Zora in Wonderland | Teen Ink

Zora in Wonderland

July 18, 2013
By Kozie BRONZE, Adelaide, Other
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Kozie BRONZE, Adelaide, Other
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Favorite Quote:
You must first try with all your might before saying something is impossible.
All people make mistakes but only the bravest of us admit to them.
To find love, all you must do is look.

Author's note: I've always wanted to write a story, so one day an idea popped into my head and I thought, 'we'll, what the hay, I'll do it!" and so here it is! I really hope you like it!

Chapter. 1 - Zora in Wonderland

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on ‘til you come to the end; then stop.”

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Life isn’t all fun and games; it never has been, it never will be. My life has never been fun or games. There has never been anything wrong with me; I am a perfectly normal, non-defective human being, but I just never seemed to fit in. My grade school days went by with me not having any friends and even very little acquaintances other than my family. Now sitting in my home group class on the first day of my last year of high school I sit alone in the left back corner of the room, watching the other twenty six students in my class chat animatedly amongst themselves, not one even noticing my existence.

The bell rings loudly as the teacher walks into the class, coffee in one hand, stack of papers in the other, handbag slung hazardously over the shoulder.

Ms May is the only person to ever notice me; she is my legal guardian. My biological mother had been a single mother, left by my father when he found out she was pregnant at the age of sixteen. Ms May had been my mother’s best friend since her first day of grade school even though she was four years older. At the age of eighteen she found out she was unable to have children of her own so when I was born and my mother suggested giving me up she offered to be my guardian. As soon as the legal papers were signed though, my mother took off, neither me nor Ms May have seen or heard from my mother since. So now I call Ms May my mum, apart from when we are at school when she is my home group and drama teacher.

Ms May sets down her things before straightening up and standing in front of the class, clapping her hands together for attention.

“Good morning everyone! I hope we all had a lovely holiday and are ready to get back to school.” She says enthusiastically, producing a moan and a groan from everyone in the room.

“Now don’t you lot moan and groan at me, you think you have a tough life I have to teach you lot; feel sorry for me not yourselves.” She says her trademark joke making the class erupt into laughter, even putting a smile on my face.

“Okay, settle down, settle down and let’s get started. I’m going to pass out a little exercise I like to do at the start of each term to see what we all think about each other.” She says handing the stack of papers she carried in with her and puts them down on the closest student’s desk to her.

“Take one and pass it on, make sure everyone gets one then we can start.”

The papers get handed down slowly and they finally reach me with only the last page left.

“Alright, this is how it works. Everyone, write your name at the top of the page.” She commands and everyone obeys.

“Now, up first we have,” She says looking down at the sheet in her hand identical to our own.

“Alan! Come on up the front, Alan.” Alan stands up confidently and struts to the front of the class. Although in my opinion Alan looks like he’s so nervous he could cack his dacks right in front of the class.

“Now, next to Alan’s name I want you to write down your honest opinion of him. Your name will not be shared and your opinion will not be criticized. If you strongly dislike him and think he’s a bit of a block-head, put it down. Whatever you want to put down is fine; cuss words even if you wish. Anything is accepted.”

Everyone starts to write away. I look at Alan Then I look at the paper and jot down the first thing that comes to mind; ‘Geek’. With his glasses, braces and slicked back hair it’s the most obvious thing you could say about him. Ms May claps her hands to get attention again.

“Alright, who’s next? Any volunteers?” She asks but of course no one does. “Well then, next is,” She looks back down to the paper. “Bret! Come on up here. Everyone else start writing your comments!”

This continues for the next twenty minutes until there’s just two more left. I’m at the end, of course, and there’s only one person left ‘til it’s my turn.

“Second to last,” Ms May says looking down to the paper and giving a sneaky smile. “Okay, ladies if you particularly fancy this fellow, make sure you write him a nice comment. Get up here Zander.”

Wolf whistles applause and cheers ring out through the class room as Zander stands up. And I have to tell you, there are some decent looking guys at my school but Zander, DAMN!, I don’t know how I’d never seen him before now. He is HOT. As that was the only thing that was going through my head I put it down on my paper as the man himself takes a bow and flashed an award winning smile before taking his seat again.

“Last of all,” Ms May says and I shrink down in my seat. ‘PLEASE, NO. Don’t make me do it.’ I try to telepathically communicate with her but obviously fail as she says my name.

“Come on up Zora, lucky last!” She flashes me her famous Cheshire grin that literally goes from one ear to the other; she knows this is torture for me as I hate being in the spotlight. I slowly walk to the front trying my best to keep my head high and look a little less like I’m about to s*** my pants than Alan had. People start writing as soon as they get a good look at me and I can just imagine what they’re writing. I move back to my seat quickly.

“Hand your sheet to me as I go past.” Ms May says once everyone has put down their pens and starts to walk around the room. Once everyone’s sheet is collected she stands back at the front of the room.

“Now, without saying the commenter's name I’m going to read out one comment randomly about everyone. Let’s start with Alan again.” She reads the comment aloud. “Geeky but hot.” She coughs. “It’s seems you have an admirer, Alan.” She continues on with the list of names finally getting to the last two again after many laughs, cuss words, wolf whistles and awkward silences.

“Zander! Let’s see what someone thinks of you.” She looks at the name and then the comment and laughs her Mad Hatter laugh.

“Zander you are, I quote, in capital letters ‘H O T’.” There’s an awkward silence for about five seconds and I almost moan out loud; it was mine she had read. Then, all of a sudden, there’s a light chuckle that fills the room.

“Well, thanks miss. And of course the lovely lady that wrote me such a sweet comment.” Zander says and looks around the room with a big smile before getting patted on the back by the guys around him.

“Lucky man; you get the brains and the brawn, the girl’s just can’t get enough of you.” The guy sitting next to him says and gives him a big thud on the back.

“Alright! Let’s move on. Last of all, Zora.” She looks down at the paper and her eyes almost pop out of their sockets, making her look like a cartoon character. ‘Oh, no.’ I mentally brace myself for the onslaught of horrible words to come. Ms May clears her throat several times before regaining some composure and reading the comment.

“Zora, your comment says, ‘Never seen her before but she looks like she’d be a real beast in the sack. Wouldn’t have any complaints to finding her in my bed.’” The class sits in silence for a moment before there are several wolf whistles and someone calls out, “Whoever wrote that, I know what you mean, mate.” Several more of my male classmates call out agreements before Ms may finally manages to get the class settled again.

“That’s enough guys; give the poor girl a break.” She looks pointedly toward the circle of guys at the front grouped around Zander who, when I meet his eyes, gives me a smile and a wink.

“The bell will go in a minute so pack up. All those in my Drama class I will see you at fifth period in the auditorium; until then I bid you all adieu.” She finishes up as the bell rings and she walks out the door along with the few other students that have already packed themselves up. I pack up my things, putting my messenger bag over my shoulder and walk out the door. Just as I start to walk down the hall though I hear a voice in my ear.

“I hope you liked my comment.” It says. I quickly spin around to face Zander. He starts to walk backwards, a bright smile on his face as I stand there like a stunned mullet.

“See you in Drama class, Zora.” He calls back giving me another wink and a small salute before turning around and walking to his next class; leaving me to regain, or try to regain, some rational thought before heading off to my own class.

I quickly walk to my next class once I’ve switched my brain off and then booted it back up again. My next class, Science, comes and goes as usual, as does recess, my next two lessons, English and Math, and by lunch my gut feels like a huge knot as I sit in the library trying to read. I just know something is going to happen in Drama. It’s like my whole world has done a 360. It feels as though this morning I fell into a rabbit hole, taking me to this, my personal Wonderland. I know nothing is ever going to be the same again after this. What ‘this’ is though I’m still not sure.

All I really know is that now I’m ‘Zora in Wonderland’.

Chapter. 2 - Just look on the bright side, I get to be your best man

The Mad Hatter: “Would you like some wine?"
Alice: “Yes..."
The Mad Hatter: “We haven't any and you're too young.”

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

As I walk to the auditorium for my first Drama class I can’t tell if the horrible knot that is twisting tighter in my stomach is caused by excitement, an impending sense of doom or just because I didn’t have breakfast this morning and forgot to bring any lunch. I’m hoping it’s the last of those options; lack of food, but a small voice in my mind keeps chanting the same thing over and over again leading me to believe it’s because of the first option; excitement.

‘Zander, Zander, Zander, Zander.’ The voice chants in my mind again as though it’s a zombie looking for brains. I slap my forehead a couple of times to try and get the mind zombies out, unsuccessfully.

“You alright there Zora?” A voice whispers in my ear, a voice that just happened to of whispered in my ear earlier today. Turning around I come face to face with Zander. Well that’s technically not true. Turning around I come face to chest with Zander before tripping over and almost landing very ungracefully, on my ass, on the cement in front of the auditorium entrance. Thankfully though, a strong chest is standing right behind me and acts as a wall for me to rest against as two muscular arms come from behind me to surround my waist.

My eyes widen as I feel the chest of my saviour rumble with a deep laugh and then an equally deep voice. “Don’t go around scaring girls like that Zander, she could have gotten hurt.” The voice speaks in a fake serious tone to Zander before the owner plants me back on my feet properly again and turns me around to face him before giving me a smirk and saying, “So, how’s about a kiss for your knight in shining armour?”


The boy in front of me cups his cheek with his hand, a small red hand print, the exact size and shape of my hand, already apparent on his cheek. It looked like it probably hurt, but oh, well, he deserved it, no good dirty-minded boy; just like all the rest of them.

“No thank you.” I say with a polite smile on my face.

A loud laugh starts behind me and when I mean loud I don’t just mean a laugh that you would hear from across the room, no, I mean a full on laugh, one that everyone in a kilometre radius can hear. I turn around to see the culprit committing the crime; Zander, bent over, hands clutching his knees, chest rumbling with never-ending laughter and when I turn back to the mystery boy I just slapped I find him also laughing his head off. I slowly start walking backwards toward the auditorium door, hoping to get away, unnoticed, from the scene, thankfully, for once I succeed.

Once in the auditorium I fast walk as quickly as I possibly can to the front rows of seats, where the class is to be held. Other students start to enter the auditorium as I settle down in my seat, second farthest to the left in the fourth row of the middle section. Laughter can be heard still, even from where I sit. Finally the bell rings and everyone settles, Ms May also rushing in through a side door and hurrying onto the stage.

“Good afternoon students and welcome to advanced Drama. As you all know I will be your teacher this year, I’ve had all of you in my class at some time or another over the years but in case you don’t remember I am Ms May.” She says putting down her ever-present coffee mug and handbag before taking a small bow.

As she’s about to start talking again the door creaks open slowly and whispers can be heard.

“Do you think she’ll notice we’re late?” Says the hushed voice of the mystery boy I had slapped. He’s obviously not very good at whispering as his voice can be heard throughout the auditorium.

“Mr James, Mr Sanders, care to explain to me why you are late to my class.” Ms May says trying her best to sound angry and failing miserably.

“Miss, you know I don’t like it when you call me Mr James,” The boy says smiling cheekily. “I prefer it so much better when you call me Christian, miss. And we do have a reason for being late to your class, you see, something really funny happened outside the auditorium right before the bell rang and we didn’t want to disturb the class, so we stayed outside for a minute to get all the giggles out. But we’re here now so we’re gonna take a seat and you can continue to teach us all your wisdom and knowledge of Drama.” He finishes, him and Zander now plonking down in the seats either side of me; Zander to the left and the mystery boy I now know as Christian to the right. Christian sure knows how to butter a teacher up, Ms May gives him a little glare but lets him off; usually, although she isn’t a very strict teacher, that sort of behaviour would be punished by having to repeat lines in front of the class.

“Alright, just make sure you’re not late to my class again you two.” She says before sitting on the edge of the stage. “Before we begin with today’s lesson I have an important announcement. As you may or may not know all of you are in Ms Atkins advanced Life Studies class this year and unfortunately in the holidays she encountered some problems with her pregnancy so she has taken an early maternity leave and isn’t going to be teaching for the rest of this year. And as I usually work alongside Ms Atkins advanced Life Studies class and know all her plans for the class this year, the school decided it would be convenient for me to take over the class. So for this year I will be both your Drama and Life Studies teacher. Which is horrible for me ‘cause I have to have you lot for eight lessons a week instead of four but at least I get double pay.” She finishes with an exhausted sigh, but like always her Cheshire cat grin is plastered on her face and I know what she’s thinking; double time to tease me at school, it wasn’t enough that she did it at home and now she had more ammunition to tease me with after what I wrote as my comment for Zander this morning, not to mention what he wrote as his comment for me.

“Okay,” She says getting up again. “Let’s get on with this lesson, then. We’re going to get straight into our first assignment. Now, for this assignment we’re going to have it mix with both our Drama and Life Studies lessons, so firstly I want everyone to get into groups of three, seeing as there’re twenty-four of you there should be eight groups, so get to it, once you’ve decided who’s group you’re in come stand in your groups up on the stage.”

Everyone starts to chat amongst themselves, figuring out their groups while I look around wondering which group would get stuck with me. Not that I was bad at Drama, actually I was one of the, if not The, best actor in the room, aside from Ms May. But who would actually want me in their group; everyone would rather have their friends in their group then get an easy perfect grade.

“What are you lookin’ around for, love, you’re in our group. Let’s go.” Christian says, he and Zander standing up, each grabbing one of my arms and pulling me up, leading us to the stage.

“Hey, do you remember last year when Ms May made us preform Shakespeare,” Christian says to Zander. “That was priceless when Craig actually pissed his pants on stage.” They share a chuckle as we make it on stage.

“Alright everyone! I’m going to come around with the basic outlines of your assignments. Every group has a differently themed assignment,” Ms May says as she comes around and hands out the assignment sheets. “Every assignment has a planning and an acting aspect.” She gets to our group and hands us our sheet before asking, “Erin isn’t here today so I hope it’s okay if she joins your group?”

“Of course, that’s fine miss.” Zander says and shares a look with Christian, who looks away scowling and muttering under his breath.

“Good, also because Zander and Zora are my best actors I’ve given your group a special assignment. I don’t give it out to many groups because it’s the most challenging assignment but I think all four of you have the abilities to make it work. I’m expecting a good show.” She says before walking to the front of the stage to address the class again.

“We’re going to be working on this assignment for the next seven weeks in both lesson times and we will be preforming in weeks eight and nine. It may seem like a lot of time but you need to plan, book a venue, make a script, arrange an audience, rehearse, the list just goes on and on so you may need to put in a bit after school as well. The auditorium is available to book, as most of you already know, so see me if you wish to, first in first preference for bookings, no exceptions. I’m also available to help out if anyone needs it. For the rest of this lesson and next you’re free to find a quiet spot around the school to read over your assignments and to start planning. I’ll be staying here until the end of school if anyone needs help or has any questions. So, that’s all, off you go.” She finishes up as everyone starts to head off to find a place to work in private.

“So,” I say. “Where are we off to?” I’m met with silence as Christian and Zander exchange looks, as though having a silent conversation before they smile at each other and grab my arms again, leading us out the back doors of the auditorium and down the path that heads towards the sporting oval.

“Where are we going?” I ask again as I’m lead towards the sports equipment shed and change rooms.

“We’re gonna show you our secret hideout.” Zander says looking back at me and giving me a cheeky grin as we stop in front of the utility door. He takes out a key from a back pocket in his pants I’d noticed earlier, not that I had been staring at his amazingly sculpted ass or anything, and looks around to make sure no one is watching before unlocking the door and ushering us inside, locking the door from the inside after himself and turning on the lights.

They take seats around the room, Zander sprawling out on a sofa on the left of the room, Christian relaxing in an extra-large bean bag chair further towards the left back corner of the room, while I take stock of the room I never knew even existed. It’s small but comfortable, probably only about five metres by five metres. Apart from the sofa and bean bag chair there’s also a table in front of the sofa, a computer table with a very expensive looking computer on top and a large leather office wheelie-chair tucked into it on the far right corner of the room, a small fridge next to it, also alongside a floor to ceiling pantry and last of all the main highlight of the room; a huge pin up board, like they use in offices, covering the entire back wall, in the middle of it is a large sign proclaiming the hideout to be called ‘The Bat Cave’, with an A4 artistically hand drawn Batman logo underneath it.

I stare at the two guys before me, lazing around as if this is their second home and not a room at school that should be a utility room instead of their personal hideout.

“Don’t look so shocked, Zora.” Zander says. “It’s perfectly fine for us to be here.”

“Uh huh.” I say obviously not believing him and still waiting for a proper explanation.

“Let me explain.” Christian butts in before Zander can say anything else. “This used to be the janitor’s room a couple years ago until they made the new one over near the other side of the gymnasium. So the year before last Zander and I asked the school if we could use this place to tutor students during free periods and after school. And of course, us being the handsome devils we are, they just couldn’t refuse. Though we never actually tutor anyone in here they still let us use it as long as we keep it tidy and don’t make too much of a racket.”

“Uh huh.” I say again before switching my brain back on. “Alright, well, we should probably start the assignment then.” I suggest.

“Come on Zora, loosen up a little. We have plenty of time to do it so what we should really be doing now is getting to know each other. All good actors do it when they start to work with each other.” Zander says.

“You sneaky bastard, I was gonna say that.” Christian growls from his seat in the bean bag chair.

“Well, I guess we could.” I say, although not very enthusiastically, putting the assignment sheet down on the table and sitting down as Zander puts his feet down, making room for me to sit.

“Oh.” Christian cries jumping up. “We should do spin the bottle.”

Zander jumps up as well looking angry. “How in any way is that going to get us to know each other better?” He almost shouts.

“Not like that, stupid.” Christian retorts going over to the fridge and getting out an empty Coca Cola bottle. “What we do,” He says as he puts the bottle on its side in the middle of the table. “Is someone spins the bottle,” He demonstrates by spinning it, then waiting for it to stop. It lands on Zander. “Then,” He continues. “The person that span the bottle, me, gets to ask the person it lands on, you, a question, for example; Zander, what is your full name? And then Zander you would answer and spin the bottle. Get it?”

“Yeah, I get it.” Zander huffs and I give a small nod also in recognition that I understand. Christian and I look at Zander expectantly. He huffs again before answering. “My full name is Alexzander Sanders.” He says and spins the bottle, it landing on Christian. “Christian, what’s your favourite food?” He asks.

“That’s a tough one. Hmmmmm. It’d have to be barbeque ribs. Nice and tender, that just fall off the bone and melt in your mouth.” Christian replies looking off into the distance, drool escaping from a corner of his mouth and running down his chin. He comes back to reality, wiping the drool from his face, and spins the bottle again and it lands on me.

“So,” He says, a mischievous smile crossing his face. “When’d you lose your virginity, Zora?” He asks calmly as Zander and I both have one of those moments where if we were drinking something we would have spat it out in a spray at him. I give an awkward cough before murmuring something inaudible. “What was that?” He leans in closer to hear me.

“I said, ‘I haven’t, I’m still a virgin.” I answer.

“Hmm, that’s interesting. A different question then, who’d you give your first kiss to?” He asks raising an eyebrow and smirking as if he already knows the answer, which he probably does because it’s not that hard to guess.

“I haven’t had my first kiss and cause you asked me two questions I get to spin twice.” I say spinning the bottle.

We continue to spin the bottle and ask each other, almost, pointless questions until close to home time. I do find out some interesting things though, like Zanders favourite colour is yellow, Christian has three siblings; one sister, two brothers, all younger than him and that Christian gets I cute lisp when he’s embarrassed like when Zander asks him, ever second time it’s his turn to ask Christian a question, if he likes Erin, to which his answer is to look away, blushing slightly and then say, ‘Don’t ask stupid questions.’

Ten minutes before the bell and we’ve run out of questions so I suggest we finally look at what 'we’re actually supposed to be doing; our Drama/Life Studies assignment. I sit in the middle of the sofa, Zander to my left, Christian to my right. I flip to the first page; a brief of the assignment. I read it aloud as the guys relax back into the sofa. “Assignment 1: With your chosen scene you must create four characters and their backstories. Plan a scene to act out, this scene must be easy to understand yet exciting. Book a venue for your scene to take place at; the venue must be appropriate for the scene to take place in as well as be able to accommodate an audience. Arrange for extra participants in the scene if needed. Arrange and audience and send out invites. Organise required features for the scene, such as food, decorations, music, etc. Be able to perform the scene and do so in front of peers, teachers and judges.” I turn over to the page that will tell us our scene theme and its necessary requirements.

I read the scene name in my head and my mouth falls open. ‘Why! Why did she have to pick THIS one for us?!’ I mentally curse her.

“What scene are we doing?” Christian says after a couple minutes of silence. I pass him the sheet, still unable to talk. He reads the scene name and snickers under his breath.

“I dibs not being the lead male role.” He says before handing the sheet to Zander who looks at it and gives a loud groan before putting his head in his hands.

“Don’t worry, it won’t be that bad.” Christian says patting him on the back comfortingly. “Just look on the bright side, I get to be your best man.”

Chapter. 3 - Were you really checking me out?

“You used to be much more..."muchier." You've lost your muchness.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“Come on, let’s go.” Zander says standing up and walking to the door, not even waiting for us. I get up; rushing after him but Christian pulls me back.

“Don’t try to stop him,” Christian says. “Just enjoy the show.” He takes my hand in his and leads me along, out the door and back towards the auditorium. As we get to the auditorium door we start to hear voices talking; very loud voices.

“Ms May, please, I can’t do it. I mean, my group and I can’t do it; Christian doesn’t want to act as the lead male and Erin will refuse to be the lead female. Please just give us another assignment, please.” Zander begs.

“It’s not up for discussion, Zander. If Christian and Erin don’t want to step up to the lead roles then it’s up to you and Zora. The lead rolls were meant for you two in the first place, both you’re acting abilities are up to standard to do it. Anyway, it’s not that hard; it’s not like you’re doing it for real, it’s just acting.” Ms May replies, her voice for once becoming actually stern and stubborn.

Christian and I walk through the door and onto the stage. I mentally prepare myself to face off against Ms May.

“Christian, Zora and Zander the assignment is not up for discussion and I expect you to start working on it immediately. If you continue to argue with me there will be consequences.” Ms May reprimands us.

‘What the hell has happened to my easy-going, laid-back, amazing drama teacher?’

Ms May never acts seriously or strictly, not as my teacher or my mum, she’s never grounded me, she’s never even given anyone a detention, only ever made them perform in front of the class.

“Fine.” All three of us say at the same time.

“Good. I’m leaving soon so if you need any help you better ask for it now.” Ms May says starting to pack up her things.

Zander and I stand just stand there, frozen to the spot, still unable to believe what Ms May had said, so Christian answers for all three of us. “No, Miss. We don’t need any help. We’re sorry to have disturbed you.”

We walk out of the auditorium in silence and head down to the oval. We stop under a shady tree; Christian lies on a sunny patch of grass while Zander 'goes up to the tree and starts to bang his head against it continuously.

I stand there and look between the two of them. Now that we’re not talking or around other people I start to notice what they really look like. They’re both much taller than me and look older than me.

With his light blonde styled hair and sapphire blue eyes Christian looks like a teen supermodel. His muscles are toned; showing through his tight fitted t-shirt and denim jeans.

Zander is like Christian’s opposite in looks. He has black messy hair that curls slightly at the ends matched with dark brown eyes that from a distance look as though they’re pitch black. He’s slightly taller and bulkier than Christian. His button up black long-sleeved shirt and black dress pants are loose-fitted along his front but tight across his back, giving me an amazing view of his broad shoulders and perfectly shaped ass. I stare at him for way too long, wishing he wasn’t wearing any clothes at all or, even better, wishing I could slowly take off his clothes, piece by piece, uncovering the, perfectly chiselled out of tanned marble, beast beneath them.. I almost felt jealous of his clothes, wishing I could be wrapped around him the way they were.

I snap out of my naughty fantasies when I hear Christian snicker at me. He looks at me with a knowing look and a cocky smile; obviously he had noticed my ogling of his best friend and knew that I was far from innocent minded.

Okay. So, even though I’m a virgin and even though I’ve never even had a boyfriend or had my first kiss it doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to have amazing sexual fantasies about a smoking-hot guy.

Zander continues his head banging, not having noticed Christian’s snicker.

I walk over and stand hovering over Christian, my shadow blocking the sun from reaching him.

“Shouldn’t you stop him from doing that?” I question him.

He sits up a bit, resting on his elbows, and looks over at his friend.

“Hey, Zander,” Christian calls out to him.

“Mmmmm. Whadya want?” Zander stops banging his head and murmurs into the tree.

“Stop trying to bang the tree, just because it can’t say no, doesn’t mean it likes it.” Christian jokes.

Zander chuckles a bit and steps away from the tree coming over to us. He lies down next to Christian, crossing his legs and closing his eyes while stretching his arms above his head, giving me a secret show of the black hairs running down from just below his bell-button and disappearing into the front of his purple underwear that creep just higher than his pants.

Christian, now unable to hold it in, starts to full on laugh when he notices me, once again, staring at Zander and his amazing body.

Zander opens his eyes and looks at Christian, one eyebrow raised as if to ask a question. But this just makes the situation seem even funnier to Christian who now starts to roll around on the ground, holding his sides as though he’s laughing so much it hurts.

After a couple of minutes he calms down and leans over to Zander, whispering something in his ear. Once he finishes whispering Zander’s expression changes to one of confusion before his head turns in my direction, then back to Christian, repeating the motion over and over again while Christian continues to laugh again.

‘What the hell was that whisper about?!!’

“Whatever,” Zander finally says, getting over whatever the whisper was about. “The bell’s gonna go in a minute so we should probably decide now who’s house we should study at tonight, considering we got absolutely nothing done during the past two lessons.”

“I nominate Zora’s place!” Christian announces.

“What?! Why my place? Why can’t we study at your place?” I contradict.

“We can’t study at my place because it’s way too noisy; all my siblings will be running around wanting to know who you are.” Christian retorts.

“Okay then, what about Zander’s place, he doesn’t have siblings.” I suggest.

“Nope,” Zander buts into the conversation. “We can’t study at mine because my dad’s sleeping; he has a night shift at the hospital and if he doesn’t get his sleep he’ll be so crabby that anyone that enters the hospital will die.”

“Fine,” I give up defeated. “We can study at mine.”

“Good, we’ve got footy practise after school so how does 5 o’clock sound?” Zander asks and takes out his phone from his back pocket.

“Yeah, sure.” I say unenthusiastically.

“What’s your address?” Zander asks.

“13 Solace Drive, Paradise.” I tell him and he taps away on his phone, probably leaving himself a note.

“Okay, cool.” Zander says as he and Christian stand up just as the bell rings. “We’ll see you at five, then.” Christian calls out as they start to walk to the changing rooms where some of their teammates are already entering.

Christian enters the change rooms but Zander stays outside and as I turn to leave he calls out to me something that makes me turn and run without answering, it does, however, make me understand what Christian had whispered to him.

He calls out to me, “Were you really checking me out?”

Chapter. 4 - Goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite

Alice: “Do you think I’ve gone ‘round the bend?”
Mad Hatter: “I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I run all the way home, not looking back once. Why did Christian have to embarrass me like that? I mean, sure, I was almost drooling over his best friend but that doesn’t mean he had to tell him about it! And what was up with Zander’s weird expression when Christian told him. I really need to stop thinking about so many things at once, before I seriously injure my brain.

Ms May is already home when I arrive and is in the kitchen making sandwiches, one of the only edible things she can make.

“How was school, sweetheart?” She asks once I’ve set my bag down, sat on one of the chairs and placed my face against the cold surface of the kitchen table.

“I hate everyone.” I mumble sulkily into the table, my brain still thinking in overdrive, trying to get itself wrapped around everything that had happened today.

“Why is that, dear?” She asks in her usual tone, all traces of her earlier strictness gone.

I lift my head and look over at her with my best death glare. “Well you see, at school, I have this really horrible drama teacher and today I found out she’s going to be my Life Studies teacher as well and she gave us an assignment on the very first day and on top of that she paired me with two boys that I don’t even know and then she was really mean to us and she even threatened us.” I say sourly.

“Oh, don’t be upset with me, my dandelion, I’m only helping events move faster in the story that is your life.” She says as though she actually knows what she’s talking about while I continue to give her the ‘what-the-hell-are-you-on-about’ look before something pops into my head.

“While we’re on the topic, you should know that Christian and Zander have decided to come over at 5 to get a head start on the project.” I say, deciding not to tell her that we haven’t actually started yet.

“Hmm.” She says thoughtfully. “That’s fine. I’m going to be in the study until dinner doing some paperwork so I’ll be out of your way.

At quarter past 4 mum takes her bag, a large stack of paperwork and her favourite extra large purple mug of coffee in to the study at the back of the house, downstairs, while I go upstairs to my bedroom to change my clothes.

At 10 to 5 I’ve changed into a pair of green skinny jeans, a floral yellow, half sleeved shirt and orange socks. My hair is brushed and tied into two tails that fall loosely over my shoulders. And all of my other homework for the night is finished.

At 5 to 5 I’ve made myself a ham, cheese and pickle sandwich and am wondering around the house eating it.

At 5 o’clock I’ve finished my sandwich and am sitting down in the living room twiddling my thumbs.

At 5 past 5 I’m pacing the walkway to the front door, for some reason anxious and slightly annoyed. ‘What could be keeping them? We did agree on 5, didn’t we? Of course we did, stop worrying and just calm down; they’re only late by 5 minutes.’ Just as I finish my internal argument with myself and am at the end of the hallway again, for the tenth billion time, the door bell finally rings. I walk casually to the door, regathering my wits quickly, before opening it.

The first thing I notice as I see them is that there isn’t a ‘them’ it’s a ‘him’, as in singular, not plural, only one.

The second thing I notice as I see him is that he has changed clothes, still in all black but now track pants and a VERY tight fitting t-shirt.

The third and final thing I notice as I see him is that my heart is beating 100kph and that although my mind is dreading being alone with him; all feelings of annoyance and anxiety have been replaced by several inappropriate feelings and thoughts.

“Hey.” Zander says casually and I move aside, opening the door to let him step inside.

I walk to the living room and he follows close behind. I take a seat on the sofa with my bag already on it and Zander takes his seat on the sofa opposite from me so that the coffee table is between us.

“So...” I start nervously. “Where’s Christian?”

Zander is sitting with his legs spread, his forearms resting atop his thighs, bent over, with his head looking at the ground between his knees. He lifts his head, a thoughtful expression on his face, and answers. “Coach made him stay behind and do laps because he wouldn’t stop talking during practise. He said he’ll be here as soon as he can.”

“Okay, well, we should probably just get started without him then. “ I say and take out the assignment sheet, a pen and an exercise-book from my bag. I flip open the book to the first page and write the word ‘wedding’ as the title before placing the book and pen on the table and sitting back in my seat, exhaling loudly.

Zander picks up the pen, tapping it on the book a few times before talking. “Okay. I guess we should start with what roles we’re going to act as.” He says and starts to write.

He hands me the book once he’s done and I look over it wearily, already knowing what’s going to be on the page.

‘Zander – Groom
Zora – Bride
Christian - ?
Erin - ?’

His handwriting is neat and linked, probably the best of the best of any boys’ I’ve ever seen. He’s written about as much as we have so far; which isn’t a bad start but it isn’t a very good one either.

“Maybe thinking about the plot will help us with the characters.” I suggest.

“It’s a wedding. Don’t they all have the same plot? The boring speech by the priest, the exchanging of vows and then the kiss and live happily ever after.” Zander replies.

“Yeah, that’s a normal wedding, but half of this assignment is for drama class which means we need some action or excitement, something outside of the box that no one will see coming.” I say as pieces of a plan slowly drift and start to form inside my head.

“Would you happen to have any ideas then, ‘cause I’ve got nothing.” He says but by the sound of his voice I can tell he’s got something starting to form as well.

I think for a minute, piecing my ideas together into a draft plan. I grab the book again and Zander passes me the pen. I jot down, as clearly as I can, my plan and then hand the book back to Zander. He looks it over, nodding slowly before putting his hand out for the pen. I pass it over quickly and he starts to add to my idea, putting lines through some things and question marks next to others or notes and extra parts at the end. He goes over it one more time, making sure everything fits together before handing the book and pen back to me.

I look over his adjustments, seeing how they fit in with everything I had already written. He has some brilliant ideas, making the plan even better and as I read his inputs more of my own ideas pop into my head. I turn the page so that we have two fresh pages. I quickly rewrite everything from the original page onto the bigger space of the two pages. I go over it to make sure everything is there before starting to add more of my own. I fix up the places with the question marks, fixing Zander’s ideas as well. Then I add an almost perfect ending and beginning then go on to adding the small details and possible extras.

I pass the book and pen back over to Zander. He looks over it, a small smile coming to his lips. He starts to make small comments, like “This part is brilliant.” or “Wouldn’t it be better if this happened first?” and I slowly start to comment back and soon we’re talking none stop, even arguing about some parts. We finish the main story line and start on the smaller parts, the finer details. We’re so in the zone that we don’t even notice when either of our phones go off several times. They had been discarded long ago to the sofa Zander had been sitting on to start with, though of course we were now on one sofa, the book seated between us. I wasn’t sure how it had happened, possibly when one of us pointed something out and the other had moved around so we could both see it properly.

By the time we’re completely finished it’s getting dark outside and neither of us knows the time. I grab my phone, switching the screen on to see the time. 7:15! We’d spent more than two hours working on the project. I have three texts from mum. Out of the corner of my eye I see Zander typing away on his phone, probably replying to a text from Christian. I click into the messages from mum.

Sorry to interrupt your studying with Zander, just wanted to let you know that dinner is going to be a little late because of how much paperwork I have to go through. I’ll be starting dinner at around 7:20.

I walked past and it seems you two are very engrossed in your studies but it’s getting late, Zander should be going home soon, or of course you could invite him to stay for dinner.

7:13 pm
I’ve finished with all my paperwork so I’ll be coming out to make dinner in a few minutes, make sure you ask Zander if he wants to stay for dinner.

I switch the screen of my phone off and put it into a pocket in the front of my pants. I turn to see Zander tucking his phone into his tracky’s pocket.

We look at each other for a moment before Zander decides to speak first. “Christian messaged me a while ago; he said he couldn’t make it because he went to see Erin. He said she’s going to be at school tomorrow.”

“Okay, cool. Umm.” I stumble over my words a bit before figuring out what I’m going to say. “You said your dad has the night shift at the hospital, so do you want to stay for dinner?”

“Sure. By the way, where are your parents?” He asks. The situation of my parents hadn’t come up so far so he didn’t know.

“I live with my mum. She’s been in the back study doing paperwork.” I say keeping it brief; he was going to find out soon enough.

The door to the study opens and I hear mum’s footsteps going into the kitchen. “Come on.” I say as I start to walk to the kitchen and again he follows obediently.

Mum is standing in the kitchen leaning against one of the counter tops when we walk in. I keep walking but I can tell that Zander freezes at the doorway.

“Wait, hold on a second, what?” Zander says baffled.

I turn around to see him with a very confused expression on his face so I grudgingly explain. “Ms May is my guardian. My mum left me in her capable hands when I was born so I’ve grown up with her as my mum. At school she’s my teacher and at home she’s my mum.”

“Oh.” Zander says looking away, as if embarrassed about not knowing that. “That’s something we have in common.” He mumbles.

“What do we have in common?” I ask confused.

“My dad isn’t my real dad; he’s been my foster parent since I was born.” He admits.

We both look at each other in a kind of trance, only broken when mum starts to talk. “So what do you kids want for dinner?” She asks.

Zander sits down at the table as I walk into the kitchen area. “Why don’t I cook tonight?” I suggest.

“Only if you want to.” Mum says stepping out of the kitchen.

I was in the mood for something edible, which meant that I was cooking. “Yeah, how about spaghetti bolognaise?” Mum and Zander both cheer in agreement.

I get to it, chopping up tomatoes, garlic and onion to make the sauce while mum and Zander chat at the table.

I love cooking; it’s one of my favourite things to do. I love making things from scratch and making it unique. And most of all I love to see it when people enjoy my food, that’s the best feeling in the world.

I take out my phone from my pocket and plug it into the charging doc in the kitchen. I turn the speakers on and turn it to shuffle. It loads up for a few minutes while I get out the meat and cut it up before putting it in a pan to cook. As I wait for the meat to start to cook I put the sauce ingredients into a pot to cook, adding tomato paste and a few herbs.

Just as I finish putting in the herbs the speakers make a noise and one of my favourite songs; With or Without You by U2 comes on and I can’t help but sway to the sound of the music. I go around continuing to cook and as the vocals come in I hear another male voice from behind me start to sing.

‘See the stone set in your eyes,
See the thorn twist in your side,
I wait for you.’

I look to the speakers at the end of the island in the kitchen to see Zander standing by them singing. ‘Wow, he’s really good, especially for a guy.’ I hum along with him as I stir the sauce, flip the meat and then put the pasta to cook.

‘Sleight of hand and twist of fate,
On a bed of nails she makes me wait,
And I wait for you.
With or without you,
With or without you.’

Zander keeps on singing as I hum along and concentrate on the cooking. Adding the meat to the sauce and testing the pasta. He keeps in perfect pitch and time the whole way through, his voice sounds even more amazing then the actual song.

I keep stirring as the next song comes on. It has a familiar and catchy tune and I know it instantly: Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. I continue to hum as Zander sings and even mum joins in tapping her foot to the beat.

As the song ends I turn the oven off and start to plate up. The next song comes on and I can’t help but to sing along in perfect sync with my all time favourite song: Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day. Zander sings perfectly in sync as when, both our voices full of emotion and I wonder why he knows the song so well.

I put the plates around the table as the song ends. “That’s my favourite song.” Zander says as I turn the speakers off before the next song can start.

“That’s another thing in common that we have.” I say as we all sit down around the table.

“Thank you for cooking, darling, I’m sure none of us shall die from this meal unlike they would have from any meal I was going to make.” Mum says sheepishly.

“That’s okay, I love cooking and I also love not seeing people being carried out on stretchers from our kitchen.” I say giving her a cheeky smile. “Well, let’s dig in, I’m starving.” I say and we all do.

At the end of dinner I do the dishes, which are easy because there are no leftovers, thanks to Zander coming back for thirds. Once the dishes are done mum says she’s going to get an early night, which, once again, leaves me and Zander alone.

“Thanks for coming over to work on the project today.” I say as we stand by the door.

“It was actually really fun and your dinner was absolutely delicious.” He says with a smile.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay walking home?” I ask concerned. Mum had offered to drop him off but he had refused because he only lived a street down so he said he would walk.

“I’ll be fine.” He confirms. “I’m a big boy; I can walk home on my own.”

“Okay, text me when you get home though, or I’ll probably freak out not knowing if you got home at all.” I say as he steps out the door and starts to walk down the path from the house to the sidewalk. He turns and gives a small wave before continuing down the sidewalk.

Text message – Zander to Zora - 9:04pm

You’ll be happy to know that I got home nice and safe, not even one person tried to kidnap me. Thanks for making tonight amazing. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. Goodnight. :)

Text message – Zora to Zander – 9:06pm

Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. :)

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