There was a time where writing was a hidden dream and reading consisted of late nights with a flickering flashlight, an ever alert ear aimed at the hallway outside my bedroom door.
These were the facts of my life a year ago: social life should overtake everything.
At least, that was my then best friend's notion of what I needed to do with my free time.
She didn't know that I could write--that the first gift from my parents, once my first grade teacher taught me how to write out the alphabet in school, was a typewriter that is now rusted and cobwebbed. She didn't know that once I started reading a book I loved, only her constant visits to the house kept me away from the author's enthralling words.
But everything is different now, our popularity-centric lives took a plunge into the ocean that sits just beyond our backyard the summer I was sixteen. Becca was decidedly set against me after our friendship collapsed. She regarded me as the scrap leftovers of her storm, like a hurricane ripping apart a helpless town.
In her words: I was finished.
I shook my head and fought the urge to look out the window. Morning had set in with the familiar scent of hazelnut coffee and bacon. Elena, my little sister, stomped down the stairs, the noise emphasizing mom's angry voice. Just beyond their argument, I could hear dad's office television stating the latest economic windfall.
"But mom," Elena wailed. "Everyone is going, so I have to be there!"
Mom's voice was inaudible for a few minutes, followed by a few loud outbursts from my sister.
"Elena, for the love of--" mom paused and I knew she was placing a hand to her forehead, fighting off a headache. "Mi amor, please, not today."
"So what, you want me to stay here?" Elena spat from a different angle. For a thirteen year-old, my sister was a wildfire of emotions. "You want me to start acting like her?"
I flinched from behind my desk, fingers poised over the "t" and the "o" of my newer typewriter, a gift from my grandparents in New York.
There was silence for a minute, then--
"Alexis," mom called from the foyer. "Alexis, honey, please come down."
"I'm asleep," I respond in a half-hearted yell.
I sighed and lifted myself up warily.
This wasn't going to be anything good.
I cast an eye towards my curtains, hoping that my new neighbor felt a sudden urge to help me out like the perfect man in my novel, but gave up and stalked out onto the landing. I glanced down and was once again surprised by my mom's beauty. Blond, green eyes, and tall. A perfect opposite of my dad's dark Cuban features.
"Honey," mom beseeched, "please take your sister to the beach today."
I frowned. "I didn't know she needed support getting to the beach outback."
"Ew," Elena visibly shuddered, her straight brown hair fluttering like feathers around her shoulders. "Why would I go back there?"
"You used to love it," I shot back.
"Yeah, when I was four. Now," she eyed my baggy pjs and my ragged blond curls, "only losers ever go there to read."
Mom raised a hand before I could retort and she rubbed a palm over her temple.
"Please, Alexis. You haven't left our property since school ended," she said, her eyes catching mine. "Just this once."
I clenched my teeth and bore my own green eyes at my sister's brown ones. "Fine," I muttered before storming back to my room.
As I changed into a pair of ripped jeans and a loose white t-shirt depicting that "I love big books and I cannot lie", I heard a door slam somewhere beyond my opened window. Chancing a peek past my yellow curtains, I spotted my new neighbor in a pair of faded shorts and long t-shirt. He looked elated for some reason, his blue eyes crinkled and his sharp features wrinkled into a smile.
As I made my curls into an off-the-shoulder braid, I spotted why he appeared so happy. A tiny phone came to life in his hand and he answered enthusiastically.
"Alexis!" Elena screamed and I rolled my eyes. I sneaked one more glance in the stranger's direction, before grabbing my bag and my current novel, and rushed out the door towards my impatient sister.