She shifted her weight back, trying to detangle herself from Micah’s arms.   Pulling her face away from his neck, the memory of his scent automatically tucked away in her mind, she met Micah’s raised brow line, wide eyes, and even wider grin.

“Eden?  Is that you?” he asked, as they separated further.   Aware his hands still held her forearms she was forced to remain and maintain eye contact. She nodded, terrified to speak.

“Wow! How the heck are you?  It’s been forever!” Though his face appeared delighted, she couldn’t help but notice how un-delighted his girlfriend was, as her amber eyes glared up at her.  Un-phased Micah continued, “My dad told me your dad got hired on at his firm.  That’s awesome!  So did you guys move back then?”

Again she nodded, hoping Micah would realize he was still holding onto her.  What’s wrong with me? Running up and hugging him!

“What’s it been four, five years?” he asked.

Deciding his friends might think her a mute, she answered, “Five.”  Her mouth was so dry her upper lip got caught on one of her braces as she spoke. She licked her lips, pulling her mouth shut.  Micah didn’t seem to notice but the tan girl did and smirked. 

“Yo, Micah, are you going to introduce us or what?” the big guy asked.

“Oh, yeah, sorry guys.  This is Eden.  We grew up next door to each other, best friends our whole lives.”  Micah eyes danced with pleasure.  He gestured to the jock, “This here’s Chase, his girl Willow, and Megan,” there was the slightest hesitation, “my girlfriend.”   At the word girlfriend, Micah’s blue eyes registered something and he released Eden’s arms. 

She gratefully let them drop to her sides. “Nice to meet you.”

Willow cocked an eyebrow at her, her icy blue eyes sweeping up and down Eden’s frame, as she twirled a lock of her black hair between two fingers.  “Where’d you move from?” she asked.

Eden tried to answer under Willow’s icy stare but her voice cracked.

Micah jumped in. “Portsmouth wasn’t it?  That’s where your dad got work after-” he stopped, searched her face and then glanced at his friends.    

Oh gosh, he’s embarrassed by me!  “I’ve, I’ve got to go, get to class,” she said side stepping, tugging at her back pack.

Micah frowned.  “Do you need any help?  Know where you’re going?”

Her eyes were stinging.  Not now, please not now.  She hated her over active water works.  She waved saying, “Yeah, I’m good, thanks,” and shuffled away.

“It’s sweet you’re back,” Micah called out.

She peeked back. Megan was scowling at her from behind Micah.   “Yeah, see ya.” She slipped into the throng of almost tardy kids.  She had barely ascended the steps and darted into the classroom when the bell shrilled.   Spying the only free seat on the opposite side of the room, she hurried across aware of gawking eyes.  In the second to last row, three seats back, she sank down into the chair, sliding her back pack to the floor.

"Mr. Giles’s not going to like you, you know,” a boy to her left leaned over and whispered.

She wanted to ignore him, but his emerald green eyes were startling bright and so close. 

“Whatever, Andrew.” The red headed girl to her right whispered.

“Ah-hum,” the teacher coughed.  Eden snapped to attention.   “Are you a transfer student?” Mr. Giles asked, holding the role in hand, his bald head reflecting the overhead lights.

“Yeah, from Portsmouth High.”

“I need your name,” Mr. Giles said, apparently not caring where she’d come from.

“Oh, sorry, Eden McCarthy.”

“Ok, I assume you were given the right text books at the office.  We’re now half way into the school year.  You missed the final before Christmas break.”  There were a few grunts of ‘so not fair’ and ‘lucky you’.  Mr. Giles’s stare silenced them.  “I’ll get you a syllabus at the end of class to get you up to speed.”

She nodded, anxious for everyone’s eyes to be elsewhere.  Mr. Giles walked away, methodically taking role.

“He’s the worst teacher ever,” the red head girl muttered. Eden’s face flushed, afraid the teacher might overhear.  “I’m Jessie, by the way,” the girl said offering a hand, “So from Portsmouth huh?  Navy brat or something?”

“No, my dad switched jobs.”  She shook the proffered hand as inconspicuously as she could.

“So where’s your family’s mansion?”  Jessie asked.

“I, we don’t live in one.  I live in Sturbridge.”

“A townhome baby like me.” Jessie smiled. “We’re neighbors.”

She smiled back.  “Really? Cool.”

I can tell I’m going to like you,” Jessie announced, receiving a stern sh from Mr. Giles and snickers from other students.

Eden sunk deep into her seat, ready to be buried in her comfort zone solving math equations.

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