Rachel got her phone back the day her punishment ended. She and Connor went to his office together they finally got their phones back. They left the Staff Block, talking animatedly. Rachel bumped her shoulder into his playfully, causing him to stumble. He muttered something and Rachel gasped, taking off after him.
Mark looked at Jess, rolling his eyes, “I think I’m gonna puke.”
Jess smiled, “Let them be happy, love struck teenagers, while it lasts, okay? Leave em alone.”
Time flew by, the winter chill gave way to the pleasant spring weather and March began. The basketball final between the Pink and Blue cabin was on sixteenth and the tension between the cabins was growing thick.
In the heat of finals and basketball practice, the days seem to be flying by pretty quickly.
Rachel pulled off her head phones leaned her head against the bed’s metal frame. It was a Sunday afternoon and the Cabin was quiet as usual. Everyone was outside either playing some sort of sport or in the Rec center.
She was the only one who was inside doing studying because the basketball match was the following day. She stretched and got off the bed to grab her laptop.
She turned it on and decided to check her email. She was shocked at the message that popped up on her screen:
(20) NEW EMAILS INBOX!
Rachel snorted in disbelief and started going through the messages. The very first one was sent at 12 AM the previous night and was from Gavin. It was a video message:
Rachel pressed play, smiling at him:
“HEY! SO, I KNOW THAT LITTLE MISS FAYNE IS PROABABLY BUSY DOING GOD KNOWS WHAT IN THAT GOD AWFUL ORPHANAGE …” he stopped and grinned, “OH WAIT! YOU ACTUALLY LIKE IT THERE NOW! Which, of course, is why I only get an email thrice a week instead of daily and sometimes not even those…” Gavin sighed dramatically and tugged at the baseball cap on perched on his head, “Oh, what the times have come to.” Rachel’s lips twitched upwards, she missed him.
“Stop smiling you smug idiot. I miss you. Ask that stuck up cabin head of yours to let you come visit sometime.” He looked down from the camera to something on his lap. For a moment, he seemed sad. Rachel knew he probably was but what didn’t make sense was Gavin letting it show. He was almost as jolly as Joey, and like her, kept his feelings in check. Frustrating for Rachel, but characteristic of him.
“Anyways, enough of that … I think you probably have other things to do and … what am I forgetting … oh, YEAH! HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL!”
Then, Gavin winked and gave her a thumbs up, and the video ended.
Rachel’s eyes darted to the calendar. And her eyes widened a bit. It was her birthday. Still in a state of mild shock, Rachel scrolled through the rest of her emails, all birthday wishes from old companions. There was something missing though, and that was Nate.
Usually, Rachel’s phone would chime at 12am with a message from Nate, wishing her a happy birthday, and if she was lucky, she’d even get a call. She reached over for her phone and rechecked her messages. Nate couldn’t forget, and if he did, Nanna would remind him.
The thought of her still made her breath shaky, Jameson Institute was a constant reminder of the fact that Rachel couldn’t go back home; and the only home she had known of had her Nanna in it. She avoided thinking about her, but every once in a while, it would hit her like a ton of bricks, that she really was gone. Sometimes it was when she had to put on a particular shirt, or when she heard something on the news or read something somewhere, her mind would first go to “I gotta tell Nanna this.” And then it would remind her that Nanna wasn’t there anymore.
Pretending to ignore that helped most times, the school system kept her busy most of the time, so did the people and the teachers. The community, that Rachel was now a part of, was different than anything she’d heard of, but it kept her busy, kept her going.
There isn’t much to the life of a teenager, other than school and grades and the occasional ‘what the heck am I going to do with my life’ thoughts, that, along with friends and their drama and hitting emotional highs and lows that don’t add up.
All of that, along with their own little worlds with their own little hells and heavens are apparently a whole lot easier and better than having to pay taxes and living monotone 9-5 lives.
So, she kept herself distracted, in all the little things that mattered and made up her day, school, friends, books, and TV shows to obsess over.
She didn’t push the thought of her Nanna away this once, she welcomed it.
About the same time two years ago, her guardian had placed a small box into the palm of Rachel’s hand. She opened it and pulled out a locket, a long golden chain from which hung a musical note. It wasn’t anything particularly special, it wasn’t the kind of thing that you’d see in a shop and jump at the sight of. It was the kind of locket that would only strike the fancy of a few people every once in a while. But it was her mother’s; so it mattered.
Rachel didn’t wear it that often either, but she always had it with her; in a pocket or in her bag, or somewhere close by. She reached over and slid open the drawer on her bedside table, taking out the locket and putting it on.
She still felt uneasy, Nate hadn’t called or texted or emailed and that was just … just wrong. Rachel dialed his number but it was switched off. She grabbed a jacket and put on her boots, on her way to find Joey, hopefully some time with her would cheer her up.
The cabin was eerily empty. Her boots clicking against the hardwood floor of the living room were the only thing breaking the silence. Rachel tip toed to Ben’s room and knocked, he wasn’t one for leaving the cabin often, but to her surprise, the door swung open, revealing his spotless room, with a bookshelf full of CD’s instead of books and a stereo that sat on top of the side table.
Rachel closed the door and tip toed back to the carpeted hallway and finally, left the Cabin, heading towards the Rec Center.
There were kids still playing in the grounds, a few even waved, and Rachel smiled back. The Rec Center’s doors slid open and Rachel stepped through. The Top 50 weekly songs were sounding through the speakers, but not on their usual volume and all the rooms, were bare.
Maybe they were showing a documentary in the library. Joey didn’t text her though.
Once she got to the Library’s doors, she gave them a push, and walked through. It was dark. And then she beamed. She knew exactly what was-
The lights went on, and then came the deafening “HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL!” followed by confetti flying everywhere. A large black and blue banner stretched over the shelves, wishing her happy birthday, the tables had been re arranged and upon them sat food and plates and drinks. One table had a pile of gifts on it, all in brightly colored wrapping paper.
So, yeah, there was this perk of celebrations at Jameson. More people = more gifts, and who didn’t want that?
There was a large, square, single layered cake, and it was nothing but chocolate. The cake was surrounded by mini-cakes in the shape of balloons, all creamy white and chocolaty brown. Rachel took in all of this and registered all her Cabin members and friends. Next to the cake, stood Jacob Wesson, hands in his pockets, an easy smile on his face, one that you didn’t see often.
Rachel ran to him and hugged him, “Thanks so much, Wesson.”
He beamed, “Don’t mention it, kid.”
Joey came up from behind and poked at her side, causing her to jump and break away, “Happy Birthday, Dweeb” and then she threw her arms around Rachel and practically crushed her ribs. “Moron,” Rachel was laughing, and didn’t pull away. That was until she saw Connor standing a little behind Joey, trying not to look obvious.
Connor stepped up, as if waiting in line to hug Rachel. He looked adorably shy, his cheeks a furious shade of pink, since he wasn’t big on public displays of affection. There was a small smile hinting at his lips. Rachel raised her eyebrows slightly, as if waiting for him to say something, Joey pulled out her phone and winked at them. Just as her best friend was about to make an inappropriate comment, he wrapped his arms around her, “Happy Birthday, Raich.”
She gave him a wide, toothy grin and laced her fingers with his. Connor hit Joey on the head and gave Jake a glare as he began to sing the wretched “Connor and Rachel Sitting in a Tree“
She glanced around the room and froze when her eyes got to the library entrance, because there stood the person she had least expected to show up at Jameson. Rachel dropped Connor’s hand and sprinted towards him, and almost knocked the wind out of him as she lunged at the boy. Gavin stumbled backwards, laughing as he threw his arm around her shoulder and Rachel shoved his head down and drove her knuckles into his hair, “I MISSED YOU, YOU JERK!” she was giggling, over come with joy.
Connor’s brow furrowed, his lips turned down in a disapproving frown, and his arms crossed over his chest, “Who is that?”
Joey wrinkled her nose and made a face, “I don’t know. But I don’t like him.”
Connor’s head snapped to Joey, “Me, I get. I can be jealous … you?”
“That’s my best friend.” She mumbled.
Rachel was now dragging Gavin to where Joey and Connor stood, faces scrunched up in annoyance and stances unintentionally aggressive. However, as Gavin neared, Joey dropped her hands and shoved them into her pockets, after tucking a stray lock behind her ear.
“Alright, Connor and Joey, meet Gavin.” Rachel grabbed his arm and forced him to shake hands with Connor, “Gavin, meet Connor and Joey.”
“Pleasure.” Connor narrowed his eyes.
Joey just … smiled.
“So, Gavin is my best friend from back home. And Gavin, Joey is my go to gal over here. And I know what you’re thinking but … yeah, I finally trusted a girl enough to be my friend.”
Gavin and Connor seemed to be having a silent conversation. Connor seemed to be on the offensive side, “And Connor?” Gavin asked, uncomfortably.
“Oh!” Rachel blushed, “Connor’s my boyfriend.”
Connor sort of hmph-ed as Gavin’s jaw fell open, “Fayne, are you blushing?!” His wide eyes went back to Connor’s, “Dude! What do you see in her? She’s a total b-” he gave Rachel a sideways glance before breaking character. He slapped Connor’s bicep and nodded in approval, “Congratulations, man! She’s one of a kind.”
“Thanks…” his eyes were still narrowed.
Gavin leaned over, “Nice grab. He’s cute.”
Rachel glared at him and he responded with an all-too-smug grin, “Turn around.”
She did, and found herself, once again, in a hug.