“Yeah, I’m Valentina Clemonte,” I answered, raising my hand for our old teacher, Mr. Eason to see. What’s even the point of calling role every single day, anyway? He has to recognize some of us by now, it’s January. At least it takes up around seven minutes of class since there’s always at least a few people who take their sweet time answering – and yeah, I’ve been that person a few times if I really don’t feel like being in class. Honestly, who does? What’s even the point of history? Like, come on, it already happened, why do we need to know it?
“How was your family’s New Year’s party? You know wish I could’ve gone,” Amaya whispered to me.
I scoffed. “You’re only saying that to be nice. You went to fucking Selvadorada over break with all those hot-ass foreigners.” I wanted to go with her so bad but once my moms said I could do the New Year’s party I decided it wouldn’t be too bad to stay. They never leave us home alone cause they’re lame and don’t trust me after that one time I left my siblings alone, so there’s no way to throw a big party or anything without them knowing.
“The Roman Empire,” Mr. Eason began loudly, startling me, “reached its height in 116 CE under Emperor Trajan.”
Yeah, whatever. That’s like a bazillion years ago. I don’t get the point of like any of these classes, but especially this one. This shit isn’t even relevant anymore. I mimicked him going on and on as Amaya cracked a grin.
“Come on, I bet you had a great time at the party since Kyle was there,” she prodded.
“Okay, yeah. I might’ve even… you know, lost my V card if my mom wasn’t yelling about how it was almost midnight.”
Amaya’s jaw dropped as I gave her a smirk.
“What do you know about the Roman Empire, Ms. Clemonte?” My eyes darted over towards the teacher who was looking at me pointedly. Step One: check to see if the answer is on the board. Teachers seem to love calling on me – probably cause I’m never paying attention. This two-step process works every time. And since this class doesn’t have a board – only maps – I went onto the next step instantly. Step Two: smart-ass response. If there’s one thing I’m good at in school, it’s those.
“Uh, it’s Roman,” I replied with a smirk, eliciting plenty of stifled laughter for everyone. I’m certain that everyone in all my classes knows who I am. Since nobody else in this class seems to care about making any drama, it’s all up to me to make sure I don’t die of boredom in this class. Plus I get tons of respect points in the school social standings for being such a smart-ass to the teachers.
I bit my lip, trying to stop myself from laughing as I replied, “it’s an empire.”
“Thank you for those… wonderful thoughts. What about you, Mr. Telnet?”
His attention no longer on me, I went back to sketching out a scene in my notebook innocently as I could feel Amaya’s eyes staring right at me.
“You’re ready for that?” She asked in a hushed tone, obviously talking about our conversation a few minutes ago.
“Ready for what?” I asked, batting my eyelashes with a grin.
I snickered, twirling my hair. “Fine. I’m totally ready.”
Her eyes widened, but she really shouldn’t be so surprised. It doesn’t take much to know that I don’t believe in that whole waiting for marriage shit. What’s wrong with having romantic relationships for fun?
“We’re sixteen!” She whisper-yelled to me.
I shrugged. “So what? When the time is right, it’s right.”
“Do you even love him?”
“Love is overrated,” I scoffed, “I don’t think we’re meant to be or anything like that but he’s hot as fuck so why shouldn’t I go all the way?”
Amaya sighed, leaning back. Of course, she doesn’t understand, her and her boyfriend haven’t even kissed and they’ve been together for three months. She groaned, pointing towards the teacher, who was writing something on the board. “Ugh, you know he’s going to give us a shit ton of homework.”
“No, he isn’t,” I laughed, looking at the clock, “we have seven more minutes.”
“Uh, that’s plenty of time for him to give homework.”
I raised my hand, wiggling my fingers. “Nope,” I replied to Amaya simply and she raised her eyebrows.
I looked over the map, trying to think of something he would end up going on a seven-minute tangent about. Amaya tilted her notebook towards me and I picked out the first thing I read, something about the Byzantine Empire. “Um, isn’t it true that the Byzantine Empire did absolutely nothing?” I could see everyone’s heads turn towards me out of the corners of my eyes. There was a big party going on tonight, hosted by none other than Aiden Novero, which meant anyone who was anyone was going. Having a ton of homework would really fuck up peoples’ party plans – including mine.
“That’s definitely not true,” he replied, “what are they putting on the internet these days? The Byzantine Empire did many influential things, including…”
I glanced over to Amaya with a grin. She simply sighed but I could tell she was impressed. The bell eventually rang after what felt like forever of Mr. Eason droning on about the Byzantines. I would take that over homework any day.
“…I guess I got a bit carried away – excellent question, Ms. Clemonte.”
I nodded, grinning. I got plenty of subtle high-fives, thumbs ups, and winks from the others as I started walking out.
“Ms. Clemonte, a second?” Mr. Eason said just as I was about to walk out the door and be free.
“I have to get going…”
“How do you expect to pass the test if you never pay attention?”
“I don’t,” I replied. What does he expect from me? All my teachers know I don’t care, I make it pretty clear.
He just purses his lips, sighing, and motioned that I could leave.
You probably think that I’m such a loser – since I don’t even try at all at school. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t fucking matter. I’m never going to be Sera, that straight-A goody two shoes school-lover. If I tried, I could possibly make B’s. It’s not going to be something that’s praised or talked about, cause I’m average. So what’s the point? If it’s not something people will take notice of, why should I do it? Instead of worrying myself trying to get good grades that I won’t get, I can spend my time doing things that I’m actually good at. My theater teacher says I’m a natural talent. It’s where I shine. I’ve always loved shows and movies, always enjoyed playing with dolls when I was young and making my own universe- one where I was the star. I can put myself into my acting, my music, my art. School is just – school. Everyone’s going to get the same answer, smart people just get them right. But it’s still the same shit. There isn’t a difference between people that you can tell from test grades. Two people that get perfect scores – what do you know about them other than that they’re smart? Two people that fail – what do you really know about them other that they didn’t know the topic? Nothing. Absolutely and utterly nothing.
“Valentina!” I heard and turned towards the direction of the sound. “Up high, man,” I smirked, having the guy a high five, even if I didn’t know why.
“I heard what you pulled in history,” he replied. Dang, news travels that fast? Not surprising, our school is full of gossips and everyone talks about everything.
“Oh, really now?”
“Yeah, Luke told me. You’re such a legend.”
“Thanks, dude,” I laughed as the warning bell rung and he walked into the classroom I just left.
“Who was that?” Emily asked, walking up next to me. We have the same lunch period which we were so excited about, but it was sad that Amaya didn’t get the same lunch as us. We see each other almost every day outside of school, though.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged, sitting down.
“He just high-fived you, and you don’t know who he is?”
“Nope,” I laughed, “he just heard about what I’d done in history.”
I gasped, pretending to be appalled. “Why do you think I did something bad?”
She raised her eyebrows. “Uh, I’ve known you since first grade.”
“Okay, true. I just made the teacher go off about some empire for the last minutes of class so we didn’t have any homework.”
“No fair,” she groaned, “my history teacher gave us two compare and contrast sheets!” She pulled out the sheets, pushing them over to me with a sigh. What was similar about the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and what was different? Find five similarities and five differences. I snorted, rolling my eyes.
“Thank Watcher I don’t have to do that shit – not like I would’ve done it anyway.”
“Yeah, Vali. Always the rebel,” Emily snickered.
I pulled out the finger at her, and she gasped in fake shock. “Aiden’s party is tonight, people don’t have time for work.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh shit, that’s tonight?”
“You better not have plans,” I replied, narrowing my eyes.
“I don’t – I just forgot it was today, that’s all.”
“Okay, good…cause I need you as my wingwoman.”
Emily leaned forward, whispering, “Are you doing it tonight?”
I grinned. “You know me so well. If everything works out…then yes.”
“Hoe,” she whispered jokingly. If anyone else besides my best friends called me a hoe or a slut… ooooh dang, there would be a problem. But Em and Aya always joke with me about how chill I am about relationships and I joke with them how serious they take theirs. We’ve been best friends since forever so it’s all just casual jokes.
“I’ll be a little late since I have theater practice after school, but it’s fine, nothing interesting ever happens in the first thirty minutes of a party since people only start showing up after about ten minutes so they don’t seem too excited and everyone’s only getting stuff set up. Besides, being fashionably late is a style.”
“Oh yeah, when is your play?”
I smiled; just thinking about it made me feel warm inside. It was the one thing I could excel at in school, and definitely the only thing I took seriously. I don’t feel like an idiot in theater – I was the star. I was the person the teacher made an example of. She said I have natural talent, that I make the story come to life. “They don’t know yet. We only just got cast!” We learn about theater and practice our acting the first months of the school year, the play we’re doing that year is announced in October, we practice for the part we want, and then we get cast right before break.
Emily laughed. “I don’t know anything about theater or acting other than that you’re amazing at it.”
I did a little bow, giggling. “Well, thank you.”
The bell rung suddenly and everyone made a beeline for the door to get to class. I actually had plenty of fun being pretty much a bitch to my teachers the rest of the day. Okay, well I was being a subtle bitch. Just making sure to interject at the right time to get them talking about something they think interesting. The rest of my classmates were really enjoying it… apparently, nobody else stands up to teachers. I don’t know how people just sit through boring class after boring class. It sucks to go back to school after being on break, big time. On break, I can do what I care about, what’s really important in my life. I can practice new songs to perfection and think about the tone I want to set in the scenes for our play. I can be myself. Put real creativity into things and make them my own. The only good thing about going back to school was that theater started up again. Last year, Mrs. Wesson said she wanted me to be the lead, but it wouldn’t be fair to the older kids graduating that year. I didn’t mind, once she said I could do a bunch of the background music. But this year, I am the lead. Juliet. Yes, that Juliet – Juliet Capulet. And I’ve been working on my lines all break. It’s an amazing play, full of so much heart and emotion. I don’t even care that I couldn’t be lead last year now that I’m the lead woman in this year’s play. A lot of acting is just reading between the lines and I’m really good at that.
“My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, that I must love a loathed enemy,” I gasped, making sure to show how horrified and saddened she was at this news, without being too over the top. It really is an art. These earlier scenes are just as important as the later ones as they set the whole storyline up.
Lucia, the girl next to me, who plays the Nurse, began to say her lines. “What’s this? What’s this?”
“A rhyme I learned even now of one I danced withal,” I replied simply, glancing away for a second.
From behind the curtain, we heard someone yell, “Juliet!”
“Anon, anon! Come, let’s away, the strangers are all gone,” Lucia remarked, and the two of us made our way off the stage.
“Okay, that’s a wrap for today! Getting through Act 1 is actually pretty great for just getting back from break. Amazing job, everyone!” Mrs. Wesson exclaimed.
I grinned, hopping down from the stage. It was always so exhilarating and satisfying after finishing up a scene. Bringing these words on a paper to life is something that will never get boring to me. There’s just so many ways for it to be interpreted, so many ways that one scene could go with a few tweaks to tone…
“Valentina, I knew I made the right choice picking you for the lead,” Mrs. Wesson smiled as I picked up my stuff.
“Thank you. I love theater.”
She nodded. “I can tell. You really make the scene alive. I think you would be the star whether or not you were the lead.”
I smiled widely, looking back up to the stage that had been full of life a few moments ago. “Thanks, Mrs. Wesson.”
“Call me Leticia,” she replied with a smile. She was the adult I was closest to in this whole school – I’ve probably managed to offend every single one of my normal teachers somehow. But Mrs. Wesson Leticia is different. We could talk for hours about acting styles and different plays.
My eyes widened. “Um, okay. See ya tomorrow.”
“I’m counting on it, Juliet,” she laughed.
I flipped through the play once more, walking to my car. Perks of a rich family means I get my own car… kind of. It’s solely mine until Sera gets her license and she’s still 15. Then we have to share, but she never goes anywhere so I don’t really think it’ll be a big deal. I smiled just reading through the story and reading what I’d written to the side about the way I should portray Juliet, body movements, etc. I shut it closed and slid it over to the passenger seat. That was to act out tomorrow – I had other things to do tonight. Other things that had to do with Aiden Novero’s party, my boyfriend… and getting laid. Even Romeo and Juliet shows that love doesn’t mean endgame… the play’s a tragedy for a reason! Sure, maybe I’ll find ‘the one’ someday, but not now. Now is for having fun and not giving a shit. And fun is exactly what I’m gonna have.