It had started out as any other morning. I woke up, annoyed at the idea of going to school once again. It was Monday morning, and I had had a holiday of blessed peacefulness in the house, no one to disturb my little bubble. But now reality caught up with me, and I had to go to school.
I lived with my mom, dad and younger brother in the charming little town called Orlay, located in the very middle of the state of Connecticut. I was a sophomore at the local High School, and I wasn’t impressed with my fellow students. While they were always packed around the round tables in the cafeteria, gossiping about each other, whoever was famous at that exact moment, and whatever they might else take an interest in, I preferred to sit alone at my usual table with a book. I had always been an introvert, and me becoming a teenager 3 and a half years ago did not help the case.
I did have friends, of course. My best friend was Maria, who happened to have moved to England with her mom just before we started High School. And my brother and I were so close that we might as well be best friends, too. He just hadn’t started High School yet, so I just kept to myself.
By the time I got to school, the parking lot was packed. I found a spot in the far end of the lot, where I shot down the engine of my old Rusty. Rusty was a 20 year old Ford, obviously rusty. It had once been baby blue and silver, but now it was dirty blue and rusty. I didn’t mind. The car could drive perfectly fine, had been cheap, and went pretty far on not much gas. The insides were comfy, with plushy, grey seats and smelled like an old coffee bar. I hated to leave my car to enter the school, but as I wanted an education, I needed to go to school. So I opened the door, and left the safe car for the low temperatures and snow outside. Covered in a dark blue winter jacket, boots, scarf and a knitted, black hat, I walked toward the school entrance, a new schoolbag of brown leather across my shoulder. It was the first school day after Christmas, and the school halls were still filled with Christmas decorations. I walked straight to the classroom, since I had no one I wanted to talk to anyway. I had Maths in the first period. Not my favourite, but better than Biology. I preferred English Literature, Latin and History. But math, biology, physics and physical education was compulsory and I had to drag my sad teenage butt through it.
I wasn’t the first one to enter the classroom, but definitely not the last either. Half the class was present, and was talking loudly about all the parties they had been going to during the holidays. At days like that, I really wished for Maria to be there to talk to me. It was lonely. Not that I minded being alone, but it could get boring when it was the same thing day after day.
I sat down by an unoccupied table in the very back of the classroom, sitting my bag down and dragged off the jacket and hat. I had been lucky enough to get the corner by the window.
After Math, biology, physics and History, I could finally run to the cafeteria. I stood in line to get my lunch, spaghetti and some kind of meat sauce, and was at last able to sit down at my private table - everyone just accepted that they should stay the hell away from it - and pull out my book while I ate my lunch. I was rereading The Fault in Our Stars for the fifth time. My brother got it for me for Christmas, and I hadn’t been reading anything else since then.
Fifteen minutes passed without me being interrupted, but then someone cleared their throat just on the other side of the table. I looked up, and say some dude standing there. He was good looking, I admit - he had pitch black hair, strong facial features, icy blue eyes and a fairly tanned skin, considering we were dealing with 20 centimetres of snow outside the door. He was dressed in black jeans and a white and blue plaited button-down shirt, the sleeves rolled neatly up to his elbows.
“Sorry to interrupt. Can I sit here?” he asked, and my eyebrows automatically went into a frown. It had to be some sort of joke. A bet with his friends. He looked uncomfortable when I didn’t answer.
“Sorry. I- I’m now here, and I don’t really feel like sitting with those over there,” he said, nodding his head towards some juniors at a table in the other end of the room, who happened to all be screaming with laughter over some stupid joke, most likely. I still didn’t feel completely convinced, but I’m way too soft, though I might not seem that way to strangers. I had a bad habit of staring at people with a frown when I disapproved of something, and in general ignore pretty much anyone that came my way.
“It’s okay, I’m just not used to people wanting to sit here. You can sit here, of course,” I didn’t really want to say ‘of course’, but I didn’t want to seem mean. And this guy had caught my eye in a strange way. He looked different than what you might expect of a teenage guy, and the way he had talked to me was just… different. I had a feeling that he wasn’t one of the usual jocks.
A relieved smile lit up his face, and he sat down opposite me. He sat his tray down, put his black jacket and a schoolbag on the chair beside him. His hand reached across the table.
“I’m Thomas Martin.” He said. Wow, we were introducing each other with last names. Definitely not your average teenage guy. I reached my own hand away from the book and grabbed his, which felt a good deal bigger than mine.
“Eliza Roberts. But you can call me Ellie.” I told him. We shook hands, and after that I was franticly searching for the right words to say, so it wouldn’t get awkward. He was faster, though.
“What are you reading?” he asked, looking down at my book.
“The Fault in Our Stars. My brother gave it to me for Christmas.” I told him, trying a smile.
“I’ve heard of that one. Mayor girl book, right?”
“Yeah, I suppose. You said you were new here?” I asked, using words that allowed him to tell whatever he felt like.
“M-hh,” he said, nodding, just having put a mouthful of the plastic-ish food into his mouth. His face contracted at the taste, and I couldn’t help the smile that crossed my face. “This tastes like shit… he said, dropping the fork onto the table. “We moved here from New Orleans. My dad got a new job at the hospital.” He explained.
“Your dad is a doctor?” I asked, intrigued. So he came from a good family. That might explain something.
“Yup. And my mom’s a nurse, so he got her a job there as well. So we moved.” He said.
“What are you then? You seem too old to be a sophomore.”
“I’m a junior.” He said. That explained why he had nodded toward the junior table. He didn’t seem like their type, so it made sense that he didn’t want to sit there. “Are you a junior? I didn’t see you in any of my classes so far,” he said.
“How come you sit alone?” he then asked, and I frowned, wondering how to explain it without sounding like a complete arse.
“I don’t fit in,” I said, looking toward a table filled with my classmates. They were talking loudly together. “They gossip too much. Turn on each other. I don’t want to be a part of that,” I said, glad about the explanation I had. He - Thomas - nodded, seeming to agree with me.
“I could fit in if I wanted to. But I don’t. Just these two lessons and I don’t want to spend the lunch break with them.” He said. Silence followed, but it was a comfortable silence. Both of us forced some more of the plastic-spaghetti down. A couple minutes before the bell rang, I asked him if he had English Literature with Mrs. Mason.
“Yeah, I do. Why?”
I smiled. “I do too. Guess I’ll see you soon then,”
“I thought you were a sophomore?” he said, his voice full of wonder.
“I’ve spent the last one and a half year reading in every single lunch break. They raised me to the junior literature class to give me more of a challenge.” He looked impressed.
“Then I guess I’ll see you soon,” he said with a smile. I nodded and got up with a smile. I walked out of the cafeteria after dumping my tray on the wagon.
“Hey, you. Curly!” someone yelled. I stopped walking. The nickname bounced through the almost empty hallway. After having been called that since I started High School, I knew that it was directed to me. My hair was a big mess of big, brown curls, and the name had come naturally to those who wanted to pick on me. Last semester had been peaceful, but freshman year, where I was all alone as well, just after Maria left, I had been picked on a lot. I rolled my eyes and turned around to face my attacker, who appeared to be a bunch of junior girls.
“What were you doing with that new boy?” the one in the front asked. She was the classic High School Diva, so classic it almost hurt. Long, straight blonde hair. Skinny jeans. A years worth of makeup. And some really expensive white shirt from some really expensive brand. Her name was Melissa, also so classic High School Diva it hurt. That, and a junior, so she was older than me. Her gang of girls were juniors as well.
“I was sitting with him during lunch. I don’t see how it is any of your business.” I said, holding my jacket in my arms in front of me. She threw her hair over her shoulder in the very best impression of a Cover Girl model. She walked closer to me.
“It is my business, because he’s a junior, a hot one at that, and you are a lousy sophomore.” She said, venom dripping from her voice. I had never gotten that weird girl thing. We-gotta-protect-this-poor-boy-from-the-stupid-little-girl-because-he-doesn’t-know-what-is-best-for-him. It was none of their business, really, who Thomas sat with, or talked to. But girls like these thought that they were the queens of High School and acted like they controlled everyone.
“Oh, but why are you talking to me, then? I see you didn’t notice in there, but he was the one who came and asked if he could sit. I told him yes, and he sat down. End of story. Maybe you should talk to him about this lousy sophomore, not the other way around,” I said. I didn’t want her to talk to him. I had a feeling that Thomas and I could actually become friends, and I didn’t want Melissa to ruin that. Of course, I was overreacting - he sat down in the first lunch break of him being on this school with me, it wasn’t him promising to become my bestie.
Melissa’s eyes shot daggers at me. She had thought that she could frighten me, but she had to think again. I lived in a world of heroes and villains, I had been a silent viewer in multiple fights and wars, and she thought that she could scare me in the halls of Public High School of Orlay City? No freaking way. I turned on my heels and walked away.
My schedule looked like this:
8.00a.m. - 9.00a.m. - Math
9.05a.m. - 10.05 am. - Biology
10.10a.m. - 11.10a.m. - Physics
11.15a.m. - 12.15a.m. - History
12.15a.m. - 1.15p.m. - Lunch Break
1.15p.m. - 2.15p.m. - Latin
2.20p.m. - 3.20p.m. - English Literature
(Monday, Thursday) 15.25p.m. - 16.25p.m. - Physical Education
The lessons before the lunch break were a killer for me. Math, Biology and Physics in a row? It was simply cruel to put students through it, but it wasn’t like whoever made the schedules didn’t know. Anyway, Latin was amazing, simply amazing. Latin was such a beautiful language. It really sucks that we don’t use it anymore. Well, we do, in medical situations and when we want to sound like professors. But as much as I enjoyed being back in my Latin class, I looked forward to English Literature. I knew that Thomas was going to be there, and I was curious to whether Melissa talked to him about me being a ‘lousy sophomore’. I had been called worse, so this adjective didn’t bother me the slightest. But Melissa had also been the one to pick on me during freshman year, so I was prepared for the worst. Especially if I continued to be indifferent towards her.
When I walked into English Literature, I was the one of the first ones to get there. I had been in the class last semester as well, so my classmates knew me, but didn’t bother to talk to me. I was younger, and therefor everything but interesting. I sat down in a window seat again, this time on the second out of five rows. I loved this class, and I wasn’t about to put myself in the very back of the class during it.
After a minute, students started filling into the classroom. I was searching my bag for my book when I heard someone scramble into the table-and-chair-set beside me, and a deep voice saying ‘hey’. I straightened up, book in hand, and saw Thomas smiling at me.
“Hey. Good to see you again,” I said, smiling back. It felt so natural talking to him. I could barely talk about the weather with most people my age, but it was so easy with Thomas.
“You too. I thought you were kidding when you said you were in a junior literature class. But apparently not.” His smile was crooked to the right.
“No. I actually do read too much. According to my parents.” I confessed. He raised an eyebrow and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah. While other teenagers drink too much or party too much, I read too much.”
“I think your bad habit is to be preferred,”
“I strongly agree,”
Thomas’ smile seemed to falter for a moment. I look at him, once again frowning. I did it a lot, I think.
“This blonde girl came up to me just before,” he began, and I sank down in my chair. Great. Melissa had talked to him. “She said that I should stay away from you. That you were a bad influence. That I should sit with them instead,” he told me, and I took a deep breath to start explaining, but once again he found the words before I did. “But I know her type. We had them at New Orleans High as well. She’s a bully, isn’t she?”
I shrugged. I guessed so. But I think every High School Diva were bullies.
“She thinks she owns the school, right?” to that, I nodded. Damn right she thought. But damn, she was wrong. He looked at his hands at his table. “I don’t think you should listen to what she says. She’s only got bullshit between her ears.” He said, and made me laugh. He cracked a smile. Apparently, he had been going for it. I had been staring at my table with a blank expression, trying to keep my annoyance with her at bay.
“She used to pick on me a lot. During freshman year. Last semester was fine, but I guess she is getting bored and want’s to start again. But it’s nothing, really. I don’t see how she can do me any harm.” I told, being honest. I really didn’t expect her to be able to get to me in any way. He nodded.
“If she really starts doing that, you should know that I detest bullies and will pretend to be a knight in a shining armour.” He said. I looked at him with a smile, but eyebrows raised. “You’re not the only one who enjoys the endless lives you get through books,” he said, winking at me. I opened my mouth to answer, but just then, Mrs Mason dashed into the room, cutting of the conversation.
Mrs Mason was an amazing teacher. She was enthusiastic about teaching, about books, and about her students. She was loved by pretty much every single student at the school. She had this air of calm around her, but at the same time she made her lessons come alive. She gestured with her hands while talking, painting pictures matching what she was saying.
I had had personal experience with her. During freshman year, I had been alone, and at that time it had been tough. Maria had just moved, and I was not used to the silence. Mrs Mason had seen me sitting alone, and soon she was talking to me in between classes, recommending books and talking about authors that she loved. When she found out about the bullying, she didn’t get all touchy-feely with me, she just continued to talk to me and recommend books. Whenever she noticed Melissa or any other of my bullies approaching me, she stepped in, started talking to me without acknowledging the bully.
That lesson, we started working with the classic tale of Peter Pan. Some of my classmates seemed shocked to find out that the real tale was not the Disney version.
Thomas talked as much as I did during the lesson. His hand flew up, and I noticed that Mrs Mason seemed mildly impressed and very content with having another student who was actually engaged in the teaching.
By the end of the lesson, I was packing up my things. My last lesson was Physical Education, so I had to get to my locker and get my clothes.
“I’m going to maths now,” Thomas said, standing with his bag swung over his shoulder. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” he smiled at me. I felt pretty good about going to school tomorrow. I had company to look forward to, company that wasn’t acting like an obnoxious teenager.
Physical Education was absolutely terrible. My reading skills might be very effective and elegant, but my body was anything but elegant. I had picked up running a few months back, but I was still completely hopeless at anything more than just putting on foot in front of the other. So when I heard that we were going to play soccer, I was horrified. Not that anyone would ever play me the ball, but just running around to chase a round object was scary.
Especially because I could not gather my thoughts. I was constantly thinking about Melissa. Why was she suddenly going back to picking on me? Why did she care about Thomas sitting with me? Of course, I knew the answer to that. Thomas was hot. I mean, He-plays-soccer-and-is-muscular-and-totally-handsome hot. Even I had to admit that, and I usually stuck to fictional characters. But Thomas was different. His face was made up of a strong jaw, deep, icy blue eyes, thin lips and a straight nose. He had a nice, golden tan, and he was tall. Like, really tall. We’re talking almost 190 centimeters. Compared to my 165, he was a tower. Compared to me, he was not just hot, he was stunning. I was just around average, I would say. My hair was, as previously said, a big bundle of dark auburn-brownish curls, reaching to the middle of my rib cage. My mom had always called me petite, but I considered myself on the edge of being chubby. The only thing I really liked about myself were my eyes. Freakishly green, with dark eyelashes, though I almost always used mascara as well.
And while I was running around in the field, thinking - or rather, daydreaming - the ball suddenly came flying towards me. Of course, I didn’t notice before it hit me right in the forehead, and my head bounced backwards. I didn’t fall, which was a tiny miracle in itself, but for a second everything was black, and the next thing I remember was the teacher, Coach Miller, standing in front of me, yelling about ‘watching out for the damn ball’.
Back inside the safety of the changing room, I changed back into my jeans and knitted, dark blue sweater that I had been wearing earlier in the day. I felt the other girls staring at me like I was a ticking bomb, and I hurried up to get out.
Rusty was, of course, waiting for me in the parking lot where I had left her. The blue car was covered in a light carpet of snow. Great. Using my sleeve, I got most of the stuff of the windshield and I could get into my beloved car. It was cold inside, but it didn’t really matter to me. My jacket and hat kept me warm enough, though I was looking forward to my book, a blanket and a nice cup of tea in my arm chair.
“I’m home!” I called when the front door slammed behind me. I kicked off my boots and found a hanger for my jacket. Our house was quite big, I guess. Both of my parents were lawyers, making a ton of money. The front hall included a row of hangers with and without jackets on one wall, with a shoe rack underneath, creating three storeys for shoes. On the other wall were pictures of us - my mom, tall, blonde and slender. My dad, even taller, hair the same colour of mine, not very muscular. My brother, tall again, blonde like my mom and quite the football type. Then there was me. The only thing I resembled my family upon were the similarity between mine and my dad’s hair. I were tiny, to say it simply, thereas the rest of my family were tall. My brother yelled back from upstairs.
“Me tooooo!” In a sing-song voice that he only used around me. Arthur were 13, 3 years younger than me, though he would turn 14 in barely a month. I know. We had classic names. I mean, Arthur and Eliza? It sounded so elegant. I had always rebelled against it, though, so I ended up with my nickname, Ellie.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” I yelled back. I knew that my parents weren’t home. They never got home before six, and it was only a quarter to five now.
“Yeah, I’m coming down now!” he yelled back, and as I dumped my bag in the door to the - big, modern - kitchen, I could her him run down the hall upstairs and rumbling down the staircase, before he appeared in the hall. His blonde hair were a little curly, too. My dad used to have curled hair as well, but as his hairline travelled further and further away from its original position, he had cut it short.
“Will you find the tea bags? I just want the Earl Grey,” I told him, filling the electric kettle with water from the tab. He swaggered - he had a habit of doing that - towards one of the kitchen cabinets, and pulled out the jar of tea bags and picked out two. I grabbed mugs from another cabinet. Mine were white and had a quote from Harry Potter on it. “Don’t let the muggles get you down”, it said. I loved it so much. I’d gotten it from Maria when she visited in the summer. She had bought it for me in London, after she heard about the bullying. She had sent me a text with a picture of it, and told me that she would bring it.
“Did you have a good day at school?” I asked him. Arthur was in the first year of Middle School.
“Yeah, the usual. Stupid kids and tired teachers,” he told me. He felt the same about his age group as I did about mine. “What about you?”
“I think I might actually have made a friend today. This new guy. He’s a junior, but he didn’t want to sit with the other juniors, so he asked me if he could sit at my table. I said yes, and we talked more than I have done in all the lunch breaks last semester put together.” He raised his eyebrows at me.
“What’s his name?”
“It doesn’t sound very much like you.” He said, and I looked at him, not understanding. “Talking to people, you know,” he added, breaking into a laugh, barely escaping the kick I was sending his way.