Today I bring you the fourth installment of The Empress, which I started writing as part of a contest (which I won!). The prompt was to put a modern-day twist on a fairy tale, and I chose The Emperor's New Clothes. You can read the first three here: One Two Three
I hope to finish this up in February, edit it (a lot) more, then perhaps make it into an e-book. Hope you enjoy!
I'd love to know what you think in the comments! [Click "continue reading" below to read Part 4.]
I didn’t hear from Jessica again for three weeks.
The Spring Showcase was less than a month away, and I’d heard from several reliable sources that Jessica had somehow wriggled her way into the lineup. This is likely due to the fact that her parents are the acting Kennedys of the greater Moorestown area. Given the amount of music stands and cornerstones emblazoned with the Bingham name around campus, I think it’s safe to say they run this whole establishment.
I shuffled down the familiar, dingy hallway on a seemingly ordinary Monday in March. (My locker is literally the farthest one from the entrance.) I watched the white cords of my earbuds dangle below my neck in time with my steps. I’d grown weary of being welcomed to school with an earful of prom dress catastrophes and spring break destinations while walking to first period, so the iPod was a necessity.
After passing several groups of three or four girls presumably talking about those very topics, I finally reached my locker. I banged on the door twice with my fist, and it creaked open. I’d seen the guy next to me do that during the 2nd week of school and got him to fix the lock on mine so it’d do the same. Who doesn’t want to feel like The Fonz every morning?
The notebooks in my locker cascaded onto the floor as I yanked out Theatrical History: 1800 - Present from underneath them.
“Ughhhh,” I groaned, surely louder than was necessary, as the Foo Fighters were still blaring in my ears.
I kneeled down, hastily snatched the notebooks by their covers and shoved them into my backpack.
As I stood up and started to slam my locker shut, suddenly there was silence, my ears burned and I watched the white cords drop to my ankle.
“Hey! What the--” I interjected as I spun around.
There she stood--tapping her leather riding boot, with one hand on her hip and the other on her iPhone.
“I need some more of that stuff,” Jessica said without looking up from her phone, as if I were taking her order at a coffee house.
I glanced to my left and right, looking for confirmation that this was real life.
“Did you just yank my earbuds out?” I asked, incredulously.
“Um, yeah, you didn’t hear me the first time,” she replied casually. “I need some more of that stuff.”
I rubbed my ears and collected my thoughts.
“Oh, uh, sure. When do you need it by?”
“Bring it by my house after school,” she said matter-of-factly, then spun on her heels and walked away.
My right leg bounced involuntarily the entire ride home in Kristi’s car. She’d offered to take me home so I wouldn’t have to ride the bus. She knows how I hate sitting by Leonard--the obnoxious 14-year-old who has an insufferable crush on me--or a full 45 minutes until we reach my stop, and lucky for me, that day she didn’t have much homework to tackle after school (she’d gotten a head start yesterday).
“So anyway, I just don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in,” Kristi apparently continued.
I’d been staring out the window, racking my brain trying to remember what I put in the “elixir” the first time.
“What do you think?”
“Oh--uh, I’m sure you’ll be fine,” I said half-heartedly as I fumbled around in my purse for my keys. We were about a block from my house.
“Are you okay?” she asked, concerned.
“Yeah!” I overcompensated. “Yeah, I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. See you tomorrow!”
Kristi slowed to a stop, and I flung open the door.
“Um...okay,” she replied uncertainly as I climbed out of her Taurus and slung my bag over my shoulder.
“Yeah?” I asked, catching the door I’d already begun to slam shut.
“Did you want me to go ahead and help you on that dialogue we have to memorize? I have some time and we’re already at your house,” she said.
My heart raced.
“Oh yeah! Um, no that’s okay, I think I’m actually getting a handle on it,” I rushed, “Thanks though! See you tomorrow!”
I shut the door, waved enthusiastically, then speed-walked to my front door.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard the sound of her car on the gravel, pulling away. That must be what hiding something from your best friend feels like. A miniature heart attack.
That’s it. I’ll just give Jessica the “elixir” and be done with this whole escapade. I can’t risk getting caught. Kristi would never talk to me again. First, for deceiving Jessica. Second, for lying to her about it. It’s got to stop...after today.