Just before starting Grade Eleven Alice is moved, very much against her will, to a small town. Mystery and adventure awaits...
Barry slows the car just enough to take the highway exit without sending us all to a fiery death in the woods before accelerating again. Either he’s really excited to get us to our new home or just hell-bent on escaping the confines of this stinking machine.
I bite down on my garlic and onion burger, chew with my mouth open, and breathe out in his direction. He tries to roll his window further down but it’s already as far as it will go.
I stare out my back window (rolled all the way up) and try to count the trees. It takes about thirty seconds to surpass the grand total of my old town. Welcome to the boonies.
Belleville. Le Petit B. God, I miss it already. No, that’s a lie. I started missing it the instant I realized I wasn’t going to win the argument. Barry and Ellen had made up their minds, my wishes be damned.
“Yes, Ellen?” I am the picture of politeness.
“Could you please roll your window down?” She is the definition of rage which must not be shown. “All our things are going to smell like your burger was rubbed all over them.”
“Sorry about that, but I’m really cold. Actually, do you mind rolling yours up? It feels like the North Pole back here.”
Barry and Ellen exchange silent, heavy looks. I take another bite. The window goes up, squealing its reluctance all the way. I belch.
“Thanks a million,” I say before returning my attention to the surrounding wilderness. Why would anyone choose to live out here? I wonder if they even know about the skyscrapers and highways that lurk out of sight.
Shit, they better have internet access here. Have these poor bastards even heard of the internet?
The fact that this is all completely unnecessary only makes it worse. A fresh start, they told me. No questions, no special treatment, nobody knowing. All in my best interests.
Like switching to a new school halfway through high school is in my best interests. Leaving behind friends, teachers, the tree that French exchange student carved our initials into two years ago. A.D. + M.P. Forever.
I can’t remember what the M stands for (or the P, for that matter), but that doesn’t make it any less special.
Now it’s all like a thousand miles away.
I stuff the last chunk of burger into my mouth and use the napkin to dab at the corner of my eyes. Must be the chilli sauce or something.
Gradually the trees begin to be replaced by fields and farm houses, and then just regular homes, closer together. They’re all varying shades of red, white, and blue. God Bless Rural America.
“Take the next left,” Ellen says after consulting her map book. I can hear the relief in her voice; we must be almost there. I try to force up a celebratory burp but it doesn’t get any higher than the base of my throat.
Another left and a right later and Barry brings us to a stop in front of a red two-storey house. Our house. The door and window trim are white, there’s a neglected rose bush beneath the kitchen window, and a black mailbox perched on a wooden pole at the end of our sidewalk. It looks nothing at all like my old home in Belleville.
I bet that was why they chose it.
Stepping out of the car, I turn and survey the neighbourhood. Cars and trucks fill the driveways, not a one of them less than ten years old. There’s a boy around my age sitting in the yard across the street from us, one hand gripping the handle of an empty green wagon.
I breathe out through my nostrils, make my lips curve upward, and wave.
He screams, drops the wagon handle, and runs inside.