Wolf's Lullaby

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Highschool, teens and all that jazz

TARA

Yesterday was…. interesting.

Possible altercation with three stooges aside. Well, technically only one stooge. It was really fun.

The three of us spent almost half a day together. We walked around town, visited a few stores, ate food from those carts I got a whiff of when Mina and I went to the convenience store.

I found Ivan to be a very open person, easy to talk to. A good sense of humor, very charming. Flirty, but all in good fun.

We talked about books, TV shows, movies and music. Like with Mina, we had similar tastes. Basically, all three of us were dorks. Already we made plans for next weekend. A movie marathon at Ivan’s house.

There was no awkwardness between us. It was like we had known each other for ages and I could tell we’ll get along great.

To be honest, I was nervous about meeting Ivan. I didn’t want to make a poor impression on him. He was a best friend of Mina’s and we would probably spend a lot of time in each other’s company. It was important to me we get along. I rarely had a problem of making friends, but those friendships were usually not that deep. Mina was my only close friend. More like family. So I was happy to see how this newfound friendship would develop.

Ivan and I were in almost every class together. I got bummed out when I saw I wasn’t in as many classes with Mina. But was relieved I had another person I knew with me.

I woke up at 6:00 on Monday. Brushed my teeth, washed my face and untangled my hair.

Today it was easy as I left it to dry naturally, so now it flowed neatly in waves down my back to my waist. I said a brief prayer to the hair gods in thanks and hopes for it to not frizz too much, as the forecast said it will rain today. I didn’t want to look like a French poodle on my first day in school. Or any other day, for that matter.

I grabbed my favorite Doctor Who gray hoodie, which I believed whole-heartedly was my lucky charm and some jeans, smacked some cherry lip balm on and went to check if Mina was ready.

I knocked on the door, and I heard a groan. Popping my head in her doorway, I found Mina lying on the bed with her head hanging over the edge, almost touching the floor, her hands crossed over her chest.

“What are you doing? Why are you not dressed?” I asked, amused by her antics, opening the door wider.

“Shhh... I’m feeding my brain. I think it’s oxygen deprived. I’m losing brain cells I need to regenerate,” Mina answered, her face focused, serious.

I laughed. I haven’t seen her doing this since we were in 4th grade in elementary, when Anna- a girl from her class- took her place in a dance play because Mina sprained her ankle the day before. This was how she vented her frustration.

“Brain cells don’t regenerate, you doofus, you’ll get a headache. Get up.”

She squinted her eyes at me. “Really?”

“Yeah, get your butt up, crazy. We’ll be late for school. Chop chop,” I clapped my hands, hurrying her. “Seriously now, what happened?”

“Nothing much, got a lot on my mind…” She exhaled loudly, got up and sat on the bed. “The dance practice is today after school. You should come see us.” She seemed distracted as she padded to the bathroom. I heard the faucet run, but a few seconds later she came to the bathroom door. Toothbrush in mouth, she slouched on the door frame and let out a frustrated groan.

She sighed as if it took all of her strength to let the next words roll out of her mouth. “There is this new target I acquired…”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “What about all that ‘I’m taking a break’ stuff?”

“Come on. You know I’m full of shit.”

“True that. I was just waiting for you to admit it.” I crossed my arms over my chest, leaning on the doorjamb. “So, what about this new unfortunate soul?”

“Ugh!… He’s giving me whiplash, seriously. We texted last night. He kinda flirts with me than he acts all distant and shit. It’s so annoying!” Mina said, frustration seeping out of her, flailing her hands around, spitting toothpaste.

Okay, this was a first time I saw her worked up over a guy. Well, except for that one guy whose name she never divulged. She sounded head over heels in love with him over the phone, and then she just stopped mentioning him. Soon after, she started dating some random guy from her class. Broke up with him a month later.

Since she had had a few more relationships, but they were all short-lived. From the conversations we had over the years, I concluded those guys were the ones to approach her first. And she mostly just gone with the flow. I can’t remember her gushing over any of her exes. She’d give me the most ridiculous excuses about why she dumped them, too. Something in the lines of, he eats too loud; he snort-laughs, his feet are freakishly small, one of his nostrils is bigger than the other…

I didn’t believe that she was shallow or picky. I think she was afraid of getting hurt. Because the Mina that I knew and loved was always the biggest romantic. She believed in soulmates and was always on a lookout for her prince charming. Whatever happened with that guy four years ago left a bitter mark.

I, on the other hand, had little to no experience with guys. I had a lot of crushes, but only one relationship.

If you could even call that a relationship. It was three years ago; I was 14, and it lasted only a week. A guy from my class asked me out, and we had a few dates. We talked, held hands, but when we kissed… it was really awkward. You would expect that from a first kiss, right? But no. The second and the third… they were all off. We didn’t even formally break up. We stopped talking to each other. So, I wouldn’t know a thing about relationship advice or how to woo a guy.

“Maybe he’s shy?” I offered and immediately mentally bitch slapped myself.

“You know, if he can’t decide, he’s not worth your time.” I corrected. She looked at me blankly.

“Yeah! Screw him!” Mina exclaimed enthusiastically, still spitting toothpaste.

“Yeah! You are a strong, independent woman. You need no man!” I piped in on her enthusiasm.

“Yeah!…” the enthusiasm waned a bit, “but he’s too fucking cute, and kind of sweet… Pretty eyes, too.”

“Then you’re a lost cause. Now, Cujo, go finish getting ready. We’ll be late for school.” She tilted her head, puzzled.

I tapped on the corner of my mouth. ‘Toothpaste, foaming at the mouth.’

Since we were later to leave the house we took bicycles to school. The hill wasn’t quite that steep, but I think I had an epiphany. The gates of Heaven opened. If I just pushed a bit more, I think I would have uncovered the secrets of the universe.

Panting and wheezing like a demented zombie, I almost missed all the beautiful Victorian style houses on the way, each prettier than the other, before I finally reached the school.

A red brick building, with big arched windows and gray roof. It didn’t seem as ancient as other buildings in town.

Mina and I parked our bikes at the foot of the steps where the main entrance to school was, then hurried up to our class. Ivan was waiting for us, grinning.

“Ladies, I see you are fashionably late... Whoa Tara! Girl, you are pale, are you ok?” He asked, placing a hand on my shoulder, holding me while I was still panting. I was a sweaty mess. My hair got stuck to my forehead and the nape of my neck.

“No... stamina…. damn... hill… I saw... Jesus...” I wheezed out while wiping off my brow.

He chuckled. “Oh boy, from tomorrow I’m driving the two of you.”

“Hey guys, I’m gonna go since you two traitors take the same class. See you at lunchtime!” Mina waved at us as she hurried down the hall, and so did we.

We had to go up some more stairs. But I couldn’t. My muscles refused to move anymore. I held onto the railing, catching my breath. Never have I regretted more for not exercising regularly, like right at that moment. But being in a fluffy burrito on a bed, eating chips, was more alluring.

“Ok, Princess hop on!” Ivan crouched down so I could climb on his back.

I laughed, but took him up on his offer. I plopped myself on his broad shoulders and kind of just sagged like a rag doll.

“I’m your baby sloth now. You can’t get rid of me anymore. I made my habitat.”

“Oh, yeah? I’ll let you climb me whenever you want.” He laughed, turning his head to me, winking.

I smacked the back of his head playfully. “Bad tree!”

We made it to the classroom, and I waited in front of it for the teacher to come, for my introduction to the class.

Soon I saw an older, skinny man in a blue polo t-shirt and khaki pants. His salt and pepper hair sleeked back, away from his face, and he fixed his big black-rimmed glasses that slid on the tip of his nose.

“You must be Miss. Celaeno?” He asked in a nasal voice, approaching the door of the classroom.

“Yes.”

He grumbled about how it was such a hustle to have a transfer student in the middle of the semester and something about a school system being flawed or whatever as he opened the door.

I was hit by what seemed like a million voices. My heart was thumping like crazy, and I clenched a fist around my backpack strap like it was a lifeline as I entered behind the teacher. Suddenly all noise stopped. And even though I was looking at the floor, I sensed curious eyes on me.

Slowly, I raised my head, and sure enough, everyone was looking at me. All thirty of them. Ivan was waving from the far back of the classroom, giving me a reassuring smile. I nodded and then found floor boards to be quite interesting, thinking if I could fit in the cracks.

Being the center of attention, I was never a fan of.

“Ok, class, this is your new classmate, Tara Celaeno. Be nice,” the teacher said in a bored tone as he placed the books on his desk. “Go sit in the back there. Now, all of you stop gawking and get your textbooks out.”

With an awkward smile, I started walking through the rows to the back. Ivan caught my eye as he motioned to the seat next to him.

Relief filled me as I walked to him. He squeezed my hand as I sat down, giving me a piece of paper with something scribbled on it.

You ok? The note said, and I nodded. He gave me a tiny smile.

Ten minutes into math class, a door of the opened abruptly. The whole classroom jolted toward the sound, and there in the door frame stood the grump. Clad in all black. Black ripped jeans, black t-shirt, black backpack, black soul. A sullen expression on his face.

He nodded toward the teacher, whose jaw ticked with annoyance, but he said nothing and continued his lecture.

The class, that was full of whispering, rustling, and muffled laughter, suddenly became deadly quiet. The only sound, that of the teacher’s unenthusiastic voice and tapping of the chalk on the blackboard. Everyone seemed uncomfortable, antsy in their seats.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as Philip took his seat behind me near the window.

Oh, goodie! The ray of sunshine is here! I wrote to Ivan.

Yeah, sorry I forgot to tell you, he wrote back and clasped his hands together like he was asking for forgiveness, giving me an apologetic smile.

I took a peek at the harbinger of death, and our eyes met. I froze. My heart thumped, did a little flippy thing, and dropped like a rock.

The guy was still making the face like my mere existence offended him. Well, screw him! So I picked my metaphorical balls off the floor and scowled back at him. If he looked like a rabid Doberman, then I probably looked like a haughty Maltese, but I had a sudden rush of courage, so I stuck my tongue out for good measure. Yes, I’m three years old. I know.

There was a flicker of surprise on his face. And what’s that? Was that a smirk?

But, then he turned away, put his head on the backpack on his desk, looking through the window or sleeping. I couldn’t really tell.

When first class ended, Crabby Pants zoomed out of the classroom at the speed of light, as if Cerberus himself was nipping at his heels. The deadly quiet classroom filled with chatter again. Hmm?

“So, you’re the new human in town.” A girl said, all big blue eyes and big, curly hair, floating around her head like a golden cloud. She was dainty, reminded me of a pixie. I blinked. Ookay. As opposed to what? Alien? A possum?

“Yeah… I’m Tara. Nice to meet you.” I extended my hand to her, trying to smile politely while thinking about how she was a few marbles short from a full jar.

Of all the people ogling me, she was the first of my classmates to approach me. She regarded me with friendly curiosity as she took my hand, but she seemed a tad bit off. I don’t know if it was the doe eyes or the overall air about her. All bouncy and buoyant. I was half expecting her to spread pixie dust around. She bit her lower lip like she was confused about something and then her eyes grew even bigger, like she just had a revelation. “Oh! The memo!” she facepalmed.

I was really confused, so I looked at Ivan, who gave her an incredulous stare.

“Vera, don’t be weird. Just shake her hand like a normal person. We’ve got another class to go to.” Ivan said, picking up his books.

“Oh, right! Nice to meet you too!” She beamed at me, squeezing my hand then releasing it, “Well, see ya around!” Vera smiled, then pranced out of the classroom like a unicorn on ecstasy, curls bouncing as she went.

“I want whatever she’s having. It seems like a cool trip.” I announced, making Ivan chuckle.

After the first period, I didn’t have other classes with Philip. The classes progressed slowly and were really boring. Ivan and I kept writing notes to one another and playing tick tack toe.

Lunch break came, and we went to the cafeteria. As we scoured the tables looking for a free one, we found it near the huge sliding door overlooking the schoolyard. Moving through the crowd, I heard people whispering, saw them exchanging looks and peering at me curiously.

Guess I’m the belle of the ball today.

Apparently one with bubonic plague, because when I approached a few new classmates today, they made it obvious they wouldn’t talk to me, so they scrammed. Rude.

We took our seat, and I checked my phone for messages from Mina. She said she will be here in five minutes.

“Oh! Hey there doll.” A familiar blond guy stood next to our table. It was the stooge from yesterday, the man bun guy, Luca or something.

“I’m Luca. Sorry about yesterday,” he extended his hand and smiled friendly. The guy had a pleasant smile. I mean, he was also pleasant to look at. His eyes were a different shade of blue than Ivan’s, but were no less beautiful.

I craned my neck to see if I could spot Philip in the vicinity as I reached out for his extended hand, but he wasn’t there.

“He doesn’t eat here.” Luca said, chuckling at me.

Oh… “So, what? Grumpy is too good for the school cafeteria?”

“Nope, he just doesn’t like the crowd. I’m on food duty today.” Luca smiled, pointing to the yard with a bag full of junk food, where I could see Philip sitting on the bench underneath birch trees, flipping through his phone.

I gave him a sympathetic smile.

He shrugged and took two fries from my plate and popped them in his mouth, “He’s not that bad, kinda grows on you.”

I snorted, “Like a severe case of yeast infection.” Ivan barely contained a laugh next to me.

“I like you! You’re funny.” Luca patted my back, smiling widely. “Well, see ya around, doll. You too Ivan. Gotta feed Grumpy.” He brought two fingers to his temple and saluted us before exiting the cafeteria.

Moments after Blondie left, I heard a familiar voice yell, “Hello Bitches!” Mina had her hands in the air, waving to us as she sashayed in the cafeteria, a bright smile on her face.

Behind her, I noticed, were two more girls. Both were beautiful. One had long, sleek black hair, bronze skin and chocolate brown eyes and the other wavy auburn hair falling just slightly over her shoulders, and forest green eyes.

Heads turned towards them the moment they entered the room. Guys gave them appreciative looks. Even the ones with girlfriends stuck on their arms or laps craned their necks to peer at them, earning some blistering looks from their better halves. Girls didn’t seem as enthralled.

Perks of looking like goddesses, I guess. Earning the longing looks of men and scornful, envious looks of women. The ingredients of many a Greek tragedy.

“Hey T!” Mina gave both Ivan and me a peck on the cheek, then sat next to me and immediately started chomping fries from my plate.

I slapped her hand away playfully. “Get your own damn fries!”

“But it’s tastier like this,” she winked and took Ivan’s fries next. The two girls who were trailing behind her also approached our table. The red head leaned on the table facing Ivan, a coquettish smile on her face, twirling a lock of her auburn hair. “Hey, Ivan,” she said in a sweet voice, biting her lower lip enticingly.

“Hey, Lila,” he said, flashing a smile at her.

“Oh, Tara, these are my friends from class.” Mina said, still stuffing her face with our food.

“Hello, I’m Clara. Nice to meet you. Mina talks a lot about you,” the black-haired one said, extending her hand, her voice velvety. The way she spoke and held herself kind of made me straightened my spine.

Something weird happened when I shook her hand. She held mine with both of hers, longer than you would for a normal handshake, all the while holding my gaze like she was trying to peer into my soul. I had the urge to pull my hand away, but thought it would be rude. She blinked, tilting her head, a puzzled look on her face.

“And this is Lila.” Mina said, nodding in the redhead’s direction, nudging Clara, making her divert her gaze and letting go of my hand. Clara gave me a small awkward smile, which I returned.

The red head just nodded at me and smiled softly. “Nice to meet you, Tara. We heard so many wonderful things.”

“Nice to meet you both.” I said, feeling uncomfortable as Clara was still staring at me with a perplexed expression. What the hell is wrong with people here?

Clara straightened, snapping herself out of her thoughts, giving us a polite, strained smile. “Well, we’ll let you eat your lunch. See you around. Oh, and Mina,” she gave her a meaningful look. “Don’t forget about the assignment on Friday.” Hooking arms with Lila, who wiggled her phone in Ivan’s direction, mouthing ‘call me’ before Clara pulled her and they walked away from our table.

“Well, they seem…” I struggled for the right word.

“Weird? Intense?” Mina supplied.

“Yeah…”

“Guess weirdos attract other weirdos. They are cool when you get to know them. But Ivan, don’t mess around with Lila.” Mina warned. Something akin to frustration crossed his face, but it got buried way too fast, so I couldn’t be sure.

“Hey, not my fault. Complain to my parents, they made me this handsome.” He jutted his chin at her, smirking.

She gave him the stink eye. “Ok, ok I won’t. I swear.” he held his hands in resignation. “She might not be easily deterred. I mean, can you really blame the girl? I am a prime piece of man meat,” Ivan teased, gesturing with his hands at his body.

Mina rolled her eyes at him, snorting, “Comparing yourself to a piece of delicious stake is sad, bro.”

“Oh, so I’m delicious, I can live with that,” Ivan wiggled his eyebrows at her one minute and in the next, he regretted it as she kicked him in the shin under the table.

“Ouch! Not cool!” He rubbed his leg.

Mina snapped her fingers. “Focus, lover boy. You know why I’m warning you.”

Ivan sighed, defeated, like he heard the same thing frequently, “Yeah, yeah, I know.” He paused, turning serious for a moment. “But what if I wanna date her?”

Mina looked at him, stunned. She seemed a little uncomfortable, lowering her gaze to the table surface, her fingers playing over it, tracing patterns. She looked back at him, tucking a strand of her lavender hair behind her ear. In a serious tone, she asked him, “Do you?”

An intense beat of silence passed as the two of them stared at each other. Anticipation playing on Mina’s face. “So…?” She prompted. Ivan looked pensive for a moment. His gaze roamed her face as if searching for something. Then he sighed and just shrugged. “I don’t know. I might.”

Mina gave him a stare that could wilt flowers. A corner of her right eye ticked with annoyance. “You don’t know, you stay away. I don’t wanna scoop your balls from a pickle jar.”

“She that bad?” I asked, amused.

“Hmm, she is a nice girl and all, but she gets too attached sometimes. And he doesn’t do attached. So a pickle jar would be the least of his problems with her.” She gave him a pointed look.

Ivan reclined in his chair. “I know, I know. I’ll let her down gently.”

Satisfied with his answer, Mina changed the subject, “Ok. Now, did you watch the video I sent you?”

Conversation moved to dance practice, so I trailed off.

Such a weird day. It was only the lunch break, but I felt exhausted, so I laid my head on the cafeteria table and looked outside.

It was quite gloomy. The clouds were gray and heavy like led. Soon, the first drops of rain fell.

On days like these, I liked to snuggle in my blanket on my bed, play some instrumental music, grab a book, some herbal tea and just chill. I loved the pitter- patter of raindrops on the windowsill, the gentle hum of water, a soft sputtering as it cascaded over leaves and hit the pavement, the distant sound of rolling thunder. The melody of pouring rain relaxed me.

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