“Lucy! Get up!”
“Already up, Dad!” I yelled back, putting on a light pair of jeans. I pulled on my dark red striped half-sleeved shirt and fussed over my hair in the mirror for a second or two before another call of “Lucy!” got me to rush out my room door.
My dad was waiting in the kitchen, spatula in hand. “First day of school, don’t want to be late.” He chided playfully, as I sat down at the table.
He passed me a plate loaded with fruit, pancakes, and a few strips of bacon, which I dug into eagerly.
“Mmm...thanks, Dad. This is good.”
He nodded his welcome, and set the utensil down on the counter. “So you have all your stuff ready?”
I rolled my eyes pointedly, but smiled at him.
“I’m pretty sure I’m good, Dad.”
“Really?” He pressed.
“Dad, yes. I’m fine.” I groaned dramatically.
“Alright, alright, honey.” He raised his hands in a “I’ll back off now” gesture.
“Love you.” I pressed a kiss to his cheek and gave him a brief one-armed squeeze before picking up my bag and heading out the front door.
It was a crisp day, surprisingly warm and bright for September. Normally we didn’t get this much sunshine so close to the start of autumn.
Oh, well. Not like I was going to complain. With the light breeze coming in and not a cloud in sight, it felt like it was going to be a good day.
I pulled out my card, and hopped on the bus when it pulled up to the stop.
It was about a 15 minute drive to the school, about a 25-30 minute walk from my house.
And there was no way in hell I was ever going to convince myself to wake up early enough to walk there, so taking the public bus it was.
I may be a morning person, but there was still a difference between a clear lack of sleep and being more capable of getting enough of your shit together to function earlier in the day.
I just so happened to be in the latter category.
Laken March High School was a wide, two-storey brown brick building, just roomy enough to fit in all 500 of its students and its teachers.
Already I could see kids walking in groups towards the various entrances around the building.
I jumped down from the bus, and spotted at a familiar head of dark curly brown hair.
One of my best friends, Crystal Lashgari, turned and beamed at me. “Oh, hey, Lucy!”
She was wearing a comfortable violet sweater and leggings, a shiny brown clip pinning her wild hair back on one side.
I jogged up to catch up with her, and we walked in the entrance together. “So...how was your summer?”
“It was really good,” She answered cheerfully. No matter what, Crystal always had an optimistic view...well, up until around exams and summatives were due, but really, every other time she usually was pretty happy. “We went to Turkey this year for a few weeks, which was amazing, but the time change was crazy…”
She went on to fill me in on how she and her family went walking around all the famous landmarks, like the Troy Ruins, and how huge the Trojan Horse statue was. The place they were staying at was really nice, though, even if her parents had had a hard time understanding what the hotel staff were saying…
“So how was your summer?” She finally asked me.
I shrugged. “Pretty uneventful. I played soccer, and almost got sunstroke.”
She chuckled sympathetically, unsure whether or not I was kidding. “Oh, no. Really?”
“Nah,” I answered truthfully. “But it was so hot out, I swear to God…”
She giggled, and I laughed, dramatically regaling the extremely high temperatures we had gotten that summer. “I thought my shoes were going to melt!”
We ran into some more of our friends by the time we reached our lockers.
Layla, who looked stunning as always in a tight skirt and low-cut tank top, her long brown hair in a half-ponytail, Willow, loaded down with books as usual, looking quite modest in comparison in a blue short sleeved blouse and polka dot skirt with leggings, and Liz, who I had befriended in our first year of high school, wearing a turquoise plaid shirt and jeans, her arms crossed nervously in front of her.
“Hey, guys.” I stopped in front of our new lockers, and began to unload my stuff. “How were your summers?”
Layla was the first to jump in eagerly, and it soon sounded as though she had spent most of her time binge-shopping in the mall, and talking to a cute boy she had met in July.
“He. Was. Adorable.”
She was a true girly-girl at heart, and had a definite bitchy side to her, but also a fierce loyalty to her friends that she would defend with her life...sparkly heels or otherwise.
Willow was much more down to Earth, a theatre kid with a great voice and one of the most intelligent people I knew. She greeted me with a friendly smile, and told me about the long hours she spent volunteering at various camps over the summer. “I hate small children,” She groaned, when she had finished, although I could tell she didn’t really mean it. “They take more than they give until you’re dead inside.”
“Sounds about right,” I agreed, while Crystal shook her head, dark curls bobbing. “They can be awfully cute though…”
“Also true,” I added, pulling out my binder. “How was yours, Liz?”
She shrugged, fiddling with a strand of her wavy dirty blonde hair. “It was alright,” She thought for a moment. “My siblings were hell, but I did get a lot of time to myself while they were gone, so--” She shrugged again and grinned, like it was a win-win scenario. She was usually very quiet, and more shy than most people realized, but had an extremely goofy nature deep down and noticed more than most people could even if they tried. She could also kick all their asses without a second thought if provoked.
“Ooh, ’by yourself’, huh?” Layla nudged her with a suggestive smirk. “Doing what exactly?”
“Yeah,” Liz scowled, and moved away. “Working, you idiot. Not all of us can make money just by smiling pretty at people.”
Layla glared at that, her green eyes narrowing. “Now I just sound like a prostitute…”
Liz smiled at her innocently. “What’s your point, exactly?”
While they argued and Willow tried to calm them down in vain, I shook my head and put the rest of my things away in my locker, slamming the door shut.
“So what do you have first period?” Crystal asked, tugging her backpack higher on her shoulders.
“Uh...first period...Chemistry.” “OK. And second?” “Um, let’s see...Art.”
I shrugged at Crystal’s confused look. “But I thought you hated art.”
I looked away uncomfortably. “Uh, well. Maybe I changed my mind?” I winced at how the last sentence sounded more like a question than an answer.
Thankfully, Crystal didn’t press the question further, and patted my shoulder. “Well, I hope you enjoy yourself anyways.”
“Thanks, mom.” I said teasingly, making her giggle before she headed to her own first period class (“AP English.”).
I ran into a few more people on my way to class, including my soccer captain from last year, Maia Prasad, who stopped to ask me whether or not I was going to come out again this year for tryouts. She looked very pleased when I assured her I most definitely would. “Sweet. We need your speed again this year.” “Looking forward to it!” I called over my shoulder as she walked off in the opposite direction.
I ran into a few more people who wanted to ask about my summer, and by the time I finished chatting with them, it was much later than I realized. I checked my watch as I walked quickly down the hall.
I would be lucky to get there on time, but I would have to really move my ass.
I broke into a full-on sprint as I turned the corner, and didn’t see the person who was jogging in from the opposite direction.
I smashed right into a smaller girl carrying a heavy red binder and a black sketchbook.
It was like right out of a movie, the stuff we were holding just flew everywhere, papers and pens soaring through the air to freedom.
I ended up on flat on my ass and the person I ran into was on their stomach.
I hopped up hastily. “Oh, God. I’m really, really sorry about that.” I said quickly, scrambling to help pick up their stuff for them.
“S’OK,” The person muttered, getting to their knees. “I was in a rush too.”
“I just didn’t see you there, and I’m just...sorry. Are you alri--” I looked up to meet wide, deep brown eyes a few inches from my face.
It couldn’t be. Could it actually be--?
“Faith?” My voice came out sounding completely shocked.
Her eyes widened, startled, before narrowing. The sudden change was quick, but there was no mistaking that it was her.
She picked up another paper and stuffed it into her binder like it had annoyed her.
“Faith, it’s me, Lucy!” I said.
“Yeah,” She mumbled, grabbing a stray pen and pushing it into her pocket. “So?”
“Uh…” For once, I felt at a loss for words. “I...just. I didn’t know you transferred here.”
“Yeah,” She said curtly, searching for something with her hands, her head bowed.
I found her sketchbook behind me, which had opened in the fall. I studied the open page, marveling at the detail of the little charcoal sketch, or what I could see of it before Faith more or less snatched it out of my hands.
“Thanks.” She muttered, picking up her binder.
I stood up, and offered my hand to her. She looked at it, then looked at me like I was offering her a dead slug. “Come on,” I said encouragingly. “I won’t bite.”
She scowled, but took it, getting back to her feet.
“Thanks.” She muttered again, brushing at her sleeve anxiously.
I took a good long look at her.
Faith had grown a good couple of inches since the last time I saw her, even though she was still petite in size. Her dark eyes were lightly outlined in black, but the makeup itself was barely noticeable, giving her a more natural look against her tan skin. She wore a black hoodie with a silver bird logo on it, and dark jeans, with buckled black boots. The hoodie was far too big on her, and the sleeves practically drooped over both her hands. Her black hair had been cut to shoulder-length, and her side bangs hung choppily over her eyes, which she kept pushing back with one hand.
This Faith was older, more mature. But at the same time, it was definitely her. The Faith I had gotten to know all that time ago. The Faith who I had been closer to than maybe anyone else.
She noticed me looking, and stepped back, quickly letting go of my hand.
She bit her lip and scowled. “What?”
“You cut your hair,” I observed out loud.
She rolled her eyes, and the expression was so familiar it made me feel a warm sense of déjà-vu. “Yeah, I did. Anything else about how I look? Or can I get to class now?”
“I like your hair like this.” I said quietly, honestly.
Her eyes widened, and she looked away hastily, swiping her bangs back from her forehead again. “Th-thanks.”
“Anytime.” I answered.
“I...I got to go.” She mumbled, and walked past me on her way. I watched her go, and it was only a few seconds later that I realized I was smiling widely like an idiot.
And because of all that had happened, I was 10 minutes late for Chemistry.
Mr. Pine was not happy.
I liked Chemistry as a course, but even elements and equations couldn’t keep me focused. I was still thinking about Faith, and our little meeting in the hall that morning. Now that I thought about it, I had actually known Faith was going to transfer here. Liz had slipped a comment about it in the summer, and it had slipped my mind.
“She’s moving here.” She said bluntly, out of nowhere. “Next year. Faith’s going to school here.”
“Wow.” I had said. “That’s...wow.” I was honestly kind of surprised. I couldn’t imagine why she would want to leave that fancy all-girls school to come to Laken March instead.
“Any idea why?”
Liz shrugged, but there was a guarded look in her eyes told me that she maybe knew something more. I didn’t ask more, though.
Somehow I thought it would be best not to.
My second period was Art, which, despite everything, I was actually looking forward to. Crystal had exaggerated my hatred for the subject. It wasn’t that I hated art. I just thought the course had lousy teachers, that’s all.
There, I said it.
And what a coincidence that none other than a certain silent girl would be sitting at the back, scribbling away in her big black sketchbook.
I approached her table. The room was set up with these tables instead of standard desks, with enough room for about two or three people each.
She had her hood pulled up, and her earbuds in. It was only when I nudged her shoulder, that she seemed to realize I was even there.
“Oh.” She seemed surprised to see me. “Hey.” She went back to her drawing without a second glance.
“Can I sit here?” I asked. She looked back up, dragging one earbud out. “What?”
I repeated the question, and I could literally see the gears in her head turning as she thought it over. In the end, she sighed and waved a hand like she couldn’t care less.
“Sure, yeah. Whatever.”
It wasn’t as warm a welcome as I had wanted, but close enough. I dropped my bag down beside the table, and pulled out my binder and pencil case. Having only taken the course in 9th grade, I wasn’t entirely sure what supplies to bring for the Grade 11 class this year. I figured color pencils and a large sketchpad would be good for now, at least.
Beside me, Faith was still sketching away. I liked the way she looked when she was drawing. There just seemed to be some sort of intense concentration, a sort of peace of the moment look she had while her hands danced over the page, laying down lines and curves on paper, taking time to erase a spot here and there. Her eyes were fully drawn in, looking nowhere but at what she was doing, and with her music playing, it looked like she wouldn’t hear a thing.
I moved closer and looked curiously at the page. It looked like some sort of...angel. A dark-haired girl with beautifully feathered wings and outstretched arms as she flew away--
Faith shifted away from me, hiding the drawing with her shoulder to block my view.
I tried scooting around to get another look, but she turned even more, cutting me off no matter where I twisted to try and see it again.
Finally I gave up, slumping back in my seat and glaring at her pointedly, letting out a long sigh.
She gave me an innocent look in return, literally batting eyelashes and everything like “Oh, so sorry. Did you want something?”
Ugh. She was such a little--
“Good morning, everyone!”
I looked up to see a young dark-skinned woman wearing a purple off-the-shoulder top and blue sneakers. Her dark brown hair was streaked with daring blue-green highlights and pulled into a messy bun.
“I’m your teacher, Ms. Castle.” She smiled at us warmly. “Now...why don’t we get started on making some art?”
Ms. Castle was not like the other teachers I had met before. She was new, having just transferred from a school from the next city over. But she excitedly filled us in about how she had travelled to a bunch of different countries during her teaching career, including China, Africa, and briefly in Europe. Her energetic and friendly personality surprised me a little, but it wasn’t the only thing. For starters, she looked more like a freelance university art student than your typical professional teacher.
For another, she quickly got us going around the room and playing “two truths and a lie” so we could get to know the other students in our class better.
Mine was simple. “I play soccer, I am an only child, and my favorite book is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” I got a few snickers at my book choice, but I couldn’t care less.
Harry Potter was amazing.
The people in my class struggled to figure out which one of these was the lie. All except one. Faith pulled out her earbuds, stuffing them into her hoodie pocket, raised her eyebrows at me and declared, “It’s the third.”
I nodded, and couldn’t help feeling a bit pleased. Somehow, she had remembered from those years ago....unless it was just random guessing.
“So your favorite book isn’t Harry Potter?” Ms. Castle scrutinized.
I shook my head. “No, it is. I just didn’t say which one was my true favorite.”
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” Faith supplied, looking careless again. “You used to go on and on about it.”
I shot her a look, but she had already turned away.
Faith’s choices were short. “I was born here, I was born in the summer, my grandfather was aboriginal.”
I could tell the lie right away, and realized this must be Faith’s personal jab at people who didn’t know her too well. I could see the people around the room studying her tan skin and big dark eyes and comparing her features. I knew only too well that Faith got annoyed whenever people couldn’t figure out what her ethnicity was. During the time I knew her, she had gotten numerous guesses ranging from “One-quarter Chinese”, to “Mexican”, to even “Romani”.
But I knew the truth.
As she had probably expected, the people in the class had a hard time figuring it out. The majority seemed to be convinced she wasn’t born here or wasn’t born in the summer, both of which were actually true.
I raised my hand. “It’s the third.”
Faith turned to look at me as if shocked that I even remembered.
“Your grandfather was Chinese.” I added.
“This true?” Ms. Castle asked Faith. She nodded slowly. “Yeah. I’m full Chinese, ancestors and all.” “I see.” Our teacher gave her a kind smile, and gave us both a searching look. “You two must know each other quite well.”
“Yes.” I said, at the same time that Faith said an equally resounding “No.”
We both turned and scowled at each other, although while mine shifted into an eventual smile, hers darkened and she turned away, reopening her sketchbook and scribbling furiously.
“I see.” Ms. Castle said again, and I kind of hoped she really did.
Because I had no freaking clue.
The rest of class was spent in a tense silence between Faith and I while Ms. Castle gave us our first assignment. It was some simple still life based on a photograph of our choice, which I thought was neat.
Better than what the teacher in Grade 9 had given us. She made us sit around and draw fruit and bowls the entire time.
I already knew I was pretty terrible at drawing, but I still gave it my best shot, and the end result wasn’t too bad.
Faith was incredible without even trying. Ms. Castle passed our table a few times, always with an impressed nod in her direction, and what looked like an encouraging one to me.
Faith barely responded.
After a while, I couldn’t stand it. I had too many questions.
“So how are you liking school so far?” I asked her.
She shrugged, and I thought she wasn’t going to respond, but then she said. “It’s OK so far.”
“That’s good.” I said brightly. I meant it. I wanted her to be enjoying herself.
“How was your summer?”
“Uneventful.” She answered slowly. “Read a couple books. Walked in the woods. That kind of thing.”
“Cool. I played soccer the entire time...” I went on to tell her about how deathly humid it had been, how scorched the fields were, how we ended up having a pretty successful season even if we didn’t win playoffs. She nodded a little, but didn’t really comment. She didn’t seem to mind my chattering though.
“I see you’re just as good at drawing as before,” I commented.
She shrugged, but I could tell she was pleased. “Maybe.”
“Don’t be modest. They’re amazing.”
“If you say so.”
Her unassuming answers were killing me.
“Come on, aren’t you even a little flattered?” I asked exasperatedly.
Her lips curled. “Maybe.”
Encouraged, I continued to talk to her all throughout the rest of the class.
After a while, I reached out and pulled back her hood, ignoring her startled protests.
“There. That’s better.” I said appraisingly. Now I could actually see her face. “I bet you couldn’t even see with that covering your face.” She scowled and swiped hair out of her eyes. “I saw just fine,” She grumbled, but I noted how she didn’t pull the hood back on, diving back to her drawing.
“So what’s up with the angel?” I dared to ask.
She stiffened, pausing with her hand an inch above the page. “What?”
“The angel drawing,” I specified. “The one with the dark hair flying.”
“Nothing,” She muttered. “Is it special?” I continued. “Why do you want to know?” She snapped.
“Curious.” I said honestly. “But you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
She stared at me for a second as if judging whether or not I was telling the truth. Her dark eyes were piercing, especially with the eyeliner.
“It’s just...something I felt like drawing.” She said at last, going back to her tracing.
“Oh,” I said, not sure of what else to say. “It’s really cool.”
She blinked at me. “Uh. Thanks.”
“No problem.” I winked, and she rolled her eyes, groaning.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” I asked innocently.
“That. Your wink looks more like your eye is having a seizure.”
I mock-gasped, pressing a hand to my heart.
“How dare you! My winks are irresistible!”
“Wow, big word.” She smirked, and I shoved her playfully.
I had gotten her to smile, at least. That was something.
At the end of class, I asked her, “What do you have next?”
“Math.” She said, and I thought I could see her fist clench over her book.
“Then?” “Bio.” “Sweet, me too!” I said, and her face grew closed off. “Great.” She said quietly, and walked off. “See you 4th!” I waved after her.
She turned back briefly at my call, and hesitated before muttering, “Yeah.”
And yanking her hood back over her hair, she was gone.
I gathered up my stuff and headed to the locker bay to get my lunch. As my friends joined me to walk to the cafeteria, laughing and gossiping about their classes, still all I could think about was Faith...the way she looked, the way she talked, how her drawings were just as stunning, if not better than before...
On the outside she appeared to be totally different than the girl I knew, but I could just tell that it was the same one. And despite everything, I couldn’t be more happy to be talking to her again.
Even if she didn’t want me to, I wanted to get to know her again. And I wasn’t going to give up on that so easily.