Chapter 2: Back to School
Do you ever lay awake in bed before a big day and simply can't fall asleep? Then it's 2AM and you stare at the clock thinking, 'If I go to sleep now, I'll get 5 hours of sleep...'. Then it's 4AM and you have to reconsider the math. By about 5AM it's easier to stay awake the last two hours than try to get that little bit of sleep. Of course by then you're so exhausted, you can't really help but fall asleep. And when you're alarm goes off two hours later, all you want to do is throw it across the room.
Yeah, that was me last night. Today is the first day of my Junior year of high school - this, in itself, should not be anything to keep me up all night but I have to face the 'Erik Situation' today - or at least Erik. If we don't have any classes together maybe it won't be so bad.
I looked at the alarm clock again and knew my borrowed time from pushing the snooze button was going to end soon. I reached over and turned off the alarm before it could yell at me for still being in bed. Slowly dragging myself from the bed, I tried to stifle a yawn and failed. "Ugh, it's gonna be a long day" I said sleepily. I retreated to the bathroom and washed my face, scrubbing harder than necessary to rub the sleep away. There were dark circles under my eyes and I grimaced. I rarely wore anymore makeup then a bit of lip gloss but I was not going to school looking like a raccoon. I dug under the sink for my seldom used makeup and managed to tone down the raccoon face.
"You look tired. Didn't you sleep well?" my dad asked over breakfast. I just shrugged and ate my cereal in silence. My dad didn't push and seemed to be lingering while I finished. As soon as I had put my bowl in the sink he spoke up. "Come on, I have something I want you to see." I barely had a chance to grab my backpack before he was dragging me out of the house, clearly excited.
Sitting in our driveway was a shiny, new car. "You bought a new car?" I asked looking toward the garage to see if his old car was still parked there. It was. I looked from his happy face to the car and back again. "Is this...?" the fog started to clear as everything clicked. "Is this for me?" I asked beaming.
"Yes!" my dad said pulling the keys from his pocket and holding them out to me.
I took them in awe and then gave my dad a huge hug. "Thank you Daddy! This is awesome!"
My dad chuckled. "Well you're a good kid, but you have to keep your grades up, no staying out past curfew and all that or the car will be the first to go."
"Right! Totally understand!"
"And I have it on good authority that Mrs. Anderson would be amiable to you driving Todd to school - if you were so inclined." my dad said with a wink just as I heard Todd's front door opening across the yards.
"Thanks Dad!" I said and check my watch. I jumped in the car and took in the new car smell with a huge smile. I was putting on my seat belt when I heard tapping on my window. I rolled it down and my dad held out a little blue and silver sticker. It was a parking pass for my school; I took it and quickly applied it to my window. "Thanks. I love you!" I said as I backed out of the drive way. Todd's house was only next door and I could have walked over to offer him a ride but I wanted to drive the short distance. I parked smoothly in Todd's driveway and saw him sitting on his front stoop, staring at the car.
"Nice." Todd said with appreciation.
"Want a ride?" I offered, getting out of the car and smiling.
"I would but I doubt my mom will let me." Todd said with an eye roll.
"She will." Mrs. Anderson said from behind him. She smiled at me. "Good morning Ginny."
"Really Mom?" Todd asked surprised.
"Yes, but don't think this means you're ungrounded, it's just an allowance." she said. She was sweet about it and I could tell she was starting to soften. Maybe he would be ungrounded soon.
"Thanks Mom!" Todd said sounding thrilled at the smallest allowance.
I heard the door open and close again and heard a girlish squeal. "Ginny! You got a car!?! That is sooooo cool!" Meghan Anderson, Todd's younger sister, said bounding down the stairs. She was dressed his reds and black, had on dark lipstick and seemed to be aiming for a goth/punk look; a stark contrast to her naturally blond hair and her perky attitude. "Can I have a ride to school? Pleeeeeeaaaaase?!" she stretched that single word into a whine that made me cringe.
Before I could reply, she'd jumped into the passenger seat and was buckling her seat belt. "Oh no you don't!" Todd said, marching around to the other side of the car. "IF Ginny agrees to give you a ride, YOU will be in the BACK!" he said sternly. Meghan immediately pouted and I knew the whine would be back in minutes.
"Yes you can have a ride." I said leaning to looking in the driver's side window. "BUT, Todd's right - in the back." I said pointing and trying to smile. "I offered Todd a ride first."
"Fine!" she said with a humph. She got out and moved to the backseat and grumbled the whole time. Once we were on our way, I glanced into the rear view mirror and saw that Meghan was back to being perky and grinning.
"Excited about your first day of high school?" I asked her. Next to me I heard Todd groan and then Meghan was off and rambling about all her high school plans. She could talk faster than anyone I'd ever met. I caught about every fourth word and eventually just tuned her out. It was just as well, she wasn't listening to us either. "When did she go goth?" I asked Todd quietly.
Todd shrugged. "Last night she was going to wear a pink sundress." he said. "I stopped paying attention after the fourth outfit at about 2AM." I laughed as I pulled the car into the student parking area. Meghan was off and running before I'd even turned off the car. "Bye....you're welcome for the ride....have a good day." I said to her back. She didn't hear me, nor had I expected her too. Todd chuckled next to me. "Fun, it's going to be so fun having your baby sister at our school." I said with an eye roll.
Todd and I were chatting about our respective summers as we passed through the school, got our schedules and went off to our lockers. We were so busy talking, I was oblivious to the changes around me. At least until we got to a hall that I know used to end with a solid wall. "What the...?" I interrupted Todd and looked around me.
"What's wrong Ginny?" Todd asked as Timothy smiled our way and waved. Veronica was also there but didn't wave or acknowledge us. I shook my head and looked around again trying to get my bearings. "Gin?" Todd asked again.
"Um...doors, there are doors....there should be a wall..." I said blinking. There were also new locker and new paint on the wall but that wasn't as disconcerting as doors to what should be nothingness.
"Yeah, didn't you know?" Todd asked.
"Know what?" I asked.
"Oh they've been working all summer, the construction crews. They added a new addition to the school. Includes and auto shop, new classrooms, new gym..." Todd explained.
I looked at him wide eyed. "Wow. I had no idea." I said. "So if I go through the doors I'm not gonna fall to the ground?" I teased.
Todd laughed. "Nope. Look, I better go find my locker. I'll see you in English later." he said holding up his schedule. We'd already compared and knew we had English and Science together this semester. I waved to him and started toward the doors. I realized that my new locker was in the new wing, as was my first period class.
"Hey Gin." I stopped in my tracks when I heard his voice. During my visit over the summer, we'd both been content to ignore what had happened in May, I doubted that would hold for long. Erik put his hand on the curve of my back sending small ripples through me. "Gin?" he said.
"Hey Erik." I finally mustered. I gave him a weak smile, the best I could do to hide the emotions and words tumbling around in my mind.
"You look great." he said, I wondered if he was trying to figure out what to say as much as I was. "Have a good summer? I mean after you visited Virginia?"
"Thanks, and yeah - it was fun. Went to D.C. and saw James..." I thought I saw a slight twinge from Erik when I said his name but he didn't comment. "um, went to New York City and went to Maine - we stayed in their beautiful little town in Maine, it was very peaceful."
"Sounds great. Glad it was good...." we were both quiet for a moment and I knew time was running out, we'd both have to get to class. "So...look, about...." he trailed. "Can we talk?" he finally said.
"I really need to get to class - my first class is in the new wing and I have no idea where so...later...." I said backing away from him.
"Right. Later." Erik said sounding dejected.
We parted company and I felt horrible the whole way to my new locker. I tried several times to get it open before I slammed my hand against it. "It's a new locker! Why is it sticking!" I shouted. Several people turned to look at me and I felt my cheeks grow hot. I ducked my head and hurried into the new art room which was my first period class, an elective.
Halfway through the class, I saw chiseling at a large block of clay, wondering if it was wise to start us on such a large project the first day of class. I had put Erik out of my thoughts while working with the clay. "I thought we were going to be friends." he said. Okay so I thought I'd pushed him from my thoughts. I was feeling guilty about ignoring the situation - we'd been down this road before - clearly I was feeling guilty I focused again on the clay, ignoring his errant voice. There was no reason to pay attention to voices in my head.
"Earth to Gin...." he said again and I shook my head, trying to focus on the sculpting. "Gin, look - I know I've put you in an awkward position but ignoring me is just rude." he said. I was fully prepared to continue ignoring the voice until I felt his hand on my shoulder. I dropped the hammer and chisel, one of which landed on my toes, as I jumped from surprise.
I put my hand over my pounding heart and turned to face him. "You scared the crap out of me!" I hissed at him and then winced at the pain in my foot. I knelt down to retrieve the fallen tools and he knelt down with me. He reached for the hammer at the same time I did and our hands grazed each other.
"Gin." he put his hand over mine and gently brushed my skin with his thumb. I shuddered a bit at the delicate touch. "I said I loved you, and I meant it but I'm willing to wait, in the mean time." he said softly. He gave me a smile that could melt me in an instant and held up the chisel with his other hand. "I better get back to my own class." he said as we stood up together. I took the tools from him and watched him leave just as Mrs. Wellsly was about to question his continued presence in the art room.
Timothy, Todd and Erik were already sitting together when I made it to the cafeteria. The new wing to the school was not so complicated as to make me get lost and yet my thoughts seemed to be wandering a lot today so I'd ended up in the old gym - now a music room - instead of the cafeteria. I grabbed a sandwich and joined them. They were all talking about their morning classes so I was able to focus on my sandwich. I saw Veronica walking up with her soup and started to wave her over but she paid about as much attention to me as she had that morning, or even this summer.
"What's up with her?" Erik asked, following my gaze toward Veronica as she sat at a table with a group of girls I vaguely recognized as the primary source of gossip and generally snobbery in the school. I raised my eyebrow as Veronica joined them with no problem, clearly a member of the inner circle.
"Looks like she made friends over the summer." I said watching her for another moment before returning my attention to my lunch.
"Meghan said she spent a lot of the summer at the beach club, she didn't say who she had been hanging out with though." Todd said looking a little disgusted. Most everyone outside 'the circle' disliked them or secretly wanted to be one of them while pretending to be disgusted with their behavior.
I looked at my half eaten sandwich and sighed. "I'm not very hungry anymore." I said pushing it away. As crappy as she was as a girl friend, Veronica was the only one I had really.
Erik put his arm around my shoulder to comfort me and I resisted the urge to both push him away and to cuddle into his comforting arms. Instead I let him keep it there and said nothing. I saw Todd and Timothy looking between us but neither said anything.
In my last class of the day, pre-calculus, I saw Veronica and one of the other girls. I took a steadying breath and walked past them without saying anything but I saw Veronica's eyes follow me. By the time I'd taken my seat a couple rows away, she and the girl were laughing about something...or someone.
After school, I was the first to reach my car. I'd told Todd I'd give him a ride home and extended the offer to Meghan even though I feared I was setting up a bad precedent. I had a bad feeling I would be driving Meghan to and from school, listening to her rapid speech, all year long. "Nice car." Erik said, sometimes I swear he materialized beside me just to shock me!
"You should stop doing that." I said turning to look at him.
"What? Complimenting your car?" Erik asked.
"No, showing up suddenly without making any noise." I said, giving him a weak smile.
Erik smiled back. "It's not my fault that you're too deep in thought to pay attention to your surroundings." he said.
I wanted to tell him it WAS his fault since all my thoughts were about him but I bit my tongue.
"So..." I trailed off, not really sure what I had intended to say. Thankfully the awkward silence was cut short when I heard Meghan rambling away as she and Todd approached. "Did you need a ride?" I offered.
"No, thanks though. I got my own transportation..." he looked over his shoulder and motioned toward a motorcycle a couple spots away.
"Oh you got a motorcycle!" I said looking past him towards it. I remember him mentioning once that he'd wanted one and had been saving what he could in hopes of getting one.
"Yeah, I worked for John - my mom's husband - over the summer some and he gave me a good paycheck." Erik said.
"Wow! Is that yours?" Meghan said sliding up to us. "Hi, I bet you're Erik. My name is Meghan Anderson. I'm Todd's sister. It's nice to meet you. Is that your motorcycle? Motorcycles are sooo cool!" I was about ten seconds away from clamping my hand over the girl's mouth when she finally shut up.
Erik laughed. "Hi Meghan Anderson, yes I'm Erik and yes that's mine." he said.
"Wow. Could you give me a ride some time?" she asked leaning in toward him and smiling.
I raised my eyebrows and looked from her to Todd. "Is she...?"
"Yeah, yeah she is..." Todd said shaking his head.
"But...she's only..." I sputtered trying to find the words to convey my thoughts.
Todd shrugged. "Erik doesn't seem to mind." he said
I looked back and was horrified to see that Todd was right. Erik was either flirting back or humoring Meghan. He was giving her the smile which made me swoon....and it had the same effect of Meghan. "Okay! Um, Meghan, unless you wanna walk or take the bus, get in the car!" I called out. She winked at Erik and gave him a small wave before hurrying over to my car and getting in the backseat. I didn't meet Erik's gaze as I got in as well and left the parking lot.
After dropping Todd and Meghan back at home, I made my way to Central Park. James and I had made plans to meet up after school today and I was looking forward to seeing him. I think. I got there a little early and was happy to find the little island in the middle of lake devoid of people. I claimed a bench and stared out over the rippling water, trying to think - or maybe trying not to think. I was so deep in my non-thoughts that I didn't hear him approaching.
He sat down beside me and had his arm around my shoulder before I realized he was there. "When did you get here?" I asked feeling confused for the umpteenth time today.
"About a minute or two ago." James said smiling. "How was your first day?"
"Long." I said leaning against him. "Confusing."
"Confusing? Why?" James asked.
"Apparently while I was gone, they built a whole new addition to the school. Which happens to be where my locker is and two of my classes. It's not really confusing but some how I managed to get turned around a couple times." I said leaving out all the confusing feelings for Erik I was having - the real reason.
"Ah, I can see how that would be confusing then." he said squeezing my shoulder. "How are your friends? Did you catch up with Veronica? I know you didn't hear from her over the summer."
"Um...no, not really. She seems to have ascended into this circle of girls that are just....horrible really. She really didn't acknowledge my existence today." I said sadly.
"I'm sorry Ginny." James said holding me a little tighter.
I shrugged half-heartedly. I wish I could just shrug her and her behavior off but I felt hurt by her. Again. "Thanks. Maybe she'll come to her senses. Todd's little sister is a freshman this year...I gave her and Todd a ride to school and I swear she didn't stop talking even to breathe!" I said changing the subject.
"Gave them a ride? You got a car?!" James asked surprised, whether he was surprised that I got a car or that I hadn't been jumping for joy, telling him from the start; I wasn't sure.
"Oh! Yeah! My dad totally surprised me with one this morning before school!" I said excitedly. I pointed across the small lake to the parking lot where it was.
"That's great Ginny." James said smiling.
"So, what about your day? Did you get your schedule set up properly?" I asked.
"Yes, I'll be taking a couple weekend classes as CSU this semester as well. Those, with my internship, should ensure that I graduate in December instead of May." he started talking about his classes and I felt a sickness in my stomach. He was going to be so busy this semester and then what? Would he continue at CSU? I was pretty sure he had bigger plans than a state university.