Meeting

Someone pushed me as I walked past, my head down, and I fell to the floor with a cry of pain. "Weirdo!" I heard them call as they ran away. I fought hard to stop the tears from leaking out of my blue eyes. I got up and started to walk again, only to have someone spray water at me. Soaking and with a bruise blooming on my knee, I stumbled to AP Calculus. I was already five minutes late.

"Alice Brandon!" shouted Mr Hardwicke. "Take a tardy slip." I took the small piece of paper and I heard someone snigger. I could feel my cheeks turning bright red.

Some people say that High School is the best time of a person's life. I sure hope not. Not when every day I get pushed and hit and generally picked on.

My name is Alice Mary Brandon. I'm 4"10. I've got short spiky hair. Blue eyes. Nothing too outlandish. Just Alice. But, people still find reasons to pick on me.

It started when I first started at High School. I hadn't been to school for a long time. I'd been…ill for a while, and school just wasn't possible when you're shut in a 10x10 hospital room. All I saw was white for six years. White walls, white bed linen, white flowers. High school was a bit of a culture shock. The friends I'd had when I was nine didn't remember me that well. I was just a girl they used to know. I hadn't made new friends for a while. I wouldn't speak. My only experience of people was with doctors. My parents had stopped talking to me long ago, when I stopped talking back.

The bell rang out loudly and I gathered up my books quickly, trying to get to English before people could cause any more damage. I failed. Someone managed to stick gum to my skirt. I sighed and carefully picked it off. I examined the fabric. There was no sticky residue left behind. I carried on to English like nothing had happened. But someone stuck their leg out and I tripped, going head first into a water fountain and hitting my head. Hard. This time I couldn't hold back the tears. Salty water streamed down my face, until I couldn't see anymore.

"Hey," someone whispered, crouching down in front of me. "Are you okay?" I nodded and they took my hand and pulled me up. I swayed a little. "I think we should take you to the nurse," he sounded worried. I shook my head and started walking. "Hey! Wait!" I heard footsteps behind me and I stopped. It would be worse if I ran, it always was. But no hurt came. Instead, the sweet voice whispered into my ear: "I really think you should go and see the nurse," I shook my head vigorously. What would she do? She'd just send me back to lessons again. No one wanted me to take up their time. "Why not?" he asked. I raised my eyebrows. "I see your point. Kind of. I'm Jasper. I'm new here. What's your name?" I rolled my eyes. New kid. He'd soon find out that it would be best if he didn't talk to me at all. "Do you… Do you speak?" I shrugged. But the answer was no. No. Never. My speech therapist was getting desperate. But I would not utter a word, not for her or for anyone. I preferred living in my head.

I turned to the boy who wouldn't leave me alone. I gasped. He was… there was no other word for it, beautiful. He had startling blue eyes that sparkled every time he blinked and soft blonde hair that fell into them.

"What class have you got?" he asked me. I sighed and handed him my schedule. He looked at it and smiled. "English, same as me. Come one, I'll walk with you."

The journey to English was silent. The way I liked it.

"Brandon!" Mrs Richards shouted as soon as I stepped in the door. "You're tardy, again. And who are you?"
"I'm Jasper Whitlock ma'am," the boy said. "And, ma'am it wasn't her fault, she found me lost and showed me the way."

"Even so, Mr Whitlock, tardy is tardy. I'll let you off because it's your first day, but never again, do you understand?"

"Yes ma'am." he said quickly.

"Mr Whitlock, I'm sure you had a very different way of living in Texas, but here in Biloxi, we do not call our teachers ma'am. You will call me Mrs Richards, understand?"

"Yes ma-Mrs Richards."
"Thank you Mr Whitlock. Now please take a seat next to Miss Brandon." Jasper walked towards me and sat next to me. He pulled a piece of paper from the centre of his notebook and wrote something on it. He handed it to me.

Dragon Lady huh?

I had to suppress my giggles. I wrote a message back.

Yep. Wait until she gets angry.

She wasn't angry then? Oh crap. So, Miss Brandon. Are you going to tell me your first name?

Alice.

It suits you. It's short and sweet.

You don't even know me.

I know you more than you think. You get bullied, maybe because you don't speak? You have a lot of money, but aren't necessarily looked after. You don't sleep much. You're clever, but the teachers don't favour you like some of the geeks. They think you're being deliberately insolent by not speaking.

How do you know all that? You a stalker or something?

Maybe. Or maybe, the first one I witnessed earlier, I know you have a lot of money because your bag is Prada, you're not looked after because your jumper is on back to front. Any caring parent would have noticed that. Unless they work early?

I glanced down at my jumper, embarrassed. I pulled it off and put it on the right way. I carried on reading the note.

I know you don't sleep much because you have dark circles underneath your eyes. And I know you're clever because you're note taking word for word what Dragon Lady says, before she even says it. But she doesn't like you, hence the tardy slip. And the shouting.

Maybe I should hire you as my shrink. You'd certainly be better than 'Rachel'.

There you go, I know you see a shrink called Rachel.

So, why are you talking to me? I'm the freak. The weirdo.

You don't seem weird to me. You're a nice person Alice. People just don't see beneath the silence.

The paper was whisked out of my hand and crumpled into a ball. I looked up to see Mrs Richards looming over us, a terrifying expression on her face. When did she stop talking? Surely I would have noticed. I was taking notes.

"Maybe yourself and Mr Whitlock would like to carry on your discussion down in the principal's office." She sneered.

"That won't be necessary Mrs Richards," soothed Jasper. He seemed to have extraordinary influence over her because she just said:
"Don't let it happen again," and she walked away, a confused look on her face.

The bell rang and I gathered my books together. Jasper did the same, and followed me out of the classroom.

"I have History next. What about you?" he asked. I nodded to show I had the same. He walked beside me to class, and amazingly, no one touched me. Jasper was like my shield. People stared at him instead of me, the amazingly gorgeous new guy. He was placed beside me in History and as soon as he discovered we were studying the civil war, his face lit up. No notes were passed in the lesson; Jasper merely drank in every word the teacher was saying, not even bothering to make notes.

Fourth period equalled no Jasper. Strangely, even though we had known each other for not even half a day, I felt I needed him. He was like a drug; even though I had only had a small dose I had become immediately addicted. The worst thing was, I was sure that in the last period, he would have made at least one friend. Where did that leave me? Sitting at the lunch table alone like always.

But as I slid into an empty seat, someone did the same next to me. I was immediately dazzled by Jasper's white smile.

"Hey Alice!" he exclaimed, as if he was really excited to see me. I was beginning to think this was some kind of joke. I frowned and pulled out my notebook, flipping the cover back.

Hey I wrote Now it's my turn Jasper Whitlock.

Your turn to what?

To read you.

Read me?
Uh huh. Nope, can't do it. You're too hard to read. Tell me about yourself.

I was born in Texas. I…wasn't exactly what you'd call the perfect child. When I was twelve, my parents sent me to military school. I was meant to hate it, meant to realise how grateful I should be. But I loved it. I loved the drills, the uniform, the discipline. It just felt natural to me. I wanted to be a soldier. But as soon as my parents realised this, they pulled me out. They don't want me to go to war, to fight for my country. They love me, and want to keep me safe. Just like they did when they sent me to military school in the first place. And it did help. I learned discipline, something I never really experienced when my parents had lots of money and left me with a nanny all day. They work full time, so they couldn't stay and look after me. My nanny was a pushover.

I laughed at the thought of a five year old Jasper wreaking havoc whilst a nanny cried protests. He smiled at me and scrawled something else on the bottom of the paper.

Your laugh is beautiful. I stared at him.

AN: Oh, I loved writing that! And as much as I shouldn't be making more stories now, I have to upload this one. I love it. I'll try to update the others as well! I've actually written quite a lot of this story already, and I love it to bits. I know Alice may seem a little out of character now, but she gets into her character through the story.