My mom has reached a new level of protective. I love her. I do. But this is just annoying.
“Okay” she says as she cuts the sandwich in half and hands it to me. “You’re going to be home after school, right?”
“Sure” I mutter as I stuff the PB&J into a sandwich bag. It’s the first day of senior year. My mom still insists on making my lunch every morning.
“Sure? You don’t know? Olivia, I need to know where you are at all times.” Her short curls are flying in every direction as she rushes around the kitchen cleaning. My mom likes to keep busy these days. I’m surprised she hasn’t collapsed from exhaustion.
I sigh and try not to be too irritated, “I know, mom. I’ll be home.”
“Good. If you’re running late be sure to call. Ivy is driving?”
“Yes, she’ll be here any minute” I say as I gather the rest of my lunch. PB&J, baked potato chips, grapes, and a chocolate chip cookie. The cookie is always the best part, of course.
Mom suddenly stops cleaning and walks over to me. She puts her hands on my shoulders, brushes a loose wave away from my face, and looks me in the eyes. “Are you nervous about going back?”
“No” I say nonchalantly, darting my eyes away from hers. The truth? I’m terrified. The only people who have seen me since Alison died are Ivy and my family. I’ve been hiding out at home all summer. I deleted all my social networking accounts too. I didn’t want to deal with everyone’s condolences and questions.
Mom gives me her I know you’re lying look, but decides not to push the subject. She kisses my forehead as Ivy honks her car horn. “Have a good day sweetie, say bye to your father.”
I walk towards the office and knock on the door before peaking in. Dad is in there, looking through a stack of papers. Like mom, he’s been keeping busy these days. He lives in his office. “Bye dad” I say. He finishes what he’s reading and looks up at me. He gives a slight smile and says, “Have a good day, Liv. See you at dinner.”
I nod and shut the door. That’s how most of our conversations have been going lately. Short and sweet. He acknowledges me, but isn’t overprotective like mom. Sometimes I wonder if he wishes I was the one who died. Dad always bonded with Alison more than he did with me. Alison was athletic. Me? Not so much. Dad loved playing basketball with Alison in our driveway and taking her to the batting cages. He was always at her games cheering her on. Alison was away at Stanford with a softball scholarship.
Walking to Ivy’s car, I look up at the basketball hoop. No one has used it since Alison was home. I don’t know why dad doesn’t just take it down. It’s a constant reminder of her absence. I fight back tears as I hop into Ivy’s Volkswagen.
“Hello sunshine!” Ivy says in a perky voice. “Caramel latte?”
I smile at her and take the latte. “Did you even have to ask?”
Ivy smiles her perfect smile and looks at me. Being Ivy’s best friend can be difficult. It’s like Ivy is the stallion and I’m the mule. Her light blonde hair is practically glowing in the August sun. “So are you nervous?” she asks.
I sigh. “My mom already asked me that.”
“And…?” she pushes.
“And I don’t know. I’m just scared that people at school are going to ask me questions I can’t answer.”
“It’ll be okay. If it’s not, then I’ll punch whoever’s upsetting you in the face.” Ivy says as she reaches for my hand and laughs. I smile as she gives my hand a tight squeeze before pulling out of the driveway and heading to school.
Ivy and I have a tradition. Every day before school she supplies lattes and I control the music. Easton has this coffee shop that is absolutely phenomenal. It reminds me of a Paris cafe. It’s one of the only good things about this small town. The owner is Pattie Watts. Pattie has lived in Easton her whole life. Her mother grew up here and owned Watt’s Coffee Co., and now she does. Pattie has known me and Ivy our whole lives.
When we were eight-years-old, Ivy and I decided we were going to run away. My parents wouldn’t let us go to the waterpark with Alison and her friends. Ivy and I decided to pack our bags and live by the waterpark. We came to the conclusion that if we lived by the waterpark we could go whenever we wanted. We packed our bags full of bathing suits, beach towels, and Goldfish.
We were dragging our bags past Watt’s Coffee Co. when Pattie came outside. Pattie smiled at us and glanced at our bags questioningly.
“Where are you girls headed?” she asked curiously.
“We’re running away!” Ivy answered as she heaved the heavy bag onto her shoulder.
“Why would you do that?”
“Because my parents won’t let us go to the waterpark” I pouted.
Pattie smiled at us. “Oh, what a shame. How about you girls come in for some cookies and lemonade before your long trip?”
Ivy and I gave each other a look. We both knew we couldn’t pass up Watt’s Coffee Co. cookies; they were the best in town. Maybe even the best in the whole world.
Before we knew it, we were devouring cookies and lemonade. We sat at our favorite spot by the window looking out to the town’s gazebo and enjoyed the smell of baked goods and coffee beans.
Pattie talked to us about school and our dolls. She told us her favorite jokes and favorite books to read as a kid. Pattie continued to talk to us until the water park issue didn’t concern us.
We spent hours at the coffee shop. We watched as Pattie proudly served each customer. We read the magazines on the coffee table and pretended we worked at the coffee shop too. Eventually, my mom came to pick us up. Apparently, Pattie had called her as soon as we started devouring her cookies. We weren’t mad though, we were satisfied after spending time with Pattie. Pattie told us to come back soon, and told us that if we had run away she would have missed us. We didn’t try running away since that day. Every time we were upset, we’d turn to Pattie and Watt’s Coffee Co.
Ivy pulls into a parking spot and turns off the ignition. I stare at Easton High School, a brick building that may as well be labeled prison. A hollow feeling fills my stomach as the nerves kick in. I’ve been dealing with the emotional trauma of Alison’s death for months. I’m not so sure I can deal with all the questions awaiting me once I step foot inside the school. Ivy’s eyes are on me as I sit and stare. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” she asks worriedly.
I shake my head. “No” I say, a lump forming in my throat. “But I have to be.”
I force myself out of the car and head into the school with Ivy. I take a deep breath as the commotion of my classmates fills my ears. Everyone is smiling and hugging each other as if they haven’t seen each other in years. Please, it’s only been a few months. I head towards my locker trying not to make eye contact with anyone. Ivy stays by my side as I put my bag into my locker. I can already feel people staring at me, and I can hear them whispering. “I can’t believe what happened to her family,” one girl says as she walks by with her eyes me.
Ivy puts her arm around my shoulder. I can tell she heard that girl too. “C’mon, we have to go pick up our schedules from the gym.”
I groan as Ivy drags me through the crowded hallways and past the giant “Welcome back Easton Eagles!” banner. This place feels anything but welcoming.
Ivy and I stand in line to pick up our schedules behind Henry Brock. Henry isn’t the most popular guy in school. He’s terrible at sports like I am. Here in Easton, it seems as if the only cool guys play sports. Henry has been living in Easton his whole life like us, but doesn’t mind not fitting in. I like that about Henry. He’s different. In a small town, different is refreshing. Henry turns around to see who’s behind him. His eyes grow wide as he realizes it’s me. He brushes a red curl away from his face and stares down at me. I prepare myself to be bombarded with questions about Alison’s death. Henry doesn’t ask me anything though.
“I’m really sorry about your sister, Olivia” he says. I can tell he really means it too.
I give him a slight smile. “Thanks, Henry.”
Henry nods and turns back around to face the front of the line. Ivy leans into my ear. “See, that wasn’t so bad. You’ll be okay,” she whispers.
“Not everyone is like Henry” I say as I look around at all the familiar faces.
We make our way up to the front of the line and find our schedules on the table. Mine seems fine, aside from the fact that I have calculus first hour. I hate math. I’ve always been lousy at it. I’m not going to be a mathematician, so what’s the point in taking calculus? It’s not like I’m ever going to use it again in my life.
“What’s your first class?” Ivy asks as she peaks at my schedule.
“Calculus. I already know it’s going to be a disaster.”
Ivy laughs. I groan.
The first bell rings signaling we have five minutes until first hour starts. Ivy turns to face me and grabs both of my hands. “This is it, Liv. Senior year. Try to have fun okay? You deserve it.”
I smile at her, assuring her that I’ll try my best to be okay. We both head out of the crowded gym and go our separate ways.
I fight my way through the crowds of people and lost freshman to the calculus room. There are only a few other students when I walk in the room. They all look up as they hear me come in. I immediately feel uncomfortable as some of them give me looks of sorrow, and others give me looks of surprise. They know who I am. Everyone knows who I am. Everyone knows my family’s business. I’m told I should accept that others were affected by my sister’s death too, and I understand that. But I wish these people would stop staring at me like I’m growing another head.
I sit at a desk in the second row. The second row is respectable. It’s not the front of the room so I don’t look too nerdy, but it’s not the back so I don’t look like a slacker. I take a pencil and start to doodle in my notebook.
More students start to fill the room as I continue to stare down at my drawing. I sketch eyes, hearts, flowers, and spirals to distract me from the stares I feel boring a hole in my back. They’re all curious. They all want to know my side of the story. They all want to know what it’s like living in the Mark’s household after such a tragedy.
Lucas Clark sits in the desk behind me. The third row is also respectable; not a place for Lucas. Unlike the other students who try and hide the fact that they’re staring at me, Lucas doesn’t care. I try and brush the hair in my face to block his view of me. This is ridiculous. Why hasn’t the bell rang? These minutes feel like hours.
Lucas leans forward in his desk so that his lips are close to my ear. “So do the newspapers have the real facts about your sister’s murder?”
My body tenses and I stop doodling. He said it. He said murder. This is exactly what I was afraid of. I fight back tears and sit silently in my seat. Lucas is still leaned forward, thinking I’ll give him an answer. I can feel a lump forming in my throat. No Olivia, don’t cry. Not here.
I blink back the tears threatening to poor over as Mr. Brink enters the room. Lucas gives me a look, clueless of why I didn’t answer, and sits back in his seat.
“Good morning class! Welcome to calculus!” Mr. Brinks booming voice shouts throughout the room. Everyone sits up straighter at the sound of it. Mr. Brink is powerful like that. “What a great way to start off the day!”
© Copyright 2016 Miranda Lee. All rights reserved.
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