Authors: Jaci Wheeler
“Yes, I got stuck sitting next to him this morning after your lovely little display of affection. Really Roz, next time you decide to send him into hysterics, please let me know so I can skip my first session. He ranted at me all morning and almost landed us in the headmaster's office.” As much as I try, I can't suppress a smile.
“I’m sorry, Molly. Sometimes I just can’t resist. I do need to make it up to him though. I guess I’ve put off seeing him long enough; time to brave seeing Mr. Sanders.” We stand up and walk toward study hall.
The rest of the day passes rather uneventfully, with Wes sulking and giving me a wide birth most of the day. I almost expect him to walk home without me, but as my last session ends, I see him leaning against a tree glaring at me. He can never stay mad at me, but he sure is doing a good job making me feel bad, which isn’t at all hard to do. By nature, I am ridiculously empathetic, a fact that Wes uses against me on many occasions.
I decide to get straight to the point. “Wes, Love, I’m very sorry. It was a mean thing to kiss you in public...”
“You mean sneak attack kiss me without my permission, Rosaline!”
Trying my best to not see the humor in this situation, I nod. “You are very right. Next time I kiss you, it will be in private with your permission,” I say as seriously as I can and walk off. A very stunned Wes just stands there for a few moments before catching up to me.
“It’s OK, Wes, I was just teasing you. I’m sorry for embarrassing and flustering you. Sometimes you just make it too easy. But you are right, that was mean of me and it won’t happen again. I also plan to make it up to you very soon.”
This seems to please him for now and he nods and continues to walk in silence. Not wanting my thoughts to go towards thinking about the job ceremony, I look over and asked him, “Honestly Wes, what are you going to do once you are a gorgeous and brilliant doctor and all the girls can’t wait to give you a kiss?”
I was really only partly joking. All he would need is a little muscle and some weight and he would be a knock out. “File sexual harassment of course!” he answers in all seriousness, as he continues to walk.
The next morning I am waiting on the porch five minutes before Wes comes to get me. I have a huge smile on my face and a present behind my back. “Why are you grinning like that?” he asks.
“Well, I might just have something for you.” I reach behind my back and bring out the coffee cake I had made for him the night before. In icing I had written, “To the least pretentious guy I know.” His smile lights up his entire face as he leans over and takes the cake!
“I love you, Roz,” he says in between bites.
“I know,” I say, standing up. “Now come on, you are making me late.”
Panic quickly replaces his smirk. He runs to his house and puts the rest of the cake away and we make our way to school, enjoying the quiet and being 15 years old.
Once we get to school, the butterflies start up in my stomach again. Am I nervous about the history test? No, I love American History! In fact, I am fascinated about how far our country has come. Since my father is an American History professor at the University, I grew up listening to the stories of the destruction of the states and I'm pretty sure that I could teach the class myself. So why do I feel so uneasy this morning?
“Hello! Earth to Rosaline! Anyone home?”
“Seriously Roz, I’m starting to get worried about you. You’ve been a little off lately, and that’s saying something coming from me,” Wes says, looking worried.
“Oh, I’m fine Wes, I’m just distracted. I’m not sure why, but I’ve just been a little uneasy about everything. I guess I’m just not ready to grow up!”
“Well, I would appreciate it if you’d hurry it up, ya know? I’m starting to get a kink in my neck.” I can't do anything but stare at him in shock for a moment! “Wes, did you just make a joke?! Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?!”
He grins at me proudly. “Yes, I suppose I did make I joke…but really, you are pretty short for your age, Roz, especially for someone who doesn’t drink coffee.” His smile fades quickly. “I know I tend to miss people’s emotions and get caught up in myself, but do you need to talk?”
That is one of the best things about our relationship. I never really have to say much. Wes always does most of the talking and I just listen, mostly to what he’s not saying, but I’m the one to comfort him. The fact that he is trying to comfort me right now is both unsettling and very touching at the same time.
“I’m gonna miss you, you know that kid?”
“Who you calling kid, I am 17 hours older you know!”
Before I can come up with my usual retort, the first bell rings. “Well, it’s time for me to go ace my history test.”
As I walk away, Wes calls out my name. I turned to look at him and he gives me a shy smile.
“It’ll be OK, right?” Leave it to Wesley to try to comfort me when, in actuality, he wants me to reassure him.
“Yes, Wes, I believe it will. I’ll see you at lunch.”
I slip into my seat just before the final bell rings. Mr. Crawford points to the board and my stomach drops. The prompt for today's journal entry was, “How I feel about turning sixteen.” Seriously?! Oh, this is so not my day. I’m trying to do everything in my power to block out the fact that very soon my whole universe is going to turn sideways, and this is not helping. I take a deep breath and decide to get this over with so I can hurry on to my final.
Rosaline Thatcher Entry #2161
I’ve done my very best to try not to think about how I feel, but, I’m terrified to be honest. I’m always the one in control, I’m the one who knows the answers, I’m the one who helps when people aren’t sure what to do…so what happens when I don’t know what to do? OK, freak out moment over. You get up, move on, and tackle the problem set before you. (I'm not sure if that was my voice or my mother’s.) I suppose it’s the same thing I’ve done up until this point, so I don’t see why this should be any different. I should be relieved; the fact that I don’t have to pick my career should be a huge weight off my shoulders. Knowing myself, I'd be so worried I would pick the wrong one and let everyone down. There are so many things I can see myself doing. In fact, there are so many things I can see myself loving! I love knowledge and learning, I love being opened up to new things and experiences, I love learning from my mistakes, as weird as that sounds. The only thing I hope, no matter where I end up, is that I’m working with people in some way. So many people ask me why I’m friends with Wes. They make fun of him and I’m sure me in return, but there are those who are honestly curious what I get out of our friendship. If they only knew how much he challenges me, makes me a better person, and makes me see the world in a new light. He makes me better. That’s what I need. I need a job that is going to make me a better person. And, let’s be honest, I’m sick because I know there isn’t a chance I will get a job with Wesley. Sadly, I’m not sure I know who I am without him. Without me, he will be fine. I can picture him now; finding cures to diseases, solving unsolvable problems, and challenging others to be better. Wes, he will thrive. He may not like change, but he was made for something. What am I made for? Hopefully I will find out soon.
I put my tablet in my desk and wait for the test to begin. I usually don’t write so much, but as always I lay my heart out on the screen. Thank God Mr. Crawford doesn’t read these! I’m sick because I’m going to miss Wesley. Go figure, without him, I don’t feel whole. I guess we always knew this was coming. He dreads change, and it turns out that I do too, just not in the same way.
I look around and realize almost everyone is done with the journal writing and Mr. Crawford is passing out the final. YES! It looks like an essay. I see a few smiles at this realization, but mostly you only hear groans. For those who actually know American History, essays are cake, but for those who were hoping for multiple choice, looks like their ship has been sunk! My friend Rae winks at me from across the room. Her mother works with my dad and we have been friends for a while; we both know we’ve got this in the bag.
“OK class, this is where we find out who has actually been paying attention and who hasn’t. I usually don’t ask for opinions on my essays, but I’m very curious since there are more views than I thought based on the papers I’ve read. Don’t forget that this isn’t just telling me what you think; I want facts as well. You have one hour to finish: begin.” And with that, Mr. Crawford returns to his desk, and I look at the essay subject. “
What do you think was the United States of America’s downfall in the Rebellion? Do you think the collapse of the States was inevitable, or do you think they could have continued to thrive as they had been?
I begin my essay and get so caught up in it that by the time I finished there wasn’t much time left. I tend to get a little spirited when I talk about the rebellion of our country. I guess I get it from my dad. I am glad I didn’t have to live in that time. My empathetic nature wouldn’t be able to handle it. In our history books there are pictures of people who are actually homeless, no shelter, no food, just begging in the streets. There were people who had to work more than one job just to put food on the table for their families; I just can’t imagine it.
I look up at the clock and notice that the bell is just about to ring. I turn in my test and Rae joins me as we walk out of the class, “So, how do you think you did?” she asks.
“Well I not only proved I know my history, but that I am rather opinionated and heated when provoked,” I replied. “Well, it looks like our parents have taught us well then. Did you see Tristan’s paper when he handed it in? I don’t think he even wrote five lines down.”
“Do you think he picked laborer?” Even though I asked, I knew better. Tristan would never choose to work with his hands. He always felt like he was above most other people. Rae simply lifted one eyebrow in reply. Dang, I really need to learn how to do that!
On the way home Wes rambles on and on about how if people sneezed into a tissue and not into their hand, we could contain virus outbreaks by at least 60%. I try to reason with him that most people don’t have time to get a tissue out, but Wes, as usual, wasn’t listening. We fall into a comfortable silence and I start to wonder if he would actually miss me like I would him, or if he would just miss that I was a part of his usual routine. I didn’t ask him though; I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer.
Lily comes running out of the house when we get to the driveway. Lily is Wesley’s half-sister. His dad remarried about 9 years after his mom died. Susan is a very sweet woman, and the only mother (besides mine) that Wes has ever known. Lily is six and a little fire cracker. She is everything Wesley isn’t but they adore each other (as much as he tries to say the opposite). She is tiny with bright red hair in a little pixie cut. Oh to be six again and have no worries!
“Rozie, Rozie,” she cries, throwing herself into my arms. “I’ve missed you so very much! It’s been ages since you’ve been over to play.” (I had actually been over the day before yesterday but, to someone who thrives on attention as much as Lily does, I suppose it could feel like ages.)
“Well, what a horrible friend I have been! What shall my punishment be?” I ask her using my most serious voice.
She looks at me thoughtfully for a few moments and says, “I think we should have a slumber party, and you must get Wes to play princess tea party with us.” She says the last part with an innocent giggle that makes my heart flutter!
Wes looks like he is going to be sick at the thought of playing princess tea party. “Good luck with that!” he says as he walks into the house.
I start tickling Lily, listening to the joys of her laughter. “Well, what do you think Lily Bug? Do you think we can turn him into a princess yet?”
She smiles wide and says, “Of course we can, you just have to make him his favorite cake!”
“Ahh, so you get a slumber party, princess tea, and chocolate cake, huh, Lily Bug? And here everyone says that Wes is the family genius; I think you have them snowed!”
She kisses my cheek and runs off with my promise that I would be over in a few hours, after I bake the chocolate cake, of course.
It is the middle of the night and I can't sleep. After all the baking, playing, dancing and singing I did with Lily all night, I should be exhausted. I look around her room, taking it all in, remembering a time when I was small and felt safe and secure with the knowledge that everything was just as it should be. I steal a glance at my sweet bed partner and sweep one small, red lock of hair hanging over her eyes and watch her while she sleeps.
My Zone is all I’ve ever known: the people, climate, food. How different would everything be if I was sent to another Zone? The fact was that very few people are placed in their own zone. It is even rarer to be placed with a friend or someone they know. In our zone there are about 50 people turning sixteen. I’m not sure how many the other zones have, but usually only two to four from each group are placed in the same area of expertise and from there they are broken off into the different zones and specialties. With all these thoughts rolling around in my head, there’s no way I’m going to get any sleep tonight.
If I’m not able to sleep wondering about the future, there is no way Wes is sleeping either. I glance at the clock; it reads 2 am. I roll Lily over as carefully as I can and slip out of bed silently and out of her room. I tip toe down the hall and pause when I get to Wesley’s room. I stand there for a few minutes and listen at the door for any sounds. After a few moments I hear it, a very quiet counting. I slowly open the door and whisper Wes’s name. He turns from where he is looking through his skylight, most likely counting the stars, and turns to me, “Roz, what are you doing up?”
Its times like this that I really wish I could do the one eyebrow thing but instead I say, “Oh, I don’t know...contemplating the future, freaking out about everything, the usual. You?”
He gives me his shy smirk. “And I suppose you figured, ‘Well, Wes must be doing the same thing, maybe I should go bug him?’ huh? Think you are going to weasel your way into my bed and have me tell you a bedtime story?”
That is as close to an invitation as I am going to get so I hurry across the room and jump in his bed. Wes quickly shoves a pillow between us and gives me a sweet smile.
“Don’t worry Wesley Sanders; your virtue is safe with me!”
We lay there silently just staring up at the stars. After a while Wes turns to me and quietly says, “You know Roz, I don’t know what you are worried about. Everyone likes you and you are good at everything you do!” He means this as a compliment, but I see it for what it is.
“You are worried no one is going to like you?” I ask him.
“You know me, I don’t really care what people think, but I’ve never had to go into a new situation without you before. Everyone likes you. You win them over and, once they accept you, I’m always just like a part of the package.” As much as I try to hold it in, a huge smile breaks out on my face.
“Wesley Sanders, are you going to miss me?!” I ask, turning to face him playfully.
“Oh, don’t let it go to your head, but of course I will. You are my favorite!”
“You know you are mine too, right, Wes? No matter what happens; if we are split up, or get married or whatever may come, you will always be my best friend!”
“You had to go and bring up matrimony and ruin a perfectly good moment didn’t you?” he says dryly.
“Oh you know some beautiful and very odd woman is going to sweep you off your feet someday,” I say, only half joking.
“Well let’s hope not, because then you won’t be able to slip into my bed in the middle of the night now would you?”
Looking at him with pride I add, “Why, Wes, I do believe you just told another joke!”
“Yes, it seems I have evolved,” he says rolling his eyes. “Now let’s try and get some sleep so you don’t look like an old hag at the ceremony tomorrow.” I’m not sure if he was joking or not, but as the weight lifts from my shoulders, exhaustion hits me. Wes not telling me to leave as I snuggled the pillow is all the invitation I need to fall fast asleep.
I groan. “Arg! Wes, seriously?!”
I want to hit him, but my body is protesting even trying to move at the moment. He looks down at me from the bed with a sheepish look on his face.
“I’m sorry Roz, I forgot you were in the bed. I didn’t mean to push you on the floor!”
“I just hope this isn’t the highlight of my day!” I say, still unable to drag myself off his cold, hard floor.
“Come on sleepy head. Maybe Lily will share her chocolate milk with you!”
This perks me up. Well, that plus the fact that in just a few hours, my fate will be revealed. I turn over on my back, and put my hand up for Wes to pull me up. He just stands there staring at me.
“Seriously?! You aren’t even going to help me up after you so rudely threw me onto the cold, hard floor?”
“Well you know I normally would, but your hands might be dirty now…” he says, still just standing there staring at my offending hands. I can’t tell if he is just trying to be a pain or is actually serious, and at this point I could care less.
“Wesley Anderson Sanders, you better pick me up off this floor right this second or I will…”
He doesn’t even find out what I will do when he yanks me up in a flash. Once I bust out the middle name, he knows I mean business. He sets me on my feet and strolls out the door. I stop off at the bathroom and look in the mirror. Oh, that’s not pretty! My dark hair is in a giant knot in the back and the front is sticking up all over the place and what’s that…oh good, a nice goose egg looks like it's forming on the top of my aching head! Well, it’s time to face the music. I open the door and follow my nose to the kitchen. “Good morning, sweetie,” Susan greets me with a smile.
“There’s my girl!” Jasper scoops me up in his arms and gives me a big bear hug. In the looks department, Wes is a chip off the old block. Yes, I just admitted that his dad is gorgeous...well, you know, for a dad. But other than that, they are like night and day. Jasper Sanders is affectionate, friendly and over the top in most ways. He sets me down in a chair next to Lily at the table and, with a flourish, presents me with a full plate of food.
“Your breakfast, madam,” he says with a wink.
Lily giggles and Wes rolls his eyes at his father’s antics. We all get down to eating, and I smile at the taste of the blueberry pancakes. Besides being super sweet, Susan is an amazing cook. As wonderful as my mother is, cooking has never been her strong suit. We have oatmeal for breakfast every morning. On sleepover mornings, Jasper or Susan takes pity on me and make a huge breakfast.
After eating my fill, saying “thank you,” and hugging everyone, minus Wesley, good-bye, I head over to my house. As I walk in the door, my mother runs up to me and folds me into her arms. We stand there hugging for a few minutes, but I cannot bring myself to let go. My parents are both very affectionate and have never had a problem expressing it, but there was something more to this hug. I look up and see unshed tears in my beautiful mother’s eyes.
She smiles sadly at me and says, “Oh, you know me.”
But it’s more than that. Instantly shame hits me. All this time I have been worried about how I am feeling, how turning sixteen is going to affect me, even Wes, but I never once thought about how it was going to affect my parents.
“Are you worried about the ceremony?” I ask her.
“Oh no, I know they will fit you with the perfect job, just like they did your father and I. No, I’m not worried about the ceremony…”
It’s not like my mother to be vague. She works as a nurse to the dying, and she usually knows that time is short and because of that has never been one to mince words. She is one of the most caring and heartfelt people I know, but she is also extremely blunt, so to see her hesitate has me wondering what’s going on. Obviously she isn’t planning on spitting it out so I ask her, “What is it, Mom?”
“It’s just, I’m so proud of the young woman you have become, Rosaline. I knew once you turned sixteen you would move on to your own journey, and I thought I would be more prepared for it, but it feels as though my heart is breaking.”
Tears are running freely down her face now, as well as mine. Needing to comfort her, but having a hard time with words because I feel the same way, I say, “I know, I know, Mom.”
We hug for a while longer and then I step back and look at her, “Hey, you never know, maybe I’ll be placed somewhere nearby. Or maybe even I’ll work in the home for the sick.”
She smiles a knowing smile, but only says, “Yeah, maybe.”
“Either way, I am going to come home every chance I get, and I will send letters to your tablet every day.”
She gives me another glassy-eyed smile and then snaps out of it just as quick as it had come on. “Well now, enough of this silliness. It’s time to get you ready. I have a nice dress all picked out and ready for you. Go take a shower and we will leave when you are ready. I’m going to go round up your father and make sure his socks match.”
She was giving me an out from this emotional cry fest, but she wasn’t joking.
While my mother is totally gorgeous with her dark hair, tan skin, vivid green eyes and never has a hair out of place, my dad, on the other hand, is a complete mess. The stereotypical history teacher, he has sandy blonde hair and is as pasty white as anyone can get. His hair never seems to stay flat and is always sticking up at odd angles. His clothes very rarely match and his socks never do! But he adores my mother and me. People say I am the perfect blend of them: I am small like my mother and have her hair, but I got my father's pale skin and rosy red cheeks. I’d like to think I got her compassion and his intelligence, but that is just my pride speaking.
I hurry into the bathroom and take a nice hot shower, getting the aches out of my body. I go into my room and see a beautiful green dress laid out for me. Green is my mother’s favorite color and it makes me smile. Most girls my age wear makeup and take hours doing their hair. I’ve never felt the need to alter my appearance. I like how I look for the most part. I’m not beautiful by any means, but I think I look alright. I have always loved the contrast of my dark hair against my pale skin. My mother wears very little makeup so I've never felt the need to wear much either.
I take a deep breath and go to meet my parents on the porch. We all hop on our bikes and head towards the auditorium where the Career Ceremony is to be held. We park our bikes and wait until Wesley’s family meets us. I gave my parents and Wesley’s family a hug as we go off to find the rest of our age group.