Day Zero Minus One

Dear Journal,

My name is Grace Fortune. I’m almost sixteen years old and a sophomore at the Buffalo Arts Academy. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because you must already know it, since you are me, technically, but I just felt I ought to introduce myself.

It’s harder getting started with this than I thought. I have all these ideas in my head and I’ve been thinking for awhile I needed to write them down, not because I ever plan to go back and read them sometime in the future like when I’m forty, but just to get them out of my head, where they buzz around like flies on a watermelon and won’t leave me alone.

So what do you want to know first? Well, I go to this private artsy school, where I really don’t belong, because most of the kids there are from wealthy families or else they are super brilliant and I’m not either. I just wasn’t doing well in “regular” school and the guidance counselor thought that because I had some musical talent, I might get accepted at the BAA (motto: “No, we are artists, not sheep”). It helped that I had this trust fund that was set up for me ten years ago when my parents were killed in a car crash and I survived. There was story about it on TV, and so people from all over the world sent me money. I don’t remember much about it. I was in the hospital for a long time, with two crushed knees. My knees still have a big problem doing what knees are supposed to do, like bend. I had to wear leg braces until I was twelve. So naturally the kids at school made fun of me. “Run, Fortune, Run!” Yeah, I got a lot of that.

I still can’t run. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t do. Or won’t do. Pretty much everything is out of my comfort zone. I wish I could be a little more adventurous and not care so much about failing or being ridiculed. Like Bree, my best friend. She could literally do anything she wanted to do. She has no fear. And Ethan (he’s my brainiac friend—doesn’t everyone have one of those?) doesn’t do much outside of playing and designing video games in his basement, but it’s not a problem for him. He’s perfectly happy that way. He feels no need to try new things or prove himself to anyone.

I wish I could be like that. Content with what I am and not always trying to be someone else. But Bree and Ethan are kind of perfect the way they are. Bree is beautiful and Ethan is smart. I’m just the piano player.

I saw Jared in the hallway this morning. Where did he come from? He’s not the typical BAA student. Bree said he was from Ontario or Oregon or Ohio. Something with an O. I think he might actually be from Asgard, or one of those places where they make gods. Maybe he’s Thor’s little brother. He turned and started walking toward me, and I ducked into the girls’ room to avoid him. Not that he would ever look at me, but I couldn’t take that chance. My face would turn red as a tomato, which usually made my freckles explode.

At lunch I always sit in the same spot, so I can watch him when he goes to sit at the table in the corner by the window. He always sits there. I never see him bring a lunch. He usually does homework or talks to the girls that go to sit with him or texts on his phone. Who’s he talking to? Probably got a girlfriend in Ontario or Oregon or Ohio. Or all three. Or maybe he’s really here on a spy mission for Asgard, reporting back to Thor what the earthlings are up to. Not sure why Thor cares.

One of these days, I’ll get up the nerve to talk to him. Maybe ask him for the time or something. He’s a senior, so we don’t have any classes together. I’ve never seen him outside of school, at any of the usual hangouts. Bree said her friend Janelle Miller saw him get picked up once in an old clunker of a van. She thought it looked sketchy. Not the usual kind of car BAA parents drove. I wouldn’t know. I walk home, most of the time. I live with my aunt and uncle. My aunt is nice, but my uncle hates me. Well, hate might be too strong. He doesn’t like me severely. But I’m not sure he likes anyone. Even my aunt.

One of the things I really want to do with this journal is write songs. I’ve written lots of songs, though no one ever hears them but me. I’m too embarrassed to play them for anyone. Even Bree.

But there’s this song that’s been in my head for the longest time, that I can’t seem to write down. It comes to me usually in the night, when I’m having a bad dream or feeling sad or afraid or missing my parents. I find myself singing it, even though I don’t understand the words. It’s like they aren’t really even words at all. I keep trying to write it down, it never comes out right. I wonder if other songwriters have this problem, or if it’s just me.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be officially sixteen. Some people call that sweet.

It’s also chicken nugget day at BAA. That’s something to look forward to.