((Author's note: All of the characters are mine, and even though they're based off of people I actually know, they're still mine. Whoa... I really am like a puppeteer.

Don't let this bland note turn you away. It's not of my normal charisma. Perhaps that's because I'm tired. Hmm....

Oh! And the reference to Freshmen later on... I don't know how the Freshmen are or were at your school, but believe me, I wasn't exaggerating.))

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"If I don't write a meaningful story, I'll explode!" I growled, tearing off and crumpling up a piece of notebook paper recently scribbled on with another stupid idea that popped into my head.

Lina looked up from her comic book (she was reading Ultimate Spiderman #18) and rolled her eyes. "Why don't you just write that one about that assassin who discovers herself through the art of interpretive dance?"

I sighed irritably and tossed my notebook onto my desktop with intense disregard while mumbling, "I tried to start it, but I had a problem with the plot."

"Why? What was wrong with it?"

"Well... I couldn't come up with one. That's the problem. Besides, the concept isn't interesting to me anymore. What about a robot that has premonitions and can travel through time?"

She snorted and didn't respond, averting her attention back to the comic. Yeah... I got that a lot when stupid ideas infiltrated my head and I decided to share them with people.

"Well, I have to go. Ben's moving out today," Lina said distantly while checking her watch. She carefully put the comic back in its bag and sealed it. Expectantly, she left it on the couch - MY couch - where she was sitting. She wasn't allowed to buy comics anymore, so she couldn't bring it home. I couldn't believe that money had gotten so tight, comic purchases had become completely taboo. I suppose I should have anticipated as much. After all, she was the only one in her family that had a steady job.

"I'll see you bright and early tomorrow then?" she asked without waiting for actual acknowledgement. We both knew the answer because I always drove her and her younger brother to school. Then she left.

I wasn't sure what, exactly, had gotten into Ben, her step dad of ten years. All of the sudden he decided having a wife and three kids was a detestable burden, and he wanted a divorce so he could go live with his mother on a cattle ranch in Arizona. Well, at least I had the satisfaction of knowing he'd wake up to the lovely musk fragrance of cow every morning.

Turning back to my notebook, I scowled and let out a sigh. If I was ever going to become a world-renown author, shouldn't I have been able to come up with some kind of story that people would want to read? I shot a glance at my computer and frowned. It had crashed -- literally... right on the ground when a certain toddler (my cousin, Fara) was playing in my room a couple weeks ago -- and suspiciously that's when my inspiration disappeared with reckless abandon. I wasn't able to write a good sentence, let alone a story, since then. I supposed it was because I always typed out everything.

It felt weird to use such primitive forms of recording: mass produced, pre- lined college-ruled paper with three holes punched conveniently in a vertical row on the side and a human-made plastic "pencil" with refillable lead and erasers. I felt like an animal.

I got out of my horrible grayish-like computer chair that was upholstered before real colors were invented, and I strolled out of the room to be greeted with the wafting scent of spaghetti. Great! I loved it when Dad cooked. I practically ran into Lina in the hallway, who, by all logic and rules of time and space, should have left two minutes ago to help boot Ben out the door.

"Why are you-" I began to inquire, but then I saw that she was talking and joking with the object of her affection, my older brother Nathan. Her house could have been on fire or her family abducted by aliens and she would have never known! She would stop whatever she was doing for a chance to speak with Nathan. Well, she called him that. He was always "Nate" to me.

He was only a year older than me, but he looked like a college student. It was really hard for relatives to remember that he was only a senior in high school. Nate had the awe-inspiring ability to be completely adored by some females... without having any clue. He was so dense... and people were always going on about how great he was and how much he had going for him. I wasn't really bothered that he was in the limelight most of the time, but I couldn't help but feel a twinge of resentment sometimes when I'd hear, "Shae, why can't you be more like your brother?" It wasn't fair to compare us. We were two separate people.

Lina described him as having the deep cerulean eyes (the kind you could fall into), golden-spun hair just the right length (kind of shaggy, but still, oddly, clean-cut), and the body of a state champion swimmer (which isn't pure coincidence considering he took our swim team to the finals last year). In addition to his looks, he was intelligent, computer literate, and witty... and he liked comics and anime. No wonder Lina liked him. I really didn't have much to complain about because he was always a best friend to me, but it still annoyed me that, when it came to catching less-than-subtle hints, an eight pound brick took the place of his brain. I supposed I'd never understand.

Nate looked up at me, still grinning after an invigorating conversation with Lina about how Dazzler should have been in the first X-Men movie, and said, "Hey, Shae, what do ya say?" (which, when translated, basically meant "How's it going?" The phrase "Hey, Shae, what do ya say?" was product of my brother's short-lived fascination and exploits in rhyming when he was 6, and it stuck around ever since.)

"I've been considering giving up writing to become a lawyer," I drawled. "Then maybe I could drown my sorrows in other people's sorrows."

"Wow, still no inspiration, huh? You could always write my Expos paper for me. Maybe it would clear your head."

I knew he was kidding, but I seriously contemplated it.

Lina sighed, snapping out of the spell Nate had unknowingly cast, and said, "Okay. I really do have to get going. See you guys later!"

Nate and I both said goodbye to Lina and watched out the front window as she pulled away in her sleek, white minivan. Even though we only lived a street apart, we drove to each other's house almost every day for one reason or another. It really paid to have gotten our licenses because then we could be as lazy as possible with the minor problem of putting gas into our vehicles.

I focused my gaze on my own car, parked safely on the driveway. The marigold yellow paint was beginning to rust over and one of my back windows wouldn't go down. It was once a luxury sedan back when the wheel was created, but now it was just... transportation. The air conditioner and radio worked, so it wasn't too bad. When I first got it, I deemed it the "Shae Mobile," but then I called it "Señor Rusty." The second name stayed.

Nate was looking at my car too, but then he started laughing. That was his mistake. See, I always knew Nate's one true viable weakness, and that was that he was ticklish right under the ribs. If you got him in the correct place, he wouldn't be able to defend himself at all. I bet Lina would have loved to know that. Anyway, I attacked just as Mom came in to tell us dinner was ready, so my plans of revenge were put on a standstill.

At dinner, we all sat around the round oak table adorned with the beautiful floral centerpiece my friend Haeli whipped up in one of her classes. Haeli was going to be a florist, and that didn't surprise me one bit because she always enjoyed decorating and making things spectacular. Anyway, as we got comfortable, Mom handed out the plates and silverware while Dad placed the food on the table. Like always, we said Grace (It was Nate's turn that night), and we dug in.

"Danielle called," my dad commented while cutting up a meat ball, "She said she's coming home tomorrow to visit for the weekend."

Danielle? Since my sister was a sophomore in college we had to call her "Danielle?" It was "Danny," and I would never call her differently.

"So Shae, honey, what'd you learn in school today?" my mom inquired. Obviously she was hoping for an actual answer, but I couldn't suppress the automatic response.

"Nothing."

Well, what was I suppose to have said? 'I learned that I can only achieve success with technology?' And besides, if I was running out of ideas at 17, how could I be a real author?

Mom and Dad let out mutual sighs and mom started talking to Nate, who was more than happy to tell them about the interesting lesson he learned in Psychology about conditioning. If you asked me, even though Ivan Pavlov won a Nobel Prize, he was pretty twisted to experiment on dogs. I would have liked to meet that John B. Watson fellow, though. Maybe he could have conditioned me to be a real writer.

I watched my parents and Nate have an actual conversation and was submerged into jealousy for a while before I was distracted at the resemblance my brother had to my mom. I guess I had never noticed the same exact eyes, hair color, and facial expressions. They were both also really into sports. I looked at Dad and wondered if we truly looked alike. Surely we had the same raven black hair, except his was short and mine came down to the middle of my back. His eyes were green and so were mine, and he was a journalist. I wouldn't go as far as to say he was thin, but he was shorter than me, and I had the build of a female basketball player. Too bad I sucked at sports, then I could've kissed writing goodbye and made three million dollars a year getting a ball into a hoop.

Height could be a very interesting thing in my family. My brother and I were both 6' tall. I think that confused people because my parents were only 5'7". Dad said that his grandpa was 6'8", so that's probably where we got it from. My sister, Danny, on the other hand was only 5'9".

I never saw how girls and boys could get upset at tallness or the lack thereof. It was always such a sad sight when a girl was upset because she was taller than a boy she liked. I knew height wouldn't bother me. The last guy I had a crush on was 5'6". I would never understand some quirks girls had and I was one of them. What chance did guys have?

Dinner ended with everyone kissing the top of Dad's head for a wonderful meal, a long-living tradition in our family, and I moved to the family room to watch TV. It was seven o' clock on a Thursday night, and nothing interesting was on except for a special on FOX about "When Lawn Gnomes Attack!" or something along the sort.

Tedium had seemed quite insistent on smothering me those last few weeks. I had no idea what to do! Homework maybe? I scoffed at the thought. I wouldn't let the name mislead me. Just because it was called "home" work didn't mean I would do it there, in my cozy little habitat AWAY from school. It was like the teachers made sure you didn't have fun anywhere. Well, I had beaten the system, for I had a routine of staying after school to finish every scrap I was assigned early that day. Okay, it wasn't "beating the system," but what else was I suppose to do while Una was at soccer practice? Una was a really good friend and the main source of gas money for Señor Rusty. I couldn't just blow her off. Besides, she helped me get my SCHOOLwork done.

I cleared my thoughts and debated whether or not it was worth the effort to get off the big, comfy sofa I had planted myself on. Should I have been bored there, or should I have shifted myself, wasting perfectly good energy, to be bored somewhere else?

I didn't dwell on it for long because Nathan came in and sat down on me. I was sitting cross-legged... and yeah, it was on purpose.

"Knock it off! I'm busy," I murmured as I pushed Nate off of me and watched amusedly out of my peripheral vision as he landed, sprawled out on the floor.

"Doing what?" He glanced at the TV and looked back at me with the hint of surprise written on his face. "You're watching THIS show? Tell me you're not watching this. PLEASE. Go read or something. You like doing that AND it won't lower your IQ a solid ten points."

"Reading just reminds me of the fact that I can't write," I responded indistinctly while changing the channel.

"Shae, you're just a victim of ferocious writer's block. Don't get discouraged, okay? You're no fun when you're in a bad mood."

"I am TOO fun!" I yelled, chucking a couch cushion at his head. "See? Like a barrel of monkeys!"

Nate laughed and got to his feet after tossing the cushion back on the couch.

"You're right. My mistake." And then he walked out of the room. He had some nerve to accuse me of being in a bad mood.

I grumbled to myself for a while until Una called.

"Hello?"

"Shaaaaaaaaae... What's up? What are you doing?"

Her voice was so bubbly it took a moment for me to gather my wits before I could reply.

"Shae?"

"Uhm... yeah. I'm here. Nothing's going on. What about you?"

"Nothing. Wanna do something? You could come over and watch a movie, or edit that paper I wrote for American Lit... if you weren't busy, and... you're not, right?"

Ah HA! So that was it. After they had discovered my "love" for English, my friends gave me the esteemed honor of becoming their own, personal, unpaid editor. I didn't mind too much, though. It gave me a chance to get my mind off of my unending trip to the literary slums.

I snorted and commented, "I don't feel like doing anything, Una. I mean, I'm way too busy moping. Just send it to me via e-mail and I'll check it and send it back."

"But you don't have a computer right now."

Oh yeah.

"Well, send it to Nate's account. I'll use his computer."

"Why don't you just come over?"

"That would require me getting out of my house, unlocking Señor Rusty, chugging him out of the driveway, and moving him a good three miles away to YOUR house. Remember that discussion we had about you trying to get me to go places?"

"But Shae...... Argh... okay. Fine. I'll just give you the satisfaction of buying me lunch tomorrow."

"It's a date! I'll check your paper before I go to bed."

"In other words, you'll forget, check it tomorrow morning, and print me out a copy, right?"

"Yeah, that's about right. See you at school!"

Una sighed. (I made a lot of people sigh that day.)

"Alright, Shae. I'll send it. See you at my locker before second hour."

We hung up after that, and I went back to the task of remaining bored. By 7:33 I had discovered four new sitting positions while pondering what very well could've been the meaning of life. Lina always said that if people stumbled upon the actual meaning of life, they would spontaneously combust.

'Good.' I thought. 'At least that wouldn't be boring.'



---More to come.---

A review or some form of acknowledgement would be most appreciated!

~Elek