A relentless player, new friends, oblivious teachers - Alice's work is cut out for her.
|The faint sound of my favorite song filtered through the air as I woke up. The song came to an abrupt stop as soon as I pressed the stop button on my phone's alarm. 6:30 AM - time to get up for school.
I lifted my arms into the air and rolled my shoulders back; a few satisfying pops sounded as I did. I pulled the covers off my legs and yanked my scarf off my head. I took a quick look in the mirror; no curl was misshapen and there were no stray strands of hair sticking out anywhere.
I smiled. Today was going to be a good day. I bounced to my closet and opened it, looking over the options presented. Saint Helena’s was a uniform school but on the first few days, they would let you wear whatever you wanted - as long as it didn’t violate the dress code. I was determined to take advantage of that. The most important part of a good first day of school was making a good first impression, which required a good outfit.
I nibbled on my lip as I looked over a t-shirt with spaghetti straps. I shook my head and put it in the closet. It looked good, but St. Helena probably wouldn’t allow spaghetti straps. I should probably just be safe. It didn't fit the simple style I usually wore, anyways.
After a few more minutes of looking, I finally settled on a peach-colored scalloped tank top, a pair of dark blue capris, and a pair of ankle-length gladiator sandals. Happy with my selection, I laid them out on the bed and walked into the bathroom across the hallway.
I was finished within 30 minutes: it wasn't the shortest shower I had ever taken, but I hadn't spent an hour in there, which was good enough for me.
"Alicia! Breakfast is ready," my Mamá yelled through the floor. I took out my mascara and eyeliner and began to work on my eyelashes. I hated the way they looked without makeup; they weren't long and didn't curl at all. I considered it a miracle when my Mamá finally gave me permission to use mascara two summers ago.
"Alicia! Come get your food!" My mother called impatiently.
"¡Dame un segundo! I'm almost done!" I swept the liner over the edge of my eyelid. If I could just get this one wing right-
"If you don't come downstairs in the next three minutes, I'm giving your food to Maya!" I didn't reply - I was almost done with my lashes.
"Maya looks like she's enjoying that bacon. If you hurry, you might be able to save your toast!" I cursed underneath my breath and hastily capped the mascara. This wasn't my best work but it'll have to do for today. I hurriedly combed my hair out of my face before rushing down the stairs.
I came to a screeching halt when I got to the white ball of fluff sitting on the bottom of the stairs.
"Sorry, Maya! I almost didn't see you there." I stepped over her and continued to the kitchen.
Wait a minute-
I looked back at Maya. She stared up at me with wide blue eyes, barking as she trotted over to me. I looked over to my mother, who was sitting at the bar with a rather smug look on her face.
"Sixteen years, and you still keep falling for that trick," my mother snickered. I puffed my cheeks out as I stomped over to my breakfast and dug into the oatmeal. You would think after living with her my whole life, I would've figured out when she was pulling the wool over my eyes.
"Can we just turn on the TV?" I changed the subject, fighting to keep my cheeks from heating up. My dark skin would've hidden the blush, but that didn't make me feel any less embarrassed.
I watched absentmindedly as they switched from subject to subject; I was more focused on finishing my breakfast. The news didn't keep my attention for long, because as soon as the went to a commercial break, my mind went to other places.
"Hey, Mamá," I asked between bites. "Do you know when Dad's coming home?"
She stared at me out the corner of her eyes and said, "I thought you had it in your calendar."
"I do, but my phone’s still in my room, and I don't wanna have to make three trips back up the stairs." It was weird, getting used to having a second floor in my home. In Brooklyn, we had lived in an apartment just big enough for the four of us, and there wasn't much space to move around.
"Your father's deployment should be up in about three weeks." I silently cheered. Dad's cooking was the best. Mamá tried when she cooked for Isaac and me, but she couldn't make waffles the way my Dad could.
I paused and frowned for a moment. Where was my brother anyway? I looked up at the clock; it was already 7:30. Isaac wasn't exactly a night owl, but he would never sleep in this late.
THUNK! A string of curses, both in English and Spanish, followed afterward, along with a hurried pair of footsteps stumbling down the stairs. Isaac came rushing into the kitchen, glaring wildly at me and Mamá.
"Why didn't anybody wake me up?!" he demanded.
"Do you also want me to pick out your clothes and drive you to school, too?" My mother teased. I snickered as my brother snatched a piece of bacon off the plate Mamá had made for him and began to wolf it down.
"You know, there's this amazing piece of technology on your phone called an alarm," I mentioned as I finished my toast. "You should try using it sometime." I gave him a taunting look as I leaned back in the bar chair. His only response was a quick glare out of the side of his eye before he dashed back upstairs to get ready for the day.
"It's almost 7:45, young lady," my mother told me as she put the dishes in the sink. "Go get your back and head to school."
"But it's not even eight o'clock yet. I've still got time."
"That's what everybody says fifteen minutes before they need to leave. Next thing you know, it'll be ten o'clock and you'll be in your pajamas again, binge-watching Law & Order!" I rolled my eyes as she finished. She swatted at me with a newspaper (who even still has these anymore) and shooed me back upstairs.
I quickly smoothed out my hair and picked up my book bag. Taking one last look at my outfit and smoothing out the last few wrinkles, I began taking in slow deep breaths.
Smile with your eyes, watch your tone, walk with confidence. I gave my reflection a determined look.
Today was going to be a good day.
Today was not a good day. As soon as I set foot on St. Helena's grounds, practically everyone in the school was staring at me. I thought of myself as pretty, but not pretty enough to get those kinds of looks. They were looking at me like I had walked right out of a Michael Kors fashion show. Things only got stranger from there.
When I got to homeroom, a girl named Sarah walked up to me at the door. At first, I was happy to see her. She was friendly and was nice enough to show me around the school; nobody had done that at Deer Valley. She taught me a lot of things about the school - the best hangout spots, the places with no supervision, etc. I also learned in that period of time that Sarah liked to talk - a lot.
I don't mind talking to people, but Sarah just talked nonstop about nothing in particular. She'd start off with a joke about anime, then jump to the latest BTS interview or something like that, and then go straight to something she saw happen on Riverdale. Even if she did stay one topic long enough, I couldn't get in a single word because she wouldn't. Stop. TALKING. The worst part was that she was in every class I was in, except Track & Field (thank God for that miracle), and sat next to me in every class.
To top it all off, the Algebra II teacher gave everybody a test on the first day of school. Ms. Benjamin didn't even try to make up an excuse for it either. She just dropped the paper on our desks and said, "Get busy and good luck." Deer Valley Academy was a tough school, but even they didn't give me a test on the first day of school.
My fingers were aching, my back was hurting from the hard plastic seats they made us sit in, and all I wanted to do was go home. I had never hated school before, but this one day was making me dread the rest of my school year.
"Hey, Alice." Oh God no.
"Alice!" Maybe if I ignored her long enough she would leave me alone.
"What?!" I hissed at her. I snuck a quick glance at the front of the room; Ms. Benjamin was messing around her phone. She hadn't noticed me talking to Sarah, but I didn't want to take any chances.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but we're in the middle of taking a test right now," I turned back to my paper. "What could possibly be so important that you would need to get my attention during a test?"
"You know that boy I told you about - Xavier Thompson?" Did she seriously just stop me so she could talk about boys?
"What about him?" She would probably spiral off into a tangent about him, and I'll let her keep talking. If she gets into trouble for talking during a test, that's on her.
"He's been staring at you for about five minutes." Wait, what?
I peeked at him from the corner of my eye. Sure enough, Xavier's bright green eyes were on my figure. I had felt like someone was staring at me since the test started, but I hadn't cared enough to see who it was.
"He can stare all he wants," I told Sarah as I marked another answer on my test, "As long he doesn't try anything, there won't be any problems."
I could see Sarah gaping at me from the corner of my eye. I fought back the urge to roll my eyes as I took my paper up to the teacher's desk.
Honestly, the way she talked about Xavier made him seem like a teen celebrity. It sounded like he was one, too. He was always having sex with random girls - even while he was already dating someone - and kept getting into fights. There were rumors floating around the school that he was running a gang, but I'll be Queen of England before he actually runs a gang.
Besides that, there was something about him that just rubbed me the wrong way. The less I talked to him, the better.
The bell rung, drawing me back out of my thoughts. That was the shortest class period I'd ever had in my life. I quickly stuck my pencil back into my book bag and jogged to the door.
The halls were stuffed to the brim with people. I could barely take a single step without getting jostled or pushed into another person. Suddenly, the edge of my shirt snagged on a zipper, yanking me backward. I fought with the fabric for a second before finally freeing myself and stumbling forward.
A pair of rough hands suddenly grabbed hold of my arms, snatching me away from the bustling crowd and into a hard chest. I looked up at my supposed rescuer and was met with a pair of bright green eyes.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine." I tried to turn around, but his hands were like Vise-Grips.
"You should be more careful," he leaned down to be eye level with me. "The crowds are like waves - one wrong move, and you'll get swept away." His warm breath fanned over my ear. Did this guy not know what the meaning of the words "personal space?"
"Um, yeah. Thanks for telling me. Could you let go of me now? I need to get to Track & Field." I squirmed to get out of his grip; if he held me any tighter, my arms might bruise.
He let go, thankfully, and walked off down the hallway, disappearing in the ever-changing crowd. I rubbed my arms to try to bring some feeling back to them. This Xavier guy was just weird. The only type of people I knew acted like that were perverts and stalkers. Like I said earlier, the less I see of Xavier, the better. I readjusted my backpack before rushing down the hallway to my next class.