EMILY

A loud ringing shrieked in my left ear. My tired eyes fluttered open. Glancing around my dark room, it couldn't surely be time already, I thought coherently. I still needed fifteen more minutes. Without giving the clock a second glance, I slapped the snooze button, and buried myself under the bed covers. My extra puffy white comforter encased me like a cocoon. Inside, it was warm and comfortable and dark. The thickness of the material blocked out any light. All was silent except for my steady breathing. Gradually, I felt my eyes begin to close to the rhythm of my heart.

At the foot of my bed, I felt the mattress sag from sudden exertion of extra weight. Even under my many layers of blankets, I felt a tentative touch shake me gently, followed by the soft voice of my mother, sweet as honey, "Come on, dear. Time to wake up." My only reply was a muffled groan. I felt her slowly tug the blanket off of my feet, as she always did to wake me up. "You don't want to be late for your first day of school, do you?" Her voice rose an octave with excitement. "I can hardly believe it! My baby is a senior!"

I was grateful for the concealment of the blankets so my mother couldn't see me roll my eyes. Don't get me wrong - I love my mom. She is probably the person I'm closest to in the world. No matter how pathetic this makes me sound, my mom is my best friend. We share a really close bond. My father left her when I was a baby, ultimately encouraging her to step up to the bat as a single mother. As for my father, he's ancient history; the drawer containing his love was shut long ago. It rattles time to time, but rarely actually opens, never more than a crack. Even then, it is shut as quickly as it was opened. The only thing I inherited from him is my blue eyes and musical talent. But I still feel no connection to him. My bubbly, silly, loving, passionate mother is all I need.

Catching me off guard, my mom used the opportunity to her advantage by yanking the blanket off of me. Bright sunlight streaming in through my now open bedroom window left me feeling light-headed and dizzy. Adverting my eyes from the intensely blinding light, I wiggled onto my side and nuzzled my face into the pillow. Gooseflesh prickled up and down my exposed skin. I'm well aware I'm only wearing a pair of sleeping boxers and a tank top, but it's only my mom who sees me in this state of shape - and, honestly I don't care all that much. Nudity doesn't seem to have the same effect on me as it does on other people. That doesn't mean I'd walk out on the streets like that. I think it would get a little breezy.

I knotted my fingers in the cotton bed sheets stubbornly. "Really, Em, please get up." My mom sighed, resorting to using my special nickname. I was surprised. She usually doesn't use that tactic until the ten minute mark. She must be really desperate today. Still unresponsive, I lay face down; my face pressed against the cool cotton sheets. I've been dreading this day for weeks now; it had come to fast. What had happened to the summer? The last week?

"Emily," my mother warned, the tone of her voice a little sharp. The thing about my mom is she never yells or gets really angry, and she rarely ever raises her voice above her ecstatic chatter. That was why I was surprised by the way she had said my name. For once there was the authority of a mother in her voice.

"Fine," I mumbled groggily, pushing myself onto my feet. I flinched at the feel of the cold wooden floor boards beneath my bare feet. I sighed blatantly, longing for my old shag carpet. My special green fuzzy one. My mother promised I would get it when the rest of our stuff is shipped here.

At the end of the school year, my mom got a job offer as a third grade teacher at Spokes Elementary. It would give her a huge promotion and pay more than her lousy job at the intermediate school where she taught as a second grade teacher. I was happy for her - until I learned it was in California; thousands of miles away from my beloved New York City, with its winding subways and hot dog carts on every corner. To further exacerbate the situation, it was in a little town I'd never heard of. Treegap. My new home was Treegap, California.

My mom said she didn't have to take the job; she could wait for another one, perhaps closer to home. Of course - I wanted to scream yes, but even I knew her optimism was being wasted. As she said the words, her face completely straight, I could see the desire, the longing burning in her eyes. When would she get another opportunity like this knocking on her door? And she would give it up - all for her selfish teenage daughter. I didn't want to jeopardize her future when, after all, college is only a year away. Reluctantly, I told her she should go for it. When I saw the happiness on her face, it was almost worth it - that was until she told me she'd found me a new school that would take me despite it being my senior year of high school.

I had not anticipated a new school. At that moment, I felt my whole plan crashing down on me like a ton of cinder blocks. I'd have to go to a new school? With new people, new teachers? Ones I didn't know. To make matters worse, it would be my senior year. Everyone would already know each other and have made friends, meanwhile, I would be alone, the freak from New York. I couldn't even imagine the nicknames they would come up with to torment me with.

On the bright side, it wasn't like I was leaving any friends behind. I'd never been very popular at my old school, either. So it's most likely I brought my unpopular streak with me. It's not that I'm mean or violent or that I smoke pot - that I definitely don't do... but I've never really fit in with the crowd. I'm not certain what it is, but it makes me different from them. Unfortunately, it doesn't gain me many companions in the process.

My mother says I'm just unique and a little eccentric. My former fellow peers regarded me as weirdo or freak, the girl who collects the old crap, or antiques, the proper term. I have to agree with the second one, though. Even I think I'm a bit on the abnormal side. But unlike many people, I accept it. Okay, so I wouldn't yell about it off of the Statue of Liberty but still... at least I know who I am.

Now it's time to prove it again, I think, trying my hardest to sound optimistic and confident. But even I sound pitiful to myself.

"Emily?" My mother inquired softly. A little startled, I snapped back to attention to find her slender figure standing in the doorway. It still surprises me exactly how identical I am to her. She looks a lot like an older me, aged about twenty years. Her silvery blonde hair is tucked up into a soft bun at the nape of her neck. Today she is wearing her knee-length floral skirt she knit herself out of a sewing kit, and a deep cherry red sweater over a crisp white blouse. I'd nearly forgotten, it is her first day of school too.

Her warm hazel eyes gazed at me with warm, affectionate motherly concern. She eyed me expectantly, waiting for me to say something. I then realized she had just asked me a question. Shaking my head, I asked apologetically, "Sorry Mom. What did you say?"

"Oh," she repeated, "I just want to know if you would like blueberry pancakes for breakfast."

I put on my most winning smile, hoping I at least look somewhat convincing. "Sure, sounds great."

My mother nodded deftly, examining me like I have the flu. She opened and closed her mouth several times like she wanted to say some encouraging first day of school advice, but after standing there for a couple moments, she simply walked away to make me my breakfast.

Once she was gone, I slammed my bedroom door shut behind me and flipped on the overhead light. My bedroom still looks like a bland hotel room. The walls are painted a generic shade of beige. The temporary dark curtains have been pushed aside to let in some light. Not a single personal item except for a picture of my mother and me in front of the Statue of Liberty decorates the room. My only furniture are the new bed my mother bought for me, my nightstand, and a white desk shoved into the back corner. Unopened boxes are piled against the back wall, stacked on top of each other.

Despite living here since the beginning of summer, I haven't really unpacked anything. I have practically been living out of boxes. I know, really lazy of me. But the truth is I haven't figured out how to decorate my room. My mother promised me I could make my room anyway I wanted; she would cover all the expenses - out of guilt, of course.

On the bright side, I don't have to share a small, one-sink bathroom with my mother anymore. In fact, that's what has been getting me through this whole moving segue - my own bathroom.

Laying neatly folded on top of one of the boxes is my first day of school outfit selection. I'd selected it carefully the previous day; tearing through my whole wardrobe to find something decent. Oddly, I actually worried about making my first impression on these people. It took me a solid three hours to settle on a tunic-style baby blue dress with a butterfly design paired with a simple brown belt and lace-up calf length boots. Even then, I had laid awake long last night, fretting about the first day. It was petty of me, I know. But I couldn't help but worry. Aren't California people all glam with beach bodies and perfect tans? Meanwhile, I'm boring vanilla compared to their chocolate.

Sure, I'm pretty, I guess, in a way. I have long silvery blonde hair, ending in waves; a pretty, but unnatural color. Some people have asked me multiple times if my hair is dyed, I always answer a timid no, to which they are always shocked. My eyes, a startling electric blue, are wide under thick eyelashes; the only physical feature that sets me apart from my mother. Like her, my body figure is slight and slender. My skin is on the fair side, but not really classified as pale. Pretty, maybe, but I wouldn't call myself beautiful.

The boys back home never gave me a second glance, so I guess that dropped me a hint. Honestly, I've never had a real boyfriend; a few crushes back in Junior High, but nothing serious ever came out of those. Part of the reason may be is because I tend to shy away from thinking of myself as a girlfriend to anyone. It makes me feel awkward around any boys I talk to that I have a crush on. As always, it ends up ruining any microscopic chance I had with them. So that's my tragic love life, if I even have one.

I quickly tugged on my dress, fidgeting with the belt until it was in perfect position. Aspiring to prevent my usual morning bedhead from making an appearance in public today, I ran a brush through my hair and patted down any astray locks. After brushing my teeth twice, making sure to get every corner, I finally emerge from my room, groomed and dressed for the day.

Over in our sunny kitchen, my mother was just placing my breakfast down on the table. Without a moment of hesitation, I was in my seat, scarfing down fluffy, steaming bites of blueberry pancakes. Only when nearly half of my breakfast is gone, do I stop to breathe. I washed any bits of pancake down with a glass of orange juice, with perspiration rolling down the sides of the cool glass.

My mother was smiling widely a grin that stretches from ear to ear. "So, is it good?" She queried casually, trying to hold back a laugh, but not very successfully. Embarrassed, I ducked my head and traced patterns on my place mat. Taking that as a yes, she conceeded lightly, "I'm glad you like it."

"Well, I figured it would be better than school..." I trailed off, looking out the window sulkily. My earlier bitter mood had returned.

Across the table I heard my mother sigh. "Look... I know moving has been hard on you - but I just have this feeling that something great is waiting here for you. I know it."

I still did not fix my gaze back on her. For once, I felt like I have the right to be the moody, hormonal teenage daughter; my mother was way overdue for the experience. Scowling, I glare outside at the ineptly manicured lawns. Flower beds dotted with blobs of red, yellow, pink - and any color you could imagine sparkled in the morning light. The shrubs plotted throughout the yards were all perfectly clipped and uniform. In the center of pretty much every lawn, there is a porcelain birdbath; some even with built in fountains. Cheerful, smiling gnomes peeked out among the forests of freesias. All of these lawns are different, yet exactly the same. There seemed to be no creative ideas here. Growing up as a city girl, I had no experience with gardens or lawns or grass. And the only dirt I ever handled was the kind found on the streets. It all looked like something I would see on the back of postcard; something that wasn't real to me before, but is now right outside my door.

When I still give my mother no answer, or even an indication that I heard her at all, she quickly changes the subject. "So how is working for Mr. Quinn?"

"It's fine," I answered nonchalantly, not loosening my puckered brow one bit. Truthfully, it's great. I love working down at Rocking Rhythms; though I'm not a big fan of the store's name. It always smells new and fresh in there, and the best music is always playing softly in the background. The usual costumers are respectful and nice enough, and most of them have a pretty good taste in music. I also really like my boss, Mr. Quinn. He's this middle-aged Native American guy who has a spare tire and wears his long raven black hair in a ponytail. He also has a pretty good sense of humor and is a pretty cool guy, I have to admit. So I really don't mind working extra shifts.

"That's good," she said softly, returning back to her breakfast. After shooting the street another scornful glance, I turned back to my breakfast, eating it quickly before it got cold. When there was not a single crumb left on my plate, I reluctantly rinsed my plate and loaded it into the dishwasher, shoving it two times until the piece of junk closed all the way. Nerves began to set in as I sucked in air sharply. I couldn't delay anymore. It was time.

I grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder, loaded with all my books and school supplies. On my way out the door, I gave my mother a kiss on her cheek and whispered in her ear, "I love you, Mom."

She grabbed my hand and gave it a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "I love you too, sweetie. Good luck today."

I nodded and muttered under my breath, "I'm going to need it," before stepping outside into the cool morning. The sun warmed my back and left bright patches on our lawn; and compared to the other lawns on the street, ours looked ghetto and abused. Briskly walking over to the garage, I pulled out my old, faithful Schwinn, newly adorned with a fresh red paint job. Eagerly I climbed on and instantly began pedaling down the open, empty streets, swaying slightly in delight as leaves crackled under the tires. The bright white sidewalk was nearly blinding to my eyes, so I fixed my gaze forward instead. When I came to the little intersection, my mouth almost hung open at the "busy" morning commute. There were four, maybe five cars waiting for a light change. Back in New York, there were dozens and hundreds all at once. It was hard to refrain from rolling my eyes as the crossing guard waved me across.

My eyes widened as I took in Foster High School. It looked more like a senator's house then a school. The whole school was made completely out of polished white marble. There were three separate buildings; the largest, clearly marked Building A, was the main one. Building B and Building C flanked it on opposite sides. The grounds, I noticed, were elaborately maintained. Colorful flower beds were placed along on the sides by the school, bringing color to the area.

Instantly, the nerves were back, and I felt like I was going to be sick. All around me students talked and laughed with their friends near the entrance, but where did I fit in? I felt overdressed next to their casual dress of t-shirts and jeans. I felt so lost. I decided getting my schedule and checking in would be a good start. So, putting my kickstand back up, I rode to Building C marked "Office." I parked my bike among the bike rack, discovering I was only bike there. I am not all that surprised. Although I am seventeen and legally illegible to have a license or a car, I don't have one. Back home, you really don't need a car to get around. But here they seem to be lacking a good subway system, unfortunately. So I guess you're stuck with learning to drive or riding the bus.

Trying to advert attention from myself, I raced inside quickly. Unlike the crowded school yards, it's quiet in here; much more to my liking. The only other people in here are a lady with a bed of dark curly hair behind a oak desk and a smiley girl with tresses of golden hair like a princess's. She is bouncing in her chair eagerly. I make the wise decision to go to the dark-haired woman.

She asked few questions before handing me my printed schedule. But before I could leave, the lady said, "Oh, this is Stephanie. She will be your guide."

"Hi," squealed the blonde girl, or Stephanie, beaming. "I'm Stephanie, you must be Emily Lorang."

"Um, yeah, that's me alright." I said.

It's not like you heard me say that two seconds ago.

"Well, it's still great to meet you!" Stephanie gushed, pulling me by the hand out of the doors back into the bright light of day. "Come one, let's go. Our first class is English with Santigo. We don't want to be late!"

I tuned out Stephanie's anomalous chatter and watched with interest as a black motorcycle pulled into the teeming parking lot, stopping at the curb. A boy climbed off, swinging his leg off swiftly and easily. He was pretty tall standing at full height, I estimated about six foot, maybe six foot one. He was dressed in simple apparel like everyone else. He was wearing a pair of ripped up jeans and a plain grey t-shirt and biker boots. I was surprised at his careless lack of padding on such a deathtrap like that. At least he was wearing a helmet. I watched as he took it off and carelessly threw it onto the seat. He had a cute face. His hair was a dark brown, choppy and wavy, reaching to his shoulders. I liked this little rebellion. From this distance, I could only see the slight boyish roundness of his face and his dark brows. But it was easy to see something else as he walked up the stairs into the main building. His expression, the way he walked... it was sad, like every step he took hurt.

I hadn't even realized Stephanie had stopped dragging me along. I looked back at her standing next to me, her lip curled resentfully. "Who's that?" I asked softly, feeling a twinge of sympathy for the unknown boy.

Stephanie's blue gaze was hard and metallic. "Jesse. Jesse Tuck."

What on earth did I just write? Ah, well, all the same! Please review if you like and want me to continue! Mwhaha! :)