Rachel grunted in frustration and sat up in bed. She had been trying to go to sleep but to no avail. She kicked off the blanket and scowled at her reflection in the mirror on the wall in front of her.
She grabbed her phone. Wincing as the pain in her bandaged arms came shooting back. She was surprised how no questions were asked. 2:40 am … She thought about texting and whining to Gavin about her sleeplessness but something kept her from doing it. Giving herself another glare in the mirror, she cursed herself, “You’re an idiot, Fayne…”
Rachel would officially be part of the group or family or whatever the hell they wanted to call it tomorrow. Awesome. People she hadn’t known all her life suddenly ‘family’.
And they were going to judge her on everything. The way she walks, talks, dresses … everything! And if there is one thing on the growing list of things she hates, its scrutiny.
Somewhere during these increasingly depressing thoughts, her gaze widened and she smirked at her reflection.
New people she repeated to herself.
They had no clue who she was and what she was like. She was actually getting another chance at … everything!
Rachel reached for the light switch but upon flipping it, the room remained dark. Jess mentioned lights off actually, literally meant lights off until 5am. She grabbed a torch, jammed it between her teeth and got to work.
Rachel Fayne was going to reinvent herself. Books were retrieved from their shelves, characters chosen, qualities pondered over and then noted down
Part of Rachel was mocking her for what she was doing. It wasn’t her. What she was doing – it would all be a charade … and how long could she possibly keep it up? Acting is exhausting.
In the morning, Rachel ditched the skirt and blouse for a hoodie, jeans and sneakers. She tied her hair up in a loose ponytail and bounded down the stairs almost bumping into Joey.
“Hey!” Joey seemed startled, “You okay?”
For a brief moment, Rachel wanted to slug her just like she had Gavin but she stopped herself, beamed and bent down to tie her shoelace, “Me?” she smirked, “Of course I’m fine!” she straightened up and left for the cafeteria.
Jess and Mark joined Joey at the bottom of the staircase “That” he pointed towards the figure growing smaller in the distance, “Gives her away.”
Jess nodded, “I know – She’s trying too hard.”
“Give her time, guys.” Joey cut them off. Being one of the few who arrived at the Institute at an age greater than 10, she knew what it was like to have to fit in a place like this.
Breakfast was delicious. Joey joined her, sliding in next to her and purposefully almost pushing her off the bench, “Town visit today, you game?.”
“I guess, yeah.” Rachel answered through a mouthful
“You could buy a couple of posters, one for the living room and one for your room.”
Rachel nodded as she took a sip from what had to be the world’s most refreshing drink she had ever tasted, “What is this?” she motioned towards the dull purple drink in her glass.
“I have no idea. It’s some weird fruity concoction. None one here knows what’s in it.”
Rachel froze for a second, briefly going over what she thought was in it … but after a couple of seconds, she just shrugged dismissively, downed the drink and got up. “Alright, let’s go.”
Town was a 25 minute drive. The bus pulled over in front of a mall and seemingly, an army of children rushed out of the busses and into the mall, dispersing immediately.
Rachel had something else in mind. Her eyes landed on an art supply store and she disappeared into it. She returned not long after, carrying a bag which Joey eyed suspiciously but shrugged, “Y’know, Picasso, buying a poster would have been so much easier.”
A couple of hours later, everybody was filing into the bus, smiling and happy. Rachel felt her stomach drop. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, the hollowness, which she’d been feeding with the effort to fit in, had returned. It was growing. Rachel blinked rapidly, a lump forming in her throat that was too hard to swallow. She couldn’t breathe.
“Rachel?” Joey whispered.
“Yeah?” She responded immediately
“Something up?” Joey sounded sincerely concerned.
“Nah,” She shrugged, “Probably nothing.”
“Then what’s with all the zoning out?”
Idiot! Rachel pondered briefly over whether or not she should tell Joey everything, “I- uh, Joey, it’s just that it’s my second day here. No matter how hard I pretend to be okay-”
“You really aren’t.” she completed.
Rachel at looked Joey and nodded, “Yeah.”
“It’ll get better.”
Back at Jameson, Rachel decided to take a walk. With headphones in her ears, she walked past the Teacher’s Lodging and walked into the thick brush of greenery. She liked the cool atmosphere, the peaceful effect that the place had on her. Fifteen minutes of aimless wandering later, Rachel found herself at a clearing that was near the lake, glimmering in the sunlight that snaked through the trees.
She dropped down to the ground and crossed her legs, staring into the water. She sat like that in the peace and quiet of the forest and hummed slowly. She wondered how Nate was doing … what Gavin was up to … how everybody back home was…
STOP IT! She cursed herself, “FOCUS!” she yelled out, grabbing a stone and tossing it into the water. Ignoring the pain in her arms and legs.
Rachel’s head snapped back to the source of the sound, “Joey … hey.”
“Hey.” She sat down next to Rachel and took out an old notebook, It wsa leather bound and black, there were drawings carved onto the front withwhat had to be a knife, “This – is something I do.”
Rachel waited for her to continue, “I came here when I was twelve. My aunt passed away and I was sent here. I mean, I never knew my parents either and then I was wrenched out of my old life and tossed here.” Joey smiled, “I hated it.”
“Wesson had to come and get me, you know. And do you know what I did?” Joey laughed a little, “I punched him – right in the nose.”
“He was pissed. Anyways, when I started … losing interest in everything, he told me to write. And I don’t write! I’m a geeky girl who plays video games and wrestles with boys and reads too much Manga and will probably write a paper on Star Wars and graduate with that masterpiece.
“I don’t write! But I did … because you need and outlet sometimes. Having an outlet is important. You can’t keep it all in or it’ll rip you to shreds … I wrote every day. Eventually I stopped. I didn’t need to talk to the pages anymore because I grew to love my family here.
“Raich, I know how you’re feeling but this place is the best thing you could ask for. Everyone’s caring, Wesson treats us like his own kids, you’ve got every single facility you need in this place and people you can trust.
“If it helps, you can read mine – and I can read yours.” She finished
“Yeah, I know you have a journal. I’ll borrow yours and you’ll borrow mine and we’ll read and we’ll become awesome, kick ass, best friends.”
Rachel opened her mouth as if to say something along the lines of HELL NO! But she closed it again. She tilted her head and thought about it – NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Screamed her conscience but she started smiling.
“Here, you take it. Read it – and if you want to – You can give me yours. ”
“So, this is how you make friends?” Rachel asked her, gazing at the notebook in her lap.
“Yeah, it’s either that or I put a gun to their heads and go ‘I like you. You’re an excellent individual and being friends with you is something I’d like to do. Now – Let’s go break into the kitchen and steal ice cream.’” Joey said with a very straight face.
Rachel laughed, “You don’t really give people a choice to choose?”
“Of course I let them choose! It’s either me … or me” she grinned, “I am a very lovable person. One of those giant teddy bears, if you will.”
Rachel snorted and rolled her eyes. Joey got up and brushed off her jeans. She pulled out a key from her back pocket and looked to Rachel, “You up for some ice cream?”