Home > Ella's Twisted Senior Year

Ella's Twisted Senior Year
Author: Amy Sparling

Chapter 1



Senior year art class is supposed to be an easy credit. So why is Ms. Cleary standing over me, hand on her hip and a look on her face that says she thinks my watercolor should be able to cure smallpox when I’m finished? I bite my lip and look up at her cat eye glasses, the paintbrush wavering in my grip.

“Is there a problem?” I ask.

Her lips press together and she smiles, and it’s one of those expressions that you’d give to a two-year-old who wants to feed themselves but they’d only make a mess so you can’t let them have the spoon.

“All of your flower stems are exactly the same,” she says, bending her hand in an arc. “You know flowers in real life aren’t always perfect like that.”

I lift my shoulders. A drop of green paint falls onto the paper. “Can’t my painting be a representation of perfection?” I ask, figuring it sounds like something arty to say.

She chuckles and moves on to torture the next student. I dip my brush back in the paint and drag it down the paper, making another perfect flower stem. Here’s the thing: I am not an artist. But I can paint my nails with moderate level accuracy, only needing to peel off some paint from my cuticles for the next day or so, and I’m also great at making grilled cheese. And once I’m in culinary school, I’ll figure out a way to become Texas’ greatest cupcake baker because right now I’m not exactly wonderful at that either even though it’s my passion. So except for art, I’m doing okay in the skills department.

Art is just my easy credit. If only Ms. Cleary would see it that way.

All at once, a loud buzzing sounds from every cell phone in the room. I jump, creating one royally screwed up flower stem and reach into my back pocket for my phone.

“Tornado warning,” someone says. One by one, everyone dismisses the alarm on their phone and we go back to working on what Ms. Cleary will surely deem unacceptable artwork.

It’s been raining a lot lately, and the weather has been bipolar as hell for March in Texas. Usually it’s starting to warm up here, but lately it’s been alternating one day so hot you can go swimming and the next day you’re freezing in your shorts and flip flops, cranking up the heater in the car.

Today is a cold day. I bite my tongue and try to work the crooked stem into something resembling leaves or thorns, or a floral vine thing. It doesn’t really work out.

I dunk the paintbrush back in my cup of water and turn to get up and throw it away. I’ll start over and Ms. Cleary will admire my dedication to the craft. Or maybe she won’t notice at all.

I rise and turn toward the back of the classroom, which is a wall of glass that looks out into the soccer field.

“Whoa,” I say, as the crappy painting falls straight to the floor. “Uh, guys?” My voice is higher than I’d expected, the panic already setting in. The entire sky is black in the middle of the day. Hovering in the air just a mile or so away is an unmistakable funnel cloud. It’s getting bigger by the second.

“Holy shit,” Jack Grayson says, rushing past me to stand directly in front of the window. “It’s a tornado, guys!”

More people rush to the window. Ms. Cleary shouts something about calming down and I just stand here, watching in awe as the funnel swirls and twists, like a creepy witch finger appearing out of the sky, wanting to destroy everything in its path.

Sirens explode through the school, twice as loud as the cell phone interruption a few minutes ago. Lights in the corner of the room flicker and wail and I wonder why I never noticed them before. They’re not the small rectangular fire alarms, but something else.

Chaos erupts in the art room as people tramp over my fallen painting to get to the window. I push through the crowd and get my backpack, throwing it over my shoulder. Everyone else might be idiots, but I don’t want to be near the solid glass window when that thing comes by. It’s a freaking tornado, not a cute puppy.

Luckily, the sirens go off a second later and Principal Reynolds’ voice booms over the loud speaker.

“Due to the tornado warning, we will begin the procedure to shelter in place in the school. Students in the specials classrooms need to proceed to the E hallway immediately. Leave all classrooms with window walls and sit in an orderly row in E hallway.”

He goes on, talking about how the other classrooms should shelter in place, but Ms. Cleary talks over him since we’re in a specials classroom. Only the arts and electives classes are on this end of the school and they all have window walls to inspire creativity. The other half of the school is safe in their windowless, insane asylum white walls.

With my backpack clutched safely in my arms, I head out of the classroom, following everyone else to the E hallway. My phone buzzes in my back pocket but we’re jammed in the hall like sardines so I don’t grab it. Instead, I make my way through the people until we get to E hall and then I stop against the wall and slide down to my butt while everyone files past me.

E hallway is long, separating the band room and the locker rooms from the auditorium on the other side. It’s probably the longest solid hallway in the school, but at the end of it is of course, a set of double glass doors, and that’s where most people are rushing to.

Again, I picture the glass shattering into a million pieces, making my face look like road kill. So no thanks, I’ll just sit right here at the safe end of the hallway.

All of the buzzing in my back pocket was from April, my best friend. I grin as I read through her messages.


April: Dude, are you dead?

April: Because with the way Ms. Graham is acting in here, EVERYONE IS DEAD.

April: Okay, now you’re not answering. How’s that end of the school holding up? You better not be dead.


She’s in History, stuck in one of those windowless classrooms. I type out a reply as the stench of sweat and rubber running shoes fills the hallway.


Me: Still alive. Unless I’m a ghost and haven’t realized it yet. Will report back if I can walk through walls.


I look up and find the source of the stench came from the boy’s locker room. Ugh. I try to hold my breath as they file past, mostly ignoring the coach’s demands to pick a spot on the wall and sit down.

People shuffle in and around, talking and sharing images of the tornado that have already hit social media.

I bring my knees up and rest my hands on them, blowing out air to get my hair out of my face. I don’t exactly have a ton of friends at West Canyon High School and the ones I do have aren’t here.

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