The Empress, Part 2 [Fiction Friday]

This week, I was so excited to have won a writing contest in conjunction with Jackson Pearce’s release of her newest book, Sweetly. My submission was called “The Empress,” and played off The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I realize you may have read the above information approximately three times already in the rare event that you are an avid reader of my blog, but I wanted to update anyone else who may be reading this and does not read all of my posts (which, let’s face it, is probably most of you).

Anyway, I’ve finally finished editing part 2 of The Empress. The delay is partially due to the fact that I spent many of my waking hours before Sept. 28-29 frantically preparing for a conference at work, partially due to the limitations I put on myself by dubbing this series “Fiction Friday,” and partially due to the fact that I edit my writing about 1800 times before I let anyone see it.

Let me know what you think—I may keep writing until it actually morphs into something similar to a book, depending on if I can keep a plot going that long. We’ll see! Click “Continue Reading” to read it. Hope you enjoy!

The Empress, Part 2

The smell of cafeteria fish sticks and generic cleaning solution wafted through the air as Kristi and I shuffled through the doorway into the Senior lunch room. I made way to our usual seats near the radiator and plunked down on the hard, plastic bench, dropping my lunch bag onto the bright orange table. Kristi brushed the seat off and smoothed her skirt before gracefully sliding into her seat and crossing her legs. We couldn’t be more different.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked her, trying to get a good look at her eyes to see if she was going to tell me the truth.

“What?” she looked up from her sandwich. “Oh—uh, yeah, I’m fine, ” she said quietly with a half-hearted smile, her eyes sinking back towards her lunch.

“I can’t believe she did that to you. One of these days Jessica Bingham is going to get what’s coming to her. She can’t just strut around, spewing out whatever nonsense happens to pop into her brain about people she doesn’t even know, just because people are too afraid to—-”

“Really, Sam,” she interjected. “It’s okay.”

I know when Kristi is done talking about something, so I concentrated very hard on keeping my mouth shut. And I succeeded. For about 30 seconds.

“But seriously, Kris. It’s not okay. Don’t you care that people think you couldn’t get into this school on your own? That your uncle had to buy your way in? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. When I—”

“Exactly. It’s ridiculous. Can we please drop it?”

I sighed and resolved to focus my attention elsewhere. I opened my wrinkled brown paper bag and dumped out the contents onto the table. An orange, a Diet Coke and a power bar tumbled out. I have got to learn how to get up earlier in the morning and make this lunch thing happen.

Suddenly I caught a whiff of vanilla-scented air, followed by the sounds of a hideous giggle about 30 yards to my right. It was her. I had half a mind to walk up to her, throw a left hook at her face, then walk away without any explanation. Kristi would be appalled.

Maybe if I was more subtle. What if I just casually walked by to get a napkin, then on my way back “accidentally” bumped into her, spilling her peach Fanta all over her sequined white blouse? Yeah, solid. That should work.

“Um, I’m just going to go get a napkin,” my voice quivers slightly as I slide out from the bench. I clear my throat to make up for the voice crack and wait for an answer.

Kristi doesn’t acknowledge me.

I wheel around to my right and start walking—casually—towards Jessica and her followers—I mean, friends. Their conversation gradually becomes more audible.

“It’s so unfair. He said that my dancing was impeccable but my singing needs major work. Ridiculous. I was born to be in that showcase,” Jessica whined to the other two girls.

Suddenly I had an idea. It was kind of in a grey area morally, I suppose, but she had hurt my best (and only) friend, and I will not stand for that.

“Um, Jessica?” I poked my head around the shoulder of the taller follower.

“Yes?” she said shortly, as if her world had just screeched to an unwelcome halt, clearly peering over my head at the clock on the wall.

“I’m Sam. We went to elementary school together?”

Her eyes dropped to meet mine. She just stood there staring at me with one hand on her hip, and the other twirling a piece of golden hair. The silence dragged on for what felt like minutes.

“Um, well, anyway, I couldn’t help but hear as I was walking by—to get a napkin—that you might be in need of a little help, um…vocally?”

She may be obnoxious and unintelligent, but she’s still scary.

“And?” she shot back.

“Oh, well—um, my parents are vocal coaches, and they have this special vocal elixir stuff that can make even the worst singers sound like professionals.”

I was babbling like an idiot. “Even the worst singers?” Pull it together, O’Shea!

“Not that you’re a bad singer, that is—I’m sure since you only need a little help, it’d definitely work for you,” I tried to recover the situation. Nice save.

“Bring me some tomorrow,” she said tersely, then spun around and sashayed into the distance.

And that was it. I was in. Kristi, you can thank me later.