The world’s next beloved Young Adult franchise — part 1
Young Adult stories can be magnificent: nuanced, intelligent, sensitive and epic. But a lot of the time, they can be… this.
My name is Rose Lily Virtuosity.
I’m nothing special. I have flowing, thick auburn hair, a fair and near-symmetrical face free of blemish, a dainty nose, large pretty eyes, and I’m skinny.
Basically I’m so plain and average, it’s obscene. I wish I were special or beautiful. Curse these infernal, undesirable looks! Why can’t I be more like Lopsided Brenda from down the road? When she walks by, she turns heads.
Not boring, typical, regular little me. I’m just a nobody.
Also I trip over things sometimes.
I live with my dad. My mom left us when I was a baby. I hate her. She means nothing to me. She never features in my thoughts. I don’t care about her at all. She might as well not exist. She’s so utterly irrelevant to me that there’s no need to ever even think about her. Nope, there is no chance whatsoever that she’ll surface in my life very soon to provide me with some kind of nice, neat closure.
I’ve lived in this boring, tiny town of Sticksville all my life. It’s alright — if you like being bored out of your senses every minute of every day. Hello, Sticksville? It’s excitement calling — ready for me yet?!
It’s a cold September morning — the first day of school year. I make my way to Sticksville High. On the way I accidentally trip over my own idiocy eight times in an earthly yet endearing manner.
I hate school. Pretty much everyone thinks I’m some weird gawky misfit. But it’s okay, I always ignore them by hiding behind my prized copy of War and Peace.
Another day, another deep conviction that I will never be The Chosen One. If only something exciting would happen around here… but it won’t. Ever. And certainly not to me. Because I’m too ordinary.
“Hey, Unpopular Ursula!” I go over to sit next to my best friend in the canteen. She readjusts her glasses and splutters for several minutes.
“Golly — gosh — hi there, Rose!” she exclaims. “Have you heard the news?!” Unpopular Ursula points towards the corner. “There’s a new kid in town!!!”
At first I don’t believe Unpopular Ursula — everyone in Sticksville knows that new kids only happen once every 40,000 years. But then I look over and see she’s right.
And I know immediately that my life has changed forever.
The new kid is in the corner, sitting by himself. A tray is perched on his lap, but his lunch looks untouched. He’s in a tense, hunched position — he almost seems like he’s afraid. I can’t see his face properly because he’s shrouded in a hooded cloak made of fog and the fragile dreams of orphaned children, but I know he’s looking at me. I can feel it.
“Geez Louise!” wails Unpopular Ursula, flailing her arms around like an agitated chimp. “What is that guy’s problem, anyway?!” Unpopular Ursula peers closely at the figure over her big nerd glasses. “Is that a mauled squirrel on his plate?”
Never averting his gaze from me, the man darts a gnarled claw out from his cloak, seizes the squirrel and inhales its soul. Something about the way he does it makes me think of my mom, who I never ever think about because she is terrible dirt garbage.
“I… I guess he didn’t want the lasagne,” I manage. I’m still gazing at the mysterious man. “I…” I can’t seem to draw my eyes away. There’s something weird about him, but I can’t work out what it is.
“Come on Rose,” screams Unpopular Ursula. “It’s time for our favourite thing in the entire world, Trigonometry Hour. You… you’re not going to miss Trigonometry Hour, are you?”
I don’t know how to explain to Unpopular Ursula that, for the first time in my life, I’m thinking about skipping Trigonometry Hour. That the man looking at me right now seems to know me better than I’ve ever known myself. That something irrevocable has happened today, and I don’t think I can ever go back.
Unpopular Ursula starts crying, so I get up and go to Trigonometry Hour. It’s torture to tear my eyes away, and I know he’s looking at me as we leave.
For once, I can’t keep my mind on Pythagoras. Somehow, in the depths of my bones, I know I’ll be seeing that new kid again.
After tripping on the stairs twice, I manage to make my way out of school. As I’m walking home, clutching my much-loved copy of Anna Karenina to my chest and marvelling at how much I don’t care about my mom who probably left me because of how devastatingly ordinary I am, I suddenly hear a whisper from the trees.
“Rose Lily Virtuosity… Rose Lily Virtuosity…”
Instinctively, I know it’s him. My tongue lolls and my eyes roll and I spontaneously swoon with fear and longing.
When I come to on the pavement, he’s there on his knees cradling my head, looking at me. He’s taken his hood off, and I can see his face properly. He has flowing, thick auburn hair, a fair and near-symmetrical face free of blemish, a dainty nose, large pretty eyes, and he’s skinny.
I don’t know why, but I find him instantly beguiling.
He smiles. “Here,” he murmurs charmingly, pushing something into my hands. “You dropped your cherished copy of Great Expectations.”
“Oh… Thank you…”
“Rose,” he begins attractively. “There’s something you need to know.”
I blink at him in dread. “How do you know my name?!”
“I know more about you than that,” he laughs enchantingly. “But Rose, we don’t have time for all that.”
His piercing gaze is full of urgency and animal magnetism. “A war is coming, Rose. A great war which could destroy hundreds. An immense war which could annihilate thousands. A colossal war which could terminate millions. And you, Rose, only you have the power to stop it.”
I get up off the ground, tumble back down again, and repeat this seven times. “Me? Why me?”
“There’s no time!” he hisses captivatingly. “Come to my house at once. I will tell you everything, I promise. Rose, you have to trust me.” He holds out his hand.
Perhaps like my mother spontaneously fleeing our house in the middle of the night — not that I ever think about that — I know I have to go. Because this is much bigger than me. I feel it, deep inside, like nothing I’ve ever known before. This is life and death. This is the truth. Maybe now, everything will finally start making sense.
So I take his hand and let an enigmatic stranger I’ve spoken to for a total of twenty-eight seconds lead me to his house in the woods.