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When I Was Anna - 24

by Carlito


Thank you all <3

____

May screamed for a solid minute when I told her on the phone. "Summer! You're going on a date!" She screams. "A freaking date! With Micah!"

"I know!" I squeal back. "I keep pinching myself thinking he's going to tell me it was a mistake and he changed his mind or something."

"He's not Summer, don't be dumb. He wants to go on a date with you! He's interested! Like I said, he's not going to hate you forever!"

Once we finish screaming about the date and that it's Micah and what and pinch me and how, the nerves start to set in. The fact is, I've never done this before. I wasn't lying when I told him I've never been on a date. And this is following up one of the scariest conversations I've ever had in my life when I truly thought he was going to cut his losses and be finished with me for good.

"May, how do I do this?" I finally ask her.

"What? A date? Summer this is the easy part!"

I scoff.

"Summer. Think about it. You already met up with Micah and hashed out the Anna thing completely on your own. You didn't tell me that was happening, which is fine, you had no advice going into that, you just did it. And look how that worked for you! You don't need me to give you advice. You just need to be yourself and talk to him."

She's right; I did do that on my own. But I had nothing to lose then. He already wasn't going to talk to me ever again. Now, this could be a real thing.

"Give me advice anyway?" I ask with a smile she can't see.

She laughs. "If you insist. I'm going to give you some cliché, yet true, advice. Number one, don't stress it. You will not FaceTime me you trying on fourteen different outfit choices. You can send me two. It will be after a competition, so neither of you are going to look perfect, and that's fine. Embrace that. Wear something comfortable that also makes you feel cute. He already knows what you look like."

I do a quick mental survey of my closet and decide on my favorite pair of athletic shorts with a Purdue tank top May sent me.

"Number two, all you have to do is talk to him. Stick with me. Don't balk at the word talk."

I laugh.

"Here's the thing, you've already done this. You talked to him online for months. You already know things about one another. You had an epic conversation in person on your own. You can do this. Think of a few possible conversation topics. Think of a few anecdotes. Think of some things you want to know about him. All you have to do is talk like you would to Bryn or Katya."

And to think a few months ago, the idea of talking to Micah in person did nothing but spike my anxiety and make me want to cry. And look at me now. Hands hardly even shaking and heart beating semi-normally and my not quite a stomach ulcer thing not even bothering me at all.

"And finally," She says. "You don't have to kiss him if you don't want to!"

My eyes widen. Is that even a possibility?

"But if you do, look at his mouth, put on lip balm, whatever. And if he's not getting the hint because boys are dumb, just kiss him yourself!"

It's almost funny that she thinks I'll be able to do that.

"Bottom line, Summer. You got this. Don't worry about it. Micah wanted to go on a date with you Micah is interested in you. All you have to do is keep being yourself."

#

I sit next to Bryn on the way to the competition. Katya sits across the aisle from us next to Ethan. Micah sits in front of them with another one of his friends. I catch his eye a few times and he smiles at me, making my stomach swoop and turn over, but in a good way.

Kaila isn't even on this bus, which makes the whole thing sweeter.

I wore my Purdue tank top and purple athletic shorts, just like I originally planned. I feel great. Excited about the competition. Mildly nervous about later.

One thing for sure, this competition already feels a million times better than the last.

We arrive at the school hosting the competition, file off the bus and get ready as normal. There’s no time to say anything to Micah as we march down to our warm-up area, but there will be time for that later.

We play our warm-up and line up to get ready to take the field. Kaila rubs my left shoulder for good luck. I rub the shoulder of the person in front of me.

Once it’s our turn to take the field, we do our final warm-up and take our places, Micah speed walks by me as he makes his way to the back sideline. Just after he passes by, he turns his head ever so slightly and flashes a quick smile. My stomach turns over, but for once in a happy way, and I flash a quick smile back.

Onto the show.

“Warrior Marching Band, take the field!” The announcer says as the crowd applauds.

I focus on Micah as he counts us off.

Drumroll.

Go.

I play perfectly.

#

The bus ride back to the school passes in a blur. With the competition over, now it’s time for what comes after. My casual hang date thing.

I’ve purposefully tried to think as little as possible about what is going to happen once we get back to the school and I leave with Micah. I’ve tried not to think about what people are going to say when they see him and I talk in the back room, or when they see me get into Micah’s car. I’ve tried not to think about what he has planned to keep the pressure turned all the way off.

It’s just a casual hang. Like Micah said when we talked about my lack of dating experience. First dates are no big deal. You don’t have to decide if you’re going to marry the person, just if you want to go on another date.

No pressure.

Bryn gives my hand a squeeze when we pull up to the school, “You’ve got this.”

Katya gives me a thumbs-up from across the aisle and leans over to say, “Just be Summer.”

But I don’t feel like I’m going to throw up. I don’t even feel like passing out. It’s like May said. All I have to do is talk to him. And I can do that. I already have.

I deposit all of my things in the band room and loiter near Katya’s locker so I won’t have any awkward encounters with Camilla. I’m hoping the band room will clear out a little before Micah finds me and takes me wherever we’re going. I’m never going to like the idea people noticing me and talking about me.

The band room is only half-cleared when he approaches me. “Casual part first, or food first?”

“It’s not all casual?” I joke.

“Well I was going to treat you to a four course meal at St. Elmo’s,” He shrugs, but the glint in his eye tells me he’s joking. “But if you’d prefer something a little more low-key I suppose I can make that work.”

I let out a short laugh. “Casual part first is fine!”

I’m sure there are people looking at us and wondering how this happened and what’s going on as we leave the band room in step, but right now that doesn’t matter. What matters is Micah.

I slide into the passenger’s seat of his little silver car parked in the front row of the parking lot. His car is pristinely clean and one of those little tree air fresheners hangs from the rear view mirror.

“How’s downtown?” He asks as he pulls out of his parking space.

“Downtown is good. This is casual you know, so I’m going with the flow.”

He laughs.

This is good. I can do this.

I’m not sure how to fill the silence as he makes his way to the interstate, so I’m glad when he turns the radio on and his pre-set country station plays. I’m tempted to text May and let her know it’s going well so far, but I don’t want him to think I’m not interested or something, so I sit and stare out the window and try to keep myself calm.

He chooses a parking spot right downtown, expertly navigating his way into a parallel parking space. I may have passed my driving test, but I will still drive around a block ten times to avoid parallel parking.

“Have you ever been to the canal?” He asks.

“I have, but it’s been awhile.” The downtown canal was always a popular summer spot to go with the family when we were all younger.

“That was my plan for the casual portion, walking the canal. Is that okay?”

I shrug. I’m not going to tell him that I will do pretty much any activity with him because that means I get to spend time with him. “I’m casual Micah, we can do whatever.”

He laughs again. We walk a few blocks to get to one of the staircases leading down to the canal that runs below street level. The canal is lined with fancy apartments, condos, and restaurants. There are even a few people riding on the paddleboats for rent. I left my wallet in the car, so I’ll feel bad if he ends up having to pay.

Neither of us say anything for the first five minutes of our walk. We’re a foot apart, arms swinging at our sides, both of us facing forward. I hope this isn’t a bad omen.

I finally say, “It’s really nice out today.” Which is the lamest thing to start talking about, but I’ve got nothing else.

“Yeah, perfect marching weather. I thought the competition went really well today.”

“Me too.”

Marching band talk carries us for the next ten minutes. I try to remember all of the conversation topics I thought of over this last week. He wants to do dinner after this too. Are we going to run out of things to talk about? That definitely wouldn’t be a good sign.

“How’s May doing?” Micah asks me.

“Good! She’s really liking marching band and she’s made a lot of new friends.”

May and college plans takes us all the way to the waterfall at the end of the canal. The path loops around so we can walk back down the other side. Another couple zooms by us on a pair of those rentable scooters that are all over downtown. They’re laughing and look like they’re having the absolute best time, which makes me self-conscious like maybe Micah isn’t having a good time and this will be our first and last date.

“Let’s sit for a second,” He say and motions towards the large stone steps we’re about to walk past. He climbs up to the second step and I sit next to him, about a foot away. “You seem nervous.”

“I do?” I thought I was doing a moderately good job of faking it. “I mean, I am a little bit I guess.”

“I am too.”

“Why are you nervous?”

“I don’t know. I’m interested in you. We had a weird start, and I want to know if the connection is going to carry over I guess.”

I nod. “Now I remember someone saying that first dates aren’t scary at all because all you have to do is figure out if you want to go out with them again.”

He laughs. “That was me wasn’t it? I stand by that statement.”

“I’m nervous because I’m trying not to be an awkward loser around you.”

He laughs again. “I don’t think you’re an awkward loser at all.”

“Micah, let’s be real. I was too awkward to talk to you two months ago so I made a fake profile so I could talk to you. I’m definitely a loser.”

“And yet somehow you’ve conned your way into a casual hang.”

“I’m as shocked as you are.”

He laughs again. I can’t believe how easy it is to make him laugh.

“So there is one pretty fool-proof way to test whether or not you have a connection with someone,” He says.

“Oh?”

“And don’t get me wrong, usually I wait a little longer to bring this up. But I think with all of our history, as awkward as you think it is, it might be worth a shot.”

I’m too nervous to look him in the eyes. I think I know where he’s going with this. While I don’t want the embarrassment of being wrong, I’m also overthinking being right.

“Oh?” I say again.

“I could kiss you,” He says simply. “Very casually of course.”

“Of course. Casual.” Am I the only one that can hear my heart thumping?

“Because this is a casual hang after all.”

“Right. The date comes later, with that four-course St. Elmo’s dinner.” I can’t help but smile.

“Of course.”

I chance a quick glance at him and see he’s smiling too.

“If you don’t want to that’s fine. Just an offer.”

I take a breath. I can do this. “I’m going to be a scientist, you know.”

“How could I forget?”

“And scientists like to test theories.” I’m surprised my voice isn’t shaking.

I’m still too nervous to look directly at him, but I still see when he moves closer. I wonder if I should wet my lips or fish for my lip balm or just wait until a heart attack does me in.

And then he kisses me. It’s gentle, testing the waters and waiting for my response. I kiss back and he reaches his hand around to the back of my head, his fingers combing through my hair. And for a moment, I don’t care who sees.

Our lips part and I want more, but Micah is already sitting back up, his hands back at his sides.

“So Miss Scientist,” He says. I like the way he says scientist. “As the theory expert, what would you say are the results of our testing?”

I pretend I have to think about it. “Well, initial testing showed promising results towards the direction of a connection, but additional testing may be warranted to verify the findings.”

He laughs and puts a hand on my knee, kissing me deeply. An electrical current runs from my knee to my stomach to my heart and then short-circuits in my brain.

“I’d say the results are pretty conclusive. What about you?” He says.

“Hypothesis confirmed.”

He stands up and offers me his hand. “How about dinner?”

I stand and interlock my fingers with his. I can do dinner.

-the end- :)

--------

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING <3

I would love your thoughts on the plot and character arcs as a whole! I already have some ideas of what I want to do for edits including making Micah a more well-rounded character, including more descriptions/sense of place, and probably upping the romance. 

Please be honest! I am not easily offended and I know this is not a perfect draft

What needs to be improved upon big picture wise and little picture wise? What do you think of Summer, Micah, May, Katya, Bryn, Camilla, and Kaila? What do you want more of or less of? What is missing? What do you think of the voice? Do the characters sound like teenagers? What did you think of the catfishing/Chat With Me? Did you believe the Summer/Micah romance? 

You don't have to answer all of those questions. I just want to hear any and all thoughts you have about how I can take this story to the next level. 

I truly appreciate every single one of you for taking the time to read this story and give me your feedback. Look for your names in the acknowledgments should this book be the one <3 <3


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Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:30 am
EternalRain wrote a review...



Hi Carlito!!! So ahhh this is the end! I have a lot to say. I guess this is just where I’m going to talk about all my thoughts as a whole and the ending as well!

So, the ending! First of all, I thought the little scientist/kiss scene was super cute. :’) It was small but it was a smile moment for me, and one of the only cutesy moments we get! Not to say that’s a bad thing at all but it does end this on a cute, happy note. I also like how the whole catfishing thing has turned in a lesson of Summer being herself - this is evident in her conversation with May and it seems like the character Summer is on a path to be a healthier self.

Speaking of healthier self, I feel like chapter 22 led off from a good point with the anxiety and therapist, but we didn’t really get to see any of that. I (personally) would have loved to see a therapy session just as another sign that Summer is heading towards a healthier self. Or maybe even just playing with the idea of anxiety a bit more - sure, it’s super present in Summer’s life, but maybe just working more with anxiety disorder/Summer's worries about how she's feeling that way.

Other note on the ending, besides the therapy thing: I feel like there was more that needed to be concluded? Like, her band rivalry with Kaila - who was going to be section leader? Does her friendship with Camilla resolve (I guess it's kind of implied it doesn't - but maybe a bit more implication). I don't think *everything* has to be resolved, necessarily, because I do like when some things are left to the open and force the reader to imagine what happens, but there are some things that felt a little unfinished to me. I hope that makes sense.


OKAY so now getting away from just the ending and broadening to the whole book:

- What I think is missing is just more teenager stuff in Summer's life, or maybe with her friends. I feel like a majority of the scenes are just either her in band or her preoccupied about Micah. I don't know exactly what I feel like is missing, but just something more? And not like a whole huge new plot point, but maybe more of this focus could be on her relationship with her parents (which I really wanted more of!) or her relationship with her friends.

- Going off of that, and I'm going to make this short because I've mentioned it a few times, I would loooove to see more family dynamics. Summer really struggles over the course of the novel, and ultimately confides in her mother who is super supportive of her! Right now, her parents have felt super absent from her life (I think there was that one dinner with May, and that was it). I would also like to see more of her dynamic with her sister (is her sister struggling with May leaving too? What are her interactions with her like?).

- Bryn was such a great friend through out this!! Katya too. I wish we could've seen a little more of them just because their personalities weren't as strong as I wished they were - not to say they have to be strong in the bold and assertive sense, but just that their personalities didn't shine as much to me.

- One last itty bitty note that isn't really a big thing: I did notice myself getting confused with Kaila/Katya in a few chapters just because their names are so similar, haha. It wasn't anything severe and I would catch myself pretty quickly, but is something I wanted to point out.

My favorite "scene" of this novel would probably be the part when Kaila tells nearly everyone about Summer's alopecia. It was a gasp moment for me as a reader and a real punch in the gut. I like how we find out it actually wasn't Micah (that would have been a real Jerk Moment right there).

This review ended up having more constructive thoughts than positive ones but I just want to say that I LOVED this so much! Summer as a character was so relatable for me; her struggles of communicating with others and her worries about boys were very real and felt so similar to my life. I think cat-fishing is such an important topic to discuss, especially with social media and online communication becoming such a huge thing.

I just want to say congratulations on finishing this draft:D When will you be writing your next draft? I know you have a lot of novel projects going on, so I'm wondering if this will be put to the side for a little or are you going to go ahead and begin your next draft soon? Just curious hehe.

I hope this has helped you !! It's been so fun! :D

Peace!
~EternalRain




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Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:11 am
Gnomish wrote a review...



Hey!

So I know I have hardly been reviewing at all, so I'll try to write a decent one this time because it's the last chapter. Can I just say first of all that I am so glad you finished this! Not that I wanted it to end or anything, but it's just a perfect ending!

Some things I noticed were that the whole Camilla thing seemed a bit unimportant. It might just be because it's been a while since I read the chapters where she was an important character, but I think you might want to consider adding her to the story a bit more.

Secondly, I think the whole part where Micah and Summer went from talking and Micah being mad at her to asking her out was a bit rushed. I understand that he recognized the chemistry they had, but I don't know, it just seemed like it skipped a step.

I really like how supportive Katya and Bryn were, especially in contrast with Camilla, but I kind of got the sense that they were very similar. That being said, I think that she had two best friends in stead of just one added some dimension to the story.

Overall, I really liked reading this, and always was excited to move onto the next chapter. I think this story is definitely publishable. I think it was one of the best written stories I've read so far, and I hope you write more soon!




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Sun Nov 03, 2019 4:46 pm
Liberty wrote a review...



Hey, hi, ho!

Hope you're doing well. I'm here for a review!

Oof, I've got so much to say, I don't even know where to start. xD

I'll just answer some of your questions. Yup, that seems easy.

What do you think of Summer, Micah, May, Katya, Bryn, Camilla, and Kaila?

They're all great characters, but I think you could definitely improve on them a bit. Show us a bit more from each character. You've given us a lot from Summer, but getting some more story stuff from especially Micah, would be nice. :)

What do you want more of or less of?

I'd like more of the high-school-ish feel. At times, I honestly thought they were in middle school, and then when they'd be driving, I'd be like, oh right, high school, not middle school. Especially the way Summer acts, doesn't seem very high-school-y, ya know? (:

Another thing I'd like to see is the homework. Being in high school is hard, but Summer makes it feel like a breeze, man! There's nothing mentioned about homework, which concerns me. The teachers are messed up if they don't give no homework. Lol. If she's stressing about Micah and her friends and all that stuff, then it'd be interesting to see her stressing about homework-essays-love-relationships-alopecia, get what I mean? ;)

Do the characters sound like teenagers?

Teenagers, yes, but not high school teenagers. Also, something I just realized and have decided to throw out there, is that we don't even know what grade they're in. :P

What did you think of the catfishing/Chat With Me?

It was interesting. I liked this Chat With Me app. I'd like to have it, lol. Did you make it up, or was it from Catfish? (I have not watched Catfish, bit I realized this entire story was based off of that) And the catfishing was great. Didn't go too far, and you didn't do too less, so - yay! - it was cool.

Alright! I think I'm done with my review now, Carli. I really enjoyed reading this with you, and if it comes to it, I'll be buying your book even if I have to go all the way to Hogwarts to get it. :P ;)

Feel free to question me more if you think I haven't answered something important.

And as always...

Keep on writing!

~Liberty




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Thu Oct 17, 2019 3:45 pm
Elinor wrote a review...



Hi Carlito!

To be honest, I'm a little bit disappointed by this ending. I'd be curious to learn a little bit more about your justification for ending it the way that you do. Because to be perfectly honest with you, I don't really get the sense that Summer has learned anything over the course of this story.

I like her as a character, but I worry about the messaging that even if you catfish the person you like, you'll ultimately end up with them. This doesn't feel like a plausible ending to me. If you look at the episodes of Catfish where the couples did end up together, it's usually when the people actually were who they said they were.

I don't know, if I were Micah, that I would get over this so easily. This isn't to say that the ending should be a complete downer. But, what I think what would be more powerful is if the park scene ends with Micah saying "I did like you, but you lied about who you are and I can't just let that go." That creates a compelling and I think a very real arc for Summer. She thinks people don't like her, because of her illness and other reasons, and then realizes that Micah did like her, that the real thing that angers him is that she lied about who she was. I think, if they do develop a friendship, it would be a lot more slow going. I even like the idea of skipping forward months and showing Summer getting back into a routine. Maybe therapy helps, she spends more time with her friends. And maybe friendly words are exchanged with Micah, and the audience is left with their own interpretation on the ending.

One thing I've been reflecting a lot on is how things seem life and death in high school, but then you realize that's not true. I'd even love if it skipped forward a year until graduation and they have a nice word and a hug. Maybe Summer's even starting dating someone else, or just realized she needs to spend more time with her friends but Micah isn't mad at her anymore and is willing to let bygones be bygones. Something like that would ring a lot more true to me than the current ending.

Summer is a wonderfully complex character, but she ultimately gets everything she's ever wanted even after achieving it through dishonest means and that doesn't quite sit right with me. This isn't to say she shouldn't be forgiven, but I'd like to get the sense that she's grown as a person. Neither her friends or her family ever really question anything she does, and I'd like to see her fall into a whole and let "Anna" become an obsession at the expense of everything else.

I like the idea of upping words that are said between the two of them on Chat With Me. Maybe Micah tells Summer he loves her. They talk about getting married, which up the stakes that much more. I think you have the potential for a really powerful story about being yourself but right now that doesn't quite click in the way it should with this ending.

I hope this all helps! And by all means, please feel free to send future drafts my way. Thank you for letting me read it and please feel free to reach out if you have a any questions! I would love to be able to discuss this story further with you. I'm sure there's tons I'm forgetting but these are my initial impressions.

It's been a pleasure. :)

Ellie




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Wed Oct 16, 2019 2:36 am
Flyingsquirrel42 wrote a review...



Hey Carlito!

Quick disclaimer: I haven't read the rest of When I Was Anna, so this review may not be as helpful as I don't want to assume too much. Instead, I'll be focusing on diction and grammar.

I don't have much to criticize. Grammar is on point for the most part (I'll get into that later) and the story is soooo realistic. I love it. The relationships between the characters make sense, the romance has zero hints of fanfiction-y zeal (finally!) and Summer's reaction to the entire thing is perfect...and Micah and Summer are in band. (Okay, maybe not about the writing itself, but *band*!)

I notice you do this a lot:

“I’d say the results are pretty conclusive. What about you?” He says.


"He" shouldn't be capitalized here.

And that's really the only thing I noticed, grammar-wise. There were a couple other minor mistakes and typos that can easily be fixed by going over the piece again.

In terms of words: Adverbs. I noticed a couple places where they're not needed, and taking them out would strengthen your writing. "His car is pristinely clean" could be cut to "His car is pristine", and the "completely" could be removed from the "You already met up with Micah and hashed out the Anna thing completely on your own".

That's all I have! Congrats on an incredibly well-written piece, and I hope to read more from you in the future!

Flyingsquirrel42





A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
— Franz Kafka