Alexa and the Independent Variable

Alexa Reynolds is just trying to keep afloat. She thinks of life as a great science experiment. Here are the constants: her school sucks, she likes reading, and has two best friends. That is, until a school dance that she wasn't asked to. At which point, her independent variable, her best friend since preschool, has a major change.


1. Wonderland and Keratin


                The world looks like a dark blur out the bus window. I try to ignore the two seniors in back that were throwing crumpled paper balls at me. I still think that if I keep ignoring them, they’ll eventually give up. Silly me. The bus stops at the outside the library where Nate stands with his older sister. He makes a face at me, and I make one back. I smile and move my backpack so he can sit when he gets on. My cousin, Annie, sits in the seat in front of me and turns around. She rubs her eyes and pushes some red hair from her face. I love Annie’s hair. They say only about two percent of the world population has red hair. Meanwhile brunettes aren't nearly that rare.

            Nate gets on the bus and sits himself next to me. “Morning, kids!” He says with a smile. His sister passes and rolls her eyes. “Geeks.” She says, sitting next to one of the seniors that was throwing things at me. Nate shrugs his shoulders. “Screw her.” He says. He looks expectantly at me.

            “Well?” He asks. I shake my head. “Well, what?”

`           “Did you finish the Spanish homework?”

            I remember the homework, now. I hate waking up in the morning. I’d rather have school at midnight than six in the morning. Plus it doesn’t help that my coffee machine is broken. I unzip my bag and pull out my Spanish binder and hand it to him. He takes it with a smile. I’ve known Nate for ten years. Never once in that span has he done his own homework.

            Even when I don’t do it for him, he can get it from almost any girl in the grade. All he would have to do is bat his eyelash and they all start to melt. He is handsome, I suppose. He has blonde hair and bright green eyes. I wouldn’t mind blonde hair. I’m not sure what percent of the world is blonde. I think it’s eighteen percent of America.

            “I hate Mondays.” Annie mutters laying her head on the back of the seat. 

            “I wouldn’t mind them if we didn’t have school.” I say and Annie grins. Nate sets down my binder.

            “Come on guys! It’s another wonderful day as a freshman!” He says with a big, sarcastic grin. Annie makes an annoyed sigh and puts her hand over his mouth. She immediately jerks it back with a squeal.

            “Do you always have to lick me?”

            I laugh and the seniors all whistle at us. I forgot. Immaturity abounds.

            We stop in front of the Post Office and a few more kids get on the bus. That’s the last stop. Now it’s off to the school. “Almost done with my homework?” I ask, looking out the window again.

            “Almost.” He says scratching his pencil against the paper like wildfire. Annie turns her head away from us. “Wake me at about two-thirty on Friday.”

            I hear my backpack shaking and I know Nate must have finished. “Jesus, Alexa!” I hear him say. “Have you ever read a book written in the last fifty years?” I turn and he’s holding my new library book. I wrinkle my nose.

            “Give it back, Nate. You know Tolkien is one of my favorites.” I say smirking. He pushes it back into my bag. “And what year was he born?” He asked as we pull into the school parking lot. “1892.” I say standing and throwing my backpack over my shoulder. The people in the back of the bus barrel out, and we follow close behind.

            I go to a very small school. Maybe, four hundred students attend the high school. Because we have such a small amount of students, everyone knows everyone. And nothing stays secret long. I knew Martha Greene’s parents were divorcing before she did. That’s how fast news spreads.

            Two long hallways jet out from the tiny lobby inside. The freshman lockers are in the left hallway. “I’m going to check the lost and found for my sneakers.” Annie says walking away from us. That’s Annie for you. She’s always losing something of hers. Nate and I walk down the hall and to our lockers. Our lockers are four apart from one and other. I open mine just as a puff of Victoria’s Secret perfume passes by.

            “Hi, Nate!” A perky voice says. I hit my head off of the metal shelf in annoyance. Megan says hi to Nate every morning. I sit next to her in Geometry and all she talks about is him. I’m not sure if it’s endearing or pathetic.

            I see him nod his head at Megan and then give me an irritated look. I smile into my textbook. We have English first. Oh, God. I forgot. I have a presentation. I can’t stand public speaking. It’s terrifying.

            I see Annie running down the hallway. I bet Annie can speak publicly. I don’t think she’s afraid of anything.

            “They had them.” She says holding a pair of red high tops by the shoelaces.

            “How did you lose your shoes, again?” I ask, closing the door. I can hear Nate laughing.

            “You know, I’m really not sure. One second, I’m changing for gym, putting on my running shoes, the next second, poof! They’re gone.”

            We all start walking down the long hallway to English. Our school has one very signature trademark. There are dead flies everywhere. It’s most noticeable in the gym and hallways. There are little piles of the dead insects all over.

            The English room is at the end of the hallway. Ms. Bower is our teacher. Everyone can’t stand Ms. Bower. Not because of her insufferable Boston accent, not because of her bitter outlook. No, Ms. Bower smells like coffee. Coffee and cat piss.

            I sit next to Annie in her class. If I didn’t, she probably would have had a meltdown by now. Annie is a wonderful person and a fierce friend. She just doesn’t have a good hold on her temper, especially around authority figures. And Ms. Bower is her nemesis.

            “Sit down, class.” She says loudly.

            “Here we go.” Annie mutters.

            David Martik is the first to present. He’s not the sharpest crayon in the box. His project is on Catch-22. I zone out and doodle on my notebook. I’m almost done with my beautiful picture of an angry rabbit when David finishes. Now it’s Annie’s turn. Oh no.

            She grins at the audience and then at Ms. Bower. “My project was on Alice in Wonderland. Honestly, this was one of the most terrible books I’ve ever read. Come on guys, the Caterpillar was high and the rabbit was on coke. The most interesting part was the great question, ‘How is a raven like a writing desk?’ and then we don’t even get an answer? What? Well, I did some digging. Apparently, Carroll wrote in a letter that said they both are ‘nevar put with the wrong end in front!’ N-E-V-A-R. Very punny, Lewis. Its raven spelt backwards. Now, before you flip, Ms. Bower, I understand the question. It’s meant to be a nonsensical question, to ponder yourself. But, I just want a straight answer. Anyway, what I mean to say is, even the thing meant to challenge you was disappointing.”

            She stops and looks proudly out at everyone. I lay my head on the desk and people start to clap, clearly confused.

            “I’m not sure you understood the project.” Ms. Bower said. “And I assume you’re free for detention. You can rewrite your speech then.”

            “You asked for my opinion.” She mumbled sitting back down.

            “Alexa. I believe it’s your turn.” She says, gesturing to the front of the class.

            Oh God. This will be terrible.


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