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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9. Chapter 8

"And since the difference from the first result we got was only .17, we know that both methods are perfectly acceptable." Mr. M concluded. He had an amazing way of finishing every single explanation ten seconds before the bell rang. We packed our things, awaiting the shrill noise of the last bell, and readying ourselves to rush out the doors for two days of freedom. The bell rang, and I waited while the others cluttered in the door. Mr. M took no notice of me, and before I knew it, I was alone with Tim. 
"Why didn't you rush out with the rest of them?" He asked, startling me. He shoved his calculator into his pocket and stood up. 
I pulled up my shoulders, trying to make myself smaller. "I don't like crowds." I mumbled. He nodded. 
"I get that. So what elective are you doing?" 
I was unable to hide my surprise at the sudden change in dialogue. He was asking me about normal things, which I had never expected. The only person I usually talked to at school was Alex, and others usually left me alone.
"Psychology." 
"Really? You should psychoanalyze my stepdad." He chuckled and held the classroom door open. I stepped past him, wondering if he really was that much of an asshole, but before I reached the end of that thought, he was gone, and I began to move towards my locker. 

 

I killed the engine and stepped out of the car. The fresh air that breezed between the trees blew through my hair, and I breathed it in rain had fallen, and the scent of wet autumn leaves was invigorating. Nonno was out, giving the boat a new coat of paint, and cleaning it up a bit. I stepped up next to him and grabbed a brush to help. 
"Let's take her out next week. Do you still remember how to fish?" He asked, glancing my way. His accent hadn't faded at all, and I smiled at his refusal to give up his Italian roots, though he had lived here since my mother was two years old.
"Yes. I'm a little rusty, but I remember." I smiled. "I'd love to go next week. I can come after school." 
He nodded, and we painted on in silence. 
"Vi consiglio di assegnare un nome alla barca." I said. 'You should name the boat' "It's bad luck not to." 

"Si, si. Quale nome?" He agreed with a shrug. I was flattered that he would let me name the boat. He loved his rowing boat, and with good reason. Just an old plywood boat with a '75 Johnson, but to us, sitting in that plywood boat for hours on end, chattering, laughing, singing, occasionally catching a fish, that was the life. 

"Cassandra." I said, promptly stating my mother's name. He smiled and nodded.

"Regina, be honest now. Why will David not come here?" He asked. I was startled by a question we had all avoided for so long, just being thrown out there in the blink of an eye. I sighed.

"I've tried talking him into it, but I think he's ashamed. Because he didn't call and didn't come and all that. I've told him. Nonno I think it would help if you went to him. He's just as stubborn as Mamma was." I explained, putting a hand on my grandfather's arm. His jaw was set, and he stared long and hard at the boat.

"If he won't see us that's his choice. I will not drive around for his sake if he is not interested in his family." Nonno said, and I sighed and dropped my arm.

"For a second I forgot where Mamma got her stubbornness from." I mumbled. 

Late at night, I found myself sitting awake, looking at articles on the SAB. It was only torturing myself of course, since I was much too old to go, and I couldn't leave home again, but I just felt the need to see it all, read it all. 

My phone dinged, and I checked it to see a text from Alex. I hadn't seen him at school today, which was odd since he had taken to walking me around a lot.

Sorry about Tyler. Gina almost said your name this morning.

 

I smiled at the screen and replied; It's okay. I'm fine. What exactly did she say? I found it quite cute how Alex was so proud to be a big brother, and so willing to take care of Gina,

 

Well there was a picture of you on my phone, and I was showing her and she said "ee" so it counts.

 

Sure. At least she recognizes me.

 

There was a knock at my door, and as I put my phone on the nightstand /i mumbled a 'come in'. David stepped inside and sat at the end of my bed. 

"What's up?" I asked. He looked around with disapproval in his eyes. 

"You still haven't unpacked?" He asked critically. 

"It's only two boxes!"I protested with a laugh. He smiled in spite of himself and shook his head at me. 

"Anyways, I didn't come to inspect your room." He began, starting to wring his hands. "Every brotherly instinct I have is going against me asking this Reed, but have you given any thought to, you know, getting back on the market?" 

I took in a sharp breath and stared him into the eyes. 

"It's just, I worry that the only person you seem to hang out with is Alex. It's fine to have a few close friends, but I think it might be healthy for you to... you know, get out. Get back into the game. God I'm bad at girly talk." He stumbled through his little speech, and had he been talking about anything else, I'd probably be amused. But just the thought if dating anybody right now was sickening to me. The things I'd endured... And Angus was my first relationship as well. I'd never known anything else, so it was hard for me to believe that anyone could be different.

"David-"

"It could just be a platonic trial date. One of my friends could take you out or something. None of them would mind. You don't need to commit to anything." He said.

"I couldn't." I whispered. I clenched my eyes shut, mumbling 'not Chicago' to myself, slowly rocking back and forth. David grabbed my hand, and I slowly came back to reality. 

"You don't have to do it. I just think it would be good if you started out with a guy you know that I trust." He said after a while, brushing some hairs away from my face. "Are you okay?"

I don't answer. A shaky breath comes over my lips, and I start to rub the scar. 

"Reed, no." David says, grabbing my wrist gently. He looks me in the eyes, and the unspoken threat of 'don't make me tell dad' comes across clear without need for words. 

"I'm sorry." I whisper. He pulls me into a hug, and strokes my hair, mumbling "it's okay." to me. I settle down after a while, and he leaves me alone again. 

 

At school, I'm slightly shakier than usual, and as he's walking me from English to Math, Alex picks up on it.

"Are you okay?" He asks, turning his shoulders a little more to get a better look at me. "You're a little pale. Maybe we should skip ballet today." 

"Even if I don't go to ballet, you still do my fine friend." I say, poking his chest. "And I'm okay. Rough night that's all. Class will help." I say, more to myself than to him. He nods, and sends me a little wave before leaving me at the door to the Math classroom, and going to his AP Physics class.

I sat down at my empty table, slumping in the chair from exhaustion. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back, rubbing my closed lids. The nightmares had been particularly bad, and I was running on two cups of coffee and 3 hours of rest.

"Are you okay?" A voice said next to me, filled with mixed amusement and concern. I jumped, my eyes shot open, and I scolded myself for letting down my guard in public, and not noticing someone so close to me.

It was Tim, looking at me with his head tilted to the side, eyebrows down. "You're not looking so hot- wait, that sounded bad." He said, suddenly stumbling over his words. "What I meant was you should go see the nurse. Not that you're not hot. 'Cause you are. You know, as girls in this school go..." He trailed off, realizing he was rambling, and ran a hand over his face. The tardy bell rang, and Mr. M commenced class. 

I was absolutely stricken. Never had anyone gotten flustered over talking to me, and never had any one called me hot to my face. Furthermore, I didn't think of myself as attractive at all. My appearance didn't bother me. I had other things on my mind at the time, but hearing someone deliberately calling me hot was both something I hadn't heard from anyone since Angus changed.

And what baffled me even more was that a "bad boy" of Tim's caliber was even remotely attracted to, and awkward around an antisocial, scared, traumatized girl like me. It seemed so surreal, and that second, that little breach in his ever present confidence-bordering-on-arrogance made me have a sudden much higher regard for him. That class I asked for his help on a quadratics problem, when previously he had always noticed my trouble and given me the help whether I wanted it or not. After class, when I waited for the crowd to leave, he stayed behind as well and started awkwardly chatting to me. I replied, as best as I could, and we walked out the door together.

Alex stood out there, already leaning against the wall. He looked in bewilderment at me for a moment, having a somewhat normal conversation, not only with a stranger, an outsider, but a male stranger.

"I'll see you later." Tim said with a little wave, going off down the corridor. 

"What did he want?" Alex asked, looking after Tim with something in his eyes I couldn't quite place. I shrugged.

"We were just talking." 

While events had made me more awake, I was still extremely tired, and I was starting to feel a little bit dizzy. We went to lunch, and I sat with Alex and his group of friends. They were very welcoming at first when I arrived, a little too welcome for me at the time, but had quickly picked up that I was more comfortable just talking to Alex and being left alone. So they tolerated me now. No one seemed to mind.

That left me with lots of time to observe and psychoanalyze them. My interest in psychology had peaked after my fifth session with a therapist, and she had told me that I'd have a unique insight on other people because I'd been through trauma. 

There was Tyler, a bit of an arrogant ass, who evidently had some issues at home. He simply talked too much about how great his family was. He was dating Kristie, who was his exact opposite. While he was a rowdy sports guy, who was not book smart at all, she was a bookworm who was so incredibly intelligent and witty. She seemed to be the only one able to control him, though as she put it, "no one controls Tyler". Kristie came from a family of politicians, who were all very surprised, though not entirely unsupportive, that she had no interest in pursuing it as well, given that she had such aptitude for it. But no. Kristie was interested in journalism, something I respected very much. I enjoyed listening to her talking about something she was passionate about. She had a certain charisma and fire that made her special to listen to. In another world, Kristie and I would have been great friends. Instead, we often simply exchanged smiles, and that was enough for the both of us. 

There was Annabelle, who was, if not the sharpest tool in the shed, at least a warm-hearted, kind, loving soul. She was the kind to show around freshmen, simply because she wanted to, or to buy someone lunch if she was worried they were deliberately avoiding food. Annabelle was made to be a mother, and I enjoyed seeing her interact with others in her special, gentle way. It restored some of my faith in humanity. Annabelle came from a family of no less than five children, of which she was the second oldest, and the oldest of the three girls. She was the kind of sister I wished I had sometimes.

Then there was a bunch of soccer guys who seemed willing to follow Alex over the edge of a cliff. They were loud, rowdy, and sometimes scared me a little with their inappropriate jokes and inconsiderate way of speaking. They were all good guys deep down, but the pressure of being a bad-ass soccer team overtook them all, and stopped them from just relaxing and being themselves. They obviously felt like they had to demonstrate their power and self satisfaction by having the JV players wait on them like butlers. 

"Reed? I don't mean to disturb you, but you look really tired, maybe you should go to the nurse's office and take a nap." Kristie said. Alex promptly turned to me and started analyzing my face. I brushed it off.

"I'm okay. Thanks though." 

I was surprised at myself. I was talking to people, more or less smoothly today, like I hadn't for a long long time. I still felt shitty though, but hell would freeze over before I admitted it. 

After lunch came English. Last week I'd been moved up from French 2 to French 3, meaning that I had to change my English period. I was in Alex's class now, which had been s pleasant surprise.

We walked together in silence. I was focusing very hard on not swaying. 

In English, we had assigned seats, and Alex and I were put on opposite sides of the classroom. He hung around my desk until the teacher came, and I could practically feel how he was studying me, trying to pin point what was up with me. To my rescue came Mr. Bartlett, and began class, talking about the Romantic era poets or something of that sort. I tried to read the words that he put on the blackboard, squinting my eyes and forcing myself to focus, but suddenly, the fuzziness in my head took over, and for a moment I had no control over my body. I fell, sideways, out of my seat, and hit my head to the ground. I stopped hearing for  seconds, but I could see Alex sliding onto the floor next to me, checking my eyes, and calling my name. Then I didn't see anymore.

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