Yet another day I wake up to the sound of my bell alarm, and this time it's for the worst day in the week. I manage to sleep through sometimes by smashing the alarm button like I did today... but the problem is that it results in mother knocking at the door of my room.
'Caroline! You'd better be dressing up! I don't wait for lazy people!'
'I'm going! I'm going!'
I throw away the beds sheets and jump out of it, hurrying to get my clothes—the pair of trousers from yesterday over my desk chair; a shirt from the closet and the blasted school blazer.
'Caroline! I'm going to have my breakfast without you!'
At last I come out of the room, without even bothering to look at the mirror before meeting my mother.
'Morning, mum,' I mutter.
'You're joking,' she said, with a disdainful smile.
'Just look at you! That blazer looks like it was ran over by a bulldozer! Oh, and you're not going to school with hair like that, missy. Either you look presentable or you walk to school.'
'What?? No! Come on, mum! Can't I take breakfast first and worry about that later?'
'No. You're not fooling me again into letting you go like that. Now go comb yourself and meet me downstairs for breakfast,' she commanded, already going down the steps. 'And do dress like a girl for once! I don't buy you skirts so you can pretend you're a boy!'
tac tac tac went her high heels as she went down.
'Why can't it be dad to wake me up in the morning...?' I mumbled.
I went inside my room, closing the door, and approached the floor mirror.
Caroline Elliot Howard—the messy, boyish girl... I might as well be a boy. I've got nothing on my chest, plus my cheeks are a bit hollow. Dad insists that I eat more, but I don't want to. I don't need to. It's not going to make look any prettier, I'm certain.
My hair in the mirror did look wild however, like that of a cave woman. It reminded me not only to focus and pick up comb but also that I needed a haircut. I hate it when it grows below my shoulder... and I hate it even more that it's so damn unpredictable! It gets straight sometimes after I dry it, and then it looks nice. It is quick to get wavy, and at the worst of time it become curly! And it's horrible! I blame dad... he's the one to have curly hair, even though, somehow, he doesn't show it.
As I painstakingly brushed my hair, I briefly wondered, as I have been for the last week, if dyeing my hair would look nice... maybe some black? I'm not sure if it would match my brown-green eyes better than my natural hazelnut. I imagined how it would look like with another colour but--
'Crap,' I muttered. 'Coming!!'
I climbed down the steps and walked into the kitchen. Unpleasant cold autumn air came through the window from outside, but even worse was the burnt toast on my plate.
'So you didn't change into a skirt? And your blazer still looks awful,' she said, inspecting me as I approached the table. 'Ugh, you know what? Never mind. I made you some toast while you were dawdling up in your room.'
It wasn't inedible to be honest but I hate my toast charred around the edges. I slapped some butter on a single piece of bread and put the other away. As usual, she didn't complain that I set half of my food aside. After I took breakfast in barely five minutes, she hurried me to the bathroom to brush my teeth while she got her make-up ready.
«Caroline Elliot Howard... again, and this time brushing her teeth,» I thought, making a morose expression. «At least I don't have to wear braces... poor Annie.»
This time I made it out without Mum coming knocking at the door to hurry me up. Instead however, I saw dad staggering through the hall in his pyjamas to greet me. He held his ultra-clichéd #1 Dad mug I gave him for his birthday when I was five. His name—Edward— was also written there once by yours truly with a permanent marker, which apparently wasn't so permanent at all.
'Up and ready to go eh?'
I made a sort of a grunt, indicating my level of happiness with the situation.
'Yeah, I know. Wednesdays, right? Anyway, I'm thinking... apple roses for tea, just after I come pick you up.'
'You've got too much time on your hands, Dad,' I said, wishing I could also be a professional writer.
'So... is that a yes or a no? I do know how to cook, don't I?' he chuckled.
'True... All right. It's a date. But please don't bake too many of them. I don't want them to spoil.'
Meanwhile Mum walked up to us and gave Dad a kiss in the cheek.
'Morning honey,' he said. 'Looking good!'
'Thank you, dear! I'll be arriving late today. Lot's of tests to run at the lab...'
'Will you be in time for supper?'
'I'll give you a call by seven to let you know.'
'All right. Have a great day you two!'
Mum then hurried outside to her car, and gestured for me to go along with her. I'd have gone if I hadn't forgotten my school bag.
'Figures! We're going to be late again! Just go grab it while I start the car.'
I did so in a jiffy and nearly missed a step on my way down.
'Easy there,' said Dad. 'I don't know if you have a test today but I certainly don't want you to break a leg.'
'Oh I wish...' I said.
'Don't be like that. You're lucky you have me cooking for you today. Now come here.'
I gave him a tight hug.
'What are you writing about today?' I asked.
'Hmm... Dragons, possibly. Don't worry, I'll give you all the spoils over lunch, as always,' he said smiling. 'Now go before your mother--'
The car horn blared outside.
This Wednesday went particularly well, I think. The teacher didn't notice me skipping homework for English; everyone else in my chemistry group handled the experiment while I drew on my notebook, and in citizenship we talked about democratic and non-democratic systems outside of the UK, which I suppose was kind of interesting. Best of all, Nicole didn't harass me in the locker room after PE.
Oh I swear she gets my to nerves. I hate her so much!! Why does she have to pick on me just because I don't want to take a shower! I know it's compulsory! I know that if I'm caught leaving the locker room without it I get busted! But why me? Why can't she just stay put instead of mocking me in front of every one else there?
One thing's certain though, the teacher can send me to detention and inform mother all he wants, but I am not ever taking a shower at school. I don't care if I have my video games taken by mum, or if I get an hour detention at the end of the day... or even if they say I have a wiener in my pants. I will not be forced to strip down in front of anyone! Besides, it's not like anyone else has noticed me skipping showers. I don't move much during lessons, and so I don't sweat—I don't smell. I'm no bother, however, I still get denounced.
Anyway, I was fortunate that none of that happened today. Nicole wasn't yet on the locker room when I dressed the uniform and sneaked out without the prefect spotting me. Even better, Dad had just arrived at the school entrance and was taking out a book to read as I saw him from the hallway.
'Right on time, Dad! I need to get out of here...'
He inspected me as came up to him. I still had my PE kit on.
'Did you sneak out of the locker room again?' I rolled my eyes. 'Well... you know what I think about this already, Caroline.'
'Bringing a swimsuit just for the showers is ridiculous, Dad,' I said, walking him to the entrance.
'I know, but at least you wouldn't get any problems with your gym teacher! Your mother goes nuts with all the notices you've been getting from your class director.'
'I'm not bringing a swimsuit to PE ever. Stop insisting.'
Dad sighed tiredly.
'And it's just not the PE lessons either. We're getting worried about your overall performance at school.'
'Are we still having the apple roses for tea?' I inquired.
'Don't skip the topic.'
'I don't want to talk about it, okay?! I'm frustrated enough with PE as it is.'
Dad turned silent and after getting in the car, focused only on the driving the car. We didn't speak until he parked it inside our garage.
'I hate mentioning this topic to you, you know. I don't want us to sulk at each other,' he said, just after having turned off the car.
'I know. You always say that,' I said, starting another silence. Both of us remained in the car.
'You piano teacher isn't coming this evening. Both his baby boy and his wife are sick so he'll be staying at home to watch over them.'
I looked at him. 'Got a call from him just before I drove to school so... I guess you can go shopping with me in a while, if you want. We need groceries really bad.'
'Sure,' I said, opening the car door. 'I saw an awesome pair of trainers the other day, but I'm afraid mum won't like them.'
'Why not?' said Dad, coming out of the car.
'"Boy clothes"' I quoted.
'Oh. I see,' he said, then thinking for a couple of seconds. 'I'll be the judge of that when we get there. Now come on, I need to check on the roses in the oven.'
Dad has a way of doing things in a way that I almost always like, which I can say, is the complete opposite of how mother usually is. She's a fair mother, I'm not questioning that, but lacks Dad's sensibility, I think. For instance, when Dad goes shopping for clothes with me we often get stuff that suits me because I get to chose freely. Mum on the other hand always buys me clothes without ever giving me a heads up, and rarely use them on my own initiative. Furthermore, she even insists on a girly style, which is totally not my thing!
I think that my distaste for women's clothes might have something to do with a childhood trauma of going through a wedding in an incredibly uncomfortable dress... but my point stands. Besides, Mum's always out in her lab, making weird bacteria experiments. Dad is home all the time, and he spends a lot more time with me.
Tea with him ended up being just what I needed to get over my lessons in the morning. His apple roses really are a treat but they're usually too much for me. I can't ever eat everything he puts on my plate. Then he insists... and he insists that I eat everything, often insinuating that I have some eating disorder. I've already learned to dismiss those comments of his.
But I really like talking to him though. He gave me some spoilers on the fantasy novel he's currently writing. He speaks about some weird kind of animated stone dragons that breathe fire and are mounted by elves. Were they wild elves...? Or dark elves? I remember him saying they had red eyes and darker skin so it must be the latter kind.
He usually starts by talking very enthusiastically about his concepts and characters, which always get my attention. I do like anything with a fantasy theme, or sci-fi, from the books I read and also the games I have for my playstation. There have been days when he even grabbed a controller and played with me. Those were good days...
The conversation then skips to his other fascination which is, I think, society and politics, and it also gets me very interested to follow. Dad is very well traveled and he has lots stories to tell, form Turkey, to Switzerland, Russia, Germany... He's been all around Europe. We travel abroad every summer, so I hope that one day I get to see all those places he talks about.
If only I knew what to do with my life... How I can travel abroad one day in the future if I don't even know what I want to do? I mean, I do, sort of... I'm above average at playing piano, and do spend some time drawing, occasionally, but I'm not sure that means anything.
And then there's mum, who thinks this is all just a phase, and that one day I will see the light and study to become some type of boring scientist, like her. That or working in an office. Ugh! It gives me the chills to think that I may yet have to grind my way to a boring job where I'll stay for forty, fifty years or so... if I'm that lucky.
I'd have chosen more art-related subjects if mum hadn't decided all that previously and later informed me of what I was going to study. I remember the day I found that out. I had been hoping to escape physics and maths for years and then mum comes telling she already bought those textbooks. I was quiet but livid, not willing to believe what had happened.
Dad was surprisingly very upset as well... The discussion he had with mother was the only one in the few that I ever remember. He was outraged, and for some time even suggested that I would ask to change subjects. Talk from my mother of me being set back a few years to study 'low-demand' subjects in the arts or economics eventually assuaged his outrage.
I don't know how or why he gave up on me... That's what I think is what he did. It's been about a year, and I couldn't yet forgive him for no longer defending me.
Regardless... I understand that this is not an easy topic for him. I can't indeed get over how he let that happen. However, when I ask about changing my subjects he looks not only uncomfortable but also kind of sad. It's sort of a soft spot for both of us.
Today, we had a cup of espresso with our apple roses for a change. The coffee machine is a recent addition to the house and it's quite quickly becoming a family favourite. I love espresso myself, even if Dad's a bit cautious with when I can have a cup of it, because of the caffeine and all that. He let me have one today but only because I said I had to study maths afterwards...
I was being honest by the way. I do need to study. In about twenty questions on my last test, I only managed to answer about twelve of them, and most were wrong. Needless to say, mother didn't like the result, and neither did Dad, even if he showed to be more understanding.
Oh, but it's so damn difficult!! I can re-read the same chapter about functions over a thousand times and still not understand half any of it! In fact, half of it would be pretty nice since I could at least pass the bloody tests!
So... this is to say that I tried once I got to my room and started making exercises. What really happened was that I took about two hours getting a single problem done! I cringed in my bed... cried a bit as I thought of the test next week... and then I grabbed the controller and played on my playstation.
'Screw Maths...' I mumbled. 'I rather be the archmage, making my own spells... frying these stupid bandits with them.'
I cleared out two dungeons, got an enchanted sword and got 300 gold as a reward for the completed quest, and then I got tired of playing. I gave maths another chance but looking at the textbook didn't last long. I grabbed my diary and started writing.
And so now I'm done. I had a lot to get out of my system today... I even had to turn down shopping with Dad, so I could write it all out. Oh well, he probably wanted to get his grocery shopping done fast anyway.
I should make an extra session of piano practice before Dad calls me to have supper, but I feel like doing some more quests with my high-elf wizard. I still have time to practice before bed anyway.