Mrs. Jameson wore her funny hat today. That should've been the first clue that something was up, but I was still half-asleep and barely coherent to compute the obvious hint.
It perched on the edge of her crooked, silver bun, a squashed-sort of shape bearing every color imaginable. The sight alone nearly jolted me awake, but the night had been rough thanks to the arguing in the kitchen. Insomniac or not, I can't sleep with the noise, or the light.
Or waiting for our house to burn down again.
When Mom starts yelling, she actually does carry out her threats. I hate the fights. I hate the fear. I hate being helpless. I hate hating myself. If Mom sets the house on fire again, I don't think Dad will be able to stop her this time. No one believes him. Or me. She has everyone fooled. Everyone.
A traitor yawn bubbled through my lips. I didn't bother to smother it in my coat sleeves. I have a half-hour between classes. A nap sounds good.
A power nap or any kind of power. Super-strength to stagger through my day.
I squinted to through the brightness to find my seat in back. For a moment, I thought I was seeing double, but the classroom righted itself when I grabbed the edge of the desk.
The plastic seat never felt so good. I slouched into the mold and let my eyes drift shut, one ear open to hear the roll call.
“...Mrs. Hartsen...Hartsen....Mychel Hartsen?”
The name registered a half-minute too late and my eyes popped open to the quizzical stares of fellow classmates. “Here!” I croaked and winced at the sound of my frog-voice.
Roll call continued and then Mrs. Jameson halted the usual rustling of notebooks and textbooks. “We're going to do something different today, you won't be needing your textbooks. A sheet of paper and pencil will do.. Please put away your notebooks as well.”
I hadn't taken anything out yet, so it was nice to not worry about wrestling them back into my midget-sized backpack. The happy moment evaporated before it fully registered.
Mrs. Jameson rose from her chair and deliberately moved to the marker board. She took her time in selecting a marker and drawing a few shapes before she cleared her throat.
“If you do this assignment properly, as your creative writing teacher, I will award you points for creativity, transparency, originality. You will get a grade for this.” She scribbled across the naked whiteness. “Truth or dare.”
She capped the marker and turned to face the class. If I were more awake, the expression on her face could've been priceless. Apparently, she'd expected the groans and gasps of disbelief.
Her lips quirked, a near smile.
“Your assignment is to be seen by my eyes only. No one else. I will grade them right here, as you bring them up. Please come one at a time, give others the privacy you would want. As the topic states, I want you to write one truth that you know but wouldn't tell yourself, if you were your best friend. Then write one dare you would take, to keep from telling that truth.” She checked her watch. “Start...now! You have fifteen minutes.”
I found myself staring at her until a raised eyebrow suggested I look elsewhere. I fiddled with the paper, chewed on the eraser and crossed my toes.
Inspiration did not streak down from the sky.
Mrs. Jameson patrolled the aisles to be sure everyone’s eyes were where they should be. “Three minutes!” She sang out.
I bit my lip until I drew blood. The taste was unsettling. My head was too heavy and my stomach rumbled, both reminders of my twisted existence.
Ugh...just write something and go...before-
Pen touched paper and I started the first sentence.
Truth: I am a self-induced insomniac.
Dare: I would stay awake for three days to keep from sleeping.
I folded it into a square and eased to my feet. Mrs. Jameson was welcome to make sense of that, I just needed to find the nearest bathroom.
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