We'd been on Phoenix Circle for three weeks and it was like we were the only ones living there. None of the neighbors came by, and one day when I went to all the houses, ringing doorbells, no one answered.
I wondered if they knew we wouldn't fit in as much as I knew we wouldn't. Maybe they were hiding from us.
There were twelve of them. We were number thirteen.
That was reason number three that I knew we wouldn't fit in.
Our house was the only different house on the block, and it had to sport the unluckiest number on the planet. It had to be a sign. And I didn't think it was a good sign.
Mom and Dad laughed when I told them this. They laughed even harder when I gave them my theory as to why we hadn't met anyone on the street.
"I ran into a gardener at one of the house," Dad had said. "Apparently the month of July is vacation time for Phoenix Circle."
"The whole street goes on vacation at the same time!?" I just found reason number four. My family has never been on vacation. We went on business trips, which was all work. This move was the closest we ever got to a vacation.
But seriously, what type of neighborhood was this? Matchbox houses with matchbox residents who went on matchbox vacations. It should have been called Matchbox Circle.
I wasn't used to use uniformity. But then again, I've spent all my life living on a ranch. The closest I had ever had to neighbors were the ranch hands and the foreman's family. The nearest town was miles and miles away.
But, I've watched moves, and read books, and taken business trips to all kinds of cities with Mom and Dad, so I knew what type of neighborhoods were out there. Why we had to move into one where I knew we wouldn't fit in was beyond me.
"Mona Lisa," Mom called, pulling me out of my thoughts. "I thought tomorrow we could head up to the school and get you enrolled."
I made a face, but nodded. I forgot that that was part of the move – I'd no longer be home schooled
As we approached Madisonville High, I tried to quell the insecurity and fear that was building inside me.
I had never been inside a school before. All my life I had been home schooled. Mom was my teacher, and my classroom was the kitchen table and the world around me.
Yet here I was entering a large brick building, which would be my new school for the next couple of years. Picking up on my nervousness, Mom took my hand and gave it a little squeeze. I could tell she was going to miss teaching me, too. But she had Dad thought I needed to socialize with people my age. It was the main reason we moved.
I wondered if any of my new teachers would be as cool as Mom. I doubted it, but I could always hope.
"I'd like to enroll my daughter, please," Mom said to the secretary once we entered the office.
"New or old student?" The lady didn't even look up from her computer screen.
"New," Mom replied. "We just moved here."
The woman looked at us them. "Name?" She seemed to be sizing us up. Deciding what type of people we'd be.
"Mona Lisa Blythe," I said. The woman raised her eyebrows. I feared maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe only Mom was supposed to talk.
"Fill out these forms and Miss Potter, guidance counselor for last names A thru C, will be right with you." My mom took the clipboard the lady held out. There were definitely a lot of forms to fill. "You have her birth certificate, social security card and all available school records, yes?"
Mom nodded. She held out the file she had put together before we left home. The lady didn't take it; she simply pointed to some empty seats in the corner and turned back to her computer.
While Mom began filling out the forms, I decided to look around. It was a pretty big office. There were about twenty chairs lining the waiting room walls, leaving a vast amount of space in the middle. The secretary's desk was at the end of the chairs, in the center of the room. Behind her were a lot of doors, which I assumed were offices.
Miss Potter's was one of the very first ones. Her door was had a large poster with her name on it and a lot of signatures. I wondered if one day I'd be signing her door. I kept my eyes glued on it, waiting for when she'd emerge to call us into her lair of doom. Something told me that she'd be nice and I'd probably like her, but I always prepared myself for the worst.
I didn't have to wait long.
"Mona Lisa Blythe?" The woman who emerged was beautiful. She was tall and willowy, with long blonde hair flowing around her. HE eyes were bright blue and from the way they looked at me, I was sure she could see straight through my soul. "Please, come in."
"I'm sorry, I haven't had time to finish filling all these forms," Mom said as we sat in Miss Potter's office. It was painted the same blue as her eyes and all the furniture was white. Her desk was covered with files, which had the names of various students on it. On the top was a new file with my name on it.
She had a computer on at her desk too, and I realized that the secretary never announced us. She typed something in and I figured they must have some sort of computer notification system. Maybe I'd get to learn about that.
"It's perfectly alright," she told Mom. "Most of the forms are useless and are more for reference anyway. They won't affect your daughter in any way." Her voice was like music. I was glad she was my counselor. "Can I see what you have finished so far?"
Mom handed Miss Potter the clipboard. The name plate on her desk told me her first name was Libby. Libby Potter. It suited her.
"Hmm … Mrs. Blythe?" Miss Potter had a slight frown on her face and her forehead was furrowed. I sunk deeper into my chair waiting to hear bad news. "Based your daughter's date of birth … well, you're at the wrong school." She sounded disappointed, like she was truly sad about the mistake. I was too, and mimicked her facial expression to show that. I doubted any other school in Madisonville would have a Miss Potter.
"No, she's supposed to be here. Starting tenth grade." Mom's voice was kind of forceful, like she wasn't going to take no for an answer. I sat up higher in my seat. Maybe there was hope after all.
"But she's only thirteen …" I hadn't realized thirteen could sound so wrong. So young. Until that moment, I had felt good and grown to be thirteen.
"Yes, but as you can see," Mom pulled out the hefty file she had tried to hand the secretary earlier. "Mom Lisa has been home schooled and I'm afraid she's breezed through her coursework rather fast." Mom attempted to sound apologetic, but I could tell she was proud. Not to mention she was still using her "no nonsense" voice. "We were just beginning tenth grade work when we moved."
Miss Potter still seemed hesitant, so Mom went on. "I'd even arranged for her to take state placement tests." Mom shoved the file onto the desk. "She's tested well above average and is competent on the tenth grade level."
Miss Potter picked up my file, her eyes widening in a mix of pleasure and shock at whatever she saw in it.
Mom never showed me the scores on any of the tests she had made me take. I hardly even got grades on the work she gave me at home. Occasionally we spent more time on certain subjects or assignments when I didn't fully understand something, but generally we just kept moving forward. There wasn't a whole lot for me to do on the ranch sometimes, so I did a lot of school work instead.
From the look on Miss Potter's face though, I began to wonder just how "well above average" I was. I found myself praying that it wasn't too advanced. I didn't want another reason to not fit in around here.
"Well, I can't argue with records," Miss Potter finally said, smiling at my mom. "Mona Lisa – is that what you go by?" I nodded. "You're definitely going to make a great addition to this school."