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Gabriella (chapter 2)
I groan as my alarm clock blares in my ear. I reach a hand out from under the covers and fumble to find the snooze button. I’m finally given mercy when the persistent beeping goes away by the command of the snooze.
I try to find the land of sleep again but, to my dismay, I hear my bedroom door creak open. My mom tip-toes over to the bed and rubs my back with a gentle circular motion.
“C’mon, baby girl, wake up. It’s your first day of senior year.”
It makes me queasy just thinking about having to face all of my friends and teachers. I yank the covers over my head even more.
“Oh, no you don’t.” Mom stops me, pulling the blankets back down. “Rise and shine.”
“Since when did you get so perky?” I grumble, annoyed.
She ignores my jibe. “Come on, up and at ‘em.”
I sit up and glare at her. “Five more minutes?”
“You say five minutes, but I’ll come back up here in twenty and you’ll still be hiding under the covers.”
“Mom.” I groan.
“C’mon, don’t “mom” me. It’s time to get up.”
“All right, all right. I’ll be out in a minute.”
She finally leaves me alone. Once her footsteps have disappeared down the stairs I flip my covers over and saunter into the bathroom. I pull the ponytail from my long, wavy raven black hair and peel off my pj's and throw them into the corner before getting into the shower.
I crank the hot water all the way. I need to find some way to sober myself up before putting on any type of act for my mother. You know, like actually pretending I’m excited for my senior year, that I’m happy to see my best friend, Rachel, after shunning her out all summer. If only it were that easy.
When I’m done showering I head back to my room. I shuffle through my closet and pull out my gray skirt decorated with silver beaded flowers and match it with a white lacy cami and a light gray sweater. Might as well try and look my best.
After blow drying my hair I throw it up into an artfully messy ponytail and head down to the kitchen.
I find my mom sitting at the counter picking at a plain, untoasted bagel. I opt for a bowl of cereal. The only thing in the cupboard is a box of corn flakes. I pull it out anyway and pour some into a bowl with milk.
I sit down across the table from my mom, who’s thrown the partially picked at bagel away and is now gulping hot coffee. When she’d gotten her fix she says, “Rachel called while you were in the shower.”
I look up from my soggy corn flakes. “Oh?”
“She offered to give you a ride to school.”
“What did you say?” Please let it be no, please let it be no…..
“I said that it’d be great.” I feel my face fall about ten stories.
Mom looks up from her mug. “It’ll be good for the two of you.”
I look back down into my bowl of cereal, feeling sick. I honestly can’t believe she’s doing this to me. I get up and dump the nearly full bowl down the sink. I stand on tip-toe to peek out of the window. I can see Rachel’s dark red Chevrolet stopped at a traffic light in the distance.
I feel myself rising to a full scale panic attack which, I know, will only lead to a full scale asthma attack. I press my lips together and swallow hard. I can hardly handle seeing my best friend. How can I go through a full day in crowded hallways and classrooms where there will be hundreds of people? How will I stand all of the new freshmen staring at me, recognizing me from that interview on the news I was forced to do? There’ll be whispers and glares and pointing and—
I whirl around. “Mom, I don’t feel well.”
She motions for me to come over and sit in the stool next to her. She pushes up my bangs and feels my forehead. “You don’t feel warm.” She says, the back of her right hand now resting on my cheek. “What’s wrong?”
I could hardly speak through my sharp, squeaky wheezing that had started. “I……I…….can’t, Mom…. I…..can’t…….do this.”
“What? Can’t do what?” She demands, with her hands clamped on either side of my face, trying to calm me down and stop my attack.
“I can’t go to school…….I can’t face everybody.”
“Gaby, we talked with Dr. Newman about this. Remember? He said it doesn’t matter what other people say and do. It only matters what you think about yourself—”
“I don’t care what Dr. Newman freaking says!” I rip myself away from her grasp and collapse against the sink, heaving, trying to slow my breathing and keep the little bit of breakfast that I’d eaten in my stomach.
I pull open the medicine cabinet above my head, and fumble around for my inhaler. Once my hand finally clamps down on the small plastic implement I take two puffs and feel my breathing start to return to normal. I swallow hard and sink down to the floor, clutching my inhaler, my lifeline, tightly in my trembling, ivory fist. Mom softly pads over in slipper-clad feet and sits down beside me. Without a word she puts her arm around me and I bury my face into her breast.
It’s so rare that I get these quick tastes of the mom I once knew. I try to savor the moment as much as I can before the cruel hand of fate rings the doorbell. Neither of us gets up right away. After a minute Rachel rings the doorbell again and I hear Mom sigh.
“If you really aren’t feeling well, I’ll let you stay home.”
The offer was tempting, but I’d have to face them sooner or later. “No.” I muttered, somewhat reluctantly. “I’m feeling better now. I guess it was just nerves.”
She combs her fingers through my bangs, fixing them so they all face downward again. “Okay.” She pushes herself up from the floor and takes a long pull from her coffee mug; as if she needs to replenish the strength she’d just exerted to comfort me.
I run to get the door as I hear the doorbell sound a third time. I open it to see Rachel’s fist raised in the air, ready to pound on the door.
“Hey.” She says, letting her arm drop. “I thought you were going to stand me up.”
I roll my eyes, but can’t help releasing a small smile. I grab my book bag and stuff my inhaler into the side pocket. “Come on, we’ll be late.” Rachel laughs as I grab her hand and pull her to the car.
Once we’re back on the road she says, “Are you ready for the first day of senior year?”
“Oh, yeah.” I mutter. “Can’t wait.”
“I’m sure.” Rachel responds, as we pull up to a stop light. She busies herself by pulling down the visor to inspect her appearance. She doesn’t need to. She looks impeccable, as usual. Her shoulder length strawberry blonde hair is pulled back into a sleek ponytail, her plump lips are a glossy peach, and she’s dressed neat and prim as always.
As the light flashes green again, Rachel puts the visor back up. “So, before we get to the school we have to stop and pick Craig up.” She says, glancing once at me.
“Craig Perkins?” I ask, surprised.
“Yeah…..um….we’re sort of….going out now.”
“Oh.” I say, taken aback. Rachel and Craig have been flirting with each other since the seventh grade. I don’t why I’m so surprised; it was bound to happen sometime. “I’m really happy for you, Rachel.”
She beams, visibly relieved. “Really?”
“Yeah, I don’t know what took you guys so long.”
She laughs, tossing her ponytail behind her back. “I know! I thought he’d never ask me out.” Then she says, without thinking. “It was right after the funeral, I—” she stops, catching herself.
“I’m sorry, Gaby.”
I clear my throat. “About what?” I try to ask nonchalantly. “Go on. It was right after the fu—” I swallow, unable to get past the word. “Right after…...”
“Yeah, we’ve been dating for most of the summer. I would’ve told you sooner.”
“I know.” I smile towards her warmly.
We pull into Craig’s driveway and Rachel beeps the horn twice. After a minute Rachel glances at me and rolls her eyes. “He’s always late.” She beeps the horn again, slowly this time, and soon Craig comes hurrying out of his house.
Rachel rolls the window down. “Come on Perkins, get a move on!” She shouts, doing a perfect imitation of Mr. Bauer, Craig’s football coach.
Craig rolls his eyes and gives her a peck on the lips before settling down in the back seat. He takes a doughnut from his book bag and stuffs a hunk into his mouth.
Rachel glances back. “You better watch it back there, if you get crumbs all over my car you’ll be the one cleaning it.”
Craig swallows the wad of sugar and fat with some force. “Coach says I have until homecoming to bulk up or I won’t be able to start for the rest of the season.”
“Did Coach also tell you to mess up your girlfriend’s car during the journey?”
“No, but it would be nice if my girlfriend could back me up. It’s not easy being the football jock. Living up to everyone’s expectations, making myself sick in the effort and—”
“Why don’t you just quit, then?”
“Are you kidding?” Craig says around another huge chunk of doughnut. “My dad would disown me if I didn’t make starting quarterback my senior year.”
“Disown you?” Rachel asks skeptically.
“Well, maybe not disown me, but pretty close.”
“Well, I’m on your side.” Rachel states.
“Thank you.” Craig says, licking his sugary fingers.
“I mean, you already have the most perfect girlfriend. What else could you possibly need?” She teases.
“Exactly.” Craig says, flashing his slightly crooked teeth.
Rachel smiles at him in the rearview mirror and the turns toward me. “What are your classes this semester, Gaby?”
I shrug and start rummaging through my book bag for my class schedule. I attempt to smooth out the wrinkles and creases before reading it aloud. “Spanish V, a free period, U. S. Government, Anatomy, Calculus, Advanced 3D Art, Advanced Common Rhetoric, and Phys. Ed.”
“How’d you get into Calc? They’re making me take Trig, again.”
“Just face it, Rache; your friend’s a brain.” Craig says, taking a bite into a chocolate bar. His book bag was like a pantry.
Rachel glances back again. “How much do you have to eat? I’m all for you bulking up a little, but how much are we talking?”
I rolled my eyes. If you want the truth do not ask Rachel. She’s not afraid to give it to you straight.
As Rachel and Craig continue to argue about Craig’s eating habits, I look out the window only to find myself staring at the giant billboard that read “Welcome Back Hamilton Hawks!” We’ve reached the high school.
I groan softly to myself and reluctantly climb out the car. Craig drapes his free arm around Rachel’s shoulders, still not having devoured the candy bar.
I trail at a miserably slow pace behind them. I just want to make it to my first period class without a big production.
I’m in no such luck. I already see Christian Hernandez, the yearbook photographer—two years running, jogging towards us with his camera in hand.
He stops in front of Rachel and Craig. “Here we have it, folks!” He announces to anyone who’ll listen. “The most anticipated couple of the year—Craig Perkins and Rachel Keyes, together at last!” He snaps the picture and some of the guys from the football team clap and whistle. Craig chucks his half eaten chocolate bar in their direction and everyone howls with laughter.
This is the perfect diversion for me to escape……..or not. I’m almost at the steps when Christian links his arm through mine and pulls me back toward the crowd.
“And here is the very beautiful and enchanting Gabriella Sparks. She hasn’t abandoned us after all.”
He lifts his camera up and I twist away just as he presses the button. “Come on, don’t be shy, cupcake. Show us that gorgeous face!”
“C’mon, Chris, lay off.” Craig says, coming to my defense. “Just leave her alone.”
I have to admit, having your best friend dating the quarterback of the football team has its perks. Craig could stand a little bulking up, but he was like a mountain compared to a bean pole like Christian.
Christian lets me go as the crowd begins to disperse. Better clear out now before she cracks. That’s what they’re all thinking.
Rachel puts her hand at the small of my back and ushers me to the entrance.
“Some people are so rude.” She spits once we’re inside.
“He didn’t mean anything by it.” I murmur, trying not to sound so hurt.
Rachel sighs. “Whatever. I have French; I’ll see you in Anatomy. Okay?”
She squeezes my arm. “Just ignore everyone. You’ll be fine.”
I nod. “See you.” I watch as she and Craig head up to the second floor to Madame Vandyke’s French IV.
I grab my schedule from my book bag again to see my locker number. Once I stash my stuff in the dusty, mint green compartment I drag my feet to Sen?ora Keefe’s classroom.
Mercifully, I’m one of the first ones there. I glance quickly around the room. The two other people, a couple— Eric Hartley and Sabrina Mayfield, were too busy arguing over who loved the other more to notice me.
I try to hurry and get a seat close to the back before I could disturb the calm atmosphere. Today just isn’t my lucky day.
“Ah, Sen?orita Sparks! Como estas?” I try not to wince as Sen?ora Keefe’s loud voice penetrates the quietness.
“Muy bien, gracias. Y tu?” I murmur reluctantly.
She spreads her thick red lips into a wide grin. “Muy bien! Vaya tome su asiento, es tiempo de comenzar clase.”
I obey quickly and scurry to a seat it the far right corner in the last row, sanctuary at last.
Then the shrill ring of the late bell sounds and the rest of the class comes bustling in.
I look up at exactly the wrong moment. I meet the eyes of Greg Odell. He was my street’s delivery boy. He dropped off our paper the morning of my dad’s murder. He’d had a crush on me since freshman year and that morning he’d tried to make his move. It went all wrong….for him. I turned my head as he came at me with his lips and he ended up getting a mouthful of my hair.
I can see his eyes dart around the room. The only remaining seat is right next to mine. He sighs and has no choice but to take it. Great. One other thing for me to worry about. I sink down into my chair as much as possible. This is going to be one hell of a year.