The Word "No"

Chapter 1

You ever just want to yell "no" in as many languages as possible in hopes someone will attempt to understand you? So far, I think I'm doing pretty well knowing at least more than one way to say it. Then again, "No!" in Spanish is just "¡No!". This fascination with the word "no" didn't happen overnight. Actually, I consider myself a connoisseur of "no". You see, from a very young age, "no" was a very common word used in my family. It was so common; it was my brothers, sisters, and my first word. Of course, each time my mother would follow up with, "no, you shouldn't say no as your first word," in some disappointed way like she believed we would say "mama". Well, "mama" just so happened to disappear a little too much for any of her children to develop a relationship with her.

Sure, I've had plenty of "yes" in my life. You know those times when you meet your best friend and they ask, "You wanna be my best friend"? You might nod and meekly say "yes", but then there are other times you're so sure of yourself. Then, "Yes!" manifests itself when you ace the paper you spent all night writing, or when you find that song you couldn't quite remember, or even when it gently escapes your lips as the man you thought you loved, at one point, leans over your naked body. People grow up though, and they somehow return to what they're comfortable with. You keep saying "no" to your friends, and you end up with no friends. You keep saying "no" to things you used to enjoy, like school and music, and you end up with no will to do anything. You say "no" to that guy one time, and you end up with no other choice but to be forced into counseling by your overbearing mother after being forced into sex by your overbearing ex.

"The bell rang like five minutes ago."

I look up. There's a group of people staring at me, waiting for some type of reaction to the information they had just blessed me with. I look around to assess my surroundings. I had just been in math class, carelessly scribbling in my journal and disregarding the important notes my teacher was writing onto the board for us to copy down in our notes. Minnie was next to me picking at her nail polish, and Jax was two seats behind me as he was always keen on keeping an eye on me in case I planned to ruin his reputation with the secrets I held. Other than Minnie, no one knew, and I planned to keep it that way. Yet, he was always there, two seats behind me so that he was just close enough to interrupt me if I actually began to talk to someone other than Minnie regardless of the topic. A girl who looked like she belonged in middle school cleared her throat and interrupted me from my thoughts.

"You going to, like, get up?" She asks, confirming with her choice of grammar that she needed to be in middle school. I huff.

"What if I say no? Then what will you, like, do?" I taunt. She seems to turn pink at my words, and I smile at my small, insignificant victory.

"Relax, just try to talk a little older." I snicker, gathering my things. The bell is about to ring once again, and I have about a minute to get across the building to the art class.

"Dull." I say to myself as I heave my backpack over my shoulder and begin my walk.

"Annalise!" A squeaky voice calls after me. I roll my eyes and turn back towards my younger brother.

"Richie, you keep screaming, and your already dumbass voice is going to get worse." He bites his cheek and glares at me, attempting to establish his own version of dominance.

"You're always so mean Annalise." Richie kicks at the ground. I sigh and push his hair from his face so I can make some sort of eye contact with him through the nest on top of his head. Richie was what my mother calls a "slow sailing" kid. In other words, he was a late bloomer who just began to be affected by puberty at the age of 14. His voice was cracking, his legs were growing, and his unruly muted brunette hair wasn't just contained to his head anymore.

"Annalise, would you kindly stop babying me? Mom's here, and she's looking for you." Richie crosses his arms as I let out the biggest sigh possible.

"First of all, my name is Anna. Anna. Second, why is she here?" I groaned. Richie shrugged and pulled my arm, meaning to guide me to our mother. I pulled away.

"Richie, I don't care if she's here. I have stuff to do. Now, leave me alone, and don't let her know you found me. K?" I ordered, reaching for my wallet and pulling out a crisp five-dollar bill. Richie's eyes lit up, and I knew I got him.

"Sure, sure, whatever! Give me my money!" He excitedly says as he took the money without second thoughts, running back down the hall. I can't help but smile as I pack my wallet back into my bag and continue to the art room. The bell had rung already, and I knew I was in line for a detention slip once I reached my destination. I had already received a tardiness warning letter the day before so there was definitely no way of getting out of the detention slip. I looked around, trying to formulate some excuse to give to Mrs. MacBelly but came up short as I reached the door to her room. She was staring at the clock and tapping her foot as I made my way to my seat and everyone snickered quietly. Minnie leaned over.

"You're late… again."

"Yeah, I know, my mother's here. Richie stopped me to tell me." I struggled to pull out my sketchpad from my bag.

"Are you done with your conversation, Miss Rillow?" I look up to see Mrs. MacBelly towering over me, detention slip in hand. I shrugged.

"Sure." I bluntly responded, as she shook her head at me and handed me the slip. I took the slip and stuffed it into my bag as she walked away, head high and proud that she could take me down for the fifth time this semester. Minnie sighed and kicked the side of my foot softly, reminding me to relax and at least try to be respectful. I smiled at her and waved my hand in a disregarding manner.

"It's fine." I assured her, and she sighed and went back to shading in the sketch of a bird she had been working on for a week. Minnie was an artist. She could draw, paint, sculpt and create just about anything you told her to, but she did it as slow as possible because she was a perfectionist. Minnie had a lot of "yes" in her life. At 9, she decided she didn't want to be a boy anymore and asked her mother and father if that was okay. I think her mother always wanted a daughter because Minnie always tells me that her mother was probably the most excited she had ever been that day, and all she could keep shouting was "yes". Ever since that day, Minnie has received everything she has ever wanted or needed. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for my best friend, but she could learn a thing or two about "no".

"No!" She yelped, as if on cue with my thoughts. Everyone seemed to flinch and look up at the same time. It wasn't often Minnie used her "loud voice" because it was just slightly off from her more feminine soft tone she elected to use.

"Miss Lillington, would you please explain yourself?" Mrs. MacBelly huffed as she rested her hands on her hips. Minnie looked like she was about to explode.

"It's ruined…" Minnie said under her breath. I smirked, knowing what was about to happen.

"It's ruined! This line is completely just wrong, and if I erase it my shading will be wrong! All wrong." Minnie stood and tore the piece of paper she had been sketching on out of her book. I held my hand out as she balled up the piece of paper and stuffed it into my palm, knowing she wouldn't be able to even look at the paper. I stuffed the paper wad into my backpack and patted her back.

"It's gone. You're good." I leaned back in my seat as she wiped her hands over her pastel pink skirt and shook her hair out.

"I'm good." She restated and sat, crossing her legs. I turned towards my sketchpad as a knock on the door interrupted the class yet again. Mrs. MacBelly walked over to the door and opened it just enough to talk with the office worker on the other side. To add to my already stressful day, the office worker began to talk about my mother.

"Isn't that-"

"Yes." I interrupted Minnie, getting up from my seat and grabbing my things.

"Mrs. MacBelly, I'm leaving." I pushed between her and the door and walked as the office worker chased passed me.

"Young lady, your mother is asking for you! We need you to go to the office!" She huffed. I picked up my pace and made my way down the stairs, making sure to look out for my mother.

"Annalise! Please let me escort you to the office!"

"Tell my mother to suck it, Dorris! See ya tomorrow." I exclaimed, looking back at her, as I ran to the front door and slammed into a mass of flesh.

"Woah! You need to be more careful!" The flesh started talking as I attempted to clear my vision from the floor I fell on. I felt a hand on my arm and blinked a couple of times.

"You okay?" I blinked once more as golden-brown eyes met mine.

"Yes? No?" He asked. I stared at him.

"No? Nein?" He continued to ask as I blinked and scrunched my eyebrows.

"The fuck does that mean?" He looked surprised.

"Uh, well, it means 'no' in German." He smiled as I took his hand and stood. I could hear my mother calling my name as she raced down the hall behind me with Dorris in tow.

"No time to explain, but thank you!" I patted the brown-eyed stranger's arm as I raced out the door.

"You're welcome, just making sure you were okay!" He called after me, and I smiled as I kept running.

"Not for that, for 'nein'! You know, the word 'no'!" I yelled back, disappearing around the corner.