She was flying. Not literally of course, but she might as well have been. Rae felt weightless. As she connected again with the ground she fought for control of her bike and skidded to a stop. she saw her brother, Nick, on the playground with the rest of the kids at the daycare..
She walked inside and signed him out at the receptionist’s desk. The woman avoided eye contact, like most people. Rae’s blood used to boil, but she had learned to never let it show that she noticed people’s edginess around her. They all knew she wasn’t natural. She had gotten over it eventually.
Rae took the boy’s hand when he came out and they got onto her dirt bike. Less than a minute after they pulled out of the parking lot she looked down and saw him asleep, only Nick could doze off while on what was practically a motorcycle. When she pulled up to their bright yellow house, she slowly turned off the engine. Carefully carrying her angelic looking brother to the back door, she opened it to find an angry Aunt Maggie.
"Where have you been for the last two hours?!" she asked way too loudly. Two hours? It'd only felt she had just left to go riding.
"Shhh!" Rae hissed, but it was too late. Nick squirmed out of her arms and ran upstairs.
“I was just on my way to pick him up. You know i don’t like him on that dirt bike”, Maggie scolded.
“I was just trying to help out”, said Rae. Maggie shook her head and sighed, heading off to God knew where, she didn't work or do anything useful. Rae drug herself upstairs and to her room and found Nick bouncing on her bed. The boy grinned widely, thinking about something she didn’t know about yet. She raised an eyebrow, asking the obvious question without words. Nick giggled.
“Sam stopped by today” he said with a knowing smile. Rae sighed wondering how many times she would have to explain to him that she and Sam were just friends. It’d been like that since first grade and neither of them seemed to want it to change.
They had met shortly after she had moved to the heart of Meridian when her parents had died. Even in first grade she wasn’t a popular kid, and that’s saying something since the most popular kid was the one with the most ring pops in first grade. Rae had been shy and kind of a loner. What could make things worse? She had red tips on the ends of her golden hair, not red as in auburn, but a deep scarlet red that faded into the upper parts of the locks. At first she was admired for it, but when the children found out it wasn’t highlights they knew she was something unnatural even as kids.
They hadn’t stayed away though as Rae had wished they would. Instead they made fun of her, cutting off snippets of her hair when she wasn’t looking. It made her mad, and she scared herself with the things she thought of for revenge.
The teasing was too much, even for an independent Rae. Once a little boy found ladybugs on the playground. Instead of smashing them like any other 7 year old, he picked them up and threw them into Rae’s hair, yelling
“They match!” Rae was so mad, she ran back inside, willing herself not to cry..
She had hid in the janitor’s closet, knowing no one would think to look there for her. Here she sobbed until her eyes were red and scratchy, and she was shaking. Rae curled up in the corner of the dark closet. And then, the door had creaked open. She froze and made herself as small as possible, tremors still wracking her body.
Rae waited for the teacher to drag her out, or another little boy to pull on her hair, but it didn’t come. She looked up and in the darkness had seen Sam, trying to comfort her. After that, Sam punched, kicked, or bit (mostly in their elementary years) anyone who made fun of her. He became her protector, and more than once had come home with a black eye and note from the principal.
They were best friends but nothing more. Sam had been a shoulder to cry on and a hand to help her back up for all these years. Rae knew all his faults and though they annoyed her, they were kinda cute. He was WAY too overprotective for one thing, he had to know everything that happened to her like he was some kind of freaking security guard, and he stared down any guy that even tried to flirt with her. Sam didn’t do it in a boyfriend kind of way, but more like he was Rae’s big brother that would beat up any guy she talked about..
Nick’s laugh brought her back. Rae rolled her eyes at him again before quoting for the ump-tieth time “Sam and I are just friends. Let it go kid, he’s not gonna become your brother through me.” she ended with a wink. Nick scrunched his nose, catching the connection to Sam’s two year old little sister.
Now it was her turn to laugh. “Come on” Rae crooned, “let’s watch a movie” and they sat down while she fiddled with the outdated DVD player. With a final ‘thud’ on the top of the faded grey box, the first image popped onto the screen of the small television set.