I first saw her when I looked out the window one spring day, bored out of my mind from doing absolutely nothing. Could you be bored from nothing? I wasn’t sure.
She was reading. The sun was haloed around her light brown hair which was tied in a messy bun, and while she walked, she suddenly lifted her head and I could see her green eyes shining incredibly brightas she stared up at the sky.
I followed her line of sight up, up, up.
The clouds were streaked across the wide expanse of soft pinks, brilliant gold, and light blue.
I turned to look at her.
She was gone.
The sky was so magnificent that I was forced to stop reading and just stare.
It was breathtaking. The soft spring breeze washed across my face as I lifted it to the sky.
I loved the world right then. I loved the fact that I was alive to experience this. For once, I didn’t need to lose myself in the worlds from books in order to stop being so utterly depressed and wretched.
All I needed was the sky. The world around me.
My book fell from my limp hands, landing onto the concrete path, pages pressed down. The cover glinted up at me, reflecting the setting sun.
I had to get going.
I watched my mum hum as she stirred the veggies. “When do I go to dad’s?”
“Whenever you want to, dear. But remember that I’ll always be here for you, even if you don’t know that.”
“Okay,” I muttered. My ever-moving fingers picked up a stray rubber band from the kitchen table and I twirled it around in my hands.
I tried not to think about what had happened a month ago.
That my parents had split up.
It wasn’t that my mum wasn’t a bad mum. She cooked, she cleaned, she helped me with my schoolwork.
So did dad. More often, my dad and I would go out for takeaways or have a movie night. Then the next day I would rush for school- already tired, even if it was still morning.
I enjoyed those days, but mum’s place was a kind of chore- a place I had to stay at until I knew she was fairly happy with me and my grades, then leave her in a good mood and head off to dad’s to have fun, I guess.
They said that they still loved each other, but they needed time apart to work out if they still wanted to live together anymore. They said it had nothing to do with me.
“Dawn,” my mother said over the noises coming from the stove. “Set the table for me.”
I pulled out three plates before I realised what I was doing.
“Who’s the third plate for?” My mum had a tight smile on her face as she set down the bowl of veggies.
“No one,” I mumbled. I got up from my seat and hurried towards the cupboards. The plate I held was dad’s- it was the one he always used. It had a small chip on the side from where he’d knocked it onto the side of the table.
“Hurry up, darling. Didn’t you say you wanted to be early tomorrow to school to borrow from the library?”
“Yeah.” I hastily slid into my seat.
Conversation at the dinner table was awkward. Like, really awkward. We didn’t talk about much. School, work, dad- the last subject was passed over hastily, my mum quickly asking about what I did at his place, then moving on.
The clock hit half-past seven when I was cleaning the dishes. My mum was on her laptop, hands flying over the keyboard.
“Have you done your homework?” My mum said. She checked on me quite often like this, just a question and maybe a quick skim over my notes.
“Yep, I finished most of it at school.”
The same response that she’d said for all the three days I’d spent here. Though to be fair, I’d said the same answer.
I resisted rolling my eyes. “I’m going to read now,” I said, drying my hands with a cloth.
“Okay. Tell me when you’re going to start piano?”
“Sure. At eight.”
My mum didn’t reply, so I escaped to my room.
At sixteen, I was surprisingly still talking about my life with my mum. But now, since the divorce, I felt like I didn’t know my parents as well anymore.
I hadn’t even known they were fighting. I had just noticed the coldness and the tension between them.
Instead of opening the waiting book on my bed, I grabbed my phone and checked my messages.
My friend Aria had texted me, asking for the answers on our history questions. Since I had my book at home, I took a picture and sent it to her, and she replied two minutes later with a promise that she’d buy me a chocolate bar tomorrow. She never faked a promise.
Which meant that every day I got at least one chocolate bar. I normally gave half of it to her- she always rejected it but gave in in the end.
My clock hit eight and I was jerked from my thoughts, hurrying down the stairs to the piano before my mum asked what I had been doing.
During practice, I wasn’t aware of the keys I was pressing under my fingers- I was just thinking about the great big sky high above which had now a sprinkling of stars.
It wasn’t until the middle of second period that I realised that I actually knew her. Knew her name.
How had I never seen her before? She was in my class. Sitting at the second row from the front.
I watched her back. Watched her pull her ponytail out so her hair fell in long waves down her back. Saw her worry with her lip when she turned sideways to ask her friend something. Her fingers playing with her hairband.
Suddenly, I was spotting her everywhere. Sitting two seats away in period four, laughing with her friend.
At lunch, resting with one elbow on the table, her face propped up on her hand, reading.
She was in my group for English when we got together in groups sometimes.
How had I never spotted her before?
The trouble was, I had a bit of a reputation- like my friends. We were... not bad boys, just a little less than that.
I remembered my first girlfriend. I didn’t like her. It was only because she liked me that I’d given in. Penelope was the kind of girl who would only do something because her friends forced her to. She was shy, quiet- not my type at all. I wanted someone with a personality flair. Her friends had urged her to go up to me and tell me she liked me.
But back then, I was new to this. And I kind of... felt proud, I guess. I had a girlfriend, you know? My first.
But now was different. Very different. I hooked up with different girls all the time. Things had changed.
The girls I hooked up with weren’t like Dawn though. I wondered whether people would think I was weird if I tried to ask Dawn out to somewhere. Would she think I was weird too? That I wanted to hit on her, an innocent sixteen year old?
But there was another part to it. I didn’t want to actually hit on her, I wanted to get to know her. I wanted to... know her as a person, I guess.
This freaked me out. I wasn’t used to these kind of feelings. It was always fast and now I wanted to take a possibly relationship slow? And anyway, what possibly relationship? The words sounded stupid in my own ears.
I didn’t tell anyone about Dawn. And so the day went on, I watched her, and that was that.
Sixth period ended and the bell rang too shrilly for my ears. I slung my laptop bag over my shoulder and stood up from my desk, fiddling with my hairband as Aria hastily shoved books and stray pencils into her bag.
A few of the sneaky girls were already easing the classroom door open when our mathematics teacher yelled over the chatter, “I haven’t dismissed you yet! Stand behind your desks!” and a completely random scrunched up paper ball was lobbed from someone at the back of the classroom, almost hitting the teachers head, knocking his glasses askew, and landed neatly in the bin.
“I saw you, Noah Griffins!”
Half the class cracked up laughing while the other, more quieter half turned their heads to stare at Noah. Including me.
He was standing casually, leaning against the back wall, jacket unzipped, dark hair messy as if he’d just woken up, grinning, and then his deep brown eyes connected with my green ones and I looked quickly away, flipping my hair over my shoulder.
Wait, what the actual hell Dawn? Flipping your hair? Are you insane! Only flirty girls do that! Stop your nonsensical actions and-
“Uh, Dawn?” My friend Aria was suddenly in front of me, waving a hand in front of my face. “Is something on my chin, because you’re staring at my face really hard right now.”
“Oh gosh, I was just... thinking... but there’s nothing on your face, I promise!” The words tumbled out of my mouth.
Aria raised an eyebrow at my current, almost nervous state, but said nothing.
A moment later we were out the door, and I almost forgot why I was craning my neck over the crowd of students, looking for someone. But who? Not Noah, that was for sure. He wasn’t made for the people like me. Right?
“Dad’s or Mum’s, Dawn?” Aria’s question sent a shudder through me, making me wonder whether the phrase Dad and Mum would ever apply to me. It was always Dad or Mum, but-
“Ahem, earth to Dawn?”
“Oh right, sorry. Dad’s place today.”
“Cool, can I go over to your place then? We could do our science homework together?”
“Sure. I’ll just text my dad.” He never cared about who I was bringing over. My mum would probably ask a load more questions, but dad didn’t mind.
Since our house was only a few streets away from our highschool in Sydney, Aria and I walked while I texted.
“Wait!” Aria tugged on my arm, pulling me to a stop. “Do you wanna stop for something to eat? Or we could do our homework at the park?”
As soon as I noticed we were standing in front of some little cafe on the street, and that a park was to our right, I rolled my eyes. Aria could be so impulsive sometimes- but that was why we were friends. Our friendship was lighthearted and she was easygoing.
“I don’t mind, Aria,” I laughed. “But I’m gonna have to tell my dad where we’re going either way.”
“Park it is,” she declared, and we crossed the road and headed over to the shade- it was still hot and the middle of spring.
But of course, once we sat down and got out our textbooks and pens, she pulled out her phone and didn’t start until I’d finished two pages. And even then, she stared at the first question, then groaned and put on her music, playing with her strawberry blonde hair.
“Ugh, Dawn, remind me why we have to do this?” She made her blue eyes go really big and sad.
To which I replied with a laugh and a shake of the head.