Usually in this type of story the protagonist is a Cinderella girl. Sweet and trodden upon and kicked into the sooty hearth. She can do no wrong so nothing but wrong comes down raining upon her dirty but silky head. She is kind. She lets animals perch on her tiny little finger. She treats everyone fairly. She does not throw sharpened pencils at her classmates. Even the evil stepsister ones.
This is not the story of Cinderella. I am not the charmed one (that’s my mother, not me). I am not that nice and now that I’m sixteen I can look back at the years leading up to my departure to the other side of things with absolute assurance that I was an irrepressible brat.
I think I mentioned that I liked to throw pencils. Super sharp ones, too. I remember in fourth grade once I had spent a great amount of time sharpening a pink pencil with silver stars on it at the front of the classroom. I liked getting them so sharp that the points warped a bit at the tip top. Dangerous and like some rudimentary iron age tool. My teacher Mrs. Crewe, was a very old lady who forgot things often and was hard of hearing, and was helping another student in the class when the art teacher came to the door and asked for me and this girl Darcey. Darcey was one of these southern girls with twelve last names, a bedroom and a playroom (so that her bedroom wouldn’t get messy), a sparkling backyard pool and two fluffy white Persian cats. A girl that we all envied for her possessions but not for her squashy pug face and limp mud-brown hair. The art teacher, Mrs. Wright, was holding two rolled up pieces of poster board, one of which I recognized as my own by the random stickers I liked to put on the back of all of my art work. Scratch and sniff rainbows that smelled like gum and anemic smiling suns and things like that.
My hand, still clutching that pink and pretty and super sharp pencil, started to sweat. This poster was for a school wide art contest, to grace the cover of the yearbook. Generations of people would see my pen, marker, and oil pastel drawing of a hill, some butterflies, and happy kids of all colors holding hands and looking up at a star-filled sky. I had even printed the school name with fancy lettering, accenting the lines with little bullet points on the edges of the letters. I knew I must have won. I ignored the presence of Darcey in her little white mohair cardigan and tartan pink and green skirt. I ignored that the art teacher was holding her rolled up poster board, too.
“Anne and Darcey, I’m so happy to tell you both that you are the first and second place winners of the contest…I’d love to put both of your pictures on the cover of the yearbook but I can’t. So Darcey, your picture is on the cover because you won first prize!”
Darcey and I both were standing with our molars out in the open because our mouths had dropped that far down. We both knew I was the princess of art in this school. She had the popularity and all the cool stuff and the kittens and the pool but I was the artist. When I heard I was second place I grew fangs. My stomach filled with rocks. It wasn’t possible.
By this time the rest of the class was practically sitting on each other’s shoulders, their necks craning like turtles to see what was going on at the classroom door. They all clapped politely as we went back into the classroom, Darcey beaming, me steaming. Darcey talked with Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Crewe for a minute and then strutted over to me with her poster and asked to see mine.
I unrolled it for her, muttering, “okay” all thick because tears were starting to form in my eyes and my nose and my throat. When I did, it felt good to see my picture in front of me. It was just so pretty. The field was almost turquoise and sky was so indigo and the stars were dotted with a silver glitter pen. She was holding hers up and looking at it instead of at mine. Hers was awful. Full of hearts. Full of bubble letters.
“Mrs. Wright will have to keep mine, of course, to copy it for the cover. She said I could keep it until the end of the day, though. She thought Mrs. Crewe would like to put it up on the wall for a bit so everyone could see it. Maybe you can do yours on the wall, too, maybe you can – OH!!! I KNOW WHY I WON!!! LOOK!”
She jabbed her pink painted fingernail at my fancy letters, where I had written the name of our school and the year.
“LOOK! You spelled Intermediate all wrong!!! You put the a before the i in the end. It’s Intermedeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaate, not Intermeeeeeeeeeeedaaaaaaaaaite!”
Did I mention I was still holding the super sharp super pink and silver stars pencil? Did I mention I liked to throw things? It happened before I could really think about it. I raised my skinny brown arm up and over and chucked it like a poison arrow right at Darcey’s eye.
Luckily, my aim was no good and I hit the soft, fleshy area underneath her eye instead. She still screamed like the little pig person that she was, though. She whinnied and squawked and snorted all the way home to Mrs. Crewe, who had not heard Darcey nor the other kids who were now chanting “Anne threw a pencil at Darcey, Anne threw a pencil at Darcey!”.
In the end we both had to go to the office. I didn’t say a word and I didn’t get my pencil back. I didn’t enter another art contest either. Ever.