Educating Simon

Educating Simon

by Robin Reardon


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Everything sixteen-year-old Simon Fitzroy-Hunt loves is in England. There's his school, his boyfriend, his cat, and especially Oxford University, which Simon plans to attend just as his beloved late father planned. But all of Simon's certainties come crashing down when his mother remarries and drags him to Boston with her.

Furious and unforgiving, Simon finds plenty to resent in America. His stepsister, Persie, is overindulged by her father and struggling with Asperger syndrome. And Simon's school project--coaching a young student for the national Spelling Bee--hits a complication when eleven-year-old Toby makes a confession: there's a girl trapped inside his body, and her name is Kay.

Helping Kay find her way begins changing Simon too, opening him to different perspectives, revealing a strength that's gone untapped until now. And as the life he's known, and the future he envisioned, slips further away each day, he realizes he can either lose his direction entirely, or forge a new--and perhaps even better--path. . .

Praise for the novels of Robin Reardon

"Real and honest." --VOYA on The Revelations of Jude Connor

"Mesmerizing. . ..A rare book that will appeal to young adults and adult readers alike." --Publishers Weekly on The Evolution of Ethan Poe

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758284761
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 07/29/2014
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Robin Reardon is an inveterate observer of human nature and has been writing forever—childish songs, poems, little plays. More recent efforts include short stories, creative non-fiction, and novels for and about teenagers. By day Robin works as a communications manager for an international financial institution, writing, editing the work of others, and creating strategic communications approaches specializing in intranet delivery of internal communications. Interests outside of writing include singing, photography, and the study of comparative religions. Robin writes in a butter yellow study with a view of the Boston, Massachusetts, skyline.

Read an Excerpt

Educating Simon

By Robin Reardon


Copyright © 2014 Robin Reardon
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7582-8476-1


Part I

Worlds Destroyed

Terra Cotta, Coral, Lilac

Yeah, I know. I have to colour it out for you. I'll do it a few times, but after that you can refer to the chart I've provided for you in the appendix of this journal.

Terra cotta = O; Coral = N; Lilac = E

ONE. As in entry number one.

And you might ask, "Why are you bothering to number the entries at all when you're lying in hospital with your wrists tied up in bandages? Will there even be a Two? And whom do you think you're writing to, anyway?"

Good questions.

Bright Blue, Navy, Terra Cotta (Two)

That first one was a short entry. Lots of reasons why. For one, I don't feel much like telling anybody anything right now, so when the hospital shrink comes in and does his best to make me talk, it's exhausting, so I also don't much feel like going on about anything afterwards.

For another, all I have is my mobile phone, and whilst I'm great at texting, it's a lot more trouble than typing. Which is what I'll have to do with this ... this composition when I get home. If I ever get home. And if I ever feel like continuing this journal.

Bright Blue, Cream, Bright Red, Lilac, Lilac (Three)

I'm home. For now. And whilst I've finished typing the notes from my mobile into my laptop, I can see that they look pretty pathetic on a full screen. Not much there. Rather like my life.

Didn't use to be that way. I'm fairly sure I remember a time when life was good, when my mum and dad and my cat and I were a family, when I was doing really well at Swithin Academy. In fact, I was doing so well that Dad once told me, "Not too early to be setting your cap at Oxford, Simon. Oxford is blue, you know. Blue for wide open skies."

To which I replied, tongue-in-cheek, because this was a kind of running joke with us, "It's terra cotta. But that's fine, because that's an earth colour, and I'll need a good foundation."

I think I was maybe fourteen when he said that. A couple of years ago now. And a few months before he died.

Sorry; can't really talk about that. Needed a break.

Maybe I can talk about the good parts. There were a lot of them between my father and me. For one thing, I have Tinker Bell because of him. When I was thirteen I said I wanted a pet, and Mum suggested a corgi, probably because she likes dogs better than she likes cats. But Dad smiled at me and shook his head. He knew. And he took me to pick out a kitten, a British shorthair, with thick, plush fur and a round, wise head and big eyes that miss nothing. She's a sweet, intelligent cat. I named her Tinker Bell.

My dad and I used to go to church together. Mum was never that interested, but Dad and I would go almost every week, either to our usual (St. Cyprian's) or, if we wanted something special and planned ahead, we'd go into town to Westminster or St. Paul's. Dad used to tease me that if he'd gone into the priesthood as he'd planned, I wouldn't be around. As an Anglican priest he could still marry, of course, but my mother wouldn't have married him.

I took the church quite seriously when I was younger, and over Sunday dinners Dad and I would sometimes go over the sermon we'd heard that morning, teasing apart the Holy Word in a way that brought it into real life, our own lives. But I had begun to question my faith not long before my father died. I was starting to ask questions to which there are no good answers, and the more people I asked, the more disparate, fumbling answers I heard. Dad at least admitted that we don't have all the answers, but it seems to me that if God wanted us to take Him seriously, He would have made things clearer. It also seems to me that if the message of Jesus was so all-fired important, it should have been clear from the very start. What about all those people who lived before Jesus was born? If Jesus was really the one true Path, then why the hell didn't the Jews hear from him sooner? Why didn't everyone? For that matter, what about all the people who never heard about Jesus, through no fault of their own, because they lived in—I don't know—northern Germany in 75 C.E.? Or in ignorance in Iceland centuries after Jesus was supposedly resurrected? And those are just the most obvious questions.

There I go, capitalising the pronouns. It's automatic. I'll stop, because after I lost my faith I realised I might be an atheist. And when my father was killed—that's right, he didn't just die—well, that was it. Quite obviously there was no God of mercy looking out for him, or for me or Mum, on that day.

As for how he died—well, I'm not going into that right now.

Bad enough that he died. But then to have one of my idiot classmates ask if maybe the reason was that God was punishing me for my lack of faith ... I nearly flattened him. I admit to a certain amount of arrogance, but I'm not self-centred enough to think God would kill anyone, let alone someone like my father, to punish me. No God worth worshipping would do such a thing.

But enough of that.

One of the best things about being with my father was this condition we share. I almost certainly got it from him, along with my red hair. The special condition is synaesthesia. Most people don't even know what it is. And people who have it don't all experience it the same. My dad and I see letters as having colours. Each letter always has the same colour, but my terra cotta O is ... was ... blue to my dad. His sister, my Aunt Phillippa, sees colours when she hears music. I don't much like Aunt Phillippa, but I kind of wish I could see colours with music, too.

I wouldn't give up being a synaesthete for anything. I'm actually very smart—IQ of one-sixty-three and the vocabulary of an intelligent adult twice my age—but when I was younger, what impressed the other kids in school was that I could spell anything I'd seen at least once. The whole word takes on the colour of the first letter, really, but the other letters retain some of their own colour too. In the case of Oxford—with two terra cottas, a dove grey x, a pale green f, a bright red r, and a dark brown d—the other letters don't do much to modify the first letter. But take another word, and the effect is different. England, for example, is lilac, coral, fuchsia, bright orange, pale yellow, coral, dark brown. The whole word takes on a lilac tint, but I can still see the orange and yellow and brown. If you changed one of the letters—say, bright blue for t instead of brown for d—I'd know it was wrong right away, and my fabulous memory would tell me why.

I can hear you say, "So what? If I saw England spelled Englant, I'd know it was wrong right away, too."

But consider this. Would you know immediately that Nuefchatell is misspelled, and why? Or Cairphilly?

Caerphilly. Don't get me started. Don't talk to me about anything having to do with Wales.

Pale Green, Terra Cotta, Pale Pink, Bright Red (Four)

Simon. Blood red, bright yellow, brick red, terra cotta, coral.

Blood red, overall. I think maybe that's why slitting my wrists would have been my method of choice.

True confession time. That was not a typo, to say "would have been." I didn't actually do it. I was sitting on the closed toilet seat, contemplating how warm the water should be when—if—I turned it on, and I was staring at the razor blade I held between the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. I stared and stared until my vision got a little blurry and I began to feel faint. I slid to the floor and leaned against the wall for—I don't know, maybe ten minutes? And then I set the blade down. To be honest, I don't really know why I didn't go through with it. I do remember thinking that there would always be razor blades.

I'd sat there, giving myself a little time, drawing a mental picture. I remember thinking there would be rather a lot of blood. Red. Bright red blood. The bathwater would be full of it, swirling in beautiful shapes that I expected would be the last thing I would see. I pictured my mother finding me there. She'd scream, perhaps call my name a few times, maybe even try to lift me out of the water. And then she'd phone for help.

After that my story takes a split. One line ends up with me dead, buried in the soil of the land I refused to leave, despite my mother's plans. The other sends me to hospital. Imagine my consternation when I wake up there, head pounding, totally parched, and heavy white packs on both wrists.

I think I would scream. I know I would want to. I'm not one of those people who would send out a "cry for help." (How I hate that expression.) It would've been real, that suicide, if I'd done it.

And I suppose you'll want to know why I was even poised to do it. Whether I wrote a note. Whether I thought it would hurt anyone when they found out. If I didn't feel loved. If I felt life wasn't worth it. If it was because I'm gay.

Well, I didn't write a note. For one thing, what would it say? "Mum, I can't believe you've done this to me. Dad would never have done anything like this if it had been you who died."

For another, not everyone is capable of appreciating how well I write. The last thing I would do is leave my final words to be judged, picked apart, criticised after I'm gone by people who wouldn't know good writing if it fell from the sky, with or without colours.

And it wasn't because I'm gay. I have no problem with that, thank you very much. Even though I haven't told Mum yet.

So what did she do that was so horrid, you ask?

Here's what she did. She fell in love with a man, an architect, from Boston, Massachusetts—that's bad enough. He was here in the UK to dig up (not really; couldn't resist) some Welsh ancestors in—guess where? Caerphilly. So he's not only from Boston, but he's also Welsh. Worse still. And Mum has married him! Severe punishment indicated for this transgression.

Pale Green, Bright Yellow, Kelly Green, Lilac (Five)

Sorry. I'm sure this is getting tedious. Maybe I'll just leave some kind of blank space when I have to shut off the laptop and go scream into my pillow, instead of starting new entries every time. It's also, no doubt, getting tedious to see the entries coloured out. So I'll stop that, too. I think you get the point, anyway.

Just so we're clear, though, understand that even though b is sky blue and r is bright red, it's only coincidental that each of those main colours begins with the letter in question. G is not green, as it happens. It's fuchsia. I refer you again to the appendix.

So, back to the break that ended the last entry.

Trying again.

And she's making me move with her—with them—to Boston. I'm trying not to hate her. Truly. I never used to. I mean, I was always closer to my father; it just seemed easier, somehow. He always seemed more approachable. I don't think it was just the shared synaesthesia, either. I wasn't able to put words to it when I was little, but looking back over my relationship with my parents now, what I see in my mind when I think about my mother is a kind of shield—transparent maybe, but solid—between her and me. And I don't think I constructed it. Or imagined it.

This distance between us, whatever it is, didn't bother me in any conscious way until Dad died. Then it was just the two of us, her and me, and this thing between us that neither of us had ever acknowledged to the other.

I'm probably making it sound bigger and more impenetrable than it is. My relationship with my mum is not terrible or anything. Or, it wasn't, until she dropped this bomb on me.

I'll need a way to refer to him. I guess I could use his name, but that feels like giving him so much more respect than he deserves. It's not just that he's half Welsh, either, though that's bad enough.

Do I need to explain that? Let's see. Wales. A country that fought England for far too long in a vain and misguided attempt to resist a superior form of government. We're talking about the twelfth century, here, but remember that England, unlike America, actually has a history and a very long memory.

Wales. Where separate little fiefdoms fought amongst each other at least as much as they fought against the Crown—fiefdoms led by so-called princes whose homes were practically stone huts compared to the castles and palaces of England and France. Wales, a country where a man could decide to leave his entire fortune (not that it would have amounted to much) to a bastard child instead of his legitimate son if he took a notion. A country where a wife who caught her husband in bed with a consort was within her rights to set the bed afire. While they were in it. All of this strikes me as rather ... well, barbaric. And I'm not alone. But—deep sigh—we're all one now, supposedly. One United Kingdom.

I'll grant you that since King Edward I completed the conquest of Wales, things there have changed for the better, but their culture is still limited to singing and mining and fishing and charging money for tourists to see the sad ruins of Marcher Lord castles, which the local peasantry picked apart stone by stone after the English lords no longer needed to fortify the border.

But I think it's their attitude that bothers me the most. It seems to me that they don't take anything seriously enough. They treat everything as though it's just ... I don't know, part of life. What I mean is, nothing seems to carry enough weight. Or maybe it's that the weight they give to serious things isn't heavier enough, in my estimation, than the weight they give to the less serious things. No doubt they would call it pragmatic. And in a way, I suppose it is. But let's just say that if my boyfriend Graeme and I decided to go to the town green at Abergavenny one night and have sex right there, they'd be more likely to rope off the area and sell tickets than to arrest us. It's not that they're money-grubbing. I don't think they deserve that criticism. It's just that they want to make the most of a situation in a way that doesn't always give it the weight it should have. And, all right, my example isn't a very good one; I chose it mostly for shock value. And it was an excuse to mention my boyfriend. But my point is, they just don't take things seriously enough.

So I'm reluctant to take my mother's new husband seriously. But I guess avoiding his name altogether is not going to work. He wants me to call him by his first name, but I can't bring myself to do that. I address him as Mr. Morgan. When I don't merely call him "him."

His name is Brian Morgan. BM. (Heh. I think that's how I'll refer to him.) And he has a daughter I've never met. Her name—I hope you're sitting down—is Persephone. I mean, really. Persephone? Not sure whether I'm more tempted to call her Percy, which is a favourite name for small dogs in England, or Phony. Evidently they do call her Percy, only with a different spelling: Persie. I think she's nine. Or maybe eleven. BM showed me her picture. Very proud, he was. Don't know why. She looks odd. Dark hair like his, below shoulder length, but even though it's a posed photograph, she's not smiling, and she's not quite looking at the camera. She almost looks like there's no one home, if you know what I mean. And I'll be unable to avoid her if (notice the subjunctive) I end up moving over there.

Mum met BM last January, only seven months ago. How's that for a whirlwind courtship? She was leaving one of her museum committee meetings on a cold and rainy afternoon, typical for London in January, the raw air making it feel colder than it actually was. Mum is nothing if not dignified, and hailing a cab is one of her least favourite things to do, so she has an account with London Black Cabs, and they give her priority when she calls them. The committee meeting was at the Tate Modern, not in the most accessible area of the city, and she had a car scheduled to pick her up. The taxi was late because of the weather and the afternoon traffic, so she was trying to stay out of the rain whilst she waited. There were two men waiting as well, men she didn't know.


Excerpted from Educating Simon by Robin Reardon. Copyright © 2014 Robin Reardon. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Educating Simon 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BrentHartinger More than 1 year ago
The best Robin Reardon novel yet -- very enjoyable! And Simon is simply a fantastic character.