Dad turns off the car and shifts in the drivers seat until he is facing me. He's always been a lanky guy compared to my build, but if a stranger saw the emotion in his eyes they would see the strong person he truly is. Mom died four years ago and I know that dad is still alluding the sense of innocence that should overcome his sense of guilt.
I like to think of mom's death as an accident. Dad likes to think of it as something that could have been avoided.
"Do you have everything?" Dad asks, combing his large, thin hand through his curly black hair. Sometimes I wonder where my blond hair comes from.
I look at him swiftly before grabbing my bag by my feet and opening the door to the passenger side of the truck. Dad and I have never been close, mom was usually the one who managed to put us together during disagreements. At home, when he isn't at work, he is usually off in his room sleeping off the day or mourning my mom in ways that only a broken-hearted man can. I, in turn, usually avoid him. I hate the look that he gets in his eyes when he really looks at me. It's like as if he is trying to tell me something that I'm not meant to know. Something that is slowly eating away at him.
"Come on kid," dad says. His face furrows into a smile. The gesture makes him look a lot older than his forty-two years. "I'm just trying to make sure that your first day goes well."
"Maybe you should have thought about that at eight o'clock this morning," I murmur, closing the door behind me.
"You want me to pick you up in a bit?"
I look back at him and shake my head. I'm already late, might as well figure this town out on my own. I hear the car drive away slowly as I walk up the eerily empty campus towards the front doors.
We moved here a few days ago because Ontario reminded dad too much of mom. I know it's random to move to Lauden, the middle of nowhere in Florida, but dad knows some guys who own a super successful company. With a job secured and a more than decent salary rewarded us with a pretty good house about a five minute drive from the school and ten minutes from the beach. I know I should be excited that I'm finally out of the hellish weather of Ontario, but truth be told, I left all my friends back there. I also left Lisa.
"Hey there, you got a pass?" Some kid appears from around a corner the moment I open one of the front doors and immediately makes his way towards me. I take in his freckles, green eyes, and baggy shorts. His white flip-flops slap against the floor and the puka shell necklace sways loosely on his tanned neck. "Well?" he asks, sticking out his hand. "Got a pass, or not?"
"I'm new," I say. His black hair is spiked up with too much gel and I am slowly hoping that not everyone in this town wears the same style. "I'm running a bit late," I pull up my backpack on my shoulder. "Where's the office?"
He eyes me cautiously and takes a step closer. "New kid, huh?" I nod and he points down the hall straight ahead. "Office is down there. You're lucky, new kids always get a free pass on their first day."
I nod my thanks and swiftly walk around him.
The smell of the ocean drifts in through the opened windows of the office and I'm instantly assaulted with the sight of plants in hanging flower pots and assorted posters with motivational speeches and pictures. The room is small and almost directly in the middle is a woman with a sour look on her face and a severely permed hairstyle. Her grey-blue eyes dart from side to side as she reads whatever is on the computer and her long red nails click on the keyboard as she types in some information with surprising agility.
I clear my throat and she looks up, revealing two deep frown lines on her slightly wide forehead. Her purple t-shirt hangs loosely off her shoulders as she puts her hands down and away from the computer.
"Hi," I fidget with the strap of my backpack. "I'm the new student?"
She gives me a blank stare.
"Err," her stare is making me increasingly more uncomfortable. What is it with this town? "I'm Castiel Luther," another blank stare. "From Canada?"
"Oh," she suddenly says and gently slaps her forehead. Her voice is surprisingly high-pitched. "Right, we were waiting for you." She gets up from her chair and it gives a soft squeak of relief. She stops right outside of the door to what I am assuming is the principal's office and looks back at me. "Running a little late?"
I shrug. "Dad's not much of an early riser."
She nods in understanding and lets me in through the door.
When I see her it is by pure chance.
The whole day was an awkward mess. I'm used to girls staring at me or shyly looking away back in Toronto, but here it's different. They're not as shy and they're way more obvious with their giggles and flirting. The whole misadventure of girls I never wanted to meet had me thinking about Lisa during my earlier classes.
The hallways grow empty a lot sooner than anticipated at the end of the day. I look around and find myself standing alone, thinking about back home and my mom. I don't really know why, but when I am alone like this the image of mom with her light blue eyes and dark brown curls dances through my mind. Her voice is something I lost from my memories a long time ago, but somehow seeing her in my mind's eye fed my appetite. She always told me that God watches over all of us and that angels would keep us in their sights, promising a happy existence whether in life or death. I stopped believing these fantastical theories of hers the day that she was taken from me.
I close my locker and start walking tentatively towards the end of the hallway. The last thing I need is to get lost in this new place. I turn a corner and it hits me. An overpowering need to follow a scent. I know it sounds weird, but that's the only way I can explain it: a scent. Something tantalizing my senses; urging me forward.
Thoughts of mom and Lisa drift slowly away from my mind when I see her. Short, like a petite angel filling her bag with books. Her blond hair curls slightly at the ends and her brown eyes roam over the contents of her locker as if deciding whether she is forgetting something. The sounds of leftover students walking by is dimmed as I walk up behind her. Her face furrows into a look of surprise when she sees me in her locker mirror.
My hands automatically reach out to stop her as she awkwardly turns to face me. The action jerks me from my reverie and I swiftly put my hands down. A mixture of embarrassment, surprise, and curiosity flushes her lightly tanned face and the look appears strangely cute.
"Hi," I say, trying not to turn around and run. Why am I even here? I tell her my reason for approaching her and I wonder why she looks so nervous. I know that sometimes girls act strangely around me, but this one in particular gives the impression of being very confident. "I'm Castiel Luther," I finally conclude, "and I need help getting everywhere in this place." I smile and her blush intensifies.
"Elena de la Cortez," she says. Her voice is slightly raspy, sending chills down my spine. What the heck is happening to me? "If you need a tour guide, then you've got yourself one." Then she smiles and closes her locker unsteadily. "First, you'll have to meet our beach."
I silently find myself apologizing to Lisa, though I know she can never hear me from here. I follow the small Elena down the hall, trying to focus ahead instead of how her legs move as she walks. Or how the sweet perfume of flowers and summer blows softly in her wake.
When I moved here with dad a few days ago I expected to finally meet the ocean and feel the everlasting need to go back home to Toronto, but I never expected to meet Elena, whose radiance glows under the hot, Floridian sky in front of me.