Michael watched the passing fields and gas stations with growing boredom until he noticed an approaching sign. He sat up straight and read the greeting sign to Whimston. He felt his mother lean over him, looking out the window herself. The bus drove along the main street, showing small thrift shops. It neared a T-junction and straight ahead a large church stood. Old tombstones leaned before it, a crumbling, mismatched brick wall surrounding its green grass. The bus went right, passing more shops and a coffee shop. He saw others his age wandering the streets in groups, laughing and talking. The bus pulled into the station and the driver called out the town's name. He let his mother stand first and handed her one of the bags. He grabbed the rest and followed her off the bus.
“Where to now?” he asked as she called for a taxi on his mobile.
“Hotel for now. But I'll find us a permanent place soon,” she replied. Michael wasn't particularly surprised, that was always the plan. He had kind of hoped they'd have someone else to go too. His mother had grown up here afterall. The taxi turned up and their booked into the only hotel in town. It was a tall building with small cramped rooms. Even with the old musky smell and lumpy beds, it was better than some of the places they'd been. He dumped their bags on the floor and collapsed onto the bed nearest the window, which gave a side-view of the church.
“I need to go to the estates agent. Here's the hotel key. I'll call you when I'm heading back, in case you go out.” Michael nodded, having heard the spiel before. She placed the key on the bedside table and left. He knew he was tired and should sleep, but he couldn't He sat up, rubbing his eyes, muttering a curse under his breath. He shrugged his jacket back on and locked up before leaving the hotel. He had enough money to buy a drink from the coffee shop. Though the last thing he was interested in was drinking more caffeine. He reached the T-junction and glanced the way they'd entered. The hotel was along the right street to the main one. He decided to cross the road and follow the left street. Shops faded away, replaced by houses. He saw fields and trees behind them and spotted a dirt path leading through the trees. He hesitated before following it. The ground was springy underfoot. The smell of moss and dew clouding his nose. Sunlight dappled through the trees above, the drizzle of rain occasionally pattering onto his jacket hood. He pushed off a tree, feeling rough bark under his skin for a few moments. The trees suddenly opened up, revealing a huge lake. The dirt path led to a small wooden pier where a large group of people were hanging out. He realised they had to be the local teens. People he'd no doubt meet in a few days when mum got him sighed up to the school. He turned, ready to head back but someone was standing in his way.
“Who the hell are you?” Michael blinked at the rude tone. The guy before him had thin strands of pale hair that covered his ears and sheltered his eyes from the sun, which were a sickly green colour. He raised an eyebrow when Michael didn't reply. Michael could hear the nonsensical talking behind him die down.
“Michael,” he replied, something about this guy putting him on edge. “Just a new guy,” he added, shrugging. The guy rolled his eyes at the obvious.
“Piece of advice,” he said, shoving past him and sending him a pointed look. “Stay away from the lake.” Michael starred after him as he walked towards the others, thrown by the comment. He flicked his gaze over the others, counting seven teens including the guy. He considered throwing the jerk the middle finger, but settled for shaking his head and walking back to the town center.
“Weirdo,” he muttered as he walked along the concrete. His worn trainers had let all the muddy puddle water seep into his soaks, so he headed back to the hotel to wash. Maybe this time round he could get some sleep.