My alarm went off again.
I hit the snooze button.
The first day of school always seemed to sneak up on me, and I wastotally not ready for it today. Then the inevitable happened…
“Maelie! Are you almost ready? Breakfast’s cold, and we need to leave inten minutes.”
She’s not even my real mom. She’s my adopted mom, but I’ve never hadanyone else to call ‘mom.’ Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that she and ‘Dad’took me in – they obviously wanted kids – but they’d never really treated methat way… like they wanted me there.
“Yeah, I’m coming, Mom.” I shouted, and covered my face with the blanketagain.
Why did I even have to go to school? I’d been taking college coursessince I was fourteen, and yet they still insisted that I go to the public highschool ‘for the experience.’
What experience would I get in high school that I couldn’t easily get somewhereelse? They could never come up with an answer for that. I drew the conclusionthat it was because that’s what they did. And they always want me to ‘do whatthey do’ no matter how much I detest it.
For example: last May, we lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We’d livedthere for eight years, and I finally had some close friends. It was great: thehistory, the city, with some rural areas to boot; I loved it there. Then thissummer my parents – avid campers and hikers – decided to fly us all out toColorado to see The Rockies; Pike’sPeak, specifically. And they loved it so much that the moment we got home theypacked everything up and drove us and all our stuff out to Colorado Springs.
They never asked me how I felt about it.
Would you like to know?
I was angry.
I don’t think they noticed.
They took me away from the only friends I had, and all of the things Iloved, plopping me here in the middle of a mountain range. Now, I’ll be thefirst to admit that it’s a beautiful place; but I’m about to start my junioryear of High School, and my parents obviously didn’t understand howtraumatizing it is to start over in a new place at age sixteen.
So here I was, hiding under the covers, waiting for it all to just goaway.
“Maelie? I need to get going. Dad’s going to take me to work, so you canhave the car. The keys are on the counter and school starts in an hour. Make agood impression honey! Love you!”
Wow. That’s nice.
“Thanks Mom. See ya’ later.”
The front door shut.
Now what? Should I pull a Ferris Bueler? No way. That takes planning andguts; both of which I have none. Ok, better get ready. I stumbled out of bedand said a quick morning prayer. My parents are atheists, but I believe in God…we’ll talk more about that later.
I went to my closet and pulled on some dark jeans and a black t-shirt;best to blend in on my first day, right? Then I went to my dresser to turn onmy hair straightener before heading to the bathroom. After the essentials inthere, I brushed my teeth and went back to straighten my hair. I don’t know whyI bother with it since my hair is naturally straight anyway; I guess it’s just habit.
I watched myself in the mirror and remembered that I needed to putcontacts in. See, my eyes are purple. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. They’rebright violet – like highlighter purple. It’s really weird. My parents thoughtit was cool when I was little, and so did everyone else. Now, it freaks peopleout, so my parents invested in colored contacts.
Brown, colored contacts.
I know, seriously.
If I’d had a choice in the matter, I probably would’ve picked blue, butthey never asked me.
So I put in my ugly contacts, and got my old backpack out. Searched andfound a binder and some pencils from last year out of a box I still hadn’tunpacked, and left my room.
I went down the stairs to the kitchen and grabbed a piece of toast andthe car keys, feeling grateful for the first time that morning – at least I’darrive at school in style.
My mom’s car is a 2012 BMW. Yeah, my parents aren’t hurting for cash.That means I get everything I want. Always. It just sucks that they neverrealize what I really want.
So yeah. You guessed it. I’m one of those kids: the ones who are totallyspoiled, whose parents ignore them while trying to buy their love, when the kidreally just wants attention. Quality time people! That’s what it’s about! Ithink my parents kind of get it,because they’ve insisted on bringing me on allof their camping trips lately. I’m not into it. I’d rather go bowling, or to atheme park, or even a skate rink; somewhere cleaner than ‘nature.’
I turned the radio up, looking for a country music station. Yep – I’m oneof those too. Now you know why it took me so long to make close friends back inPA. I’m just weird on the surface; but I don’t want to change who I am just forthe benefit of having stupid people like me. I was okay when I didn’t havefriends. Being an odd ball is nice sometimes. But having people know you forwho you are, and still like you,that’s the best.
I drove the three miles to school and parked in the student parking lot.Luckily my mom had gotten me a parking permit for occasions like this. I pulledit out and hung it on the rearview mirror. Then I checked my hair – black andstraight – and contacts – brown as ever – and got out of the car.
I locked the door and looked up: Cheyenne Mountain High School; my newadversary. Well, I wouldn’t be beaten on my first day; this battle has to lastall year. I pulled my schedule out of my backpack and saw that my first classwas English… ugh… with a MisterBanks. That made me think of Mary Poppins, and I wondered if the teacher wouldlook like David Tomlinson.
Yep; I’m one of those kids too.
I wandered for ten minutes until I found my classroom. Walking in, Ifound a seat in the back row and set my bag under my feet while other studentsmilled around me, talking about summer and trying to get a spot by theirfriends. I leaned on my desk and let my hair fall forward, blocking my facefrom view. A few minutes later the bell rang, and in walked Mr. Banks.
For those who are wondering, he looked nothing like David Tomlinson.
He was short, stout, and his hair was a yellowy blonde that looked likehe’d dyed it with a cheap box of color from the grocery store. It had so muchgel in it, it looked like a helmet. I wondered fleetingly if it was a toupee.His cheeks and nose were red with rosacea, and I could see that he carried aninhaler in his shirt pocket. Poor guy…
“Good morning class. We’re going to start by having everyone stand, takeyour things and move to the outer walls. I will be assigning your seats.
I pulled my bag out and waited for him to call my name, ready to correcthim when he said it wrong.
“Weston, Maelie?” Wow, he got it right… I suppose he might be a decentEnglish teacher.
“Here,” I said, taking the same seat I was in before.
“Nice to meet you, Maelie. Did I get your name right?”
“Yes; good job,” I said, giving him a thumbs up.
He moved on, and immediately I noticed people giving me weird looks. Oh, here it comes. I thought, givingeveryone raised eyebrows and a toothless smile that said it’s not polite to stare you silly kids… honestly, why was I evenhere?
I made it through the first four classes of the day (advanced English, advancedmath, history, and P.E.), only receiving looks – no mean comments, thankgoodness. Lunchtime finally came and I slipped out of my math class quickly sothat no one would ask me where I was from. I made it to the lunchroom early andfound round tables set up all around the room, with windows for purchasing foodrunning along one wall. I went to the first one I saw that was open.
“Hey! What can I get for ya’?” said a skinny boy with blonde hair and abig smile.
“Um, got any pizza?” I asked.
“Sure do, pepperoni ok?”
“Yeah; and fries and a bottle of water please.”
“You got it.”
I waited only a couple of seconds for him to grab my food. I paid for itand found a table in the far corner where I hoped cliques and teams would beless likely to have their territory. While I ate I pulled out a book to read, Planets and Stars: A Guide to Our Galaxy.
Now here’s why I believe in God. I love science. Everything about the waythings work is fascinating to me. Last year, I read my biology textbook forfun. I know, I know… but we’ve already established that I’m a nerd in manyways, right? So, moving on…
This summer for my birthday my parents got me this book on Astronomy andI’ve been hooked – can’t put it down, it’s like how old women get with theirromance novels. Sick, yes, but a goodexample.
Okay, maybe not.
So I love reading this book, and anything else science-y; and the more Istudy the workings of nature, the more I believe that there has to be somegreat, all-powerful-force behind it. I’ve read evolution theories and sure,maybe we did evolve that way, but it had to have a start, right? Well I think there’sa supreme being behind it all… whoever he or she is. I don’t have a religion, Iguess you could call me agnostic, but I’ve been too enthralled with my sciencestuff to search out a congregation, as much as I might like to.
I picked up my pizza and took a bite while turning a page, and noticedsomeone sit two seats down from me. I looked up and saw the skinny blond kid whohad served me lunch.
“Hi,” he said when I looked up.
I waved, as I’d just taken a bite of pizza.
“Oh sorry, I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Danny.”
I swallowed a little too soon, nearly choking myself in my haste. Aftertaking a quick drink from my water bottle I said, “Hi, I’m Maelie.”
We shook hands and he said, “Maelie, huh? Cool name.”
“Thanks,” I said. Back to the book.
“What are you reading?”
“Uh, a book about the galaxy.” I went back to reading.
I nodded, not looking up.
There’s the awkward silence I’d been waiting for.
“So uh, are you new here?” he asked. “I mean, I’ve never seen you around.”
“Yeah, I just moved here this summer.” I said, nodding. I guess this guywasn’t giving up.
“What grade are you?” he asked.
“Uh, junior. I’m a junior.”
I closed my book at this and raised an eyebrow. This kid wasn’t foolinganybody.
“Freshman,” he said guiltily.
I laughed, shaking my head. It was time to get real. “Why in the worldare you trying so hard to impress me? You don’t even know me!”
He smiled sheepishly, “I dunno… you’re cute,” he said with a shrug.
“Well thank you,” I said, “but you don’t have to pretend to be someoneyou’re not just to make me like you.”
He stared down at the floor. He looked so pathetic then, like a puppy that’dbeen passed over at the pound.
“Yeah?” he said, looking up.
“My favorite subject is science. What’s yours?”
We talked and ate for the rest of the lunch period. Danny turned out tobe a nice kid. He was almost as much of a nerd as I was – he was in band,played the trumpet, and his favorite subject was math. We parted, promisingthat we’d hang out again during lunch the next day. I didn’t think I’d make anyfriends on my first day, but it was nice to know I had one – even if he was ascrawny blonde freshman.
I left the lunchroom to a few stares from random ‘cliquish’ girls, andmade my way to the arts building. I was in choir; probably my second favoritesubject. I hadn’t been here in time for auditions, so I was automaticallyplaced in the lowest level group. When I saw that we were singing songs from “Phantomof the Opera” and “Carousel,” I made a note to ask the director if I couldaudition and possibly be placed in a more advanced group.
Luckily she said yes.
My last class was Earth Science. I’d already taken chemistry and biology,and I wasn’t quite ready to move on to physics yet, so I’d chosen the scienceoften labeled as ‘easy.’ I learned during that first class that we’d becovering astronomy – it made me happy.
After science I made my way to my locker. I started off the day with mybinder and book, and now I had a hulking pack filled with a book for everyclass except choir. I loaded them in and took a deep breath, readying myselffor my audition in fifteen minutes.
I closed the locker door and turned a little too quickly, running into someoneand getting knocked back into the lockers.
“I am so sorry!” I said, the same time as another voice.
I looked up to see a very handsome specimen, speaking to me. He lookedlike Clark Kent. In an instant I took in his appearance: shining blue eyes,hair as black as my own that was cut short and neat, parted on one side, broadshoulders, just slightly taller than me, and a crooked smile to die for.
In the midst of all this I realized he was still talking to me.
“…totally didn’t see you there.”
“Oh, it’s alright, I wasn’t really paying attention either.” I wasyammering… stop, Maelie.
He laughed, and what a magical sound it was, “I don’t think we’ve metbefore; I’m Ryan. What’s your name?”
“Maelie,” I said.
“Maelie? Wow, that’s pretty.” Oh my name on his lips was like heaven.
Then hell came along.
“Ryan!” A tinkling voice approached. “Didn’t you say you’d take me for aride in your jeep today?” A bouncing blonde – probably the cheer captain by thelook of her – skipped up and threw her arms around Ryan, who smiled patiently.
Wow. This guy was nice to everyone.
“Yeah, totally,” he said. “Uh, Maelie, this is my girlfriend, Stephanie.Steph, this is Maelie; we just ran into each other.”
I was coming to really love hearing him say my name.
“Maelie, huh?” Stephanie said. That, I did not like; here comes the firstrude comment of my new life. “What, were you born in May?” she laughed at herjoke, and Ryan chuckled, giving me an apologetic look.
Wow, was that really the best she could do?
“No, actually I was born in July. Youmay not know this, but people’s names don’t have to match the month they wereborn in. If that assumption were true, you wouldn’t be here.” I smiled coyly ather as she stared bewildered. Then I looked to Ryan, whose eyebrows wereraised, and his crooked smile was back. Yes, this guy was smart, and I’dimpressed him. “It was nice meeting you, Ryan.” I said, turning to make myaudition in time.