I hate high school. Even this fictional one I write about for TV.
It's the last day before hiatus and we sit around the writers' room twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the Boss Man to finish reading the latest draft of the last episode of the season. My episode. He chews little bite marks into the pen cap between red marks on the script, and we're all supposed to sit there and watch him do it. The whole process takes an excruciating hour and twenty-five minutes.
I should be grateful for this job. Some people take ten or more years just to break in with their first TV job. It's a long, hard road for most, but not for me. I'm one of the lucky ones. I wrote a pilot right out of college that caught the eye of a swanky Hollywood producer. I drove out to LA with a job. No struggle and toil and trouble for me.
The TV pilot I wrote was a dystopian with loads of violence, sex, and drugs. Naturally, they staff me on a teen drama set at a high school in Los Angeles.
But you go with it. Because it's your big break!
And you develop a gratitude problem. Because every day you watch a graying middle-aged man in a Lakers baseball cap approve a script written for sixteen-year-old girls. Because he gets it. It's a lot of fun and I'm super grateful for the opportunity and not jaded at all by the whole thing.
Finally, he looks up. He pulls his glasses off his face and leans back in his leather swivel chair just like you would expect a bearded middle-aged showrunner named Andy Biermann to do (did I mention it's basically a requirement for showrunners to have unkempt Spielberg beards?). I click my pen absentmindedly, waiting for his response. He does the same thing whether he likes it or hates it.
"It's just..." He touches steepled hands to his mouth. We all wait. I wish I could say I'm on pins and needles, but it's always a pig roast in his writers' room.
"It's a tad cynical," he says. He rubs his beard with his thumb and forefinger and locks eyes with me. I try to look stunned. It's the first time he's ever given me a mid-season finale. It's a huge honor. I have tried so hard to feel honored.
"Cynical?" I ask. I cock my head to one side for effect.
He puts his glasses back on and reads a highlighted line. "Getting 'Most Likely to Brighten Your Day' in the yearbook is like getting 'Most Likely to Drop Out of College and Strip for Hair-Plugged Pervs at Cheekies.'"
The other writers in the room chuckle and my best friend Vic Musa elbows me in the arm.
"Or what about this one?" Andy holds up the script and balances his reading glasses on the edge of his nose. "Once I'm outta here, I'm never gonna look back. The rest of these fuckers can drop dead of brain cancer and I wouldn't even send flowers."
Shocked gasps followed by a few sadistic snickers. I funnel my anxiety into tiny inked tornadoes that wreak havoc on my already-wrecked script.
Andy sets his glasses down on the table and waits for my response. I look around the room at the other writers. They are all nodding like mass-produced bobbleheads and I want to pop them right off.
"I meant to take the f-bomb out," I clear my throat. "Before I turned it in."
"You know, Ellie, it seems to me like you didn't enjoy high school very much?"
"Oh!" I say, relieved. "That's because I didn't."
Everyone's heads Exorcist-style slow turn to look at me.
"I mean, no one does, right?" I ask. "Not really. Nobody wants to peak in high school."
The writers exchange worried looks. It's like I've just told the king that I will no longer bow to him.
"You do know that you write for a show about high school girls in their prime?"
"Yeah, but it's fiction," I say. "Nobody actually wants that. Not really."
"Everyone wants that, Ellie," he says. "Everyone wants to fit in during high school. The kids at the bottom of the food chain want to be at the top, the kids at the top fight to stay there. It's the circle of adolescence, and no one wants to be eaten alive."
I cross my arms and pretend to think about this.
"Something tells me I'm not going to convince you," he says before he reaches into his writerly satchel and pulls out something familiar. "I think this might help."
Slowly, I take the disc-shaped card from him.
No, no, no.
"REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD!"
Oh, for fuck's sake.
STONYBROOK HIGH SCHOOL
Class of '08
10 YEAR REUNION
I look up at him, eyes wide with horror.
"I threw this away."
He cocks his eyebrow, as if to say, So?
"It's this weekend," he says with a grin. "And you're going."
My jaw drops.
"Class dismissed," he says with a wave. He never lingers. He's out the door before my brain can process what the hell just happened. I shoulder my way through a group of buddy-buddy staff writers and dash across the room to catch up with him.
"Did you go through my trash?" I ask him. All propriety goes out the window.
"Of course not," he says. He motions to his left, where his strawberry-haired assistant shuffles to keep up with him, her cheeks turning beet red. "Susie did. We got a tip that we might find something interesting in there. Lo and behold, it's just what you needed."
"What I needed?" My voice is incredulous. "I assure you, going to a high school reunion is the last thing anyone needs."
He stops at the coffee station to refill his paper cup. His twenty-something assistant appears flustered, her fingers twitching at her sides, itching to pour it for him. I want to pat her on the back and tell her, It's okay, sweetheart -- he's pouring his own coffee right now as a power play against me.
"The main character never knows that what she needs is exactly what she fears most." He shakes creamer into his coffee.
I hate him. Hate, hate, hate him.
"Don't use character devices against me," I say.
"You need perspective."
"I'm a girl and I went to high school," I say. "How much more perspective do I need?"
He sighs, stirs his coffee. "You're talented, Ellie. The best writer we have on staff. But you hate people, and that will never work for a co-EP."
"Co-EP?" My heart drops into my butt. Even poor Susie looks stunned. "Let me get this straight. You're gonna make me a co-executive producer if I go to my high school reunion because somehow going to my high school reunion is going to make me like people more?"
Andy finally sips his coffee. "This is trash," he says, tossing the filled cup into the tiny garbage can. Susie furiously gets to work making a fresh pot.
"Go Eagles!" He punches the air with a mock spirited salute before he disappears into his office.
Damn it all, I am going to my high school reunion.
THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH FOR READING! WE ARE SO EXCITED AND NERVOUS BUT WE LOVE ELLIE SO MUCH AND HOPE YOU DO TOO!
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Ellie is Cool Now [2018 WATTY AWARD WINNER]ChickLit
☆ 2018 WATTY AWARD WINNER: THE HIDDEN GEMS!!!!!!! ☆ A TOP WATTPAD PICK: FEATURED IN MILLENNIALS & MAYHEM ☆ Ellie Jenkins did NOT peak in high school. She wasn't a cheerleader or a band geek, a class president, or a lead in the high school play, and...