Age: 17, Grade: 12
School Name: St Francis Preparatory School, Fresh Meadows, NY
Educator: Eric Hafker
Category: Novel Writing
The second Rosemary Nartowitz drags her feet into the sticky weather of Jacksonville, she is suspicious of her silver-headed old neighbor. And keeping them at bay is the lake between the two of them, isolating each other enough for Rosemary to become curious as to what a lake is doing in between the two houses. When she unwillingly befriends Clark, his eye landed on the neighbor next door too. When Rosemary finally goes over the house, she finds her neighbor hiding something too. Whether it be Clark’s shadowed troubles or her neighbor’s haunting past and present, Rosemary and her trusted notebook, Tommy, are determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Even if it means diving in deep.
“Mind if I sit with you?” She stands in front of Clark, holding onto the seats in between
his to keep her balance as the reckless bus driver chews her gum and steps on the pedal.
“Mind if I let you?” He slides over, his line not making much sense but Rosemary can
tell he instantly regretted it, saying something without actual meaning. Is he as nervous
about this as she is? All she wants is to make friends with him. She hates everyone but
she does not want to hate him nor does she want to hate Eddie. Maybe the two of them
can meet someday. Rose is sure that Clark would befriend Eddie, like she is trying to do.
“Has Superman saved any souls since yesterday? Did I miss him in action?” She jeers at
the name Superman, loving the title and wondering how he received it.
“I prefer not to talk about it. It’s just a stupid title the kids in the front gave me a while
back. It sort of stuck and now, everyone knows me by it. They don’t actually know my
name.” He shrugs, keeping his gaze and his mind out of our conversation.
“Sorry.” Rosemary plays with the thread that is sticking out of the bottom of her skirt
and tugs at it occasionally in the silence, trying to find the words to stay to keep a
conversation afloat. Seeing her name on her lunch bag makes her think of the song Clark
showed her which brings her to her conversation starter.
“Do you find underrated songs as a hobby or did Love Grows just happen to be an
underrated song?” He pulls his eyes out of the landscape outside and stares with a
glimmer in Rosemary’s greeneish-golden eyes.
“Huge hobby. That and mystery books is all I ever do…Not that I don’t do other stuff—I
do—I just—I prefer those things over most.” Rosemary can work with this conversation.
“Mystery books, huh? Murder on Orient Express is one of my favorites.” Rosemary
knows enough about mysteries, considering she’s lived a few to love them enough to
read them. She loves the thrill that runs through her and during scenes, the adrenaline
that fills her veins.
“Agatha Christie. Wow. I didn’t peg you as a fan of her.”
“Well, it’s not everyday that a murder happens on a train, now is it?” She chuckles at his
vision of her in his mind. What else did he pick apart from her yesterday? What does he
think about her?
“Very true. But I like the more realistic stuff. Ever read Behind Closed Doors? That’s a
real psychological thriller and it’ll blow your mind. Very trippy.” He picks up his
walkman and offers it to her, holding a tape in his hand.
“The book. I don’t read them. I listen to them.” Rosemary can’t understand why he
doesn’t at least have a phone he could listen to them on. Instead of mentioning
anything, which she realizes would be rude, she accepts the walkman and understands
that this is the olive branch. This is the start of something; after all, sharing is caring.
“Listen to the book and then get back to me on your Agatha Christie.” He’s letting her
keep it for a while; would she let him keep one of her favorites? She isn’t sure.
“Hey, she’s not the only one I like. I’m not that stereotypical in the mystery and thriller
“Okay, who else should we like?” We? Had he already started assuming there would be a
we? Could her desires already be coming true? Could she really have her first friend
since—. No recollection of any memory would mess this up for her. She would not dawn
upon her best friend. Her only friend in her whole life. But now her best friend wouldn’t
be the only one. She had Superman. And nothing could kill Superman, right?
“Ruth Ware, definitely. I found one her books in an airport and instantly, fell in love.
She draws you into the story and they are so well-written and I think you’d really like it.”
He smiles at her, seeing all the love for novels in her eyes and can’t help but want to
spend countless of days with her, reading and talking about their favorite novels and
why they love them. Those would be the best afternoons of her life, Rosemary decides.
But what would become of Eddie and his mystery? She needs to know what happens at
“Take my copy. I want you to read it and then we can come back to each other and talk
about the books.” She unzips her schoolbag, digging into the bag to find her favorite
Ruth Ware novel beside Tommy. Luckily, she hadn’t let out Tommy. Explaining why you
have a diary to her first friend here would not be a good conversation starter.
“A Woman in…Cabin 10? What kind of—”
“You can’t say anything until you’ve read it. No spoilers about Behind Closed Doors and
I won’t spoil A Woman in Cabin 10. Deal?” Rose holds out her hand, knowing that this
will be the final sealer of their friendship. With a readied and apparently overjoyed
smile, Clark takes her hand and they shake, agreeing over those terms.
“Whoever finishes first should get something; a prize, maybe.” She suggests to him,
while he tucks A Woman in Cabin 10 in between his armpit and his chest.
“Yeah, like whoever finishes first gets to…okay, so whoever finishes last has to pay for
the both of us when we hang out.” Good job, Rosemary. Guaranteeing a hang out is
certainly the way to go. If only her father could see her now.
“Sounds good enough to me.” Though something in Clark’s smile told her this was not a
good idea. Ignoring her instincts, they shake on it and Clark picks up A Woman in Cabin
and reads the first couple of pages while Rosemary watches him, looking for a slight
smile that might tell her she gave him one of his new favorite books but it never came.
And when they got back on the bus after school, Clark hands the book back to her, with a
smile on his face.
“Thank you for giving me one of my new favorite books.” She tucks it into her book bag
and cannot help but chat about it the whole way home with Clark by her side, keeping
his details short and sweet. At one point, he asks her to explain the ending of the book
because it’s a little unclear to him so she clears up his confusion and thinks nothing of it.
When she gets up to her room in the afternoon, she pulls out A Woman in Cabin 10 and
pages through it before I see pencil markings underlining words. She takes out Tommy
and writes down all the words highlighted in pencil that were not there before. It’s an
encrypted message starting with, I’m. Writing down the single words Rosemary, finds,
she puts together sentences.
I am not very good with words aloud. I don’t hate everyone. Least of all, you.
“Me too, Clark. Me too.” But as she sees Eddie from her window, she grabs her
binoculars and spies, knowing that he has a mystery tied to him makes him even more
interesting to Rosemary. Of course, just knowing nothing about him makes her more
curious. But she knows the saying: curiosity killed the cat. She just hopes she isn’t the
She writes in Tommy for a little, telling him all about Clark and how he left an
encrypted message in her book. To Tommy, she decides not to erase the marks in her
book and right before dinner, she listens to a little bit of Behind Closed Doors, realizing
that it is as psychologically thrilling as Clark warned. She has to take the headphones off
for a couple of seconds but when the desire to learn what happens next becomes too
great, she picks them back up and cannot think anything other than the plot. Rosemary
finishes the book in one night, deeming the book to be much more important than her
negligible homework. After she finishes and tries to wrap her mind around the ending,
as finally deserved as ever, she brushes through her homework and glances up through
the window where her desk is. Spotting Ed, she gives a little wave, hoping his eyes are
looking over here. And just when she thinks that he just can’t see her, she realizes it’s
not Ed. All the lights are off in the house except for the porch light, shining dimly above
the figure that she doesn’t know. How can it not be Ed? Who else is in Ed’s house? She
decides to back away from the window, hoping the person wouldn’t notice she knows
that he or she is there.
When Rosemary works the facts together, that it is her house and that she owns
this window, she sits back down at her desk and glances up quickly but ends up staring.
The figure, whoever he may be, is gone and with him, so is the porch light; almost like
he never existed. Almost like it was just a trick of Rosemary’s eyes and mind, trying to
fool her. But Rosie, full of facts and research knows what she saw. And is determined,
now more than ever to know exactly who her friendly Ed is and who was in his house.
That night, Rosemary cannot sleep. She spends most of it by her window, trying
to spot something through the glass about the neighbor, something she can use to solve
her unwritten mystery. Her room suddenly becomes unbearable and secluded. She
sneaks down the staircase, carrying her flashlight on her phone with her. Her eyes are
soggy but somehow, they don’t want to fully shut, taking her off to a sleepy hollow where
she could just dream, or not. She could just think of nothing; sleep is Rosemary’s break
from her inquisitions and investigations.
But as she makes her way to her own glass doors, Rosemary spots the figure
again. This time, he or she is standing on her dock, searching for something. Rosie
doesn’t know what to do. What would Agatha Christie say her character would do? Rosie
wanst to admit it to Clark after he had basically shamed her but Christie really is her
favorite. She can’t shake the love for the thrilling writer and her works. But what would
Christie tell her to do now? Would she tell her to go out to discover whoever is out
there? Or would she wake up her parents? No, Rosie decides. No parents. Me and only
me. Rosie wants nothing but to go out there and confront them but what is a sixteen-
year-old to do? She has no defenses. But she does have the element of surprise.
She knows exactly where Sherman likes to keep a BB gun for moments like this
where she needed to scare off someone. She makes sure there’s at least something in the
barrel, incase he or she decides to come at her.
Rosie hides behind the wall and flicks the lock open, and takes a deep breath
before sliding the door with all her might and holding out the gun.
But whoever was there, is now gone. Did she picture it? Rosie knows for a fact she
saw someone. Could she be wrong? Just a trick of the mind my ass, she thought.
Keeping the gun firm in her hands, she takes a step outside, looking both ways before
examining the terrain as a whole. The only way that figure could have gotten across the
lake is either to drive or to swim. And there isn’t another boat out here, nor did the
figure look to be damp or wet. Which means he took—Rosie hears an engine kick and
she knows whoever it is, got away. Yet, she still finds herself running towards the sound,
taking her as quick as her athletically built body can.
“Wait!” But why would he or she listen to the person that they are scattering away from?
Rosie watches as the car, whose license plate is unclear because of the blinding
headlights and as she covers her eyes, she can make out tiny details about the driver. It
is a man and he looks rather familiar to her. But who did she know besides the people
she was closest to in this town? She doesn’t make out all his facial features but she
knows his eyes. She condemns them to memory and knows that if she ever sees those
sharp blue eyes again, she’ll know them. With the blue-eyed man in her head, she finally
is able to fall asleep.
Rosemary wakes up with exhaustion wedging its way in between her eyelid and
her eye. Nothing becomes as hard as getting changed with only one eye half open. She
makes sure she carries around Tommy and the walkman so she doesn’t forget to give it
back to Clark.
She says absolutely nothing at breakfast but her mother stares about her and
hands her a cup of black coffee on her way out, hoping that Rosemary gets a little
“happier on her way to school so she can make great friends.” Her exact words to a
sleep-deprived Rosemary, who climbs the bus with a to-go cup in her hand, searching
blindly for a boy who she owes something to.
“Rosie can’t wake up until she’s had her morning cup of joe with Superman. He seems to
open all the right things, doesn’t he, Rosie?” She wishes more than anything that they
would just stop. But she is tired of having to suck up her breath to let it exhale in the
back of the bus, where she can just be herself with Superman.
“He may save but he is nothing but a coward.” One kid spits to me in the middle of the
bus and Rosie knows that this is where she finally lets her breath out.
“At least he saves. What can you do? Make bad jokes about other people? It’s about time
someone started making jokes about you. Lord knows there’s more than enough to joke
about.” Rosie walks back to the bus and lets them scream other things at her but it 34
doesn’t matter because she’s nudged them for Clark. That’s exactly what matters and as
she sits pressed up against the jean-jacketed hero, she nods when he smiles. She knew
he never would have defended himself and maybe he doesn’t want to. But doesn’t it say
something about their relation—friendship that she is willing to go to such lengths to
defend him? Yes, Rosie thinks it does. And without physically giving herself a pat on the
back, she glances in the window reflection and looks at herself. Never more tired, but
never more alive. What is this coffee going to do that Clark doesn’t do for her?
“Want a coffee? It’s got nothing in it but my mom thought I was really tired this
morning and wanted me to wake up.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, take it. I don’t like coffee without it loaded with milk and sugar anyways.” His
calloused fingers graze Rosemary’s thought-to-be-amiable fingers.
“Thanks. Did you finish the book?” The two chat on about the book and Clark seems to
have more to say to Rosemary about Behind Closed Doors than he did about A Woman
in Cabin 10. Rosemary decides to bring it up and at the topic, she sees the slightest tense
in Clark’s posture that she knows for a fact; he did not read the book.
“What was your favorite scene?” She lets his recollect himself as he pretends to blow out
the steam from the coffee and she almost lets herself watch him do so with his lips…but
recoils her gaze and redirects herself on the goal.
“I think it was when you finally find out about the wife. That was really awesome.”
“Which wife?” Trick question; point for Rosie.
“The one married to…Lars.”
This doesn’t give Rosie all her evidence so she decides on one more question.
“What’s the real name of the girl in Cabin 10?” The big reveal of the book.
“You didn’t actually read it, did you?” His face goes pale and he tries to come up with
excuses, darting his eyes back and forth between the cup of flaming coffee and
Rosemary’s central gaze but he cannot think of anything.
“No.” His head falls to the cup and he silently wishes he was another, even if it was just
the steam coming out of the cup.
“You could have taken all the time you needed. You didn’t have to—”
“I couldn’t do it.”
“You could’ve had it for days. It was just a silly bet, Clark. It is okay for—”
“I can’t read.” His words strike Rosemary as a stunning point, after coming to the
conclusion that they both liked mystery novels.