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Monday, May 28, 2012

Foreign "Exchange" Student



You’d think that a small town down south would have nothing interesting happening in it…you’re dead wrong.
Tommy and I were best friends, had been for years and years, only now things were changing, we were changing.   It was Freshman year at Richmond Valley High and being eighth graders were King of the crop, or so we thought. 
First period was swimming, nothing like going through the rest of the day with wet, stringy hair, black eyes from the mascara that wasn’t water proof, and smelling like clorine.  That’ll attract any boy that comes your way.
I hurried down the stairs to the locker room I slipped.  Down on my butt I went and slid to the landing.  Laughter from those around me, upperclassmen who started throwing pennies on my head.   So, this is how it’s gonna be, you make a fool out of yourself, not on purpose mind you and you get pennies thrown at you. 
Charming.
I got up with what little dignity I had left and marched into the locker room and put on my swim suit.  God, how many others had worn this exact same suit?  I didn’t want to know, because if I did, I’d go naked into class.  The boys don’t wear swim suits, it’s true, but don’t you dare try to sneak a peek, because if you do, it’s a walk to the principals office and a call home.  How I lived for dangerous episodes, those came with high expectations of a good time!
Jenna was shivering next to the edge of the pool when I stood next to her.  Jenna was my BFF, we’d been through thick and thin.  Today was one of those thin days.
“Hey Jenna, what’s up?”  I was curious, she looked sort of pale and not all too well.  Period most likely.
She looked at me in her mousey but warm way.  “I’m not feeling too well and frankly the thought of swimming makes me want to throw up.”  She looked back into the blue water and shivered some more.
“Period huh?”
“No.”
“Well, then maybe you should go home and take it easy a bit.  I mean, heck if you’re sick you need to get well.   You’re not going to miss much in swimming today anyway and the rest of the day isn’t that big of a deal.  I mean, nothing special is going on.  Go to the nurses, I’ll tell Mrs. Michael’s.”
Jenna nodded and turned toward the locker room.  I was concerned now, Jenna is hardly ever sick and it made my heart ache to see her like that.  Pitiful it was. 
Swim class was as usual very high in the dramatic expectations.   I am not a fish, I’m more like an anchor.   Do you know how embarrassing it is for your teacher to jump in and save you…continually?  It’s down right mortifying.
The rest of the day was pretty messed up, must be a full moon tonight, because I swear nothing was going right.  I got on the bus and sat in the very back, I didn’t want to be by anyone, I might jinx them.  As it was, a new kid got on and I could not take my eyes off of him.   He was drop dead gorgeous  with eyes that seemed so…hard to describe because I’ve never seen anything like em.   Sort of on the green side, but not quite green.  It was a weird color, but hey who’s to complain when the rest of him is so GQ. 
I was hoping he didn’t see me because I didn’t look at all presentable, so slouching down into my seat was my best approach to being incognito.  Didn’t work.   Next thing I knew he was standing by me.
“May I sit here?”
May you sit here?  Do you really need to ask that?  God you can sit there, on my lap for all I care, “God , yes!  I mean, of course. “   oops.
The things that come out of my mouth make me wonder why I even exist at all.   I mean seriously?
“My name is Quintin.  What’s yours?”
“Oh, my name is Hallie, Hallie Bernstein.”  I shook his hand and smiled, somewhat, then Tommy came aboard looking not at all pleased with the vision he just encountered.  I swallowed hard and waved to him excitingly.  I had hoped that would change  his pensive mood…it didn’t.  I don't know why, but  lately he has had to sit next to me on the bus...everyday!  What is up with him I wonder?
“Hey Tommy how was your day?”  I spoke as sweet as sugar to him and smiled – big.
“Who’s your friend? And why is he sitting in my spot?”  God could you be more blunt?
“Tommy where are your manners?  This here is Quintin, he’s new and he asked if he could sit here.  So, I said yes.  You know, being neighborly and all.  That’s the “polite” thing to do.”   I over emphasized polite so that he’d know I wanted him to “cool it!”  Especially when we weren’t  really going out.
"?"
“I’m sorry, is this your seat?”  Quintin asked.
“Yeah, it is.  Move.”  Well, hush my mouth if Tommy ain’t the bug that bit my dog.  I’ve never seen him like this, nor did I like it.
“Excuse me Quintin, but I’m sorry for Tommy’s behavior.  Tommy, why don’t you sit back there, and maybe chill out a bit.”  I glared at him.  How rude?   Words will be spoken when we get to my house.  Sigh.  Just what I needed to end my day with…words and they weren’t going to be pleasant ones either.
The bus ride was noisey as usual, but at our end it was silent, cold and very tense.  Quintin got off and said his goodbyes and hoped to meet again, to which I assured him we probably would, then Tommy rushed over and sat down next to me.  God he was annoying.
“You like him?”
“Excuse me?  But I don’t think that’s any of your business now.  Besides, since when did I need your permission to have someone else sit next to me?  We’re not an item or are we?”
He didn’t say anything, just looked straight ahead, but  when I started to open my mouth in retaliation he cut in.
“Yes.”
“Yes what?”
“Yes, we are an item.”
“Since when?    How about the next time you specially count me in as your girl share it!   I’d kinda like to know who I’m going out with.”
“I thought you knew.”  He just gave me the dumbest look, like I’m suppose to know this.
“How?  Telepathically?  Jesus Christ Shepard of Judea what the heck is wrong with you?”
“Hallie, I’ve always liked you and I thought you liked me.  I can see that I was wrong, but…”  Stopping mid-sentence he turned and walked away.  
I wanted to run after him, but I thought to hell with him.  He’s nuttier than a fruit cake on Christmas.  The day could not end any sooner and the quicker I got home and into bed the better I’d be for it.  This was just a nightmare come true.  Hopefully tomorrow things will be back to normal.
Things were not back to normal.
I got on the bus, sat in my usual seat and waited for the next re-run of yesterday to happen, but it didn’t.  Instead  the doors closed and we were off to school.  Where was Tommy?  Quintin?  This was odd, Tommy never missed school as for Quintin, I had no idea what his case was, but it didn’t matter.  Maybe today would be better.  Maybe.
Things I guess were normal, I mean classes went on in their boring way, lunch was gross as usual, but something about the day just didn’t feel right.  It was an odd sensation, like something was out of whack.  I tried to figure it out, but the more I did, the more I came up with nothing and just decided to pass it off as Tommy not being around.
The day had finally ended and I got on the bus.  I looked out my window to just pass the time until we started to move when I felt the bus dip on one side and looked toward the door.  It was Quintin.  He walked over to me and sat down.  Something was different about him.  I couldn’t quite place it, but I didn’t want to stare.  Odd.
“Where were you this morning?”  I wasn’t sure if I should ask such a question, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say, I mean he wasn’t there this morning!
“You are curious aren’t you?”  He smiled which had such an odd calming effect on me, but something else was telling me that he wasn't all that he presented himself to be.  I moved closer to the wall of the bus.
“What the hell is that suppose to mean?  It was a simple question, you weren’t on the bus this morning and now you’re here.  It’s not curious, just a normal question.  So?”
“So…what?” 
God, this beautiful person who was melting me to tiny pieces, who made me feel so weirded out, was being so thick.
“Where were you?”
“Oh that again.  If you must know I was taking care of some business.”
Business?  What kind of business does a sixteen year old have to do?
“Did you miss me?”  His finger lightly pulled back a strand of hair that swept passed my ear.
That was in my terms  invading my personal space, so I pushed his hand away.
“I don’t even know you, so how could I have missed you?  You're strange and somewhat forward.  Where are you from?”  I couldn’t get any farther away from him.  As it was, I was already hugging the windows for dear life.
“Doesn’t matter does it?  But Hallie, you do know me and quite well.  Years in fact.”
A chill just then snaked up my spine and I shuddered.   Those words, that’s what was wrong, the feel of him.  The tone in how he spoke them rang a bell and then there it was.  I looked at him, I mean “really” looked at him and I gasped.
I grabbed his right arm and shoved his sleeve up and there it was, Tommy’s tatoo, the space ship he had Inkers do on his birthday.
“How…but…it can’t be?”   I looked up at him and as he smiled  something darted out of his mouth, forked and red.
As the bus made it’s way down the rode, screams echoed and faded with the distance.

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