Fifteen-year-old Alice awoke next to her fluffy cat Dinah who was laying by her face curled up on her bed. Alice yawned as she sat up and reached over to pet Dinah.
"You know Dinah, you're really lucky you don't have to go to school," Alice said. "Because I do and today is my first day of Junior High and I've heard everything gets really tough in every way when it starts. I'm also going to a completely different school now and I heard my friends Kim and Jes won't be in the same classes with me. But at least we'll still get to be together after school, I guess. Still, I bet it'll be hard to fit in with the new crowds there, if I can at all."
Dinah let out a soft meow of sympathy for Alice as though she had understood everything Alice had just said to her. Alice gave Dinah an affectionate rub behind the ears and then got up and went to her closet and picked put her clothes to wear for today.
Just before she left her room she glanced over at her mirror behind her and smiled. "At least I know there will always be one place where I'll always fit in."
When she came downstairs to breakfast she found her family sitting at the table with her older sister Kathy talking on her cell phone with her boyfriend Gregory once again. Alice rolled her eyes as she took her seat beside Kathy and across from her parents.
"Junior High is the start of a whole new adventure for you, Alice," her mother said to her during breakfast. "And once you settle into this new school it will be just like your old one, and then before you know it you'll be moving on again. And, who knows, you might even meet a nice wonderful boyfriend in the process."
Alice rolled her eyes again. "I highly doubt it," she said.
"Aw, come on, Alice," her mother said, "you've got to start opening yourself up to the world a little more. I know you're shy around boys but you can find one who will like you just for who you are if you just look in the right places, and maybe he'll come when you're not expecting him to. That was how I met your father. I had just got into High School and..."
"Yeah, Mom, I know the story. You've told it to me a dozen times already," Alice said dismissively.
"Well, just remember, love will always be waiting there for you so just keep your eyes open to it," her mother said.
Alice just nodded though she was still dubious at the idea of her meeting a boy who she could relate to on an intimate level as she was so different from most other girls her age. After all, how many girls her age had a whole other world they could escape to on the other side of their mirror?
Alice ate her breakfast, and then she put on her new backpack that had pictures of kittens on it that looked like Dinah, and then headed out the door and walked to her new school.
A few blocks away, Bastian Balthazar Bux had just woken up and come down to breakfast with his single father. Like Alice, he was also starting out in Junior High today at a new school and had all the same misgivings about it.
"Good morning, Bastian," his father said to him.
"Good morning, Dad," said Bastian lowly.
Bastian's father caught the lowness in his voice and said, "Son, I know you're not excited about starting Junior High or your new school, and when I was your age I remember I wasn't either. But still you got to remember that starting anew is just what life is all about whether it's for good or bad. And, who knows, it may be a really good thing because you just might meet the girl of your dreams at it."
"Oh yeah Dad. Sure," Bastian said still in a low voice.
"Come on, Bastian. You've got to be more open to the world around you and the people in it," his father told him. "And it doesn't matter if you can't fit into a particular crowd. You've just got to be yourself and then the good people will like you and want to be around you, especially the girls. At your age it's high time you found a relationship with one."
Bastian looked up at his father with a blank expression. "Do you mean like the one you have with Kirsten?" he asked referring to his father's girlfriend.
"Sure. Just like with me and Kirsten," his father said with a smile.
"So are you going to marry her?" asked Bastian.
"Well... it may be too soon to be going that far ahead now," his father said slowly. "But like I said, life is all about changes. And though the memory of your mother will always be with us in our hearts I would still like to move on with my life and for you to do the same with yours."
Bastian knew his father was right in what he said. Still he was dubious about him finding a girl who would really like him just for who he was. He always had difficulty around girls as they always seemed to think of him as a weak weirdo as he was always daydreaming and hanging out at Mr. Coreander's bookstore. But there was a reason why he did so and it was a reason he dare not share with anyone he wasn't sure could be entrusted with it.
Bastian finished his breakfast, put on his backpack, and went off to school.
Once he was at his new school he went inside and found his assigned locker, unlocked it, and took off his backpack and began unpacking his books into it. He was almost done when suddenly he heard a girl's voice say from behind him,
"Excuse me, but you're at the wrong locker. This is my locker."
Startled, Bastian turned around quickly and came face to face with a pretty girl who had long strawberry blonde hair that was in ringlets and held back by a purple hair band. She was wearing a blue cotton blouse with a white lace collar and dark purple jeans. Her eyes were as blue as the sky.
"Oh, is this your locker? I thought it was my own," he said very uneasily.
"Well," said the girl as she held out a piece of paper, "it says here my locker is number 233."
Confused, Bastian took out his own piece of paper with his locker number on it. He looked at it and said, "Oh, you're right! My locker is actually number 238! I apologize. You see, I'm just new here."
"It was an honest mistake to make. I'm new here also," she said. "My name is Alice, by the way."
"Nice to meet you, Alice," he said with a friendly smile. "My name is Bastian."
Alice returned his smile and then they briefly shook hands. Then he took his books out of her locker and went to his own locker and put them in before they each headed off to their first class.
Alice's first day of junior high breezed by for her with no unforeseen instance. However, when the end of the day came as she was walking out of the school building, she suddenly heard a high and nasely voice call out to her,
"Hey you girl!"
Startled, Alice turned around and saw a girl slightly taller than her with long black hair who was wearing a lot of makeup that wasn't put on very well. She was standing right next to a tall and rather muscular boy with black untidy hair. Both of them seemed to be eying her with contempt.
"Yeah, you. I'm talking to you," said the girl shrilly. "Come here."
Alice stepped uneasily forward. Then the girl reached into her jeans pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes and handed it out to Alice saying,
"Here, give one of these a try. You look like you could use one."
Alice shook her head vigorously and replied, "No, I don't smoke."
The girl frowned sourly at her and said, "Well, why don't you learn to for crying out loud?"
"I don't want to learn," Alice replied stoutly.
"And why not?" demanded the girl.
"Well, because it's bad for you," Alice replied.
"Who says so?" demanded the girl.
"My parents," replied Alice. "They wouldn't like it if I tried anything like smoking."
The girl frowned more severely and squinted her dark eyes at Alice in an intimidating way and said, "Well, I might have known you'd be such a baby as to give that old excuse and not want to be more mature like me and Zach here."
Alice's eyes burned as she retorted indignantly, "Well, it seems to me I'm the one acting mature now by saying no to such a dirty thing like smoking, and you are the one who is being immature to do it."
The girl's jaw dropped in shock. Then the boy named Zach beside her stepped forward and said in a voice surprisingly deep and tough. "Hey, don't you dare talk that way to my girlfriend. And how dare you refuse her generous offer like you did! If you don't apologize you'll be sorry."
"I won't," Alice said boldly.
"And she doesn't have to either," said a tough voice from behind them.
Alice turned and saw the same boy she had met by the lockers that very morning. She remembered his name was Bastian.
Bastian stepped right up to Zach and said, "Now will you please just leave Alice alone. She doesn't have to do anything for either of you."
Zach grimaced and retorted, "And why should I? Why listen to a little punk like you?"
"Because," said Bastian, "I have a Dad who is a champion boxer and if you do anything to Alice I'll tell my Dad and then he will make you very, very sorry you did. I mean it."
Zach looked very surprised to hear this and then looked confused for a moment. Then finally his shoulders slumped and turned to his girlfriend and said, "Come on, babe. Let's not waste our time with these two losers." And so saying he wrapped his arm around her and they walked away.
Alice stared at Bastian in surprise and in gratitude. "Thanks, Bastian," she said at last. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't stepped in when you did."
"Hey, don't mention it," Bastian said warmly. "I wasn't gonna let anyone mess with you, and if you can't stand up for others then you can't stand up for yourself either."
"I guess that's right," agreed Alice. "Is your Dad really a champion boxer?"
"No, actually," admitted Bastian. "He's a dentist. But I had to say something to make them lay off of you, didn't I?"
Alice smiled and said, "You must have a really great imagination that you know how to put to good use."
"Well, yes," said Bastian humbly. "Now would you like me to walk you to your home to see you get there without any other unpleasant incidents?"
"Sure," said Alice.
So then they began walking at each other's side and headed out of the school building and began walking along the sidewalk.
"I guess you're now officially the first friend I have here," Alice said as they walked along.
"Don't you have any others?" asked Bastian.
"Yes, but not at the same school," said Alice. "Have you any?"
"No," admitted Bastian. "In fact the only friends I have are in a book called The Neverending Story in a place called Fantasia. I've practically lived there since I was ten."
Alice now was very interested. "You practically live in another world? Is it a magical world?"
"Well, yes, you could say that," said Bastian. "I know you must think that I'm sounding crazy to you now, huh?"
"No, actually," said Alice. "Because I also have a another world of magic that I practically live in also. It's called Wonderland."
"Really?" said Bastian in surprise. "Could you show it to me, please?"
"Sure. If you promise to show me your world afterwards," replied Alice.
"Of course I promise," said Bastian.