Fun fact: NERDS is one of my favorite book series. I used to have some fic up for it before I changed my penname, but I took it all down, haha. (You're welcome.) I've been having an issue with writer's block lately, so I decided to turn to the dreaded 100 Theme Challenge and see how far I could get before I decided to throw myself out a window.


Challenge Number: One

Challenge Prompt: Violinist

Challenge Subject: Ruby Peet

Rating: K


"You have a lot of talent, Ruby."

The eleven-year-old looked up at her teacher, who was gazing affectionately at the violin in her lap.

"I've never heard anybody play that instrument the way you do. It's incredible." Mr. Bright, middle-aged with hair graying at the temples, met Ruby's eyes. "I'd be honored if you would allow me to help you hone your talent."

Ruby looked down at her instrument – something she had been forced to begin for use in a cover story. The violin had provided excellent excuses not to be home in time for dinner (though she was usually anywhere but the music room at Nathan Hale Elementary at the time). It was special to her simply because of its convenience. She had no particular affinity for its sound, or the vibrations that flowed through her body every time she stroked the strings with her bow. It was a necessity she had never thought to enjoy before.

"Playing music is also a great way to release your aggressions," Mr. Bright added suddenly, and Ruby looked up at him.

"What aggressions?" she asked suspiciously, and he laughed.

"Ruby, I might be old, but I'm not blind," he said kindly. He smiled at her, and the laugh lines around his eyes deepened. "You are a frustrated girl. There is almost always something bothering you." He reached forward and tapped the violin with his finger. "Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of screechy notes to make yourself feel a million times better."

Ruby looked down at the violin and plucked one of its strings. Mr. Bright chuckled. "Why don't you take that home and try making yourself feel better?" he asked. "And, if you find that you like the way you feel afterwards, don't be afraid to come see me again. My offer for private lessons will stand for as long as you're interested. Okay?"

Ruby nodded, not looking away from the block of wood in her lap.

When Ruby got home a bit later, she quietly made her way up the stairs and to her bedroom. It was raining outside, and water ran in parallel lines down the glass of her windows. Her bed was made, her floor clean, her desk organized. Perfect, the way she left it every morning. She stood before the full-length mirror hanging on her wall. Her mismatched, unfashionable reflection seemed to mar the beauty of her perfectly polished bedroom. Her poofy pigtails and oversized glasses, her awkwardly-upturned nose and her too-long neck, her clothing that suggested colorblindness and her gawky body that was too tall for elementary school and still too short for junior high stared back at her, sitting against the backdrop of a perfect bedroom the way a smudge would sit in the middle of one of the lenses of her glasses.

She opened her violin case and pulled the instrument from its velvet lining. She plucked the bow from its matching resting place and pressed her chin into its cradle. She adjusted her fingers and placed her bow against the strings, pushing gently against them and listening to the clear note that rung out into her otherwise silent bedroom. The note was crisp and familiar – one of her warm-up notes at school. Fine and ordinary and by the book, just like everything else in her life.

Ruby glided the bow across the strings again, never breaking eye contact with her own reflection. The same note rang out again.


She repeated the motion.


And again.


Sudden frustration controlling the muscles in her arm, she rocketed the bow so quickly past the strings that it slipped, emitting an unattractive shriek that shattered the ever-present barrier between herself and the outside world that seemed to exist in her bedroom. She saw something in the eyes of her reflection, then. Something that sparked, glowed, for just a moment behind those thick glasses.

She repeated the movement, relishing in the awful cry of the violin strings in a bedroom completely devoid of any feeling, of any emotion, of any music. Keeping her instrument balanced between her cheek and her shoulder, she turned from the mirror and wandered through her bedroom, continuing to bring the bow across the strings, playing pretty notes and awful ones in a cacophonous symphony of sheer noise.

As her arm worked to continue producing the melody of jumbled notes, she approached the laundry basket sitting against her wall, containing last night's pajamas. With a small smile, she kicked the basket over. As it tipped to its side, emptying its contents onto her floor, she played the same rude note from the beginning of her experiment. She walked to her bedside table and thumped it with her hip, watching as the pile of books that sat on it slid from their already-precarious position and crashed to the floor.

As her bedroom filled with the roar of badly-executed notes (or were they well-executed notes that just happened to be terrible?), she stepped onto her bed, completely ignoring the sneakers still adorning her feet. With a little shriek of glee, she punted one of her pillows off the bed and onto the floor. She jumped, kicking spare blankets from the foot of her bed, swatting at her other pillows, jumping and jumping until the top of her head nearly brushed the ceiling, and just as she thought the music couldn't get any louder, she stopped.

She did one last bounce, falling all the way down onto her bottom onto the now very-ruffled blankets of her bed. She pulled the violin away from her face and set it in her lap. She gazed down at it, her mouth just slightly agape, amazed at the sudden onset of… of wildness that had overcome her for no reason other than that she suddenly had complete control over this ridiculous instrument. She had complete control over something. After the whole fiasco with Brand coming in and introducing someone to the team she was supposed to be leading, after one of her teammates abandoned the group that they had practically shared custody of, after so many tragedies and triumphs that seemed completely out of her hands, she had control over something.


She looked up and found herself staring back into the eyes of her reflection. Something was different, though. She no longer appeared to be a bit of dirt on a clean backdrop, an ink smudge on otherwise flawless paper. She was the same – mismatched and plain – but suddenly she appeared so much more at home in this room. Because it wasn't so flawless anymore, was it? Her hamper and pajamas lay on their sides near her door. Her bedding was rumpled and messy and unmade. Her pillows and spare blankets littered the floor. The books on her bedside table lay on her carpet like a child's building blocks. It was imperfect, flawed, and a bit of a mess.

A bit like her.