enjoy a sneak peek at the first chapter of my next young adult novel
There is no way I am ever going to wear that.
That thing. That hideously plaited monstrosity disguised as a girl’s skirt.
This is the only thing that goes through my mind as I sit across the desk from Principal Sister Mary Rosa in her office on my first day of school at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow Catholic High School.
“What’s the matter, dear?” Sister asks, pushing the questionable fashion item into my folded arms. “I think this size medium will do you just fine.”
“No, it won’t do me just fine. It’s so, so…plaid. And gray. I don’t do dress codes, especially unflattering private school uniforms. I won’t wear it. You can’t make me wear it,” I say, tossing the uniform skirt on her desk and placing the heel of my boot on top of it. I slump back in my chair, with my feet resting quite comfortably on her desk.
“Do not disrespect me, my property, or the rules of this school young lady,” Sister says, swatting at my black Doc Martens until they drop to the ground.
Her stern face softens a bit as she places the uniform on my lap. “Miss Grabowski, I know things have been quite traumatic for you lately. You lost your parents almost a year ago, moved to a new city and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that must be on a young girl.” Sister Mary Rosa shakes her head and clasps her hands in prayer, as if she feels my pain. “And now your uncle tells me you were not adjusting well to that public school you were in last semester.”
Sister Mary Rosa nearly vomits out the words public school, as if the taste of those words on her tongue would actually make her blow chunks.
“You mean, that public school where all my friends go?”
“You will make new friends, dear. Your uncle cares about you and wants to see you get a proper education. Here at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow we offer a well-rounded curriculum of history, literature, mathematics, and religion classes. You will also engage in many extracurricular clubs and activities with other like-minded young adults of the same faith.”
“Yes, Miss Grabowski. Your religion, Catholicism. Your Uncle Mark informed me that your parents had you baptized as well as confirmed. You are up-to-date on your Holy Sacraments. You are one of God’s children.”
“God? You mean the same God who killed my parents by some lunatic drunk driver?” My cold gaze is matched by her stern, narrow eyes.
“We all know God works in mysterious ways, no matter how unpleasant or painful it can be, everything is part of His plan.” Sister pauses and reaches over to clasp my hands in her own. My smooth, young, tan hands are now tangled in between wrinkled, white, cold hands. “That drunk driver foolishly claimed your parent’s lives, not God. “Let go of your anger and let God in. To forgive is divine.”
“Yeah, whatever.” I gingerly bite a loose hangnail on the side of my thumb that’s driving me nuts.
“No, not whatever. Praying once a week in our mandatory Wednesday service should help to bring about a positive attitude, and a positive attitude along with prayer will enable you to endure these changes and struggles you face.”
This old woman not only resembles one of those shrunken head dolls, but now she talks as if she’s reading scriptures directly out of the Bible. “What mandatory Wednesday service?” I demand some answers to all Sister’s crazy talk.
“The mandatory school Mass for the entire student body we have here at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. Every Wednesday, instead of attending Religious Studies classes, students meet in the school’s field house for Mass. Students love it. It gives us all such an uplift in spirituality that we all need by mid-week,” she explains.
I cross then uncross my legs. “Let me get this straight, Sister. All students meet in the sweaty gym on Hump Day to pray?”
Sister Mary Rosa frowns. “See, dear, it’s that kind of bad attitude and negative thinking that needs to be changed around. I know there’s a positive, sweet girl inside of
that tough shell, and she will come out with the more time and effort you put into your new Catholic education. It’s such a blessing for you to be here and thank the good Lord that you attended public high school for only your freshman year. By the grace of God, you have been blessed with a brand new fresh start.”
Her sweetness is making me angry. “Look, Sister Mary Rosa, no disrespect, but you know nothing about me. I’m not Catholic schoolgirl material. My parents never even took me to church. We were Chriseasters. Isn’t that what you call them? The sinners who don’t keep holy the Sabbath day, but only go to church on holidays?” I don’t wait for her to answer, but continue. “The only reason I’m at this stupid school is because I flunked Algebra and Uncle Mark, being the number crunching crazy accountant that he is, flipped out about it and said that my parents would have never allowed this to happen if they were still alive, and how he’s not living up to his only brother’s legacy, and blah, blah, blah. Because of one bad grade in one dumb class and now I get thrown into this…this…” I stumble for the right words, “hell hole.”
Sister Mary Rosa gasps, gets all bug-eyed and acts as if I just slapped her across the face. “This is a loving and caring, God-fearing environment, Miss Grabowski. You are very lucky your aunt and uncle love you so unconditionally,” Sister replies with a smirk. “As far as I see it, they brought you just in the nick of time, before you travel further down that dark path you are on, and further away from God.”
I roll my eyes. Whatever.
“Well now, I think that is settled,” Sister states gleefully, no doubt because she got the last word. “Take this uniform skirt and make sure you where it tomorrow with a crisp, clean, white buttoned collared blouse. You may wear only a gray, navy, or red
cardigan over it, if you so choose. Your socks need to be knee-high length, and in white or ivory only. Your shoes must be brown or black penny loafers or lace-up oxfords. Any questions, Miss Grabowski?”
I want to ask her what a penny loafer was, but decide against it, seeing as she already sees me as a big smart-ass already. I extend my leg into the air instead, holding up my right foot. “Are these okay?” I ask, displaying my worn-out, faded, ultra-comfy favorite footwear on the planet.
“No, Miss Grabowski, they are not. You may only wear those type of combat style boots in snowy, wintery weather on your way to school, and then upon reaching your locker, must remove the boots, replacing them with penny loafers or oxfords. Mary Janes would be acceptable as well. Absolutely no high heels, open toe sandals, or thongs.”
“Thongs?” It’s bad enough Sister is policing my style of dress, now she’s controlling what kind of panties I wear under this uniform? For God sakes, what kind of prison did Uncle Mark put me in?
Sister laughs and reveals large, frightening teeth. She lightly taps her forehead. “Silly me, I forgot you young people refer to them as flip-flops nowadays. Those are only appropriate to wear if you are coming and going to the gymnasium swimming pool.” She picks up a paper print-out off of her desk and quickly scans it. “No thongs, I mean flip-flops for you, Miss Grabowski. This is your first semester schedule and you are not enrolled in any physical education courses,” she says, handing me my course list.
My flippant response was interrupted because there is a knock at Sister’s office door.
“Excuse me, Sister Mary Rosa, I don’t mean to interrupt,” a voice begins through the cracked door, “but the first period bell is going to ring in a few minutes.”
“Oh, oh, Mr. Truman,” Sister is grinning ear to ear now, “come on in.”
The door opens and a boy about my age walks in. Or maybe it’s an angel. He’s a perfect vision in navy blue pants, white collared shirt, and black oxfords. His hair is dark and wavy, like a younger, hotter John Mayer. Of course, his body is a wonderland.
“Is this the new student I get the pleasure of showing around our wonderful school today?” the angel asks, his dark eyes twinkling like midnight stars.
“Mr. Bennett Michael Matthew Truman, meet Miss Gabrielle Grabowski,” I barely hear Sister say.
“Hello, so nice to meet you Gabrielle,” Bennett says, extending his hand towards mine.
I catch my breath and grasp his hand. “Huh, huh, hi,” I stammer like a big dope.
“Mr. Truman is in your first period class and he will be showing you where your locker is and will basically be your Tour Guide of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow all day today, Miss Grabowski. I’m sure you will show him the same respect and kindness you showed me,” Sister says, raising an eyebrow.
I could actually be wrong about this place. Maybe it’s just like heaven.