Condition: Stationary

Penelope wakes up in a hospital gown to her living nightmare. While she is still standing, the fault of an accident is put heavily on her shoulders. But then she meets Breanna and the pressure seems to become impossibly lighter as they uncover a whole new world together.

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6. Then

Mom braided my hair like she did every morning after breakfast. I felt her hands against my neck, carefully working their way down before she smoothed the finished braid and let it hang down my one shoulder. She’d done my hair for a long time, but never had we changed its style. People at school used to call me Katniss when the braid trend came back; I didn’t know if I was upset or pleased about the fact that the name stuck.

   Mom strained a smile. “There we go,” she said. She handed me the banana from the table and was out the door before I even took my first bite.

   I could tell that she was stressed by her abrupt driving. When she dropped me off at school the procedure was cut short. Which were normal circumstances considering the unspoken relationship she had with her phone and the addiction to meetings she shared with her utterly annoying department manager.

    “Have a nice day, sweetie,” she told me just before speeding off down the parking lot, almost caressing the side of a silver Ford.

   “You too,” I mumbled as I watched the car disappear into the distance.

   I followed the crumbled pavement across the road and found myself staring at the school gates. There was still ten minutes left until Becca got here, so I sat down and pulled out my e-book reader. My choice of the day was a novel about ice cuts. I began scrolling, by the moment falling deeper and deeper into my black hole of imagination.

   “Watch out!”

   A honk made me jump. I looked up just in time to see something silver speeding towards me. Yelping, I loosened my grip on the backpack and e-reader to yank my body backwards onto the sidewalk. The car bumped against the curb in the spot I’d been sitting just seconds before.

   “Ohmygod,” I breathed, wide-eyed. “Am I supposed to watch—” I shut up the moment I saw who stepped out of the not-so-fancy sportscar.

   “Ohmygod,” I whispered to myself – then cussed. There was no time to take a look in the mirror, smoothen my hair or reapply lipstick.

   “Sorry,” he said and flashed that Colgate smile of his. “I really am. New driver here, you see.”

    Freaking Nolan Sinclair.

   “That’s not a very good excuse, you know,” I said, picking up my backpack from the asphalt. I was getting short in breath of either one of the two facts: My e-reader was nowhere to be felt or seen around me and Nolan was hovering over me.

   “You’re in American history with Miss Patricks, aren’t you?” he said. “You’re that Priscilla girl.”

   “Close. Penelope.”

   “Oh. Well then, Penelope, I’m sorry I hit you.”

   I didn’t look at his face. If I did the words forming in my mouth would sound like the ones of an idiot. Which technically, I was.

   “I’m fine,” I said. “I’m more worried about my e-reader.”

   “Your …?” I could practically hear Nolan’s eyebrows scrunching together. Then he was on the slippery wet fall asphalt of the parking lot and staring into the darkness beneath his car. He hesitantly reached an arm in and pulled the metallic pieces of my e-reader back out.

   He moaned. “Oh, no, I crushed it. Nononono.”

   I told myself to act cool. “It’s fine.”

   “Although really it’s not,” Nolan said. “I have one of these Kindles myself, you see. And you just lost your whole library because of my rather poor driving skills. Which by the way aren’t that bad usually, but I’ve had roughly four hours of sleep and that makes a visible difference. Um, I’m actually very sorry about that.”

   He handed me the torn apart mess that had once been my e-reader. I accepted it carefully, not wanting to cut my fingers. Then I forced myself to tear my stare off of the asphalt and locked my eyes to his face.

   I licked my lips. Gosh.

   “When’s your birthday?” I heard him say.

   “November 3.” I scowled at his sudden question. “You’re acting kind of strange.”
   “Nope,” Nolan said. “Everything’s good.” A moment or two passed. I lost track of my time and began packing up my things from the asphalt that hadn’t been gracefully crashed by a certain new driver’s license.

   Nolan Sinclair fixed his eyes on me. “Do you know who I am?”

   “Yes. As you pointed out we have history together.”

   “But that doesn’t mean you know who your classmates are.”

    “You are Nolan. That’s as much as I know,” I said. I didn’t tell him about the nights I’d spent looking through his instagram photos from when he was 12 and how I through these knew that his all-time best Woman Crush Wednesday was Taylor Swift.

   Suddenly I felt sick to my stomach.

   “I…um, I – I’ll see you in class, I guess,” I said and held my backpack closer to my chest. Turning away from him, I breathed out heavily and rushed towards the doors of the school. I was only going to be six minutes early for Becca’s arrival.

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