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The Sparkle Factor
Author's note: This is for G, M, Y, J, C, A, B, and all those I'm not thinking of. You know who you are, and a part of all of you comes to life in these pages. Thanks for being there, and I hope to always do the same for you.
“Quit whining and grow up.”
My thin brows shot to the sky when I heard this come from the mouth of my mercurial mother. I consider all the times I wished she would do so, and how those are the words she chooses to casually throw back in my face, without thinking anything of the hypocrisy of the situation.
I set my jaw and sat back, eyes rolling. I sighed, because, after all, it was the most important day of my life.
More important than the day my soccer team won the thirteen and under state championship. Even more important than when I got my fourth concussion in two and a half years, forever ending my soccer career before I turned fifteen, which I was now.
I was moving.
My parents were forcing me to leave my school, my friends, my city, my life.
I reflected on this bitterly as I glowered furiously out the window of my mom’s minivan. Suddenly, I froze. My ears strained to hear the slightest sound of a bass, and I turned to my older brother, Garrett, who was slouching in the tan leather seat next to me.
“Turn it down, Rett,” I said sharply. He continued to bop his head to the beat of his iPod, and I pulled a face at the teak brown bangs that never ceased to flop in his eyes. Plucking a white earbud from his ear, I hollered, “Turn it down!”
Garrett jerked his head away from me, startled, but he quickly readapted a blank expression. “Whoa. Calm down.”
“Shut up.” Short and sweet. That’s me.
“Someone’s not mad or anything.” Rolling his green-grey eyes, so like my own, Garrett immediately went back to his alternative music, as usual not caring about anything.
I hated how I could never rile him, how chill he was. What I needed right then was a dynamic fight sesh with my seventeen-year-old brother, not another person telling me to simply “calm down.”
My iPhone vibrated in my lap. It was my going-away present from my parents to keep me grounded and sane. Unfortunately, it hadn’t worked so far. I sighed as my gaze flickered down to read the message.
Summer HO’Neil: hey sal!! miss ya already, babe!! :( visit soon, k? SWAK MY BFFL!!!!!!!!!!!
My heart panged. Summer O’Neil had been my inseparable best friend since the day we’d met. The “H” had been added the day she got her first kiss. We had been playing seven minutes of heaven in the eighth grade at our joint fourteenth birthday party, and Mikey Roland had begged to be given more time when his seven minutes with her were up. I managed to smile at the thought of practically every guy we knew obsessing over my unbiological sister. Truthfully, that was fine with me. I didn’t have time for guys in my life. Well, guys of the boyfriend or crush variety. Dating had never really worked out for me, anyway.
My dad glanced back at me, interrupting my reminiscence. “Keep your head up, Sally. You’re going to like it here. You’ll see.” I turned away from him doubtfully, but he noticed. “The bedrooms are cool, and you have your own bathroom.”
I made sure he saw me glare in his direction. No matter how cool my new room was; it didn’t change the fact that he was uprooting our family for no reason. Not even no longer having to share a bathroom with my disgusting brother could tempt me into being happy about leaving everything I thought I knew behind.
I fingered my phone, wiping the screen with my thumb, before typing back.
Smiley Keating: aww i SOOOO dont wanna be here right now!!! save me, k? k. swak back x infinity!
Summer HO’Neil: u can stay with me! well share a room. mom and dad wont mind. they love u. and so does nat<33
I smiled softly to myself at the thought of Summer’s enthusiastic little sister, Natalie. She and Summer are the same person, I swear. Normally I’m just as bubbly, but I can’t help being sad and angry at my parents’ decision to move back to their and Garrett’s hometown. Why couldn’t I stay in mine?
Squirming in my jeans, uncomfortable with my life, I leaned my head against the window to watch the trees and houses blur by until our arrival.
I felt myself being shaken, and I knocked my forehead against the car window. Garrett only looked slightly apologetic as I moaned, clutching my head. I’d had enough concussions to know this was nothing, but I still wanted him to feel bad.
“We’re here,” he said, cheerful. He’d barely stayed in touch with his old pre-school friends, but they were all friends on FlashSpace, and he was excited to hang out with them. Typically, I knew no one. I’m a total people person, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m always good at making friends with complete strangers. Especially when I so don’t want to get attached to this place.
“Sally. Get out of the freakin’ car.” Garrett looked long and hard at me, leaning against the side of the van with his ankles crossed, his typical position of comfort and ease. The other doors were all open, and my parents were in the process of emptying the car onto the yard. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t already been awakened. Usually, I am such a light sleeper.
Garrett sighed, but scooped me up as easily as if I were a small puppy. He loped down the length of the driveway (the car was parked near the road) and set me down by the garage. “There ya go. Happy yet?”
“Um, nope.” I frowned, running a hand through my long, light brown hair. “Can I explore?”
He cocked his head, shrugging. “Probably. The moving vans will be here any second, but I’ll let Mom and Dad know.” He poked me in the stomach, tousled my hair, and strolled away.
I looked up at the large brick house for the first time, and did a double take. It had a turret, for crying out loud, like a castle. I swallowed hard, immediately beginning to braid my hair in two pigtails. I wear my hair in braids solely for the purpose of swishing them against my face. It tickles nicely, but more than anything relaxes me. As I trek through the empty void of a house, trying to claim the turret for my room until Dad infuriatingly states that it’s already the study, my braids definitely do the trick.
“Have fun at school, Sadie!” Mom trilled delightedly, leaning across the seat in an attempt to give me an awkward, one-armed hug.
I rolled my eyes, opening the car door and slinging my tote bag over my shoulder. “No promises,” I muttered. Slamming the door shut, I shuffled away from my mom’s minivan. She’d dropped me off in what I assumed to be the carpool area, since a billion other kids were arriving there as well. Garrett had driven himself to school early to meet up with Axel and Tyler, his old friends.
I let myself be surrounded by a chatter of teens and forced a smile. Smiling makes people wonder what you’re thinking; it’s a known fact. Two kids were bickering to the right of me, and when I turned to look I instantly knew that they were siblings. They had the same face and skin tone, with a mess of freckles each and reddish hair. Well, hers was a deep strawberry, more of a coppery blonde than anything, while his was auburn. He looked young, so I concurred he must be a freshman, and she maybe a couple years older.
Missing Garrett, or at least the comforting presence of someone I knew, I sped up and hurriedly strolled in front of the crowd, straightening my tank top.
My new school was called Neil Ridge High School (totally a sign from the O’Neils). I wasn’t completely sure if it was public or private; it seemed somewhere in between, and I hadn't cared enough to ask. Luckily for me, the dress code wasn’t very strict, as the school encouraged personal style. It’s big on the arts, so I’m told.
Stopping to examine a sign in front of a redbrick building, I nervously tugged on my earlobe. All the kids had branched off in either direction along the sidewalk, but according to the directions on the sign, I needed to go in the Admissions building, which was the one straight ahead. Taking a deep breath, I dropped my chin and lowered my gaze to head toward the door.
Someone must’ve opened the door from the other side without me noticing, because suddenly I was staggering, and clutching my right eye.
“Holy s***!” someone shouted in a raspy whisper, probably so not to be heard swearing. “Can’t you watch where you’re going?”
I looked up at him and stared. The kid was picking up a couple books that he’d dropped. One had pages strewn about; they must’ve torn out on contact with the sidewalk. I could understand why he was pissed, but so was I!
I was still holding my eye, too shocked for words, when he glanced at me. His scowling, indignant expression instantly transformed into a curious one, but he still didn’t seem even halfway apologetic.
“What’s your deal?” I managed to blurt out. I blinked intermittently to clear my vision. My right eye still hurt like crap, but I wasn’t dizzy or anything, so I knew I wasn’t concussed. Again.
“Chill, new girl,” the kid scoffed.
I couldn’t believe he was being so obnoxious. He’d practically given me a black eye, and he didn’t even care! What a jerk. He wasn’t even cute enough to get away with being mean, either. Rat-face.
“Um, can you at least tell me where the nurse is?” I asked, incredulous that he hadn’t even noticed that I was holding my eye in pain.
He started to swagger away with his books, but paused to call over his shoulder, “Ask Ms. Russo. She works in Admissions. Catch ya later, new girl!”
I stared after him. If everyone was as rude as he had just been, I definitely didn’t want to go to school here. At least he’d told me whom to ask.
I carefully opened the door and stumbled inside.
“Oh, sweetheart, are you okay?” A lady rose from a shiny mahogany desk and made her way toward me. She was young and pretty, with a midnight black bob and porcelain skin. Carefully guiding my arm to help me sit in one of the deep purple plush armchairs, she asked, “What happened?”
“Um,” I mumbled, swallowing. There were a few tears in my injured eye, but I was still too stunned by the kid’s behavior to really realize how much the door’s impact had hurt. “The kid that just left opened the door, and it hit me in the face.”
She looked dismayed. “I’m Ms. Russo. Are you a new student? Do you need to go to the nurse?”
“Yes, and yes,” I replied, sighing with my arms crossed over my tote bag’s straps. “I’d love my schedule first. Then the nurse would be great.”
Her grey eyes were wide in her face. She looked so innocent that it was hard to believe she was old enough to be working at the school. “Okay.” Ms. Russo stood at her desk and started to access her computer, but she paused. She seemed slightly puzzled. “Sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“Sally Keating,” I responded automatically. I frowned, twisting a piece of coffee-brown hair around my finger. “Well, Sarah.”
Ms. Russo smiled. “Sally it is.” She drummed her fingers on the keyboard of her slim, modern desktop, and soon I heard a mechanical beeping. She waited a split second before delicately yanking a sheet of paper from her printer. Giving it a quick once-over, she handed it to me. I folded it and placed it next to my phone in my back pocket. I’d look it over at the nurse’s office.
“I’d give you ice right now, but there isn’t any, and Nurse Betty’s office isn’t that far away,” Ms. Russo explained. She sounded a little worried, and apologetic.
I stifled a laugh. “Don’t worry. I’ve had way worse.”
She steadied me as I rose from the super-comfortable violet armchair, though I wished I could sit a bit longer. Ms. Russo led me through the glass doors of the room that were a bridge to the inside of the rest of the brick building, and as I trudged along I didn’t really take in my surroundings. In what felt like no time at all, we’d arrived, and I was slouched on a cot while Ms. Russo explained the situation to the worried, grandmotherly nurse. I glanced at the clock. It was already seven 'til eight, which was when classes started. I needed to get to school earlier.
“Sweetie, my name is Betty Pain,” the nurse told me. She chuckled when I flinched. “That’s P-A-Y-N-E, dearie. You can call me Nurse Betty; everybody does.”
I managed to smile at her friendly, caring, wrinkled face. “Okay. Thank you.” I slid my bag off my shoulder, and it slumped against the wall next to the cot.
Nurse Betty wrapped a small bag of crushed ice in a paper towel before handing it to me. “Just hold that to your eye. Hopefully the delay won’t blacken it too noticeably.” My expression must’ve been amusing, because she chuckled, her pale blue eyes twinkling behind narrow, thick glasses. “Don’t worry. It shouldn’t.”
Ms. Russo excused herself. While we waited as I slowly numbed my face, the nurse occasionally asked me questions about my life, nothing too probing, but enough to keep me talking and interested in the conversation.
“Sally, what class do you have first?” Nurse Betty suddenly asked. She tucked a lock of short, curly white hair behind her ear, staring expectantly at me. “I can walk you over there, if you’d like.”
She really was the gentlest person I’d ever met. Surprised, though pleased, I reached in my back pocket and wriggled out my crinkled schedule. I unfolded it to consult. “Uh, I have Photography. With Mr. Rover?”
Nurse Payne laughed. Her laugh was so nice and tinkling, like chimes, cheerful bells whistling through the wind.
She unintentionally interrupted my reverie to say, “Oh, you’ll love him.”
I cocked my head to the side and immediately winced slightly. Majorly bad decision. “Is he nice?”
“Yes, of course.” Nurse Betty grinned, adding under her breath, “And quite eccentric.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s just . . . a handful. Sort of like a child stuck inside a grown man’s body,” she struggled to describe him, her lips pursed in concentration.
“Okay, thank you. I’m ready to go.” I frowned. “I think.”
Nurse Betty laughed again, in a way that made her eyes sparkle, promising that all of Mr. Rover’s students love him while nodding encouragingly once in the direction of the door.
Hopping off the cot, I followed her down the hallway and up a flight of stairs or two. Every hallway was filled wall-to-ceiling with colorful posters, banners, and corkboards galore, along with many engraved windows. It was very slapdash, but I kind of liked the disarray. Though I loved my old school, sometimes the OCD-ness of the place got boring. Score one for NRHS.
“Best of luck,” Nurse Betty chirped happily, handing me a folded note. I placed it inside one of the pockets of my white shorts. “During the period, you probably should ice your eye off and on for a little bit. You can throw it away in ten minutes or so.”
“Sounds good.” I smiled. “Thanks for all your help.”
As she shuffled away in noiseless, slipper-like shoes, I shifted my bag to my left shoulder while somehow managing to not take the ice off my eye. I hadn’t had time to even find my locker, much less put some notebooks away, so my stuff was all pretty heavy.
I took deep breaths. The teak door in front of me couldn’t be as intimidating and imposing as it seemed. My mind was simply exaggerating.
I opened the door and froze. Everyone in the room had craned to face my way, and the shocking look of incredulity on the boy nearest to me was startling. He saw the ice pack held to my eye and colored slightly, glancing furtively away.
What a rat.
“Hello, hello!” A dark-haired, broad-shouldered, twenty-something young man bounded over to me. “Are you new? Splendid!” he cried delightedly, not waiting even a split second to hear my reply. I must admit; I was a little bit taken aback, alarmed, even, as his mouth continued to emit words. “Step right up and introduce yourself! I, myself, am called Eric John Hudson Rover III. You may call me Mr. Rover.” The look in his mischievous amber eyes just then was expectant, and I instantaneously understood what Nurse Betty had meant.
Before I could respond, he seemed to grow suspicious and brooding, exclaiming, though in a more subdued tone, “What happened to your eye? Why are you five minutes late?”
Upon further scrutiny, I realized most of the class was perched on the floor. All except for the rat of a boy who had blackened my eye.
I cringed at the great first impression I’d made and fumbled in my pocket for Nurse Betty’s note, tripping over my tongue in my haste to excuse my tardiness. “I, um, fell.” The rat’s eyebrows shot skyward, dubious. “I had to go to the nurse.”
My sketchy answer seemed to satisfy Mr. Rover for the moment, but then again, he may just have gotten bored. “We’re getting to know each other! Right, class?” he beamed. “Time to start over for our new pupil’s sake, who, by the way, has very pretty eyes! Alphabetically, everyone!”
Mr. Rover gestured wildly for me to join the class on the floor, and I complied, relieved to be out of the spotlight, though I could feel the heat rushing to my cheeks at the mention of my eyes. Everyone always commented on them.
None of the other students seemed to care that they might’ve been almost done. Introductions seemed to be a good time-waster.
Mr. Rover skipped to the front of the room, clasping his hands together in barely suppressed excitement. “Taylor Callahan, what’s your favorite color?” he trilled, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
It is an understatement to say that I was worried. My teacher seemed to be at one with Buddy the Elf.
A gangly blond with oversize hands and feet, sort of like a golden retriever puppy, stood where he had been sitting moments before. I tuned out his long, detailed response as a girl subtly scooted closer to me, and I did a double take upon recognition.
“Don’t worry ‘bout Rover.” She winked one sea-glass green eye at me, her choppy, coppery blonde hair shining in the low light. “He’s harmless. Just, you know, blissfully ignorant and naïve.” She giggled, the sound of her laughter a little bird’s springtime chirp.
"At least he can keep a class awake,” I said lightly, relaxing as I smiled at her.
She grinned back. “And anyway, it doesn’t even matter, because he’s a wicked brilliant gay photographer,” the girl explained, finger-combing her glittering tresses.
“Silence!” Mr. Rover playfully commanded, though in a bit of an uncalled-for roar. “Mackenzie Drake, day or night?”
A girl with loose, butterscotch-blonde ringlets stood. Sharing a private smile with the sandy-haired boy who still held her hand, she said, “I prefer Mimi. And definitely night.”
Our delusional teacher didn’t seem to get the joke, but the rest of us snickered into our palms, smirking uncontrollably.
“Aprilynne Faulkner, pool or ocean?”
Aprilynne shook out her long, enviably silky sable hair and snorted as if there could only be one possible answer. “Ocean,” she scoffed.
The strawberry blonde next to me giggled, her many freckles giving her a permanently cheerful look. “So typical,” she whispered. Then to me, “She’s a sailor.” I sort of noticed the buzzed boy on my new friend’s other side and how they were mumbling to each other slyly, every once in a while glancing at me.
Weird attention like that makes me feel uncomfortable.
I took a second to familiarize myself with the surroundings. The walls were plastered with photos that ranged from being most likely taken by amateurs to probably being taken by Mr. Rover himself. There were drawings as well that were tacked up everywhere, of anything I (or a more imaginative child/teen) could possibly think of.
I jumped when I saw a picture with Mr. Rover holding hands with another, equally handsome young man, although blond. They looked like . . . well, a couple.
Suddenly something the copper-haired girl had briefly mentioned came to mind, and I muffled a giggle. Was Mr. Rover gay? I opened my mouth to ask the girl, but Mr. Rover was staring at me, so I only blushed and peered intently away.
While still looking at me, bemused, Mr. Rover hollered, “Charlemagne Gordon, how you be so short?”
A geeky kid maybe a little shorter than my five feet, six inches clambered to his feet, appearing indignantly offended. “First of all, it’s Charles, and I go by Chad, remember? Second, I’m five-four, and actually I think a better question is, how are you so tall? And anyway, it’s completely obsolete, because I’m only a freshman and still growing.”
“Excellent point!” Mr. Rover brightened considerably as Chad plopped back down, beginning to clean his silver, square-framed glasses.
All of a sudden my teacher’s face grew anguished. “Oh, no!” Mr. Rover cried. “I am utterly dismayed. I’m afraid I got two names mixed up. Brooklyn Garrison, please say you’ll forgive me!”
He peered anxiously at a slender redhead whose milky white skin was so clear and pale it was almost translucent. Her cascading locks were a vivid orange. I was amazed and extremely disgruntled that her big waves hadn’t frizzed from the fierce humidity, like mine had this morning as soon as I woke up. Luckily, I’d (disappointedly) swept it into a messy, beachy bun before it had the chance to become unmanageable. Braids would’ve been more helpful on this day.
At Mr. Rover’s theatrics, coppery hair had sighed melodramatically, crossing her pale green eyes. That reminded me to remove the ice from my eye while my thoughts wandered. I blinked a few times, my right eye adjusting to the light after such a long period of darkness. I gingerly lifted a finger to touch it, and it really didn’t hurt too much anymore.
Brooklyn’s bright eyes smoldered with warmth, and she nodded, biting back a smile. “Brooke,” she corrected, before, almost absentmindedly, slowly collapsing back into the waiting arms of a seemingly attractive (from afar) boy who looked to me to be too old to be in high school.
I frowned at her perfect cheekbones, my round baby face preventing their very existence in myself.
“Abigail Harris, how long must your friend stall in the bathroom?” Mr. Rover demanded.
My new friend’s shoulders shook from stifled laughter, and she similarly struggled to conceal her wide, foxy grin. When she was able to control herself, she turned thoughtful, choosing her words carefully. “Stall is an appropriate word. Perhaps she’s trapped in one?” Abigail suggested. Only a nearly invisible hinting quirk of her mouth indicated that she was joking.
The entire class dissolved into peals of laughter, myself included, when a curious, disembodied dirty blonde head poked through the doorway into the room. We composed ourselves immediately, but before she could take a mere step inside, they all chorused, “Take a roll, Caroline!” while successfully maintaining straight faces. That didn’t last long as she grinned and uncoordinatedly somersaulted straight into Abigail, knocking her down and narrowly missing me. Caroline sat up, looking extremely pleased with herself, as her disheveled hair tumbled around her shoulders.
Abigail stretched and rocked back to sit on her long legs, simply looking at Caroline. Everyone followed suit, as did I, though of course I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
“What?” She cocked her head, crinkling her brows in flummoxed contentment.
Abigail shrugged, flashing her friend a half-smile as she contemplated something while fiddling with the buttons on her brown leather jacket. “Wait. Caddie. What took you so long?”
Caroline shifted her eyes downward. “I got stuck,” she admitted, without even a hint of a blush.
I shook my head, smiling, as a few shorter pieces of toffee-brown hair blew loose around my celadon-toned eyes. Abigail knew her friend very, very well, it seemed.
“Abigail Harris, you are a gypsy,” Mr. Rover declared gleefully, inattentively running a hand through his thick dark hair. Self-consciously, I cupped my bun in one hand to keep it in place.
Abigail had a vaguely unsettled expression on her freckled, slightly tanned face. “A gypsy? Why, what’d I do?”
I was genuinely curious to discover this also.
“You predicted that she was late because she got stuck,” Mr. Rover reminded her, with a big, impressed smile. He paused, considering something supposedly important. “Do you have a crystal ball?”
“Yeah, but I left it at home today, sorry,” Abigail told him without missing a beat, shrugging her shoulders in a defeated manner.
Mr. Rover looked like a little kid who’d opened a Christmas present only to find out that it was just a large box of socks. Plain, white socks. “Oh. Well then. Let us continue. Sally Keating, I presume you must be the new girl, so please tell us what your favorite sport is.”
I rose a little bit, not quite standing. “Um, soccer.”
“Are you going to try out for the school team?” Caroline piped up inquisitively.
“No.” I sat down, trying not to notice the rat’s loathing scowl in my direction or the troubled expression in Caroline’s round slate blue eyes.
“Okay.” Mr. Rover clapped once and continued his interrogations, but I didn’t pay much attention other than to match names with faces.
Josie Morgan, a round-faced, chubby girl reminding me of a cherub, one of Cupid’s angels, although she’s not a male baby, and a bit sweeter-seeming than one.
Caroline “Caddie” Murray, the bubbly, trouble-making, but lovable best friend of Abigail’s with the upside-down nature. This I could tell from just one encounter; it was that obvious. I liked her already.
Dylan O’Hannah, Mimi’s sandy-haired boyfriend with a lanky, tennis-player physique and a smile sweeter than cookie dough constantly lighting up his entire baby face. They’re a cute couple.
Justin Ross, the quarterback with the snazzy letter jacket and the chiseled features that show even through bad acne, however, he’s still not as cute as I thought he was. I noticed in my peripheral vision that Brooke retied his shoelaces together when he was answering Mr. Rover’s question.
I swear; his annoying, raspy voice makes me want to hit something. Hard. I would be very happy if he never opened his mouth again in his entire life.
At least his name matches his persona. That’s promising.
Grant Wheeler, Abigail’s friend, the buzzed boy, an African American. He smiled at me while answering Mr. Rover’s question, jerking his chin up in the typical guy mannerism for pleased recognition.
Just then the bell rang, which was perfect timing because Grant was the last kid. It was weird for me, though, because at my old school classes were each an hour and a half long, and we met every other day. Here, classes were only forty minutes, they met every day, and there were nine total, minus lunch. I suppose it’s because of the abundance of rare electives they offer in the fine arts. Among Photography, I’m taking Philosophy of Art (Aesthetics), Theatre (next period), and Psychology. It’s unfair that I’m not allowed to take P.E. anymore only because it doesn’t even matter; NRHS only requires one year of P.E., and I took yoga and health as a freshman.
“Bring your cameras tomorrow!” Mr. Rover yelled over the hustle and bustle of kids chattering to each other and getting ready to leave. “The torture will then begin!”
Abigail rolled her eyes playfully, and shot me a quizzical grin. “Walk with us?”
I smiled enthusiastically. “Sure!”
Caroline, Abigail, and I left the room in the middle of the pack, and I tossed the ice in the trash. I was sandwiched between them, and Abigail turned toward me as we walked with about half the group down the right side of the hallway. “We’re both juniors. Are you a sophomore?”
“Yeah,” I confirmed, nodding. My eye only felt a bit sore, although I was sure this fact would change in the morning. “Um, what class do you guys have now?”
“Theatre,” Abigail said, just as Caroline pulled a face, saying, “English.”
“I have Theatre, too!” I exclaimed, ecstatic to know someone in my next class; it would make it way easier.
“Sweet.” Abigail seemed the type to always have a smile on her freckled face, no matter the emotion behind it. “If you think Mr. Rover is dramatic, wait ‘til you meet SC.”
I followed her out the side door of the bright building. Caroline branched out another way with a cry of, “See ya!”
We strolled in silence for a few moments. “SC?” I finally asked, puzzled.
“Oh, um.” Abigail fumbled for an explanation, furrowing her pale brows. “Our Theatre teacher. It stands for Stephen Carter, but no one really calls him that. He's SC to his students. SC, Stephen Carter,” she spelled it out for my benefit.
“Understood.” I immediately began to miss Summer like crazy. There are so many inside jokes here that will take me forever to get, like Mr. Rover’s taking roll through his introducing game, and Caroline taking a roll in order to enter the classroom.
To break the silence, and hopefully ease my awkwardness, I said, “Cool bag,” nodding along to a nonexistent beat.
Abigail glanced down at the light green, cream, and gold-patterned bag thrown over her shoulder. The color green almost exactly matched the hue of her eyes, and it suited her. Like me, she carried a tote instead of a backpack. She half-smiled. “Thanks. Yours is cute, too. That’s a cool saying.”
My bag was cartoonistic, with a splatter-painted, “Label cans, not people!” on the evergreen background.
I returned her smile and we continued along in silence. I was a half step or so behind her; she was leading the way. The school seemed to really like nature. The pathway looked like cobblestones, but it was smooth, like it was polished. The stones were every shade imaginable, anywhere from stormy grey to beige, slate blue to periwinkle to lavender, cream to light green. There were bushes of flowers in every color of the rainbow and clearings of trees between stone walls a couple feet high and the outsides of each building nearby, even the ultra-modern, partly-glass building that I assumed to be the tech center. Because it was glass, I could see all the plants inside baking in its greenhouse and many art projects dangling from the ceiling. It was a sunny day, and the solar panels on each building’s roof drank in the beams of bright light. The sunbeams that missed the solar panels drenched the faces and hair of each student that passed by. I noticed how Abigail’s hair glittered just a hint of strawberry, light drizzling onto the gold to intensify it.
She started to drift in the direction of a set of double doors, and I followed, thanking her when she held the door open for me.
“Turn left, and it’s up the stairs,” Abigail called.
I waited for her though, and the pair of us plodded up the winding stairs together. The hallway had zigzag-like turns, with closed doors leading to chambers every once in a while. She led me past a few practice rooms, the open door of an empty band room, water fountains and a bathroom until we got to another set of double doors. They were glass, and she opened one to go into the square before yet another door pairing. It was a sort of antechamber, and I looked at each of the caramel brown walls until I saw the plaque that read “Wilcox Blackbox Theatre”.
“Wilcox Blackbox?” I read aloud, amused at the rhyme.
“SC changed his mind.”
I stared, momentarily baffled, as I willed an explanation out of her with my mind.
“We’re meeting in the auditorium instead. Like, the big one, with plush seats, curtains, and a stage.” Abigail immediately spun around, a secretive smile on her face like she knew something I didn’t. I chose not to press her, deciding to simply follow her back through the hallway and down the stairs to a foyer, joining up with the rest of the class there.