How did I get here?

Over the course of the last year, Reed Johnson's life has made some interesting twists and turns, and sadly, very few of them were for the better. Now, to get her away from the scenes that provoked her post-traumatic stress, her father has chosen to move the family back home to Nazareth in Pennsylvania.
Both old and new friends quickly start to make an impact on her life, and pretty soon, Reed is caught up in a web of drama while dealing with a lot of stuff herself. With an already fragile mental health, who knows how she'll end up?

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3. Chapter 2

My thumb paused over the send button, contemplating the risks of rejection, trusting a non-relative male, leaving my comfort zone. But finally, the finger hit the screen, and the text was gone. In a little blue speech bubble on a brand new facebook chat was the message "Hey, I'm back in Nazareth for good. Wanna hang out sometime?" 

I put the phone on my nightstand and turned onto my side. I didn't want to sleep, knowing what awaited me on the other side. Those red tinted images that haunted me every night. The tears and the violence and the pain, but mostly the recovery. 

The last few birds were still singing outside, and I tried closing my eyes and listening to them, focusing on them. But it didn't work. They were the same birds that had sung outside my room in the hospital, and it brought me back. I had to shut the window.

The next morning I was groggy, grumpy, and in no way fit to start the first day of school. But alas, it was not optional, and I dragged myself out of bed and prepared myself. It was first day back after the summer, and from experience I knew that this would mean shouting, fighting, throwing of papers and old friends reuniting. There would be no space for a new girl. That was the main reason I had written to Alex the night before, to make sure I at least knew one person. I rubbed at my tired, grainy eyes and glanced down at my phone. He had replied.

"Nice to hear from you Johnson. I'll find you at school today." 

I sighed happily, and felt a little lift in my chest. Maybe he wouldn't mind me hanging around all day. 

 

I parked Bluebell as close to the exit of the parking lot as I could and stepped out, slinging my book bag over my shoulder. Little signs in the hallways directed me through the loud crowd of high schoolers to the high school office, and they gave me my schedule, and directions to get to my first class. Math. Oh joy.

 

I made it in reasonable time, in spite of having gotten lost twice and ended up in the cafeteria one of the times. The teacher was only welcoming the others back, asking them about their holidays. Even though I didn't care much for the subject of math, I took an immediate liking to the teacher. He wore a blazer and a bow tie. A teacher in a bow tie. That was just fantastic.

I smiled apologetically at him and handed him the papers I needed him to fill in, with the words "Sorry, I got a bit lost." 

"Oh no that's all cool. I'm Mr. M. Nice to meet you." He said and shook my hand. "You can sit right there in the back."

I followed his pointed finger to a table in the back, where a guy in a black leather jacket sat, sporting a grin that bordered on arrogant. 

I sat down and fished out my book while Mr. M talked to some more people at the front about break. 

"Hi." Said a smokey voice, and I turned my head to see the dirty blonde head of the guy sitting next to me. "I'm Tim."

"Reed." I replied dismissively and glanced at the board. I tensed a little, sitting so close to a guy.

"Oof, an ice queen. Ouch." He chuckled under his breath. I could sense the bad boy all over him, the jacket, the sunglasses that peeked out of his bag, the rips in his jeans with spray paint smudges on it, it was all obvious. I closed my eyes and chanted inside my head "this is not Chicago, this is not Chicago," over and over again. 

"Are you alright?" He asked, sounding almost amused.

"I'm fine." I almost barked, my defensive walls building. He reminded me too much of him. I couldn't show weakness. 

"Okay, alright, just asking." He raised his palms in mock surrender.

"So guys, let's just do a little formative test, it's nothing to worry about, just so that I can see what you remember and review a little, getting your brains tapped back into the math waves." Mr. M said as he handed out the sheets. I grabbed mine and wrote my name at the top. 

"You may begin as soon as you have it. You have the whole class today to finish."

I opened the booklet and glanced at it. The first page was pretty basic stuff, Pythagorus', factoring, that kind of thing. The next page got a little harder, and so on. I dug in and finished the first page in good time. 

"Uno Due Tre Quattro Cinque Sei Sette Otto Nove Dieci" I mumbled under my breath. Tim glanced over at me and whispered "Italian?" with an impressed look in his eyes. I nodded and went back to counting, careful to do it silently this time. 

"Don't stop on my account." 

Finally, the bell rang, and I handed in the booklet on my way out of the classroom. I was thrilled Mr. M didn't make me present myself to people. Larger crowds made me anxious these days.

"Reed!" someone called, an unfamiliar voice, yet when I turned my head in the direction of the caller, I recognized the face. His voice had just gotten much deeper over the years.

"Alex!" I responded with relief and happiness. He reached me, his brown curls falling everywhere. He had to keep stroking one out of his face, which was lit up by his bright smile and shining eyes.

"Look at you Johnson." He said as he hugged me lightly. He was aware of my situation, and I appreciated that he was careful around me.

"Look at you. Dude. Since when did your voice get this deep? And when did you grow muscles?"

"There's this wonderful thing called puberty? Maybe you'll experience it someday." He joked, and I slapped his arm. I was a B-cup, and proud of that. I didn't want to be stared at for having big tits.

"How's it going? I heard you got a little sister." I asked as we matched pace and walked to the area where sophomores hung out. He smiled and looked down. 

"Yeah. Gina. She's about a year old now. My mom's staying home with her."

"That was unexpected. I mean, having another kid when the firstborn is already eighteen. I've never known anyone who did that before." I mused. 

"I don't think Gina was planned, to be honest." He chuckled, and I smiled, thinking that most people would have been weirded out by comments like this.

"So does she walk yet?" I asked him. I could tell by the way his face lit up when he talked about her that she was the most important thing in his life. 

"Not yet," He said with a nod. "She seems to prefer crawling. She doesn't talk at all yet either." 

"She sounds adorable."

"She is."

We'd reached the lounge-ish area of a corridor. I liked how the school was designed, with some hallways occupied by couches, bean bags, and ping pong tables. 

"Kingsley!" Somebody shouted and waved Alex over to a group of people on a couch. He was a dark skinned guy, with a short, tight afro, and he stood up to high five Alex when he came close enough. I stopped a few steps behind Alex, suddenly uncomfortable with being so close to so many people at once. 

NotChicagoNotChicagoNotChicago

I tried my best to smile as Alex introduced me to the group of people, then excused myself, pretending I needed to go to the bathroom. A girl sitting on the couch pointed in the general direction of the nearest one, and I scurried off. 

I locked myself in a stall and got my breathing under control, then left when the bell rang. To my surprise, Alex was waiting outside the ladies room, leaning on the wall. 

"I'm so sorry Reed. I should've known that a big crowd would set you off. I'm such a dumbass." He sighed and looked me in the eye. His were a clear grey the color of concrete. 

"Alex, you don't have to deal with my... with me. You shouldn't have to. I shouldn't have asked you to do this. I'm sorry, I just freaked out a little bit. I have to get to class." 

I'd only gotten two steps away from him when he caught up to me. "Reed wait," he said. "I know I don't have to. But in all honesty, I missed having you around. And I was really sad to hear what happened to you, so wanna help you recover. What's your next class?" 

We were in the same PE class, and parted outside the locker rooms. Inside, I winced a little, but overcame it, and pulled out my uniform. Locker rooms still freaked me out. The uniform was red with golden details, and the school crest in gold thread over the heart. Still not very attractive, but a vast improvement from the uniform at my old school. 

 

 

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