A WEEK OF MONDAYS
by Jessica Brody
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux Books for Young Readers
From “The Second Monday”
I head straight for the library and burst through the doors just as Owen is making an impassioned case about the narrator of The Book Thief. He sees me and smiles. “Are you finally joining book club?”
I don’t answer. I grab his arm and yank him out of his chair, pulling him up the stairs and barricading us in one of the tiny recording booths.
“Um…” Owen says warily.
“Something is happening to me.”
“Okaaaay,” he elongates the word like he’s afraid if he ends it too soon, I might snap.
“I think I might have brain damage.”
He cracks a smile. “Well, I could have told you that.”
“I’m serious, Owen,” I say and he schools his face. “I’m losing it. I’m going crazy. Today, I woke up and it was yesterday. I mean, yesterday is actually today. It’s the same stupid day. It’s happening all over again. Everything. The fortune cookies. The history test. The school pictures.”
He can’t hold his serious face any longer. He breaks into a knowing grin. “Did you finally watch Groundhog Day like I’ve been telling you to do for years?”
“What?” I shake my head. “No. Listen to me. I. Am. Losing. My. Mind.”
He’s so much taller than me, he has to bend down to get eye-level. “Your pupils are a bit dilated.”
“Because I’m freaking out!”
Owen gives me a strange look. “What was that?”
“Was that your stomach?”
“Have you eaten today?”
I think back to the piece of bread I toasted this morning. The peanut butter is probably smeared all over the bottom of my bag again.
I look away. “Not technically.”
“Well, there’s your problem.” He grabs me by the wrist, opens the door, and leads me back into the library. The entire book club has stopped their discussions and is now staring at us.
I break free from Owen’s grasp but he doesn’t stop walking. “C’mon Looney Toons, we’re taking you to get something to eat.”
I follow Owen obediently out of the library and down the hall. We get to the cafeteria just as the lunch lady shuts the metal grate, closing all access to the food line. Not that it’s a huge loss. The culinary selection in this place leaves much to be desired.
A voice comes over a speaker. I immediately recognize the grating, shrill squeaks of Daphne Gray. “This is your last chance to support the cheer team and buy some delicious homemade goodies!”
Owen turns his attention to the table set up in the corner where Daphne is speaking into a microphone under a sign that says, “Bake’n’Cheer.”
“Bake sale,” he says, grabbing my wrist again and pulling me toward it. “Bingo. Come on, my treat. I’ll buy you some banana bread.”
I pull to a halt. “Oh no. Nuh uh. I’m not putting anything they make into my mouth.”
Owen gives me a disapproving look. “Ellie. You need to let go of this grudge you have against cheerleaders. They’re just normal people.”
“Normal people who poison you!”
“Yesterday Daphne Gray told me there were no almonds in the banana bread and guess what! Almonds! My lips totally inflated!”
“Yesterday was Sunday.”
“No! Yesterday was today!”
“You’re losing it.”
I sigh. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
“It’s the stress,” he diagnoses. “You’ve been taking on too much lately. Are you nervous about the speech?”
Oh flub. The election speech. I have to do it again!
This is officially my worst nightmare. The universe is punishing me. But for what? Not studying for my history test?
Really, Universe? I’m the best you could do? You couldn’t find anyone more devious to torture?
The bell rings, signaling the end of lunch.
I think I’m hyperventilating. I’ve never hyperventilated before, but I suddenly sound like a woman in labor.
“It’s going to be okay,” Owen assures me, putting his hands on my shoulders. “Where are your speech notes?”
I pat my back pocket but come up empty. “I…I threw them away.”
He blinks rapidly. “Why would you do that?”
I throw my hands in the air. “Because I already gave the stupid speech yesterday!”
“Okay,” he says, “take deep breaths. It’s going to be fine.”
“How is it going to be fine? I don’t know what to say? I’m going to die up there. Again!”
I have to sit down. No. I have to run. I have to get as far away from this death trap as possible. I glance at the cafeteria doors, watching the hundreds upon hundreds of students filing into the gym on the other side of the hallway. Then I glance at the back door, the one that leads to the parking lot.
Yup. I’m so getting out of here.
I turn to leave but a bony, pale hand is suddenly on my arm.
“There you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”Rhiannon Marshall’s steely blue eyes are trained on me.
I barely have time to hand Owen my bag before Rhiannon is dragging me out the door. Toward my second demise of the week.