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After the summer break, on her first day back to school, Miah was faced with a surprise. She had survived the entire summer by herself, and now she was confronted by a new girl sitting at her desk in homeroom as if she had sat there every day for the past three years. That morning, Miah had left Lucy in her mother’s capable hands and her baby had cried out for her, wanting her mother not her grandmother. She was not in the mood to be trifled with.

“What are you doing in my chair, behind my desk?” she asked edgily, raising her eyebrows and folding her arms across her chest.

The girl looked up at her and smiled, held out her right hand. Warily, Miah shook it briskly, waiting.

“Hi, I’m Ashley Carlyle. Are you Miah Warren?” the girl asked pleasantly, tossing her black ponytail over her shoulder.

Miah nodded uncertainly.

“Who told you about me?” she asked suspiciously.

“Randoms. They told me that you would be wanting your seat back, so I kept it safe for you and didn’t let anyone else steal it. Don’t worry, I’ll move over” Ashley replied, picking up her belongings and shifting to the desk next to that one.

“Thanks” Miah mumbled, dropping her backpack and sliding onto her old chair.

Ashley smiled again and leaned up on her elbows, turning her head to look at Miah again.

“So, how’s your baby?” she asked.

Miah narrowed her eyes and clasped her hands tightly together in her lap.

“How did you know about her?”

Ashley shrugged.

“People talk around here, apparently. A boy named Michael Eversley told me” she said, glancing towards the classroom door. “Look, there he is.”

Miah looked up and locked eyes with the senior walking quietly inside the room. He grinned at her and came over, sitting on the edge of one of the nearby desks.

“Hey, Miah. Hi, Ashley” he said, speaking confidently.

“I don’t know you” Miah said slowly, confused. “How did you know I had a baby?”

Michael blinked his green eyes at her.

“Everyone knows. It was kind of obvious when you were walking around with your stomach sticking out” he said, quirking another smile.

Miah flushed and fidgeted nervously.

“Oh, right” she muttered self consciously. “Forgot about that. But I still don’t know you.”

Michael shook his head.

“I know that” he replied. “Cheyenne told me to look out for you when you came back, just in case anyone decided to be nasty.”

Miah couldn’t help her smile then.

“Oh, okay. Thank you then, I guess?” she said uncertainly.

He nodded at her and smiled again.

“You’re welcome. Your daughter all right?”

Miah nodded back.

“Yes, she’s fine. Did Cheyenne tell you I had a girl?” she answered.

“Yep. What’s her name?” Michael asked.

“Lucy. She wasn’t happy about me leaving today, but my mother will look after her just fine” Miah told him, trying to tell herself the same thing.

Ashley was watching their conversation going back and forth, a pleased smile on her face. Suddenly, Miah turned to face her.

“Hey, I forgot to ask you. Where are you from?” she said abruptly.

“Oklahoma” Ashley told her.

“Huh. Cool. I have an aunt and uncle in Oklahoma” Miah mused thoughtfully. “I must really tell them about Lucy.”

Ashley laughed.

“You haven’t told them yet?” she asked, grinning at her.

Miah shrugged.

“No, I guess not. They weren’t a priority at the time” she murmured, thinking of her Aunt Delilah and Uncle Arthur.

Ashley nodded understandingly. She was opening her mouth to say something else, but just then the homeroom teacher waltzed into the room, smiling dreamily at all of the students standing or sitting before her eyes.

“Hello, children. I do hope you all had exceptionally lovely summers; I did, certainly. Thank you for asking” Ms. Hope said loftily.

They all stared at her, blank faced and silent. She simply beamed back at them, oblivious.

Ashley leaned over toward Miah, so she leaned over in turn, just as she would have done with Cheyenne, or once upon a time, with Seth.

“She an English teacher, too?” Ashley whispered conspiratorially.

“Yup!” Miah whispered back, grinning in a way she hadn’t in a long time. “I’d say we’ve got her this year. Last year, I had Mr. Levitt, but he doesn’t teach seniors anymore; he told me his heart can’t handle them now.”

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