Palo Alto Weekly 23rd Annual Short Story Contest
First Place Teen

 

About Amelia RoschShort Story Contest

In her winning story, "Back and Forth," Amelia Rosch of Woodside portrays a burgeoning relationship between a high school boy and girl in a novel way --through note-passing, or text messaging, in class.

The story, written in the form of messages, can be read either as written notes or electronic texts, and Rosch relishes the ambiguity.
"I saw it more as notes; my sister read it as text messages -- it could go either way," said the 14-year-old author, a ninth-grader at Castilleja School. "When it's ambiguous it makes you think more and reach your own conclusions."

The initiator of the messages, a boy named Drew, at first seems to be pestering his target, Jen. But, over time and many messages, things change.
"At first she really doesn't like him. But they become friends as time goes on and by the end she definitely has feelings for him," Rosch said.

The author thinks the written mode of communication affects the very nature of Drew and Jen's relationship -- or the fact that they have any relationship at all. "Personally, I think if they hadn't met by passing notes they probably never would have become friends or anything because they're from different groups.

"When you're not talking to someone face to face you behave differently and can say different things. When I'm chatting with my friends online I can be a little more honest," Rosch said.
As a student at an all-girls school, Rosch said she found it particularly challenging to get the dialogue just right: "It was hard since I go to a non-coed school. I wasn't sure how people interact at a normal school. It was hard to get it to sound realistic."

Inspired by a relationship between two of her friends, Rosch began writing "Back and Forth" for a creative-writing class last summer, but set it aside and never turned it in.

"I thought it was basic and boring, so I started fooling around with how you write it and came up with the idea of notes."

The story has changed so much since then that her friends wouldn't recognize themselves -- probably a good thing, she said.

Rosch said she gets her inspiration from everyday life -- friends, family, sports and other interactions. "I'll see something and think 'That's really interesting,' and use it as a starting point."

Besides her passion for writing, Rosch fences on a club team at Stanford University along with her identical twin sister, Catherine. She plans to join the Castilleja student newspaper, The Counterpoint, next year.

A fan of Emily Bronte and J.D. Salinger, she aims to publish a novel herself someday. In November she took part in the National Novel Writing Month, which challenges participants to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

"I try to write 2,000 words a day but sometimes I get behind," she said. "It's hard to have new ideas and a consistent thought -- that's why I like short stories a little better."

-Chris Kenrick

BACK AND FORTH
by Amelia Rosch

Hey. What's up?
Hey…
It's polite to answer someone when they're talking to you.
I'm trying to pay attention. Maybe it's a concept you don't understand.
No need to be so rude. So, what's your name?
Jenny Bailey. Jen.
Cute name. Mine's Drew.
Jen? Jenny? You going to ignore me some more?
Fine. Be that way.

 

You have any idea what Flannigan is talking about?
I did until you began distracting me.
Sorry…I just have a question.
I shouldn't be talking to you. I should be paying attention.
Then why aren't you?
Because you are distracting me.
So don't let me distract you.
When you're getting hit by little pieces of paper, it's kind of hard not to be distracted.
It's not like I aim for your neck or anything.

 

Hey Jen. I like your shirt.
Why are you sitting next to me?
So we could talk and not have to distract you with notes. Want to talk?
No.
Are you mad at me? Yes. You are. You're wrinkling your right eyebrow.
How can you even read your notes? And what do you mean I wrinkle my eyebrow?
So you aren't mad at me! And I saw you.
I'm still mad at you. And I don't wrinkle my eyebrow.
You so wrinkle it. Don't even deny it.
By the way, nice try at getting me busted. See, unlike you, I have enough practice breaking the rules to not get caught. Nice try, though.
I wouldn't know since I never break the rules.
You're missing out.
Want to hang out after school?
Can't.
Why not?
Going over to my boyfriend's house.
You have a boyfriend?
Yeah. Jealous?

 

So. How was your darling boyfriend?
Ryan was fine, thank you.
Oh. His name is Ryan.
Stop laughing. I don't see what's so funny.
You mean your boyfriend is Ryan Allen?
Yes. He is. Are you going to say anything mean about him?
No. We don't hang out too much.
Because he has more sense than to hang out with a bunch of dumb jocks like you and your friends.
I'm hurt.
Good.
Is it just me or have you been wearing tighter shirts since we started sitting together?
What does that have to do with anything?
Nothing.
And why have you been sitting with me?
To talk to you.
We've talked. You can stop sitting with me and go back to goofing off with your lame-ass friends and those airheads who adore you.
Is someone jealous?

 

If you want to say something, you can stop hitting me and just tell me it.
You look really pretty today. You should wear skirts more often. Why don't you?
That's all you had to say to me?
Somone's blushing! It looks like someone is a little embarrassed. Did I embarrass you?
Shut up. I'm not embarrassed.
Of course. Because turning bright red is totally normal.
Did you just check your appearance in that mirror? Someone's awful vain.
I'm not vain. So you can just shut up right now.
Okay. I was just fooling with you.
Is there any way I could convince you not to sit with me? Or would it be easier to give it up as a lost cause?
Lost cause. Most definitly.
What if I sat with someone else?
I'd tell them to move.
And what if they didn't want to move for some arrogant idiot?
Trust me. They'd move.
Someone's overconfident.
And proud of it.

 

Hey. Thanks for saving my ass in science.
It was nothing.
That was one of the most humiliating things I've ever done.
Making a mistake in science? Anyone could splatter themselves with fetal pig guts…
So not helping.
It's not that bad. I've done way worse.
Fine. One of the most embarrassing things I've ever done.
What other embarrassing things have you done?
Why would I tell you?
Because you love me so much.
You wish.
Yeah. I do.
What's that supposed to mean?
You'll find out.

 

Want to eat lunch together today?
Not really. Why?
Just curious. You sure you don't want to eat lunch with me?
Why does it matter so much? Do you have something planned that you're going to do at lunch?
Maybe.
How pissed of would I be if you did it?
What are your feelings about peanut butter and feathers?
No.

 

What's your phone number?
Why do you want to know?
So I can stalk you and go to your house and then kill you. What do you think? It's so I can call you. I thought you were supposed to be smart or something.
I am smart.
Really?
You're mad at me because I didn't laugh at your covering an innocent kid in peanut butter and feathers.
You have to admit that it was pretty funny.
No. It wasn't funny in the least.
You're smiling. Don't deny it.
Fine. Maybe it was a little funny. But just a bit. Not a lot.
Good girl, Jen. Good girl.
Shut up. I'm not a dog.
I'm not stupid.
Who knew?
What's your phone number?
408-815-8082. What's yours?
408-563-9726. I'll call you at tonight at eight. Okay?

 

Why didn't you pick up when I called you?
I was busy.
With what?
A little thing called homework that some of us actually try to do. Unlike certain people in my math class that I could mention.
Who? Me?
Fine. I feel so loved. Being ignored so you can take notes about what's going to be on the next test.

 

What did you think of the math test?
Honestly?
Yeah.
It was easy.
It was not easy.
Actually it was.
No. That was the hardest test I ever took.
Really? I thought it was one of the easiest tests I've taken.
How could it be easy? You didn't even study for it. And you never even pay attention in class.
It was just an easy test.
It was so not easy.
Someone is jealous.
I'm so not jealous.
Look. I'll make a deal with you. Okay?
What is this deal made up of?
If I get a higher grade on the test than you, I get to take you out to dinner next weekend. If you get a higher grade, I'll stop bugging you. Deal?
Deal. Be prepard to leave me alone.
I wouldn't be so cocky if I were you…

 

How did that happen?
Do you like Italian? And does seven o'clock work for you? Because there's this great Italian place I want to take you to, but the only reservation time they have is seven on the weekends. And I already made reservations.
You planned ahead?
Yeah. Why not?
You knew you were going to win?
I didn't know. But I guessed.
How the hell did you guess that I'd get half a point lower than you? That's impossible to know. Unless you talked to Flannigan.
Let's just say I have my sources…
Shut up.
So. Will six-thirty on Saturday work?
Sure.
Sweetness. I'll pick you up at your house.
Joys. I can't wait.

 

Jen? Not talking to me? Because that's really mature.
Go away. I think I made it obvious that I don't want to speak to you right now.
Look. I didn't know you'd get that mad at me. It wasn't anything that bad. It was just one little kiss.
I have a boyfriend.
I know.
Then why did you kiss me?
It's not my fault that you looked so cute. If you didn't want me to kiss you, you shouldn't have worn that little dress.
You're blaming me?
Looks like it.
It's so not my fault.
Shouldn't have kissed back.
I did not kiss you back.
I think I felt some tongue action. You definitly kissed me back. Maybe someone doesn't love Ryan as much as they thought they did.

 

Why did you slap me?
You deserved it.
Well, I didn't deserve a detention. I'm missing a lacrosse pratice for this. The coach is going to have my ass for this.
Cry me a river.

 

I can't believe this.
Since when did Ortiz assign us lab partners?
Since today, I guess.
Yeah. Looks like we're stuck together.
I'm sorry.
Why are you apologizing?
I figure that if we're stuck together, I should try to make you happy so I can get a good grade.
Bastard.
We going to work together or not?
Why not? We might as well for appearance's sakes. Even though I could probably get us an A on my own.
Someone is awful modest.
You know it's true.
Trust me. I know.
So. Are we going to be friends or not?
Could we just be lab partners for now? And then maybe try to be friends.
We were friends before.
Some friends. We only talked to each other in class. Through notes.

 

Good job at the lacrosse game yesterday. I can't believe you guys won.
I thought you didn't like watching sports since they were a waste of time.
You should have someone who isn't a complete moron cheering for you.
When you say complete moron, I'm assuming you mean Kelly Clarke.
Of course. Can you believe what an airhead she is? How can guys like girls like her?
Sounds like someone is jealous.
I'm not jealous. You're just making things up now.
And you hugged me as soon as I got off the field because why exactly? You'll have to remind me.
To congratulate you.
And you couldn't congratulate me after Kelly because?
I got there first.
Only because you all but pushed her out of the way.
If you're going to be a huge bastard about it, I won't come see another or your games. Or help you with your homework.
Blackmailer.
And proud of it.

 

Is it just me or does Mrs. Ortiz's voice have the ability to put anyone, no matter how awake they are to sleep?
Trust me, it's not just you.
You get bored during class? Who knew? The scandal.
I never said that I got bored. Just that her voice is a bit…sleep-inducing.
Sleep-inducing? Seriously?
What's wrong with it?
Does anyone say things like that nowadays? Let me think for a second. No.
Just because you have no vocabulary…
There's a difference between having a good vocabulary and saying things that were last said in the Middle Ages.
Lovely comeback.
You're just jealous of my rapier wit.
You're one to talk.
What do you mean?
Rapier wit? No one says things like that anymore.
I do.
My point…
Doesn't Ortiz know that we know that skin is on top of muscle? Does she think we're in kindergarten or something?
With you, it's a bit hard to tell.
Ouch. I'm hurt.
You should be.
If I fall asleep, hit me or something.
I will most definitly hit you. Even if you aren't asleep.
That's just because you love me.
Of course.

 

Do you want to come to Greg Elliot's party with me on Friday night?
I don't know.
Come on. It'll be fun. You have been to a party before, right?
Of course I've been to parties. I'll just tell my parents I'm staying at my friend's house for the night.
There's an idea.
What?
You could spend the night at my house afterwards.
No.
Why?
Because I have a reputation to uphold.
I will be at the party though.
Meet me at Greg's house at eight. You know where his house is, right?
I think so. I can always just GoogleMap it.
See you there?
Yes.
Will Ryan be mad at you?
What Ryan doesn't know won't hurt him. Besides, we're going as friends.
Of course.
I'm serious.
I know. It's just as friends.
Good.

 

I can't believe it.
I know. You've told me that already.
I'm so sorry Jen.
You told me that already too.
Right. Jen, I swear that I had no idea that Ryan was cheating on you. I can't believe he'd do that to you.
With Kelly. That's the bit that hurts.
Yeah.
So. What do you want to do?
I think I'm going to go home. I'll just tell my parents I didn't feel like going to Claire's house.
See you on Monday.

 

How are you?
Fine. I guess. I broke up with Ryan. Over the phone.
How was it?
It was fine. Until he accused me of cheating on him with you.
Seriously?
Yeah.
That's kind of true though.
It is, I guess. Never thought of it like that.
So you're single?
I think it's pretty obvious that I am.
Do you want to hang out after school?
When you say hang out do you mean that in a friendship sort of way or in another kind of way?
How about we leave that up to you?
Okay. Hanging out sounds good.

 

 


Judges' comment

We found "Back and Forth" fresh, ambitious, poignant, and honest. Telling a story exclusively through dialogue is difficult, but this young writer pulled it off in style.  Bravo!

-Children's Judges