumped the remainder of her lunch in the garbage can.

“Why not?”

As Sophie dropped off her tray, she could think of dozens of reasons why not. At least where she was concerned. Prom was usually in late April or early May. By then Sophie would be full-term pregnant and probably bigger than a barn. By then all her friends and the universe at large would know her “little” secret. And by then Sophie would be a great big portion of supersized humiliation.


“Feeling better today?” Mr. Young asked.

Sophie gave him a big smile as she entered the classroom. She was ready for this now. No more dramatics—except for what she hoped would be an award-winning performance of normal. “Yeah, I’m feeling fine now. Thanks.” She handed him her opinion piece. “Sorry about yesterday. I think I ate something bad at lunch or something.”

“Well, I had one of their cheeseburgers today, and I can understand how that could happen.” He chuckled, then glanced down at her paper and headed to his office.

She was relieved that he hadn’t pressed her about the chief editor position again. Maybe he’d decided to forget about it after witnessing yesterday’s meltdown. Really, wouldn’t that be for the best? She suspected that Wes would be his second choice. And all things considered, Wes would probably be a lot more reliable. The obvious man for the job. Of course, that fact stung.

For the past three years, ever since she’d been involved in the school paper, the chief editors had all been guys. To be fair, there really hadn’t been any girls who wanted to step up to the task. Except for her. Last year she’d made it clear that she was ready—and she’d even teased Mr. Young about discrimination based on gender. She’d actually written an op-ed piece on it. He’d run it in the paper alongside one of his own in which he’d assured her and everyone else that he did not discriminate against women. It had actually been quite convincing. As the year progressed, she had been hopeful that she’d be the first girl (for quite some time) to break the string of male domination on the paper. It seemed that she’d actually gotten her chance. Except she had ruined everything.

“Hey, Sophie,” Wes said. “Feeling okay today?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Justina said you got sick. Was it me?”

Sophie laughed. “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

“You know what I mean . . . about the dance.”

“No, it was not you, Wes. I think I ate something bad for lunch. That’s all, okay?”

He brightened. “Okay.”

Mr. Young cleared his throat and stepped up to the head of the classroom. “I’ve selected some of the opinion pieces to be read aloud today, followed by critiquing.”

Back in the old days, Sophie had always been eager to take her turn and read something she’d written. Not now. She was glad when a couple of others were called to read first, and although she contributed to their critiques, she didn’t want to be the one on the hot seat this time.

But after about five more pieces and critiques, she started to get worried. What if Mr. Young hadn’t liked her piece? What if she was losing it as a writer? What if she was suddenly yesterday’s news—a has-been, a pregnant loser chick no one would ever take seriously again? What if— “Sophie Ramsay?” Mr. Young held up her piece. “You’ll be our final reader.”

Shaken but relieved not to have been totally excluded, Sophie took her paper and began to read. As she read, she could tell by the reaction of her listeners—laughter in appropriate spots and silence in others—that she was still hitting the mark. When she finished, they clapped. Actually clapped.

Sophie could feel herself beaming as she took her seat. When the critique began, she mostly got praise. Finally Mr. Young stepped in. “Sophie has nailed it,” he told them. “And I’m going to tell you why. She picked one subject and stuck to it. She explained the problem with humor and insight. She kept it simple and succinct. She obviously did some research to support her opinion. And she wrote about a topic that concerns everyone.” He smiled at her. “As a teacher, I’d give this piece an A plus. And as a publisher, I’d run it in the editor’s column because I’m asking Sophie Ramsay to accept the position of chief editor. I’ve already asked Wes Andrews to assume the role of managing editor, which he has accepted.”

He pointed to Sophie. “So, how about it? Don’t you think it’s about time this paper was run by a woman?”

She nodded. “I do.”

He grinned. “Sophie Ramsay, I now pronounce you chief editor of the
Panther Paw

Wes started to clap, and when the rest joined in, it took every ounce of Sophie’s self-control and composure to keep from crying. “Thanks,” she told them in a husky voice. “As chief editor, I think we better get to work.”

“That’s right,” Wes said. “We’ve got a paper to get out.”

The last thing Sophie wanted to spend her whole Saturday doing was trying on formals with her girlfriends. Shopping with friends who were thinner had never been good for her self-image in the first place, but watching them modeling all these strapless, backless, low-cut, figure-hugging dresses was making her want to lose her lunch.

“Come out,” Carrie Anne urged her.

Sophie looked at her image in the mirror and frowned. “It’s not working for me,” she called back.

“Just let us see,” Kelsey said. “I think that shade of coral is going to be great with your complexion.”

“Fine.” Sophie emerged from the room, held her hands out to her sides, and made a sour face. “I look like an overgrown pomegranate.”

Her friends laughed.

“And speaking of fruit . . . ,” she put her hands beneath her breasts and gave them a little push-up, “. . . these melons are about ready to bust out of here.”

Her friends laughed harder, and she joked more. Of course, her jokes were all at her own expense. Not that anyone noticed. Besides her.

“It’s useless,” she said finally.

“No, it’s not,” Carrie Anne declared. “We just need to look harder.”

“No.” Sophie shook her head. “Not until you listen to me.” “What?”

“I don’t want anything that’s low-cut or strapless or backless or tight.”

“Why don’t you just wear your bathrobe?”

“Good idea.”

“Seriously, Sophie,” Carrie Anne said. “You sound like you want to go as a nun.”

Sophie pointed at Carrie Anne. “And you look like you want to go as a slut.”

Carrie Anne blinked. “A slut?”

“Well, look at you. You’re like half-naked.”

“You sound like my dad now.”

“Speaking of your dad, what will he think of that dress?”

Carrie Anne frowned.

“I’m not trying to be mean,” Sophie said. “But you guys are all sending mixed messages here.”

“Mixed messages?” Kelsey tugged the bodice of her skimpy dress a little higher. “How so?”

“You know what I’m talking about.” Now Sophie wished she’d never opened her big mouth. Who was she to talk anyway?

“I know what she means,” Hannah said quietly. “We’ve all made the purity pledge, and here we—”

“Except me,” Jenny chimed in.

“Yes, except you.”

“Although, just for the record, I am still a virgin and I do not plan on having sex anytime soon.” Jenny smiled smugly. “Thanks for the news flash,” Carrie Anne said.

“But Sophie’s actually making a good point,” Hannah continued. “And what about what Jeanette and Phil told us at youth group last week? What about making a promise with our lips and not with our hearts?”

“They said that?” Sophie waited to hear more.

“Phil said that it’s better not to make a promise than to make a promise and break it.” Jenny nodded. “See, he’s helping to support my theory.”

“And if we really are serious about our purity pledge . . .” Hannah turned around and looked at herself in the big three-way mirror. Her hot pink strapless dress was so tight that Sophie wondered how she could possibly breathe, let alone sit down in a chair or eat. “Why are we dressing like this?”

“So what are you suggesting we do?” Kelsey directed this to Sophie. “Should we all go to the dance wearing baggy turtleneck dresses that cover every square inch of flesh?”

Sophie shook her head. “I probably shouldn’t have said anything. Just forget—”

“No,” Jenny said firmly. “I think you’re right, Sophie. We do need to tone it down a little.”

“Yeah.” Carrie Anne said. “My dad would probably have a cow if he saw me in this dress.”

Kelsey frowned at her own image in the mirror. Her formal was a sparkly turquoise number but cut so low in the back that Sophie thought Kelsey might have a serious problem if she actually attempted to dance in it. “But I like this dress. It brings out the color in my eyes.”

“Check out the back side,” Hannah said as she spun her around.

Jenny reached over and tugged the dress down another inch. “I can see your underwear, Kelsey.”

“Hey!” Kelsey smacked Jenny’s hand. “Watch it.”

“Well, would you rather reveal your behind to us or to everyone at the dance?”

“Or to your parents?” Hannah challenged.

The girls continued to argue, but Sophie managed to stay out of it. Finally, as they were bickering about which was worse—showing too much cleavage or too much back—Sophie slipped back into her changing room and got dressed in her own clothes. She was sick of trying things on. Something about a pregnant girl shopping for a formal gown and lecturing her friends about purity promises was just way too creepy.

As it turned out, Mr. Young was right. The more distracted Sophie became with her new role as chief editor, the less she obsessed over other troubles. This was the first year the school had done both an online daily newspaper as well as the bimonthly printed one. Keeping up was a challenge.

“It’s almost like a full-time job,” she admitted to Wes as they put the paper to bed on Friday afternoon.

“But this experience is going to look really great on the college apps.” Wes turned off his computer. “Have you started applying yet?”

She shook her head.

“Well, you don’t want to put it off too long.”

“No . . .” She reached for her bag.

“So, are you going to the big game tonight?”

“As much as I’d like to just go home and sleep for a couple of days, I promised Carrie Anne I’d go with her.”

Wes grinned. “Great. See ya there then.”

She nodded, feigning a smile. “Yeah.”

“And, uh, my mom told me to ask you what color your dress is . . . you know, for tomorrow night’s dance.”


“Black?” His tone was curious.

“Yeah. You have a problem with black?” She was ready to lay into him if he did. She’d already taken enough grief from her friends about her choice of color. They were all going with tropical shades and felt like she was the spoiler for choosing black. But her mom had helped her find a dress that Sophie felt was appropriate. Well, for a pregnant girl anyway.

Wes held up his hands defensively. “Black is good.”


“So, I’ll see you at the game then.” He grabbed up his laptop case and hurried out of the journalism room.

“All finished?” Mr. Young asked as he locked his office door.

“Yep.” Sophie nodded.

“And you’re still glad you’re chief editor?”

“Well, it’s keeping me busy.”

He chuckled as he gathered up his briefcase and things. “And out of trouble?”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right.”

“Have a good weekend. I’m sure you’ll be busy with all the homecoming activities.”

“Yeah, pretty much.” She didn’t bother to tell him that she wasn’t looking forward to all the activities or that she’d rather just take a long nap. Better yet, she wished she could just hibernate until, say, mid-May.

She felt even more tired that evening. Despite the fact that their team was winning—although the margin was shrinking in the second half—and the crowd was rowdy and loud and wound up, all Sophie wanted was to go home and sleep.

BOOK: Anything but Normal
3.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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