Amazing. If you're wondering. That's how it feels to finally finish something that's taken nearly three years of hard labor to complete. I feel so accomplished. So satisfied and happy. What a weight off my shoulders. I FINISHED A NOVEL!
In honor of finishing, and to keep myself motivated through the editing process, I'm posting the entire first chapter of I Am Guinevere by Miranda L Marrott :) Oh, I just got a chill writing that.
Without further ado:
Chapter One: My First Real Dose of Teenage Drama... and Then Some
Dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.
Further proof that fairy tales are not real: Though I woke up to the sun warming my face and the birds greeting me with their joyous chirping, my hopes set high on losing myself to nature, the day quickly turned dreary. The English countryside once again leeching the color from the sky and the contentment from my heart. Moral of the story: We rarely, if ever, get what we dream of. Ah well, at least it wasn’t raining... yet. Even still, it felt as though the world was coming down on me.
“DeeDee are you packed yet?” my mother called up the stairs. I didn’t answer, I simply rolled over and pulled my pillow over my head. I had started packing, but soon lost all interest. I resorted to hiding deep within my duvet, thoroughly wallowing in my sheets. Did she really expect more from me on such a bleak occasion?
“DeeDee?” Great. Here she comes. Lie still and maybe she won’t see you. I know. I’m not five, but I still tried to hide like I was. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Footsteps. “Dee? I’m talking to you. Do you have those blasted earphones in again?” Entree mother. “Hmm. Demetra? You’re not five anymore, you are much too big to hide in your covers. Come on out.” Maybe if I do not breathe she’ll second guess it. I laid even more still, holding my breath. “Damn, iPods,” mother growled as she ripped my security away from me. Can I pull off sleeping? Still I didn’t move. “Oh. No iPod? Just feeling like ignoring me today?”
I felt her posture changing to hands on hip. I knew I should be a big girl and sit up, answer my mother and get busy, but...
My scrawny English twin bed squeaked a bit as the mattress adjusted to my mothers weight; it’s barely made for one, let alone two. “I see. This is a thorough pity party.” She sighed. “Good thing we’re moving and you’re getting new furniture. This bed doesn’t seem sturdy anymore,” her laugh fell flat. Then she did what I absolutely couldn’t handle, she put her hand on my back. Her hand rubbed in circles for a few seconds then she sighed again.
“Dee, I know you don’t want to move. Again. But it is the last time,” she paused waiting for a response, which I was not inclined to give. Another rub, a pat, “And you are simply too old to be acting so childish. Pull the big girl panties up and get moving.” That did it. I managed to give her a death glare just as she left my room. I saw her shoulder shrug as she waltzed into the hall and said, “At least you’re off your bed.”
Crap. I was off the bed. Which is not what I wanted to be. I knew though, that she was probably just a few feet down the hall waiting to hear me hard at work and that she’d be back in about three seconds if her ears didn’t get what they wanted. So I did the only thing I could... I grabbed up my bedding and threw it into the hall, complete with a scream.
One week of packing, one week of cleaning, two days of traveling and four weeks later, here I was: McCormick Senior High School, “where champions are made and success is tradition.” Go Bulldogs. I think I just might puke.
Unbeknownst to my parents, high school was why I dreaded moving for the nine-hundredth time in my life. I wasn’t upset that we were moving. I wasn’t even upset where we were moving (Alaska, which my mother assured me was beautiful beyond belief). Once M, my mentor, told me I had a mission in life and that that mission could and may very well require my life--if not in the literal dying sense, for sure in the day-to-day living sense--in that moment, my life became magnified and where I lived stopped mattering, as long as I was prepared. Alaska was just another stop along my journey to finding the One. I was upset because they were forcing me to give up my freedom.
My mother thought that I should be ecstatic about being able to “finally go to a real school”. My father thought I’d be happy to “finally get to make some friends my age.” You’d think that being home-schooled and spending virtually all my time with my parents would mean they know me incredibly well. Apparently not. I was in no way happy about either of those things. I was comfortable living every day at my pace, learning by whatever means I chose in the subjects of my choosing, and having freedom to take days off when more pressing matters arose, like the release of the next book in my favorite series or perhaps the purchase of a new knife or new arrows that need broken in. My parents didn’t seem to get that I was used to moving, I just wasn’t used to having my time dictated. And my mentor and I had plans for my time. Plans that required I be available during the working day when my parents would be otherwise engaged. I tried to plead my case this morning at breakfast. Dad shot it down with some garbage about “no pain, no gain” and patted my head as he walked out the door to his office. Maybe after a few days confined to an office, he’d be more understanding. As an archeologist/anthropologist team he and my mother had been working in the field all my life and longer, I bet he’d hate being tied down as much as I would. Mom’s weird, she’d probably love it. But dad... I could always hope.
To add to my building frustrations, it seemed as if being the new girl in town was so cliche these days. In a world of hand-held mass media devices that live stream books, movies, music and social status updates every young girl felt like and actually believed she’d been the new girl multiple times. Though, in reality, she’d lived her entire life in one home, going to school with all the same kids since kindergarten. It made actually being the new girl even more annoying--people staring at you, briefly feeling pity for you while simultaneously deciding you deserved no pity because everyone was the new kid at some point; get over it. If they only knew. I was the new girl on a whole new level. Though really, for their sakes, it was better they didn’t know a thing about me; I’d hate to have to kill them when I my sole purpose in life was to protect.
When my mom pulled up to the front doors of my new prison, my stomach knotted tighter. The parking lot was crowded and loud. Tires screeched as they hauled ass around the corner more likely showing off than trying to make it to class on time. A pack of girls giggled as they passed my mom’s car. Then the bells rang, signaling my doom.
“I think that’s the warning bell, sweetheart,” mom said, trying her best not to cry.
I did a quick check of myself in the two-by-four inch visor mirror: brown hair still smoothed back in a bun, pale skin still dotted with small freckles, blue eyes still incredibly angry, teenage girl still not wanting to leave the car. All was in order. I sighed or grunted, probably both, and turned to my mother. I couldn’t believe it. “Are you crying?” I asked. Un-be-lievable.
“Well, I’ve never dropped you off to school before. It’s like a mother taking her baby to Kindergarten for the first time, only more dramatic.” She smiled, wiping away her tears.
“I think you mean, only more traumatic, mom,” I said, turning to look out my window. I certainly didn’t want to start crying too. “I can’t believe you are making me do this. It’s barely even 7:30 a.m. Ugh! At least the schools in England were sensible and didn’t start until 9:00. Mom, this really isn’t necessary,” I turned back to her, tried my best not to sound whiney, “I can still do homeschool. I don’t need you home to keep me on top of things. You know how responsible I am. Besides, I’m nearly done anyway. I only have one more year until I can graduate. Why bother?”
My mother did her best not to laugh. “Don’t worry, Dee, you’re going to love it,” she said trying to sound extra cheery now. “High school is the best years of your life.” I gave her my death glare; I had it down to an art now. “Well, kind of,” she said smiling weakly. “And, as you so astutely pointed out, you only have one year left anyway.” She reached over me and opened my door. “Go on. Better get inside. Don’t want to be late.”
I got out, slammed the door and trudged away. I had almost made it to the door when I heard my mother call, “Put a smile on Dee-girl, you want to make friends don’t you? The world’s an oyster, make it yours and all that stuff! I love you.” I pulled my hood up, pretended not to know her (and not to hear the snickering around me), and just kept walking.
Inside the halls were more chaotic and erratic than the parking lot. The chatter of a couple thousand teenagers stabbed at my ears; it took all my willpower to not put my hands over them. Being raised around the world, mostly in Europe and Asia, watching kids go to and from school in dull, modest uniforms, I was a bit taken back by the street clothes, or lack thereof. I mean, I knew I could wear whatever I wanted, but surely Principal Hahn hadn’t had halter tops, micro-minis, and wife-beaters in mind when she told me that yesterday.
Yesterday morning mom, dad and I got my class schedule and a brief “Welcome, Scott family,” from the principal, followed by a tour of the school, guided by Margery Davis, Senior class president. She lead the way from the office to my locker and around to all my classes, asking all about England and jabbering about cheerleading, the first football game next weekend, and the school super boy, Durk... no, Dave... maybe Don someone, the quarter back. When she asked about my last school, you could see her brain coming to a full stop trying to figure out homeschool. Mom was convinced she and I were fast friends. Sure. And the Easter Bunny cuddles up with Vikings at night.
I was making my way through the maze of students, trying to remember the way to my locker, when I realized I was trapped. I was being surged forward by a few hundred sweaty bodies. It was like being in a stampede; I’d seen one once in Africa. My parents were working on a project in some caves. They took a few days off and we went on safari. We were sitting in our jeep, watching the wildebeests and their young graze. I was looking through the binoculars looking at one of the smallest calves. It was about ten feet from its mother and was just sort of playing, skipping. I turned and asked our guide if we could go closer so I could try and pet it. He said it wouldn’t be safe and when I started to pout he pointed and said, “Look.” I wish he hadn’t. I turned back to my calf and saw it running for its life. Two hyenas were nipping at it heels. The mother charged and the hyenas split, going around the mother in search of the calf. The calf ran into the midst of the herd and I lost sight of it. And just like that the whole herd, all five hundred plus of them were on the move, running from instinct, kicking up dust, shaking my heart with their thumping hooves, and leaving the baby calf behind to be devoured by the hyenas. I couldn’t tear my eyes away as blood poured from the calf as the hyenas ripped it to shreds. And now here I was, the confused calf, being surged forward in a mass of instinctive teens and praying not to be ripped to shreds by this place. I was pushed around a corner, in the opposite direction from where I needed to go and as suddenly as the stampede started it dispersed. I looked around, trying to figure out where I was and which way I needed to go. The hallway was deserted and the bell rang. Great. Late.
Heaving my bag back onto my shoulder, I took one more look around and figured out where I was, the Science hall. Just as I had thought, I needed to go in the opposite direction, across the school to the Arts Hall where my locker was. I tiptoed through the now quiet halls wanting to go unnoticed. Finally, I made to my locker, number 349, bright yellow against the orange hallway, paint chipping off around the edges. “Hello, old girl, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes... literally.” I smiled and began to fumble with the combination lock. I checked the combination again: 37-12-44. And tried for the fifth time to open the locker. It wouldn’t budge. I was about to give up and just take all my stuff with me to class when someone reached over my shoulder and punched my locker, making it pop open.
“Damn lockers are so old. That always does the trick though,” he said. He still had his hand on my open locker door. It was a good strong hand, lots of veins running up his muscled forearm. His nails were clean and smooth. Not a nail biter. I took in a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. Didn’t help. This boy smelled like a Greek God. Not that I’ve ever smelled a Greek God, but something about the salt and spice mix of his cologne punched my hormones into high gear just as his fist had punched my locker. He smelled like the ocean and the woods and confidence.
Of course, my cheeks would flush. I turned, trying not to bump into him, and looked at the floor. I didn’t want to get mushy kneed if his face matched his god-like cologne and hands. And I didn’t want to be disappointed either. “Uh... thanks,” I managed to mutter. Nice clean shoes too.
“Not a problem. You that new girl from England Margie was talking about this morning?”
“Guess I am. Unless there’s another one,” I said raising my head a bit. Yep. Very Greek God-like face too. He ducked his head, meeting my gaze and smiled. His celery green eyes were surrounded by dark black hair. He brushed it away from his strong, angular face and rubbed his forehead. “Huh,” he said, “I hope this doesn’t come across rude, but you don’t have an accent?” It came out as more of a question than a statement.
The puzzlement in his voice, added with his close proximity and my already-on-edge nerves sent me into a giggling fit. Great. Great first impression. At least he joined in, his low bass chuckle complimenting my overly soprano, nervous laughter.
“I’m... I’m... sorry,” I breathed, trying to stop laughing. “No. I don’t have an accent. I am American; though I have grown up a bit of everywhere. I’ve always been home-schooled, so I’m stuck with my nondescript, boring American accent.” I coughed, getting the last of my giggles out and said simply, “Class,” as I closed my locker.
“Which way you headed?” he asked.
“Er.... let’s see, English with Mrs. McGrew in 201. That’s this way, right?” I gestured behind me.
He covered a laugh with a cough of his own and with his thumb pointed behind himself, the opposite direction. “Why don’t you let me walk you there? Not that I’m concerned about you getting lost or anything. I simply enjoy your totally boring, non-descript accent.”
“Won’t you be late?” I asked, wanting him to walk me and yet feeling guilty for making him late. While also not liking how vulnerable and giddy this boy was making me feel. I am not this girl.
He grinned, perfect teeth gleaming in the florescent light. Of course he has perfect teeth too. “I’m already late, remember? Plus, if I walk you to your class, I can use that as my excuse and get out of being marked tardy.” He wiggled his thick eyebrows at me and grabbed my books from my hands. “Come on, my lady fair, this way if you please.” And his long, lanky legs lead the way.
I skipped to catch up with him. He was over six feet tall and my five foot two frame was having a hard time keeping up. From a few feet behind him I called, “Can you slow down a bit... uh.... ?”
“Lucas,” he stated slowing, turning to me and slightly bowing his head. “But mostly everyone calls me Luke. Luke Hunter.”
“Thanks. Lucas. Luke. You’re legs seem to be a bit longer than mine and my legs don’t seem to be happy about that.”
He chuckled again. “Well, we can’t have that... uh....?”
“Dee,” I replied, “You can call me Dee.”
“As in the letter?”
“As in D-E-E.”
“Alright, D with two e’s and short legs, I’ll slow down. Does this pace work for you?”
“Ha, ha.” Cute and sarcastic. I’m in trouble.
We turned into a blue hallway, which I remembered was the English hall and Luke stopped just shy of room 201. I began to feel the vomit climbing up my throat. Why was I so nervous? I really needed to calm down. M was going to have a field day with me if he found out how a little thing like school made my heart race and my stomach do back flips. He’d feel the need to toughen me up and work the fear out of me. “You ok?” Luke asked a bit skeptical.
“Fine,” I breathed deeply through my nose and looked everywhere but at his face.
He wasn’t fooled. And he kept staring at me. “Ok. Yes. I’m nervous. And sweating. I’ve never been in an actual classroom. I mean, I’ve been in classrooms before, I was in several yesterday during my fabulous tour, but I’ve never been a student in a classroom before. Not a formal classroom. Not in a school. Not... ”
“Can I ask you something?” Luke interrupted me.
I let a long breath out, “Sure.”
“How old are you?”
I shook my head. “Wha... Excuse me?”
“How old are you? Margie said you weren’t really supposed to be a Senior, but you took some tests and had to fill out some paperwork or something... ?”
Just what I needed, to be even more of a freak than an accent-less, home-schooled girl from England. I sighed. Sooner or later, everyone would probably find out anyway. I scratched my brow, refusing to look at him as I answered, “I’ll be sixteen in March.”
“But you’re a senior?”
“Awesome,” he said, running his hands through his hair again. “Man, wish I coulda skipped the last two years.” I hazard a glance up at him and he seemed to genuinely think it was cool. “So, what’s the deal then? Are you like way smart or... ?”
Wanting to derail that conversation, I said “Ok, I should go to class now. Thanks again for your help.” I turned and pulled the doorknob. It didn’t open. I pulled it again. Stuck. Luke reached around me, turned the doorknob and pushed the door open just a crack.
“Huh.” I said, vomit burning its way up my throat.
He smirked. “Welcome to McCormick High, new girl.” He turned to walk away and just as he turned the corner he said, “And Dee? Do me a favor?” I shook my head in the affirmative, completely speechless at this point. “Relax,” he requested, Just smile. You look nice... when you smile.”
If I wasn’t already having a hard time making my way into room 201, I sure would be now. That entire encounter was so completely unexpected. I look nice when I smile? What was I supposed to do with that? I had no idea. The reality was I had spent my whole live at my parents’ side or alone... or training with M... but, I really hadn’t ever had friends. Most kids didn’t respond well to me; they just didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t know what to do with me. This boy, this Greek-God-like gentleman... was he flirting with me?
Concentrate Dee. You don’t have time for high school boys and romance, if that’s even what that was--for all you know he was just being polite. You know better. Focus. I closed my eyes, centered myself, took in a deep breath through my nose, opened my eyes and blew out all my air. You can do this, just walk through the door.
It’s not that I was actually nervous of the other students, or that I didn’t really want friends. I like people. I like to interact and I’m not shy. It’s just that I never have had a great desire to be a what people call a social butterfly and my relaxed, homeschooling parents, never pushed the issue. I knew a few other kids by name over the years, those who took lessons from the same instructors and my parents friends had children that occasionally I hung out with when the circumstances arose. Maybe that’s too generous a statement. We hung out around each other when our parents got together because we had to. Really, I’ve just never been personally invested in others, besides my parents; I’ve never had cause to, never been drawn to relationships, friendships. I’ve never had need of them--my time has always been filled and I’ve always been content. And over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that my life will be easier if I keep it that way.
Through the crack in the door I heard what I presumed was Mrs. McGrew:
“Shakespeare’s players classify Katharina as intolerably curst, shrewd, stark mad, a devil and froward. Her sister, Bianca’s suitors laugh at the idea of her getting a husband. And to prove their point, Kate lashes out with her tongue and sometimes her hands every chance she gets...”
The Taming of the Shrew. Ugh. That sounds too close to how I was behaving lately. I really didn’t want to move back to America. And for the first time in my life, I had been acting my age: moody, mopey and bitter with a side of snotty. America was home for my parents, it wasn’t home for me. I’d only spent a few weeks at a time here that I could remember, visiting family or accompanying my parents on short work assignments; I had no connection to it. I was a child of the world. Logically, as often as we have moved and as little as I had to lose as far as social life goes, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It was stupid. If I was really honest, it wasn’t even about having to go to school. Sure, I was nervous, but deep down I knew I’d be fine, it was only for one year, and that in some regards I might even enjoy it.
The problem was something I couldn’t quite put into words for my parents. There’s just something undesirable about being an outsider in country that supposed to be yours, it leaves you feeling like you don’t belong anywhere. And even if you don’t really care to belong to anything in particular, it still stings when you don’t belong and your choices have nothing to do with it. However, this new me, wasn’t me. I wasn’t moody or mopey. Nor was I bitter. Ok, I could sometimes be snotty; I just knew what I liked. Was I distant, short, precise? Yes. However, try as I might to pretend I don’t care, I do actually care what other people think even if I am not attached to them. Call it personal pride. I don’t want to be perceived as something I’m not. I will not be a “curst maiden”. I am not a Kate. I am not fussy or picky or pushy. I am not a diva. Nor am I a bully, insisting people adore me when I am un-adorable. I am a Protector. I live my life for others, I live for the One. I can be friendly and approachable in the process. I will be kinder to my parents and genteel with my classmates. Easy. Right? Though my Paladin has warned me against it, insisting that my strength comes from my distance and detachment, I can’t help but feel somewhat hopeful, maybe even a little excited. This was an adventure after all.
As I squeezed through the door and tiptoed inside, trying hard not to be noticed, the sun glared in my face. Blinded as I was, I took one step forward, tripped on something that felt remarkably like a shoe, and went flying face first towards the grimy tiled floor. Some Protector I am. I heard lots of laughter on my way down, but it all seemed muted and far away when an oddly familiar voice said, “Whoa.” I felt strong hands wrap around my arms stopping my body just inches before my nose hit the floor. Slowly he pulled me up and back against his chest. His hands rested on my hips. My heart galloped. I’d never been so close to a boy as I had before Luke just a minute ago and now this boy... his hands were warm on my hips. My mouth was disgustingly dry.
“That was quite an entrance. Are you ok?” he asked, his words blowing the tiny wispy hairs on my neck. My heart stopped. That voice was familiar. And I knew why. I knew who he was. Never having seen him before, I knew he was the One. My charge, the One I had been training to protect all these years. Every muscle in my body was frozen. “Here,” he offered, “you can sit by me.” He nudging me towards the empty seat next to him. He would sit on the front row. I sat and mumbled, “Thanks,” without looking up at him. “It was the least I could do, since my big shoes tripped you.”
I chanced a glance at him out of the corner of my eye. It was him. The One that had been shown to me in so many countless flashes they had almost become meaningless dreams. His face always the first and last thing I saw during any dream I might have. His eyes were the muted blue-gray of England’s winter skies, the skies I wouldn’t see this winter. He had short dark blonde, nearly bronze, hair that paired perfectly with his semi-tanned skin and genuine smile, complete with a small gap in his bottom teeth. It was frustratingly endearing.
This can’t be happening. Here? Of all places? And I had to meet him like this? My heart clawed at my chest like an trapped lion trying to get free of its cage. The Paladin had said when all was ready we would meet. I didn’t feel ready. I felt dizzy, breathless and like a complete poser. I also was furious. M knew exactly where I was moving, knew my parents had enrolled me in school, in his school... and not one word to me.
“Class,” Mrs. McGrew called out, trying to bring everyone back to order, “Please welcome our new student to McKinley. This is Deme....”
My head snapped up. “Dee, just Dee,” I blurted out over her. As every eye, that wasn’t already looking at me, turned in my direction, my cheeks threatened to flame. I scooted up in my seat and sat ramrod straight. “Sorry, Mrs. McGrew,” I said, nodding at her, “I didn’t mean to be abrupt. It’s just Dee, please.”
Mrs. McGrew glared at me under her bifocals and cleared her throat. “If that is what you prefer, Ms. Scott. Class this is Dee Scott, she comes to us from England I’m sure she has plenty of adventures and stories to share with all of you... after class. Now. Back to Shakespeare. Dane, would you care to read for us? Please stand and read Petruchio’s reply to these claims against Katharina, Act 1 Scene 2, line 197. Thank you.”
I couldn’t look at him. Sitting so close to him, my pulse was reaching out to him like sonar, each beat of my heart seemed to take him in and feed back his signature, his specific make up. Each beat was like a news feed straight to my brain; my entire system seemed to become familiar with him through the strange connection. Beat. Five foot ten and three-fourths inches. Strong heart. Beat. Right-handed when writing, left-handed in sports. Beat. His stomach is protesting his lack of breakfast. Beat. His climbing pulse and sweaty palms indicate he is slightly nervous to read aloud. Beat. His lips are slightly curved up at the sides as he slides out of his seat and says, “Yes, Mrs. McGrew.” Beat. He clears his throat, unnecessarily, somehow I know that it’s just for effect, I mean really know. Beat. Sinuses clear. No sign of phlegm in his throat. Beat. He looks at me. Beat. His heart rate goes up a little more, almost imperceptibly. He coughs again. Beat. Something about me is making him all the more nervous. Beat. His heart beats with mine. Beat. My eyes follow my heart and reach out to him. He’s staring right at me. He winks at me. Beat. Beat. Beat. My whole body warmed up. My head started to spin. Breath, girl. Deep. In. Out.
“Dane? Line 197?,” Mrs. McGrew prompts him.
Beat. He turns his eyes to his book and begins to read: “Why came I hither but to that intent? Think you a little din can daunt my ears?....”
My head was swimming. My vision was blurring. M, my personal Paladin, my trainer, my mentor, had told me that when I met the One I would know him. That there would be no question of my connection to him, no question of who he was. Was that what was happening? This was nearly unbearable. My whole system was overwhelmed. I was half afraid I would faint any second. M is so hearing about this. However, my practical side realized that, on the plus side, I guess if I was to be his protector, my heart having a sonar effect around him was helpful. As far as I could tell, I’d be able to know when he was afraid, lying, or hurt, even if there were no visible signs. It was a definite bonus, though it seemed to take a lot out of me and at the moment I wouldn’t have been able to swat a fly away. How could I protect him if this was the effect of being close to him?
A little at the time, his heart slowed, my heart slowed. Gradually, my system calmed as his presence seemed to fade. We seemed to be disentangled by the time Dane finished reading and took his seat, his eyes on me. Thankfully, my heart didn’t act up again and though I felt his eyes on me all the rest of class, that was all I felt for the moment. I was still recovering when the bell rang and Mrs. McGrew reminded us all to read Act one at home tonight and write a few paragraphs about arranged marriages and how our lives would be different if those practices were socially acceptable and prevalent now.
I nearly ran the whole three feet to the door, down the hall and into the girls’ restroom, putting as much distance between Dane and I as possible. I splashed some water on my face, slapped my cheeks a few times, forcing myself to focus. I stared at my reflection, ignoring the groups of girls touching up their make-up around me. I had to speak with M before I saw Dane again. There was no way I was calling on him from the toilets though. Ok, think D. Just play it cool, get through the day and you can call the Paladin as soon as you’re home. Simply steer clear of Dane as best you can. Not the best plan, but I didn’t have another choice. I grabbed a paper towel, dabbed my face and headed to my next class.
I had my eyes on my schedule as I came out from the restroom and ran smack into Dane. I growled under my breath. This is not happening! “Is there a reason you keep attacking me?” I said pushing past him.
“Hang on there, you attacked me,” he said, catching up to me. “I mean... no one is attacking anyone. Ugh. I was waiting to talk to you. I... uh...” he sighed. “Can we stop walking for one second, I...?”
Sympathy coursed threw me. I wanted to talk to him too. I wanted to know if he felt anything. My gut told me he must have or he wouldn’t be following me, stammering. But, now was not the time for this. “I can’t stop, I have to get my math book from my locker and I’m still not sure where my next class is. I’d rather not be late to every class on my first day.” He grabbed my elbow, slowing me down, but not stopping me. “Will you sit with me at lunch then?” I stopped, took a deep breath and tried to think of excuse not to sit with him. I had nothing. “Look, I’m not sure that’s a great idea.”
“Make you a deal?” he smiled coyly, “I’ll show you a short cut to the math hall and make sure you aren’t late if you promise to eat lunch with me.” He smiled. He knew he had me. I sighed and scratched my forehead to avoid having to look at him any longer, it was too distracting. “Deal.”
I made it through math and biology, discovering that doing science experiments with other people was actually fun. Even though it was a little overwhelming that everyone already seemed to know I was from England and wanted to ask me a million questions like: “so does it rain every day?”, “are English guys hot?”, “do the English really never brush their teeth?” and the inevitable, “why don’t you have an accent?” I stopped by my locker, grabbed my sack lunch and headed for the cafeteria. Yes! It was so crowded I couldn’t see Dane anywhere, surely he couldn’t see me either. I found an empty chair far in the back corner, slightly hidden behind a group of band-ies with their instrument cases. Perfect. I ate in peace and hightailed it out of there. Catching a glimpse of Dane searching the crowd for me as I slipped around the corner. Shew! Close one.
I was feeling so good about my escape until my last class, chemistry. Of course, I would have another class with him. And of course, the only empty seat was at his table. At least the tables accommodated six and I didn’t have to sit alone with him. He raised his eyebrows at me and cocked his head to the side, clearly saying, “What about our deal?” I simply shrugged and turned to the girl on my right to ask what they were studying and where they were in the book. My heart was racing and his presence distracted me the entire class. So much so that the girl I had asked what chapter we were on turned to me and said, “Wow. You’re face is like really flushed. You feeling ok?” just before the bell rang.
You'd better believe as soon as that bell rang, I was fleeing again and contemplating just going straight outside and bypassing my locker and the books I needed for homework. I didn’t even make it to the door. “Hey, where’s the fire?” Dane said as he grabbed a handful of the back of my shirt and tugged. “You stood me up! You know, that’s considered rude in some circles?” I hung my head in shame and sighed. The rest of the class was filing past me, pairing off and discussing what the after school plans were.
“Please let go,” I whispered. “My mom’s probably out there waiting for me.”
“What, you don’t have your own car?” he was getting cocky now. “Oh, yeah. That’s right. Luke told me you’re not even old enough to drive,” he stifled a laugh.
I turned to look at him. He held fast to my shirt. It was pulled tight outlining my figure and pulling my V-neck lower. His eyes glanced down. “Eyes up here, cowboy,” I snapped losing my patience. I shifted my books to one arm and covered my chest with my now free hand, drawing the V-neck closed. “Ehem... sorry.” He shook his head and freed my shirt.
“Thank you,” I nodded. I straightened my shirt and adjusted the books in my arms. “Now, if you’ll excuse me...”
“Aw, come on. Seriously? I was just teasing about the driving thing. And I’m really not a pervert. I could take you home... if you want?” What is it with these American boys? “Like I said, my mom is probably waiting,” I turned to walk away.
He reached out for me, just grazing his fingers down my forearm and lingering on my hand. “Dee?” His voice was soft, impossibly gentle. “Something... there was something... in English; you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? That’s all I want to know.” I froze for half a second, clenched my fist, and without looking back, said, “Maybe,” as I walked away.
The ride home with my mother was quiet. She only asked one question, “Did you make any friends?” to which I answered, with a sigh loud enough to make any drama queen proud, “Mom, only toddlers make friends in one day,” and turned to look out my window. She could tell my first day wasn’t a complete success and left me to it. Thank the Universe for small miracles.