A Stranger to Myself

"I feel like I don't even know myself. And if I don't know myself, how can anyone else ever know me?" Autumn has always felt alone, like an outcast. But when a girl comes into her life and reveals things about Autumn she never would have known otherwise, can Autumn learn to accept her differences she's so used to hating?


5. Obvious Excuses

She still made me immensely uncomfortable. Just because she was... intimidating, in a way. She was so confident. And I was the exact opposite of that. The jealousy and admiration I felt was a tad bit overwhelming. It wasn't usual.


She dragged me into her house (by my hand, which made me more nervous, when I thought that wasn't possible) and up the stairs. I heard the bustling of her family in the rooms on the first floor, all of them lively and loud, sounding happy. Without introducing me to any of them, or even telling them that I was there, she led me into her room and shut the door behind her.


I was surprised to see that even though her family was big, her bedroom was her own. It didn't look like it was shared. She walked into it, sitting on a small couch, setting her bag on the floor and yanking a book from under a pillow. Without saying a word to me she flipped to a bookmarked page and started to read, laying down on her back.


I stood awkwardly by the door. I wasn't sure what to do. Or how to act. I wasn't sure of anything. I was just sure that I couldn't take my eyes off of her no matter what.


Finally she looked towards me. Smiling sweetly she sat up, her finger saving her page in the book, her free hand patting a spot next to her. Unable to return her smile, I hesitantly joined her on the couch, sliding my backpack off and putting it next to hers.


"I'm glad that these walls are thick," Carmen said, idly examining the back and cover of the book she held, "My family tends to be..." While she searched for a describing adjective, the vague sound of her family enthusiastically yelling at one another could be heard through the floor. Carmen let out a faint chuckle and replaced the bookmark, closing the book.


"My family's quiet." Was all that I could think of to say in response. I forced my eyes to remain on the floor. It took a lot of effort.


She paused for a moment, "You're lucky then. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm going to strangle someone. I just want some peace for a few minutes every now and again."


I blurted something out without even processing what I was going to say, "My house is peaceful. Usually."


She giggled, "Are you inviting me to your house, Autumn?"


I felt myself blushing, "Um... yeah. I mean, you invited me over here. Shouldn't I return the favor?"


Her hand moved to rest on top of mine, the motion startling me. My head snapped to look at her, startled, seeing that she was still smiling at me. And I also realized that we were fairly close to one another. My discomfort intensified.


"I guess you're right..." She intertwined our fingers together, her hand considerably warmer than mine, "...so how about tomorrow? After school? Your place instead of mine?"


I was stunned but I managed to nod. Then I felt myself start to panic, and I pulled my hand from hers, moving off the couch and grabbing my backpack. Homework seemed like a good excuse to avoid this unanticipated social contact.


"We have a lot of stuff to do..." I spoke in a low tone, unzipping the bag and taking out some books.


Carmen shook her head back and forth, and from the corner of her eyes I noticed her clench the hand she had used to hold mine into a white-knuckled fist. But she laughed. Lightly. Quietly. It was forced.


"Okay. Let's do some work then." She said, almost sarcastically. I barely heard her, but she mumbled something under her breath quietly, "...and we only have two assignments..."


I pretended I didn't hear that.

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