Chapter One: Paige
The alarm clock on the nightstand came alive. I rolled over onto my side cursing at it. The bright red letters read six in the morning. I rolled out of bed after hitting the ‘snooze’ button. The clothes I had picked out to wear the night before hung over the chair by my bedroom window. Today would be my first day at Rosewood High School. It was my sophomore year, and I would be attending a new school.
The nerves were skyrocketing inside of my stomach as I took a shower. Once I got out, I curled my hair then put on the clothes I had picked out for my first day. I stood in front of the mirror that hung on the back of my bedroom door. Tossing my hair to the side I stopped to admire myself. The light jean capris my mom picked out for me and the pink blouse made my hazel eyes stand out. I felt pretty in my own skin. Hopefully, everyone at Rosewood High would accept me. I just wanted to fit in.
It was March, the middle of the semester. Normally parents that move a child to a new school do it at a reasonable time frame, but my mom insisted on moving in with her new husband Jerry before school was over. I’d be attending the same school as Jerry’s son Danny. He wasn’t as thrilled about the idea as I was. My younger brother Tommy lived with us as well. When Jerry and his ex-wife divorced, he got the house, and it was big enough for the five of us. Tommy would be going to the local elementary school which was only a few blocks from the high school.
Today was going to be the start of a new beginning for all of us. When my dad left my mom a few years back it didn’t just affect her, but my brother Tommy was very hurt by it. It took him months of counseling to finally settle down and the nightmares to stop. It wasn’t your typical divorce and if I was there that night to witness it all go down, I’d be just like my brother Tommy. Leaving the house, I grew up in, my friends and the neighborhood I knew like the back of my hand was the hardest thing for me. Moving to a new city meant new beginnings and I was ready for a change. We all were.
I grabbed my backpack off the floor and headed down the stairs. My mom was standing near the stove in the kitchen looking as if she belonged. Her curly blonde hair was tied back as sweat creeped down her face. She was wearing her favorite red slim dress that complimented her curves. A light pink apron hung around her waist with two pockets near the bottom. She was so beautiful. I envied her so much.
She turned around to notice me standing behind her. A smile grew slowly across her face. “Are you ready?”
I nodded, even though I wasn’t.
“I’m almost done with breakfast if you’re hungry.”
She flipped the bacon before putting it back into the oven. She had a whole meal prepared for all of us. Even though this wasn’t Danny’s first day of school I knew he’d appreciate my mother’s cooking. “Do you mind taking Tommy to the bus stop. I have to get to work early today.” She asked with desperation in her eyes.
My mom was a realtor and selling homes was her specialty. It was as if she was born to sell. She worked hard her whole life for Tommy and me, giving us everything we needed. Now that Jerry was in the picture, we all knew she didn’t have to work so hard anymore. She was stubborn though and boy did she love to work. So, there was no arguing with her.
Before I could answer, Danny walked into the kitchen. His new flannel and dark jeans made my stomach flutter. He was good looking in an undesirable way. Any girl would be lucky to have him. He sat down on the stool next to me. The grin across his face lit up the room while he looked down at the food my mom had made. “Looks delicious, Melissa.”
My mother smiled at Danny’s compliment. When they first met, two years ago, Danny despised my mom. He assumed she’d be like the other women his dad dated and try to take his mother’s place. His mother had passed away five years ago from cancer and it hurt him more than he led on. Then a few months after they got more serious in their relationship, Danny’s dad got into a fatal car accident. Danny was sure he’d lose his father too. Holding onto fate he realized my mom was going to be there for him. After that, the two got along. They did so much together and when Jerry got well again, he knew my mother was the one he wanted to marry. It made me happy knowing they got along. It made everything go much smoother for us as a family.
Danny grabbed a plate and started filling it with eggs, bacon, and toast. I did the same. Now if only my nerves would let me eat. Tommy walked in a few moments later, dressed, and ready for school. He placed a small kiss on my mother’s cheek then sat down for breakfast. He took the seat next to Danny but was still unsure of him. The idea of him having a new, older brother was weird at first. The whole drive here Tommy cried and pleaded to my mom for us to stay at the only home we knew as kids. He was finally warming up to the non-familiar home we were forced to live inside of.
Life was perfect for a moment. Then the phone rang, my mom excused herself from the table before jumping up to answer it. After a few short minutes she came back into the kitchen to tell us her boss called saying he needed to see her in the office immediately.
“Well kids, that’s my cue.” She put on her coat and shoes then grabbed her purse from the kitchen counter. “Paige, don’t forget to drop Tommy off at the bus stop.”
“Can’t Danny do it?” I asked her, after all he was the one with a car.
“Can’t” he mumble while taking a bite of his eggs. “Car is broke. Derek’s dad is fixing it as we speak.”
I gave him a snarled look “Can you not talk with your mouth full?”
He stuck his tongue out, revealing the chewed-up food that was in his mouth. He was so annoying. We didn’t get along well but I promised my mom I’d try to be civil with him for their sake. It was a love hate relationship. We both had only one goal in mind and that was for our parents to be happy. We were doing a decent job at it so far.
I covered my eyes. “You’re gross.”
“How are you getting to school Danny?” My mom asked him.
“Derek is coming to get me.”
“Can’t he give us a ride?” I asked. If not, I’d have to walk to the bus stop then to the school which was a lot farther on foot. Being late on my first day of school wasn’t the plan.
He shook his head no.
I rolled my eyes at him. Whatever.
“He has to pick up his friends. There won’t be any room in the car.”
I’d have to find friends to give me a ride to school every day or convince my mom to help me get my license soon. I’d be turning sixteen in a few weeks and already had my permit. Getting my license was the plan before we moved here, now it’s as if my mom has plans for herself. My mom kissed Tommy on the head in a rush to get out the door. “I’ll see you kids later. Be good and have a nice first day.”
Danny’s friend Derek pulled into the driveway honking his horn to let Danny know he was here. I couldn’t quite get a good look at him from the living room window before he squealed down the driveway racing down the road. Teenage boys were such jerks. I was sure Danny, and his friends were all the same.
Yet, I was interested to know what this guy, who Danny couldn’t stop talking about, looked like. He had been Danny’s best friend since the second grade but ever since my mom and I moved in Danny had been keeping all his friends away from the house. It seemed as though he was trying to hide us but that was about to end.
Tommy finished tying his shoes then we walked out the front door. I locked it behind us before setting out down the sidewalk to the bus stop. I got him there just as the bus pulled up. I double checked his backpack to make sure he had everything he needed for his first day before sending him on his way. Now it was my turn. I had less than twenty minutes to walk to the school and get to class.
The school was what I expected it to be and more. The grass was freshly cut with tall trees and flower beds scattered about. The building itself stood two-story’s tall made from beautiful red bricks. Slim, square windows let the sunshine into the classrooms that wrapped around the school. A wide parking lot was divided between students and staff. Numbers were painted on the ground assigning them where to park. I walked closer to the building following a sidewalk that led up to the front doors.
Flapping high on a pole was an American flag, showing the pride of our great country. Double doors made from glass were the main entrance. Thin- black letters above read ROSEWOOD HIGH SCHOOL. Students stood outside talking with their friends. I pushed myself past a few popular girls that were gossiping over their drunk weekend bash. I opened the doors to the school as my nerves started getting worse. My throat was getting dry as I realized I knew no one here but Danny and he was going to act like he didn’t know me. This was going to be the worse first day.
Once I was inside the school there was a wooden door to the left of me with the word OFFICE on it. I walked inside to get my schedule, book list and locker information. I looked down at the sheet in front of me. My first class was homeroom with Mrs. Fritz. The hallway was filled with students scattering in different directions. It had a clean, neat feel to the whole place. Goal and direction inspired posters hung on the walls, inspiring those who read them. I stopped at one that read “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal.”
My locker was number 202 and it wasn’t far from the office. I placed my backpack on the floor beside me, with my combination in hand I began attempting at the lock. The bell rang over head as a warning that class was about to start. I was going to be late on my first day. I attempted the lock combination again, but it wasn’t opening.
Six... Nineteen...Twenty-six...I pulled down on the lock, nothing. Panic was beginning to rise up in my lungs. I kicked at the locker as the bell rang again. The hallway was now empty, and I only remained standing. I could feel the tears forming in my eyes.
I felt a light touch on my shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Someone to help, thank god!
I turned around to see a guy standing behind me. He was tall and handsome in his ripped black jeans and white T-shirt. The smell from his cologne caused my mind to blurry. His green eyes looked down at me as he brushed his hair back waiting for me to respond.
“I...um, my lock it’s not working.”
I stepped out of the way as he lifted the lock. “What’s your combination?”
I read him the combination numbers. He turned the dial left, right then left again, pulled the lock down and it opened. “Thank you.”
He smiled “you didn’t pass the second number.”
I lifted my index finger up at him “I always forget to do that.” We laughed together.
He brushed his hair back from his face again. “I’m Jared Hickler. I take it this is your first day?”
“Is it that obvious?” I joked.
“Where are you from?” He asked me.
I placed my backpack in my locker and grabbed a folder, notepad, and a pen for class. “I’m from Tennessee originally but my mom, brother and I moved here from Kalamazoo.”
“Tennessee, really? I would have figured you were born and raised in Michigan.”
I shook my head no. “Actually, my mom moved to Michigan when her and my dad divorced. She met her new husband two years ago and we recently moved here to Grand Rapids.”
We started walking together down the hall, unaware of where we were going. “I’m sure you’ll like it here.”
“So far I do.” I lied.
He brushed his hair back again. Gosh, he must be really nervous walking in this empty hall alone with me. I had to admit I was a bit nervous as well. He was gorgeous in the ‘bad boy’ way. A guy at my old school in Kalamazoo was like him. He had that ‘bad boy’ vibe. In seventh grade he asked me out but back then my mom wouldn’t let me date. I ended up having to sneak around with him, it only lasted a week before my mom found out and forced me to break up with him. A few days later he was dating a girl named Kimberly. Maybe this was my second chance at the “bad boy” romance.
“I’m Paige by the way, Paige Dunsworth.”
He smirked “Nice to meet you Paige. Are you a freshman?”
I shook my head “Sophomore” The bell rang again indicating we were late.
“Me too, we are both late for homeroom Paige. What teacher do you have?”
I pulled out my schedule from the folder, already forgetting what classes I had. “Mrs. Fritz, room 211.”
“I’m in room 215. I know the first day can be a load. I was the new kid last year so if you need anything today Paige, I can help.”
I couldn’t stop looking at him as we walked to class. We discussed my old school and how much bigger this school was. The conversation flowed so freely like we knew each other for years. My classroom was across the hall from Jared’s. We said goodbye as he entered room 215, leaving me alone in front of the door to room 211. I wanted today to be a good day, maybe with Jared as my tour guide things would go more smoothly.
Here it goes.
I turned the knob and pulled the door open revealing myself to the whole class. The teacher looked over at me and smiled wide. I walked inside as everyone was talking to their friends.
“You must be Miss Dunsworth. I’m Mrs. Fritz. Please dear take a seat anywhere you’d like.”
Everyone was talking but a few students looked up at me as I made my way between the desks to the third row back. I found an empty seat and sat down. I felt a light tap on my back and turned around. A young girl with fair skin and blonde hair that stopped at her chin smiled at me. Her green eyes were wide and glowing with happiness.
“Hello, I’m Mandy Decker.” She chimed in. “What’s your name?”
I smiled back at her. “I’m Paige Dunsworth.”
“Where are you from?”
“I just moved here,” I stopped to look behind her. Danny was staring back at me with fear in his eyes. “Uh, I’m from Kalamazoo.”
“Oh” she clapped her hands together. “My family and I went there once. It’s a nice place.”
I nodded. “I liked it.”
She continued to tell me about her trip to my old hometown, but her voice became noise in the background as I noticed that the guy sitting next to Danny was staring at me. His eyes remained locked as I stared back at him.
Lost deep in his crystal blue eyes I felt myself losing focus of the world around me. His dark brown hair hung in his face, he ran his hand through it brushing it over, so it was out of his eyes. I wasn’t aware that I was starving until now. My daydream sent me thinking about his lips on mine. Who was he? I had to find out. The corner of his mouth lifted up to form a smile before he looked away from me.
Mandy pulled me back to reality when she tapped on my arm. I jolted up as she scared me. “Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yeah, sorry. I’m okay.” I lied.
The bell rang telling us that class was over. This was going to be a far more interesting day then I had expected.