Read Anything but Normal Online

Authors: Melody Carlson

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Anything but Normal (9 page)

BOOK: Anything but Normal
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“I know you’re probably going to say forget it,” he began. “And I wouldn’t really blame you. I just hope you won’t hold it against me for asking. I mean, you’re the coolest girl I know, and . . .” His voice trailed off.

Now she felt guilty. “I’m the coolest girl you know?” she said.

He nodded. “Yeah. And I was just hoping that maybe you’d want to go to the dance with me. I mean, just as friends.”

“Just as friends?” She looked curiously at him.

“Not that I don’t want to be more than friends. I mean . . . well, I like you, Sophie. You’re fun and you’re funny and you’re real, you know?”

She didn’t know what to say. Why did he have to be so sweet about it? He was making this difficult.

“So, if you’re going to turn me down, could you, like, just get it over with?” He smiled nervously.

“Okay, fine,” she said. “I’ll go with you.”

“Really?”

Had she just agreed to go with him? She’d heard the words come out of her mouth, but it wasn’t what she’d meant to say. What was wrong with her anyway? Did being pregnant mess with your head as much as it messed with your body?

“You’re not just jerking me around?” His eyes looked larger than usual behind his dark-rimmed glasses. Sophie studied the color—kind of a blue-green-gray. “You’ll really go to the dance with me?”

“I guess.” She sighed. “But on one condition.”

He frowned. “One condition?”

“Carrie Anne wants to go to the dance with Drew, and unless that happens I won’t—”

“Not a problem.” He grinned.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Drew thinks Carrie Anne is hot.”

“He does?”

Wes nodded. “Looks like it’s kind of a slam dunk then?”

“Maybe so.” She forced a smile. “Want me to wear a crow on my head?”

He laughed. “No, you should leave that to Katie Dannon.” “Sophie?”

She looked over to see Mr. Young motioning to her. “Yeah?”

He nodded toward his office. “I need to speak to you.”

“You’re in trouble now.” Wes winked at her.

She slowly stood and walked toward the office. She knew it was unlikely that she was really in trouble, not seriously. But for some reason her heart was pounding like she was. She knew it was impossible that Mr. Young had any idea about what was going on with her, yet she felt like he did. Each step felt heavy with guilt, like her feet were thudding so loudly on the floor that everyone in the classroom was listening, watching, like they knew.

What if the family planning clinic had called the school to reach her? It was unreasonable and unlikely, but
what
if?
What if Mary had blabbed to someone in the counseling center, saying that Sophie Ramsay was about six weeks pregnant and that she needed to schedule an appointment for an abortion ASAP? What if the whole world knew it by now?

“Come on in,” Mr. Young said.

Sophie went into the office. Her knees felt shaky, and her stomach seemed to be following suit. Hopefully she wasn’t about to hurl. She glanced at the wastebasket by his desk.

He closed the door. “I want to keep this private.”

She felt her throat constricting.

“As you know, I haven’t selected the chief editor for the paper yet.”

She just nodded and stared down at the wastebasket.
Don’t
hurl, don’t hurl, don’t hurl
, she told herself.

“To be perfectly honest, I had planned to ask you to fill this position.”

She looked up with wide eyes. “Had planned?” Did he know something?

He cocked his head slightly to one side. “Are you feeling okay?”

She took in a quick breath and forced a shaky smile. “Yeah, sure.”

He nodded but looked skeptical. “As I was saying, I had planned to ask you to be chief editor, Sophie. You’re the most qualified for the job, and before school started, I figured it was a no-brainer.”

She didn’t know what to say. What was his point? Even if he did know she was pregnant, which really seemed unlikely, would he use that to discriminate against her? And if so, would she fight it? Could she?

“But then school began, and, well, it just doesn’t seem like you have the same kind of enthusiasm you’ve exhibited in the past.” He studied her. “Something about you seems to have changed. Or maybe you’ve just decided that journalism isn’t where it’s at anymore.”

“I love journalism.”

“That’s a relief.”

She pressed her lips together.

“Is everything okay with you, Sophie?”

She shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

“Something going on in your personal life?”

Without making eye contact, she just shook her head.

He sort of chuckled. “It’s not that I want to hear about your love life or anything like that. But I do know that it’s not easy being a teenager. Never has been. And hearts get broken right and left.” He just stood there with his hands in his pockets, as if he was unsure how to proceed.

“If I’ve seemed less enthusiastic,” she began carefully, “it’s not because I’ve lost interest. I mean, really, I do love journalism. But . . . you’re right, I am going through something—kind of a broken heart. I just really don’t want to talk about it, okay?” She looked him in the eyes, and he actually seemed relieved.

“That’s what I suspected.” He smiled. “If it’s any consolation, these things always get better with time.”

“Thanks.” But all she could think was that this particular thing would only get bigger with time—and much, much worse.

“And sometimes the best medicine is to lose yourself in something you love, like journalism. It’s a good distraction.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “So, what do you think? Do you want to be this year’s chief editor?”

Whether it was the kindness in his voice or the touch of his hand, something in her just shattered, and she knew she was about to cry. Without answering him, she turned and dashed from his office, tore out of the journalism room, and headed straight for the bathroom and into a stall. Not to barf but to bawl.

As Sophie was blowing her nose, she heard a tapping sound. “Huh?”

“It’s Justina,” a quiet voice said. “Mr. Young sent me to check on you.”

Justina Coughlin was another journalism geek. Shy and unsure of herself, she sometimes loomed behind Sophie, quietly observing as Sophie worked on something. She reminded Sophie of a shadow.

“I’m fine,” Sophie said.

“Are you sick or something?”

Sophie opened the door and stared at Justina. She was about the same height as Sophie, but stick-thin and not in the model-cool way. With stringy, dishwater-blonde hair and a complexion that resembled a childhood disease, Justina wasn’t exactly a head turner. “I’m fine,” Sophie said again.

“Were you crying?”

Sophie shrugged as she went for the sink, ran cold water, and splashed it onto her face.

“Did Mr. Young say something mean to you?”

Sophie tore off a paper towel, dried her face, and turned back to Justina. “No, he didn’t say anything
mean
. Not that it’s any of your business, but he asked me to be chief editor.”

“Oh.” Justina looked confused and hurt, and Sophie felt guilty.

“I’m sorry,” Sophie said quickly. “It’s not your fault.”

“So . . . you’re upset because Mr. Young asked you to be chief editor?”

“Not exactly.” Sophie sighed. “Maybe I’m just hormonal.”

“PMS?” Justina pressed. “I know what you mean. I get it really bad too. My mom’s the same way.”

“Yeah.” Sophie nodded as if that was the problem. If only that
was
the problem.

“Do you want to go back to class now?”

“Not really.”

“Yeah, I don’t blame you. It’s probably pretty embarrassing.” Justina brightened. “Want me to get your stuff for you?”

Sophie considered this. It’s not like she could just skip out on class and expect no consequences. What if someone called her parents? The last thing she needed was for them to be questioning her.

“I can tell Mr. Young that you’re not feeling good.”

Sophie nodded. “Yeah, would you do that?”

“If you go to the counselor and tell her you have a bad case of PMS, she’ll write you an excuse.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. I had to do that once. Actually, this girl had teased me, and, well, I was already having a crappy day and I kind of fell apart. But Mrs. Phelps was really nice about it. She’s really understanding.”

Sophie waited in the restroom while Justina returned to get Sophie’s things. She wondered what exactly Justina would say to Mr. Young. Hopefully she wouldn’t mention hormones or PMS. And what if Wes asked what was up? What would Justina tell him?

As embarrassing as it would be, maybe the smartest thing would be for Sophie to simply return and face the music. She could make a joke about it. Act like she’d been so touched by being asked to be chief editor that she’d gotten emotional. Of course, then she’d need to respond to the offer. Was she willing to be chief editor? Would it be better to just pass? Or would that draw even more unwanted attention?

“Here you go.” Justina handed Sophie her bag and the hoodie that she’d left behind.

“Thanks.” Sophie pulled on her sweatshirt and looped the strap of her bag over her shoulder.

“Mr. Young asked me to escort you.”

“Escort me?” Sophie frowned.

“Yeah. I made it sound like you were sick. I didn’t think you’d want me to mention PMS, you know?”

Sophie nodded. “Oh yeah, thanks.”

“So I’ll just walk you there, okay?”

So Justina Coughlin escorted Sophie to the counseling center. She felt like she was about six years old when Justina knocked on Mrs. Phelps’s door and introduced Sophie. “She’s having really bad PMS,” Justina said in an undertone. “I told her you could help.”

Mrs. Phelps smiled and waved Sophie in.

“Thanks,” Sophie said crisply to Justina, as if she could handle it from here. Once Justina was gone, Sophie closed the door and sat down in the chair across from Mrs. Phelps, letting out a big sigh.

“Having a hard day?” Mrs. Phelps asked.

“Make that a hard life.”

Mrs. Phelps removed her reading glasses and peered curiously at Sophie. “Want to talk about it?”

Now Sophie regretted her previous statement.

“I know that hormones can play havoc with our emotions sometimes.” Mrs. Phelps pushed a strand of auburn hair behind an ear and sighed. “Trust me, I
know
.”

Sophie nodded. “Yeah, I kind of lost it in journalism.”

Her brows lifted slightly. “Did you let someone have it?”

“Not exactly. I kind of fell apart and started to cry.”

“Oh, that can be even worse than losing your temper.”

“Pretty humiliating.”

“What made you fall apart?” Mrs. Phelps leaned back in her chair. “I mean, besides PMS.”

“I’m not really sure. Mr. Young was being nice. He’d just asked me to be chief editor of the paper.”

“Congratulations.”

Sophie bit her lip.

“Or not . . .”

“I’m just not sure I should do it.”

“Why not?”

Sophie shrugged but didn’t answer.

“You shouldn’t allow your current emotional state to frighten you out of doing something you really want to do.” She smiled.

“I make it a firm rule not to make any major life decisions when I’m in the midst of PMS. It’s kind of like getting your hair cut when you’re having a bad hair day—it can turn out to be a big mistake. You just need to be patient and wait until the emotions pass.”

“What if they
don’t
pass?”

“Oh, they always pass . . . eventually.”

Sophie didn’t say anything, just looked down at her hands and frowned.

“Sophie?”

“Huh?” Sophie looked up to see that Mrs. Phelps looked slightly concerned. With her chin in her hand, she studied Sophie carefully, almost like she was taking some kind of inventory. Or perhaps she could see right through her.

“Is this something else, something besides PMS?”

Sophie shook her head. “No . . . not at all.”

“Are you sure?”

Sophie looked back down again.

“You can talk to me.”

“I know.”

“Anything you say to me will be confidential.”

Sophie looked back up.

“You can trust me.”

You can trust me.
Sophie’s face grew hot as she remembered the last time she’d heard those four words . . . from Dylan.
You
can trust me.
Yeah, right.

“It will help to talk,” Mrs. Phelps continued. “I’m a good listener.”

“Thanks.” Sophie reached for her bag. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She stood and took a deep breath. “I feel better now.”

Mrs. Phelps nodded with a sad expression. Or maybe it was disappointment.

“Do I need to get an excuse or something? I mean, for missing class just now.”

She wrote something down on a pad. “Yes, I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks.”

“And if you change your mind and need to—”

“I know—you’re a good listener.” The problem, she almost said, was that she was not ready to talk about it—to God or anyone.

9

“Are you sick?” Carrie Anne asked in an impatient tone.

“Hello to you too.” Sophie was tempted to hang up. Seriously, what kind of a greeting was that?

“Sorry, but I’m serious. Are you?”

“What?”

“Sick.”

“No, but thanks for caring.”

“I do care. It’s just that Wes said you got sick in journalism.” “You talked to Wes?” Sophie peeled her eyes off of her computer screen to see that it was after ten and she still wasn’t finished.

“Well, yeah. He told me that you’d agreed to go to the homecoming dance with him, then you got sick and ran off. Like was that a coincidence?”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning Wes is worried that he made you sick.”

Despite herself, Sophie laughed. “Seriously?”

“I told him that was ridiculous. So what happened then? Why did he think you were sick?”

Sophie told Carrie Anne about talking to Mr. Young in his office, making it seem like the way he’d questioned her interest in being the chief editor had been upsetting. It actually seemed not only fairly clever but rather believable as well. “I just overreacted,” she said finally. “I think it was PMS.”

“I don’t blame you for overreacting, Sophie. You’re the obvious choice for chief editor. I can’t believe he’d even question you on that.”

BOOK: Anything but Normal
10.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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