Week 8 - Novel - Dreams Part II - July 22-28

“Jo! You’re late again! You’ve got ten minutes!”

Jo woke with a start and a stifled scream. It took her a few seconds to collect her bearings and deduct where she was and who was yelling at her. She was in her bed. That was her mother.

She glanced at her alarm clock on the bed-stand. 6:50. Crap. She really did have 10 minutes before she’d miss the bus and with the muck and snow outside, there was no way she’d possibly make it to school without motorized transport. Or, she thought, mind turning, she could just pretend to be incredibly sick and skip the whole dreadful debacle of school in the first place. She yawned, bleary eyed and totally exhausted. It was like she hadn’t slept at all. It was time for Plan B.

“Mom…I’m really not feeling well. I’m not sure I can make it today…” Jo moaned, in what she hoped was her most convincingly sick voice.

An exasperated sigh emerged from the hallway. A few moments later, the door burst open and Jo’s mother, Anna, appeared, sticking her head through the door.

“Again? Really? You have to know by now I’m not falling for this one anymore.” Jo’s mother looked at her sternly, examining her for any trace of deception and treachery.

Jo swallowed. Her mother was really good at this game. It probably came from being a lawyer and all. It didn’t help that she was dressed as one, too - white collar shirt, black suit, her brown hair cut smartly short at the shoulders. Jo felt like she was being interrogated in a courtroom. She could feel her mother’s deep hazel eyes piercing into her soul, daring her to make a single misstep before sentencing her to her doom.

“No…I’m really not feeling too great. Feel my forehead.” Jo continued with the charade. There was no turning back now.

Her mother sighed again, and stepped gingerly into the room, taking care to avoid the barricades of books and clothes scattered haphazardly on the floor in her heels. She tsked in consternation at the mess as she moved to reach Jo.

“And for the last time, when are you going to finally clean up your room? If you are sick, it’s probably because you live in a constant state of unmitigated squalor,” she chastised.

“I’ll clean it up when I’m feeling better,” Jo promised. One more lie couldn’t hurt.

Jo’s mother reached up to touch her forehead. She paused a minute, and then raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“Well, that’s a shock. You really are burning up.” she noted.

“Told you. Can I stay in now?”

“Sorry, can’t do. You’ve already missed too many days of school. You’re basically the definition of a truant at this point. Take an ibuprofen and get going.” Jo’s mother told her flatly.

“Oh come on! I’m really, really sick! I’ll probably die if I go to school!” Jo protested in exasperation.

“If you didn’t cry wolf so many times before, maybe you’d actually get to stay in when you were really sick, but it’s too late for that.” Jo’s mother glanced at her watch. “You’ve got 8 minutes now, and now I’m going to be late for work, too. I’ve got to go. Bye. Love you.”

Jo’s mother patted her on the head, then briskly stepped out of the room. Jo could hear her footsteps clattering down the stairs, followed shortly thereafter by a slamming of the front door. It was her turn to sigh. Why did her mom even bother to check her temperature in the first place if she wasn’t going to do anything about it anyway? She probably just wanted to catch me lying again, Jo decided. Evil, vindictive parents.

She really did need to get out of bed, now. She threw back her sheets and tumbled out of her tiny twin bed, taking stock of her room. Okay, maybe her mother had a point. Things /could/ use a little organizing around here.

Quite possibly her entire wardrobe seemed to have somehow conducted a mass migration from the closet and her drawers to their final resting place on the floor. Not that she had much of a wardrobe to speak of. Jo wasn’t one to dress up. She didn’t think there was much to dress up, anyway.

Standing just barely five feet tall, Jo considered herself mostly bones and a brain. More than once, her teachers had pulled her aside to ask her if she might be having suffering from any eating disorders. She didn’t, but you couldn’t really tell the difference. She sometimes wondered if she was slowly wasting away from this world.

She didn’t mind too much, since being attractive had never been her forte in the first place. Boys didn’t notice her. Her glasses, obnoxiously omnipresent freckles, and complete absence of a chest and rear end probably had something to do with that. For that matter, girls didn’t really notice her, either. She couldn’t blame them. She’d have a hard time noticing herself, too. There wasn’t much to notice.

She finally decided on a light blue t-shirt that had a picture of a tea bag on the front with the words ‘tea-shirt’ on it that didn’t seem to smell too bad. That would do. She pulled on a nondescript pair of indigo jeans to go with it and called it a day. Six minutes left.

She ran to the bathroom, tried futilely to make her hair look okay, and frantically brushed her teeth to the point that she hoped her breath would smell passably okay. It wouldn’t matter much anyway, since she was effectively a mute at school, she thought. Four minutes left.

She ran downstairs, opened the fridge, chugged as much orange juice as she could straight from the carton, and grabbed two bananas and an apple. That was a pretty well balanced breakfast, all things considered. She started scarfing down one banana and tossed the other and the apple in her backpack. Two minutes left.

She threw on her boots and black parka, shouldered her backpack, and flew out the door. She ran halfway down the block before she realized she’d left the door unlocked. Swearing, she ran back, locked the door, and headed out again. Why was her life such a mess? she thought, as she panted, gasping for air as she high stepped through the unshoveled snow on the sidewalk. Just one more block, and she would —

“No!” she screamed, as she saw the bright yellow bus start to pull away as she rounded the corner. No no no, she thought - she actually did have to make this, one more unexcused absence and she would actually be truant and then it was a death sentence of summer school - as she desperately waved at the bus while running after it.

The bus began pulling further and further away, and Jo was on the verge of giving up when it finally slowed to a crawl. Thank god, Jo thought, surprising herself. She never imagined she’d be so grateful to get the chance to go to school. As soon as that realization crossed her mind, however, dread immediately began to replace her initial burst of relief. She would now have to go to school. There was no winning in this world. Everything was suffering, she concluded.

As she caught up to the bus, the doors slowly opened. She approached the doors and the bus driver, a somewhat overweight middle aged woman with a face like a badger, gave her a harsh stare.

“Finally decided to show up, did you? You know I have a schedule for a reason, right? I show up at seven, you get on at seven, we get to school on time. You don’t show up at seven and you ruin everything. Everyone is late, and I lose my job.” the woman said coldly.

“I’m sorry,” Jo mumbled, looking down meekly at her feet.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Get on the bus. Do you want all of us to be late? And this is the last time I’m stopping for you. Next time, you’ll be walking.” the bus driver snapped. Jo hopped quickly up the steps, then stumbled and fell as the bus driver immediately slammed the doors shut and started off again. She heard a few snickers, and she could feel her face grow red as she shuffled to the back of the bus, taking a seat by herself.

Even when she was noticed, it was humiliating, she thought. Being invisible was bad enough, but being publicly ridiculed like this was even worse. There really was no winning in this world. Maybe it would be better if she did just disappear, she brooded. No one would really miss her, anyway.

Jo sighed and yawned at the same time. This was not a good start to the day. The rest wasn’t bound to be much better. If only she could finally get a good night’s rest, at least, things might be a little better. But the dreams kept coming, and they did not give her rest.


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