I yawned as I spun the dial on my locker and shoved my books inside. I stood there for a moment, and took off my glasses to rub the sleep out of my eyes. Coming back from break was always hard. I slammed my locker and spun around. Just as I began cursing whoever decided school should start at this ungodly hour, a lost-looking Kalen walked by, staring at a white schedule. My stomach did that thing when she spotted me and smiled a little. Before I could react, she'd already disappeared around the corner.
I hadn't noticed the rest of the day go by. As Always, I slept in English, and talked with Collin in Trig, and still managed to finish most of my homework before school
ended. The last bell rang, and students oozed into the hall. I was able to fight my way to my locker to store my unneeded books inside. When I turned around, I noticed Kalen standing by the door,
practically being mauled by Jeremy Phillips, the Thunderbird's quarterback. Some uncontrollable urge took hold of me. Go talk to her, it said. Make him go away.
She caught my eye, and held it. My stomach danced. Forget it, I decided. Besides, I'd only met her once. I flashed her a quick smile and turned on my heel - and was nearly trampled by Collin. He grabbed me by the arm and towed me toward the main doors.
"You're coming over," he said, or rather demanded.
"Huh? Oh," my mind had wandered back to Kalen. Why? It frustrated me. "Oh, wait. I can't, I have to work at three."
Collin was just about to object when Kalen interrupted. "Emma, right?" she smiled shyly. "Hey, you live in my complex. Do you think you could walk home with me? I'm not quite sure how to get there."
My heart jumped into my throat. Say something, you idiot. "Uh, sure, no problem." I smiled a little and turned my attention to Collin.
"Uh, anyway." What were we talking about? "Uhm - right - I can't come over. I have to work. "
"Okay," he pouted, "I'll stop by later." And he turned and left, leaving me alone with Kalen.
She stared right into my eyes for a moment. Something surged in my chest; it swelled and raced through my entire body. Blood rushed to my face, and I smiled as I dropped my gaze.
"Let's go," I said.
We walked slowly, and almost silently for most of the walk home. I made a point to look around, but gave up and just looked at the ground, watching my feet move
under me, step by step, waiting for the silence to be broken. I pulled out my cigarettes and offered her one.
"Thanks," she said. "How old are you, anyway?"
I smiled a little and said, "Seventeen. How about you?" I handed her my matchbook.
She struggled with the matches. I smiled widely as she struck the match with no luck. "Sixteen," she said, and glared at the matchbook.
I laughed. I took it back and closed the book around the match. "Like this," I said and lit the match, holding it out to her. "So you're a sophomore or a junior, then?"
"Junior," she said, and a plume of smoke escaped her lips.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" she asked, and my heart jumped.
"Me? No, no." Did I sound eager? She laughed a little and said, "Yeah, me either." Was I smiling? I was. My cheeks flushed. What's wrong with you? Oh right, you're an idiot.
"So, where did you move here from?" I asked, only too eager to change the subject. The wind gusted, and we both shivered.
"Miami," she said, and her teeth chattered a bit. "It's really cold here," she added.
"Wow, Miami? What brings you to Seattle?
She clearly avoided the question, "My mom's idea." She dropped her gaze, so I decided not to push it.
I hadn't noticed we'd stopped. How long had we been standing in front of my staircase? Idiot.
She must have noticed, too. Good. Maybe I wasn't the only one. "Oh, I guess we're here," she said and smiled awkwardly. My stomach danced, and I played with my hair. "Thanks, Emma."
"Oh, no problem." I watched as she turned and walked away. It really was more of a stroll. Much more graceful than just walking away. She turned the corner, and was out of sight.
I sighed and climbed the steps, and opened the door to my apartment. The door was unlocked. "Mom?" I called. A pot crashed in the kitchen.
"Em?" She called, and scurried into the entry hall. I laughed to myself. Mom was such a scatterbrain.
"Oh, good. Garrett is coming over. I've got to finish -" something splashed and hissed in the kitchen, and Mom. Before I could blink she was back in the kitchen. "-getting ready, so can you watch the food?" she called.
I dropped my bag and pulled off my coat. "Okay," I hollered as I followed her to the kitchen, "I think I'm going to take the day off tonight anyway."
I swear you could smell the disapproval in the air, but Mom didn't say anything. I flipped open my phone and dialed the number to the Pita Pit. It was Hannah who answered.
"Pita Pit," she sounded so bored.
"Hey Hannah, it's Emma. I need a day off."
"And what excuse will it be today? Late project? Time of the month?
"I think I'll go with 'A dingo ate my baby' today," I laughed.
"Alright, I'll cover you. But you owe me big time," she said.
"Thanks, Hannie Pants," as far as managers went, Hannah was the best. The line went dead.
"You really should go to work," Mom said. I groaned.
"Mom, it's Monday night after break. I'm exhausted."
She raised her eyebrow and gave me that You're-So-Lazy look. I stuck my tongue out at her. "Alright," she said, "But I expect you go to work Wednesday."
I took her position at the stove, trying my hair in a ponytail. It had gotten long, I noticed. Just long enough to wear up, anyway. I nodded, "Yeah, yeah. I'm going to Collins, alright?"
Mom sighed, "Homework, first, Emma. You have a chance at going to an Ivy League school. Don't fuck that up."
I rolled my eyes. I was taking all honors and AP classes, aside from my electives - more proof that Emma Daniels is, in fact, a nerd. If it were up to me, I'd be in all core classes. "I'll do it at Collin's, alright?" I promised, "Collin has homework too. We'll do it together."
She sighed. "Fine, but be careful. I don't like you out walking alone after dark."
I laughed and flexed my biceps. I was scrawny as I was short. "What, you think I couldn't take em' down?
Mom frowned, "Very funny." She turned and rummaged around in her purse. "There's been a lot of muggings on Capitol Hill lately, and I don't like you taking the bus home alone after work."
Relax, it's only three. It's another hour until sunset. I think I'll be alright," I said and went to pull my parka and bag back on. I left before she could object.
When I knocked on Collin's door, he called, "Coming!" in a high, musical note. I laughed out loud when he opened the door and clucked his tongue. "Skipping, are we?" I tussled his hair and slid inside. "Who could resist a stud like you?" I mocked, and dropped my bag on the sofa.
He hugged me before flopping down on the entire couch. Collin used to be almost an entire head shorter than me. He really shot up after eight grade. I sat down on his back and he laughed. "You're squishing me with your ghetto booty!"
I clenched my chest theatrically, "Ow, Collin. That hurts my heart."
"Let me up, ya crazy broad!" he laughed.
I jumped up and he sat upright, "So who was that girl?" he asked.
I might have smiled, for some odd reason. "Oh, Kalen? She's just some girl who moved in to my complex.
"She's got the hots for you," he said in that musical note, and stared at his fingernails.
I laughed. Maybe even hysterically. "Yeah, right. Besides, I'm not gay. And I doubt she is, either."
"Em, you've never been with anybody. At all. How do you know you're not gay?" he asked, but playfully. I tried to hide that I was actually considering it.
Yeah, it must be contagious. I've finally caught it from you, Collin!" I gasped. We both laughed.
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