A Lesson in Learning


It started when I was eleven.

Well, I guess you could argue that it started when I started school, but I never took any notice of him. A little kid, starting a new school, surrounding by unfamiliar faces, I wouldn't have been able to name him back then, much less say he affected my life.

No, I still stand by the statement that it started when I was eleven. Not long after my eleventh birthday, in fact. That was the first time Justin really became more than just another kid in my grade to me.

It was several years ago now, so I can't exactly say where I was when I first noticed the way his brown hair was becoming more attractive as his mother grew more lenient about haircuts. Nor can I say the first thing I said to him while I saw him in this new light.

I can, however, quite clearly recall his first words to me. The look on his face when I tried to talk to him in my high pitched, giggly little voice. His was high pitched too, actually. Stupid kid; he thought he was pretty top stuff, and his voice hadn't even broken yet!

He screwed up his nose, and called me carrot top. Carrot top! Of all the immature names! If I had any sense, not to mention pride, I would have slapped him then and there. Instead, true to my nature, I gathered up all the dignity I had left, informed him that I did not enjoy being compared to a vegetable and departed.

I reckon I might have stuck my tongue out at him too, but let's pretend for now that I was the epitome of cool and he was an immature brat, all for the sake of my recollection.

After all, I'm taking the time to write all this down, I might as well be allowed the privilege to make my writing slightly biased towards my own perspective.

My name, by the way, is Mandy Rhinea Breiz. Isn't Rhinea such a pretty name? I once tried to convince all my friends to start calling me by my middle name, instead of plain old Mandy, but it didn't catch on.

Too bad, I can't be expected to make it as a movie star with a name like Mandy, can I? It was taken long ago by Mandy Moore, and therefore, it's not catchy enough for people to remember. But, no matter. I'll let my agent take care of that when the time comes. People choose stage names all the time right?

Take Pink, for example. Alecia Moore, is, obviously her real name. I mean, after her mother had just gone through the incredible pains of giving birth, she didn't turn around and say to the nurse 'Yeah, I reckon I'll name this one Pink, I always did like the colour'.

No. she did what any sane mother would do and called her Alecia… not that it's insane to give a child a name other than Alecia. I mean, I wouldn't complain with a name like that. It beats Mandy any day.

Did I ever mention I tend to get off topic when I write? Bad habit; live with it, learn to love it.


Carrot top! He said it like it was a bad thing to have red hair. Even though I've always hated that term: my hair's orange, not red. It's practically a brighter, shinier version of brown. But no. Sure; go for it, call it red and automatically alienate me from any hot eleven year old boys that might otherwise take an interest in me.

Naturally, I was immediately turned off him. Who did Justin Parker think he was, anyway? He wasn't exactly perfect himself, I happen to know for a fact that his front tooth is false; he lost the original one after a scuffle with a boy in year three. Not to mention, his eyebrows were a bit thin for a boy's, and his neck was scrawny.

I have proof; I've looked at his picture in the school annual for that year. Not a pretty sight. I must have been insane.

A far bigger turn off was his arrogance. Sure, he was only eleven, but that defeats the point. No one, in my opinion, has the right to think that they are above another person, especially for a reason as petty as hair colour!

So, I did what any normal eleven year old girl would do. Paid him out constantly, had a good little bitch about him behind his back to my friends, treated him like he shouldn't exist, and got the same in return.

Ah, pre pubescent frolics!

This was all well and good. We became well known enemies, predictably, as neither of us were particularly into whispered quarrels. Fully fledged, abusive, shouting matches have always been more my style, and he seemed perfectly agreeable with this.

That year, his Dad died. I found this out before most people, because I lived next door to him. Still do, in fact, five years later. Now, I'm not a complete bitch. In fact, I'm not a bitch at all. There's just something so incredibly satisfying about being a bitch to him.

Anyway, I had the decency to be particularly nice to him. He, unfortunately, decided the best way to take out his grief was to take it out on me. How lovely for me.

This deepened what I already perceived to be my undying hatred of him, but I had the self control to be nice, for about a year.

It was about halfway into my twelfth year that I decided his mourning period was well and truly over. I let a year's worth of fury loose one day, physically and emotionally.

I got two detentions; he got a black eye and a fractured arm. My parents also had to pay for the table I broke in the process… they weren't overly thrilled about this either.

Still, I thought it was a fair deal.

Mr. Perfect didn't suit the new battered look much.

For some reason, this brought around some sort of new respect for me on his part. He teased me still, but much gentler now. He even flashed me a few grins on occasion.

Me? I didn't fall for his little charming act. If anything, it made me even more on my guard. And for good reason, it turned out!

Come high school, and my thirteenth year, and he pulled the lowest trick of all. He asked me out!

Apparently he considered my red hair to be attractive now. And he said he liked my blue eyes. Well how lovely for him. Aimee and I had several in depth conversations about what to do with this new proposal.

Aimee, ever the voice of reason, pointed out how we're simply not made for each other. I, however, ever the risk taker, and overcome with raging god damn hormones, ignored my personal agony aunt and agreed to go out with him.

I don't know who was more surprised; me, Aimee, or Justin!

For a few days, it went well. We talked a fair bit, and he even came and sat with me and my friends at lunch time. He was sweet, and funny, and generally, came very close to changing my mind about him.

Then suddenly, for no reason that I could see, he withdrew! He stopped talking to me, he stopped making eye contact with me, didn't reply to my texts, nothing!

One night I saw him out the front, and I talked to him over our fence. He still had his school uniform on, though ruffled, and his hair was messed up. In other words, he was desperately attractive.

I confronted him about his actions, and he told me very simply that he was sorry, but he had decided he couldn't be happy with me. Apparently I was clingy and too open.

In other words, that little- okay. Breathe, Mandy. In other words that… darling… boy, only wanted me because he couldn't have me!

He deserved a slap then. He STILL didn't get one! Instead, I stood there with my mouth open in surprise and hurt, while he shrugged apologetically, and walked back into his house.

Surely, surely, you can't blame me for becoming ever the more hostile towards Romeo-turned-Satan? From that day on, I refused to acknowledge his existence. I went out with other boys, and was perfectly happy with them.

SOME people don't think there's anything wrong with a little bit of red-headed romance, thankyou very much!

Then I turned sixteen. And, it turned out, I couldn't avoid him forever. I had to be his estranged girlfriend!

Not following? Yeah, I guess I'd better start from the beginning. Not the actually beginning, we just covered that. I mean the beginning of the whole point of this story… my first step towards becoming a famous movie star, and, unfortunately, my first step towards condemning myself to seeing him several times a week.

Auditions for the school play.


"Come on, it's not that big a deal," Tom sighed.

I took a deep breath, and glared at him. "You know I can't read with her!" I hissed.

"You went out three years ago, man, get over it!" he sighed, rolling his eyes.

"I can't do it," I insisted, standing frozen. Not her… anyone but her.

I knew I was being stupid. It wasn't hard; I'd done tonnes of auditions before. This wasn't the first play I'd gone for, nor was it the first I'd ever gone for a main part in. But I'd completely forgotten about Mandy's obsession with theatre.

It's not that I liked her. It's not that I went out with her. I wasn't even sure what it was. She was just so… intimidating. She gave off the sort of tough-girl presence that I had never been sure how to deal with.

Unfortunately, I wasn't even given a chance to back out, though I wanted to with all my being, as I was called up to read my lines next.

Mandy wrinkled her nose up when she saw me walking towards her, and tossed her elbow length hair over her shoulder. "Don't throw me off, got it?" she hissed.

"Whatever," I muttered nonchalantly. Carelessly. I don't care. Why would I care?

"What the hell is with those texts?" Mandy read, narrowing her eyes.

"I knew that's what this was about," I scoffed, then laughed. "You know they weren't serious…"

"They sounded pretty serious to me," Mandy said in a dangerous sounding voice. I even found myself worrying about whether she would snap, though I knew from reading the script beforehand that she didn't in the end.

"Look, we… we just muck around like that! I've known her for years, it's like a joke-"

"So you jokingly told her you wanted to kiss her, and you wanted to be with her more than anything, and you'd wait until she was ready for more than that if only she'd agree to go out with you?" Mandy demanded sceptically.

"Yes! See, we're mucking around-"

"Who mucks around like that?"

I sighed in frustration and threw my hands up. "Whatever, believe what you want," I said, taking on a convincingly hurt tone and looking away from her.

"Great, well done you two. Next?" Mrs. Benson said crisply, looking on to the next boy and girl waiting in line. I glanced at Mandy momentarily. She surveyed me judgementally, raised an eyebrow, and flounced off with Aimee, her best friend.

"Well, that was easy enough, right?" Tom asked, his brown eyes widening in encouragement.

"I survived," I groaned. "I hope I don't get the part though… she's sure to get it…"

"She's not that good," Tom sniffed. "She thinks she's loads better than she actually is."

"She can sing, though," I pointed out defensively.

"Yeah, whatever you say," Tom replied, smirking. I narrowed my eyes slightly in annoyance.

"Be sure to begin memorizing your lines instantly. The quicker we can lose the scripts, the sooner we can get an idea of what this is going to look like."

Those closing words, spoken by Miss. Boulevard after our first rehearsal, must have done something to my brain.


After the looks Mandy had been shooting me all afternoon, I should have known much, much better. But, of course…

"You live right next door to me," I commented casually as Mandy gathered up her pile of books. She paused and studied me.

"Duh," she replied, wrinkling her nose as she dumped her books in her school bag.

"So," I said, shoving my hands into my pockets. "You should come over sometimes and rehearse, you know…"

Here, I made to lean against the wall; instant smoothness. Unfortunately, I misjudged the distance, and within seconds I found myself crumpled on the ground, eyes wide with shock.

Mandy burst out laughing, stepped over me, and went to join Aimee. I swore furiously and slammed my head against the wall behind me.

"Self inflicted torture, fantastic, lover-boy," Tom laughed, helping me up.

"Fucksake," I growled, pushing my fringe out of my eyes.

Of course Mandy had scored the role of Jennifer, the lead character. I had gone for the part of Mark, the boy who Jennifer ends up with in the play, but I had been given the role of Den, her cheating boyfriend.

In other words, there were a lot of heated arguments between our two characters in the play, and not much romance.

Oh well… it was better than nothing. Unfortunately, Mandy seemed to get some sort of sick enjoyment out of yelling at me; if the first rehearsal was anything to go by, I was going to leave the drama room three times a week with ringing ears.

Tom and I left the school, and my eyes flicked around nervously for any sign of Mandy. None.

Tom tried to start a conversation several times, but seemed to sense that I wasn't in the mood for talking, and eventually pulled out his i-pod and proceeded to listen to his rap music.

I hated rap music.

I was left to mull in silence over the fool I'd made of myself earlier. At least she hadn't said no… though she didn't exactly jump at the idea… maybe… maybe she had been about to say yes when I'd fallen, and then she… got shy!

Yes. That was definitely a possibility. Right?

I was in the process of convincing myself that her look of contempt was actually a smile of delight when a car horn beeped loudly, causing me to jump and spin around, accidentally hitting Tom as I did.

"Shit, Justin!" he complained, before he noticed the car and grinned.

"Hey, Kyle," he said brightly, wrapping his earphones around the body of the i-pod.

"You two want a lift? I reckon it's gonna rain soon," Kyle said generously.

Kyle was eighteen years old, but we often ran into him at the skate park. He was your basic, stereotyped emo, with black hair, black skinny jeans, and a different hoodie for any given occasion.

When I first met him, I was a little disturbed by his… well, gay appearance, but he turned out to be actually pretty cool; not into the whole, 'Kill me please I'm a gay-fag depress-o druggie' thing.

"Thanks," I said, grinning. Hey, it saved a half hour walk!

"Would you mind?" Tom asked anxiously.

"Nah, course not," Kyle revved the engine as Tom got in behind me, slamming the door behind him.

"Where'd you guys just come from?" he inquired conversationally.

"Auditions," I said as casually as I could manage.

"For the play?" Kyle spat in disbelief.

"Hey, it was Justin, not me," Tom said, holding his hands up in defense.

"Well… think about it, man; the guy gets to hook up with the girl onstage, and rehearsals. I mean, it's like automatic action," I said quickly.

Kyle looked convinced.

"Hah, whatever, you just like singing and acting," Tom dug. I shot him a furious glare, and Kyle snorted.

"Well, whatever you like, I guess," he laughed, catching Tom's eye and screwing up his face.

"Shut up," I growled, unable to come up with a decent come back.

No doubt about it, I was definitely smooth as hell today.

He pulled up to my house, and I jumped out with a quick "Thanks."

To my surprise, Mum was already home; she usually came home about six.

"Hey, honey," she said distractedly. "Who was that?"

"Kyle, I skate with him," I shrugged, and then caught her glare. "He's a P-Plater, Mum! Never gotten picked up for anything in his life!"

Okay, so that was a lie. But, whatever the situation called for, right?

Mum nodded, a suspicious look on her face. She had been looking really stressed out lately; she usually looked fairly good for her age, if a tiny bit chubby.

She brushed back her brown bob and sighed. "Long day," she complained, turning the TV on. "Have you got much homework?"

"Not really," I replied, exiting the room. I wasn't really in the mood for a chat. I walked down the hall to my room, and dumped my school bag on the floor, removing my jumper and tie straight after.

From next door, Mandy's house, shrill cries could be heard. I hardly noticed anymore; for the nine months they'd been alive, Mandy's twin siblings seemed to desire nothing more than to compete with the other over the volume of their cries.

I shut my window and started my i-pod. There. Blocked out.

A/N That was just an introduction, get to know the characters sort of thing :) At the moment I've written about 10,000 words on this story, so please Review to let me know what you think, and if i should get this going on the site :)