Hey everyone. I cannot believe that it is already Wednesday. This week has seemed to go by so quickly - must be that Monday was a holiday here in the US. While I am watching the second season of Dexter (a television show I highly recommend as well as the book it is based off of), I have a favor to ask of everyone. Below, I am going to post a chapter that I have been working on and even though it is unfinished, I still want everyone to let me know what they think of it. As many of you know, I am working on editing The Prettiest Thing and I have rewritten a new first chapter since I was never completely satisfied with the introductory chapter. I have posted it and I would really appreciate everyone's opinions on it so please read and leave me a comment. The new version of the story would begin with Ella's 17th birthday and the last chapter would be around her 18th birthday. If this chapter works out, how many want me to post the chapters of The Prettiest Thing as I re-edit them? Let me know. Thank you very much. I love you guys.
Chapter One – Birthday
Song: Birthday by The Beatles
On Friday, August 18th, Ella Scott turned seventeen-years-old, but a birthday celebration of any kind was the last thing she wanted. She had never enjoyed celebrating something that everyone went through. She didn’t see the point of it. The most she would ever allow was her mother making her delicious chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and receiving cards from her family. But that was it. She never wanted anything more than that. No parties. No making a big deal out of what Ella looked to as just another day.
The first day of school was Monday and Ella was going to be a junior in high school. The year of SATs, prom and finally being an upperclassman after two years of being nothing more than minions taking up space in the hallways. Ella was excited. She loved school – thrived in it, excelled at every class she took. By the end of August after two months of lounging around, doing nothing except reading books and going to the movies with her brother, Trevor, and his best friend, Brett Dawson, Ella was anxious to get back into a classroom.
Trevor and Brett were going to be seniors that year and already, their lives seemed to consist little of anything except partying and football practices. Over the past few days, Ella had actually seen very little of them – which was odd considering how inseparable the three always seemed to be. They had had football camp during the past week and with the two otherwise occupied, Ella was left to her own devices. She finished reading “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera for the fourth time and went to go see ‘Talladega Nights’ even though she knew Trevor would be mad at her for seeing it without him. Her brother had a slightly unhealthy crush on Will Ferrell – one she did not encourage whatsoever. There were so many comedians more skilled at the art of making people laugh than Will Ferrell. Clark Cable in ‘It Happened One Night’ for instance. Now that was a movie she always laughed at no matter what kind of mood she was in.
On the day of her birthday however, Ella awoke to the sounds of heavy rap music pounding through the thin walls and she groaned, rolling onto her stomach and burying her head under her pillow like an ostrich in the sand, knowing immediately that it was Trevor. It felt early – too early to be woken up to “Ghetto Gospel” by Tupac, even though it was a spectacular song. So much for spending her birthday how she wanted to and sleeping in.
Peeling herself out of bed with an unhappy sigh, she glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand next to the bed, and stretched her arms above her head, grunting softly as the still-tired muscles stretched. It was just a little bit past eight o’clock and she couldn’t believe that Trevor was up so early when he didn’t have practice to get to. If he could, Trevor would sleep the day away. Him being up before her was rare indeed and Ella, slipping on a green Pacific Sunwear hoodie from off the back of her desk chair, opened the door to her bedroom and went down the hallway towards Trevor’s room, the door partially opened.
“Trevor!” Ella exclaimed, her voice still rough with sleep. “Tre, turn it down!” She knocked on the door but the music was too loud, he couldn’t possibly hear her. She pushed open the door to find her brother wearing boxers and a tee-shirt, doing pushups and counting off each one to himself.
The music was so loud that Trevor didn’t hear Ella walk into his bedroom until she stalked over to the stereo on his dresser and turned the cd off. He immediately stopped his counting and looked at who dared interrupt his morning workout routine, but upon seeing Ella, he grinned widely and hopped to his feet happily.
“Happy birthday!” He exclaimed, wrapping his arms around her in a tight hug despite his sweaty body. “What are you doing up so early?”
Ella stared at him and then grabbed the plastic case belonging to the Tupac cd he had just been blaring, holding it up for him to see. “His music isn’t exactly the stuff lullabies are made of,” she informed him and he grinned wider, almost laughing.
“Sorry about that, El. You know nothing gets me pumped up quite like dead rappers,” he said, plucking the case from her fingers then leaning past her, hit the ‘play’ button again, the heavy bass immediately pounding into the bedroom again. “I’m glad you’re up though. Mom said that she’s not making the pancakes until you are awake so go and get your ass downstairs. I’m starving.”
“Can I at least brush my teeth first?” She asked.
“No time for that. There are chocolate chip pancakes to be eaten,” Trevor said then physically turned her around and pushed her out of the door back into the hallway.
Ella and Trevor were extremely close to one another and not only in regards to their age. Trevor was born June 2, 1988 and Ella was born fourteen months later in August of 1989. Trevor was fiercely protective of her and in turn, Ella depended on him. It may have seemed odd to others but they really were best friends. Ella could talk to him about almost anything and Trevor, in turn, DID talk to her about everything – some things that, as his sister, she never, ever wanted to hear about.
The only downside to now being a junior in high school was that Trevor and Brett were now seniors and they would be graduating and going off to college, leaving her behind. Ella had always been so painfully shy and with the way Trevor and Brett looked out for her, threatening anyone who got too close to her, they were really the only friends she had. She had never minded though. She adored Trevor and Brett and knew that the two were the only friends she really ever needed. She liked being by herself but it always had been that if she did need company, Trevor and Brett were never too far away.
She didn’t like to think about that though – especially when chocolate chip pancakes were waiting to be consumed in a gluttonous manner. She didn’t want to think of the time when Trevor or Brett would no longer be around for her to talk to or hang out with. And even though she may not have particularly liked birthdays, that didn’t necessarily mean that she wanted to be depressed on hers. It was time for happy thoughts – like what she was going to do that day, the last Friday of freedom.
Connie Scott was downstairs in the bright yellow kitchen, mixing the batter for the pancakes already as if she had known that Ella would be up and about already – mainly because of Trevor’s music – and she beamed happily when her youngest daughter shuffled into the kitchen, caught in the middle of a yawn.
“Happy birthday, Ella,” Connie smiled, walking around the island in the middle of the kitchen to embrace her in a tight warm hug. “I just started the pancakes but your cards are already on the table.”
“Thanks, mom,” Ella said, hoping that this would be the last of the birthday festivities though knowing her family, there was also a dinner to come that night.
There was a bouquet of colorful helium balloons in the center of the table and Ella knew immediately that they were from her dad. Nick Scott bought balloons for her every year on her birthday and she smiled when she saw them. There were two cards on the table – one from her parents and one from Trevor. Lyla, the oldest Scott child at twenty-years-old, had spent the summer in Seattle and her card would either arrive in the mail that afternoon or the next day.
Ella sat down and picked up the card from her parents first, sliding her finger underneath the flap of the light pink envelope and pulling the Hallmark greeting card out. Reading over the usual flowery poetry, she then opened it, smiling widely as a fifty dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble fell into her lap.
“Since I don’t even know what books you own anymore, I thought that this would be the safest bet,” Connie said, watching her with a smile.
Ella got up to hug her, in the back of her mind, already trying to decide what books she would buy. There was that new one, ‘Special Topics in Calamity Physics’ by Marisha Pessl, that she had been reading such good things about. Maybe she would by herself a copy and see if it was as good as all the critics seemed to think it was.
“My turn!” Trevor announced, grabbing his card, this one in a mint-green envelope, and thrust it towards her excitedly.
She laughed, opening it as he watched with a grin, quite pleased with himself for what awaited for her inside the card. A fifty dollar gift card to Best Buy fell into her hand and he snatched it up, holding it proudly for Connie to see as well.
“Very sweet, Trevor,” Connie nodded with a faint smile. “You didn’t steal that, did you?”
“No. Kyle Colfax got a job at Best Buy this summer because his dad wanted him to learn something about responsibility and he got it for me. Nothing too good for my baby sister,” Trevor declared, handing it back to Ella.
“We should go after breakfast,” Ella said eagerly though she knew Trevor had already planned on that. “And to the bookstore. I already know what I’m getting. Do you think Brett will be up already?”
Trevor nodded, grabbing a handful of chocolate chips from the open bag on the counter and tossing them into his mouth. “His dad needed him to mow a couple of lawns so we need to track him down.”
After eating her weight in chocolate chip pancakes, Ella took her cards and balloons up to her bedroom. Her mom and dad would probably take her out for Chinese food – her favorite – that night but the rest of the morning and afternoon were hers. For some reason, she felt herself become excited though it wasn’t because it was her birthday but rather because of the gifts she had just received. Barnes and Noble and Best Buy were her two favorite stores and could literally spend hours roaming up and down the aisles of each, looking over everything carefully, making sure she didn’t miss anything in case that was the thing she wanted.
The steaming hot water of the shower felt good as it drowned her skin, wrinkling her fingers, pouring around her as the soap slid from her body. Ella loved taking hot, extremely long, showers, especially during the summer when the sweat and the humidity always made her feel so dirty and uncomfortable. In the summers, she never felt as if she was clean enough. She dropped a dab of the cool kiwi body wash gel into her loofah sponge and began to scrub at her naturally tanned skin, closing her eyes, letting her hands glide over her body and take control.
Maybe she was excited because she was going to be spending time with Trevor and Brett again after going nearly a week without their company. Brett Dawson and Trevor had been best friends since they were eight-years-old and Trevor had brought him home with him one day after school like he had just found a puppy on the side of the road. And back then, a lost puppy was exactly what Brett looked like. His mother had just died and the young boy was still registering the loss. He didn’t talk much and had no problem letting Trevor have the spotlight. The two boys became so close, they were more like brothers, and Ella was pulled into their duo by the time they were ten and she nine, making them a trio.
To some people, it was hard to understand a friendship like theirs – completely and unwavering loyal. No matter what one did to piss the others off, the anger never stayed. Their bonds they shared seemed to be unbreakable. They were all so different, only adding to peoples’ confusion as to how they all remained friends. It was easier to understand Brett and Trevor. Both played football – Trevor was quarterback for the high school team and Brett was fullback – and had played together since they were old enough to join the pee-wee leagues. They were both handsome – resembling two boys who had just fallen out of a Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch ad. They had their fair share of friends and had slept with their fair share of girls. Everyone knew them and most wanted to be a part of their lives.
Trevor craved the attention. He loved it, thrived in it, wanted it to never go away. He loved being popular and the center of attention. He loved the girls, the parties and the perks he came from being captain of a winning football team in a small town. He was a flirt, had a horrible temper when pushed, and was extremely competitive in seemingly everything he did. Brett, on the other hand, didn’t mind the attention either but one could tell that at times, it got on his nerves. He was more laid back than Trevor, more at ease, able to enjoy football more since the whole town didn’t look to him for explanations if the team lost like they demanded from Trevor. He was the calm one, always the one to pull him away whenever Trevor got into a fight.
Ella was simply always referred to as – depending on the conversation – as either Trevor’s little sister or Brett’s best friend’s little sister. The more poetic students at their school saw her as the princess locked away in the tower with Trevor and Brett as the guard dogs protecting her from below. No one really knew her or spoke with her, which was fine with her. Ella preferred her own company to those of others. She liked reading and watching movies by herself, liked keeping to herself. She heard of the bitchiness and cattiness that seemed to be involved with most friendships at their high school and Ella wanted nothing to do with that. She enjoyed her quiet life.
Letting her long dark hair dry naturally instead of frying it to death with her blow-dryer, she changed into a pair of green sweat shorts and a gray vintage Rolling Stones tee-shirt, not feeling like sweating to death that day, especially after taking such a refreshing shower. Northwest Indiana in August was nearly unbearable. Dog days of summer indeed.
As she began making her bed, her cell phone began to ring on her desk across the room and without looking down at the caller i.d. screen to see who it was, she flipped it open. “Hello?” She answered, going back to straighten the quilt lying across the foot of her bed.
“Happy birthday, El. Did I miss pancakes?”
Ella found herself smiling widely upon hearing Brett on the other end of the phone. She was surprised as she realized how much she had missed him. She hadn’t talked to him in a few days and she was so happy that he had called though she had never doubted that he wouldn’t.
“You did and unfortunately for you, they were the best pancakes ever,” she teased and he snickered. She could imagine him shaking his head at her and she smiled. “If you’re at home, Trevor and me are going to come and get you in a little bit. I have birthday money to spend.”
“And I still have to give you my present,” he reminded her. “I just finished my last lawn of the morning so give me about a half hour to get showered and changed.”
“Sounds good. I’ll tell Trevor,” Ella nodded, sitting down on the foot of the bed, finding herself reluctant to hang up even though she would be seeing him soon enough. “How have you been? How did camp go this week?”
Brett sighed heavily from the other end. “I feel like my ass has been kicked by a semi truck. Our defense still needs a lot of work but…” he sighed again. “Who knows how this season will turn out?”
“You guys are going to be great this year,” Ella said with such conviction, she could hear him grin, almost laughing.
“You always have been my best cheerleader,” he teased.
“And we both know you have had a lot of cheerleaders,” she blushed, standing up, suddenly feeling antsy, caged in. She did not like the turn this conversation had taken and she went to the window, staring out over the front driveway.
“Yeah, well, you’ll always be the only one who matters,” Brett said and he sounded distracted to her, as if he was scanning through the radio, trying to find a song to listen to. “I’ll see you and Trevor in a little bit, okay?”
Ella nodded her head. “Okay. Bye,” she said before slapping the phone shut, keeping her eyes glued out her window.
That had been happening more and more lately and she had no idea what to make of it. It had never happened between her and Brett before so she didn’t know why it would now. The awkwardness that she felt whenever he spoke about the other girls in his life was now there inside her when it never had been before. She had heard plenty of stories straight from both Trevor and Brett’s mouths about their conquests and she had only nodded her head as she pretended to listen. But lately, whenever Brett mentioned something like that to her, she felt as if she desperately needed a place to hide for some mysterious reason.