Grabbing my papers that have once again fallen to the floor, I try to make sense of this damn map. The bell rings overhead and my gut tightens. Nothing like being late on your first day.
“You lost?” a sweet voice speaks from behind me.
Adrenaline has me spinning around, hastily pushing my hair out of my face. A brunette with long straight hair, jeans, and a sleeveless purple shirt stands there, looking at me.
“Uh, yeah. I am.” My shoulders drop with defeat.
She smiles, trying to hide her amusement. “What’s your first class?”
Her accent isn’t as thick as the secretary’s; hers is sweeter.
Looking at my schedule, I read, “Parker, American Politics.”
“Oh, room three hundred one. It’s my first class too. Come on.” She steps around me, and I quickly fall into step with her.
“Thank you so much.” That didn’t sound desperate, did it?
“You’re welcome. I’m Anna.” She offers her hand to shake.
“Jonah.” I return her smile and handshake.
“Where’re you from, Jonah?”
I laugh. “That obvious?”
“Well, this is a small town, and everyone knows everyone. Literally.” She finishes with a roll of her eyes.
“Washington state, about an hour from Seattle. Oh, can you tell me where locker eight thirty-six would be?” I ask, remembering I don’t know where that is.
“Lucky! You got a good’en. Mine is way out the way. I can only go to it during lunch.”
“There isn’t enough time between classes?” At my last school, we had eight minutes between classes. There was plenty of time.
“I prolly could, but I’d have ta rush, and it’s just easier this way.”
I follow her as she turns down a different hallway.
“What’re your other classes? I can point ya in the right direction.”
“Oh, thanks.” I find my schedule and read it off to her.
Anna nods her head. “Well, Woodman and Booth will both be back down that hallway.”
I look back to where she points and make a note on my map.
“Farley and Spenser will be down that way.” She points toward an upcoming hallway. “Your locker is in that next bank of ‘em.” She points straight ahead. “And this is our first period.”
I sag with relief. “Thank you so much.”
She smiles up at me. “You’re welcome.”
I pull open the door, letting her step through first, then following her inside. Everyone turns to stare at me. I swallow past the thick knot in my throat.
We are doing God’s work. He has led us here for a reason.
Anna walks me to my next class and points out the following one on our way. The same thing happens in both classes: roll call, handing out and reading of the syllabus, discussion of what materials we will need, and getting our books.
After third period, I drop my books off in my locker and head to the cafeteria for lunch. I haven’t seen Mary at all in between classes; I hope she’s doing all right.
A group of football players walks past me as I’m looking for somewhere to sit. My gut tightens, waiting for one of them to say something to me. A few of them chuckle when they see me standing there alone, but they move on and claim a table in the back.
Forcing out an unsettling breath, I look around and finally see Anna waving at me. Relief courses through me as I make my way over and sit down.
“Hey, Jonah. These’re my friends.” Anna makes the introductions around the table and I smile and nod at the girls.
I’m uncomfortable with the interest I see in a few of their faces. I’ve tried to fake it and date girls, but they always want me to kiss and touch them. That is the last thing I want.
Choking down a bite of my burger, I set it down when I hear my sister’s voice. Finally, someone I don’t have to worry about. I’m sure she’s figured out that I’m not into girls, but she’s never said anything.
The smile on my face quickly fades when I see who she’s with: him. The boy that threw me into the lockers. The boy whose lips have been haunting me since they were within kissing distance this morning. Full, pouty, soft.
“Oh, hey,” I say to Mary, but don’t look at her.
He makes eye contact with me and gives me a questioning look as he swaggers closer. As quickly as I can, I put a wall around me, and a mask falls over my face to protect myself. I don’t know what kind of damage this guy can do to me, but I have a feeling it would be earth-shattering.
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