The bus came to a stop with a loud squeak from the brakes and more students got on and sat down, some were chatting and others, like me, were sitting alone. The bus began to once again roll across the tarmac.
The bus stopped again and this time David Cutler boarded, followed by a couple of his friends. I automatically sat up a little straighter and pushed a stray piece of hair back from my face. David was the most popular guy in school, but he and I had been best friends since we were little (although recently I had begun to notice why the other girls at school swooned at his feet).
David caught my eye and smiled warmly, “Hey beautiful,” He greeted me in the usual, flippant way and then gesturing with his hand to my bag he said, “Is this seat taken?”
I smiled back, politely took out my earphones and shook my head, “No,” I put my bag onto the floor between my feet.
David slumped down beside me and his friends – I think I had seen them once or twice before -sat in the row behind us. “So how have you been?” He asked, turning to face me, his deep blue eyes burning into mine.
I smiled again. It was hard not to smile around David Cutler. “I’ve been good thanks, not much going on for me though. You?”
“Yeah. Pretty much the same, it isn’t party season for another month yet.” He winked.
“And how’s your mum doing?” I asked, respectfully of course.
“Oh she’s good, yeah, she erm, she’s started to cook,” He pulled a face, “I’m telling you… it’s not that great.”
I laughed, “Oh bless her, I’m sure she’ll get back into the hang of it eventually.”
David’s father had passed away in a dreadful car accident when he was five years old. Mary, David’s mother, never really got over her husband’s death. She had been struggling through life for years and had only just recently begun pulling herself together to get back onto her feet again.
“Or you should just come over and cook that chili for us again? I still get the cravings for that chili.” He said, rubbing his stomach like a small child would, “So, how’s your mum?”
“Oh, my mum? Well, she’s working, all the time. I never get to see her much these days. But Ben’s good, he’s away on a college course at the moment.”
“Oh? How’s that going for him?”
“It’s for his music,” Our music, I reminded myself, “He’s gone to London for the week. I think it’s going well. I haven’t spoken to him really since Tuesday.” The thought of not seeing my brother for yet another two days made my heart sink. Benjamin was more like a best friend to me than a brother. He was only three years older than me and we had so much in common, which was probably why we got on so well.
“I’m sure he’s missing you just as much, you two are inseparable. When you speak to him tell him I say ‘Hello’.” David smiled his dazzling, girl-enchanting smile, “Have you two been given a record deal yet?”
My face fell, “No, I’m starting to think nobody listens to our music.”
One of David’s friends leaned over the back of my chair and said, “I listen to it… and it isn’t half bad.” He rubbed his rugged stubble, “It could do with some jazzing up a bit here and there though if I’m being totally honest with you.”
The other friend hit the first on the arm, “Why do you think she’s looking for a record deal?”
“I didn’t mean it like that; I meant some drums and a bass. You know, instruments.”
I shook my head and David frowned at the bickering pair. He said, “I really wonder about the two of them sometimes.”
“No, he’s right. Ben and I could do with a bit of “jazzing up”.” I made big quotation marks in the air either side of my face with my hands.
David leaned in, “I could, drop a few hints to the players in music class if you like?”
My face brightened up like a set off firework, “That would be great David! I mean, really great. Just please make sure they aren’t arrogant, or complete idiots.”
He grinned, “I will make sure that they get the Ivy Taylor seal of approval, okay?”
“Thank you,” I smiled gratefully.
Then I looked up at David through my lashes, and I mean really looked at him. He was looking at me in a way he had never looked at me before. His head was cocked to one side and the muscles around his mouth were relaxed into a playful smile, a smile I had never come across before. His eyes were as soft as velvet. There had never been anything romantic between us, but in that moment I felt a connection, binding us together.
“Thanks,” I said again, clearing my throat, “That’s really kind of you.”
He shrugged humbly, “It’s what I do,” And then he winked at me, the way he always does, and the connection was broken.
The bus pulled up to the school gates and chugged to a stop. The students began to pile out in a hurried fashion, like a shoal of sardines. I put my iPod back into my bag and picked it up from the floor, stood up and gently pushed on David’s back in attempt to break into the flowing crowd of school children.
We were carried off the bus by the current of moving kids and made our way towards the steps and the main doors where we separated.
“I’ll see you later!” I called after him as he walked through the doors.
He turned and grinned at me, and then I lost sight of tall, dark and handsome amongst the dull and mundane crowd.
I continued to walk to registration alone. Not totally ignored, but not noticed by everyone either. I smiled at the people who smiled at me. One small child, obviously a first year, had dropped all his books so I was kind enough to help him pick them up and direct him to his classroom.
As I entered registration only a few heads looked round to see who it was. Phoenix and Elle had arrived before me, which wasn’t a surprise and were sat in our usual place and gestured to me as the door closed behind me.
I sat down in the chair beside Elle, “Does today feel weird to you?” My bag slid off my shoulder and I kicked it beneath my chair.
Phoenix looked up from her book for a brief moment, her unfathomable violet eyes locking with mine, but she shook her head and looked back down, her fingers rolling over the words like a child in a sweet shop; you could practically see the stardust flying from her elegant fingertips like magic.
Elle shoved her left hand in my face, “No, apart from the fact I’ve broken a nail before lunch.” She put her hand back into her lap, “Why? Is there something wrong?”
I hadn’t noticed it until I had sat down, but there was a tingling sensation in the back of my neck. It had been there since I woke up this morning, growing stronger as the day had gone on. I didn’t understand what it was, but I knew I didn’t like it.
I put a hand to the place the tingle originated and began to rub in an effort to reduce it. The tingle made me feel vulnerable and unsafe, but worst of all it made me feel like I was being watched. It was unsettling.
“Nothing,” I said, “It’s just… No, it doesn’t matter.”
Elle’s father was a business man and he owned, pretty much, every car dealership in the county. Elle came from a wealthy background but other than her designer clothes and expensive haircut you wouldn’t have known if she had never told you. Elle had been friends with Phoenix and I since the first year of high school, she was unexpectedly smart and maybe a little clumsy but was one of us all the same.
“Did you manage to do question four on the Geography homework, Ivy?” Phoenix peered slightly over the top of her book to address me.
Elle sat up immediately, her golden curls framing her beautifully made up face, “There was Geography homework?” She cried, getting into a sudden panic.
Whilst Elle cracked on, with very rushed handwriting, with her overdue homework and Phoenix carried on reading her book, I was still thinking about the way David had looked at me that morning.
It didn’t make sense; it made no sense at all. I had only felt one way for David ever since the beginning of our friendship. Back when we used to bake cakes together, play hide and seek in the woods behind our houses together, sing karaoke together, play hopscotch and all the other usual “kid” games together, fall asleep in my old tree house together, make daisy chains together, have water fights (that turned into water wars when the whole street got involved) together, spent every waking moment together.
I was so confused, I knew I had never felt anything less or anything more towards David than what I had always felt. But what had I always felt?
The tingling sensation followed me like a bad smell all day. The first couple of lessons were a blur. I couldn’t concentrate on the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration in Biology, and when Mrs. Jones asked me how to make p the subject of the formula towards the end of Maths, my mind drew a blank and I had to stammer an embarrassed ‘I don’t know’ to her. I was still questioning my feelings, trying to figure out David’s intentions and I couldn’t wait to steal glances over towards his table during lunch whilst he talked with his friends about things that didn’t matter to me.
Phoenix and I found Elle and sat in our usual place in the canteen for break. Elle picked up a bagel and started talking to me about music.
Elle plays rhythm guitar and sings for the most popular local band in town, Crossed Foxes, and they were playing their first gig of the winter season this weekend. I loathed this as it signaled the end of summer, making me come to my senses and cease hanging on to those last strands of warmth and summer radiance. The gig did what the falling leaves, the school’s upcoming winter dance and shorter days failed to, it made me realize that summer really was over.
I tuned to meet the shimmering sapphire eyes that matched the voice of David Cutler.
The smile that appeared on my face didn’t even have to dig its way out, “Hey, David.”
“So I spoke to a few people and you have a drummer and a bassist. They want to set up after school on Monday at my place, you know, I have a system and the space. They are dying for you to hear their sounds, they’re quite the fans.” I was watching his lips in silent awe as they formed the words, “It also gives you a chance to talk to Ben about it and I’m sure he’ll agree with you, it’s a great idea!”
My smile became a grin of mischief and then a laugh, “Thanks,” I fixed my eyes on his, “Thanks a lot for this; it means so much to me.”
“On one condition…”
I frowned, my stomach churning, wondering what these two musicians David had rounded up wanted from this deal and dreading the answer. This was so unbelievably perfect for Benjamin and I. It was almost too good to be true, I knew there was bound to be a catch, “Yes?”
David’s pause before his next sentence wavered, “I have a free last period, I need to write a song for a friend’s birthday because he’s asked me to play at his party. Can you help me?”
“I didn’t know you played,” I said, surprised that this was the condition, but I supposed fair is fair.
He nodded, causing his fringe to glint in the fluorescent lights of the refectory, “Acoustic guitar, ever since I was small.”
This was news to even me; I thought David was just “the set up guy” and the sound system guy only. Why hadn’t he told me? Music had been so important to me growing up, I couldn’t believe he had never shared his love for it with me.
Even so, I was oddly pleased about this and I agreed, “Sure.” We were so close we knew each other’s timetables by heart. He knew I had a free period too.
He grinned, his white teeth forming his perfect smile, “Great, the last music room on the right.”
“See you there,” I said with equal enthusiasm and with that, he winked at me, as per usual, and stalked away from our table.
Both of the girls beside me had gone utterly silent, staring at me in astonishment.
Phoenix, who had dropped her ‘Book of Spells’ on the table in front of her, was the first to speak. Her voice was slow as if she was gradually comprehending the events that had just taken place in front of her, “Did you, just get asked out on a date by… David Cutler?”
“No, ’Nix,” I said with a slight smirk on my lips, “I was asked to help him write a song for him to play at his friend’s birthday.”
“Just the two of you?” Phoenix raised her eyebrows.
“Alone, writing music, most probably a romance related tune?” I wasn’t sure if Phoenix’s question was in fact a question, or a statement. “And he’s helping you and Ben with your music. I see a spark!”
“Sounds like a date to me,” Elle chirped, and then she composed her excitement by taking a deep breath and said, “I thought you two were just friends?”
I wanted to giggle like a little school girl, but I held myself together, “We are.” I watched as my two best friends threw their help at me. Phoenix offering potions, love spells and lucky charms to me whilst Elle offered me make-up and hair products she had hidden deep within her bag.
Then I couldn’t stop it, a string of laughter rose up like larva, bubbling in my throat and erupting out of my mouth and into the air. “It isn’t a date,” I cried, “I swear!” But inside it felt like a date to me.