Next morning, I woke up a bit before breakfast and got ready quickly. Aunt Jessica was on the phone with my Mom yesterday. They talked about my schooling and arranged for my Mom to send over the necessary transfer papers as soon as she could.
Which meant sometime later today.
Aunt Jessica decided to take me out for breakfast.
“The Big City Moment offers a New York-inspired breakfast menu and a variety of smoothies should you decide to order one,” she informed me. “Afterwards, we’re going shopping for school supplies. I have a list of everything you’re going to need when you get there. You’ll have to catch up on everything you missed previous years which is most of the music theory, Vocal coaching and instrument lessons. You’ll have until the end of school year to get up to date.”
Four months to catch up on a few years of work. Wonderful.
Still, I wouldn’t let it get to me. I was an A-grade student who was used to sleepless nights due to studying. I would not let something as silly as lack of time hold me back.
Or so I tried to motivate myself.
I asked as many questions as I could about the school program, teachers and how things worked because I wanted to be prepared for anything.
And aunt Jessica answered each of my questions with helpful advice.
We finally arrived at the diner and I took a look around. It had a modern, kind-of-cafe vibe. The chairs and booths were all dark red, the tables were black and the walls were made of grey stone.
It was all very Instagram-worthy.
I ignored the voice in my mind telling me to take pictures as I got in the booth with my aunt. I got myself comfortable and grabbed the menu to decide on my order.
“Any recommendations?” I asked her.
“Their vegan food is delicious. I prefer it over most things they have,” she said and typed something in her phone.
Interesting, I thought to myself and checked out the vegan section of the menu. As the waitress came to collect our order, I made a hasty decision and picked the first thing I saw on the menu.
After she left, aunt Jessica started a conversation about my life back home. About my friends... ex-best friends? My boyfriend... ex-boyfriend? And about the school I used to go to.
And I told her everything. I told her about the bet, I told her about Connor’s role in all this and I told her about Kai and Matt.
“Sounds to me Kai was just trying to protect you from Matt,” she tried to justify his decision to keep things from me. What he did sucked and I hated that he kept this a secret.
“Or maybe he had his own ulterior motives,” I mumbled and watched as our order arrived.
“Perhaps, but you should still hear him out,” she said.
“Why? He had multiple chances to tell me what everybody was plotting behind my back. Instead of telling me, he just decided to play his own little game and pretend he didn’t know anything,” I snapped, my voice on the verge of breaking. Clearly, this was a very sensitive topic and I hadn’t even had the chance to process it properly.
“I’m not going to pretend I know how you feel, but I think it would have been easier if you faced them all and got some closure before you left.”
“Face them all? I don’t even have the guts to face one person back home,” I told her, shaking my head. “I spent years trying to fit into their impossible standards, to make everyone like me. I thought if they did, they wouldn’t destroy my things and throw insults at me all the time. I spent time cowering in their shadows. What makes you think I was brave enough to stand up to them?”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” she replied.
“And you keep giving me too much credit,” I said back. “I just want to start fresh for once. To determine my own future, not to have them steering me in the directions they want me to go.”
“I understand and I’m happy to have you here,” she spoke and took my hand.
I smiled sadly and ate my breakfast.
Once we were done and as she was getting ready to pay, her phone rang.
“It’s your Mom,” she excused herself from the table and walked out to talk. As she did so, I watched a group of people my age come into the diner, all grinning widely.
A part of me desperately wished that’s what awaited me in my new school. Friends. People I’d be able to click with. I observed them - non-creepily, I swear - until my aunt came back with news.
“It appears your Mom got the papers and she’ll send them to the school. I called my secretary to drop them off at my desk. All we have to do now is go to school and get you set up,” she told me, grabbed her purse and urged me to follow her as she paid.
“When will I be enrolled - officially?” I asked.
“Well, I sent her the papers yesterday before breakfast for her to sign so we should have them today. That means we just have to put you in the system and you’re officially a student of the New York Music Boarding School.”
“Awesome,” I responded and rushed to catch up beside her.
“We’re going supply shopping first. You can’t just start without any notebooks and pens. That would be a catastrophe,” she rambled as her eyes scanned the street names. “Luckily, there’s a mall not far away and you could even get new clothes in case you need anything.”
“I’m good,” I replied as reality started to sink in. A terrifying, unpredictable reality. I was about to go to a brand new school with brand new people. My gut twisted inside as nervousness swelled up my throat. Damn, I was stupid to go. Stupid, reckless and friendless in a big city. It’s one thing to say you’d do something but it’s another to actually do it.
“Don’t start freaking out on me now,” aunt Jessica noticed my right hand trying to strangle my left. I couldn’t let go even though my hands were starting to sweat.
“Astrid,” she said and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk before pulling me aside. She put her gentle arms on my shoulder and looked me in the eye. “You’re going to love it there. It’s a whole different experience, I promise you. And if you have any trouble, you can always just come to me.”
I nodded, not really reassured by her words but I needed to do this. I needed to do it for myself.
“Let’s go,” I insisted and started walking. We visited eight different stores where she bought everything I needed for me. I was distracted, lost in my own world even as I picked out the notebooks, the pens, the sticky notes...
After we gathered everything I needed, we walked back to the diner where she parked her car earlier. We put the things in the trunk and then she drove us to her apartment building.
As I mentioned before, going around New York via car was almost impossible. The traffic was impossible to avoid. That meant we spent almost an hour in the car when it should have been a fifteen-minute drive.
I remained quiet during most of the trip, especially when aunt Jessica turned on the radio after first ten minutes.
To say I expected the school to be in the center of New York was an exaggeration. But I still expected it to be somewhat close. Nope, she told me the drive would take about an hour and a half - excluding the traffic.
That seemed a bit far from the city, but it was a big city after all. Just getting out of it took time. I didn’t even know why it surprised me.
I occupied my thoughts by listening to music and drawing doodles on the front page of my diary.
Truth was, I was about to embark on a journey far bigger than I dared imagine.