Genre: MG Adventure/Sci Fi
Title: The Girl Who Was Ordinary, Until She Wasn't
There was absolutely nothing special about Jane.
Jane Hale was as ordinary as could be, from her mouse-brown hair to the toes of her sensible shoes. She never took home an A+ from school, never scored the winning goal, never went to the big parties and never even tried to disobey her parents. Of course, the Hales were always there, from her not-so-terrible two’s, right up to her not-so-troublesome teenage years, reminding her of what a special little girl she was. Mr. and Mrs. Hale beamed and coaxed and fussed, and they always claimed to take pride in their daughter’s overwhelmingly dull life.
For years, Mr. and Mrs. Hale fought off tears of boredom every time they thought about Jane. And so they tried desperately to change their daughter’s ways. They signed her up for music lessons (she played a mediocre piano), bought her exotic pets (she turned out to be allergic) and even enrolled her in private school (the addition of a school uniform had only made her more difficult to locate in a crowd). It was no use. Jane’s blandness defied them year after year.
But this year was going to be different.
At preciselyon the morning of September the 4th, Jane’s bedroom door swung open and Jane skidded out into the hallway, tugging at her pleated skirt and pulling up her mismatched socks. Can’t be late, she thought to herself as she raced across the purple hardwood floor and headed for the stairs. Oh no, oh, no, oh no. She thundered down the steps, deftly dodging the stone gargoyles and plastic flamingoes her parents had placed there for decoration. I can’t be late on my first day of high school.
Still huffing and puffing, Jane leapt off the bottom stair and slid to a stop in the family kitchen.
“Exactly on time, as usual. That’s our predictable daughter,” Jane’s mother sighed.
Mrs. Hale stood by the stove in a Victorian ball gown and powered orange wig, flipping something that looked uncomfortably like a bright green pancake. Mr. Hale was already seated at the table in a top hat and a pair of overalls, with his round face buried in the folds of a newspaper; Jane quietly slipped into the chair beside his.
“Ready for school?” he asked, turning his eyes back to a rather fascinating article about bank robberies.
“Yes,” she replied. Jane rarely offered up any more information than was necessary. Some girls her age might have gushed about the cute boys they were going to meet; others might have griped that eyeliner didn’t come in a shade dark enough to match their souls. Not Jane. Her mother fought back a sigh.
“Jane, darling, we need to have a word about your outfit.” Mrs. Hale bit her lip.
“Why?” Jane looked down at the crisp blouse and maroon blazer that made up the uniform of her new school. It wouldn’t have been her first choice of colour, but the thought of wearing exactly the same thing as everyone else filled her with quiet joy. “This is what they told me to wear. Did I get a stain on it somewhere?”
“Oh, no, darling, don’t be silly; you’re not nearly exciting enough for that.” Mrs. Hale flipped off the stove and slid a green pancake onto Jane’s plate, “It’s just that we’ve transferred you to another school.”
Jane dropped her forkful of lawn-coloured breakfast. “What?”
“Yes, you’re enrolled in Snicket High School now. It’s a public school, dear. Oh, and you’ll be taking the bus there, I forgot to mention that.”
“What? Why would you do that to me? You didn’t even tell me!” Jane pushed her plate away and stared at her mother, open-mouthed. She was breathing much too quickly; in, out, in, out, in, out. Maybe they’re kidding, she thought desperately. Even they wouldn’t do something like that without telling me. It’s got to be a joke.
“We wanted it to be a surprise, darling! You’ll have much more fun at public school than at some stuffy old private school,” Mrs. Hale explained.
This was a lie.
Jane’s parents believed that high school was a prime opportunity for personal growth, tacky haircuts and life-long emotional wounding. To that end, they’d quietly enrolled their daughter at Snicket High School, a large public institution across town that boasted the fifth worst test scores in the region. Snicket High was noisy, crowded and exactly 7.6 kilometres from the Hale home, ensuring that Jane would have to take the bus to and from school for maximum trauma.
Mr. and Mrs. Hale were pleased. Jane was not.
“But Mom, I’m not even dressed for… you didn’t even tell me… I have to go change!” Jane sprung up from her seat and turned for the stairs; she couldn’t bear the shame of being the only one at school in a uniform. But Mrs. Hale grabbed her wrist and gently pulled her back down into her seat.
“Oh, I don’t think you have time for that, dear. There’s a little something else that your father and I need to discuss with you.”
Whatever her parents had to say, Jane was almost certain she wouldn’t like it. She started to get up from the table, mumbling about forgetting to brush her teeth, but her mother pulled her back down again.
“Look at me for a moment.” Mrs. Hale gently held Jane’s chin in her palm. “You know your father and I have been very patient with you all these years. We’ve dedicated an unreasonable amount of time and money to solving your little problem.”
Jane sighed. She was average, but she wasn’t stupid; she knew all too well where this conversation was going. “Problem? Mom, I don’t have a problem. I’ve never failed a class, never been in trouble at school, never stolen anything–”
“Stealing! Oh, that would be a wonderful start, don’t you think?” Mrs. Hale actually clapped her hands.
“Stealing. Very good,” mumbled Mr. Hale from behind his paper, and turned the page to a rather fascinating article about kidnapping.
“You can’t be serious.” Jane gaped at her mother.
“Oh, but of course I’m serious! Do you remember the time we smuggled that hyena into the country for you? Or when we signed you up for crocodile wrestling lessons? Or that time we dyed your hair blue?”
Jane shuddered. Oh, yes, she did remember.
“We didn’t do that for our benefit; it was all for your own good! We want what’s best for you, Jane. And we want what’s best for ourselves, too.”
This was precisely the 287th time that Jane had been subjected to this conversation, but it was the very first time that either of the Hale parents had ever mentioned their own interests. Jane was almost certain that this was a bad sign.
“What do you mean?”
“Jane, your father and I aren’t immortal; someday, we’re not going to be around to take care of you. Or to take care of our fortune.”
“Fortune?” At no point in Jane’s fifteen years of life had there been talk of any fortune. She looked around the kitchen, taking in the five-year-old stove, fifteen-year-old microwave, and two-hundred-and-thirty-seven-
year-old suit of armor propped against the pantry door. My parents have got to be messing with me this time, she decided. There’s no way we’re rich.
“Yes, yes.” Mrs. Hale waved her hand, brushing off Jane’s doubts that a fabulously wealthy couple would choose to live in a cluttered split-level.