A new day, a different year. Will I stand, or run in fear?
The morning I started seventh grade, I woke up with the house all to myself. Mom and Dad had already gone to the restaurant, and I was old enough to not have to go to Nanna Rose’s before school. I did have Cocoa, who was lying in her bed on the floor. Her big, bulging eyes rolled up at me. I took her outside and looked over at Travis’s house, which was still dark. I heard nothing but air conditioners running and traffic from the main road outside of our neighborhood.
On the map, the northern part of Pineapple Beach looked less populated and woodsier than the touristy area of town. Like all places in Florida, it got insanely hot in August when school started again so it never felt like our summer vacation had ended. The night before I had sat with Travis and his sister Mindy on a picnic table in the pavilion, feeling like it was any old day; not the day before school.
Travis and I had been in the same class at Sunnytide Elementary School but since we started seventh grade that year, we had to go to Pineapple Junior High instead. That meant a bus ride down the coast a bit until we got closer to downtown Pineapple Beach. It also meant that the tiny group of us who had been in sixth grade together was now going to be thrown in with kids who had gone to elementary school in Pineapple Beach the year before.
I got to the bus stop early because I was used to being at Nanna Rose’s by sunrise. I had gotten her house by five in the morning when I was too young to be left alone (as my mother had said.) Usually I helped her around the kitchen or in the garden then I’d draw in my notebook or read my poetry books until the bus picked me up for school. Most weekdays it wasn’t until dinner time when I would take the bus or Travis’s mom would pick me up at and bring me back home before my parents arrived hours later.
Travis wasn’t anywhere in sight, so I sat at the picnic bench at the pavilion again and opened up my lunch bag. I had brought muffins back from Nanna Rose’s house the day before, and I shared them with Travis and Mindy. Today I had one left so I made it my breakfast. It was sweet and buttery with a ton of blueberries. I tasted plenty of muffins, cakes and cookies before in my life but none were as good as Nanna Rose’s.
I heard a door swing open way up the road through the mobile home park. Travis had on his new school clothes and book bag. His hair was wet, and he still looked tired. I took a last look at the picture I drew in my notebook and carefully closed it, so I didn’t smudge the ink.
“No, let me see,” Travis said as he sat on the bench.
I opened the notebook back up and showed him. It was a little map of Pineapple Beach.
“You forgot to add the marina.” He pointed with his long finger. His dad worked as a fisherman. He always brought home fish and shrimp encased in ice in big, white barrels in the bed of his pickup truck. My mom would take some to the restaurant for deep frying. The fish sandwiches she made were amazing, but she hadn't done anything other than hot dogs for a while.
“What time is the bus supposed to turn up?” he asked me, checking his new watch. It wasn’t anything pricey, but it was digital and probably more than his mother had wanted to pay for it.
“Should be here any minute,” I said. I packed the notebook and walked with Travis to the bus stop.
We looked both ways down Ocean Boulevard. The four-lane road was pretty quiet because there wasn’t much up where we lived except the convenience store. The library and the elementary school were on another side road, so we usually walked across the road to the other side. That’s why they put the risen walkway there a while ago. Parents were mad about having to cross all the way down at the light or walk through the grassy median just to get to the other side of the street. Since we weren’t in a populated area, the City of Pineapple Beach didn’t pay much attention to us until we brought up the need for a walkway.