Protag

By Alyssa Riley
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Continue reading from the print version of Issue 9…

—June had just gotten home from high school to find her mother had locked herself in
the guestroom. June had a slight idea why.

However, it was hard to think about anything while June’s 10-year-old sister sat outside
the guestroom door, weeping, begging their mother to come out of the room. June’s other
younger sister was nowhere to be found. Probably locked herself in her own room.

“What is she doing?” June asked, placing her backpack down.

Ashley wiped her eyes, breathing heavily. “Sh-sh-she’s on the phone with d-dad,” she replied, stuttering through the sobbing. “And sh-she’s screaming and crying and they’re fighting and I don’t know what t-t-to do.”

Stress started to settle around June, covering her like an uncomfortable, prickly blanket. June’s mother and father had always been fighting. June’s father was quick to anger and didn’t really understand how to express his emotions very well, and to make matters worse, he was only home every two weeks because of his job, a job the family needed to survive. June’s mother was quick to cry and had no backbone to standup for herself, and she had been raising their three daughters mostly by herself for 14 years. They were both good parents that loved their children—and their children loved them back—but they seemed to not love each other anymore. June walked up to the door and knocked on it.

“Mama,” June called out. “What’s going on?”

No one replied for a second, but June could hear rustling and sniffling behind the door.

“Just talking to your father,” June’s mother replied a few moments later, still not opening the door.

“Can we come in?” June asked, but already knew the answer.

“No, sweetheart,” she said. “I’m almost done, just give me a few more minutes.”

June took a seat next to Ashley, and they sat there together, waiting for their mother to come back. She doesn’t really come back until a few months later, when June’s parents got a divorce.—

—Lindsey was hanging out with her friend Josh in his dorm room. Her second semester of college had just started, and it was going pretty well. Josh and Lindsey had just gotten done eating their food from the Otter Express and were trying to decide what else to do tonight, but really had no ideas.

“Do you remember how we became friends?” Lindsey asked, breaking the silence after an unknown period of time. The question randomly came to her.

“Hmmm,” Josh pondered, taking a few seconds to think. “Honestly? Not really, I just remember how we met.”

“Bruh,” Lindsey said, using the word unironically because she loved it. “That’s so crazy, I don’t remember how we became friends either!” It had only been a few months since they became friends, so how come they couldn’t they remember?

Josh then grabbed a pen and a piece of paper off his desk and started scribbling. Lindsey moved her chair closer to see what he was doing.

“Let’s make a chart and see if we can figure it out,” he said. “I met you through Elena.”

Josh drew a line from his name to her name. “And Elena met me through…”

They continued this process, recounting old memories (ones that had only happened last semester, but that’s beside the point) and trying so hard to remember how they became friends. However, after going back as far as they could, they couldn’t figure it out, but they did notice one thing.

“You, Elena, and Matthew have done a lot of things,” Lindsey said, looking at the many lines outstretched from their names. “You guys are like main characters.”

“Yeah, I guess we kinda are,” he responded. “We’ve made things happen, we’ve gotten things done.”

“And I haven’t,” Lindsey admitted, oddly embarrassed by her lack of lines, knowing the reason she didn’t have as many is because she was terrified of putting herself out there, of talking to strangers, of people not liking her.

“No, I guess not.”

Josh went back to hunching over the paper, filling in the lines on the chart and adding some finer details to the writing. Lindsey sat in her chair and wished she was a protagonist.—

—Kim didn’t know how this conversation with her mother to begin, but she wished it would end.

“It’s none of my business,” her mother said as her and Kim headed into town in Kim’s Kia Soul. “But you know what the Bible says, it’s not okay. I won’t judge them—because God is already doing that—and I won’t be mean and rude, but I can’t accept it.”

“What if I was gay?” Kim asked, knowing her mother would just assume it was a hypothetical question.

“I would still love you,” she replied. “And it would be hard for me to get used to, but that doesn’t matter.”

Kim nodded and laughed in agreement, just wanting to drop the subject, while her real self silently sat and wished God—and her mother—could accept her.—

Exclusive online content, continued from the print version of Issue 9.

—A Monday, the beginning of the week. Carly still had about an hour to sleep but had just woken up because of her bladder, like she did every morning. She tossed over and grabbed her phone off the charger, looking at the time. She groaned, knowing that if she got up now to use the bathroom, she’ll be too anxious to go back to sleep once she gets back into bed, and she needed all her sleep for the upcoming spring 2018 finals, but she obviously couldn’t just let herself pee the bed. She prepared herself to get out from underneath her warm blankets when she noticed an email notification, underneath the time.

In The Ords it said, ITO Acceptance Letter.

An acceptance letter? In The Ords had already sent her a rejection letter only a few weeks ago, this had to be a mistake. Actually yeah! It was absolutely a mistake, Carly realized.

When she had gone onto the website after having her dreams shattered from the rejection letter, Carly saw that another girl with the same first name as her had gotten a fiction piece published, just like Carly was hoping to get published.

This must be the acceptance letter for her, Carly rationalized, and they just accidentally sent it to this Carly instead of the other one. However, Carly was still going to open that email because Carly was a nosey girl. She opened the notification.

On further inspection, Carly realized that this email was for her. It used her full name and everything, so it couldn’t have been sent to the wrong person. The email said that her piece actually was published, just in the second volume of the journal instead of the first. Carly couldn’t believe it, she had already accepted the rejection and had moved on, but this was just amazing! Her first published piece, officially a published author. She had waited 20 years for this, and it had finally happened. Carly had instantly forgotten that she had lost an hour of sleep and had a pretty good Monday.—

—It was the day after Valentine’s Day her senior year of high school and Hannah was spending it with her boyfriend. They were laying on the couch in his basement and watching a movie, something they did almost every single time they hung out. Hannah didn’t mind though, she loved being lazy.

Jake, Hannah’s boyfriend, looked somewhat distraught. He kept looking over at Hannah, slightly open his mouth like he was going to say something, and then remained silent. Finally, he gently grabbed Hannah’s face, caressing her cheek with his thumb and looked deep into Hannah’s eyes.

“I love you,” he said, sounding unsure, afraid, worried.

Instantly, Hannah started to cry. She could feel her heart warm and the butterflies in her stomach come to life. Jake, although not surprised by his girlfriend’s reaction (Hannah literally cries all the time), started to worry when she wouldn’t say anything back and instead continued to weep.

“I wanted to tell you yesterday,” he continued, hoping she would finally respond. “You know, for Valentine’s Day, but I got scared.”

Hannah laughed—an ugly, cry-laugh, but still a laugh. She leaned her head the rest of the way towards him and kissed him, her heart full.

“I love you too,” she said. And she truly did, up until she broke up with him about a year later.—

—It was only about two years ago when I had the conversation with Josh about being a main character, but I had assumed from an early age that I wasn’t one of them. I’ve met many main characters, you must know the ones. The ones who are the loudest, the most fun to be around, the most rememberable, the most interesting. And it was easy to see, I wasn’t any of those things. I was always a side character, and in some cases, I even had the honor of being a secondary character in someone else’s story. The truth of this hurt me; I wanted to be more outgoing and more social and more involved, but then I realized that I didn’t need to be a main character in someone else’s life, I could be my own star in my own life. Just because I might have unimportant roll in other’s lives doesn’t mean I can’t be the leader of my story. All those stories were mine, and I deserve to have the main roll. So, here’s one final story, starring me: Alyssa was born on February 28th, 1998. She was the first daughter of a 30-year mother and a 28 year old father. The couple had been married for 8-ish years but decided to wait this long to finally have a kid, and oh my, was she pretty. Dark eyes, a little patch of dark hair, and a pink, squishy body. She was a canvas of a person, ready to be molded and live her story.

“Hello Alyssa,” the mother cooed. She settled on the name Alyssa after Alyssa Milano, one of her favorite actresses. Following Alyssa’s Milano’s steps, Alyssa would also be pretty successful, and eventually go off to college, like any parent would wish, where she’ll write the following things to end her autobiography:

I am Alyssa. I am a Pisces. I am a feminist. I like playing video games and I like writing. I drive a blue 2011 Kia Soul, named Tia the Kia. I like coffee flavored ice cream but not actual coffee. I am pansexual. Paramore is my favorite band. I love Arby’s mozzarella sticks. I am a protagonist.

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