“Hey honey, how was your first day?” My mom sat on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around her legs for warmth. The sofa still smelt like stale cigarettes despite how many times we scrubbed it with laundry detergent.
“Different.” I sighed and her eyes softened with guilt.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make East Side work.” She admitted sadly.
“Bell View is alright.” I lied but her face wasn’t comforted any more. “Mom, you have nothing to be sorry for. None of this is your fault. It’s all his fault.” She smiled gently and I cuddled up to her underneath the blanket for warmth. All I could smell was the sofa, it was bought from a preloved website and it wasn’t in the best condition but we literally had nothing.
Meanwhile my father sat in a mansion that overlooked the beach, complete with an infinity pool, a cinema room and a private gym. The worst part was that our last house wasn’t even the only property he owned, he had a few private houses located abroad and he owned a lot of real estate that he planned to sell on.
Yet he left my mom with nothing, not a single dime.
My mom was looking old now, like the stress of life was catching up on her. She continuously looked tired and her hair had both grayed and thinned generously. Maybe it had always been that way but her expensive hair stylist worked his magic and made it look full, conditioned and luxurious. But there was no doubting that the split had took a toll on her mental health and outer appearance. I hated seeing her suffer so badly.
We ate a microwave dinner on the sofa together and then I excused myself so I could video call Michael and catch up on every last bit of gossip that I missed out on at East Side.
“Hey” I said, trying to fake a smile.
“Hey babe, how was your first day?” His handsome face appeared, he was still wearing his uniform and it made me feel even sadder because I missed it so much.
“I hated it. The people there are so different, they’re all rude and they look like delinquents. This girl made fun of my clothes and a boy called me a spoiled brat.” I let out all of my feelings to my boyfriend and I could see him squinting at the screen, not paying attention to whatever I had to say.
“Is that your room?” He asked with disgust.
I looked around, my mom managed to secure us a one bed apartment in the bad part of town with the savings that she kept hidden once her relationship started falling apart. It was undercoated with furniture that we were donated or had accumulated from charity shops so everything was mismatched. The walls had cracks or pot holes and the pipes were exposed, often dripping. We couldn’t afford heating and the neighbors were sketchy drug dealers.
“Yeah.” I said, awkwardly positioning my body closer to the camera in efforts to hide the background because I could see the judgement in his eyes from across the computer screen.
“Mia” Michael gasped with pity.
Michael was used to riches, he lived in a nine bed mansion when only three people lived in the house. He had staff to cater to his every need and they had their own living quarters located within the house. His family owned three yachts, a private jet and too many cars to count.
“It’s not that bad and it’s only temporary... until we find our feet, you know? I’m going to get a job, help with money.” I told him, he gasped again.
“You’re going to get a-a-a ... job.” He said the word like it were vermin on his lips. He never had any aspirations in life, all he ever wanted was to mooch off his parents, live off his trust fund and then inherit his families wealth. His life was one big luxury and that made me jealous.
“I don’t have much choice Michael.” I sighed sadly and there was a long pause, one that should be filled with his support and understanding but instead the void was filled with silence.
“I know what will cheer you up, there’s a party at the boat house on Saturday. Someone’s hired it out, you’ll feel better mixing with people of your own kind. Come with me.” I could see him run his fingers through his auburn hair, disturbing the neat comb over he had going on but then a smile appeared on his face to reassure me.
“Okay.” I agreed.
“Great, I’ll pick you up at eight.”
“Here?” I exclaimed, my tone a little high pitched. I really didn’t want Michael to see where I lived.
“Yeah babe, I’ll see you then. Love you.” He sounded cheerful, too cheerful and I had this rush of anxiety within me.
If he truly cared about me then he wouldn’t care what my house looked like, he would just be happy to see me. That’s what I tried to tell myself but deep down I knew I wasn’t fooling anybody, especially myself.
“Love you” I muttered out quietly before hanging up the call.
I stood in a towel, my hair dripping cold water down my back as I looked over all of my clothes. They lay out across the bed in an unwelcome display. The more expensive items I had already sold on and in the remainders I tried to find something unbranded, yet there was nothing.
I settled for a Ted Baker day dress, it was small and floral but it was from a few seasons back so I hoped that would compensate for the designer wear and plus it wasn’t obviously designer, the logo was a small tag sticking out discretely on the left hand side.
I grabbed a handful of grapes on the way out and rushed for the school bus. Tucking a strand of hair behind my ear shyly as I took my seat. I could hear whispering from each person I passed and eyes trailed my body from all over the bus. I slouched down in my seat willing myself to disappear.
The rest of the day went very similar, for some reason I felt like everybody was talking about me, yet nobody made any attempts to talk to me. During lunch I couldn’t bring myself to sit beside anyone, they wouldn’t want me there. So I just grabbed a ‘to go’ bag and headed to the library.
I figured only the nerds hung out at the library throughout lunch hour and they wouldn’t give me any trouble. I pushed open the doors and became baked in a blissful silence, the smell of old books clung to the air. There were a few kids seated at the large mahogany tables but they didn’t look up from their books. I made my way to the back of the room, always trying to find an antisocial corner.
The library was on two stories, the main ground floor and a balcony up some stairs. I climbed the stairs immediately and hid behind some book shelves. A dramatic sigh brought my attention to the floor and I could see Noah sitting with his back against one of the back shelves. His head tilted to the ceiling and his eyes closed in annoyance.
“Why are you always here?” He complained.
I walked closer and slumped down opposite him. His eyes burnt into me, they rendered me speechless. Not dark, but warm. Like the exact shade of a delicious latte, with a outer golden ring to his irises giving his eyes more depth and emotion. I had never seen such beautiful soulful windows before and I felt saddened that his inner core wasn’t half as pretty as his outer one.
“Business for dummies?” I questioned, eyeing up his book. He slammed it closed and slotted it back on the shelf.
“God, you’re so invasive.” He spat out coldly.
“I’m invasive because I read the title to the book you’re reading which you made no efforts to hide?” He looked up at me, dumbfounded and I bit back a smile.
“No.” He replied stubbornly. “You’re invasive because you are a princess who believes you’re entitled to answers.”
I looked down at his attire, a hoodie and jeans seem to be his go-to fashion. Only today he was wearing a distressed denim jacket on top. His sleeves were again rolled up showing the nasty scar on his forearm.
“How did you get that?” I questioned, nodding my head in the direction of his scar. I knew full well that more questions would make him even madder.
He looked down at his arm and visibly tensed, after giving his scar the stink eye he pulled down his sleeves, hiding it away from my vision.
“Like I said, entitled.” I rolled my eyes, that’s what everyone thought of me here; entitled, spoilt, a brat, a princess. At least Noah had the decency to say it to my face and not whisper about me behind my back. He stood up and slung his bag over his shoulder, leaving me answer-less and alone at the back of the library.