Chapter 1

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The crowd of chattering students surrounds me as I try to find room twenty-two. Despite promising myself I would find all my classes on my own I find myself seeking the help of a blonde. She points me in the direction of my first class and I thank her before following her directions. Slowly, I open the red door and step into the warm classroom. I walk past the group of students gathered around discussing something and walk up to the teacher. Her dark brown rests on her shoulders and her brown eyes are warm and welcoming. She smiles when I reach her desk.

“Hello, my name is Danielle Storm,” I introduce myself.

She extends her hand and I shake it. Her skin is soft and cold, despite the room being so warm. “I am Mrs. Devan,” she responds. “I hope you are not having a difficult time adapting to the new weather here.”

“New York is a lot colder than this,” I give her a warm smile. I cannot say I like her because class has not yet started. Throughout the many times I have moved schools I have come to the conclusion that those teachers who do not force me to introduce myself and give a pointless speech are my favorite.

“I bet it is, especially this time of year.”

“New York City is incredibly beautiful during Christmas,” I say proudly. Speaking of New York makes a knot form in my throat. Mrs. Devan notices the change in my expression and changes the subject.

“I had your parents in my class a few years ago. I am glad they decided to move back here. We definitely missed them and we are so happy to have you,” she states and pulls me into an unexpected embrace.

The bell rings and students begin to file into the classroom and take their usual seats. Mrs. Devan leads me to a seat in the back of the classroom near the window.

“Don’t worry,” she says, “I will not make you introduce yourself. I have never been fond of teachers who do that. I mean it’s already bad that you are new to a class why announce it.”

I will definitely like this teacher.

I smile at her and she walks the front of her classroom. I take in the room; her walls are covered with posters encouraging you to succeed. The space on the wall by her desk contains pictures of her family and former students. The student desks are in decent condition and I am thankful there is no gum under my desk when I accidentally run my hand under the desk. This class is not as bad as I pictured it would be. Mrs. Devan starts her class and makes no reference to me whatsoever. I thank God for that. The only people who notice me is the brunette to the right of me and the blonde guy in front of me.

I manage to get to second period in two minutes. Partly because the door number was visible when I exited Mrs. Devan’s room and partly because I spent the previous period studying routes to all my classes. Mrs. Devan was introducing the next novel they would read as a class, Pride and Prejudice. I have read that novel at least five within the past year so the next few weeks should be very easy in this class.

Mr. Wood is a different story. As soon as the final bell rings he calls my name. I look up and he is signaling for me to join him in the front of the classroom. I walk over to him and feel the stares penetrating my back.

“This is our new student Danielle Storm from Kansas City,” he announces, his voice loud and clear. “Would you mind saying a few things about yourself?”

“I’m from New York City,” I accentuate my birth place and continue, “and now I am living here in Kirkham, California.”

“So this weather, that has all the girls wearing boots as if they lived in Alaska, is nothing to you?”

“We get snow in New York,” I say casually.

“It’s not always like this,” Mr. Wood continues, clearly oblivious to the fact that I want to sit down, “California is the best state to live in.”

“I’d beg to differ,” I say before I can stop myself. Some students snicker and others laugh. I try to focus on not turning red.

“You’ll have a different opinion in a few months,” Mr. Wood replies confidently and allows me to go to my seat.

Mr. Wood begins to talk about Synthetic Division and I take that as my cue to take out my phone. Two messages from Ethan make my heart ache. I wish I could be back in New York sitting next to Ethan and Rebecca in Economics. We would be making plans for our annual trip to Toronto. Ethan’s dimples would appear as he laughed at my awful jokes and Rebecca would role her eyes at me as usual. Thinking about them has me on the verge of tears. I haven’t allowed myself to dwell on missing them since I left and sitting in the middle of Pre-Calculus is definitely not the appropriate setting.

“You okay?” a deep voice brings me back to reality.

I look over to the blonde boy who has spoken to me. His deep blue eyes are mesmerizing. His dark clothes accentuate his skin color making it seem paler than he actually his. He pulls his lip ring between his teeth as he waits for me to reply.

“Yeah,” I manage when I stop gawking.

“Just making sure,” he continues. “I’m Luke.”

I smile at him and introduce myself before Mr. Wood rebukes us for talking during his lecture.

“Mr. Wood is annoying,” Luke tells me as we walk out of the classroom.

“I don’t like him,” I tell Luke. “He made me introduce myself, I hate that.”

We continue walking and I begin to think he is my first friend at Kirkham High. The floor is covered with puddles and I focus on not stepping in any. Luke points to his group of friends in the distance and begin to feel a bit anxious. When I step, my boot slides on the thin layer of water beneath my feet and I panic, knowing I will end up on the floor. Contradictory to my predictions, Luke’s strong arms catch me and prevent my fall. I look up to him and thank him. His arm does not leave my waist as he leads me to his friends. Ten pairs of eyes scrutinize me as we stand before his group of friends. 

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