"Please, just give me two more weeks. I promise I'll be able to get it to you by then." I held my breath and twirled the shiny black phone cord nervously, awaiting a response.
"I'm sorry, Miss Heywood but we've already postponed your deadline once. It would be immoral—not to mention unfair—to all those who have waited all this time for their own-"
"Please, Mr. Jensen!" I begged, biting the inside of my cheek until it throbbed. "I'll have the book to you by the 15th, how's that?"
A long sigh echoed at the end of the line. "That is quite an extension, Miss Heywood." He sounded merely bored in contrast to my nervous anxiety. How could he do this? I had to get a book published…any book at all! "May I just ask how much of it is written already?"
"Er…" The truth was, that I had written nothing at all so far. I had phoned Mr. Jensen a month ago reporting that I would like him to publish a book for me having none of it actually written yet. "Look Mr. Jensen, I have so many great ideas, they just need a little bit of time-"
"A 'little bit'? Judging by the sounds of it you need much more than a 'little bit' of time."
"Listen, it takes months—more often years—to write a good book, so don't put too much pressure on yourself, alright?"
"Feel free to call me anytime, whenever you want in the future once the book is completed and I'll find time to take a look at it." He sounded almost as if he were being generous…really? I mean, I understand that after the age of twenty your mind naturally begins to deteriorate, but there was no way he could be this oblivious.
"You don't understand-"
"It has been a pleasure working with you, Elsa."
"-there's been a misunderstanding-"
"Have a good day." The line clicked and I buried my head in my hands. Just another chance that I had somehow managed to screw up in less than a minute.
I should have known to expect this, though. Should have known that there was no way I could ever be published by him. The only reason he had ever agreed to even look at my 'book' was since my mother, brother and sister had all been using him for years.
I had only ever wanted to publish a novel of my own because the rest of my family had. My father had published a series of award-winning, sleep-inducing law books, my mother had written various novels for adults (none of which I had ever read) and my twin sister, Allison, had published her second novel for teens seven months ago. Allison had always been the perfect one, though.
When I was little, people used to say kindly to me, "You and your sister are like the sun and the moon. You both shine brilliantly but in your own ways." Then, I would nod and say I agreed with them. But I didn't. Because I didn't shine at all, not even like the moon when compared to the sun.
In first grade, Allie won first place in the class spelling bee and my friends had all been saying how hard it must be for me to always be second place to my sister. Only I didn't get second place, I got eleventh.
In fifth grade Allie got the lead in our school play while I was assigned to be 'assistant-assistant stage director'. Teacher code for 'don't want to make you feel bad, but obviously you got nil in the talent department but we'll try to make you feel better anyway since your sister is so talented'.
I hate it when teachers and parents always make feeble attempts at slipping in little hints about how amazing your sibling is. Even my parents suggested a year or so ago that Allie tutor me in Math seeing as I had slipped down to a C- average while their other daughter had been placed in Pre-AP Calculus. Honestly it would have been better if they had just come right out and said to me that Allison was perfect and I was not and that was just the way it would be forever.
When Allison published her book it only got worse. I never even picked up a copy of the thing, though mom suggested I read it several times. Kids from my school were coming up to me all the time for weeks after that telling me how lucky I was to have a sister like that. Allie began to go for book signings and was mentioned in several magazines, but though invited I refused to be in photos with the rest of my family, because I knew that it would only draw attention to the fact that I didn't belong. I don't even resemble my family in looks!
Allie is exactly how my mother looks in pictures from when she was little with the same porcelain skin, long auburn hair and almond-shaped violet blue eyes. They're both easily 5'11" and my dad's probably even taller. I however, am a midget at a measly 5'2". I didn't think it was possible for both talent and beauty to have been shoved over to Allie's genetics, but they obviously were.
My hair barely reaches my shoulders and is cherry red. When I say cherry red I don't mean ketchup red or strawberry red, I mean the kind of red that looks like it belongs on a clown. The kind of red that makes people wonder how a hair dye job could have ever gone so hopelessly wrong. My mother says I have 'beautiful curls' but really, there's nothing remotely 'beautiful' nor 'curly' about my hair. It's so frizzy that if you leave it down it puffs up around your head like a halo and so thick that if you attempt to pull it back into a ponytail either a) the elastic snaps or b) your hair breaks loose and the elastic flies across the room. Freckles cover every inch of my skin and my eyes are muddy brown. I wonder what on earth I ever managed to do in my last life to deserve this.
Thumping the phone back down on it's holder with a slam, I sighed and slowly raised my head out of my hands, pushing chunks of red frizz out of my face. My mother insisted that phones were too expensive these days, and so had only gotten one installed in our house; one of those ancient ones with cords right in the front hall.
I think that's probably because she doesn't want us staying up till three am on the phone gossiping or whatever parents imagine is some sin to humanity. I can't tell you the number of times this weeks my father has launched into one of those "When I was a boy" tales that have absolutely no track to them.
I usually drift in and out of sleep, catching occasional phrases such as "a whole mile we had to walk to school…..you hear that? A whole mile!" and "you kids just don't know how luck you are to have all this stuff…". A whole mile—sure. Only, dad looks as though he hasn't moved an inch this past century, though he's probably a bit older than that.
My dream—I have to warn you it's pretty pathetic—is to publish a book and have the rest of my family fawning over me for once. To have them congratulate me. Be proud of me.
"Elsa!" My mother's yells echoed through our tiny front hall and I clamped my hands over my ears. My mother always screams like the world is going to end even if we're only a few feet away.
"In the hall, mom!"
"Elsa," My mother's face popped around the doorway leading to the kitchen. Her auburn hair had been recently splattered with a few streaks of gray and the number of lines on her face had multiplied in the past few years, but the degree of her bossiness hadn't ceased a bit. "Have you finished that math homework yet? Because I know that Allie wouldn't mind helping you with it."
No! There is no way that I am ever letting my idiotic twin sister help my with anything because in case you didn't notice mom I HATE HER GUTS! "No, that's okay thanks. I was just going upstairs to finish it up, just a couple more questions!" I plastered an entirely fake, entirely nauseatingly cheerful smile on my face and turned to head up the stairs to my—ugh, shared—bedroom.
"Honey," My mother chided, somehow able to see right through my award-winning fakeness. "You know that Allie is only trying to-"
"Mom, I know, alright? She's only trying to help." I had heard this story a million times. Next she would start talking about how we had our differences and our similarities but we were both equally important to our parents and all that crap.
"Yes," My mother's eyes were beginning to water slightly now. "I just wouldn't want your differences to split you apart." Bingo. "Whenever you feel like you two are so different, just remember the things you have in common, alright?"
I couldn't help it, I snorted and doubled over with laughter, unable to hold it in any longer. Through my laughs however, I could see my mother reddening with anger.
"I'm sorry mom, really…I just…" Wiping tears of laughter out of my eyes I pushed a red chunk of hair our of my face and turned back to mom. "What do we have in common, exactly? I mean, aside from our last names?"
"Elsa Louanne Heywood!" My mother scolded furiously. Yup, 'Louanne'. What kind of an idiot of a parent would name their kid 'Elsa Loudanne'? I mean for God's sake, either they were really stupid or wanted their kid to get teased for their entire high school career. I'm presuming it's the first, but have no proof so far. "Go to your room right now!"
Q: Why do parents say 'go to your room' when that's where you spend the majority of your time at home?
A: The human brain naturally starts deteriorating after the age of twenty.
I guess when parents say 'go to your room' they expect you to be sitting on your bed with your head in your hands mourning over what you did wrong. But when a) your parents don't even tell you what you did wrong, b) you don't think you did anything wrong or c) you have a laptop and shelves full of books in your room, I really don't see how their standards can be so far off. Speaking of option a), don't you hate it when you ask what you did wrong and your parents are all "you know what you did wrong! Just think about it! Blah blah blah blah…we didn't raise you to behave like this…". How on earth you're ever supposed to 'learn you're your mistakes' that way is beyond me.
When you're a child and they say that you really feel sad about it, 'cause no one told you that you aren't doing anything wrong by your own standards. But now, I just want to scream "Mom, will you please stop treating me like a child? I turned sixteen a week and a half ago! LET-ME-GROW-UP.". But noooooo, because apparently they're still your legal guardians at age sixteen. So apparently they have to go to the mall with you and to the theatre and to parties and everywhere you ever go in case you fall off a cliff and die and they aren't there to give eyewitness accounts to the news and make a billion bucks off it.
I slammed the bedroom door shut behind me and flicked the light in our room on. Allie and I have shared a bedroom since the day our parents brought us home from the hospital, and for some reason my mom doesn't seem to think that girls' tastes change as they grow older.
So our bedroom walls are still pastel pink, I still have rose sheets on my bed and the only hint that the room is even lived in is that I smothered the bedroom wall on the right with posters of Taylor Lautner when I was in eighth grade and went through my Twilight phase.
I go to school and look around. My sister published a book. My mom's hair is growing gray. My friends have boyfriends and cell phones and Facebook pages and colleges they want to get in to. They travel in the summer and see the Eiffel tower and the Mona Lisa and the Statue of Liberty. They have hopes, dreams and ambition and I have nothing. Not talent, not beauty. Not even a book to publish.