Excerpted from Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande Copyright © 2007 by Robin Brande. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
I knew today would be ugly. When you’re single-handedly responsible for getting your church, your pastor, and every one of your former friends and their parents sued for millions of dollars, you expect to make some enemies. Fine.
It’s just that I hoped my first day of school—of high school, thank you, which I’ve only been looking forward to my entire life—might turn out to be at least slightly better than eating live bugs. But I guess I was wrong.
I knew I’d be seeing some of these people today, but in first period already? And it has to be none other than my former best friend and the pastor’s daughter—two of the people who have cause to hate me the most.
Having Teresa and Bethany in English might not be so bad if they’d just ignore me, but at the start of class when Mr. Kuhlman called, “Mena Reece,” and I croaked out my “Here,” Teresa had to turn her blond, spiky head around and shoot me the Look of Death, and I got that combined feeling of needing to throw up and possibly pee my pants.
Think positive. Think positive.
Why didn’t my parents let me transfer? There are plenty of charter schools around, or they could have sent me to live with my aunt in Wyoming or with strangers in Alaska for all I care. But I know they want to see me punished. They pretend they’ve forgiven me, but I know deep down inside they hate me for writing that letter, just like everybody else.
It’s only been half an hour, and already I can tell this is going to be the worst day of my life. I don’t know why I’m so surprised. I knew seeing everyone today would be hard. It’s only been a month since they were all served with the lawsuit, and even though I’ve gotten plenty of hate e-mails and phone messages since then, it’s not the same as having to deal with these people in person.
I just didn’t realize I’d be so scared. It’s pathetic. What do I have to be afraid of? My conscience is clear. I didn’t do anything wrong.
No, correction: I did the right thing. And someday the truth shall set me free.
Just not, apparently, today.
Okay, at least second period wasn’t so bad.
Maybe the only good thing about going to New Advantage High School (motto: “Let brilliance find you”—whatever that’s supposed to mean) is they count yoga as PE. Also archery, tai chi, and kickboxing. But I’m glad I picked yoga. If ever a girl needs an hour between English and biology to chill out and breathe deeply and try to prevent her oncoming heart attack, that’s me. Plus, I don’t know a single person in my yoga class, for which I am truly grateful.
I wasn’t sure my parents would let me take yoga. Pastor Wells was on this funk last year about how chanting during yoga or meditation is idol worship, because you’re focused on a word or an image that isn’t God and you’re basically praying to it. He said the only acceptable way to meditate is to picture the Lord in front of you, his arms wide, a gentle smile on his face. Some women from the church even started their own class to teach us how to do it.
So this morning while our teacher, Missy, led us through the pranas and the asanas, I thought about Jesus the whole time. I pictured us on a hillside together, lying back on the grass while his flock grazed all around us.
I talked Jesus’s ear off, but he smiled and let me go on. And when I had unloaded everything that was on my mind, he gave me a hug and called me Little Sister and told me everything will be all right.
It will, won’t it? It felt so good to believe it.
Toward the end of class, Missy taught us some posture that I swear can only come in handy if you ever want to shave your own back. But our reward for pretzeling was that for the last twenty minutes of class she let us lie on our mats with our eyes closed, thinking our most peaceful thoughts.
I am in the woods, beside a calm, serene lake. The birds are singing. I can smell the pine. I am completely invisible. No one can find me. I’ve never heard of Denny Pierce.
And then the bell rang. Happy time was over.
I dressed as boring as I could today—plain jeans, a faded black T-shirt—hoping it would help hide me somehow. Right. As if I could walk even two steps down the hall without someone I know recognizing me and giving me the total Hairy Eyeball.
I kept my head down and plowed through, and had almost made it to my third-period biology class without bodily harm when someone hip-checked me into the wall.
I turned to see my former—don’t know what to call him, really. Crush? Pre-boyfriend? The guy I was stupid enough to like last year and thought I might actually go out with once I’m allowed to date?—snickering and snuffling to himself. Yeah, Adam, that’s so impressive. People must think you’re really cool for tackling some girl you outweigh by a hundred pounds.
But I didn’t say anything, of course. Just mumbled, “Don’t,” and hurried into class. Way to stick up for yourself, Mena. You showed him.
And then as if having Adam in that class isn’t enough, guess who else? Teresa, of course, because apparently having her in English just isn’t enough torture. For all I know, she’s probably in all my classes except yoga, and tomorrow she’ll transfer into that, too, just to make sure I’m living my own personal hell.
I grabbed a seat as far away from her as possible, but Teresa still managed to throw me a look like would I do everyone a favor and just die.
If the day keeps going like this, I might.
From the Hardcover edition.