PART ONE: COMATOSE
"Callie! Get up, and don't make me come up there!"
The voice filtered through the pillow which covered my head, interrupting the dream in which I was making out with the delectable Damon Salvatore from Vampire Diaries. Arg! It's always the good dreams that get interrupted and never the ones where you're being chased by giant bunny rabbits who want to eat your brains.
I pried my eyes open and stared at the ceiling of my lilac bedroom. When I was younger the walls had been decorated with ballerina posters and dolls and, even though the ballerinas and dolls had faded along with my childhood, the lilac walls remained.
"Callista Natalie Georgiou, I'm not speaking again! You're going to be late for school!"
Who needs an alarm clock when you have a mother?
I dragged myself out of bed and grabbed the first items of clothing which I laid my hands on – a baby blue vest and a pair of jeans – tugging them on unceremoniously. With that done, I ambled into the bathroom. My hair was a mess of dark brunette curls somehow resembling a bird's nest in its dishevelled style. I grabbed my hairbrush and yanked it through my hair in order to tame the wild beast before applying a thin layer of eyeliner and mascara. The make-up was purely an effort to prevent my best friend from nagging me about not making an effort for our first day as seniors.
As if being a senior was such a big change from being a junior.
With that done, I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. Our house was old. Built in the 1930s, it still had all of its original trimmings. Hardwood panels and floral wallpapers decorated almost every wall in the house, creating an effect which left you feeling trapped in a time warp. It was only in the past two years that my mother had forced my father to relent and they finally tiled the bathroom and kitchen, ripping out the last shreds of linoleum which had remained in the house since the dark ages. Parquet ran throughout the rest of the home and gleamed like glass under the tender loving care of my parents. The kitchen, in direct contrast, was completely modern. Decked out with top-class cookware and appliances it was blatant to all who visited where the centre of the home was.
"Callista! You'd better be up!" my mother roared.
My family is Greek and proud of it. In stereotypical Greek fashion we are loud, carefree and we own a restaurant which –surprise, surprise – serves Greek food. Sometimes it feels as if we just launched ourselves out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with a few exceptions of course.
My father, a large man with the heart of a teddy bear, sat at the breakfast table reading the morning's paper, sipping a cup of coffee as my mother, a tiny creature, made pancakes. In retrospect, they're completely the opposite of each other which is probably a blessing. My mother's firecracker personality needed some watering down, and my father's calm and collected ways were just the type of fire extinguisher needed.
"Good morning Mama, good morning Baba." I said as cheerfully as I could muster this early in the morning, kissing both of them on the cheek in our usual morning greeting.
"Good morning my kori." my father replied using the Greek word for daughter, although still not lowering his paper.
I sat down as my mother placed a plate of perfectly stacked pancakes in front of me, drowning them in gloriously golden syrup. Yummy! I poured myself a cup of coffee in an attempt to wake myself up before digging into my breakfast. I don't think I could live without my daily dose of caffeine.
As I reached for a fork, my eyes caught the unopened envelope situated next to my plate with my name on it in bold, sloppy print and decorated with stamps.
"Niklos wrote?" I grinned, tearing at the envelope to free the letter and marvelling at the fact that the idiot still posted letters instead of emailing.
Niklos, my elder brother by three years and my only salvation from within my family, had been sent to university in Greece. He had told my parents that he wanted to "experience and witness life through the lens of his heritage" but it my opinion he just wanted to experience life independently and out from under the ever watchful gaze of my mother. While my parents obviously didn't fall hook, line and sinker into his grand scheme, they were ecstatic at the possibility that my brother may fall madly in love with a Greek girl and bring her home to marry and start a large, loud, crazy Greek family of his own.
His letter, as always, contained telling of the humorous ventures in which he constantly found himself. I chuckled to myself as he wrote in detail about his failed attempt to get a girl's number in a market. She led him on a scavenger hunt throughout the market, only to discover that she was a tourist who couldn't speak English or Greek.
"Are you going to school like that?" my mother piped up from across the kitchen, an odd expression plastered on her face.
Peering over the paper, my father looked me over. "There's nothing wrong with what she's wearing, Delia"
My mother mumbled under her breath about making a good first impression as a senior but took the comments no further, successfully guilting me into treading back to my room after breakfast and changing into a summer dress which my mother had bought a few weeks back. Personally, I believe that she had bought it specifically for that very occasion.
"Won't Kayla love this." I whispered to myself as a looked in the mirror. My hair curled slightly as it brushed my waist, contrasting clearly with the turquoise and white floral print. More floral! Could my parents get any weirder? The upside of this monstrosity was that it actually accentuated my figure in all the right places and made my ice-blue eyes sparkle. I was of the average size and the average weight with an average hair colour so I was proud of my unusual eyes, made even more unusual by my heritage.
I mean, who ever saw a Greek girl with blue eyes?
Brushing my teeth furiously and grabbing my backpack, I raced down to catch up with my father in order to grab a lift to school. Dad worked at the University of California as a lecturer of ancient Greece and mythology, a rather useless topic in my opinion, but my father loved it almost as much as he loved his 1980s model Cadillac. Grabbing a lift with him to school instead of taking the bus meant that I would be early enough to catch up a bit with Kayla before we had to rush off to home room.
Kayla, my best friend from elementary school, was the sister I never had. Her blonde hair and bombshell body had made her popular in our sophomore year, however she lost most of her followers as soon as she opened her mouth and voiced her opinions of how sexist and brainless cheerleading is. This all occurred when the cheerleading squad tried to rope her into joining them. Needless to say, they weren't impressed by her views on their sport and spent a few months trying to drag her name through the dust so that she would transfer schools.
It didn't work.
As Carmel High School neared I looked at the sombre building and prayed a quick prayer of thanksgiving that this would be the last year I would tread the halls of my prison. The school's dark grey exterior was not softened by the stairs in front of it or the odd bush which had been planted in an attempt to make the school Eco-friendly. Students (and fellow inmates) littered the steps in little groups, chatting about what they had done over the summer break. Yup, back to the grind.
My father pulled up to the left of the stairs and turned to look at me. "Well, Callista, this is the last first day of school you'll ever have." he said sombrely. "Do you have everything you need? Did you bring money for the cafeteria?"
It was really hard not to laugh at his sombre tone – as if he was dropping me off with a transcript to go off to war. In a way he was. High school was just a different kind of war.
With him put at ease, I kissed my father's cheek and vacated the car, watching him drive off into the golden sunrise as if we were part of a cheesy film.
Looking up at the steps I saw the usual scene unfold before my eyes. There were the cheerleaders gossiping on the lowest tier, the jocks checking the cheerleaders out and comparing muscles, the stoners staring off into the distance, the emos sulking in a corner, the band geeks talking about band camp and the nerds attempting to look cool as they edged their way closer to the school entrance in breathless anticipation of another academic year. Yes, the steps resembled an upside-down social food chain leaving no doubt to who was at the predator end of it. And then there was my crowd, slap bang in the middle of the chain - those who didn't fit into any group because we were too unique or uninteresting to join one of the other cliques. Kayla saw me arrive and waved me over to where she was seated.
"Ah! You're wearing a dress!" she exclaimed, shocked that I had abandoned my jeans. "And make-up! Aren't you going all out today?"
I grinned at her in shame, remembering what I had originally put on. "Well, it is our first day as seniors after all."
In true Kayla fashion she was dressed flawlessly in a white chiffon and cotton mini-dress which was undoubtedly designed and made with her own hands. If it's true that we all have secret talents then design was certainly hers. She was so in love with clothing and creating outfits that she carried a stash of sequins, a needle and some thread wherever she went, just in case there was a "fashion emergency" – more commonly known as Callie. Yes, I was Kayla's most lifelike mannequin and my protests were never heard.
"I'm so proud of you! Now do a twirl for me."
Reluctantly I did a slow twirl so that she could assess my style.
"Do I pass?" I couldn't control the laughter which crept into my voice.
The whole situation was ludicrous.
Kayla nodded her head, beaming in pride in the belief that her fashion sense had finally rubbed off on me. Little did she know...
"Where's the gang?" I ask, looking around for the usual misfits that Kay and I hang with.
She shrugged, although the question didn't hold her attention for much longer than that – replaced by a juicy piece of high school gossip.
"Did you hear the news? Old Mr Crawley has retired! And apparently his replacement is young and super hot. I do hope I get him for English this year."
It didn't surprise me that old Mr Crawley had retired. According to my brother, he's been called "Old Mr Crawley" since before I was born. The man was more a relic to the school than the actual building was. What did surprise me was that his replacement was young! That was unheard of at Carmel high. Although "young" by Carmel High standards could possibly mean that the poor, unknowing teacher was in his or her late thirties.
The bell rang signalling time to head to home room and slowly (and I mean, snail's pace slow) the stairs were evacuated. Kayla and I made a detour to our lockers to put our bags and extra books away before making our way to home room, taking our usual seats as the register was taken. As our class schedules were handed to us, Kayla handed me a note:
Oh yeah! I got the new guy! Mr Peterson! Woop woop!
I looked at my schedule in dread. Miss Matthews for Social Sciences, Mr Smith for AP Mathematics, Miss Carlson for Physical Education, Mrs Miller for AP Greek, Mr Porter for Science and Biology and Mr Peterson for AP English.
With a smile I scribbled on the back of her note 'me too!' before handing it back to her.
Miss Matthews, my home room teacher as well as my teacher for Social Sciences, rambled on about how this year would be the year we would "blossom into butterflies in order for us to spread our wings and go far in life". I'm almost certain that you must have failed your psych exam to become a teacher... at least at my school. She had pushed back her grey hair into the severe bun which perched on top of her head, undoubtedly giving her countless headaches, but year after year she remained the same bird-like woman whose head remained in the clouds.
Granted, she was a brilliant teacher.
The bell rang, signalling first period; English. I grabbed my blank notebook from my desk and, together with Kayla, made the trek along the corridors towards the English block.
Old Mr Crawley's classroom had been refurbished and redecorated with posters of poets and famous writers covering the walls. Kayla and I sat down in our usual places, remarking at the changes which had reformed the dusty haven of textbooks and broken projectors into the literary paradise it had become. It was a nice change from the torture chamber we had become to know and loath. Our conversation was interrupted by the golden god who walked through the door.
"Good morning class, I am Daniel Peterson, but you can call me Mr Peterson." he said with a wink.
A collective sigh escaped from between the lips of every single girl in the class as we all took in his flawless physique, golden locks and green eyes framed by the most gorgeously dark lashed I had ever seen. We all sighed, except for Kayla who paled a little instead. I didn't think this too strange, Kayla did things on her own accord and swooning at the sight of a gorgeous man wouldn't be too far-fetched when it came to her.
She once sprained her ankle just to get a date from a cute guy on the soccer team. Okay, I don't think she did it on purpose but she certainly fell on purpose. She said it was all worth it though.
Mr Peterson asked everyone to introduce themselves and say one thing that was interesting about them and so for the next few minutes all we heard was "hi, my name is so-and-so and I love English". The same line drummed a beat into my skull and gave me a headache with its monotony. By the time it came to being my turn I decided I was going to be different. I was going to be awesome. I was going to be spontaneous!
"Hello, my name is Callista and I'm allergic to Shakespeare."
Kayla turned to me with an eyebrow raised in question but I didn't care. Mr Peterson laughed and winked at me before turning back to the class.
"I shall try to remember everyone's names, but if I get stuck and forget yours please forgive me. Now, to turn our attention to the semester project... and to the man Callista is allergic to. If you need to go to the nurse, Callista, please do let me know."
I felt my cheeks catch fire with embarrassment.
"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day-to-day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow." he quoted dramatically. "William Shakespeare wrote those words in his play entitled Macbeth. Your assignment is a long one, so be prepared. Each of you must find someone who truly knows the meaning of life in contrast to death. If you cannot find someone, then try to get an understanding about it from what is around you. Everything has a beginning and an end, a life and a death, so there are no excuses. Think about it, this assignment can be twisted to meet your own creative needs; however those who put the most effort into it will obviously receive the most marks. Are there any questions?"