The sun pooled on the horizon, bursting soft pale rays into the sky. A slight breeze rustled the few remaining leaves on the trees, and the frigid air smelled of fresh bread from the bakery down the road. "Today's gonna be a good day," I say to no one in particular.
I walked down the lonely street towards school. As I walked, I hum "Here Comes the Sun," You know, the one song by The Beatles that isn't all about drugs.
About halfway to school, I saw someone I did not expect to see, I didn't even know they lived by me. Emma.
I crossed the street and sped up to catch up with her. "Good morning," I greeted her cheerfully.
"Hey," she murmured, but it wasn't as much shy as it was depressed.
"Is something wrong?"
She nodded, but looked hesitant to speak her mind. I didn't want to push the issue.
"Well, if there's anything I can do for you, just let me know, 'kay?"
"'Kay," she said. There was a silence that befell us that we accepted. I didn't want to make her talk about it, and she looked like she didn't want to, either.
I turned my attention to the horizon ahead. I saw the bright blob of spilled sun that wouldn't bother to clean itself up. I saw the sun reflect off of Emma's yellow jacket, which seemed way too heavy to me, so she must not be used to the cold.
This wouldn't have been so awkward if I didn't know the landscape, I think.
"So, did you get the homework for Ms. Krane's done?" I asked.
She gave a slight nod.
"Really brutal with the writing restrictions, huh?" I said, hoping to get a reply, but all I recieved was a shrug. I decided to stop talking and try to enjoy the walk to school.
Spoiler alert: I wasn't successful.
I walk into my first period class, band (That's right, I'm a band geek.), and I'm greeted by my friend, homie, and partner-in-crime, Darin.
"Where were you yesterday?" he asked, sliding his DJ PON-3 headphones off his head and around his neck.
I looked up at the tall, stout, and generally bad-ass teen in front of me and said boldly, "Fogging up the windows of my brother's car with his girlfriend," This recieved a solid punch connecting with my shoulder. Okay, so, maybe I'm not the best with the ladies.
Note to Reader:
I am, and always have been, a nerd. Not a cool one, either. The ones that are slightly over weight, dorky, and most importantly, can barely get a girl to look at them. Up there, was just to help my self esteem.
"I slept in, where else would I be?" I growled at him.
"And why was that?" he asked in a belittling tone.
"The same reason you're usually late, my alarm clock didn't go off," I replied in an even tone. (Note: This is how we normally behave. We're as close as brothers and fight like them, too.)
"Come on, let's get set up. Don't want Castor chewing us out,"
So, I walked across the stage of Memorial Hall, a local auditorium that we rented from the city, to a dressing room we call the Woodwind Room. I walked in to see Hannah unscrewing the lightbulbs from their sockets around the mirrors. "Hannah," I said, "do you have to start your shananigans this early? Seriously?" I asked, and was probably the eighth person to point it out.
She replied with her classic reply, "They bother me,"
"Whatever," I say. I scoot past her towards the middle of the room. I squat down, open my instrument case, and quickly slam together my bass clarinet.
I then pulled out the peg, and begin the morning routine of trying to shove the peg into its hole.
After twenty minutes of listening to the rest of the band warm up and begin working on our christmas music, I could feel tears of frustration stinging my eyes. I wasn't two hours into the school day and it had already gone to shit.
I was so focused on trying to get the peg in the bottom of my instrument that I didn't notice the girl standing over me. She wasn't exactly standing over me, she was at the counter, which I assume is usually for stage make up, her yellow coat on the ground at her side. She was looking at me, though, a half-assembled flute in her hand. I wanted to ask her two things in that moment. Why she was here, and if she had just heard me cuss out a pole? I ended up not asking either.
"Everything alright?" she asked, in her soft, sweet voice.
"Yeah, everything's fine." I said, quickly blinking the tears from my eyes. Whether frustration or sadness, I didn't want to cry in front of her. "Why're here so late?" I asked.
"Oh, I couldn't find the band room," she said, a slight blush on her face.
"But, you were here yesterday. Weren't you?" I inquired.
"I, uh," she stammered. She probably got here late yesterday.
"So, how long've you played the flute?" I asked, quickly trying to change the subject.
"A bit," she said. I saw the blush start to shade from her face and a slight twinkle return to her sky blue eyes. "Um, do... do you have any grease or anything?" she asked.
"Yeah, why?" I asked, holding up my tube of cork grease.
“You might want to put that on the rod, then slide it in,” she said, then she walked out the door to the flutes’ section, leaving me alone to grease my rod. I finally slid it in, tightened the screw, and went out onto the stage.
The rest of band was uneventful, and Mrs. Krane’s class was a brutal as ever, but I got through it.
I walked into Mr. Welling’s classroom and said, “Hey,” to my curly haired friend Megan.
“Hey, Austen,” she said in an even tone.
“Something up?” I asked, knowing she’s usually more energenic.
“Nah, nothing to worry about,” she said, faking a smile. I made a mental note to text her later.
I turned around just as the bell rang and Emma took her seat next to me.
“Okay, so, today we start presenting your biome projects,” Mr. Welling boomed in his loud voice.
Of course, he asked for volunteers and Rylee stood up. “Go, Colbert!” I yelled as he got up to the board, which received a laugh from everyone in the room except Emma. So, the “Colbert Marks,” thing we do to make fun of him comes from the fact that that’s his name on Facebook.
I stood up, walked to the front of the classroom, and began my presentation on the fictional biome I had created which was "The Everfree Forest." I hadn't created it, but it was fictional all the same.
As I went over the different creatures, I saw pained expressions from Emma. It was almost as if she had experienced the manticore and the hydra. It worried me.
I finished and then sat down. "Everything alright, Emma?" I whispered.
She nodded meekly.
The rest of the hour finished without incident. I decided to walk up to health with Emma to make sure she didn't get lost again.
We hurried up the stairs and when we got to the top, I said, "Hey," to Coach Skyros.
In class today, we just did busy work, so I took the opportunity to quickly scribble a note to Emma.
Hey, it said and I passed it to her.
Should we really be passing notes? she replied in beautiful cursive.
Probably not, but we aren't allowed to talk and I needed to ask you something,
What is it? she wrote back in careful handwriting.
Then, I got butterflies in my stomach. What felt like three, possibly pink... anyways, I couldn't follow through with it. I could not ask her what I wanted to. I'd just need to talk to her after class if I got the chance. I was about to scribble something back when Coach said. "Austen, are you passing notes?"
"No, sir," I was quick to say and shoved the note in my backpack.
The rest of the hour is pretty dull, along with the rest of the day. Emma and I didn't get a chance to talk until after school.
"Um... you wanted to ask me something?" Emma said in a shy voice.
Then, I felt my stomach tingle with nerves. Why? I didn't know. It was a simple question. Not something like asking her out or anything. It was a simple question.
"Um, I noticed you struggling with the math homework yesterday, and I wanted to know if you wanted some help with it," I said.
She seemed to fiddle with her butterfly earing for a moment, and then replied. "Um, okay," she said shyly.
"So, um, my place, tomorrow after school?"
She just nodded.
And that's when things got weird.