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Writing Catalog


Christina Bencin

Grade: 11

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Scott Parsons

Kai

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Kai

My dear Rose, you were born into fortune, Jade whispered to her infant daughter, caressing the top of the child's head with her thumb. You live on the better side of the island, my love, so don't throw that privilege away.

***

At the start of System 1B, there had been a few foolish women who refused to accept the downfall of System 1A. They just couldn't grasp the need for the gender divide, Jade said, smiling as she weaved her spidery fingers through young Rose's platinum blonde curls.

Why was there a divide? Rose asked innocently, turning her head to face her mother. Jade paused, her face just a bit flushed.

Well, my love, that's because we learned from the failures of System 1A. In System 1A, men and women were allowed to roam free with each other and… nothing good came out of it. The intermixing of sexes led to inequality, stereotypes, and other issues that contributed to System 1A's downfall and the Council wisely voted on a separation between men and women for the better.

Jade cleared her throat and continued. As I was saying, there was a group of foolish women who disobeyed System 1B's rules. Most of them were stubborn, traditionalist women who believed that men weren't wild as the Council said and that the Council disseminated propaganda. Jade gulped as she stared into her engrossed daughter's big, sea blue eyes.

And um, Jade lowered her voice. And your grandmother was one of them.

***

Jade laughed nervously, pausing here to collect herself. But alas, your… Jade struggled.

My grandmother, Rose suggested gently. Jade nodded and continued to talk. She and those other women crossed the line onto the other side to be with the wild men living on the other side. She couldn't bear to live without your, uh, grandfather. But you see, Rose, everyone involved ended up dead. I remember hearing in the news that the men had lured them over to savagely murder and feast on those women, that it was some scheme. Jade paused and in a more thoughtful voice said, Rose, my dear, when you leave me tomorrow, just remember to never ever leave this side. You stay right where you belong and you will be happy and safe.

Laughing, Rose said, I know, I know, Ma. You always say this.

Jade, taken back, responded, Rose, of course I always say that. I say that because I would never forgive myself as a mother if you were to follow your grandmother.

I would never, Rose replied, smiling warmly into Jade's eyes.

***

... And finally, your mirror, the Councilwoman grinned. She always knew that the girls looked most forward to this part. Rose was no different. Originally slouching, Rose now sat up as straight as a pencil. Rose donned an eager smile as her anxiety ridden fingers trembled in her lap.

The Councilwoman, upon noticing this, continued indifferently. As you know, the mirror is a woman's most prized possession. It is completely unique to her and her only as it is handcrafted specifically for her based on her personality, birthdate, and other qualities. Now, the mirror holds the magical power of ending a woman's life. Whenever she wants to end her life, she simply has to smash the mirror and a cloud of perfumes will engulf her. There will be no remnants, no reminders of her existence. Just a darkened mirror.

The Councilwoman paused, placing a velvet bag on the table. You may open your bag now, she announced.

Rose hurriedly opened the velvet bag only to frown. The mirror's border was simply… pink. Specifically, a very pale, almost white, pink. And the mirror's border was made of iron, a common and cheap border.

What? Rose cried.

I'm sorry you are displeased, Rose, but this is your mirror. As the Council states, the crafters purposefully make them a certain way based on…

The Councilwoman wasn't sorry, as clear in her monotone voice. She didn't even care because she had heard so many young women complain about their mirrors at this point.

Rose ignored her. She was extremely disappointed because for years she had fantasized of how elaborate her mirror would be, expecting it to be as Jade's was— a light teal sapphire border, with intricate, brilliant gold designs that would create different patterns based on the tilt of the mirror. But instead of that beautiful lovely mirror she had wished for, she had received a dull, muted one. Rose snatched her papers and left for her newly assigned home.

When she got there, she went straight to her kitchen table to sit and try to understand why she got this mirror. She examined every inch of the mirror, desperately trying to find any pattern, any special little thing that would make her mirror less generic. But nothing.

Frustrated, she stowed her mirror in a drawer by the bedside.

***

Rose didn't realize that in her own backyard was the famous Dividing Wall until she heard a lower pitched voice on the other side. A man's voice.

Curious, but mainly feeling the need to take revenge on the Councilwoman for giving her this mirror through disobedience, Rose visited the wall.

Hello? she shouted, banging on the black obsidian wall. Silence followed. Expected. She lingered for a few minutes, then decided this was a sign and headed inside. But then a man's voice followed.

Hello, he said. Let me guess, you came of age and didn't like the mirror you were given so now you're trying to rebel by breaking the System 1B rules of man and woman?

Rose gasped.

I was that eighteen year old, too, one time, he sighed, sadly.

Oh? Rose said, pausing as she was hesitating if she should ask. She decided yes and egged him on, Do tell.

When I first moved here, I was incredibly saddened by my boring orange mirror. So, like you, I rubbed my nose in the business of the past owner of your home when I moved here a few years ago. Fortunately, she did teach me a lot though, so I would stick around if I were you.

Well? What did she teach you? Rose asked, still standing near her home.

About men and women and how they really were when she was young, how they were together successfully before the Council's regime, how it was the Council who tore the sexes apart and banned any and all marriage. It was part of the Council's agenda to save humanity from becoming what they deemed vulgar. So, they kept the sexes apart to make them more civilized. That's why they spread propaganda to the women of how men were savage and vice versa— to avoid anyone from ever wanting to cross the line and costing the perfect civilization.

Rose thought he was crazy, talking against the government, so she tried to push aside his thoughts. Yet, the thoughts stayed in her head all night.

***

As much as she wanted to avoid him, Rose felt compelled to meet with him again. So the next day, Rose and the man, Kai, met. He explained himself, pulling out various history textbooks, given to him by the former resident of Rose's home, and reading them aloud to her.

By the end of the first few months, Rose behaved just as radically as Kai, questioning the Council's authority and ridiculing her mother's words. It was inevitable that this happened as they spent so many nights under the beautiful stars examining the history of System 1A, 1B and previous dictatorships, trying to answer the most complex questions with philosophy and ethics, reading and listening to classics salvaged from long before.

Rose started to feel a connection with him, the tightest she had ever felt. She had feelings for him, unexplainable and never before discussed. A new obsession with meeting him flooded her head day in and day out, and every time they met, a sort of warm feeling buzzed through her skin.

Kai. Rose said one night, tracing the stars with her finger. He stopped mid sentence, describing Pyramus and Thisbe's hole in the wall, turning to glance at the Dividing Wall.

Yes, Rose?

I feel something for you, just as Thisbe felt so strongly for Pyramus.

That's called love.

Then I love you.

I love you, too.

They were both silent for a while.

I want to be with you, Kai.

Come. Escape to the other side, like Pyramus and Thisbe did. We can be together forever, too.

Silence.

How do I get over the wall? Rose asked.

***

Rose held her mirror up to the wall as Kai instructed her to. She pressed the pink mirror against the cool obsidian.

Soon, light enveloped her and she was on the other side, right next to the man she had been talking to for ages.

Kai was almost a head taller than her. He was lean and his muscles were taut. He had an angular face and a squared jaw, finished off with a long and thin nose and lips that curved into a sweet, big smile. His short dark hair protruded over his face, flopping onto his beautiful eyes of rich, golden honey. Rose felt warm and safe in the cool night in his embrace.

So this is what men look like, she said to herself.

The moment of security was over once the alarms started shouting. Red lights flashed in the air.

Rose and Kai both knew what they had to do: run.

So they ran, stealthily weaving through the masses of homes, until they came across the edge of a forest. Seeing no one near, they took a seat on a rock, their mirrors in one hand, and placed each other's hands in the other.

Stop right there, someone whispered from behind. Both Rose and Kai turned around, strengthening the bond between their intertwined hands. I think you both know what the penalty for breaking the law is, the voice croaked.

Rose and Kai looked at each other, fear racing through their heads.

Any last words?

Yes. Kai interjected, his voice wavering. Rose, I love you with all of my heart. You have made me feel so happy, so special these past few months. But look, now we at least can be together for eternity when we die and escape this prison we call society— my love, let us use our mirrors for one last time. Together.

Rose smiled and together, they cracked their mirrors.

But it was only Kai who left the island. Rose had only pretended to crack hers.

Well done, Rose. Thank you for contacting me about him when you meet him. I will say that was an exceptional performance. I could really feel the love and desire. You almost fooled me into thinking you were like him and in love with him, the figure graciously commended Rose.

Rose was quiet for a moment, as she actually did fall in love with him, but she would never tell. She didn't want to be killed and she certainly wouldn't let her feelings be the cause of it.

Thank you, Councilwoman. Now do you think I can get a better mirror, one I rightfully deserve? Rose asked, grinning at the thought of a better mirror, a better truth.

Of course. I suppose we misjudged you when we were making the mirror. But first, let's burn those books you were talking about.

And together, they left the darkened orange mirror on the rock.


The Point?

Humor

The Point?

A note of caution, this is for the intelligent, well-read reader. Now that I've "hyped" this story to make it seem a bit better than it actually is, I want to make it clear: you aren't going to be rolling out of your chairs laughing and crying after you read this. And no, it's not because it's high level and high level pieces aren't that type of humor, I mean that is true but no, no. It's because I'm purely unfunny. So don't expect anything. You know, I am so not funny that I can't even get my parents to laugh at any of my witty anecdotes. My parents. The only people in the world who are basically obliged to laugh at your jokes no matter how bad they are.

Alas, even if I'm not all that funny, not to worry! I'm sure the few minutes you spend reading this piece will still be a joy… I hope so at least. This is my first humorous story, if you couldn't tell.

Now, all that aside, let's discuss what I'm trying to do in this story. If I can't make this funny, I might as well make it a bit unprecedented in the sense of providing you with more about my thoughts of the intended meaning of this story because, come on, authors never really specify if they have a point of some sort! We as readers always just assume, whether it be because we are human and are just naturally curious or because your English teacher is hounding you for that analysis. So, my dearest reader, your interpretation will not be making up half of the story line as it usually does, rather it'll take up around 6.5%. I'm kidding of course, I don't really know how much it will take up as interpretation is subjective and this is not a statistics piece. But your interpretation most definitely won't take up more than 20% of the whole interpretation and I think that's pretty cool. But that's just me.

As the author writing this trailblazing story, we need to go through the typical steps of finding the message. So, let's start with the discussion.

Maybe this pointless story is, in fact, pointless and I'm poking fun at you for trying to make sense of these jumbled thoughts. I mean, come on, at this point maybe you're trying to extract any possible message out of these silly words— and you'd be confusing yourself doing this. Maybe you're thinking that I am trying to convey that this piece has no meaning when in fact by conveying that in the first message, I am trying to convey a deeper message about the subject of meaning itself… blah blah blah. Philosophical, but quite the overanalysis (something I can empathize with).

Moving onto a different aspect of the discussion, because we shouldn't just dwell on one idea, perhaps this piece is a satire. A thought provoking, uncomical satire (which is probably what I would be better at than writing a pure comedy, in all seriousness). I mean, a satire questioning what even is comedy and what defines humor is pretty deep… so I think I'll choose that this story is in fact, a satire. That technically is a category of dark humor, I would argue, since satires usually shine light on dark issues.

Say that I am writing this as a satire (in other words, a dark humor), which I am now redirecting myself to do at this moment, what is it about? I don't know, in all honesty. This is quite dense and I would like to interact with you to discover this satire's meaning… yeah, I'm breaking boundaries again, aren't I? A satire that involves the author's interaction and guide of the meaning… I wish that every satire had a page for that at the end so I wouldn't have to think as hard on an English essay!

Psst, now may be an optimal time to chuckle. I'm hoping at this point this isn't your first chuckle.

Perhaps this is a satire to get you to stop overthinking because it'll drive you nuts. Just as it does in real life. Like, come on, we all know that if someone's tone changes slightly, they aren't actually mad at you. I know, I know, easy for me to say, hard to force yourself to think. The stuff we extract from subtleties!

Hey again, a friendly reminder to throw in a little pity laugh! I'm trying my very best, trust me.

Maybe the way in which I interact with you, reader, my unprecedented ways are basically protesting against the confusing ways of typical satire! Cough cough, Animal Farm, cough cough. I'm working with you to explain the possible meanings of this… perhaps as a way of sort of telling satire writers how confusing they are! Now, you wouldn't get that from any of the masters of this sophisticated art would you?

Well, my dear reader, depending on how confusing this all was for you, I have wasted a few minutes to half an hour of your life brainstorming a bunch of possible messages for a story that honestly was a jumbled mess. But despite this seeming like a trainwreck of random thoughts, there is an actual point to this. I think it would be appropriate if I just told the message to you know instead of proposing possibilities like a pet owner playfully teasing their dog with treats.

The point of this story was originally to brainstorm Gogol's The Nose's message, since the way it was written was similar: it either had this super deep meaning about what meanings are or it was just some fun, weird, little story. So yes, you were just reading my early ideas about what a message of a book could mean for an English essay, hahaha, but I did spruce it up a little later for your entertainment.

And that, my friends, is what a brainstorming sheet would look like in humor form!

But in all seriousness, sure, you as the reader still play a huge part in the interpretation— despite what I said many times before about this being a special case in which I make up most of what the story actually means— but this was what I intended: for you to get a few laughs, which you might not have…

At least I have an excuse if you didn't find this funny, since a reader's interpretation will always make up a huge part of what the story is actually about. So even though I stated that this interpretation would be thoroughly explained by me… if you didn't think this was a comedy, then it wasn't.

Dear reader, I hope you got something out of this. I did— I got to see how a couple ideas for my English paper could end up being a little bit humorous! It was fun to write, at the very least.

Oh wait— you didn't find this funny? Well, then I guess you'll be glad to hear that I won't be writing anything else because if I did, oh gosh, I don't even know what the point of it would be!


The Parenting Class

Humor

The Parenting Class

"Andy, take a look at this!" Claire smiled, running off of the sidewalk to point at a neon pink flyer on a telephone pole. Andrew, carrying their two month old baby daughter Rose, rushed over to see what his wife was excited about.

"A parenting class at Mountainview High School tonight at 6:30 p.m, how about that!"

"A free parenting class at a high school at night, what could go wrong? Let's go!"

***

"You remembered to pack everything, right Andy?"

"Of course, you know I wouldn't slack off for little Rosie! I got Mr. Monkey packed, and the 'I'm a Carrot' book, Rosie's travel binky, the travel pack of diapers—"

"What's the count?"

"We're at 17. We can restock when we get back home. Besides, the class will probably have extras. There's a pack of baby wipes, which we're also low on, an applesauce pouch, two bottles of milk, a jar of mashed peas and a jar of mashed sweet potato, the set of six travel feeding spoons, Rose's travel pillow, and her travel skin care kit. Oh, and also, I got the travel pad and cover for the changing table because God forbid Rose's skin makes contact with the changing table in the public restroom."

"Andy. Did you seriously forget to pack the portable crib and mobile?"

"Uh…"

"Andrew! Come on, you always forget to pack the most important things! Oh well, hopefully the high school has cribs or at least soft cots because God forbid Rose sleep in her stroller."

"Fingers crossed."

Andrew and Claire saw a throng of adults near the auditorium door and followed them in, taking their seats on the outside of a row so that Rose's stroller would be out in the walkway. Next to them sat an older couple, who looked like they were in their early to mid fifties. The couple was busy talking to the people in front, behind and next to them but as their conversation died down, they diverted their attention to Claire and Andrew.

"Awww, what a cute baby! How old is she?" the woman gushed, her crinkling eyes adorned in wrinkles.

"Two months." Claire responded, beaming down at Rose.

"Two months? Golly, it feels so long ago since Kevin and Tanya were that young, right Harold? Time really goes by so fast, doesn't it?" the woman interjected, pausing briefly. "I'm Shirely, by the way, and this is my husband, Harold."

"Andrew, and this is my wife Clarie."

The four shook hands.

"Is that why you had another one? So you could relieve the pressure of teenage snarkiness? Gosh, I wish Shirely and I were young enough to have another one..." Harold boomed, his stomach jiggling as he laughed haughtily. Claire and Andrew cocked their eyebrows.

"Wait what?" Andrew said, concern rising in his voice. But just as Harold was about to answer, the auditorium dimmed and the stage lit up, spotlighting a man with gray streaked hair in a pinstripe suit and black rimmed glasses standing behind an old, wooden podium.

"Mountainview High School parents, welcome to parenting class!" The crowd laughed, murmuring amongst themselves how long it's been since parenting classes for their babies.

"Yep, yep, really has been a while since you've heard those words, hasn't it?" The man smiled. "As you all know, I'm Roger Hatburn, high school director, and on this fine evening, I am proud to present the long awaited presentation on how to deal with your teens! I know how excited we all are about that." The man rolled his eyes, grinning, and the audience roared with laughter. He continued on, but Andrew and Claire stared at each other with alarmed looks in their faces.

"Oh no… Should we go?" Claire grimaced, rocking the stroller back and forth.

"No," Andrew whispered. "No. Let's stay a bit. Maybe we'll learn something beneficial." And with that, their attention snapped back to Mr. Hatburn.

"Ok, parents, before I take questions, I have a little speech prepared if you don't mind. Here goes. All of you have survived the terrible twos, troublesome threes, frightful fours, frustrating fives, shocking sixes, severe sevens, exasperating eights, nasty nines, tiresome tens, enraging elevens, tyrannical twelves ... and here you are at the hardest level yet. Traumatic teens."

The crowd hooted and hollered.

"Which brings me to helping you understand your child, so let's get started with this forum." Mr. Hatburn clicked through a slideshow on changing bodies, mood swings, hormones, sex, and drugs, all information the audience knew but created in a way so that the parents could understand the teens' sides of the stories and how they as parents could appropriately respond and help them cope.

"Awkward health presentations, ah. One way to relive our teenage years, amirite?" Claire whispered. Andrew nodded in agreement.

"Now, for follow up questions. We have two microphones set up in the front so please just come up and ask."

One woman leapt out of her seat and grabbed one of the microphones.

"Mr. Hatburn, Linda here. Not to be a nuisance, but baby parenting classes taught us how to approach that stuff already." The crowd mumbled in agreement. "What I'm really wondering is how I'm supposed to understand what my daughter constantly texts to her friends. Like what does 'wtf' and 'lmao' and 'stfu' and 'smh' and 'rofl' and—" Linda paused and contorted her face in confusion as she opened her mouth to continue. "—and, 'sksk?' mean?"

"Oh. Well, I wasn't expecting that at all. I'm afraid I cannot answer that, since the school specifically advised me to only learn about the topics I covered in the slideshow. Sorry, Linda, I'm going to have to move onto the next question."

Claire suddenly stood up.

"'Wtf' means what the—" Claire hesitated, not wanting to swear at a crowd now staring coldly at her. "It means 'what the beep'. 'Lmao' means 'laughing my beep off', 'stfu' means 'shut the beep up', 'smh' means 'shaking my head', 'rofl' means 'rolling on the floor laughing' and 'sksk'— that's a whole lesson. Look it up on Urban Dictionary and you'll find many VSCO girl uses of the word and words that often accompany it." The whole crowd gasped and murmured angrily about their children constantly texting dirty slang.

Harold nudged Andrew, egging him and Claire to go up on the stage and answer the questions Mr. Hatburn obviously couldn't answer. "Look, my wife and I will look after your baby, just go up there and save the day!"

So Andrew and Claire pushed Mr. Hatburn aside.

"Anything you want to ask the experts?"

People flooded the rows, asking some questions about how to deal with very case specific situations of their kid's mood swings— of which Mr. Hatburn answered— while most others were about dating, Tik Tok, Instagram, YouTube, and teenage trends.

"Andrew and Claire, my 14 year old daughter recently got Tik Tok and she said she got Tik Tok famous on one of her videos and wants to record one with me and her dancing to some song so she can get more views? Uh, what do I do? I want to be a good parent and all, but should I say no to this one?"

"Hmm, toughie. Chances are, she's either asking for you to dance to a trendy song or a famous Tik Tok skit. If it's a dance, it might be so that it looks like she has an adorable father who makes cute mistakes so she can get more views. Depending on what she actually says, and what dance it is, I would probably have to be firm and say no because it can embarrass you and your coworkers might have Tik Tok and pull it up and then have dirt on you. Now, if it's a skit, that could be a fun daddy daughter thing. It's likely purely for fun and likely because she needs someone else to be in the skit with her. Next?"

"Yeah so Andrew and Claire, I try to be a cool mom, ya know? I keep up with the social media trends and everything, I know the lingo, I know the cutest stores, etc. But whenever I try to work my way into my daughter's conversations with her friends or try to go shopping or out to eat with them, I can tell her friends, while they adore me, are all secretly laughing at me. And she's embarrassed and has asked me to stop. Please help me understand what I'm doing wrong." She sniffled, turning away from everyone.

"Well, ma'am, I'm truly glad you're self aware and have picked up on all of these things, for one. But let me say this, teens don't want you to intermingle with their friends and they don't really want you to necessarily know everything there is to know about teenage trends and whatnot. Give her some space. Be that super nice mom that everyone likes and she'll be thankful. I know, I know you've probably put in a real time commitment to understand all of these subject matters and want to show that off to her and her friends but allow her that time away from you. And also, sometimes, be that clueless mother, she might be secretly thankful that she has to explain a thing or two once in a while."

The audience was quiet for a moment, and it almost seemed as if it was a beautiful revelation, a newfound understanding that was occurring in the woman's mind.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Lovely note to end on, folks," Mr. Hatburn interrupted. "I'm afraid that's all the time we have tonight. Thank you for coming, I hope you learned something and I hope your teens will appreciate it!" And everyone was off.

"Very good baby, she was asleep the whole time! No stinky diapers, no crying, the sweetie was a dream!" Harold smiled as Claire and Andrew went down the aisle to pick up their baby.

"Oh great, she slept in her stroller and we brought all of that for nothing," muttered Claire. She and Andrew, thanked the kind couple, got the stroller, and walked out slowly, almost mournfully. After a while, Claire spoke up.

"Andy, I really don't want to have a kid anymore. Parenthood just doesn't sound appealing anymore. At all."

"I agree. I don't want to be that clueless parent that gets made into a laughing stock or that mother who tries so hard but gets turned into a laughing stock anyway."

"Oh no, me neither."

Claire and Andrew were silent for a moment.

"I'll call for a vasectomy appointment—" Andrew quipped, whipping out his phone.

"And I'll ditch the baby."


The Making of a Con

Dramatic Script

The Making of a Con

NOTES: Should be performed on a rotatable stage for the smoothest, most continuous transition.

ACT 1

SCENE 1

INT. BENNINGTON HOUSEHOLD- EVENING

The scene opens in a kitchen. Center stage is a chipped rectangular wood table that seats eight— three on each side and one at each end of the table— and has glasses of water, plates of food, and silverware atop. The Bennington mother, CAROLINE, sits on one end, facing the audience, and sadly stares at her plate. Her face is blotchy with red and her eyes are puffy. The Bennington siblings— JASON, MADISON, OWEN, LARA, WINNIE, and MATTHEW— each do various tasks of drinking water, cutting food, and wiping their faces with napkins all while they chatter amongst each other, not noticing the empty seat and CAROLINE's quiet disposition. JASON looks over and talks to CAROLINE.

JASON: Ma, why do you look so down? You haven't eaten a bite of food or said a word this whole dinner— what's wrong?

The chatter simmers down. All the Bennington siblings look over at CAROLINE, who still stares at her plate with full concentration. A moment of silence passes.

CAROLINE: Your father left.

CAROLINE sniffles softly, trying her best to stifle tears which are already starting to pour out of her eyes. The Bennington siblings immediately look down at their plates in silence. JASON bangs on the table, provoking a plethora of reactions. OWEN also bangs on the table loudly and, like WINNIE, press JASON and OWEN press their fingers to their foreheads to understand the situation. MADISON screams and LARA and MATTHEW start to cry. MATTHEW runs to hug his mother, who then weeps into her son's shoulder.

CAROLINE: Oh my babies, come here.

The Bennington siblings all get out of their seats to hug CAROLINE, who strokes MATTHEW and LARA's heads. The scene pauses. Offstage ADULT LARA talks.

ADULT LARA (V.O): April 12 of 1998, the day my father deserted my family. I never actually knew why he left— my mother never had the heart to tell us and we didn't bother to egg the answer out of her. So, I thought of reasons for why he left, eventually concluding that he left for a younger, more attractive mistress whom he cheated with in the first place because he was too inconsiderate, too lazy to work things out with my mother. Deep down, I knew he wasn't that type, yet I kept repeating that lie to myself, forcing myself to hate him because that was the easiest way to cope.

The scene unpauses.

CAROLINE: (in a solemn voice) We will get through this together. I promise.

LARA: (whispers) Why, oh why, did you have to leave, Papa?

SCENE 2

INT. BENNINGTON HOUSEHOLD- MORNING

LARA, sitting to the side near the door, flips through a textbook and occasionally writes notes in a notebook as she watches WINNIE and MATTHEW, who are drawing on sketch pads on the floor with their legs crossed in the air, whilst CAROLINE, who has dark circles under her eyes and dishevelled hair, is passed out on the torn out couch. JASON and OWEN, wearing soft red flannel jackets with dirty sherpa lining and envy green cargo pants, and MADISON, wearing a long white collared shirt and knee length black pencil skirt, grumpily stomp through the room and slam the door without saying goodbye. LARA looks over at them, suddenly jumps up, and furiously shakes her mother awake.

LARA: Ma, get up! You have to go to work!

CAROLINE: (smiling cluelessly) Huh…

LARA: (mutters) Oh for God sakes. (back to normal voice) Take this (hands CAROLINE a McDonald's uniform draped on the couch) and you can change in the car. Your boss says that if you come in late one more time he's gonna fire you.

LARA rushes out the door, dragging slap happy CAROLINE behind. WINNIE and MATTHEW continue to draw. The scene pauses. Offstage ADULT LARA talks.

ADULT LARA (V.O): November 3 of 1998, the day my older siblings had to drop out of high school to support me, my younger siblings, and my newly drug addicted mother. My mother took drugs for the same reason I used hatred to cope, because it was easier that way and my older siblings soon came to despise my mother because of this, which is why they spent most of their time with their friends or at work, only returning to sleep at the house. That left me to take care of my younger siblings and my mother— who was often in between working at fast food restaurants or as a sales clerk. She couldn't keep a job for more than a month due to being constantly stoned. The very dangerous mixture of my difficult mother, being misunderstood, feeling alone, and crazy pre teenage hormones led me to hate everyone and everything with a burning passion.

The scene unpauses. LARA bursts through the door and jumps on the couch. She huddles in a ball and cries in frustration. She screams into a pillow and punches the sofa cushions until she is too tired to move.

SCENE 3

INT. TRISTAN'S APARTMENT- EVENING

TEEN LARA, who has lacerations on her face and bruises on her arms, sighs as her boyfriend, TRISTAN, snores and drunkenly rolls over onto the ground. The digital clock on the nightstand next to her reads 2:37 A.M. in big red letters. The floor is covered with piles of dirty laundry, stacks of plates, and heaps of empty beer bottles. She gets off the futon, tiptoes around the mess, and snatches the blanket off of TRISTAN and hugs herself with it. She flops back on the futon and stares at the ceiling. The scene pauses. Offstage ADULT LARA talks.

ADULT LARA (V.O): February 8 of 2003, the day I moved out of the house and dropped out of my senior year in high school to live with my boyfriend. When I first met my boyfriend, Tristan, he seemed nice enough. Blinded by desperation for love and attention, I didn't notice that Tristan was slowly turning into an abusive boyfriend. Or rather I pretended that he wasn't. He drank beer everyday until he passed out, left his food and clothes all over the place, and beat me when he was angry. Every night, I feel asleep with a hungry belly and a bruised body, wondering if I would make it to see the sun shine the next day, praying to God for answers as to why my life had to be like this.

The scene unpauses.

TEEN LARA: (whispers) God, please, just tell me one thing, I beg you— what is so wrong with me that, that I do not deserve to be loved? (voice raises shakily) Why, why is it that after I recover from heartbreak and try to believe in love again that I get let down again? My father, my mother, my boyfriend… What will it be next? What's wrong with me? (long pause, in a low, coarse voice) I hate love.

TEEN LARA cries, softly but violently, into her pillow.

SCENE 4

INT. BUS- MORNING

TEEN LARA sits on a bus seat, next to the window, resting her head on her hand and staring out the window (facing the audience). The scene pauses. Offstage ADULT LARA talks.

ADULT LARA (V.O): July 29 of 2003, the day I boarded the first bus out of town and left Tristan. During the long trip, I thought about my father and why he really left. At this point, I admitted to myself that my father wouldn't leave for another woman. Thinking over and over again leading up to April 12 of 1998, it became clear to me that he left because he lost his love for his children and wife and had to leave for his own sake. In that moment, instead of feeling upset or hurt or angry at him, I felt empathy for him. I, for one, was doing the exact same thing, five years later, but to start my new life of revenge.

The scene unpauses. TEEN LARA wears a little smile. Blackout.

INTERMISSION

ACT 2

SCENE 1

INT. LARA'S APARTMENT- AFTERNOON

ADULT LARA, wearing an expensive red dress and a neat, high ponytail, sits in a white leather office chair behind a glass desk cluttered with a mess of documents, photographs of wedding supplies, a computer, and a coffee mug. There is a window with a cushioned white window seat, featuring a sunny day outside. The walls in the office are light pink. A couple, BEN and LISA, sit in two plastic see-through chairs, facing away from the audience.

ADULT LARA: (smiles while talking in a sweet, upbeat voice) Looks like you two are right on time with the payment timeline we agreed on in the contract, which is great! I ordered the trays of herb roasted chicken breasts and garlic butter oven baked tilapia, and Lisa, I got your dress! I set up the cake tasting at the little bakery you wanted and the appointment is on Sunday at 2:00.

BEN: Alright, thank you, that sounds perfect, Connie.

The scene pauses. ADULT LARA faces the audience and laughs a little.

ADULT LARA: Yes, I changed my name to Connie— clever, right?

The scene unpauses.

LISA: Could we please see the receipts for the dress and food?

ADULT LARA: Of course you can, just sit tight for a moment, please. I think I put them in my purse which is in my bedroom— I am so sorry about that.

BEN: No, no, take your time.

ADULT LARA smiles, exiting the room through the door, walking briefly through a hallway and entering the next room on the rotatable stage; her bathroom. In the corner is a bathtub with a bunch of logos from various wedding designers and caterers soaking. On the sink counter, there are a handful of crinkled receipts. ADULT LARA furiously searches through the pile, selecting a couple receipts. ADULT LARA enters the office and gives BEN and LISA the receipts, who flip through and nod, then hand back the receipts.

LISA: Looks good, thank you, Connie. Ben and I better get going now, but we'll see you Sunday!

ADULT LARA: Yep, bye!

BEN and LISA exit the set and ADULT LARA sits back down at her desk and smiles.

ADULT LARA (to the audience): As any successful con artist will tell you, it is all in the details and the legitimacy. For my business, the details are all in the receipts— rather the fake receipts— I hand to the couples. At a typical five to ten second glance, the receipts look realistic enough to reassure the stressed out couple. And it's not like these busy couples will go out of their way to go to the fake addresses printed on the receipts to make sure that I purchased their items. Why am I so sure about that? Because of my legitimacy. I live, act, talk, and dress the part of a successful freelance wedding planner. I don't push cheap, sketchy options, but rather patiently help couples find the best, usually most expensive, options. And the best part when you combine the details and the legitimacy in my business? Well, by faking the receipts and directing their money to my account, (chuckles) I get a nice pile of cash the size of a typical wedding planner's salary— but in a matter of a few weeks or months.

A projector displays ADULT LARA's Macbook's browser. On it, there are various email inbox tabs, which show emails from prospective customers, and her phone icon shows five missed calls from prospective customers. ADULT LARA deletes every single email and voicemail, clicking into her website, which features fancy props, samples, and packages as well as photos from her friends' weddings. She changes the contacts from previous clients and goes on to delete a few of her email accounts. She then blocks the website's accessibility. ADULT LARA faces the audience and speaks.

ADULT LARA: Ben and Lisa are going to have their wedding soon and once they find out that I'm a scammer and complain about me to their friends, I will have left the state and no one will be able to access my site except those who live in the next place I'm visiting. Ben and Lisa will not be able to report me because of the accessibility and they won't be able to get their friends from other states to turn me in because guess what? If those friends call the police, I'll know. And I'll escape as I always do. If they try to do it the civil way by setting up an appointment with me? Well, let's just say that won't happen either because I thoroughly check out my new clients before I accept them. (pauses and smiles artificially) Oh Ben and Lisa, how I wish you two the most perfect wedding imaginable.

SCENE 2

INT. ADULT LARA'S NEW APARTMENT- MORNING

ADULT LARA sits in a white leather office chair, which is behind a glass desk cluttered with a mess of documents, photographs of wedding supplies, a computer, and a coffee mug. There are no windows in the office and the walls are eggshell white. A couple, DYLAN and ADULT WINNIE, enter the room.

ADULT LARA: (looks up and smiles) Jennifer, Archie! Hello! I'm so happy you two could come today. I'm very excited to get to knowing you two and working with you both on your dream wedding—

DYLAN: (in a serious tone) Connie.

LARA: (sweetly) Yes, Dylan?

DYLAN: Jennifer and I have something we would like to tell you.

ADULT LARA's smile falters.

ADULT LARA: (in a slightly nervous voice) Yes? What is it?

ADULT WINNIE: (sighs deeply) When we were in the process of considering you as our wedding planner, I noticed that the wedding pictures were all ones of my close friends and family that I had attended, which seemed very odd.

ADULT LARA: (in a serious tone, fake smile) Ok.

ADULT WINNIE: And so I asked those people if you were their planner and naturally they said no. So then, Dylan and I tracked one of the IP addresses on your (air quotes) clients' contacts listed on the website to find that it led to you, which we found odd, and then we did that for the rest… and all of them lead to you.

ADULT LARA softly gasps as ADULT WINNIE pauses for a breath of air.

ADULT LARA: Now, I'm sure—

ADULT WINNIE: Larissa Isabelle Bennington, you are under arrest for fraud and embezzlement.

Police sirens are heard and red and blue lights flash. ADULT WINNIE pins ADULT LARA on the table and handcuffs her.

ADULT LARA: (whimpers) Winnie…?

SCENE 3

INT. ADULT LARA'S JAIL CELL- EVENING

ADULT LARA, who wears a bright orange jumpsuit and whose hair is all over the place, rests on the white linen sheets on her bed. On the grey wall behind her is a piece of paper with the words "The Making of a Con By Ex Con Artist Lara Bennington." On her bed, ADULT LARA writes on a notepad, focusing on her notepad as she talks to the audience.

ADULT LARA: After reading that my sister arrested me, you are probably wondering why I didn't grow up to help protect others for the better as my sister did and why I instead grew up to be a hateful, villainous, self pitying woman. Now, I would never want to finish a book on such a misunderstanding, so please give me your patience and let me explain. After being arrested by my own sister, I, too, wondered what I did that could have led me to this life. But there was nothing that I myself did that was wrong. If you hadn't already noticed, from the day my father left, I learned to hate rather than love, lie and cheat rather than tell the truth, grow up rather than be a child— but my sister, Winnie, didn't have to grow up to take care of her siblings and mother. She didn't hate rather than love because of her fundamental strength, independence, and ability to cope with events such as when my father left— the exact opposite of my sensitive, vulnerable self. And now, the motive behind the con is probably clicking in your head. Yes, unlike most true con artists, all of the trouble I went through to wreck hundreds of couples' wedding days and constantly evade the police wasn't for the money or power. Or even for revenge, in retrospect. It was for others to understand my pain.

Blackout.