Glossophobia: A No-Chapter Novella

This is an excerpt from the late beginning of the story I wrote for my sister for her birthday. I didn’t put in chapters in this novella, so it’s more like a super-long short story. Please let me know what you think of this excerpt in the comments below. Thanks!

Mr. Bullis walked to his desk and pulled out a black notebook. He flipped it open and started calling roll. His voice was gruff, and Amanda could feel herself getting more apprehensive every second. He finished calling roll and laid the notebook on the desk. He turned back to the class.

“Let me start off by introducing myself. I’m Edward Bullis. I’ve been teaching at this school for five years.” He paused, studying them. “And if you thought that speech class was going to be easy, let me inform you that it won’t be.” The few cheerful faces that were left in the room vanished. “A few things you should know about this class. First, you will be required to write and give a speech every week. I will split you into two groups. One group will do their speeches on Thursday, and the other will do theirs on Friday. The next week they will switch.” Amanda glanced over at Jamie out of the corner of her eye. So far everything that Zane had said was true.

“We will also have pop speeches where you will have five minutes to write a two-minute speech.” Mr. Bullis’s cold blue eyes quickly silenced the students’ groans. A hand slowly rose.

“Yes, Miss Kerr?” Mr. Bullis asked, irritated and impatient.

“Will we actually have to give our pop speeches in front of the class?” the short girl in the second row asked.

Mr. Bullis’s face reddened with exasperation. “Yes, of course. In fact, we’re going to have one today to see how advanced each of you are. Get out a clean sheet of paper.” The sound of zippers and scuffling filled the room as each student obeyed. Amanda glanced over at Jamie fearfully. She knew that she wasn’t ready to do this, especially without instructions.

To her slight relief, Mr. Bullis quickly explained a few speech-writing basics. Jamie sent Amanda a wobbly smile. Amanda gave her a shaky half-grin.

“All right, students. You may begin,” Mr. Bullis said.

Amanda picked up her pencil and stared down at her blank sheet of paper. She tried desperately to think of a topic. She decided to write about dog habits, since that was something she was pretty familiar with. Not only did her family have three dogs, but sometimes she volunteered to dog-sit for other people.

Every sentence and paragraph seemed to take way too long. When Mr. Bullis announced that their time was up, she set down her pencil and groaned, along with most of the class. She felt like she had hurried through too quickly and that she was going to have to give a horrible speech. Her heart started pounding as she thought about getting up in front of the class and having them all stare at her. She gulped.

“We’ll go in alphabetical order by last name,” Mr. Bullis stated. “Cameron Aldly.”

As the boy with the long blond ponytail started his speech about motocross racing, Amanda felt her stomach churning with nervousness. She swallowed, trying to drown her fear. It didn’t help. She fidgeted nervously.

After four more people gave their speeches, it was Jamie’s turn. Amanda managed to give her friend a smile and a thumbs up. Jamie grinned weakly in return, then walked to the front of the classroom. Amanda forced herself to focus on Jamie’s speech. Jamie’s amazing, Amanda thought as she watched her friend. She knew that Jamie hadn’t been worried about the actual speaking part, since she loved talking in front of people and being the center of attention. Jamie had been most worried about writing her speech, especially with a time limit. Amanda thought that Jamie’s topic, gardening, even made sense, since Jamie’s mom was a florist; it was one of the things that Jamie knew well.

Jamie finished her speech and nodded at Mr. Bullis. The class clapped, just like they had for all of the other students, but Mr. Bullis actually looked slightly impressed. That only lasted a second before he was back to his normal hardened self. “That was nice, Miss Hamilton,” he said.

“Thank you, sir,” Jamie replied. Amanda could tell that her friend was thrilled. Jamie sat back down in her chair and smiled encouragingly at Amanda.

Two more people went, and Amanda got more and more nervous. There was only one more person before Amanda.

“Valerie Taverna,” Mr. Bullis announced. The tall black-haired girl sitting in front of Amanda stood up, flipped her hair over her shoulder, and strolled confidently to the front of the room, a clearly fake smile pasted on her face. Mr. Bullis raised an eyebrow skeptically at her. She reached the front of the classroom and turned to face the class. Flipping her hair over her shoulder again, she smiled sweetly at the rest of the class. Amanda noticed that a lot of the boys in the room started paying attention. She rolled her eyes.

Valerie started giving her speech, and Amanda gulped. Valerie was really good. The speech she’d written about good first dates was great, even though Amanda didn’t really care about the topic. Amanda thought that Valerie’s speech was way better than her own, and her presentation was definitely as good as Jamie’s. She fidgeted and had to sit on her hands to keep from biting her nails. Her stomach churned, and she started to feel a little queasy.

Valerie finished her speech and nodded at Mr. Bullis. The clapping from the students was thunderous, especially from the boys. Amanda had noticed that some of them had taken notes. Valerie sat down with a smug look on her face. She had done well, Amanda thought, and she knew it.

Mr. Bullis looked down at his black notebook. “Amanda Terrell.”

Amanda felt her stomach jump and tried to swallow her fear. She stood up and picked up her sheet of paper, walking slowly to the front of the classroom, her heart pounding. She turned to face the class. Sixteen pairs of eyes were focused on her, seventeen if you counted Mr. Bullis. Jamie smiled encouragingly at her.

Amanda started her speech. Even with her eyes focused on her speech, she could feel the class staring at her. She tripped over her words and said “um” and “uh” way too often. She knew that she was talking too fast, but she couldn’t help it. She heard giggles rolling through the classroom and her face reddened with embarrassment. She quickly nodded at Mr. Bullis and walked back to her seat with her head down. She could feel the teacher’s eyes drilling into the back of her head. Jamie gave Amanda a sympathetic smile as the next student walked to the front of the classroom.

Valerie turned around from the seat in front of Amanda and faced her with a taunting grin. “So, like, um, don’t you know, uh, how to give a, er, speech?” she teased. Amanda’s face flushed bright red.

“Knock it off,” Jamie growled in defense of her friend.

The sound of someone clearing their throat at the front of the room caught the three girls’ attention. Mr. Bullis was glaring at them, his angry gaze frigid. He turned to the speaker, who had just finished. “Thank you, sir.” The boy nodded and sat down. Mr. Bullis sent another cold glare in the girls’ direction before calling the next student.

The last five speeches seemed to crawl past, especially for Amanda, who squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. She couldn’t wait to get out of the classroom; on the other hand, she knew that a lot of the students would probably tease her when they got out of class.

The final student finished his speech, and the rest of the class clapped enthusiastically. It wasn’t that his speech was really that great, but the fact that the speeches were over.

Mr. Bullis stood up, glancing at the clock. “Your homework for this week is to choose a topic to write a speech about for Friday.” The bell rang. “You may go,” Mr. Bullis announced over the clamor of the students gathering their books. Amanda stuffed her speech into her binder and hurried to the door, following right behind Jamie.

“Miss Terrell,” Amanda heard someone say behind her. She stopped and turned around. It was Mr. Bullis. “I’d like you to stay after class.” Amanda nodded wordlessly and let the other kids flow past her, her heart pounding, until she was left to face Mr. Bullis.

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