The Great Expectation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Review Chain

A girl goes to see her idol and finds him to be different than expected.

Daylight filters in splinters through the glass ceiling of Tharamel Hall’s lobby high above the heads of the shifting crowd. I stare mesmerized at one man with a halo of light reflecting off his smooth head. He turns, notices me, and his bushy eyebrows slide together. We make eye contact for a second before a tug at my elbow distracts me.

“We’re up, Holly.” Neb pulls me up to the ticket collector. I smile at her, but she gazes back at me with dull eyes.

“Tickets?” Neb hands over two crisp white tickets that flash in the collector’s grubby hand before being swiftly hole punched.

“Next.” Just like that, we’re dismissed. As I look back at the woman in her rumpled uniform and vacant expression, I wonder how people can be so dismal on a day like today.

Shrugging, I turn to Neb. “Are you excited?”

He rolls his eyes. “You’ve asked me that a hundred times in the past hour. It’s great and all that you’re looking forward to seeing Dr. Whatshisname speak, but I’m only here because Mom said I had to take you.”

“His name is Dr. Kenton Vanyo,” I remind Neb. “And he’s lecturing on ancient Greek culture.”

“Let’s just get to our seats,” Neb sighs.

I follow him up the aisle frowning. What did I do wrong this time? As we get to our seats, I take a deep breath and remind myself of why I’m here. Finally, I had my chance to see my idol speak on ancient Greek culture. It was the first time Dr. Vanyo had come to our area, and I’d jumped at the chance when his official website announced it. Even then I almost couldn’t go until Neb got grounded, and Mom said he could get off sooner if he took me. But I’m here now, and I’m going to see Dr. Vanyo in person.

I settle on the cushioned seat and stare expectantly at the stage far below.

“There’s still a few minutes until it starts,” Neb says. I glance over to see him slouched in his seat typing on his phone.

“Who are you communicating with?” I lean over to see his screen, and he jerks it away with a scowl.

“None of your business, and why can’t you just say text like a normal person?” Neb snaps.

I shift away from him and have to bite my lip hard to hold off the tears.

“Hell, Holly, I didn’t mean to—I’m sorry, okay?”

I turn my face away and sniff. Carefully, I count my fingers from one to ten and back again. The repetition distracts me till my eyes stop burning.

“It’s okay,” I mumble. “S’not your fault.”  Looking back out into the crowd, I watch the other audience members file into their seats until the lights dim and bright stage lights glow to life.

I suck in a breath and lean forward, waiting to see Dr. Vanyo. A portly man with a scruffy beard and thinning hair steps onto the stage. He must be announcing Dr. Vanyo.

“Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and anthropology enthusiasts,” his voice booms through the speakers. “I’m glad to see such a turn out. It’s a nice change from my usual work. Although the artifacts can’t talk back!”

My jaw drops as the audience chuckles. That is Dr. Vanyo. I can’t focus on his lecture as my mind pings between disbelief and confusion. All I catch is the occasional laughter from the crowd as Dr. Vanyo cracks another joke. I thought he was going to be all serious and academic like his research papers, not making jokes and acting goofy. This is all wrong.

By the end of the lecture, my fingernails have dug deep crescents into my palms, and my teeth keep gnawing at my lip. As the lights come on, I stand and follow Neb back out into the lobby robotically. He says something, but I don’t pay attention. I can’t believe I was excited for that.

“Holly,” Neb nudges me, “the guy is selling autographed books. Didn’t you want one?”

I sigh and change direction to the folding table people are already starting to crowd. Dr. Vanyo’s sitting behind the table, and up close, I can see his thinning hair far more easily—I wrinkle my nose—and smell his cologne.

“My sister is a huge fan of yours.” Neb says to Dr. Vanyo. “Right, Hol?”

I give a stiff nod.

Dr. Vanyo smiles to reveal yellowing teeth. “Really? It’s always a pleasure to meet a young fan. Now, who am I making this out too?”

“Holly Brenner,” I mutter.

Dr. Vanyo nods and signs the book with a flourish.

“Your lecture wasn’t very good,” I blurt out.

“Holly,” Neb hisses.

Dr. Vanyo gives a half-hearted chuckle. “No, it’s fine. I like to hear feedback on my work.”

Biting my lip, I study the scratches on the fake wood tabletop.

“Well, you aren’t the first to say it although you might be the bluntest. Good quality to have, you know. These days people are too worried about stepping on the precious egos of others.” Dr. Vanyo shakes his head and holds out the book. “That’s why I stick with the dead ones. Good luck, Holly Brenner”

I grab the book and hold it tight to my chest. “Thanks,” I whisper.

Dr. Vanyo smiles at me, then turns his attention to the next person. I follow Neb through the crowd and out into the parking lot.

“So, not it worth the hype?” he asks.

I shrug. “I dunno. Maybe”

Neb groans. “You mean I sat through an hour-long lecture on a dead culture for ‘dunno’?”

“He was paradoxical?” I ventured.

“Whatever. So long as Mom un-grounds me I don’t care,” Neb shakes his head.

I shrug again and let a bit of bounce into my steps. Paradoxical, like me. 

Submitted: October 28, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Greythereadaholic. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Great short story. I really like it but I felt like it was a bit too short. I feel like you could have mentioned what Dr. Vanyo's lecture was about and maybe the main character could have told Dr. Vanyo why she didn't like his lecture. Also, I noticed she counted on her fingers to ten to relax herself, you could have explained that. You could have said perhaps that she learned somewhere like she could be seeing a shrink or something. I only say this because she seems like an oddball, which isn't bad but I feel like maybe her parents would want her to see one. Overall, I enjoy your short story with an unique main character .

Mon, October 30th, 2017 4:40am


Thanks for reviewing! I agree that it could have some more detail in spots. Hopefully when I'm not quite so swamped with other stuff I can get around to it.

Mon, October 30th, 2017 5:24pm

Harris Proctor

I think you are definitely on to something here. I get a great sense of who holly is, and Neb is pretty well defined too. The notion of being disappointed by one's hero is fertile territory.

I think the lecture itself needs to be fleshed out. I think this is a classic show versus tell scenario. You're telling us that Holly is upset upon seeing who her idol really is rather than unfolding it in front of us. I do that all the time too.

Your talent most definitely shines through. You clearly have a way with words. Keep on rocking :)


Sun, November 5th, 2017 4:18pm


Thanks for reviewing! That's a good suggestion about fleshing out the lecture. I agree that that could help with showing rather than telling.

Sun, November 5th, 2017 9:03am


I really enjoyed this, I could just imagine being so excited to see someone only to find that they're entirely different. You really built up the feelings of excitement well, so that when Dr. Vanyo was revealed it was even more disappointing. It would've been nice to see a little more of the lecture, to get a better sense of how disappoint Dr. Vanyo actually is. Also I was really expecting something to happen with the first man that was mentioned- I thought he was going to be Dr. Vanyo. It seemed odd that the story opened with attention on him but he played no part in the story.
I liked Dr. Vanyo's reaction to Holly saying his lecture wasn't good, I think that showed a lot of his nature. Holly's character also was developed really well, it was easy to get a sense of the unique type of person she was all. All in all, it was an enjoyable story to read.

Wed, November 22nd, 2017 3:16am

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