For the month of February, I will be posting to my blog excerpts from my young adult novel "Norma's Revenge" as I work on character development. Your comments, critiques, and suggestions are welcome. Today, further character development of Luci Trinity.
From Chapter 5 – Fitting In
The summer passed quickly, but despite all the efforts to get settled in their new home, Luci had had little chance to meet any of the kids that she would be attending school with in just a few days. Partly for convenience and partly in an attempt to make the transition somewhat more palatable to Luci, Catherine and Malcolm decided to keep her enrolled in the summer camps that included her friends from her old school. It was convenient for both of them, as they drove into the city daily for work, and Luci didn’t object, as it allowed her to see her friends as if she had never moved away. Aria had captured her attention on the weekends and Luci found she could have just as thrilling adventures with a cat as with a person. Even though she was forbidden to venture onto the landing outside of her bedroom window based on her past escapade, Luci with Aria as an accomplice, secretly climbed out on cool summer nights, especially when the moon was out. It gave her a sense of peace and contentment, and Aria was her trusty companion, purring deeply along side.
As the start of school neared, Luci began to feel anxious. She came up with many creative excuses not to go the school and ‘check it out,’ despite her mother’s encouragement. “Well, I finally enrolled you. I think you’re going to like it.” Catherine shared in a forced cheery voice.
“How do you know if I’ll like it?”
“It has a great playground and the office manager is nice.”
“Right. You can tell a lot about a school by the office manager.” Luci saw the look Catherine shot her as she rolled her eyes. “Well, really Mom. What can you tell from an enrollment form and an office manager?”
“I saw quite a few kids there, checking out the class lists. They all looked like nice kids.”
“You can’t tell anything by looks. Besides, we’re always nice when parents are around.” Luci knew that this conversation was not going to make her feel any better about going to a new school.
“Well, if you would have gone with me, you could have met some of them and then you would have been able to form your own opinion.” Luci despised that know-it-all tone in her mother’s voice.
“There will be time enough for these confrontations -- I mean -- meetings on the first day of school.” Luci was not going to let on how she dreaded that first day more than anything she could think of. Well, perhaps anything except big, hairy spiders.
“Have it your way, then.” Catherine said smugly. “Oh, by the way, your teacher is Mr. Davis.”
“I think you mean . . . A man??”
“Whatever.” Luci had never had a male teacher before. Not only was she starting at a new school where she knew absolutely no one but her teacher was a boy; no a man! What else could go wrong?
“Oh, and the school has adopted a new dress code. Starting this year everyone will wear a uniform.” Catherine pulled out a blue and green plaid jumper from a plastic bag. It was the ugliest, most juvenile thing that Luci had ever seen.
“Ugh! I’m not wearing that!”
“I don’t think they’ll let you go naked. Besides, on Fridays you can wear khakis and the school sweatshirt.” Catherine pulled a navy blue sweatshirt out of the bag that had large white letters across the chest that spelled ‘WHITNEY’ for Whitney Middle School.
“Great. That makes me feel so much better.” Luci rolled her eyes as she reached for the hideous uniform. Luci was never one for wanting to blend in with the crowd. She had relished the ability to create her own style by choosing her own eclectic wardrobe with her version of thrift-store-dime-store chic. As she carried her new school wardrobe up the stairs to her bedroom, she felt as if her identity was being sucked right out of her.
The early September sun rose with a bright, slightly golden glow as it crept into Luci’s room and gently caressed her face. Aria felt the warmth on her back and readjusted her position as she curled up at the end of Luci’s bed, purring in contentment. Luci drew her legs up under her to give Aria the full luxury of the end of the bed and remembered with a sinking feeling that today was the first day of school. What she wouldn’t give to be a cat. She would loll in leisure on the bedcovers with the sun warming her back, without a care in the world and no fear of being an outcast. She heard the obnoxious sound of her parent’s alarm and she pulled the covers up over her head and waited in her newly-created cocoon. She felt her mattress sink as a large presence sat on the edge of her bed and put a hand on top of her back.
“Luci, it’s time to get up. School starts today!” Malcolm always made a big deal about the first day of school. He made it sound as if she would learn all there was to learn in this very first day. Luci, remained still. “Hello? Anyone under there?”
“I’m in a cocoon. I won’t be ready until Spring.”
“Spring. Well, by the looks of you, I would say you are more likely a species of a very rare lunar moth. The gestation period is quite different than the normal moth and if I have my facts right, you would be coming out of your chrysalis just about now.” Malcolm paused. No movement, no response, just the sound of Aria purring. “In rare cases, the chrysalis needs a bit of stimulation from the environment to begin the emerging phase. Something like this . . .” Malcolm began to tickle Luci in all the tried and true places, between her ribs, under her chin. A series of squeals escaped from under the covers, followed by the frantic kicking of feet causing Aria to jump grumpily down in order to escape the disturbance.
“Stop! Stop!” Luci screamed between floods of giggles. As she appeared from under the covers, they were interrupted by Catherine’s stern knock on the door jamb. She had taken the morning off in order to “be there” for Luci on her first day of school.
“I would suggest that you stop playing around and get dressed for school. Being late on the first day would not make a very good impression.” She shot a look at Malcolm who grinned in defiance as he threw back the covers and tickled the bottom of Luci’s feet.
“Works every time. The rare lunar moth emerges frantically, yet beautifully out of its chrysalis to embark upon its new stage in life.” Malcolm stood up, opened Luci’s closet and tossed her school uniform onto the bed. “Now, put on your wings, and fly downstairs. Lunar moths are emaciated and ravenously hungry once they emerge.” Malcolm shut her door and she could hear him whistling as he lumbered down the stairs. She tossed off her sleeping shirt and pulled the white polo over her head and awkwardly found her arms’ way through the sleeves. She pulled the wool blue and green plaid jumper hastily over her head as well and then tumbled out of bed to look for a pair of socks in her dresser drawer. White anklets, what a fashion statement, she thought as she pulled on her sneakers. She wondered whose job it was to choose the most unflattering uniform and thought about the input she would give them if offered the chance. Without looking in the mirror she hurried down the stairs to smell the wonderful warm aroma of her father’s cinnamon pancakes. Her stack included all types of pancake shapes and together Malcolm and Luci played the game of guessing what they resembled.
“Ready for yours?” Malcolm looked at Catherine, who put up her hand in refusal.
“Just coffee for me, thanks.” She could see the hurt sign of rejection in Malcolm’s face, but she figured he’d get over it. She smiled as she watched them imagine the creatures they were about to eat right before they smothered them with maple syrup.
“This is a snake. Hey, look a pear. What’s that on your plate?” Luci was talking with food in her mouth again. Malcolm seemed not to notice.
“It’s a cat, see its tail?”
“No fair, I didn’t get a cat!”
“No? Well, look at the last pancake on your plate. I didn’t get one of those.” Malcolm pretended not to notice as Luci gasped in delight.
“It’s a lunar moth! See Mom, two wings and these bumps must be the antennae.” Malcolm gave her a thumbs up sign and Luci proceeded to dissect the creature eating the wings first, decapitating the head and antennae, and ending up devouring the body. Catherine looked at Luci’s wild hair as it tumbled into a pool of syrup left on her plate.
“Luci, watch your hair! You didn’t brush your hair yet this morning did you?” Luci rolled her eyes and looked at Malcolm for intervention. He was of no help. “Now, go upstairs and get cleaned up. That means teeth brushed, face washed, and rinse the syrup out of your hair.” Catherine watched as Luci took her plate to the sink and slowly made her way up the stairs, stopping to pet Aria along the way.
Malcolm started clearing the dishes away from the table and caught Catherine’s eye. She looked as if she had something to say and if he were a betting man, he would gamble that he didn’t want to hear it.
“Are your mornings together always this haphazard?” Catherine took a sip of coffee. “I mean hair in the syrup, her clothes were a rumpled mess, and I don’t like how she looked at me when I suggested that she get cleaned up.”
“Give it a rest, Catherine. It’s the first day of school.” Malcolm began putting the dishes in the dishwasher. He braced himself for Catherine’s lecture on discipline and responsibility, but it didn’t come. Her voice softened and she responded with a hint of regret in her voice.
“I know and she’s nervous. For that matter, I’m nervous.”
“What do you have to be nervous about?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t like to see her struggle. She’s anxious and it’s just not like her.” Catherine finished her coffee and called up the stairs. “Luci – come on down or we’ll be late. And don’t forget your backpack.”
Luci came down the stairs as if blown in by a whirlwind, muttering “I know, I know.” She had put a headband on, but only a portion of her hair had successfully been pulled back. The rest bulged and stuck out stubbornly as if rebelling. Catherine reached for the brush in Luci’s hand and removed the headband as she brushed the black unruly head of hair into place and replaced the headband.
“I liked it the way it was, Mom! Now I look just like everyone else.”
“Now you look like a groomed young lady.” Catherine looked to Malcolm and he pressed his forefinger against his lips as a sign to not engage in further comment. Catherine took heed knowing that he had spend many more mornings getting Luci out the door than she. Malcolm grabbed the keys off the kitchen counter and Luci followed him out the door to the car. As Catherine pulled the door closed and locked it, she followed heading toward the passenger door.
“You’re coming too? Both of you are taking me to school?!” Luci was incredulous. “I’m not a kindergartener! I’ll be so embarrassed.” She could see her Mom stop and look deeply hurt. Before Catherine could start down the long list of sacrifices that she had made on behalf of her daughter, Luci amended her protest. “Well, if you both are going, can both of you at least stay in the car? Just drop me off, okay?”
“Sure.” Catherine slid into her seat and buckled her seat belt without looking back at Luci. She didn’t want her to see the faint glisten of tears that pooled in the corner of her eyes. She never liked to admit to sentimentality. She had always thought such displays not just silly, but indicated a sign of emotional weakness.
“No problem.” Malcolm was grinning ear to ear. He could tell that this was going to be the start of a fun year. Catherine was not ready to let go, and Luci was adamant about being independent. He thought he might just enjoy the experiment; their personal survival-of-the-fittest contest.