My Dad almost seemed disappointed that I was doing so well at school. Although I was learning close to nothing, my grades stayed at a solid C+ just like everyone else. I was also happier. I had never really had friends before. Well, I had one friend back in England. His name was Javier and he was a Mexican exchange student.
He didn’t understand most of what I said, so he just laughed at everything I said. These were actual English speaking fiends though. Sure, they weren’t the best influences to have around, but they stuck up for me, and listened to me. One day I said to Nadine, “Do you think I’m different?” She looked me up and down and sighed.
“Come with me.” She said. I followed her down the hallway into the lunch room. There were only a handful of people there, because most of the students went out for lunch. Nadine sat next to someone at an otherwise empty lunch table. I sat down next to her.
“Toby, this is Abbey. I think you two will get along quite well.” I frowned as Nadine proceeded to get up and walk away. Get along quite well? Why would that matter? I didn’t want a date, I wanted advice. I looked over at Toby. He had tan skin and black hair. He didn’t look at me, just continued to eat his sandwich.
His silence was making me jittery, so I started playing piano on the table. As soon as I started doing that, he put his sandwich down. “Why are you here, Abbey?” He asked. “I have no idea, Nadine just took me here. I can leave if you want.” I said quickly, relieved that the silence was over.
“No I mean, why are you here, in this school? And don’t tell me the events. Tell me why they happened.” I gulped. “I’m not quite sure. I think I might have this condition, but my Dad won’t let me go and see a doctor about it. He puts it up to grief and not enough discipline, but my brother is fine.” I blurted out.
Toby nodded. “I know how you feel. My foster parents thought I was just overreacting, that I was just playing the sad card and I needed to move on. But I knew that wasn’t it.” He said glumly. A million questions raced through my mind. I thought I would tell him more about me so he would feel comfortable telling me more.
“My Mum died when I was 11. We moved to California two years ago, and I’ve been getting worse. I think I have ADHD.” I said, shifting in my seat. Toby looked at me for the first time, and he actually smiled.
“Both of my parents died when I was nine, and I have always suffered with depression. It got a lot worse after they died of course. Luckily, I convinced my foster parents to take me to the doctors, so I could get anti-depressants and therapy. Apparently it runs in the family. My Grandfather had chronic depression.” I wasn’t sure how to follow that. At least I had ONE parent, and I had my brother too. “Before you ask, they died in a plane crash.” Toby added. I still didn’t know why I was sitting next to this boy. I felt obligated to stay though, especially after hearing a story like that.
“Why are you here? And I do mean the events that lead you to the school.” I asked. Toby cleared his throat. “After my parents died, school got pretty difficult. I was down for a long time, and I stayed down. After a couple years the kids lost sympathy. I was called a loner and a weirdo. One day the principal told my foster parents that I was a bad influence on their school. So I was kicked out.”
“And the only place that would take you was here.” I said quietly. The lunch bell rang loudly. Toby patted my back. “Find a hobby, there’s a band room down the hall.” He said, before leaving. I smiled. Nadine wasn’t wrong taking me to see Toby. He was like a wise old man for all the rejects. After school I walked into the band room.
A lady with frizzy orange hair and thousands of freckles turned and looked at me. “How can I help you?” She asked. “I wanted to join band.” I said. She grinned at me. It was the first time a teacher had smiled at me in the whole time I had been in the school. “What do you play?” She asked. “I play the piano.” I replied. She smiled again.
“That’s perfect; we have an opening for piano!” She squealed and shooed me over to the piano. I sat down and started to play from the sheet music. Mrs. Bryant (at least according to her sticker name tag) started clapping. She reached out and shook my hand vigorously. “I will see you on Wednesday for practise, madam !” She said. I left with a big smile on my face.
A few weeks later I learned that there was going to be a performance for the school. I sat quietly at the table with my Dad and my brother while Dad complained about the guy that lived upstairs and Evan talked about this weird thing called ‘prom’. I started to kick my chair legs. My brain said stop it you idiot, your being too loud! But my body ignored it, and kept kicking. “Okay, Abbey what is it?” Evan laughed.
“How would you two like to come to my school performance?” I beamed. Evan smiled, “Of course, when is it?” He asked. “In two weeks, on the twentieth.” I replied. I looked over at my Dad. He was picking at his broccoli. He eventually looked up. “I can’t come, I have a business meeting.” He said flatly. No apology. He wouldn’t try to get out of it or anything.
I stood up and stormed out. I ran across the cool tile floors in the kitchen and into the bathroom. I quickly locked the door and sunk down on the other side. I rubbed my eyes and stood back up to look in the mirror. My scratches were fading, and the bruise on my cheek was too. I rubbed my lip were my stitches were starting to get itch-y.
You don’t need him there, you can do this alone.
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