Running Out of Air

Running Out of Air

by K. T. Swift


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Inanna Drew has a problem, and, of course, that problem is a boy. Though she’s quite content to read her books and excel in school, he bothers her and seems incapable of taking a hint. Thus this is a journal, nay, a chronicle that she must put to paper to explain, in her own voice, why he doesn’t deserve the time of day.

All of this changes after a sudden upheaval in her life, making Hadrian Marshall less of a pain in her side and more of a friend to be counted on.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781949340167
Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC
Publication date: 07/09/2018
Pages: 294
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.66(d)

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(Scratched in a worn notebook)

I am a self-admitted fool, which probably jettisons me out of the category by virtue of the self-admission. Foolishness, to me, always seemed to be a want of realisation more than anything else, but I am still foolish, and foolishness always leads to trouble. That is why I'm writing this all down. Maybe someone can help me if I can show them that it started here or perhaps there, later on.

Anyway. To the point. I don't think I can finish school, not here, not under these circumstances. I mean, well, I'd really rather not. After two weeks of nerve-racking, nail-biting stress, I am about to reach the end of my rope. Why, you may ask. Why is this straitlaced, straight-A mathlete about to toss herself into the nearest lake with stones in her pockets? (Oh, poor Virginia Woolf) A boy, that's who. How damn trite.

And I'll try to warn you before I drown you in allusions (if you will forgive me the pun).

He's just so damn annoying. He refuses to leave me alone, insists on talking to me, tries to insinuate himself into my life. What on God's green earth is he doing? Is he trying to badger me to death?

I mean, I do like people, but not when said people are parading themselves before me so incessantly that I would rather die than see another sickeningly false-friendly face. I like my space, thank you very much. Perhaps I should start at the beginning, so you may fully comprehend this boy's single-minded quest to bother me to death.

All right, the first day of school is usually more uninspiring than sugar-free fudge unless the senior class plays an opening prank, which they did not because my class is full of washed-out ne'er-do-wells without a handful of brain cells to share amongst them. At least, when it comes to actually breaking rules and sowing chaos like proper teenagers.

So life goes on the way it always does. The smooches from boyfriends to girlfriends who haven't made out in school since, like, the end of summer school; the fist-pumps and giggly hugs from the jocks and fashionistas respectively; the loners gravitating to the new loners transferred in from other schools to impart their invaluable knowledge of where to best hide when "expressing your sorrow" (i.e.: whining under a stairwell listening to loud "musak" and writing insufferably angsty poetry about the colour black and the joys of leaving their confining mansions/obscenely wealthy but damningly inattentive parents behind).

Losers, the lot of them. I can't wait to escape this chasm of anti-intellectualism for the greener pastures of university. That is where I shall go far, where I can correct the teachers and have them respect me for it, not give me a detention or send a letter home. I shall be an award-winning essayist whilst teaching at Harvard, my future alma mater. I'll show those idiotic "teachers" when I have my PhD in the time it took to finish their sissy education licence ... Anyway, I digress.

The only thing really interesting in those moments, because trust me the AP classes were not riveting in the least, was watching the new students flounder in our labyrinth of a school. I swear the thing is built to pen in a Minotaur —

Let's just head off that digression before it can fully mature, because believe me, I can ramble about Greek myths for ages.

First period had some sniffling girl who arrived earlier than me. Which I had thought was patently impossible until that moment, I assure you. Second period had some new student from Dubai with a smartly be suited translator in tow (Health, why must I take you?). Third period was absolutely soulless, very little surprise there. When has anything interesting happened in a sociology class? Fourth period was where the action was. That was where I met my first and only enemy in all of high school.

"Marshall, Hadrian."

"Please, Miss Roughy, call me Hade."

He was leaning back in his chair, languid and sure like a cat in a room of exceptionally fat and stupid mice, which it might as well have been. I disliked him instantly. Well, maybe not exactly instant of course, but it sounds dramatic, and thus must not be scratched out. Ms. Fish, as I secretly call her, softened her brows, hardened by years of public school teaching (She only transferred here on the good graces of her second cousin, Mr. Collins, the principal of Jackson Academy of the Sciences), and shocked the rest of us to actual quiet.

"All right, Hade." What the flipping heck. I just stared at her for a minute, but ... she was just the very image of a lovesick teenager, two seconds away from spouting love poetry she didn't understand to impress a boy so out of her league as to be pitiful.

Ms. Fish, one of the nastiest, cruellest teachers I have had the misfortune to pretend to learn from, had bestowed the fainted glimmer of a smile on a student. A student who had only said, what, six words to her, and she was already wrapped around his finger. What kind of child is that adept at manipulation? I had no idea, but I surely did not approve. I should be that child, not this impudent upstart! I have forgotten more psychology than he will ever learn, I am sure.

Ms. Fish shook herself and returned to the roll. I returned to my book. It was new, a promising doorstopper about a poor Victorian girl picked by some sadistic count to play Pygmalion, (otherwise known as My Fair Lady for the film and musical lovers out there) only to rip her apart, bit by bit. At least, that was my guess. Sometimes, good books surprise you.

In any case, I was finishing up the introduction by a modern author when the lesson began. God, math is so tedious when your father's a mathematician. Class finally ground to a halt, and I waltzed to the only class I cared a modicum about, drama.

I may not seem it, but I have an incredible soft spot for the arts. The only reason anyone in the student body knows my name is because I played Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream last year. I'm rather proud of it, actually. It took two years to prove that I was good enough for a role that didn't also double as a techie.

In any case, our teacher always tells us the fall and spring lineup on the first day so that we may prepare for the roles and pick out parts to practice. I had sent in a request for a Shakespeare play I like (Merchant of Venice) and a musical no one would understand, let alone recognise. Acting is the only thing outside of books that really gets me excited about school anymore. Everything else is excess.

That smooth talker from statistics had to go and ruin it all by winding his way to the front row of the auditorium, smiling and winking through the crowd of giggling no-talent prima donnas. I sighed and rolled my eyes, waiting for Mr. Tucker — part drama teacher, part wrestling coach — to make an appearance. He did not disappoint. In he stalked from stage right, looking outright menacing and sending the entire audience into a dead silence.

"Most all of y'all know the rules, but for those that forgot: No fu[dge]ing around (I patently refuse to swear in this volume). This is my theatre, and I'll throw you in my workouts as tackling dummies for the team if you stop payin' attention. You get me?"

"Yes, sir," we chorused. Some people were cringing and regretting their decisions, but those in his good graces just enjoyed their discomfort (myself and Araz, really). I looked for the self-possessed jerk in front, to see if he was wetting himself in terror and sprinting toward the doors. I couldn't see his face, but it didn't seem like he was ready to bolt at any second. Drat.

"Good, the fall play sheet is in the scene shop. Be back in four minutes."

I made the arduous journey four yards to the door from my seat (the closest chair to the shop from the auditorium). On the other side of said door, a slip of paper:


Twelfth Night (Ah, well. Yay-worthy, still)

Phantom of the Opera (Dammit)


Dracula (Spectacularly unimpressed)

TBA (!!!)

That last one deserved a little concern and attention. When had Tucker ever written TBA or changed his mind about a play? Never, that's when. I slipped away before I ended up trampled by the stampede and ventured forward to find my teacher sitting on the stage, reading the paper.

"You're wondering what the spring musical's gonna be, right?" He hadn't even bothered to look up.

"Yes, sir. I'm on tenterhooks of anticipation."

"I really liked your idea," he admitted. "If you can translate it and get the music, we'll do it."

I nearly fainted with joy.

"Mind, if you don't get it in before winter break, we'll do High School Musical."

Oh, double hell. If that isn't an incentive, I've no clue what is. Even the utterance of such a foul creation of Disney sent shudders of disgust down my spine.

"It will be in your hands before October, I promise!"

He granted me a rare half-smile before whistling the rest of the group back to their seats. "Here are the parts for Shakespeare. I expect them to be memorised and ready by tomorrow. Start practising." He slapped down a pile of papers and walked back to the black curtains. He was pretending to give the group privacy while they practised to see if they actually used the time wisely, as always. I sequestered myself in a corner with all the audition pieces. I already knew Viola's bit, the ring soliloquy, but trying out Sebastian's part could have proven fun. I memorised the part (all five lines of it) before lunch bell (Honestly, Shakespeare was so damn lyrical, it's child's play to remember his works).

Hadrian spent his time laughing and chattering with the many and varied girls of the drama department: those that dyed their hair fabulous colours, those that looked utterly meek unless placed in the limelight and fed after midnight, those that simply must be excellent in everything, and those that thought their calling was to strut upon the stage, all sound and no fury.

Needless to say, I did not participate in the meet-and-greet.

Instead of eating, I exited the school and pulled out my cell phone. The thing is a lifesaver, always there when I need it most. Now with unlimited international minutes! I looked up a few numbers on the internet and then called a few proprietors and middlemen (I'll spare you the mind-numbing details). Thus, I secured myself a quick Skype meeting with the actual writer and copyright carrier of my current musical obsession, Traum (Dreams in English).

Five minutes before the next bell (to send some people back to class and some to lunch because we believe in intimate dining experiences at Jackson Academy of the Sciences), I finished my final call. My tasks done, I ended up leaning against the brick wall for a moment. I was smiling in relief. That's important, because it was wiped off my face not a second later.

"So, you're bilingual?" The new kid was leaning all cool-like with his shoulder against the brick facing me, arms crossed. Was he trying to channel James Dean? Please. James Dean impersonations were so 2009. He smiled faux-charmingly and continued, "I've always respected those who could master multiple languages."

I rolled my eyes and walked back to class.

"Wait. Inanna, isn't it?"

"Was? Ich sprechen nicht so gut Englishe. Entschuldigung." Feeling quite proud of myself for the quick retort, I stalked back to the stage. I turned before entering the building to find him looking quite uninjured by my snark until he caught my ill-advised glance. Then he smiled and waved. Damn, so much for the dramatic exit. I still have to work on that.

"Anyone ready to audition today?" Tucker was glaring down at them from behind his Clipboard of Judgement.

"I am." It was like clockwork. For the last three years, he would ask, I would answer, then audition and whatnot, and I would pay absolutely no attention to anything until rehearsals started.

"Then get up and read Viola's soliloquy."

I jumped upon the stage and turned, stared down my captive audience, then began. I finished to vague applause, really just from the new boy. Was he trying to be nice or trying very hard to start a trend of positive reinforcement for the moment he popped on stage?

Everyone knew I would earn a substantial role because I am the only one left on campus with the patience and grasp of language for big Shakespeare parts. Our last Intense Shakespeare Lovers had left when I was a sophomore. Coupled with seniority and commitment, I was sure to get all the best roles regardless of gender this year. I made to exit the stage, but Tucker stopped me.

"No, stay there. The fresh meat's next."

Did I not notice that he raised his hand with mine? Well, I must have had a rather intense case of tunnel vision. I sighed and sat on the edge with legs dangling, waiting for the strutting peacock to waltz on stage. He performed Sebastian's part flawlessly and without prompt. Well, beat me with a self-effacing stick; he was actually good at something (even if that talent is hoodwinking others into believing him talented).

Well, you can guess what such a performance yielded; Tucker threw us together with a fresh audition piece and had us play off of each other. Please let him end up as Malvolio (i.e.: unimportant and unloved), regardless of his acting chops. I don't want to pretend to be anything but indifferent at best or cruel at worst to him. That's what I hoped at the time — in vain, of course. I always have the darnedest luck with this kind of thing.

In any case, the bell rang, and I was out to sixth period, mercifully free of any new students, then seventh, which was infested with infantile intellectuals who thought they understood the English language. The fools wouldn't understand Chaucer if the book pranced across the floor in a NASCAR jersey and nothing else.

I spent the night writing up a lovely little speech for Mr. Leitmotif (writer and producer of Traum), which I ended up tossing before I made a fool of myself with flowery words and sycophantic grovelling. I had added him to my contact list using the name his assistant read me and spent the time I should have used to slog through some James Joyce staring blankly, yet earnestly, at the computer screen. He wasn't even calling until the morning, at 5:00 a.m. to be exact. Right before lunch. For him, at least.

I wanted to be early, so I woke up at an ungodly hour to get ready. I actually prettied myself up a bit, in the strictly professional sense. I riffled through the YouTube to divine how to make a "professional eye look," so dedicated was I to making a good impression. He had a red wine stain on his shirt. I just wanted to shoot myself during the entire interview. He asked me who would translate the play from German to English, and I told him the honour was mine. He laughed at me, so I corrected the English translations in the Special Edition DVD of one of their performances.

I promised that I was perfectly capable of writing within the meter and scope of the play and would send him any changes I felt necessary to make without detracting from the whole experience. I spent an hour and a half wheedling him, before he granted rights on the grounds that I hand over my translation of the lyrics only to him. I managed to get him to split potential publishing rights with me (Note to my readers: never try to out-weasel the scion of an academic and athlete, for we know our way around confounding and swindling contracts). We made another appointment for December, where we would touch base, and he would give the final green light.

Why am I telling you? Well, I was almost late for school because of this meeting. Thus I had no time to change or imbibe a healthy breakfast. I blame my behaviour on that. I actually skipped part of drama, but I'll explain that in a moment.

In the morning, the plaza that exists within the three wings of our beloved institution is always filled with ambling students, enjoying the last hot days before autumn forced us all into sweatshirts and rain jackets. I passed the garish science wing, striding quickly across the lawn to the entrance of the humanities wing. Between the two, sitting across from one another, are the offices, which are separate from the main building, and the gymnasiums and theatre. Sara Jane, an old acquaintance, was sitting with Regina, another former acquaintance, and Hadrian on one of the wrought-iron benches lining the plaza.

"No, no." Sara Jane smiled, blindingly bright. "This one's even better!" She scrolled through her laptop, and the others burst into laughter.

"'My skin is a scale of teeth.' Are you serious? Who writes this shi[z]?" Hadrian's voice carried far and wide.


Excerpted from "Running Out of Air"
by .
Copyright © 2018 K.T. Swift.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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