Chapter 1: May Flowers
"Alright everyone, as we're settling in this morning, we have a new student joining us. She should be here shortly, so remember to be welcoming, friendly, and really just make her feel at home."
I'm standing outside of room 201 in this quiet hallway, lined with grey-painted bricks and silver matching, slightly rusty lockers, when I hear Mr. Carrine's booming voice through the door, giving me my cue to enter. It sounds really casual, but I had met him just a few moments ago when I was grabbing my new class schedule from the main office. He had walked me to the classroom, then told me to wait and make an entrance at the right moment. Weird.
I knock on the door - two taps, and open it. I'm greeted by the eyes of 20 other students, and the wide, extremely bright smile of Mr. Carrine.
"Come on in," he says, still being just a little too loud, "Everyone, please welcome Miss Miller! Please, say a few words about yourself."
I turn towards the classroom and take a breath.
"Hi, I'm Aria Miller," I say, "My father took a temporary job on the coast, so I'm here for four months - until the end of August, then I'll be going back to the capital for university."
I never knew how weird it would be to introduce yourself to a group of people with the information that you're leaving in a little while.
"We're very happy to have you here for two months in this class, and another two months in the lovely summer we always have!" boomed Mr. Carrine's voice, "Please take the empty seat beside Tyler-- raise your hand Tyler!"
A boy in the second-last row raises his hand and waves me over. Dark hair, a blue-black, and hazel eyes. I can't help but notice how cute he is. His mouth curves into a half smirk as I take the seat next to him.
"Aria, I'll grab you a textbook tomorrow, but for today please share with Tyler," Mr. Carrine instructs, "Alright everyone, open your books and turn to chapter 17! Today we start with a brand new chapter - English and its' love of poetry!"
"You'll get used to him," Tyler says, turning towards me with a friendly smile, "He's loud but has a good heart, and a lot of enthusiasm towards English."
His voice is calm, but for some reason, it resonates inside me for a second. It feels like we've met before, or as if I know him, but I can't place it.
"Thanks," I say, moving my desk closer to his, "I'm just glad our curriculum is lining up. We were about to start our poetry section in my old class."
"Well I'm glad you're here now," He replies.
The rest of homeroom goes well, and I'm pretty caught up with everything. I do well with academics, if I do say so myself. It's one of the things that have come naturally to me my whole life. I couldn't help but be a little distracted though.
Every time Mr. Carrine's voice would break a sound barrier, Tyler had this little chuckle to himself and his eyes seem to light up as if he had been counting down the seconds to the next outburst of joy. His hands flipped the pages of the textbook with a kind of grace and tenderness you think would be reserved for first editions of historical works. At one point his hand brushed mine as I moved closer to see a diagram, and it felt like my whole body had a rush of warmth. Crazy, considering I had just met him.
The bell rings, and everyone quickly files into the hallway. Tyler's almost halfway into the hall before I realize my arm is reaching out for his.
"Hey," I ask, "if you're not in a rush to your next class, would you mind showing me where my locker is? I don't really know how this school works yet, being my first day and all."
I probably could have found it on my own if I tried hard enough, but there was a part of me that really didn't want my time with him to end yet.
Tyler leads me down a long hall, a flight of stairs, past a few classrooms, and finally stops in front of a row of freshly painted, white lockers.
"Lucky you," he says with a chuckle, "New school and a new locker all in the same day."
"I don't know how my life is going to get any better," I reply, "thanks."
"A girl with a bit of wit to her, I see," he says.
"I try my best with what I've got," I smile, "That, or in all honesty, I just say whatever comes to mind. I don't exactly have a filter and it gets me into a lot of trouble."
"I wouldn't mind some brutal honesty, and my locker isn't that far if you want someone to lay it onto." He points two rows down.
"Wish I could say that's my middle name, but I don't have one." He says with a sheepish grin, "I've gotta go, but if you want someone to eat lunch with, I'm usually on the far end of the quad."
Before I have the chance to say thanks again, he's down the hall, turning into a classroom. I wonder if he's had brutal honesty before though. It's not the first time someone's told me they don't mind me, but they usually retract that statement after spending more than a day with me. It's not easy having someone say you do look ugly in that dress, or you're wrong about something, or doing things at her own pace instead of yours, around you all the time.
After second period, lunch arrives and I head to the quad with this girl I met, Lola. She's tall, with long legs and short, curly blonde hair that she scrunches every second she can. She's also definitely a trendsetter with her crop top, high-waisted jeans and matching designer bag. I've never been one for spending mad cash on clothes, but in my thrifted dress and thigh-highs, I did feel a little washed out.
Lola's ranting about some major drama she's dealing with, and I'm only about ten percent tuned out when I hear someone calling my name.
"Aria! Come join us!"
I look up to see Tyler ahead, sitting with a group of friends at a table in the far corner. There's a girl with her arm wrapped around his shoulders, laughing at something one of them said.
"Don't tell me he has a girlfriend," I whisper to Lola. I had told her about meeting Tyler and how he was somewhat electrifying and she had made it her duty to have us married by the end of August.
"Yikes," she says, "At least you found out before, unlike me with Jason and all his crap."
"Yeah, sorry about that." I was kind of listening, and I did feel for her.
We make our way to the table and I introduce myself, and Lola to the group.
"I'm glad I saw you," Tyler says, "This is Cara, Ashley, Matt, and Pete." He motions to the group as they nod hello.
"I'm his girlfriend, Cara."
I try not to notice Tyler wincing slightly as Cara takes her arm off him, and huffs as she pulls out her phone and fires off a few texts.
"So how's the first day going?" He asks.
"Honestly terrible until I met Lola here," I say with a smirk, "First period felt like it went on forever."
"So sorry you had to spend all that time with Tyler," Ashley chimes in, "He can be such a handful."
I laugh, "Nah, it wasn't too bad. He helped me flip some textbook pages and somehow we managed to survive."
"You're so welcome," Tyler says, sticking his tongue out at me for a second.
"Listen," he goes on, "tomorrow all of us are actually going to the beach during lunch period since it's a full hour. It's about a five minute walk, so you two should join us."
"Absolutely!" Lola replies. I can already see her making eyes at Pete, and I may be wrong but he seems to think she's cute too.
"Do you even have a bathing suit?" Cara says, suddenly looking up from her phone, "I mean, you just moved here, so you probably haven't bought a one yet."
Cara looks at me the way my old cat Rylie would look at her mouse toy before pouncing on it and attempting to tear it apart.
"I might have an old one, but I'll just grab one after school," I say, "I passed Bikinis and Shells on my way here, so I figure I'll go there."
"Great," She says, and without a beat, goes back to her phone.
"Claws out," Lola whispers to me.
After school, I'm walking past the gates when a voice calls out.
I turn around to see Tyler jogging towards me.
"Hey, at lunch you said you pass by Bikinis and Shells on the way home, right?" He asks, catching his breath.
"Yeah, I'm about five minutes out."
"My house is three blocks from there," He smiles, "Would you mind if I kept you company for the walk?"
"How could I say no."
We walk for about ten minutes, talking about the day, and how Mr. Carrine's not only a good teacher but also assigns some pretty interesting homework - to write poems based on some prompts, when finally we arrive in front of the bikini store. They have little trinkets and jewelry too which I am way too tempted to take a look at.
"Alright, well I'm headed home, but I'll see you tomorrow?" Tyler says.
"What time do you have to be home?" I ask.
"I don't really have a curfew, mom's lax about that stuff."
"Come help me find a swimsuit," I say, "I can't tie the back and see how it really looks without some help." I can't tell if I'm asking because I do need help, which I am, but I also could just ask a store clerk. I just, again, don't want my time with him to end.
"How could I say no." He replies with a smile that makes my heart hurt just a little.
We enter the store and a clerk guides us to a little back section with splashes of pink and purple on the walls. It's a private changing room with racks of pretty clothes all around it. We look through the racks for a few minutes when Tyler pulls a two-piece off one.
It's baby blue, with a small bow on the front of the top, patterned with leaves and flowers - green and red.
"If you'll take a suggestion, I think this would look nice," he says.
"Baby blue? With patterns?" I cringe a little, "I don't like that much color."
"Okay," he replies, and puts it back before rummaging through.
"I'm sorry," I say, "My tone was a little harsh."
"Nope," he smiles and laughs a little, "Brutal honesty, I remember, and I still want it. And it lets me know what I can choose for you."
Like magic, he pulls another from the rack. It's a deep red two-piece, with gold rings on the side of the bottom and a matching gold in the middle of the top. Simple, elegant, and my favorite color.
I take it from him and step into the changing room. I'm about done, but can't tie the back behind my neck so I step out.
"Hey," I say, "Looks like I wasn't lying, can you help me tie the back?"
Tyler stands behind me and grabs the cloth in both his hands, "Tighter?" He asks.
"Just a little." I say, suddenly very aware of how close he is.
"Is this okay?"
His hand slide down my back a little, and rest on my hips, as we both look at the mirror. Our eyes meet and I turn towards him, his hands still on my waist.
"What do you think?" I ask, my heart beating a little faster.
He looks into my eyes, and his voice is almost a whisper, "Wow... you're the -- one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen."
There's something about him that keeps me in the moment. His eyes locked with mine, his heart beating fast like mine, until he bites the corner of his lip, and I realize his hands are still on my waist.
"Sorry!" He jumps back a little, "I didn't mean to keep holding you. I'll wait outside."
I dip back into the changing room to get back into my regular clothes and press my back to the wall for a moment. His hands felt warm on my body, some of the heat still on my waist and in my chest. I had to push it out of my head, but damn was he magnetic.
I purchase the bathing suit and walk to the outside of the store where Tyler is waiting. We don't say anything for a second, and he opens his mouth to apologize again.
"It's okay," I interrupt, "If you still don't have to be home, let's get a burger. I'm starving."
"That's a good idea." He says, as we start walking towards a diner.
I wonder if he can still feel me too.