Please welcome fifteen-year-old Emily Mead and be her fan!
Please read Emily’s third chapter. She hopes you offer encouragement and constructive criticism.
‘Oh, you must be the new girl,’ he says, smiling. He has glasses, but they’re on top of his bald head instead of his face. ‘Come on in.’
The New Girl. Great.
‘What’s your name?’ he says to me.
I tell him.
‘Okay, this is Rain, everyone. Rain, welcome to ninth grade geography. We are doing…well, I’ll ask the class that. What are we doing, class?’
They call out different answers. ‘Your mum!’ says one guy from up the back.
Mr Helmsley rolls his eyes. ‘Well, which one of you fine people is going to show Rain around the school for me? Just so she knows where she’s going.’
‘Oooooooh, me!’ yells one girl, standing up. She’s pointing a long stick in the air. ‘I know this school so well I can go around it with my eyes shut!’
The rest of the class laughs, but I don’t get the joke until she stands up. That’s when I realise that the stick she’s holding is a blind person’s cane. She wears big sunglasses over her face. She’s a pretty girl, tall with black curly hair. She’s got a gorgeous smile, too; such a big smile you can only really call it a grin.
‘Alright, but take someone else with you,’ says Mr Helmsley. He doesn’t look concerned, though. ‘In case you fall down and go blind or something.’
‘Good one, Mr Helmsley,’ says the girl. She turns to the boy next to her. ‘Chris! Minion! You’re coming on a journey with me and Storm Cloud.’
‘Rain,’ I say, but I laugh anyway.
‘Whatever.’ She tugs on Chris’s arm. ‘Come on, Chris. You can flirt with your teddy bear later.’
The class laughs again as Chris and the girl come up to the front. Chris is a bit shorter than her, but taller than me; he’s got kind of sandy hair and he’s stick-thin. Not anorexic-thin, but high-school-boy thin.
The three of us head out the door, the girl swinging her cane from side to side as we go. I can’t help but look at her, and I feel really awful about it.
‘Is she looking at me?’ the girl says as we walk. ‘She’s looking at me, I can tell.’
‘Nah, she’s wondering why you’ve got carrot stuck in your teeth,’ Chris says, winking at me.
‘Um, yeah,’ I say, going along with it. But I keep looking at her, just wondering. Was she born blind? Did she turn blind? That would suck.
‘Don’t worry about that,’ says the girl. ‘That’s the Oompa Loompa I ate yesterday. Saving him for later.’
Seriously, that’s what she actually says; not even hesitating or anything. ‘So what’s your name?’
‘Oh, the name,’ says Chris, shaking his head.
‘What? Is it a bad name?’
‘Nah, brilliant name,’ says Chris. ‘Just – ’
‘Nah-uh!’ the girl says, whacking Chris with her cane as we exit the B block. ‘I tell the name story. Okay, Stormy, my name…is Thea. Know who Thea is?’
‘God, you are a genius. No, Thea is the Greek goddess of sight.’
Chris is already laughing his head off. ‘Goddess of sight.’
‘Yup,’ says Thea, climbing stairs carefully.’Seriously. The blind girl was named after the goddess of sight. How’s that for a name, huh? Sure beats Storm Cloud.’
‘Rain,’ I say, smiling. ‘Maybe fate has a funny sense of humour.’
‘Pretty funny,’ she says. She tips her head back. ‘HEY FATE? THAT’S REALLY AMUSING! GOOD JOB!’
A teacher walks by. ‘Thea, seriously?’
‘Sorry, miss. Just showing young Lightning Bolt here around the school.’ The teacher keeps walking. ‘Okay, Thunderstruck, where do you want me to take you?’
‘I don’t know. What should I know about?’
‘We have to take her to the Forest!’ says Chris.
‘This school has a forest?’ I say, skeptically.
‘Sure does,’ says Thea. ‘But don’t insult her. It’s the Forest. Capital “Fuh.” She’s very sensitive about this sort of thing.’
Which is how we end up going to a forest…the Forest. We go around all the main buildings until we come to the back of the school. And they’re right. The Forest is massive; much bigger than the lonely clump of trees back home. There are massive trees, thick black bushes and roots as thick as my thighs.
‘Isn’t this off school property?’ I say.
Thea shrugs. ‘Probably. We’ve never really asked, but the school gates don’t end until the Forest finishes. Come on, we’ll show you our treehouse.’
‘You have a treehouse?’ I say, amazed again. Chris takes the lead and we go a bit more carefully, Thea having to find her way between tree roots and things.
‘’Course we do,’ says Thea, tapping in front of her. ‘You can’t have a forest without a treehouse. What would be the point of that?’
That’s when we reach the treehouse. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world. Just a few boards knocked together to make a platform. Whoever made the treehouse has nailed in bars, though, so you can climb up to it.
Which is what we do, Thea going first. At first I’m a bit worried, but she scurries up there quicker than a squirrel.
‘See!’ she calls from the top. ‘I can do this with my eyes shut!’
Me and Chris laugh, and I go next, arriving a bit out of breath at the top. It’s quite a ways up the tree, and from the platform I can see the tops of the school buildings. ‘This is a pretty cool place.’
‘Sure is,’ Chris says as he appears from below. ‘Best place in the school.’
‘Best place in Rain,’ Thea corrects. ‘Is that what you were named after, Cloud?’
‘I don’t know,’ I say. ‘Robert – my dad – was going to tell me, but he got distracted.’
‘You call your dad Robert?’ says Thea. ‘That’s a bit strange. Actually, come to think of it, how did you get here in the first place? To the school and whatever?’
‘Long story,’ I say, because it is.
‘We’ve got heaps of time,’ Thea says. ‘Like, bundles and bundles of it.’
And the bell rings.
‘Maybe not,’ Thea says.