I hold onto the ledge above the sink in the first girls restroom that I find. My breathing comes out ragged, and my hands are slightly shaking. What was that? Why did I run? Maybe it was because such a good looking guy said hey to me, or maybe because I was caught while checking him out. Either way, I am way too embarrassed to find him and apologize for my actions.
I look up into the wide mirror. There's a large space in the right hand corner where a piece of the glass has cracked, sending a spider-web of cracks throughout that side of the glass.
My focus turns to my reflection, all sweaty and a bit gross from my run in the heat of Florida. My sky blue eyes are underlined with shallow bags, since I could barely sleep the night before. Blond curls frame my thin face, save for the few that are in their rebellious mode because of my running. I have my dad's thin lips and my mom's button nose. I was never really considered to be that pretty back in Burlington, but I wasn't that disliked either. I was an even in between with my friends at my side, since they are absolutely gorgeous. Alana's chestnut brown straight hair hung by her hips and her pouted lips made her an absolute favourite amongst the guys back home. Georgia's curvy figure and outgoing personality was a close second only to Alana. I, having been friends with them since kindergarten, didn't really care how different our looks were because we were best friends nonetheless, but the guys saw it differently.
The way this stranger had stared at me had scared me. Not in the "frightening, never want to see him again" way. But in the "I can't wait until he notices me again" way, which in all honesty, is a lot scarier. His hazel eyes had left his guitar altogether and his hands were poised comfortably on his guitar. I can still see the confusion on his face and the light smile on his lips.
I shake my head roughly, trying to force out the images of him that are already securely engraved into my thoughts. There's no way a guy like that would give a girl like me the time of day, but yet...
"Aren't you supposed to be in class?" a woman's voice calls from the door. "You're the new transfer student, right?"
My eyes wander away from the mirror and watch the pale teacher as she walks towards me. Her greying black hair shines in the sunlight that seeps in through the high windows on the walls and her dark blue eyes are crinkled with confusion. Her clothes are too baggy for her and could easily pass for fashionable if she were back in the eighties. Her clunky heels sound rhythmically along with the swishing of her long skirt, as she heads towards me.
"Yes ma'am, I am," I say quietly.
My response must surprise her because she says, in a much gentler voice, "All right. Are you lost?"
I nod a little too quickly and stop myself when she gives me a suspicious stare. "I have no idea where my classes are."
"No one issued you a committee member to show you around?"
"No, I thought it would be easy to navigate around... this school," I stop myself before saying how easy it looked from the outside to find my way, since the school appeared so small.
"Hm, okay, let's see your schedule," she offers her hand and I place the square piece of paper on her palm. Gripping it with unnecessary gentleness, she tips her head to the side as she reads its contents. "Ah, I see," unexpectedly, she smiles at me and hands me back my paper. "You're in my English class, I'll show you the way."
I assent and follow her quietly out of the restroom.
Turns out that I had been looking in the completely wrong section of the school. What I needed to find was the grade eleven, or as they call them here, the Junior hallway. I was lost in the Senior hallway where only senior classes are. The teacher that aided me in getting to class is Miss. Baker, who surprisingly isn't as bad of a teacher as I originally thought she would be. After handing out the syllabi for the semester, she had merely mentioned a new student before getting to work by explaining the texts we will be reading.
The sight of hundreds of tanned and blond teens does not surprise me since Pueblo is so close to Miami, but it does make my stomach twinge with the assurance that I am definitely not home. Back in Burlington, there will be a few students who come back tanned or bleached blond, but nothing like the students here. Save for the few guys or girls chatting in the back of the classroom, no one is talking as they take notes from Miss. Baker's lecture. My seat is right beside the largest window in the class, which faces out onto the town streets and the beach in the distance. It truly is beautiful, even if it fills me with melancholy.
The bell rings and I hear the sliding of metallic chair legs on the tile floor as the other students prepare their things before leaving the classroom. I don't look away from the window, even though I know that I have to leave. I wonder what Alana and Georgia are doing right now. Eating lunch? Talking about boys? Forgetting that I was ever there? I haven't received a single email or phone call from them. Is it that good of a thing that I left? We'd been having our own problems when my mom decided to move, I wonder how they're dealing with them now.
"Julia?" I gasp as Miss. Baker's voice sounds from behind me. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, sorry, I..." my voice trails off as I see the girl standing beside Miss. Baker. Her china-doll black hair sits in two long braids on her shoulders and her hazel eyes stare at me warmly. Her full lips are set in a comfortable smile and her right hand is extended towards me, so I shake it.
"Hi, I'm Sora Akira," she says in a warm voice that I would have never thought could belong to such a gorgeous girl. She is the second Asian mixed teenager that I see at this school and her Japanese last name only serves as evidence to her heritage. "Pleased to meet you Julia, I will be your guide for the next week."
I can't answer because she reminds me of the guy from earlier in the morning and for some reason I feel just as intimidated as before.
Her caring look changes to a slight frown. "Is that okay?"
I open and close my mouth several times before finally emitting some weird gurgling noise. Instead of speaking I decide to just nod. She smiles immediately and starts packing my things before telling Miss. Baker that she's got it from here.
"Um," I clear my throat as we walk down the sunny hallway. "Thank you."
Sora smiles and waves at someone who calls her name. "Don't worry about it, it's my pleasure."
I look over at her and see that she is smiling faintly, as if remembering something only she should know. I wonder if everyone here is as nice as her and that cute guy. Someone's icy voice from behind me answers my question.
"Sora, where'd you go? We were looking for you after class," a girl with bleached blond hair and too much lip gloss shows up in front of Sora with a big, fake smile on her face. "I thought we were going to the mall for lunch?"
To my surprise, Sora smiles back in the same fake way, nothing like the smile she had shared with me back in Miss. Baker's class. "I know, I'm sorry, but Miss. Baker wanted me to show the transfer student around."
"Ugh, how tiresome," the blond says before finally acknowledging me. "You must be the new girl."
"Yeah, I must be," I mutter, much to the chagrine of the blond.
Nonetheless, she recovers quickly before saying, "Nice to meet you, I hope you enjoy Pueblo."
I nod and give her a quick, tight-lipped smile.
"Sora, just remember to call us tonight," Blondie smirks. "We still have to plan the big dance." Sora nods nonchalantly before the blond strides away with way too much confidence.
"Sorry about that," Sora sighs. "She, Carly kind of runs things around here."
"What does that mean?" I ask as we continue walking towards my assigned locker.
"She's the 'Queen Bee'," she replies, using air quotation marks to make her point. "I'm part of her group, but lately..."
She mumbles something and I give her a questioning glance.
"She's just not good news," Sora gives me a sad, but genuine smile when we finally reach my locker. I smile back, though I am dying to ask what she means. I put my bag in the locker after pulling out a ten dollar bill for lunch. "Now," Sora says in a much happier tone after I've locked my locker, "where do you want to eat lunch?"