The HJP Club: An Indie Ink Writing Challenge
The shade provided by the only living centerpiece Laverna High had was a popular rest area for its many students, but a particularly pleasing spot for The HJP Club and its members. Delaney “Tweak” McCrory sat cross-legged in the grass under the old oak tree, compact mirror in hand, absently applying the lipstick to her plump pouty lips. Kristin “Oddment” Leman lay sprawled next to her chewing on her long brown hair, pen in hand, the notebook beneath her worn, the page unmarked. Students mulled around them on the sidewalks, some walking lazily, others practically running to their next class. Normally, Tweak and Kristin ate lunch with Natalie “Nitwit” Whitman and Raevyn “Blubber” Crawford, but both girls had almost completely missed lunch by this time. This was highly unusual, and not a few stares at the empty space beside them had gone unnoticed. Tweak was getting concerned and agitated that Kristin was once again off in her lala land, not noticing anything (or anyone) around them. Her leg twitched, causing her knee to nick Kristen in the shoulder, breaking her reverie.
“Hey! Watch it. And you totally ruined that poem I was working on.” Her notebook slammed shut; her pen stabbed the earth beside it.
“Sorry, but you don’t think it’s strange that Nit and Blubs aren’t here yet?”
“No. Didn’t they say something about some audition they were interested in? I know there was something during lunch period they wanted to do.”
“That’s next week! Today, they are supposed to be here.” Her speech was accompanied by the snap of her compact opening and closing in her hands. Kristen took it from her and admired her own reflection in it before responding.
“Maybe a lab experiment exploded and they’ve been turned to zombies. Maybe we should be the ones hiding from them, simply because they’ve decided our brains might make a better snack.”
Tweak pulled her science notebook from her lap and hurled it at Kristin, her head shaking and eyes rolling simultaneously.
“Sometimes I think zombies have already taken over yours, Odd. Seriously. They are usually here before we are. I’m really worried.”
“Stop worrying. I’m sure they’re fine. We will see them in 6th period anyway. Isn’t it why we are all suffering through Home Ec in the first place?”
It was true. They were all taking Home Ec this year for the lone reason that it was the one class other than lunch they could all be in together. Nitwit was the only one who could cook, as she was a single child raising a father, and Blubber was the only one who could sew. Since Nitwit and Blubber were the only ones with skills, they never sat together, so they could help Tweak and Kristen pass the class. Tweak didn’t mind the class overall, but Kristen hated it.
It was the only class she couldn’t daydream in, the moving pen in her hand the only reminder to the world that she was indeed alive. Her mother and sisters used to tease her that if she spent even half the energy playing sports as she did writing, she could be half-way decent in something, just like the rest of them. She preferred to think that she was half-way decent at something, even though it was just a little bit different from the rest of her family. They didn’t understand her dislike for sports, and she didn’t understand their love for it.
Sometimes she wondered if her parents thought their baby had been switched at birth for the one they brought home, because there really was nothing about her that was common with any of them. She didn’t even think she looked like them. They always had a sun-kissed bleached appearance about them that came from their love of the outdoors. Her skin was snow in comparison, her hair dark and dull against their chemically burned blonde. It was like when God was passing out the looks and talents in her family, she got the stray pieces left over from everyone else. Most days she didn’t mind, and she knew that her family loved her anyway. At least she had a family, unlike Nitwit. In fact, she probably had the largest family out of the four. Tweak was an only child like Nitwit, and Blubber had a little brother. She was the youngest of four girls. She loved her big family, but often found herself yearning for the privacy and quiet her friends had.
The ear-splitting shriek of the bell made both girls jump. Lunch was over, and neither Nitwit nor Blubber had appeared. They started for class in unison, questions already forming on their lips. Fourth and fifth periods dragged by, perhaps more slowly than usual because the girls were anxious about their friends. When the 5th period bell rang, they didn’t even bother to go to their lockers, they just went straight to Home Ec, which was in the same classroom as the Chemistry lab. Nitwit had chemistry in 2nd period, Blubber had it in 4th, and neither Tweak nor Kristin had it this year at all. This was their only venture into this classroom all day, so their hopes were high for some answers. Blubber was already there, but Nitwit was still absent.
“Where’s Nit? And how come you guys weren’t at lunch?” Tweak’s voice was accusatory, a sound they were used to.
“Natalie is helping Mr. Thomas, the chemistry teacher, with an outside project. He got permission for her to skip the rest of the day. She said that she will fill us all in later. Apparently Mr. Thomas was planning this, and the lucky advanced chem kids got it. She’s getting 3 days out of class for whatever this is. I skipped lunch to help her gather the supplies and take them to the elementary school playground.”
“The elementary school? What’s going on there?” Kristen’s voice was always the lemonade on a hot day. Nothing ever seemed to bother her.
“I didn’t see much, just a bunch of camp chairs and a couple of coolers. There was a pile of notebooks too.” Blubber’s face flushed slightly, barely noticeable, except by her friends who knew her too well.
“You’re hiding something!! What is it? Tell us!” Tweak was never one for mystery.
“Natalie will explain it all later, I promise. Just…”
“Just what? C’mon. This is us, not random school friends. This is us, the HJP Club, remember?”
“Just get all your homework done, so when she calls you later, you can talk. Promise?” Three pinkies protruded, hooked and crooked, to make a solemn vow with each other. The stern look of the Home Ec teacher stopped their talking and they anxiously survived the last two classes of their day.
Several hours later, one by one, they each received a cryptic phone call. Meet me at the playground at 11 pm was all Nitwit said. There was no explanation, no list of needful things, just those five words from her exhausted voice before she hung up, not even giving them a chance to talk.
(To be continued)
This is my response to the Indie Ink Writing Challenge presented to me by Dili who challenged me with 4 words–nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak. I challenged Tobie with 4 words also–immortal, incumbant, echo, time–and you can see her response at later this week.