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“One of these days you’re going to fall on your face,” Steph announced.
I shrugged as I hopped over a crack in the concrete pathway on the way to school. “You keep saying that, yet here I am: safe and lucky as ever.”
“That’s ridiculous. There’s no way your silly little rituals can have any effect on your life other than making it more difficult,” my best friend of seven years shot back.
“Spoken like a true non-believer,” I sang as I manoeuvred through a particularly tricky combination of cracks. I had stopped trying to convince her of the perils of superstitions a while ago, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t throw in the odd jab. Left foot in the small square, twist around on your toes and –
I winced as I surveyed the textbooks scattered at my feet. “Oh! Oh, I’m so sorry!”
The guy bending down to retrieve his books chuckled good-naturedly. “It’s all right. We all walk backwards sometimes.” He extended a hand from the pavement. “I’m Craig, by the way.”
“Emma. And this is Steph,” I replied, gesturing to my companion. “Are you new here?”
“Yeah, I moved here over the holidays,” he answered as he picked up the massive history book that had landed squarely on his foot. He stood up carefully. “It was interesting meeting you ladies, but I really must be off.”
We watched him limp away with a wave. “Nice guy,” I commented, turning back to the next arsenal of hairline cracks along the pavement.
I cleared my throat pointedly, forcing everyone at the table to look up from their lunch and fix their gaze on me. I gestured dramatically to the only empty seat at our usual table in the school cafeteria. Still no-one moved.
I snapped. “Oh come on! You know I can’t sit on the corner!”
Ryan rolled his eyes at me. “We’re not moving,” he said slowly, as if he were talking to a five-year-old, and joined everyone in returning to their sandwiches.
With an aggravated sigh, I stomped to the neighbouring table, dragging one of their chairs to the head of ours. This placed me in the pathway; the route of hundreds of starving high schoolers, but I would take it over the ill fate that awaited me if I took the corner seat, any day. Despite much moaning and groaning, it appeared that no-one was giving the situation the necessary attention, so I shoved the chair under the table for good measure. This, however, tipped over the salt shaker. Hastily grabbing a pinch, I tossed it over my shoulder – to be rewarded with a yelp of pain.
Whirling around, I started apologizing profusely, before the poor soul that had received the salt in his eye muttered an “I’m fine, really.” and I realized who he was.
He laughed quietly, blinking in an attempt to stop the stinging in his eye. “Fancy meeting you like this,” he quipped, leaning over to put his juice bottle on the table.
His empty juice bottle.
I reacted before I could rationally think out my plan of action; shoving the glass bottle from his hand and away from the table. As it shattered on the tiled floor, our table froze, and we could only stare in silence at the shards of glass until someone yelled: “Clean that up!” and we were jolted into action.
Unfortunately, Craig and I had a similar idea, and leaning over at the same time, our heads collided. Reaching out a hand to steady myself, I gripped frantically onto the corner of the table; the only spot that wasn’t covered in bits of glass.
Craig, however, landed in the glass.
I winced at the sight of him. “I think we need to get you some medical attention.”
Leaving the first-aid room, Craig looked less like he belonged in a low-budget horror film. The walk to the gate was a quiet one, and I chose the quickest route to minimize awkwardness. Trying to lighten the mood, no doubt, he cheerily asked: “How about you show me around town later?”
I looked him over. “Are you sure you’re up for it?”
“I think I’ll manage,” he answered lightly. “I’ll walk you home and we can go from there,” he suggested as we came to the glass doors leading to freedom. They were busy painting the wall above it a sickly blue, so I turned; dreading the walk to the next closest exit, which wasn’t all that close. Craig, however, kept walking.
“No!” I yelled, panicking. Maybe it was a bit dramatic, but he obviously didn’t know what he was about to do.
Startled by my outburst, he turned to look at me, confused, but kept walking, his mouth opening in question. Before the words formed, however, he walked into the ladder. The bucket of paint perched on top wobbled for a second, then toppled over.
I was stunned into silence as he sputtered, trying to get the paint out of his mouth. “On the other hand, I think I could use a shower first,” he finally managed.
Peering out my bedroom window, I frowned at the dark clouds looming overhead. It wasn’t clear whether it would bring rain but I grabbed my umbrella on the way downstairs, just in case. As I opened the door, I saw Craig did the same.
“Ready to go?” he asked, smiling. I nodded and smiled back, discreetly looking him up and down without his uniform on, before I noticed and it faded into a frown.
“Your shirt is purple,” I stated.
He glanced down, exasperated. “Yes?”
I sighed. “You have to change it.”
I grabbed him by the uninjured hand and was dragging him down the sidewalk before he could protest. Luckily he lived only a short while down the road, so when he returned with a blue shirt on instead – accompanied by a “Happy now?” – I thought my worries were over.
Then he was attacked by a black cat.
“Hey Snowflake!” he greeted the feline affectionately, scratching it behind its ears. “Emma, meet my favourite kitty.”
I was too busy staring at the ceiling to comment on the irony of the name and how it was completely inappropriate to joke with such things. Eventually, I felt someone shift cautiously next to me, then a quiet: “What are you looking at?”
“It’s what I’m not looking at that’s important! Don’t you know never to look an animal in the eye?” I snapped, in disbelief.
After a short pause, he forced out a laugh. “That’s going to be difficult with all my pets. Come on, let’s go.”
Once I was finally led outside, I could look at the ground again. The walk was pleasant; despite the looming thunderclouds a number of small birds were hopping from tree to fence to telephone cable and back again. As we were nearing the small café I was planning on taking Craig to for lunch, I was suddenly met with the distinct call of a magpie on the hedge to my left. Crossing my fingers behind my back, I called back: “Hello, Mr. Magpie, how’s your wife?”
Craig looked over at me strangely. “I thought you didn’t like animals.”
“Don’t you know the rhyme? One for sorrow, two for joy. Three for a girl, four for –” I watched as another small bird descended to join the first on the hedge.
“Joy, huh?” Craig commented wryly.
Sipping my coffee, I was grateful for the warmth. The rain had started to pour, and it looked like we would still be here a while. We sat in silence waiting for the waitress to arrive, but I was bouncing in my seat. Chicken Supre–
I shrieked in horror at the pizza placed before me. “Is that basil?!”
Craig stared at me for a while. “What? How am I supposed to know? It’s just an herb.”
I pinched my nose. “If you smell basil an enraged scorpion will hatch in your brain and sting you to death!’ I exclaimed, shoving the plate to the other side of the table.
“Now that’s just absurd–” he started, then hissed sharply as the plate knocked his steaming cup of coffee onto his lap. Leaping up before I could apologize, he started cursing in a terribly unchivalrous fashion as he tried in vain to dab up the coffee on his pants.
“I really need to go. Don’t call me, I’ll call you!” he cried, grabbing his jacket.
Shocked, I watched as he half ran, half limped to the door. I shook my head ruefully as he opened his umbrella before he was outside.
That guy was going to have a lot of bad luck.