It was nearly the end of the school year, but Arianna wasn't in the clear just yet. She still had an important paper to write for her Protersian class, one that she probably should have started work on months ago when it was first assigned. But she worked well under pressure, and knew the material fairly well. so it wouldn't be too hard, she thought. Yet another paper on The Way of Things, just like every year-end project before. Why anyone was still interested in such a tired subject she couldn't fathom. Weren't the teachers sick of hearing about it, anyways?
It was going to be a long night, so the first thing Arianna did when she got home was put on a pot of glint. She made herself a snack of nuts and cheese, too, and carried everything upstairs on a tray to her room, where she locked the door behind her. She cleared her desk of all clutter and distraction, emptied her backpack of her source materials, cracked her window open, and sat down.
There were a pair of squirrels on the branch just outside her window, though, and their antics proved much more interesting than Arianna's homework. After watching them for some time, she thought, no, I need to focus, and so she the window and sat back down. Now it's too stuffy, she thought, and so opened the door to her room. Brit and his friends were being noisy downstairs, though, and so she had to close the door again and re-open her window. After twenty minutes, she hadn't done a bit of work.
"Arianna Falls, you focus!" she said aloud to herself in the mirror that hung off the back of her door. This inspired her to get up and inspect her face further, to see if there were any new blemishes she needed to worry about. Three changes of clothes later, Arianna looked very sternly into her how eyes reflected in the mirror, and told herself she simply had to stop wasting time.
The first paragraph was downright painful. Every word seemed to be a struggle. She had written about The Way of Things so many times before that there were simply no more ways to put the words together. She considered just copying one of her old papers, which she always kept in her closet, but Mrs. Falls would surely proof-read the paper, and would be cross with her if she copied. Staring at her paper and chewing on her pencil, Arianna couldn't believe how uninspired she was.
Just then, a knock came at the door jamb.
"Arianna, honey, it's almost time for dinner!" Mrs. Falls said as she walked by.
"I'm busy, mom. I have to do my homework."
Mrs. Falls returned to Arianna's doorway.
"You'll eat dinner with your family, young lady," she said.
"No buts. Downstairs in twenty."
Arianna was relieved to be called away from her paper. Dinner was good, though Mr. Falls had had a bad day and ranted about his coworkers the whole time. He always seemed to have bad days at work. It wasn't easy to get another job, he always told Arianna, that's why he couldn't quit. She never wanted to grow up and be locked into a job she hated like her father. Writing papers was an important part of this: good grades would mean a better degree, which would lead to more autonomy in life. And so it was with efforts redoubled that Arianna sat back down to her desk and her term paper after dessert.
But still, there was nothing. Arianna put the pencil to the paper and hoped magic would happen, but it wasn't to be so. She tried just writing whatever came into her head, but the wording was all wrong, and there was no point or thesis amidst the nonsense she produced. Frustrated, she got out some of her old papers to see if there was any inspiration to be had there.
There in the box in her closet were the award-winning papers, the oil paintings so lauded by her art teachers, the newspaper clippings featuring her school band and her victories at the spelling bee. Reading through her old work, she couldn't believe she had turned any of it in. It was awful to her now, shameful even. Feeling even less inspired, she put her box back in the closet. Her sister Mart then came bounding into her room, just after she had sat back down to her desk.
"Ari! Ari, look!" Mart shouted, showing off her new dress. "Isn't it perfect?"
"Not now, Mart. I'm busy," Arianna scolded.
"Still doing homework? Ha ha! I finished yesterday, I'm all done for the year!"
"Great. I'm not. Now get out, and close the door," Arianna growled without looking up, while pretending to write. She looked down at the long rows of loops she had made with her pencil and sighed. She crumpled up her draft, threw it in the wastebasket, and flung herself onto her bed.
She must have fallen asleep, because her next thought was a dream about some far-off place. In the dream, she was following after someone, but couldn't see their face. Where the stranger was going was unclear, but for some reason Arianna trusted them implicitly. And they arrived somewhere that made Arianna feel safe and happy, though it too was unknowable.
When she awoke, it was late in the evening. The moonlight was shining now, the birds long quiet. She was confused at first as to when or why she had fallen asleep, but after wiping her groggy eyes, she saw her desk more clearly across the room, piled with unread books and blank paper.
"Oh no!" she cried, realizing she had slept most of the night away. "My paper!"
She ran to her desk and jumped over the back of her chair into action. Where the ideas were flowing from, she had no idea, but they were coming fast. There was no more time for procrastination. Her pencil flew across the page like the winter wind.
She didn't finish until the next morning, just before her father came to call her to breakfast. There was no time to edit or revise the paper, and Arianna wasn't even sure it made sense, but she turned it in, and was done at last with another year at school.
The paper won her another award, this one for creative writing. Her teacher said it showed a 'great capacity for abstract thought'. Probably because it was written at four o'clock in the morning, Arianna thought, as she threw her arms open to the summer sun waiting outside the front door to the school.
Summer was here.