"Don't be like this, Grace." Maggie pleaded, giving me a puppy dog stare. Her eyes were big and brown, and hard to look at without caving. Since this was true, I wouldn't meet her gaze. I kept fixing my mascara in the mirror of the bathroom.
"Absolutely not," I said, refusing to acknowledge her begging. No matter how many times I said it, she wouldn't take no for an answer.
"Please?" She whined again. "I'll seriously pay you back this time, no kidding."
I knew the probability of that. Yet for some reason, I turned away from the mirror and leaned against the counter. Folding my arms over my chest, I gave her a look.
"Please," she said again, but lighter than before.
I rolled my eyes, already starting to feel my resolve crumbling. "Alright, but I'll come after you if you don't." She winked at me, and scurried out of the bathroom, pretty blonde hair swinging behind her.
Maggie was my best friend, but just like everyone else, she had her flaws. I've known her since the fourth grade, when I was the only one who could actually beat her in four square. We'd been together ever since. She had forgotten her lunch money again today, which had happened a lot more than I'd care to remember. I figured she knew I'd be there to back her up, so she didn't worry about it as much as she should. Despite this, she really was a good friend.
"You gave her money again?" An exasperated voice from around the corner cried, as the door opened again.
"Yes Tammy, but we can't all be perfect like you," I drawled sarcastically. She grinned at me, and we fussed at our hair uselessly. I tapped my fingers on the cheap green and white tiles.
Tammy was my other best friend, who was as close to perfect as she could be. However, she refused to acknowledge this. No matter how amazing she was, it was like she couldn't see it. Her grades were nearly perfect, and she was beautiful in her own way. She had long red hair that fell over her shoulders in waves. Her style was always dead-on, and I was a little jealous.
Our bell "rang" and I sighed. "Don't you think it's time we had an actual bell instead of a buzzer?"
It didn't actually ring; it was just truly a loud buzzer.
"That's how it is here at Birchwood Hills High. We like it loud, and the same as always." She took my arm, and we strolled into the hallway towards our locker.
"Isn't this so amazing? If you were to mess up just one letter in the DNA sequence you could change something drastically. Of course, it's not really a good thing, but it's amazing anyway..."
I listened lifelessly to Mrs. Peterson, our biology teacher, drone on about DNA. I felt like I could bash my head into the table and she wouldn't miss a single beat in her praise of the human body.
It's not that I hated her, it's just that I couldn't see the point in memorizing useless facts when what I really wanted to do was major in English.
I drummed my fingers steadily on the table. I focused on the beat trying to stay awake. It was just tapping four times quickly, but it took my mind off of the lecture.
The bell rang- er, buzzed- and we all got up to leave. I slumped my book bag over my shoulder, and winced at how heavy the books were.
Seriously? I thought to myself. We need to make these lighter.
As I filed out of the room, Mrs. P stopped me.
"Your grades aren't looking so good after the last assignment."
"I'll bring it up," I promised halfheartedly. I knew if I studied more, I'd be fine, but I didn't really want to. After all, I didn't love science. All I really cared about at this point was finding a way to improve my writing, and getting into a college with a great English major.
"Alright," she said, dismissing me. "Oh, one more thing. We'll be having a new transfer student coming on Monday, and I was wondering if you'd let him be your shadow for the day? Just to get the feel for the school."
I almost considered it for a moment, but not for long. "I don't really know if I'm the best person to show him around," I said, "after all, I do need to focus on my grades."
I wasn't really sure why she had picked me. There were many students that could offer more hospitality and school spirit than I could.
"One day wouldn't hurt, right?" She pleaded. I could hear the hope in her voice..
I couldn't leave her hanging. "I'm sure Tammy would love to help," I offered.
Her eyes brightened and she nodded. "Thank you, Grace. See you Monday."
"See you Monday, Mrs. Peterson." I shut the door behind me. My stack of notebooks and actual books nearly fell on me as I opened my locker. It was a mess, but I grabbed what I needed and shoved everything else back inside.
As I took my seat in the classroom at the end of the hall, Mr. Pierce greeted the class with a loud noise.
"Sorry!" He exclaimed. "Dart gun's not working right. I think it was jammed in too tightly."
Mr. Pierce was an average teacher, with a good personality. He was a little short, with dark hair and small framed glasses that he used for reading. One thing that set him apart from other teachers was that he didn't believe in telling us to memorize something and take a test on it, only to forget it later on. He wanted us to be able to apply what we learned to real life, and be able to use it later on. He wasn't really a normal teacher, but we learned the best in his class.
"Now, for today's entry, please define the word 'coincidence' and give me an example of how it would relate to every day life." We had daily entries that counted as a grade. He asked us difficult questions, but we were graded based on participation.
When he was sure that everyone had a chance to record their response, he looked around the room for a volunteer to read theirs aloud. A girl that sat in the front row raised her hand, but after a moment's hesitation lowered it again. Mr. Pierce seemed to be amused by this, and decided to call on her for the answer.
"Don't be shy, Allison," he said. "What do you think the definition is?"
"Well," she paused, thinking. "It's kind of like when something happens without relevance to the situations going on around it. It's just a random occurrence without any reason.
"Very practical," he praised her.
I raised my hand slightly, and he acknowledged me with a nod. "It's something that happens by chance. It doesn't lack a reason, when you think about it, just a purpose, as Ally said. If you ask me, I think there's no such thing."
"Interesting discussion," he said, scribbling the last names onto the attendance sheet.
As the class wore on, we read from the textbook and discussed the story we were currently reading. We had just finished reading another excerpt from the Iliad, and were moving on to myths and folktales. It didn't really matter what we covered in the book, because I loved all of it. Even though it was the last class of the day, I looked forward to it the entire day.
"We'll be picking project partners on Monday. I promised you I'd let you try and write your own stories soon, didn't I?"
"Wait, what?" Matthew, a boy who had missed a few days, cried out. "What project?"
Normal teachers would be angry with him for speaking so suddenly and out of turn, but not Mr. Pierce. "We have to write our own stories -with a partner- about two characters going on an adventure. All of the guidelines are on this sheet of paper." He thrust it towards Matthew.
I caught Tammy's eye, and she smiled to let me know she was thinking the same thing. We had similar tastes in writing, although I embellished my words a little more than she did. This made us perfect partners for this kind of assignment. Not only was this a way for me to test my writing ability, but also an entertaining school project.
The bell rang and all of the students cleared the room. As I left, I heard a sound similar to the dart gun, and an excited cry. "Got it!"
"What do you mean you volunteered me for a shadow? I'm too busy on Monday!" Tammy was saying, trying to express how angry she was.
She slammed the packet of information Mrs. P had given her earlier about the transfer student onto the table next to where I was sitting.
"Well," was all I had managed to say so far. We were sitting on the picnic tables outside the front doors of the school. We were really supposed to be leaving, but I had to tell her about volunteering first. I didn't realize she would be so upset. If I had known, I would have volunteered Maggie instead. "Mrs. P cornered me about my grades, and then asked me to show him around. I couldn't just leave her hanging so-"
"You volunteered me instead." Tammy said. "Typical." She huffed loudly, and studied her manicured nails intensely.
I shrugged apologetically. "Sorry."
"If he's cute, I'll show him around," Maggie wiggled her eyebrows at me, and then twirled her scarf around her hand. "What do you think, Grace?"
"Um, hello? I can't do it, end of story." Tammy said stubbornly.
"Great," I muttered. "He'll be by himself then."
"No," Tammy said. "You'll tell Mrs. Peterson that you'll show him around. You owe me this after trying to force the kid on me like this."
I knew she was right, so I didn't bother arguing. There was no way I could say no. Not without having a fight with her, which was something I never wanted to do again.
Once, in the eighth grade, some boy had asked me to go to one of the stupid dances they had every month. For some reason, Tammy thought he was going to ask her, and got very upset when she found out. She thought that I had stolen him from her, but I really hadn't. I didn't even know the kid's last name. Honestly, I would have told her as soon as she asked, but when she accused me, my pride got the better of me. It was a horrible time, because Maggie had been caught in the middle. Even for a junior high fight, it was pretty bad. Eventually, we made up and the boy moved away. Good riddance.
"Ugh, don't make me do this, please."
"Don't make me leave the poor kid stranded," she countered, putting her long, wavy red hair into a ponytail.
"He could turn out to be some psycho, you know."
"He'll fit in with you then, wouldn't he?"
"Ouch," Maggie added. "She's gotcha now, girly."
I grinned, admitting defeat. "Who transfers halfway through the year anyways?"
"See you guys later," Maggie said suddenly. I noticed her boyfriend, Trevor, sitting in his car waiting. She waved as she got into his car, and the drove off. They are really sweet together, and I almost felt a twinge of jealousy. I wished I could have someone who cared about me the way Trevor cared for Mags. You could see it in the way he watched her when she wasn't looking.
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive you home? I know Justin's sick so you'll end up walking home on your own today."
"Nah," I waved her concern away and gave what I hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'll be okay. Thanks though." Justin was my boyfriend. We met during sophomore year, and started dating earlier this year. Somehow, we were still a couple. I didn't really know how.
"Oka-ay," she said warily. "But text me when you get there."
"Yes, mom." After a moment I added, "Later."
It wasn't a long walk home, but it felt like it. Trudging along the sidewalk was tiring, especially when all I wanted to do was go to sleep. It gave me time to think, however, and I needed that. I was not looking forward to leading the transfer kid around all day, and I figured I'd find a way to make him someone else's problem.
Shouldn't he be shadowing a guy anyway? I thought. Truthfully, it was a little odd for him to shadow me. I wasn't really a great student, but I wasn't bad either. There was also the fact that I was a girl.
I slowed down as a reached the stony walkway to my front porch. For some reason, it didn't have any weeds yet. I knew for sure that between me and my father, neither of us had much time to tend to the many needs of our lawn. Somehow, it seemed like someone was taking care of it. My house was really small, compared to everyone else's in this neighborhood, but it was a cute baby blue color that reminded me of my mother.
I try not to think of it too much, but my mother had passed away when I was young. I was about two years old when it happened. It had seemed just like an ordinary car accident to my father at the time, but it turned into a freak accident when the drunk driver hit her, and her airbags decided not to inflate.
I shook the memory from my head, and brushed my hair from my eyes. From the corner of my eyes I could see the little brown hairs flying out from behind my ears. I made no effort to try and flatten the fly aways; they were too much of a bother right now.
I sent a text to Tammy, telling her I was inside, and turned the lock of the front door. The phone vibrated in my back pocket, letting me know the message sent.
My dad wasn't home from work yet, but I figured he'd be home in a couple of hours. I had the perfect amount of time for a quick nap. I knew I could manage without one, but I wanted to sleep anyways. No need to make dinner when I was so tired, right?
"He'll manage without me for a night," I whispered aloud.
I passed the long table on the side of the hallway leading to my room, and paused in front of the picture frame sitting on it. It was the only picture frame that didn't have dust on it, and the glass towards the front looked clean. I kicked my toe softly into the white carpet and eyed the picture, just like I had a hundred times before.
"Hi, Mom," I whispered, a little louder. "Miss you madly."
Technically, I didn't know her well enough to miss her, but I felt her absence every single day. She had pretty blonde hair, and clear blue eyes. She was almost opposite from me, with her blonde hair and my brown hair; her blue eyes and my green ones. The only thing we shared in appearances was a slight tan and the same soft nose. She somehow seemed more regal than I did, too.
It didn't take me long to brush into my room and crawl into bed. I was asleep in a matter of minutes.
"Grace!" My father barged into the side door that led into the garage. Even though he wasn't fully in the house yet, I could hear his every move.
"Don't hit your head on the-" There was a loud clang, and then a few loud curses. I grinned slightly. "Pipes."
"You think I'd learn," he moaned, rubbing his forehead. "Where are you?"
"Incoming," I said, getting up from my bed and slipping out the door. I pushed the door open and walked into the kitchen, where he was unloading his work bag. His computer now sat on our tiny granite counter, and he surrounded it with files and folders of all different colors.
"Got enough stuff, yeah?" I asked sarcastically, sitting down at the table.
"Not really," he answered, finally done. He turned to me. "We're going out to eat tonight."
"But today's Friday." On weekends, we normally just ordered takeout because I needed a break from cooking. I cooked small meals on weekdays. "Are you serious?"
He ran a finger through his hair and chuckled. "Yep. I got a raise today. Thing's are looking up already, aren't they?" He was clearly excited about this, so I couldn't bear to bring up the fact that money would still be tight. I'd let him have this dinner at least.
I could make up the difference at my day job busting tables.
"Alright," I said, rubbing my eyes. "Where to?"
"I was thinking the diner, yeah?"
The diner was his favorite restaurant in the entire town, and I knew there was no way I could argue. It wasn't necessarily a fancy place, but it wasn't a dump. As long as the food was good, I wouldn't argue.
"Deal," I stuck out a hand, which he shook, and the paraded to his room at the front of the house.
All I needed to do was refresh a little mascara, which was all I'd wear, and brush my too-straight hair. Same old, same old. I didn't need much. I didn't understand the need for accessories with my clothes, so I just pulled on an old t-shirt that still fit and some jeans.
"Let's go, kiddo," said my dad, when we were both ready.