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This is a three part series that is sort of a slow build. I hope you like the characters and the story—the real sex doesn’t kick in until Chapter 3.
Nothing interesting ever happens in Farston. I mean, obviously, some stuff happens, we had that big car accident a couple of years ago, and that storm last summer that caused a flood, but not much interesting to a teenager like me. It was the first day of school, so that meant that my summer routine was over, and I had to get back to my school routine. As I got dressed, I was thinking without any particular enthusiasm of seeing the same kids who I had known since kindergarten and the same teachers I knew since I started high school.
At least it was senior year. Not that I hated Farston, really, it was a great place to grow up in so many ways, but I couldn’t wait until graduation and the chance to go to college and widen my horizons some. So, at least that would be different—applying to colleges would give me and my friends something new to speak about other than sports, TV and girls. I finished getting dressed, put on my shoes and came downstairs.
As usual, my father was sitting at the table, drinking coffee and eating a bowl of cereal while reading the newspaper. The local NPR station was droning on about the situation in Africa, and Mom was finishing making my lunch.
“I told you that you didn’t need to do that,” I said, smiling with the knowledge that she was going to ignore me.
Mom smiled back, her dark eyes flashing, “You are on your own tomorrow, Dale, but you know I always make lunch on the first day of school.”
“I know, Mom, and thanks,” I said, pouring myself a cup of coffee and a bowl of Cheerios.
“So, senior year,” my dad said, and he waited for my response.
“Yep,” I replied, “I guess this is the last year that Mom will have to make my ‘first day of school’ lunch.”
Dad laughed. “Don’t bet against her getting something to your dorm next year.”
I looked at Mom, and there was a devious look in her eyes. I wouldn’t put it past her, actually.
We ate in silence after that, for the most part, listening to the news and slurping our cereal. Dad looked at his watch and said, “Ready?”
I stood up, took our dishes to the sink, grabbed my backpack and headed out to the car. Ever since I got my license, I dropped Dad off at his office in town before driving to school. It was a good arrangement, and it allowed me to have a car to get me home after school, and gave me a little freedom. Either Mom or I would pick him up at the end of the day, unless he got the crazy idea to walk home from town, which happened about once every six months, and usually ended with his complaining about how much his feet hurt.
Dad’s only rules were that I had to pay for gas and he got to choose the music while he was in the car, which seemed pretty fair. His musical tastes weren’t bad, for a dad. As we drove through our neat suburban neighborhood into the small downtown of Farston, we made small talk. Sports, mostly, and school. I pulled up in front of the three story brick building on the corner of Main and Collins that housed his office. “Good luck,” he said, as he grabbed his briefcase and slid out the door.
“You too,” I said, like I did most every school day, before pulling away from the curb and heading down Main, past the few stores, the bank and post office that made up Farston, toward the school campus. I was a bit early, so the student lot was almost empty, and I could park anywhere. I recognized pretty much every car in the lot, so I knew that Larry was already there, but, as usual, Albert was not. I grabbed my backpack, locked the car and headed into the school, passing into the “New Wing,” that had been built in 1978, nodding at people in the hall, before finding my homeroom in the original school building, that dated from the turn of the last century, and which both my parents, and all four of my grandparents, had graduated from.
I walked into homeroom, said hello to Ms. Walker, who had been my freshman English teacher, and asked if there was assigned seating. Ms. Walker was young, and not bad looking, and had a subtle sense of humor. She told me that it was senior year, and I could sit anywhere, so I found a seat a few rows back and a few rows from the door. Not the front row, not the back row, and not dead center. It was where I liked to sit. I said hello to Nicole Lawrence, sitting in her usual front row seat, nodded to Sal Clarke, in the back row, whose eyes were barely open, and gave a half wave to Erika Fletcher, the first girl I ever kissed back in eighth grade, and who I had said about a dozen words to since, before sitting down. The room began to fill with a selection of the usual characters, some of whom acknowledged me, and some who didn’t. I waited for another school year to start.
And then, something actually happened.
A new girl walked in the room, looking uneasy and out of place. A pretty girl, clearly. She was tall, with long blonde hair pulled back in a severe antalya escort pony tail. She was wearing jeans and a blue shirt, not overly tight, but tight enough to make it clear that she had a good body. I could sense the general hubbub in the room get softer as everyone began to size up the stranger. I noticed immediately that some of the guys stood up straighter and some of the girls tried to fluff their hair.
I saw Ms. Walker look at her book, and then she said to the new girl, “You must be Rose Hicks.” The girl nodded shyly. “I’m Ms. Walker, your homeroom teacher, welcome to Farston High, you can sit anywhere that’s open.”
“Thanks,” she said softly before finding a seat in the second row, a few rows away from me. As I looked at her more, I realized that she was actually quite pretty, even without trying too hard, and I knew that this would give us all something new to talk about, at least for a few days, until we got used to her.
The bell rang, and Ms. Walker welcomed us to senior year, handed us our locker assignments and combinations, made a few announcements, explained a few minor rule changes that seemed both unnecessary and random, and the bell rang. Senior year was on. I found my locker, pleased that it was convenient to my classes unlike last year, stashed a few things from my backpack and headed off to first period, where I was happy to see Larry and Albert. It was what I expected, as was second period.
However, on my way to third period, I was approached by Mr. Garner, the principal. I knew that I couldn’t have done anything wrong yet, and was surprised when he asked me to come to his office right at the beginning of lunch period. He didn’t say why, but he assured me that I was in no trouble. I’m generally the type that stays out of trouble, but I’m not a complete stranger to the detention room, but usually for dumb, pranky stuff, not anything mean or malicious. I noticed the new girl in my third period English class, but other than that, it was unremarkable, and when the bell rang, I went to Mr. Garner’s office. Myra, his secretary, greeted me, wished me luck in my senior year, and sent me into the office.
I was surprised to see Erika there, along with Marsha Patterson, our class president from last year, and Sam Cruz, the editor of the school newspaper. We nervously greeted each other and waited for Mr. G to tell us what the fuck was going on.
“Some of you may know that we have a new student in your class this year, Rose Hicks.” Erika and I nodded. “I asked you in here because you are good kids, who have some influence with your classmates.” I wasn’t sure that I was really so influential, but I figured he knew what he was doing. “Anyway,” the principal continued, “Rose has gone through some tough stuff in her life, and is here because she and her family want a quiet place where she can go to school, make some friends and be left alone.”
Marsha, who had been pushy since she took everyone’s crayons in kindergarten, interrupted and said, “What d’you expect us to do?”
Mr. G smiled and said, “I just want her to have an easy time here, and I figured that you four could help it to happen, without making it too obvious.”
I thought that was pretty clever, actually, and was musing on how sometimes grownups can surprise us, when Sam asked, “What happened to her?”
Mr. G’s face clouded. “I can’t tell you. You just have to trust me.” He paused before continuing, “Sam, I know that you want to be a reporter, but I’m asking you to exercise discretion here. Don’t do anything without the facts, or one of your classmates and her family will be hurt.”
I could see the wheels turning in Sam’s brain. “Are they in the witness protection program?” he asked.
“No. Not that. But I didn’t invite you in for a game of Twenty Questions. I’m asking you for a favor. For me, and for Rose and her family. I think that I’ve always been straight with you. I’ve always answered your questions and tried to deal with your concerns, to the best of my ability. Now I’m asking you to trust me and do the right thing.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’m in.” The other three fell in line after that. Maybe I was more influential than I thought.
“I’m not asking you to start a whispering campaign,” our principal continued. “Just be aware that there may be rumors, but I hope not, and that she is going to need support and friendship. OK?”
We all agreed. Mr. G looked at his watch and said, “You still have time to get to lunch. Get a pass from Mrs. Klein on the way out. And thanks. You are doing a good thing.”
After getting our late passes, the four of us chattered together as we left the office. I peeled off to get my lunch, and when I got to the cafeteria, Larry and Albert were nowhere to be seen. I looked around, and most of the tables with my other friends were pretty full. I noticed that Rose was sitting at a table toward the edge of the room, with George Dawson, who was as usual staring at his iPad, and Naomi Franklin, listening to music on the headphones that pressed kemer escort her curly black hair into an odd, puffy shape. I figured, why not start doing what Mr. G. asked, so I walked over to the table and pointed to an empty chair.
“Mind if I sit down?” I asked.
“No, of course not,” she said softly. I thought I sensed a bit of a southern accent, but wasn’t sure.
I sat down, put my bag lunch on the table and said, “I’m Dale Bennett, you’re in my homeroom and English class.”
She smiled, and I realized that she was not just pretty. She was beautiful. “I’m Rose Hicks, the new girl,” she said, making finger quotes with a nervous chuckle.
“Where are you from originally?” I asked.
She paused for a second, longer than I expected, actually, because it didn’t seem like that hard a question, before saying, “outside of Atlanta.”
So, I was right about the accent. “I’ve never been there, actually, I’ve pretty much never been anywhere, except New York City on the junior class trip,” I responded.
“I guess it was nice. I kinda moved around some,” she said, and looked around the room as if nervous. I was glad that Mr. G had given me the heads up, because otherwise I would have thought she was a bit squirrely.
“You O.K.?” I asked.
“Um, yeah,” she said, taking a bite of the chicken fingers that she must have bought for lunch. She had made a good choice, because the chicken fingers were much better than the hockey puck they called a burger or the mushy pizza.
I realized that I didn’t have much time to eat before my next class, and I opened my brown bag, pulling out the sandwich my mom had made, and an apple. I knew without looking that it was a ham and Swiss on wheat bread, with mayo on one piece of bread, mustard on the other, and lettuce and tomato. It was the same lunch that she made for me on every other first day of school, as long as I could remember. I smiled before taking a bite.
I looked up, and saw Rose looking at me. “What?” I asked, trying to keep my tone friendly.
“You look really happy, kinda like you are about to eat the best sandwich in the world.”
I shrugged. “It is a good sandwich, but I was just smiling about the fact that my mother insists on making me the same lunch every first day of school.”
A flicker of something passed over her pretty face, sadness maybe, and she said, softly, “I guess that must be nice. You know, having family traditions and all.”
Which seemed a bit odd to me, and I asked, “You must have some sort of traditions, right?”
“Not really,” she said, and devoted her attention to really examining one of the chicken fingers, which probably weren’t designed to withstand close scrutiny.
“I’m sorry,” I responded after a few seconds. I wasn’t sure what for, but it seemed like the right thing to say. We ate in silence for a while. I could hear the noises of kids finishing lunch, the squeal of chairs being slid away from tables, and the crumpling of garbage.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t such a great lunch date,” Rose said in a somewhat forced tone.
I decided to play along. “Madam, it has been one of the best first dates I ever had,” I said, with excess sincerity, although in fact, if it really was a date, it actually would have been about the third best first date I ever had, after Bailey Hastings let me feel her up in tenth grade (although that went south pretty fast) and the incredible day I spent with Julia Ventura the summer after sophomore year at Adventure Park (which unfortunately led only to a summer of frustration and betrayal). I got a smile from her, not a huge smile, but at least an acknowledgement that I had amused her a bit.
“What do you have next?” I asked.
She reached into her purse and pulled out a folded schedule. She unfolded the paper and read, “Earth Science—”
“With Mr. Richards?”
“He’s pretty good. Take good notes,” I advised, “he tests totally based on what he says in class.” I took the last bite of Mom’s sandwich and stuck the apple into the pocket of my sweatshirt for later. “I can walk you to Richards’ classroom, it is on the way to my next class,” I offered. She appeared to hesitate for a second. “Don’t worry,” I said, “this won’t destroy your social standing on day one.”
She smiled again, bigger this time, and I realized again how pretty she was. Her features were almost perfect. Blonde hair, blue eyes, clear skin, full, red lips. But there was a weariness in her eyes, and I wasn’t sure if that was from a lack of sleep, nervousness about the first day at a new school, or the stuff that Mr. G had hinted about.
“Well, in that case, since I know that it won’t destroy my reputation, let’s go.” She laughed, stood up and followed me out.
When we left the cafeteria, I turned to her and said, “Just so you know, you are already topic number one around here. We haven’t had a new kid since ninth grade, when Ivan Clarke moved here from Denver when his dad was transferred here by Wells konyaaltı escort Fargo.”
“And what happened to him?” she asked.
“Nothing. We talked about him for a while, and he turned out to be a good guy and an amazing third baseman. You’d never know that he didn’t grow up here.” I paused, and looked at her face, and could see that she was drinking this in.
“Good,” Rose said. “I just want to fit in here too.”
I smiled and tried a joke. “So, what’s your best position?”
She stopped short and looked at me, but with hard eyes. “What do you mean?” She sounded pissed for some reason and I felt the easy relationship that we had somehow created tense up.
“Um, nothing. I just said that Ivan fit in quickly because he was a good third baseman, and wanted to know what baseball position you played. It was a joke.” I felt like I had crossed an imaginary line, but for the life of me I had no clue how or why.
“Oh, O.K.,” she replied. “I’m not a baseball fan, so I didn’t get it.”
“So, you weren’t a Braves fan back in Atlanta?”
“No, um, I really didn’t have time for that.” She made a face that resolved into a small smile.
The tension ebbed, and I said, “Here’s Richards’ classroom. Nice to meet you, Rose. See you later.”
“Bye, Dale. Thanks for everything.”
I admittedly watched her cute ass as she walked into the classroom before heading down the hall to my next class. I quickly forgot Rose as I plunged into the first day of AP Chem.
The rest of the day was unremarkable. Since it was the first day of school, I had nothing scheduled for after, and I ran into Larry and Albert on the way to the parking lot and we decided to get coffee. We went in our separate cars and met at Cookie’s, the only non-fast food restaurant in town. No one was in our usual booth, so we took it and waited for Cookie to acknowledge us. Actually, her name was Amelia, and she had bought the place from the original Cookie decades ago, but apparently the name also transferred with the business. No one called her Amelia. She finally saw us and yelled from behind the counter, “The usual, boys?” and we all said yes. A few minutes later, she waddled toward the table, with a tray holding two cups of coffee and a silver container of cream, and a pot of tea for Albert, who could never stand the taste of coffee.
As I was pouring sugar into my steaming cup, Larry blurted out, “Did ya see the new girl. Oh my god she is fucking hot.” Albert enthusiastically agreed.
“I had lunch with her today. She seems nice,” I said, trying to make that sound casual. But conversation stopped. Albert actually stared at me, holding his spoon in mid-stir. I was not completely without experience with girls, but I have to admit, it generally is not in my usual nature to be aggressive, and they knew that, so I was not surprised that they were surprised.
“What the fuck?” asked Larry.
“Well, I got to lunch late, you douchebags had already left, everyone else was doing stuff and there was an empty seat at her table, so I sat down.”
Albert wasn’t buying my story in the least. “I call bullshit,” he said. “What’s going on?”
I knew that I couldn’t hide anything from them. We had been friends since third grade and told each other everything. And if they found out from someone else, I knew that they would be pissed at me. So, I said, “Garner called me, Erika, Sam Cruz and Marsha into his office. He was mysterious, but said that the new girl—Rose—had gone through some tough times, and was looking for a quiet place to fit in. He asked us to help.”
Larry nodded. “I wonder what the deal is.”
“I know,” I replied. “All I know is that we are supposed to quietly help her fit in.”
“What is she like?” Albert asked, getting to the real point. I understood immediately. A new, hot girl shows up in town, whether she was attached, available, interesting, whatever, was of critical importance. Of course, I hadn’t actually asked any of those questions.
“She seemed nice. Maybe a bit shy and nervous. Sad, maybe.”
“You going to go for it?” Albert asked.
“I barely know her,” I protested. As I said, I’m not the most aggressive guy in the world.
“It’s just nice to see a new girl in town,” Larry noted.
“Because none of the old ones will do anything with us,” I said, stating the obvious. Which is not to say that any of the three of us were horrible. To the contrary, objectively speaking, we were all O.K. looking, reasonably intelligent and pretty genial. But we all found it hard to hook up with the girls that we had known forever. Other guys didn’t seem to have that problem, and there were a number of couples in town, some of whom were reportedly fucking like bunnies, but none of us had ever gotten laid.
There was a moment of silence while we sipped our drinks. I know that I briefly considered the odds, and I suspect my friends did too. But I knew that there was little chance that anything would come of the arrival of Rose Hicks, and the conversation shifted quickly back to the pennant race and TV.
That night, we were eating dinner and Mom asked me, as she usually did, if anything interesting happened at school. I know she was expecting the usual negative response, and I saw her eyebrows arch when I said, “Actually, yes.”
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