The only coherent thoughts coming from my now- rattled brain as I fell backward down the steep concrete steps leading to the crowded front doors of Tranquility High, my new high school.
First day. Great impression. I felt any potential social status drop with every single step I kerplunked backwards against until I landed in Geekdom. Again. With butt bruises. Again.
As I lay on my back, propped at an awkward angle by my backpack and staring up at a sky that seemed angrier than me, I could hear the giggles and round of applauses. Apparently, I was the source of the tardy-bell students amusement. I tried to get up but my heavy backpack kept me belly up. I felt like a tipped-over turtle with my arms and legs flailing helplessly as I tried to flip over onto my side, my long auburn hair getting stuck in my lipgloss.
Once I stopped my futile struggle, a hand swooped into my line of vision. I followed that appendage up an arm toward a grey Abercrombie t-shirt covering what promised to be a whole lotta muscles. Muscles that could probably relieve me of this embarrassing predicament.
Holding my skirt down, thankful I had some capri leggings on underneath which kept a mortifying situation a bit less cringe-worthy, I grabbed the thick hand with mine. One hard yank and I was upright, thanking the most unearthly gorgeousness of a guy I had ever laid my grey eyes upon. I mean, holy crap. Hotness so intense that it burnt.
Grateful that most of the gawking crowd that had gathered was now indoors and headed to their classes, I turned my attention to my hero, “Thank you,” I felt my cheeks burning, a rare circumstance that only happened in extreme situations such as this, “I’m new here. Viola. Vi.”
He bared glowing white teeth as his full lips tipped into a grin, “It’s always my pleasure to help damsels in distress.” He waved, turned and started heading up the enemy stairs, as I would now and forever think of them…until he was completely out of sight.
I trailed farther behind, taking one cautious step at a time until I walked harmlessly through the front doors. Once I was safely inside, I followed the signs directing me to the office where I could get my class schedule. My rescuer, who was standing two students ahead of me, turned and shot a wink in my direction which set off that annoying cheek heat again. I tried to regulate my body temperature by staring at the back of his head but I got mesmerized by his crow-colored hair that skimmed the back of his neck. The width of his shoulders wasn’t doing anything to help, either. Yeah, hot.
When his business was done, he brushed by me and breathed into my ear, “I’m new here, too. Blade. See ya around, Vi.” And, he was gone again leaving me dealing with all sorts of bodily heat issues.
After I collected my composure and my schedule, I shuffled through the silent hallways in search of my locker. The school map was doing nothing for me considering I really didn’t know how to read those darn things. I was more of a GPS app kind of girl. Especially the ones that had a voice instructing you where to turn and when. But, I couldn’t exactly plug the location of my locker into my phone so I was stuck manually searching.
Ah, found it and was even able to get the locker combo right on the first try. Maybe that small miracle would carry me through the day and help me make a friend. Just one friend. That’s all I ask.
By now, I was super late to my first class which was AP English Lit. Actually, all my classes were AP. Somehow, despite attending four different high schools in three years, with Tranquility being the fifth, I was still able to maintain a really high grade point average. What can I say, school is your only ticket out of whatever situation you may be in that you don’t necessarily like. And, I haven’t quite liked my situation. Needless to say, I’ve been a really good student. Hardcore studying compensates for my consistent lack of a social life and unsatisfying home life.
The classroom door was locked so I was forced to disturb the class by knocking. The teacher, Mr. Riley, seemed young and energetic. He excitedly introduced me to the class by making me stand right next to his desk, “Class, I’d like you to meet Ms. Viola Weaver, our other new student.” There were a few snickers that I was sure were from the kids who witnessed my dramatic approach earlier, “Viola, why don’t you tell us about yourself?”
Feeling exceptionally vulnerable and exposed as all eyes turned toward me, I stammered, “I…I…” I took a deep breath and when I started to speak again, my voice sounded squeaky in my ears, “Nothing much to tell. Obviously, I’m new. It’s my senior year and my fifth high school. Looking forward to this year. I don’t love speaking in public.” I shrugged and looked over at my teacher, hoping he would be okay with what I said and allow me to take a seat in the overly crowded classroom.
Instead of letting me sit down, Mr. Riley started in with the fifth-degree, “So, tell us where you’ve lived, Viola.”
I fiddled with the straps of my backpack, which was growing heavier by the moment, “Um…Michigan, California, New Mexico, Maine and now here in Tranquility.”
Mr. Riley opened his mouth again and I was hit with the fact that he wasn’t going to let up with his new student interrogation, “Wow, you’ve been all over the place, haven’t you? Do you have a favorite?”
I only looked at him when I spoke, even though I think he expected me to talk to the class, “No, not really. After awhile, they all sort of blend in and become one. The only thing important to me is school so…yeah.” I finished awkwardly.
He cleared his throat, “Well, I’ve made you uncomfortable enough. There’s an empty seat in the back. Go ahead and take it.” He handed me some papers, “The course syllabus. I’m going to expect you to get caught up by the end of the week. You’re only a week behind, plus the summer reading. But for that, I’ll give you a month. Will that work?”
I nodded and turned to look for the empty seat he was talking about. I found it and with a thud in my chest noticed it was directly next to Blade, the other new kid. He gave me a smile as I slid in next to him.
I tried to pay attention to Mr. Riley who had started discussing the assigned reading, Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, which I had already read in English Lit at my last school. So, easy enough for me to tune out and think about other things. Such as, how good Blade smelled and how hadn’t I noticed that before. Which then led to the whole thought about how I was suddenly turning into the kind of girl that usually made me wince. Which probably explained why I didn’t have any friends.
Feeling a tugging on my sleeve, I turned toward Blade who, with a very serious look on his face, handed me a piece of paper that was folded into a tiny square. On the outside, in little letters, it read “open asap”.
So, I did as instructed.
I was informed that I was to meet Blade after school at the little antique store in town called “Lost in Time”. And, in the meantime, I was to trust nobody. The word “nobody” was written in all caps and underlined a few times. Each sentence ended with a bazillion exclamation points.
Turning to peek at him, I was met with a thumbs up and a raised black eyebrow. I gave him a quick thumbs up back and faced the front of the room again where I pretended to still be listening to Mr. Riley. Who, by the way, had a fairly monotone voice and as I discreetly peered around the room noticed many of the students were busy doodling or texting.
I supposed, with the reciprocated thumbs up I had given Blade, it had confirmed our secret rendezvous. Well so, now it seemed that I had something to do after school. At least for today.
Maybe it wasn’t going to be so horrible in Tranquility, after all.