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Glee: The BeginningAn Original Novel
By Lowell, Sophia
PoppyCopyright © 2010 Lowell, Sophia
All right reserved.
Principal Figgins’s office, Monday morning
Rachel Berry paused outside the door to Principal Figgins’s office just long enough to straighten her kneesocks and smooth down the sides of her corduroy skirt. Her bright white button-down and pink-and-green argyle sweater-vest seemed to scream overachiever—not that Principal Figgins needed to be reminded that Rachel Berry was special. McKinley High wasn’t the kind of high school where students wanted to stand out. And Rachel stood out.
“Good morning, Mrs. Goodrich.” Rachel smiled her 1,000-watt smile at the dour-faced secretary in the outer office. Mrs. Goodrich always smelled like cookie dough, and for some reason she was always scowling at Rachel, which seemed unfair. She should be happy to see someone who was not a juvenile delinquent enter the principal’s office. “Is Principal Figgins in?”
“Do you have an appointment, Rachel?” Mrs. Goodrich’s beady eyes stared down at Rachel over the tops of her tiny bifocals.
“No, but Principal Figgins told me he is always glad to see me.” Rachel breezed past Mrs. Goodrich’s desk, feeling a faint craving for cookies. As her penny loafers padded quietly across the worn industrial carpet and through the open door of the principal’s inner office, she couldn’t help thinking it was kind of sad when a principal couldn’t even get hardwood floors. But Rachel wouldn’t let the sadness of Principal Figgins’s existence bring her down—not today. Maybe he was stuck in a crappy office in crappy Lima, Ohio, but Rachel Berry wasn’t going to be here forever. Not if she had anything to say about it.
For Rachel, freshman year had been a bit of a failure. She had thought high school was going to be all about coming into her own and helping people around her realize what a truly incredible and talented person she was. Instead, every time she raised her hand to give the—always correct—answer in history class, her fellow classmates rolled their eyes; every time she went to the front of the room to answer—correctly—the algebra problem on the board, she’d be tripped; and whenever she volunteered to act out one of the parts—usually the lead—in whatever Shakespeare play they were reading in Mr. Horn’s English class, she’d be heckled. Only in Lima would someone be ridiculed for aspiring to get out of Lima.
But the culmination of her humiliation had been her failed campaign for class president. The poster board signs she’d made with such care, combining patriotic red, white, and blue stripes with her signature gold stars, were nearly of professional quality. But the signs, along with the catchy slogans she and her dads had come up with, had all been desecrated in varying ways by naysayers. Someone had taken a Sharpie and changed VOTE BERRY—SHE’S A STAR to VOTE BERRY—SHE’S BIZARRE. After the election, which popular Sebastian Carmichael had won, to no one’s surprise, Rachel demanded a recount. Jessica Davenport, one of the official ballot counters, told Rachel that no candidate had ever lost by such a large margin. In the history of the school. She said they’d double-counted, just because they thought it was a mistake. It wasn’t.
“Rachel. Good morning.” Principal Figgins looked up briefly from his desk. The window behind him looked out on the student parking lot in all its glory, with students hiding behind their cars to smoke the last puffs of their cigarettes. A group of football players was hovering around a couple of freshmen, probably threatening to lock them in the porta-potty near the stadium’s bleachers. “I’m very busy today. Someone poured ten gallons of blue raspberry Kool-Aid into the swimming pool, and the entire swim team is stained blue.” He sighed heavily. His slight Indian accent became more pronounced when he was flustered. As the daughter of two gay dads, Rachel appreciated the fact that Lima was surprisingly diverse, for the Midwest.
“I’m sorry for the interruption, Principal Figgins, but it’s very important.” She gracefully sat down in one of the chairs facing his desk, trying to ignore the inelegant farting sound the leather padding made beneath her, and carefully crossed her legs. Yes, freshman year was behind her. Nothing but a distant bad memory.
“Yes, Rachel.” He rubbed the dark splotches beneath his eyes, and Rachel wondered momentarily if everything in his home life was okay. He never looked very happy. “Why don’t you just go ahead and tell me what it is?”
“As you know, Principal Figgins, McKinley High School has a sadly limited number of creative outlets for performance-minded students such as myself.” It was true. For as long as she could remember, Rachel’s fathers had let her enroll in any sort of activity she wanted—tap and ballet and, briefly, hip-hop. Vocal training, piano lessons, acting lessons. Public speaking training. Improv. Pageantry. Anything that allowed Rachel to be onstage.
But once she got to high school, her options seemed to disappear. It was all politics in high school.
“Yes, well.” Principal Figgins pushed his hair back, showing his receding hairline. “Budget cuts make that a very tricky subject. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do.”
“Enlighten me, then.”
Rachel had prepared a whole speech this morning while she did thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer in her bedroom. She was a firm believer in holistic health. She woke up early each morning to do either a cardio workout or yoga. This routine helped keep her balanced. “I realized that there is one underutilized outlet that’s just being wasted away—and that I would like to be allowed to take over. The morning announcements.” She waved her arms in a flourish, as if she had just announced an Oscar winner.
“But Mrs. Applethorpe has always…”
“I know, sir.” Mrs. Applethorpe was the attendance officer who, each morning during first period, read the daily announcements with the enthusiasm of a mortician. “But I thought it would be fair to let someone else give it a try. Someone who could really pep up the announcements.” It was hard to stay still in her seat when Rachel felt so close to success. What better way to make herself—and her amazing voice—known? It was the closest thing the school had to a radio broadcast. And it was a captive audience—no one could change the station on her! After all, many important celebrities had got their start in radio, like Ryan Seacrest. Not that he’s as talented as I am, Rachel thought.
“Excellent!” Rachel exclaimed. Mrs. Applethorpe’s loss was her gain.
Principal Figgins nodded, pressing his lips into a warning line. “You can start it on a trial basis only. Two weeks.” He glanced at his watch. “You can start today, if you get over to the attendance office in time.”
Ten minutes later, Rachel adjusted the microphone and ran her hard-bristle brush through her dark hair. It didn’t matter that no one could see her; she still wanted to be at her best. The setup was a little simple—the attendance office didn’t have all the equipment she would have preferred to work with—but it was a start.
“Just push the red button and start reading off the sheet,” Mrs. Applethorpe directed loudly as she backed out of the room with a handful of knitting.
“Thank you,” Rachel answered politely, grateful that Mrs. Applethorpe was leaving the room. “Da da da da da da da da daaaa,” she sang quietly, warming up her voice. Butterflies fluttered madly in her stomach, and she could feel her blood pumping quickly through her veins. Every particle of her body felt alive, as if it were suddenly spring after a long, cold winter. This was what performing was all about.
She pushed the red button.
“Good morning, McKinley High. This is Rachel Berry bringing you the daily announcements.” She took a deep breath. “I’d like to start off with a tune from the seminal musical classic that we all know and love, Singin’ in the Rain.” In a second, she was belting out her rendition of “Good Morning”—and as she sang, she imagined her words drifting through the loudspeakers of every classroom, every student in school enthralled by the beauty of her voice. She imagined them whispering, “Who is that? Rachel Berry? I had no idea she was so amazingly talented!” There was no sign of Mrs. Applethorpe coming in to interrupt Rachel’s show. She was either spellbound by Rachel’s voice or wrapped up in her knitting. Either way, Rachel knew a victory when she saw it.
When she finished singing, she quickly rolled into the list of announcements. “And now for the news of the day. I hope you’re all planning on coming to the fall music recital: Fall in Love with Music!” Rachel had wondered if she should sign up for it; she was worried the school wasn’t ready yet to see her onstage in all her glory.
“Also, voting starts today at lunch for this year’s homecoming king and queen.” Boring, she thought. Like the king and queen were ever a surprise. It was always the prettiest, blondest girl, and the handsomest, most Ken-doll-type guy. “The king and queen will be announced and crowned at the highly anticipated homecoming dance, which will follow the homecoming football game next Friday night.
“I’d like to sign off this morning by awarding Rachel Berry’s Gold Star of the Week—a very special award given each week to a person who has done something outstanding to improve life at McKinley High.” She’d thought of this last night, and it seemed to be an appropriate way to give back to the school. “This week I’d like to award the gold star to…”—she paused for effect—“myself, for taking over morning announcements and bringing them back to life.” She was glad Mrs. Applethorpe wasn’t listening. Maybe it was a little much to give herself the first gold star, but she was doing the school a big service. And what was wrong with giving herself a little pat on the back when no one else was? “I hope I’ve made everyone’s morning a little brighter. See you all tomorrow!”
She pushed the OFF button and stared at the microphone. Her fingers were tingling from her success. She’d done it! She’d taken the first huge step of the year to becoming someone people actually knew and admired. Who knew? Maybe by next year, people would be voting for her for homecoming queen. The thought gave her chills.
Rachel slung her backpack over her shoulder as she left the attendance office. The hallway was packed with students clanking their lockers open and guys doing that shoulder-thumping thing they did. She had just a few minutes to get to her locker before first period. Her face was flushed with excitement. She felt like a new woman.
But… no one seemed to be looking at her. She stared at the students as they continued to brush past her, oblivious to the fact that she’d just given an amazing performance over the loudspeaker. Was it possible that everyone was just too jealous of her obvious talent to acknowledge her? The thought made her feel a little better.
She looked up to see Sue Sylvester, the hardened coach of the Cheerios. Rachel stood up a little straighter. She didn’t exactly like Coach Sylvester, but part of her admired the woman for making the most of her situation. Having to settle for being a high school cheerleading coach was probably a big letdown, but Coach Sylvester had turned the cheerleading program at McKinley into one of the best in the state, taking the Cheerios to nationals twelve years in a row. The trophy cases that lined the walls of the main hallways were overflowing with gold-plated cheerleader statuettes.
“I hope you’re prepared to be eaten alive by your fellow students for that disgusting little display of self-promotion this morning.” Coach Sylvester hitched her thumbs into the pockets of her red jogging suit.
“What?” Rachel blurted, but Coach Sylvester was already walking away. “If I’m not my own advocate, who will be?” Rachel called after the coach.
“Here’s a gold star for you,” Rachel heard someone say as she turned around, but all she saw was a blur of football players before the icy red splash of a slushie hit her in the face. The boys’ laughter trailed down the hallway as they kept walking.
Deep breath. Getting slushied was nothing new. Those football guys could learn to be more creative. She’d been slushied at least a dozen times last year; she kept a change of clothes in her locker for just that reason. Nice try, boys, but you’ll have to work a little harder to bring Rachel Berry down this year.
And at least they’d listened to her broadcast.
Things are about to change, she thought as she strode toward her locker, ignoring people’s stares as the cold liquid dripped down her neck. It was going to be a big couple of weeks at McKinley High, and she was going to be at the center of it.
After she changed into a clean sweater.
Excerpted from Glee: The Beginning by Lowell, Sophia Copyright © 2010 by Lowell, Sophia. Excerpted by permission.
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