A Lesson in First Impressions
By: Never Knows Best
~*A Good Girl*~
I'm pretty certain there's only one thing in this universe that's more obnoxious than moving. Moving with my parents. For some reason that had yet to be adequately explained, Mother and Father, brilliant though they are, neglected to hire real movers. They insisted that they would be able to do the work themselves without giving any real thought to their body mass indexes, which, by the way, were way below where they should be. They're both skinny nerds.
Normally my parents are pretty smart. I mean, father is a cardiologist and mother an English Lit professor. They're not really professions that attract the frail of mind. Just the frail of body. Despite this, they still insisted that it would be no problem to lug all their heavy furniture three hours away to the new house. Which, of course, worked out badly for me.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Evelyn Rose Davidson, but everyone calls me Evie. Even my normally stuck-up and proper parents. I am seventeen years old and I am spending one of the last weeks of my summer vacation before twelfth grade carrying around my Mother's encyclopedias. Yes, that's right, me. I don't mean to suggest that I wasn't planning on helping out with the move. Of course I was, I was just expecting a bit more help. None of my parents' friends are really any good for manual labour and ducked out of the job after humming and hawing over it until the last minute. My Mother had to call in her brother, Roger, and my cousin Matt to help out. Despite that my Mother doesn't seem to think too highly of her brother - he is a carpenter - after all, he still dropped everything to come help us out last minute. I've got a bit of muscle on my parents, but I still needed help to move the china cabinet.
So, as you can imagine, Uncle Roger, Matt, and I ended up doing most of the actual moving while dear Mother and Father just stood around supervising. It's what they're good at, after all.
That's how I ended up standing over a rather large box full of textbooks in dismay, wondering if my arms would hold out long enough to carry the thing up the front steps and into the back room of the new house that my parents were turning in to a library. Behind me, Matt hefted something that probably weighed as much as I did as easily as if it was a box of kittens. Even so, I could tell he was getting tired. He and his father had been helping us since seven o'clock and it was now getting close to ten. I decided not to make my cousin do any more heavy lifting if I could help it and struggled to get the box into my arms.
"Need some help with that?" Matt questioned.
"No thanks, Matty," I replied with a grunt, "I got this one."
"Evie, dear, use proper grammar, please," My Mother corrected from the doorway. "You sound like a brute,"
"Yes, Mother," I chirped as Matty rolled his eyes at me. He was annoyed when my parents were strict, probably because Uncle Roger was so laid back, but I was used to it. I waited until Matty had moved his enormous body up the front steps and back inside before I picked up the heavy box with a grunt. When I say 'enormous', by the way, I don't mean Matty is fat. I mean he's a freakin' giant. He is 6"6 and has enough bulk to fill out his frame nicely. I am pretty sure I've never met anyone as tall as he is. He's certainly intimidating to look at; he's huge, had facial piercings and sometimes dyed his hair bright colors, but anyone who knew him knew that he was really a giant teddy bear. Too bad his size made it somewhat hard for him to get a date. Girls found him a little bit scary.
The box i was carrying was so heavy I pretty much had to waddle up to the door and took nearly a full minute ascending the three steps up to the porch. "Into the library with that one," my Mother told me as I inched past. I nodded and headed towards the back of the house. I could hear my Uncle Roger's gruff voice as I got nearer.
"And I'm telling you, Tom, that if you put it there the sun's always going to be glaring off your damned computer..."
"Well it's my computer, Roger, and my library..."
I sighed. My Father and Uncle Roger never seemed to get along. Father thought Uncle Roger was a 'neanderthal', as he'd once said, and my Uncle Roger thought my Father was stuck up. They usually found a reason to argue, but it sounded like today they were arguing about where to put my Father's desk, which was stupid even for them. Both of them were most definitely tired from their long day and on their last nerves from spending most of that long say in each others company.
"Give it a rest!" I growled, everyone turned to stare at me. Normally I did not snap at people but I was on my last nerve as well. "Everything is off the truck now," I said, ignoring their stares, "Why don't we call it quits for today and order some food?"
"Evie, dear," My Mother said as she joined the rest of the family in the library, "That take-out food is terrible for you. Why don't we unpack some of the kitchen and I'll make something?"
No one seemed to like this idea. My Mother was a decent cook, but it was just too late to unpack anything, or cook, or clean up afterward.
"Or we could order pizza," she relented. I smiled; normally my Mother was not so easy to sway. She must have been tired as well.
"Good thinking, Claire," Uncle Roger grinned, "I'll run over to my place and get some beer." My Mother does not like alcohol. She seems to think it turned people into criminals. Which was why I was rather surprised when she didn't stop Uncle Roger before he left.
"I'll order the pizza," My Mother sighed as she left the room after her brother.
"I'm going to change and shower," I told my parents, and Matty, who was slumped in my Father's office chair looking like he was about to fall asleep. After moving all day I was dusty and sweaty and very stinky and I certainly didn't want to go to bed that way. Filled with a new energy, I bounded up the stairs and into my new bedroom. The new house was a lot bigger than our old place, and thus my bedroom was as well. My bedroom overlooked the side yard, which was fairly big considering it was a newly built home and the neighbours were almost uncomfortably close. It was big, bright, with huge windows and it was completely pink. My parents had chosen the color. I wanted green, but they thought this terrible, pastel pink would be more suitable for a young girl. Well, my en suite bathroom made up for it. It was small but definitely better than sharing a bathroom with my parents. There were three and a half bathrooms in this place, and my parents were talking about putting in another full bathroom in the basement when they finished it.
I dug around for my bathroom stuff, which was appropriately labeled and neatly packed in a cardboard box in my bathroom. I took a warm shower that felt very nice on my strained muscles. When I got out I changed into pajamas and stretched again to avoid muscle cramps later on. Proper stretching was something I learned when I joined the soccer team. I'd somehow managed to convince my parents to let me try out for sports. They allowed me to play when I convinced them it would look good on university applications. If I could swing it, they usually accepted the 'university applications' excuse. I'm certain that playing sports was the only reason I'd been fit enough to help out with the move, instead of just standing around and pointing like my parents had done.
I arrived back downstairs just in time to see the pizza arriving, and shortly after Uncle Roger returned to share in their reward for helping out. Pizza and beer in exchange for the use of their muscles for a day, and for putting up with my parents. No easy feat.
"What a day," Matt sighed and he sat next to me on the floor on one of her mothers favourite, very expensive cushions. He had a pizza in one had and a beer in the other. I did not have any beer, of course. I was a good girl after all, and seventeen-year-olds are not allowed to drink. Matty had turned nineteen a few months ago, so for once my Mother did not complain about Uncle Roger letting him drink. Thankfully, my Mother had seemed appalled at the idea of eating on the floor and had pulled some chairs around the dining room table to eat. She even managed to dig out some plates. Only my Mother would insist on eating pizza off a plate.
I nodded my agreement with my cousin while trying to catch a long strong of cheese hanging from my slice of pizza before it got ground into the fresh new carpet. Matty snorted, folded his slice in half and shoved the whole thing into his gigantic mouth.
"You're gross," I told him with a laugh.
"No grosser than you." He retorted.
"Thanks for helping out today, Matt. I don't know what I would have done if I had to move all by myself."
"What about your parents?" He chuckled.
"You saw how useful they were," I rolled my eyes. Matt only laughed. The best thing about moving was going to be being close to my favourite cousin. Matt was older than me by two years and was in college now. He was planning on following his father into carpentry, probably, but he'd wanted to experience college life first. My parents were disappointed that he wasn't going to university instead. Matt had chosen his own path, though, and his father supported him. I probably wouldn't have that luxury. My parents were already discussing what schools I should apply to. This would be my final year in high school and I had to start thinking about it, but my parents mostly carried on these talks without me.
The night ended on a positive note. Uncle Roger and Matt hugged and said goodnight and went home. I cleaned up the pizza boxes as per my parents' request and then slowly trudged upstairs.
"Set your alarm early, sweetheart." My Father called after me.
"Yes, Father," I replied sleepily.
"And don't forget to brush your teeth."
"And summer homework starts again tomorrow."
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, Father!" I hurried into my room and closed the door before he could come up with anything else to remind me of. My father had this very strict rule about summer homework. He gave me assignments every week to make sure I didn't forget anything over the break. He had generously let me off the hook the last few days because of the move, but apparently that was about to end. Sighing, I switched off the lights and fell into bed without even bothering to brush my teeth.
Normally I am a morning person, but after having such a long day I ended up hitting my snooze button at least four times before my Father came to wake me up.
"That's enough sleeping, Evie," he told me sternly, "It's time for you to get up and help you Mother and I,"
It looked like there would be no more lazing about for me. Groggily I looked over at my digital clock. 7am, it read. I thought it was earlier. I swung my legs out of bed and stumbled across my room to my bathroom, tripping over a box of stuffed toys on my way. Despite all my stretching and precautions, my limbs were incredibly sore. I could barely walk without grimacing. I brushed my teeth but skipped the shower and just splashed some cold water in my face to wake me up. I dressed in a pair of old jeans and my Father's old Grateful Dead t shirt that he had from his younger, wilder days. Somehow picturing my Father having any wild days at all boggled my mind, so I tried not to think about it.
"Evie?" I heard my Father's voice from downstairs, "What's taking so long? Come help your mother in the kitchen."
"Yes, Father," I answered with a yawn. I nearly tripped again on the same box of stuffed animals as I exited my room. I had to hold tightly to the railing as I descended the stairs. I was used to having carpeting instead of hardwood on the stairs and they were slippery. Simple things could be dangerous when you were still half asleep.
When I finally found myself in the kitchen my Father had a whole list of chores for me, and so did my Mother. There was cleaning, unpacking, sorting, organizing, cooking and then more cleaning. My Mother wasn't about to let us get away with eating take out again, so we made sandwiches for lunch and my parents went to unpack the library while I continued in the kitchen. When that was done it was nearly dinner time. My parents didn't seem to have noticed, so I decided to get dinner started on my own. Did I mention that I'm a good girl?
My Mother never buys boxed or canned meals, so I defrosted some chicken and found some vegetables to start a stir fry. I'm not a five-start chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I know how to make a few things. Stir fry was easy. It was just meat and vegetables fried up with a bit of seasoning. I was getting so good at it that I didn't even need to measure anymore. My parents didn't even notice until I was nearly done.
"Smells good, Evie." My Father said, entering the kitchen.
"Thank you, dear," My Mother added.
I smiled at them warmly, "No problem,"
For dinner my Father turned on some soft classical music, as he usually did, and we ate quietly. Despite the chaos of the house, we ate like we normally did: quietly and politely, carrying on a simple conversation. Outside I could hear children playing and laughing, enjoying the remaining days of their summer vacation. I regretted that I had not been able to get outside that day. I wanted to explore, maybe find a local park where I could kick my soccer ball around or investigate my new school. But, there was too much work to be done at home. Exploring would have to wait until my parents deemed the house fit for living.
After dinner I collected the plates and washed the dishes, cleaning up the mess left by dinner.
"You may go unpack your room now, Evie." My Father said when the supper dishes were done. "You still have that assignment I gave you to finish, don't you?"
"Yes, Father," I agreed.
"When you're done in your room you can work on that for a bit."
"Yes, Father," I was smiling sweetly, but inside I was groaning. After doing so much work the past few days, the last thing I wanted was to start summer homework again. "If you can find your violin," He continued, "Practice that for an hour or so before bed time."
"Of course, Father," I didn't really like playing the violin. I always ended up with a terrible crick in my neck if I played too long. Quickly I turned and escaped upstairs. Unpacking my room I was actually looking forward to. I liked pushing around my furniture and arranging my personal items. I carefully displayed pictures of my family and friends on my night stand and dresser, and arranged my beauty products on my vanity. I don't have much in the way of make up and hair products, but enough. I unpacked my bathroom as well, smiling about having my own bathroom for the first time in my life. Unpacking took longer than I thought it would, and it was nine o'clock by the time I called it quits. I sat down at my desk and finished the report I'd been writing for my Father on Great Expectations. Well, technically, the book report assignment had been put together by my Mother (she's an English professor, remember?) but my Father liked to think he was in charge of summer homework.
I gave my Father the finished report, and he seemed pleased enough that I had finished it that I told him I hadn't found my violin yet and thus got out of practicing.
That was what my life was like every day for the last seventeen years. Smiling, being polite, doing chores and homework and being the perfect daughter. Despite how tired I was, or cranky, I always tried to keep up the image of the 'perfect daughter'. My parents could get quite strict if I disobeyed them. It was easiest to be sweet and butter them up if I wanted to deviate from their ultimate plan for me. So far the most I'd deviated was by occasionally weaseling out of violin practice and joining some sports teams at school. But I would have to apply for university this year, so I doubted I would be getting off on much more. I was not looking forward to all the extra pressure. If only I had the guts to act out a little bit, be a normal teenager. I didn't date (Father says it's too distracting to my studies) I didn't go to parties and I barely got to hang out with my friends. Those friends I did have had to be approved by my parents before I could go anywhere with them. They practically had to present their resumes upon meeting my parents for the first time. I wondered if there was any way I could try some of those things this year. I snorted at the thought. Not likely. My final year of high school was likely to be the most stressful of them all.
I went to sleep tired and sore and dreaming of having a real life for a change. Maybe when I went to university, I'd choose something far from my parent's so I could finally have some fun.
"I think Evie and I should go to the salon before school starts. What do you say, Evie?" My Mother asked of me at dinner the next night.
"Certainly, Mother," I replied dismally. I hadn't slept well the night before; my muscles were aching and I'd been desperately trying to come up with some way to have fun this year in school. I thought I was beginning to form an idea that was so crazy my parents just might accept it, if only I could pitch it to them properly.
"It's about time we got your hair cut again, you want to look good for school next week, don't you? After all, first impressions are very important."
"I know," I replied, slouching in my seat.
"Sit up, Evie," my Father snapped. I straightened immediately.
"I'd hate for your teachers to think you were some kind of slob," My Mother was still going on about my hair.
"Just how important do you suppose first impressions are?" I asked casually.
"Extremely," My Mother said seriously.
"Have they ever tested that?"
"I'm sure they have, dear."
"I mean, could someone make a really horrible first impression and then have people change their minds about them?" I asked eagerly. If I could just get them interested in my idea, I could probably get their permission. They were weird sometimes. If I could pose my idea to them the right way they might just go for it.
"I'm not really sure how well that would work, dear. After all, a person makes up their mind about another person in the first fifteen seconds." My Mother told me.
"Father, Mother, I'd like to propose something." I suggested carefully.
"Yes?" My Father asked.
"I want to perform an experiment."
Their curiosity was peaked.
"Since this is my last year of high school, I think I want to do something a little different."
"We're listening, dear," My Mother said.
"A social experiment." I explained. "Just how much weight do people place on their first impressions? I want to know." And I wanted a chance to act out, just a little bit. Go out with a bang, at the very least. "What if I spent the first week of school making the absolute worst first impression I could."
"Why on earth would you want to do that?" My Mother looked absolutely mortified.
"So I could see if it was really possible to change a person's opinion of me. For the first week, I act like a total brat and then afterward, spend the rest of the year trying to change that impression by being the good girl I usually am. I could even write an essay about it for my university admissions. What do you think mother, do you think a social experiment would look good on my applications?"
My parents were staring at me, but I was certain the bit about university admissions would sway their decision.
"Students are usually encouraged to be creative. It certainly would make your application stand out..." Mother started.
I couldn't help but grin and looked to my Father. "What do you say, Father? Can I run my experiment for my senior year?"
My Father was scowling, but that didn't worry me too much. My Father was almost always scowling. He stared at me for a very long time, meeting my hazel eyes with his dark brown ones. "Very well," He said finally.
I squealed with delight, "Oh thank you, Father! Thank you!" I ran around the table to give him a hug, something I rarely did.
"But I want you to keep very thorough notes of this experiment, Evie. I'll review them every week. There's no point if you don't have the facts you need for your report." I practically did cartwheels right there in the living room. Senior year was going to be different! So very different.
Well, here it is. The first chapter of 'A Lesson in First Impressions'. I'm not sure if I'm completely happy with it, so this may be rewritten once or twice. I'm not entirely confident that the first-person narrative works well for this, so please let me know what you think of it.