Summary: Fern hates public speaking, especially when she has to read her school assignments to her peers. But this assembly is different because her work could have unintended consequences…and because it keeps happening. Every day is a new day but the scenario is the same. Fern is stuck in a time loop and she has no idea how to escape. Can also be found here on ff.net.
Around ten, Fern was called out of class to attend a short rehearsal before the actual talk. This didn’t happen the first time she read, if she ever really read in the first place, but she was grateful for this change. It gave her a chance to really look at what she’d written yet again, and she thought it would be a way to gauge the possibilities of how this crowd could react.
But as she looked over the poem they handed her, Fern realized it wasn’t the one she’d written. Her first piece was written in English class on a day when society was really bugging her. This poem seemed to be written by another person, a love-sick soul who’d just been accepted by their first crush turned boyfriend, and Fern found her jaw dropping as she looked over the words. The principal immediately grew concerned, but Fern was able to compose herself long enough for the adults to look away. Then she looked over the poem again, reading it word for word.
As she read, the memory came to her of writing the poem in English class. She’d had a major crush for a while, she realized, and she was hoping something would come of it soon. She wrote the poem as a way to release these feelings, not realizing she was about to face another proposition. Later in the day, another student decided to take their own crush into their hands, Alan Powers. And Fern said yes in an attempt to make her own crush jealous enough to act.
Fern’s poem wasn’t about her boyfriend, Brain. It was about someone else entirely, and Fern had no idea who it was. While she had the memory of composing the work, she had no way of knowing who she really had a crush on.
Her first instinct was to rush off and find her only good friend, Jenna, to see what she had to say, or to run off to her locker to see whose name or initials she wrote in her notes. Fern wanted to be an investigator, but she also had a duty to fulfill. Somehow her lovesick poem was picked above all others, and as the principal went over how the event would play out, several people came into the gym. The first was a journalist and their photographer, a pair Fern recognized to be from the newspaper thanks to another event she’d attended. Them she didn’t mind, but the people who came in after her, a television journalist and two guys with cameras, shook her to her core. Just like her “first reading,” the news would be covering the event.
“Alright, the event starts in ten minutes. I want all of you backstage because we’re about to call the freshmen in. Don’t worry, everyone, this is sure to go over like clockwork,” the principal smiled, winking before rushing back into the school. Fern followed the others backstage, where she was showed a seat next to the wall. The other school officials mingled nearby but out of earshot, and Fern wondered if she could get away with a quick trip to her locker. Finding Jenna was out of the question if the school was about to move everyone into the auditorium. She needed another way out, but she didn’t know if she could manage it.
The crowd noise from the auditorium told her there was no time. The noise level only grew louder and louder as the last remaining minutes ticked by slower and slower. Just when Fern thought it couldn’t get any louder, the room fell quiet. As the principal took to the stage, the other officials took designated spots on the stage. Fern watched from her seat as they all sat at attention in their seats. Fern gulped. It was almost time.
Fern could feel this reading had gone much better as she returned to her sanctuary backstage. She received no dirty looks and the clapping when she was finished sounded genuine. As she and the rest of the student body returned to class, she felt the event could be pushed from her memory when it came to consequences, but Fern knew the reading held a secret. Who was her poem written for if she hadn’t written it about Brain?
Before her next class, Fern visited her locker and dug around for any loose papers, notebooks, or anything else that could contain any clues. As she touched underneath her history textbook, she felt a photograph. She picked it up and studied it before hurling it to the back of her locker and slamming the door shut.
Fern’s breath barely came to her as the moment registered for her. The photograph at the bottom of her locker was of Jenna. It was a yearbook picture from the previous year, a picture she’d given Fern for a scrapbook, or so she thought. Seeing the photograph, which was now in a red paper frame with hearts, gave Fern a different memory. Yes, she had asked for the photo for a scrapbook, but in this reality, it was because she had a crush on the girl.
The poem was written for Jenna.
The realization jarred Fern, but she had to keep going. She moved into her next class and was alarmed to see Jenna sitting next to what she felt was her spot. Jenna smiled when Fern arrived and put her hand on Fern’s…
“I’m so glad you got to read that poem. It was beautiful,” Jenna smiled, moving her hand away so she could pull out a pen for class.
The realization hit Fern like a ton of bricks. She was in a relationship with Jenna as well as Brain.
The stress was too much. Fern excused herself from class to go to the restroom, but she really went to the nurse’s office. The woman on duty took one look at her and agreed to call her mother.
Doria looked at Fern with a sympathetic smile. She knew the day would be eventful for her daughter, but she never expected her daughter to call home within an hour of the assembly ill as a dog. Fern looked pale and distant, and Doria needed to know what had happened.
“Look, I know you’ve been keeping things from me, but I need to know why reading your poem was so stressful for you. Do you mind discussing it with me?” Doria asked.
Fern hesitated before responding. She told her mother everything, so hearing that she could’ve been hiding something made her worry. Fern decided the best way to get any real answers was to say it all, “I’m in a relationship with a guy and a girl. I thought at first that I was with him to make her jealous, but now I think I’m with both of them because I want to be, and I’m just so confused!”
Doria gripped the steering wheel as she stopped in thick lunch traffic downtown. She swallowed and smiled, “Well, you’ve told me for months that you had some decisions to make. I don’t know how society is to know if you can really keep both relationships without hurting someone or yourself, but I can honestly say that you should do whatever makes you happy and worry about the consequences later.”
Fern looked out the window as traffic inched forward. What did she want to make her happy? Fern felt like she’d just woke up in this world with a mound of problems on her shoulders, and she was partly right. This didn’t feel like that movie Groundhog Day. This felt like she was waking up in a different reality every day, and today’s reality had her in a bisexual love triangle that the whole school must have known about.
Once they were home, Fern decided to go online to see if she could find out what people were saying. What she found was an email from Brain written during the lunch hour, and it wasn’t pleasant. Apparently everyone didn’t know, but hearing her poem made him realize he wasn’t the only object of her affection. He wanted answers, and Fern wanted to give them, but she didn’t know if she should mess things up or work damage control. Was this even her life anymore?
Brain wanted to talk after school, so Fern decided to wait. She felt lightheaded from the day’s events, and she decided the best thing she could do for herself was to take an ibuprofen for her growing headache and try to take a short nap.
Not long after going to sleep, Fern felt herself wake up with a start. Her heart was pounding as she looked around the room. It was the living room still, which was good, but it was extremely hot in the room. Fern looked around and realized the power was out and that her parents were in the room too. Her mother was wearing a bathing suit and her father was shirtless in khaki shorts nearby.
Fern tiptoed into the kitchen and found the daily calendar. She sighed as she studied the date. Instead of May, it was July. Time had jumped again, and Fern could tell this was a different storyline altogether. She was out of school, so if she was reading a poem at an event, it must be a city-wide affair that would bring even more people to the event, and many more problems.