9.21.2013 Journal Prompt

Photo by Joseph Szabo
Photo by Joseph Szabo

September 21, 2013: What did it really matter?

2 Replies to “9.21.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. There was a weight on her shoulders, an expectation that she carried like a burden. She’d always done so well in school with prizes every year and stars in all her books, gold and not silver. And now the big exams and everyone kept saying that Ellie would do well, the teachers and her parents, and even the man at the counter of Derby’s Grocery Store and he never knew the price of the things he sold without looking them up.

    But what did it all matter, Ellie thought. What did any of it matter when all was said and done? University was the goal and she’d be the first in her family and her going would make them all feel good about themselves, but she wasn’t sure that was what she wanted. Not now, not any more. She was smart enough already, that’s what she wanted to think.

    Mr Pettifer, the English teacher, he said it was right for her to go and he told her stories of the wonder uni had been for him – he called it ‘uni’, and he said how it’d free her from everything. ‘You have to go,’ he said, and his voice was serious and full of pleading. She called him Simon when they were where no one could hear – in his car in the dark up at Skylawe Point. They drove there some nights, just to be together.

    Ellie stared at the exam paper on the desk in front of her. It was her ticket to the future. That’s how they put it, and the future was paved with gold and all she had to do was dance. But she’d be dancing on her own and not hand in hand with Mr Pettifer, Simon. She thought he loved her and she loved him and wasn’t that enough? Wasn’t that everything? And she made him laugh all the time and his wife never did that, and once he said, all breathless and moaning, that he loved her. It just slipped out, like the truth can do.

    They had to be careful when they were in school. Always Mr Pettifer, sir, and never touching or kissing, though they both wanted to. And nothing written down, except once he wrote her name in chalk on the board and wiped it out again before anyone saw, except she saw and she was meant to. Sure he was married, but Ellie understood that was a mistake. Adults made mistakes all the time. But mistakes could be put right.

    She bit the end of her pencil and tried to bring her attention back to Maths and the numbers that were running in all directions across her paper.

    He said he’d miss her when she was gone, he did say that, and he said maybe he’d come up to the city to visit. She thought she could tell when he was lieing and when he was saying things to make her feel good. That’s why she thought staying would be better. She’d leave school and get a job and they’d wait a while and then be together. There’d be looks of disapproval at first, but then everyone would see how happy they were together and she calculated that things would be brighter after that.

    But Mr Pettifer said she had to go. It was like his life depended on it, though he said it was her life he was thinking of. He said he could never forgive himself if she stayed, never. He said some guff about caterpillars and butterflies and how it’d be a sin to never let the caterpillar find its wings, never to let it fly. He wasn’t so worried that what they did up at Skylawe’s Point was a sin, too, in most people’s books.

    Ellie didn’t know what she wanted. She picked up her pencil again and checked the time on the clock. Around her the others were cocooned in concentration. Ellie sat up in her chair and leaned into forward across the desk.

    ‘For me,’ Mr Pettifer had said. ‘If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for me.’

    She cleared her head and tried to focus.

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