Book: The First - Part: One - Chapter: 4 - Installment: i

Reading break.
Sarah believed that if she stayed in school for the rest of her life she would never embrace the declared intent of 'Reading Break.' Did anyone?
All she could ever imagine wanting to do during the week off was just exactly that – take a week off. Sure, she could use the time to catch up on her work, or possibly even get ahead on something.
The one thing she patently refused to do was the work that had been assigned ‘for reading break.’
What kind of asshole…?
Professor Hughes. She knew that there were other instructors on campus who didn't seem to understand the concept of reading break, who assigned specific assignments to be done during those nine days. Professor Hughes just happened to be her particualr bug bear.
He wanted a thirty minute presentation from each student and they would start presenting them in random order on the Monday after reading break, so everyone would have to be ready on their first day back. A dozen and a half thirty minute presentations were going to take at least two weeks to get through – pretty much the rest of the semester.
How ironic. Sarah thought. He's too lazy to teach the class himself, so he's giving us more work than we can handle so that WE can fill up the remaining class time teaching each other.
Sarah had already chosen her topic. Advanced search strings. It was something that she had developed a knack for. If she had to present on the first day back, she could improvise a reasonable amount of material.
Now, she was preparing for next Saturday night. It was a full-moon and Ruthven had big plans. 
Her boyfriend, Ruthven’s, real name was Kevin, but he had taken the name of an English nobleman who had been rumoured to be a vampire. Ruthven was fascinated by vampires. Sarah thought vampires were interesting, but she really thought that Ruthven was fascinating. And by all measures, Ruthven liked her. A lot. It was unfamiliar territory for her. Boys didn’t like her. Or at least they hadn’t until Ruthven.
Sarah looked at herself in the mirror built into her dorm room closet. She was skinny. Very skinny. Always had been. Always would be. However long 'always' was.
She’d watched her Mother waste, whither and die, and she knew that she too faced the same eventual fate. She was lucky to have made it this far. She’d spent a lot of time as a child with other kids like her. About a third of them were already dead. Sarah herself had very nearly not made it to her first birthday. A simple case of pneumonia that would hardly have affected any well cared for normal child had brought her to death’s door. That was their first sure clue that her Mother had passed on the deadly disease to her. But she had been a fighter. With heroic effort from her doctors she had survived and begun the immediate lifelong treatment that would leave her frail and sleight.
As puberty hit other girls and they grew into women, Sarah watched hoping that one day she too would blossom into robust health, but knowing that it would never happen. Yes, she became a woman, but she’d always be pale, always be sickly thin. Never be sexy.
When her Mother died, she was fifteen. She begged her father to let her go to a normal school. To live a normal life. To be like ‘real’ kids.
She had always felt like a porcelain doll. Pale and fragile. Left up on the shelf up out of reach of the boisterous kids, running and playing. She wanted to at least be allowed to pretend to be like them. To be with them.
“I’m fifteen. I know how to take care of myself.”
Sarah, you can’t.”
“No. You can’t. You can’t stand the thought of losing me like you lost Mom. Well guess what Dad. You can’t stop it. I’m going to die. Just like her, too weak to lift my head, shitting myself ‘cause I can’t draw enough breath to speak.”
Sarah, don’t talk like that.”
“It’s true.”
“They could find a cure.”
“And if they don’t then I’ll have spent my entire life waiting rather than living. You’ve got to let me go now. I’m not talking about going and living in Ebola stricken Kenya. I’m talking about going to a normal school with normal kids. I’m talking about doing something fun for once. Having real friends. Not a bunch of sick kids conducting our own vigil over each other. Imagine for once that I could go through a year of school without having to attend a classmate’s memorial, thanking God that it wasn’t me. ‘Cause next time maybe it will be me, and I’ll have never had that chance. This could be my only adventure, to pretend for once that I’m a normal person.”
She knew that she had practically shamed her father into letting her go, but she didn’t really care, because she had been right.
The adventure hadn’t been quite as exciting as she’d dreamed. In fact, substantial portions had been utterly disastrous.
Sarah had figured that changing schools just as she got to senior high-school would put her on an even playing field with everyone else. All four junior high-schools in town merged into one senior high-school for the final two-years. She had made the mistaken assumption that the intermingling of groups would mean that she would be little worse off than anyone else who was suddenly being subjected to three-quarters of a grade worth of new classmates. But she’d miscalculated the strength of the existing cliques from the junior high-schools, in fact for all practical purposes she was entirely ill-prepared for clique-based social circles. The Health Foundation School was small, and with a constant spectre presiding over all, it would be inhumane to break down into sub-units and she and her fellow patients seemed to have a built in understanding of the lonely futility of ostracizing one another. It was not so in her new classes.
The first day she had arrived, perky and excited to make friends. She’d be ‘that courageous and funny girl who was so cavalier about the fact that she was dying.’ She would simultaneously charm and appall her classmates with her shocking joie de vivre.
“What are you going to wear to the prom? I’m thinking a shroud.” She made herself laugh.
But it wasn’t that way. The doors to the social circles were closed. Each of the groups from each junior school closed ranks as they sized up each of the other schools’ social order.
“Who are the cool kids at D. Park High?”
“Whatever you do, don’t accidentally associate with the geeks from Kelley Heights Junior… but which ones are the geeks?”
The pale skinny girl with the sunken eyes, didn’t have a chance, no matter how witty she was. But Sarah was happy just to be there. The simple fact that she didn’t have to spend an hour everyday traveling into the city to the Health Foundation School was a bonus to her.
She decided not to exacerbate her situation by being ‘the dying girl.’ She kept it to herself. Which wasn’t hard as she largely kept to herself and watched from the sidelines. Despite her intentions to be the life of the school with her dark humour, her father got his way, she was never involved with her school mates, in fact she quickly found that she didn’t even really know how to be involved. She stuck to herself, nearly invisible. Like a ghost.
Sarah loved to watch. She had a favourite place on the bleachers where she’d watch sports. Any sports really, but she particularly enjoyed soccer, and the boy’s team had been the Fraser Valley champions for two years running. The school library was a revelation too. A new form of voyeurism for her. The H.F.S. had made monthly trips to the Vancouver Public Library and everyone was allowed to check out one book, but they didn’t have a library in the school itself. Sarah was delighted that she could take out as many books as she could carry, read them and return them for more as fast as she could absorb them. She would find a book on a subject that intrigued her – by Christmas of grade eleven she’d given herself primers on each of Renaissance art, soccer (of course), and the history of silent film. She would find a subject, read a book or books on it – usually splitting her attention between it and a game from the bleachers. In her computer-class she’d download a host of additional material to her laptop and mix it up with the book reading.
She knew that she could have been expanding her horizons like this at the H.F.S. but she hadn’t fully realized it back then. Being out in the world gave her a greater sense of freedom that she extended into a voracious hunger for knowledge.
From an outside view she may have seemed very alone, but she had found something that contented her. Not happy, precisely, but content.

Installment ii

1 comment:

lia said...

hmmmm....the names of the schools in this installment seem vaguely familiar :)

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Necropolis by Kennedy Goodkey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at necropolisnovels.blogspot.com.