MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT BEING A FICTION WRITER FOR TEENAGE GIRLS
Being a regular girl was not easy for Julie. She always saw herself as average. And no one ever really notices the average, especially not the guys. It’s like the pile of laundry in the corner – just there. I mean, when was the last time someone really went nuts over vanilla ice cream? Julie wondered. Or when did someone ever say let’s go see that movie again because it was just ok? Being Julie Frankel would make an incredibly boring biography. She was born. Then she grew up. Got braces. Turned sixteen. Took the PSAT’s. The end.
And what made matters worse was that she couldn’t get excited about the things she should be excited about. There was that *NSYNC special on VH1 that she – yawn – slept through. Then there was that movie with Julia Stiles that she didn’t really get. Wasn’t it exactly the same as the last one Julia was in? What is wrong with me? she asked herself often in the mirror. Am I a teenager or am I possessed by a really boring adult?
Julie sat at the dinner table, flipping through some teen girl magazine despite her parent’s insistence to put it away. "Blah blah blah" was all she saw. Not "how to make your boyfriend happy." And not the article on how blondes really do have more fun. Because none of them applied to her. She did not have a boyfriend, and she was not a blonde. She was just a boyfriend-less brunette.
Julie searched through her older brother’s CD collection to find something to listen to. He had turned her on to some really great bands but mostly stuff her friends called "weeeeird."
She took out a Radiohead CD and put it on. Something appropriate for staying home and doing homework.
And then the phone rang.
"Hello," Julie answered.
"Hi, can I speak to Sarah?" said the voice on the other line.
"Sarah? I think you have the wrong number." Julie was sure that a "Sarah" did not live in her house.
"Is this 555-7566?" asked the guy on the other side of the phone.
"Yes it is, but still there’s no Sarah here."
"Oh, ok," said the guy, "I could’ve sworn this was her number. She wrote it down and everything…I’m sorry to bother you."
"…Uhhh…no problem," Julie reassured him.
And with that the guy with the wrong number hung up.
Julie came to school late the next day because she had had a doctor’s appointment. She really hated that she still went to her pediatrician because all he had to read in the waiting room was Highlights.
She decided she should miss more class and went straight into the bathroom. After all, she had a doctor’s note without a specific return time written on it. This was the high school equivalency of a winning lottery ticket. As she entered the stall and locked the graffiti-full door she overheard two girls walk in.
"…So, then he asked me for my number," one girl said to her friend, "and I wasn’t going to give him my real number."
"Oh, my God. I cannot believe he had the nerve to ask you out. You, Sarah Martin of all people."
"I know. So I gave him some random number. Just off the top of my head. Like I changed the last number of my digits or something."
Sarah. Random number. Julie was putting it all together now. Could it be that the guy who called last night was the same guy this Sarah had blown off? It must be. Sarah. Random number. Yes, it must be. Julie was angry. She was angry because someone like Sarah had done something like this. She was angry on the behalf of that guy, wherever he was.
"I just hope he learned his lesson," Sarah continued, "I don’t date losers."
Julie wanted to see who this girl was. Look her in the face. Confront her like a vigilante who was fighting for justice. But her stall had no toilet paper. She frantically searched through her bag for a tissue. Nothing. She looked under the stall to see if she had any neighbors. Nobody. And then she heard Sarah walk out.
"Whoa, we are like so late for Algebra II," Sarah announced to her friend, "let’s go."
After Julie had embarrassed herself by waiting for someone to come into the bathroom, she wandered the halls with a doctor’s note still open for use. Like an all day ski pass. For some strange reason, she was compelled to find Sarah Martin in her Algebra II class. Maybe it was because she was tired of being unexciting or maybe it was that she understood that guy’s humiliation. Class 11C was in Algebra II now. The school secretary had told her that they were in Room 1012. She was like a girl possessed. Julie had never felt so compelled to act on someone’s behalf. But it pissed her off that a pretty girl could take advantage of other people. That is just not cool.
She walked up to room 1012 and knocked on the door.
She breathed in deep and walked in.
"Excuse me, but the office needs Sarah Martin," Julie mustered up her best acting performance.
"Do you have a note?" asked the teacher.
"Uhhh….no." Think fast, Sarah told herself. Think fast. "It was an emergency so the secretary said she needed her right away. She didn’t have time to write one."
"Ok. This time. But tell Mrs. Kimmel that I will not allow anyone to leave without a note. ….Sarah?"
And Sarah got up and headed to the door. Yes, Julie noted that she was indeed beautiful. She understood what Embarrassed had seen in her. She looked like she should be on a television show. Not just a WB television show but on a major network like ABC.
They walked out together.
"Is everything ok?" Sarah asked, genuinely concerned. Julie did not want to scare her. But she couldn’t tell her the truth, either.
"Yes, everything’s cool."
"So, what did Mrs. Kimmel want?"
"I’m not sure really," Julie was impressed with her own performance. The school play would be lucky to have her. "Hey," Julie continued, "can I ask you something?"
"Sure," said Sarah as they walked the long hall to the school office.
"A guy asked you for your number the other day. Do you know who he was?"
Sarah was taken aback. "How do you know about that?"
"I was sitting near you," Julie responded.
"In the lunchroom?" Sarah asked.
"Yeah, in the lunchroom."
"I dunno. Just some guy. Why is this your business?"
"Because you gave him my phone number."
"I gave him your number." Sarah laughed hard an evil laugh. "That’s so funny. I wondered what happened. Was he embarrassed?"
"Some loser from 11D. I think his name is Josh Something. I can’t remember the last name. Wait, no…it was Flem. Yeah, Flem. I remember thinking, God that’s a horrible last name. I can’t believe that it was your number."
"Yes. It was…well, here’s the school office," Julie had heard what she needed. Now she knew Embarrassed’s name. "See ya’. I hope everything is ok."
She left Sarah in front of the school office. Julie distanced herself from the office quickly before Sarah found out she wasn’t really needed. As she hurried down the hall, she made another stop at room 1012 and walked into Algebra II again.
"Sorry about the intrusion but the school office asked me announce to this class that Sarah Martin has head lice and close contact with her should be avoided."
"Please do not disturb my class with your announcements again but thank you nevertheless," the teacher said and gave her a look.
"You’re welcome," Julie said.
In the back of the class, students began moving away from Sarah’s empty desk.
Julie walked out of room 1012 smiling. That was for Josh Flem, she thought.
The next obvious thing to do was find Josh Flem. Now Embarrassed had a name. Again, Julie had no idea why she felt it was necessary to find him but she was on a mission. Her pulse quickened and her mind raced in a daydreaming marathon. Besides, all this made her feel more than average now. Average people didn’t have missions.
Julie consulted the class schedule on the bulletin board to see where 11D was. Room 2033, Biology and the class was over in five minutes. She ran to room 2033 and anxiously waited outside for the remaining three and a half minutes. What would she say to him? How would she start the conversation? It was all so weird. Too weird. I should just go to my next period, she thought. But the doctor’s note in her pocket told her to stick it out. Just see what he looks like.
The bell rang. Julie’s heart leapt like a vaulter in the summer Olympics.
Class 11D poured out and Julie looked for someone she knew.
"Hey, Melissa," she called. Melissa had once hung out with her in the mall.
"Hey, Julie. What’s up?"
"Do you know a guy named Josh Flem?"
"Of course I do. He sits right near me in English."
Fantastic. She knows him.
"But he’s absent today. I hear he has a stomach flu."
After not having a boyfriend for so long, Julie was used to disappointment. She walked into the cafeteria for lunch where they were serving lasagna and peas. She grabbed a tray and sat down with her friends, Tom, Joanna, and Lisa.
"Where have you been?" Lisa asked, "I haven’t seen you all day."
"Doctor’s appointment," Julie answered.
And at that exact moment, Julie spotted Sarah Martin walking her way. Oh my God! Julie freaked out. Don’t make a scene, she reminded herself. Don’t make a scene.
She quickly ducked under the table pretending to look for something.
"Are you okay down there?" Tom laughed. "Girl, you don’t need a doctor, you need a therapist."
From under the table, Julie hit Tom’s leg. "Don’t talk to me. Seriously," she half-whispered, half-yelled. She waited until Sarah walked by.
"…And the office didn’t even need me," she overheard Sarah say, "and no one in the class will come near me now. I really don’t get it. What is going on in this place today?"
Julie felt a pang of guilt. She had to remind herself that Sarah deserved this. After all, did she care about Josh?
She got back up after Sarah had passed and looked behind her. Sarah Martin was leaving the cafeteria. Julie was safe for now.
"What was that about?" Tom laughed while the others giggled. They were used to the unusual stunts of Julie Frankel but sometimes they still had to ask.
It was finally time to head back to class. She had avoided it long enough. Besides, Josh Flem was absent that day. There was no reason to stick around the halls for Sarah Martin to find her.
She headed back to the school office to hand in her doctor’s note and get a late admittance.
She sat down in the office’s waiting chair. It seemed that they were really busy at the moment.
"No, no one in 11C has head lice," Mrs. Kimmel said over the phone, "and if they did, we would have sent them home. So, please don’t worry about your child."
While Mrs. Kimmel comforted concerned parents about an outbreak of lice, a guy walked in and sat next to Julie. She couldn’t help but notice that he was incredibly cute in a thrift shop kind-of-way and that she had never seen him before.
"What are you waiting for?" said the guy.
"I’m waiting for a…" Julie got nervous around cute guys. She couldn’t remember the words "late" and "pass."
"…A late pass?" he said back.
"Yeah." I’m such a dork, she thought.
He smiled at her. And he began to talk about why he was late. Julie wasn’t paying attention to the words coming out of his mouth. Just his mouth and how it moved when he spoke. Each word came with an accompanied smirk. How forward would it be if I asked him out, she wondered. He would so say "no." After all, I’m just average.
"What’s your name?" he asked.
"Oh, hi. I’m…"
"Who needs a late note?" Mrs. Kimmel interrupted.
"I think we both do," cute guy spoke on their behalf, "right, Julie?
"Ok, names please." Mrs. Kimmel was always quick and to the point.
"Julie Frankel, Class 11A."
"And I’m Josh Flem, Class 11D."
Oh. My. God. This is Josh Flem.
They both received their respective late passes and left the office. They walked down the hall together and had the nicest three-minute conversation Julie had ever had. He flirted with her and she was equally flirtatious. They both liked Radiohead.
Before Josh walked into his class, he turned to her in ever so smoothly and said, "hey, Julie, would you like to…uhh…hang out some time?"
"Yeah, I would really love that."
"Ok, cool. Lemme get your number."
"No, you don’t have to," Julie said beaming, "you already have it."