Love In Sheet Music
Chapter One: Monotony
The house was light. It breathed. Sunlight danced from room to room skipping gaily like a child hand in hand with the soft exuberant melodies that flowed through the walls and wafted through the air like sweet perfume. Walking through the door, my body would hum pleasantly, anticipating the feel of the music, the feel of carved wood beneath my fingers. Sometimes the feeling was too much to handle and brought with it an anxiety that was almost too much to bear. It would wash over me in massive waves, that sent my inner body into deep convulsions begging my hands to react to the notes that skipped across my mind. It called to me on mornings like these when all I could feel was nerves. My hands would shake and flex instinctively for something familiar, something that meant home. I felt like I had to play. It was almost like breathing. It burned within me, pleading with me to play tunes I'd thought I'd forgotten in the months that I'd neglected that part of me, a part of me that begged to be resurrected from within the murky waters of my mind. This need tingled in my bones when the wind blew, annoyed me like a bad itch when I'd lay in my bed, chasing sleep, but it was especially bad on days like these when my body would hum, my head would drum, and my heart would thump in rhythms that threw off my inner balance, and left me completely useless.
"Attie! School! Fifteen minutes!" Mena's sing-song voice called from downstairs. I almost smiled despite my nerves. Mena, well, mom, was a free spirit, always too busy doing three things at once. This often forced her to speak in almost incoherent sentence fragments. It was moments like these that reminded me why I'd missed her when I still lived in New York.
Tying my shoelaces, I sighed. Today was not something I looked forward to, not even a little. The first day of school was always horrible no matter how anyone looked at it. It was bad enough when the only bad thing about it was that summer vacation was over and you were suddenly thrust back into an unending monotony of school homework, after school activities, and volunteer work. But somehow having to start all over again with new people and teachers and a whole new town… everything suddenly seemed even bleaker than I'd first imagined.
I trudged down the stairs and sat at the table while mom served Hagan and I our breakfast, his a giant stack of pancakes and bacon that he seemed to shovel into his mouth between dozing, and mine a bowl of generic-brand cereal.
But it wasn't just that everything was new that made me especially uneasy about my first day of school. I guess what really bothered me was that if I had gone to a different school in the city, yes there would have been cliques already set up, all the kids would have known each other and I would have felt like an outsider but things were even more intense than that here. People here knew each other's families, grew up together, and had no secrets from each other. Here I really would be an outsider, more of an outsider than I had been in New York and that idea scared me. It scared me a lot.
"Cheer up honey. The uniform looks good on you," Mena complimented as she poured Hagan another glass of orange juice. I looked down at green and white uniform with a frown. The simple yet respectable dress code represented everything Bridgepoint Prep was supposed to be, a haven of rules and regulations. Specific sides of the hall were assigned for which direction one would go in, all academic students sported the same green and white uniform, simple yet presentable, and all students were expected to strived for complete scholastic excellence. It came as no surprise that girls were required to wear knee length green skirts, that were often rolled up in order to maintain some sort of fashion, white button up dress shirts, and a green vest proudly advertising the school's proud name on a shield-shaped patch above the heart. Specific socks and shoes were also part of Bridgepoint Preparatory's school regulation dress code, present to show students that any form of individuality was unwelcome and only caused room for error. Or so the website had said.
I sighed at the mention of it.
"Jeez. Cheer up Attie. You look like someone's going to sacrifice you to the gods," Hagan teased as he finished the last of his orange juice.
"I feel like Prometheus then. Giant birds are eating my insides." Getting a mental image, "I think I need to lie down."
Mena and Hagan just laughed. And I sighed piteously again.
"Attie you need to calm down and breathe. You really don't look too good honey. Your face is turning the oddest combination of red and blue," Mena smiled sympathetically. Hagan mirrored her smile and shook his head at me humorously. Since moving in, Hagan and Mena had become a comical duo that was almost unstoppable. Even the most serious of people couldn't find the heart to stop their fun and I cherished the new feeling of togetherness being in the Ackerman house provided.
"Time check," I muttered with clenched teeth, mostly to keep from smiling, trying not to let my sour mood escape me as Mena and Hagan tried even harder to make me laugh.
"About five more minutes and that's as much as you can stall. You want to get an early start." Mena's philosophy to life was that you had to live as much as you could before it ended because you never knew when it would because that the early bird caught the worm, and when life gave you lemons, you make lemonade and give it to who ever wants some. She wasn't the most original person in the world when it came to personal philosophies, but she was fun loving, caring, and had her morals set. Having us here with her now, she hoped that as we grew older we'd learn to cherish them as much as she did.
"Now if only we could get Broden to join the bandwagon…" Hagan held in a yawn and rubbed his eyes with the back of his knuckles before stumbling towards the front door. "Wait for you in the car."
"Attie dear, please go get Broden from his room. As nice as it is to listen to your brother play such beautiful music in the morning, he needs to get to school on time." Mena smiled at me from across the table and I suddenly realized how beautiful she was all over again. Ever since I was younger, everyone had always commented on how similar my mother and I looked. Looking at her now I couldn't see it. Our hair was the same dark shade of blonde, almost brown, but mine didn't shine the way hers did. Our eyes were the same hazel but mine was dull somehow in comparison, it didn't hold the same excitement or innocence as hers. Standing next to my mother I felt lacking. The thought would have been enough to force a frown on anyone but it was hard to keep a smile from your face when you were next to someone who always seemed to be smiling.
I smiled towards her before walking back up the stairs to get Broden who was still practicing like he did every morning from five thirty when he woke up to seven forty-five when we would leave for school. I guess the music would have bothered most people so early in the morning but in such a musical family, the sound was as familiar as anything else. Looking back, I didn't know whether Broden continued our demanding practice schedule because he enjoyed it or because it was just something he was used to doing. The latter made me wince.
I twisted the knob and peeked in shyly, knowing how Broden hated to be disturbed. He sat in the middle of his room in a wooden chair, his frame so big that the chair looked like it would crush beneath his weight and still the sounds that came from the instrument beneath his hands were beautiful. It filled me with longing and I was almost jealous that he was still able to make those sounds, that he still seemed to love them so much more than me.
I stood by quietly, waiting and listening. The music flowed within me as it always did when we were this close, like I was being possessed just by breathing it in. I could feel it bubble in my stomach and tingle in my fingertips. I inhaled it like a junky in need of a fix.
Finally the song came to an end and I could feel myself shaking as the last note wavered in the air, echoing. Broden still made no attempt to move. He hadn't even breathed. Time seemed suspended.
"What do you want Attie?" he asked, attempting the same control that Hagan had. Bur no matter how much he kept his tone passive, there was always that edge that gave him away, that illusion of hysteria that made Broden an open book.
"Mom wants you downstairs. We have to go soon. Hagan already finished his breakfast so I think you have about seven minutes before we really have to leave. So. Um. If you need the extra time to get ready I could pack up your cello for you if you want…" The words were coming out of my mouth so quickly that they all seemed to stick together, the syllables all molding unitarily until they become an unmanageable word I didn't understand. I couldn't remember what I'd been trying to say. My mouth finally shut mid sentence and I just looked down towards the folded hands that rested on my lower stomach.
Broden didn't usually make me this nervous but all of this felt too familiar. The attempt at control, the sounds of his cello, my inability to form coherent sentences… all much too familiar. I didn't know what to do and so I just waited.
Finally he spoke.
"I'll pack up myself. I'm ready to go other than that so I'll see you downstairs." His words were not friendly and I was appalled at how my feet couldn't walk any faster to get out of the room. With a breath I forced myself to slow down, but I was already on the stairs on the way down, back to the hallway that led to the living room and then the kitchen.
"He's coming," I said hoping my voice sounded the way I wanted it to, like nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Any awkwardness that was left in me melted when Mena came over to me and hugged me tightly, offering me her most supportive and encouraging smile. The one reserved only for special occasions.
"Don't worry honey, everything'll be fine. Everybody's gonna love you," she whispered. I smiled back at her, grabbed my rain jacket, checking my pockets for keys, wallet, from behind my chair, and then walked out the door with a wave.
Sometimes it was still weird to see dirt paths and tiny rocks beneath my feet when I left the house instead of gravel and cement, almost as if I would walk out of the house and find myself back in New York and not some small town in Washington where it almost always rained. I'd been here for almost three months and things were just starting to stick. Most of the time everything stayed with me, the fact that everything was green and brown and smelled like New York did in the fall when you walked too close to a pile of leaves in the sidewalk - but better, that there was too much fresh air, that I had to drive everywhere and would probably need to get my license soon if I ever wanted to do anything without Broden or Hagan, that if I were not living in this house with these people and all of the music that wanders through it, that it would be much too quiet. Then there would be times where I would completely forget where I was, when I walked out of the house confused that I couldn't see anything that my brain felt was familiar, like waking up in a bed you thought was yours and not knowing where you were.
Hagan winked at me and then turned on the ignition as I took a seat in the back like always. Getting away from all of the fresh air made me feel better and I relished the new car smell that our sporty BMW still had. I could even turn a deaf ear to the crappy R&B music that Hagan almost blasted through the car. The tinted windows made it so I wouldn't have to choose between New York and Washington, so I just closed my eyes and waited until I heard the door of the passenger seat open and closed in the front. Then we were on our way to Bridgepoint Preparatory School where I would be a newly enrolled junior and Hagan and Broden would be seniors.
Bridgepoint Preparatory School had been the monster beneath my bed for those months that I'd lived here, an idea that had plagued me. Coming here, Hagan and I had hoped that we could start over again, away from all of the responsibilities that our father David had forced on us but apparently things weren't going to be that easy. Even though David hadn't cared that we were leaving him and New York behind, he sure had done his homework, picking out a school that would enforce every obnoxious rule he'd ever made. It didn't seem fair that there would be such a complete coincidence as a prestigious music school in the middle of nowhere Washington, a school that was no doubt meant to continue us on our rigorous practice schedules and routines.
Fortunately, living with someone like Mena had made things easier, and there was suddenly a choice in everything we did. We still asked of course, but we'd never been given that privilege before and the idea that we could suddenly decide not to continue on a path that had already been chosen for us called to me, forcing me to enroll as an academic student instead of a music one. Of course I had known the repercussions of my decision, the fight it would cause between my brothers and I, the feelings I was leaving behind, but I found myself believing that maybe it was all for the better. That I was doing this in the pursuit of something new. Something that would not belong to me and my family and my father but something that belonged only to me. Something that I would create within myself, a feeling of absolute freedom.
More than anyone I thought that Broden would understand. He had always hated David and how he'd forced us to do things we didn't want to do, force-fed us music and lessons and tutors and recitals. But he hadn't understood like I thought he would.
"You're such a sellout. God Attie I know you like to play. I know it. You should see your face while you play, while you hear a piece. It's… ethereal."
"But Broden I don't... I don't take it seriously like you do… it was never the same for me... I don't want to be forced…," the words kept coming out wrong and then, "I don't think I enjoy it anymore…"
Broken pieces of the conversation infiltrated my mind. Broden hadn't really looked at or spoken to me since that day and the only comfort I could find was that it wasn't just me. I couldn't have been a traitor if I wasn't the only one who'd felt that way. Hagan had also wanted to enroll as an academic student, "I'd always wanted to try my hand at the soccer thing. I think I'd be good at it".
The decision was not a light one. Having been deprived of the integral parts that made up a well-rounded education, Hagan and I had spent the entirety of our summer vacation studying for the Prep school's demanding entrance exams; English Lit, Math, Science, Language, American and Global Histories. The studying and application process had been treacherous.
Hagan and I, though we had studied long and hard, had passed the requirements through the skin of our teeth. Had it not been for David's tuition money and charitable donation, I was certain we would have been found wanting. Our acceptance had been a cause for celebration while Broden, as a music student, had been asked to perform for the Music department's head staff a total of three times though the last, he had been assured, was only a formality.
Still as we drove towards the physical representation of David's sovereignty over us, I realized how divide this school would make us, the Ackerman siblings and Broden Stanwood, complete strangers from one another. There was a wedge between my brothers and I, one that I wasn't sure could be mended unless I fixed things now, before our old lives, and old selves were forgotten in the past. But as I struggled to find the right words to say, wanting to say anything before we actually arrived there and these feelings became permanent, we were already there, parked in the student parking lot of the two-building high school.
"Looks kinda small huh?" Hagan squinted at the buildings through the rain.
"Kinda," I agreed.
"We're early," Broden put in.
"Never a bad thing," I reminded.
"And everyone seems to be staring at us," Hagan added proudly, a smile on his face.
I squinted through the tinted windows and realized that he was right, they were staring which in my book always registered in the not good side of the spectrum but I guess it couldn't be helped. We'd remained a mystery to them in these first three months, never really venturing away from the house, because of our exams and the crazy transition and culture shock. I guess our car was also a dead give away that we weren't really from town. Perhaps mistaken for scholarship students, the BMW probably didn't seem too impressive to people whose parents could afford the tuition, dorming, and vehicle costs for their children's educations. As could be imagined, these kids had lived in the Bridgepoint dormitories more than they did their own homes. The prospect of being thrown into their high competitive world made me quivering in my rain boots.
"You have that sacrificial lamb look again." Hagan chuckled, looking at me in the rearview mirror. "Well let's get going and bond with the townsfolk."
I looked at the door handle and almost glared. This would be the last time I'd see my brothers until the end of the day I was sure of it. Broden had been accepted into the music department, which came as no surprise to anyone, and both Hagan and I into the academic department which did me no good since we would be in completely different floors thanks in part to the way the school was divided: freshmen in the first floor, sophomores in the second, juniors in the third, seniors in the fourth, gym and swimming pool in the basement and cafeteria in between the two main buildings, across from the student parking lot.
Broden was in another building altogether and it appeared that we as academic students, would have no contact with him as a music student during any time of the day other than possibly lunch. I suddenly found myself wondering if lunch at this new school would be like it'd always been, Hagan and Broden joking around with the social elite. Given the obvious separation the school enforced between the different types of students, I thought probably not but it was weird to think of them separately. Broden and Hagan had always been in school together, always opted for having the same schedules, always seemed to form one full person, Hagan humorous and calm, Broden tempestuous and driven, and now they were being separated by this evil monstrosity that screamed of David's oppression. Even thousands of miles away, he still won.
A knock on my window suddenly snapped me out of my reverie and I was met with an amused lifted-eyebrow expression from Hagan. Sighing, I pulled the door handle and let myself out.
"Well I'll be seeing you guys later. Broden try to make some friends and Attie… right now you're somewhere between mentally unstable and about to gag. You might wanna watch your expressions around strangers." He advised and with that, they walked away towards their buildings, and I was alone standing in front of an institution I'd never been in before practically paralyzed with total and complete fear. I didn't know anyone, I didn't know where to go, I was incredibly bad and being and doing things by myself. I almost wanted to kick myself for not thinking of asking them to come with me to the office to pick up my schedule earlier. Opting to not hyperventilate from embarrassment and a complete lack of knowledge on what to do next, I walked over to one of the benches that were displayed around the school for students to sit and socialize, forcing the wheels in my brain to come up with a game plan.
This eventually turned into just soaking in my surrounds, noting how the trees looked full even near the buildings, even while it was raining, or the flowers were all abloom around the gated campus and how divided the student body seemed to be in their green and blue uniforms. It was only then really, that I appraised the navy blue uniforms of the music students, too anxious around Broden that morning too have noticed. The female skirts, much unlike my own which was plaid and stiff, was more gentle and swayed like a bell as the girls walked while the boy's pants also seemed loosened in comparison to the stiff khaki feel of Hagan's uniform pants. Though the only major differences besides color, if nothing more, the changes made their uniforms significantly more appealing.
I could have had one, I thought regretfully, as I watched the music department girls laugh with one another.
It was only as I sighed and become annoyed when I heard it echo from my right, that I realized my "plan" had become, though not intentionally, my own private pity party. A girl sitting on the right side of my bench looked up and gave me the same smile I was sure I was offering her, the "I'm okay but not really" smile.
We both sighed again.
"First day?" She asked conversationally.
"I know how you feel." I looked at her curiously. Maybe she'd just moved here too. The possibility that she understood the completely estrangement I felt in the school calmed me a little. "My parents home schooled me since I was really little 'cause the kids that go to school here are a little… competitive… and they didn't think it was good energy for me to be around. Then this year they randomly decide I need to go out and socialize so that I don't become a hermit in society. Parents are so weird…" I nodded. I knew only too well. "Right well, I'm Marie." She offered a friendly smile and extended her hand. For a second all I could do was stare at it curiously. I didn't know anyone who still shook hands with people other than in a formal setting. It seemed like such an out dated ritual and caused me a world of discomfort. Everyone always talked about how important handshakes were and that a bad handshake denounced every good thing about you. I put my hand in hers squeezing maybe a little too hard before she let go of my grip with a knowing smile.
"I'm Attaline… Attie. I just moved here from New York."
We smiled at each other, glad of the sudden companionship and continued to watch the other students as they socialized with each other, hugging once reunited, copying each other's homework. It was nice to watch people having fun with such close friends. Looking at them, I longed for that kind of connection with someone who wasn't my family. Hagan, Broden, and I had always been close and now that we were under Mena's roof she was quickly forcing herself through our combined defenses.
Just then an incredibly loud bell rang throughout the school grounds. Marie and I both jumped at the sound, startled. All of the teens that had been standing in their own separate groups in the small court yard in between the massive parking lot and the two tiny brick buildings, suddenly merged into two different herds, one of which was shepherded by teachers to building A and the other to Building B. I stared in awe at the complete juxtaposition the two groups created.
"It's hard to believe they're all from the same school," I noted, still amazed at the disconnection between the members of the student body. I'd always felt small towns created "team spirit" and brought people together. Looking at the students now, I decided that maybe teen romance novel may not have been the best source on the psyche of teenage behavior.
"Looks to me like they hate each other," she agreed as she slid on her green blazer and faded into the crowd pulling me along with her, "we have to hurry or we'll be late". Once in the flow of students, I struggled to keep up, hoping that she too still needed to get her schedule.
We marched forward with the rest of the crowd, unable to create a derivation in rhythm or steps even if we wanted to. Once inside the small school building, things became more hectic, a cacophony of voices, slamming lockers, and the pounding of feet against the marble floors. The hallways were difficult to navigate, bending this way and that and I felt like a mouse in a maze, turning around corners only to go through the same hallway again. The space between the walls was narrow and there was much traffic in the halls as students hurried to lockers and then classes. Flyers and posters already hung on the walls, bulletins had already been posted and I wondered what kind of committees met during the summer and made these things with enough time to put them up before eight o'clock in the morning on the first day of school.
Before even arriving at Bridgepoint Prep, I'd known how formal and prestigious it would be. Most people studied for years in order to even be wait-listed in hopes of getting into the tiny brick school building with its Advanced Math, Greek History, and Planetary Studies classes, but seeing all of the effort the students had put into the school before it even opened made it seem even more real. I would now be one of those hard working individuals who took math and had time for homework. Thinking of homework suddenly made me nervous. I'd always had excuses not to have finished my homework if I couldn't or didn't understand a problem, my family's reputation had more than exceeded us in New York and I was always given a break in academics. Standing here, I knew this was no longer true and I would have to work hard to earn my place.
Marie's fingers tightened their grip around my wrist and with much effort, we struggled through the crowd using its momentum to trust ourselves into a room that read "Main Office". I sighed in relief to be away from all of the noise as the door closed behind us and we made out way toward the woman sitting in the front desk wearing the same school colors in a pastel green button up shirt and white cotton sweater. She smiled at us while we approached, looking up from her computer typing.
"Hello Marie. I assume you're here to pick up your schedule," her tone was teasing. Marie smiled and shrugged.
"Hello Ms. Wheaton. Yeah I forgot to pick it up earlier so I thought I'd come in here and get it now, maybe miss some class while I'm at it." Ms. Wheaton nodded in understanding, and I realized how young she was, sitting there in the front desk, maybe twenty-three. "Oh and my friend is here to pick hers up too. Her name is Attaline…"
"Stan - I mean Ackerman. Attaline Ackerman."
"Ackerman…" she echoed while she typed something presumably my name, into the computer. "Abbot, Abney, Ackart, Ackerman. There you are. I think I've met your brother. Very handsome that one. Hm, you're a junior so you'll be on the third floor… for the most part… looks like you'll be going to Amilvon Hall as well. Here is your schedule."
I took the paper from her with thanks and stared at the page in complete confusion. I didn't get most of the random letters that appeared on the page, just the numbers, the times which my classes ended and began. It seemed that each of my classes would be an hour and twenty minutes long, much longer that I was used to and I suddenly asked myself if maybe it wouldn't be easier to just switch departments, and focus on music for hours, something that came to be almost second nature, whether forced or not.
"Um," I began embarrassed.
"Oh, let me help you with you're schedule. It can look a little overwhelming at first. You were placed in certain classes based on your entrance exam and then we got a call from your father demanding advanced placement so you'll be ahead of most of the juniors. It looks like you're taking AP French Literature, AP Chemistry, AP English Literature, that only meets twice a week because you also have an integration to Eastern Philosophy, Calculus, Early American History, and your electives which are gym and -ouch- music history…" she finished sympathetically.
I stared at her in complete awe at the demand of my schedule. In my old school no one but seniors were allowed to take AP classes because of the competition for the few seats open. Seeing the school from both the inside and outside, I couldn't imagine that size and space availability wouldn't create a problem here either and yet here I was with three AP classes and probably no future sleep.
"Well alright girls you better get a move on. You don't want to miss too much of your first class. First day's very important."
"Amilvon Hall?" I asked numbly.
"Don't worry Ms. Wheaton, I got this," Marie smiled before pulling me behind her once again in the now empty hallway. It was cold even for the beginning of September and I was glad I'd brought my sweater, noting in the back of my mind that I should continue doing so if the school was this drafty.
"Let me see your schedule first. Awesome we have AP Chem together so let's get going," Marie smiled as she pulled me along. "Now, most of the regular classes except for the special needs classes like lad classes or classes that need specific spacing, are all held in the main building, or our main building at least. We're in building A, the music students in music B. Keep up," she said as she dashed back outside of the building. I followed in confusion. "Now all of these special needs classes as well as the AP classes are all held in Amilvon Hall - it's really just the fancy name to the library, which is huge by the way. The floors there are also divided by grade. The first floor is really the main floor which doesn't really count so from the second floor up you know the drill; freshman, then a floor above sophomores, and so on. Of course it's still also a library. You'll see when you get there."
As she continued to lead, I wondered why it was that she hadn't fought her parents against coming back to a social school environment. I'd been going to school for my entire life in one form or another and I was still completely confused by the social dynamics it created. But it seemed that Marie had everything in control, sure of herself in almost every situation I was sure, she was the kind of person that people either liked or didn't. Something about her was blunt and honest in a way most people weren't anymore and being around her for the few moments that I had, I realized that she was also someone who easily took the spotlight without vying for it. Looking at her pale freckled face I wondered if pursuing a friendship with her would be a smart move on my part. Though I would be a minor character, stuck in the shadows where I liked it in comparison to her, I could see how she drew people in and was sure I would still be seen more than I'd liked. Though I enjoined her company, I didn't know whether or not I would want that kind of social responsibility. I'd never been much of a hostess.
We arrived in the classroom fifteen minutes late earning us a scowl from Dr. Kurner who continued his lecture on electron orbitals. Marie and I both looked for seats and seeing that there were none open next to each other, we separated. The only two seats available was one in the front row center and another in the second to last row. We looked from each other to the two available seats in calculation and before I could will my feet to move, Marie had already begun towards the seat in andante. I stayed where I stood, wide eyed as she grinned at me triumphantly before sitting down.
"Quickly. Intolerance will not be accepted, even from new students," Dr. Kurner replied in warning.
Unable to mask the flush pinkening my skin at my peers' snickers, I took the front row seat with a sigh. I suppose this suited me fine. It was impossible not to pay attention and I needed to focus on school. If this would be the best way to jump start my path towards academic enlightenment, then who was I to complain that Marie would be able to sit through Chem. without having to pay too much attention. From what I knew of home schooling, she probably didn't need to pay as much attention as I did anyways.
Throughout the class, the other kids were mostly attentive towards the lecture. Then there were times where I could feel their stares in the back of my head, wondering who I was and what in the world I was doing in their classroom. Still no one dared to talk while Dr. Kurner spoke, not even while he left to go to the bathroom half way through the lesson. The silence was almost deafening. I almost felt as though I were going to a school in a foreign country where I'd learned things were much stricter. From this kind of atmosphere I wouldn't even be surprised if talking got someone hit with a ruler.
I looked around only to see everyone else with their heads down still finishing their notes or doodling on the margins. Maybe the transition from New York to Washington would be greater than I'd thought.
I looked down at my notes, smiling at my handwriting, everyone thought it was too small, and was surprised when a folded piece of paper was put on my desk before Dr. Kurner reentered to the room.
Hey there. I'm Carter.
I looked to my left and found a tall girl sitting with her head practically in her book as she struggled to get all of the words down fast enough. I turned to my right and was met with a quick smile from an even taller black haired boy before he bent his head back down and continued his notes.
I folded the paper up again and waited until Dr. Kurner had his back turned before placing it on the boy's desk. I had no real way of knowing if he had been the same boy who put the paper on my desk and I prayed that I wasn't about to embarrass myself.
Hey so you moved here from New York right? How do you like Bridgepoint Prep?
We continued to pass the paper back and forth.
It's… interesting, a little different from what I'm used to and it rains a lot. Everything here is really green in comparison to all of the non-foliage New York has to offer.
Lol. I know what you mean. I'm from Tampa so we're practically neighbors. And yeah, the rain can really get to you. Gotta love Washington. The desert kids practically die from the rain. But hey, if you ever need any help with anything, getting to class or figure out the school grounds, let me know. I've been going here since 6th grade so the school is my oyster. J
Thank you. I'll probably need all the help I can get. It's like a rat maze in here.
Don't worry about it. I'll be around and if you can't find me I'm sure you'll find someone to help you around. Everyone loves a new student. We don't get very many of them.
I wrote out a response I hoped was witty and before I could hand the paper back to him, the bell rang again in that high pitched whine. Dr. Kurner stopped mid sentence and with a "we'll pick this up tomorrow", everyone packing up their things before filing out of the door. I stuffed my notebook into my bag and waited for Marie to make her way up to me who rolled her eyes at me as if to say "can you believe we had to sit through that". I smiled at her antics and we made our way outside of the classroom. What I did not expect was that Carter would be waiting for me outside of the classroom, leaning against the wall, the picture of cool. I looked at him questioningly. He replied with a smile.
"You said you could use some help getting around so here I am."
"How gentlemanly of you," Marie remarked sardonically though there was a smile on her face. He returned her smile and shrugged, letting the comment go.
"So where's your next class?"
"Um…" I looked up at him with a confused smile. When I got home I would have to make up a coherent schedule so I wouldn't have to be embarrassed at my confusion. Realizing that I would spend most of my time if not at least half on the fourth floor with the seniors, I wondered if I would run into Hagan. Maybe we would be the ones to hang out during lunch now. I mentally rolled my eyes at myself. I had always fought for attention from Hagan, who was carefree enough to miss important things about other people when he wasn't paying attention. Still, he had never missed anything when it came to Broden, always knew how he felt, where he was, how to calm him down. I knew it had something to do with the bond they shared as twin brothers, growing up and doing everything together, but sometimes I couldn't help but get jealous.
"Calculus. That's back in the main building, third floor. I guess I could take you." Carter scratched his head and I knew that though he was trying to help me out, the idea of taking me to the third floor was not something he enjoyed for one reason or another. I wondered what it was about the third floor that he was afraid of, maybe the girls, maybe just the level of complete uncool it would bring upon him.
"Its okay, I'm sure I can make it down myself. Thanks though."
"Well all you have to do is take a left and go down the stairs. After that go all the way down the hall it'll be the last door before you have to turn right." The instructions were enough to make my head spin. I had never been good with instructions, or directions for that matter. I nodded hoping the confusion didn't show on my face. "You want me write it down for you?" he asked trying to keep the amusement from his voice. He probably found me incredibly ridiculous.
"No I'll be okay. Thanks. I'm sure I can manage. Thanks for the directions." I smiled my goodbye and couldn't help but laugh quietly when Marie attached herself to Carter's arm.
"And where do you think you're going?" she asked.
"Um… to American Government?"
"Oh no Mr. Gentleman, you're walking me to class first."
The rest of my time before lunch was spent much the same way, having small conversations with people about how I liked Washington, how New York was different, which I liked more. People would only talk to me before, after, or in between classes, never during as that apparently led to an automatic detention. This I learned was why passing notes became an acceptable way of communication between students during class. Thinking about the pages of notes I had taken in just the first four periods of the day, I wondered how the students managed a life around the workload.
My own workload was intimidating to say the least. Classes were challenging but not enough to overwhelm me, at least not until I thought of the cumulative amounts of stress, work, and lack of sleep it would cause me when it came time to do homework for all of these subjects on the same night. Trying to actually memorize all of the information resulted in a headache and I sought to make my notes as coherent as possible so I could just look back when it came time for homework or possibly a pop quiz which I had also learned was standard procedure in a school like Bridgepoint Prep. My classes all went by quickly, shorter than I thought they would be except AP French Lit which was enough to make my head spin.
"Hey Attie can I walk you to the caf?" George a boy from my Early American History class asked nervously, pushing his glasses higher into the bridge of his nose. The gesture was so incredibly geeky that I found myself at home with him, someone whom I felt was like me: longing to fit in but at the same time always a bit weird. I smiled at him.
"Well, I know where it is but I could use someone to walk with." I shrugged to him and nodded towards the area of the cafeteria. He smiled shyly and kept pace with me though I'm sure with his tall lanky figure, he walked two steps for each one of mine.
"So, you're probably going to sit with the seniors huh?" he asked tucking his chin into the neck part of his turtleneck, embarrassed.
"I don't know. I never really thought about it," I admitted with a frown. I had made a few junior friends: George, being in my Calculus and History class and a girl named Jenny who was just as shy if not shyer than George. Though shy, she was beautiful with big round brown eyes, cinnamon skin, and dark black hair. According to George, the boys looked at her with longing but never had the nerve to say anything as she was known for being incredibly conservative.
"Most of the juniors who have senior classes just kind of ignore their junior friends when they're around the seniors. If you wanna do that then I'd understand," his voice was quiet. I tried to catch his gaze, make him see my reassuring smile but he refused to meet my eyes.
"Well… my brother's a senior… and so are Marie and Carter," I was fumbling for the right words. I didn't want him to think I was ditching him. But no matter how I thought about it, Broden, Hagan, Marie or Carter, they were all seniors and if anything, I would at least like to check up on my brothers.
"No. I understand." I turned to watch him. His whole body dragged. Obviously I was being a jerk in this situation. I gave a mental sigh and gave him what I hoped was my best smile, though I knew he wouldn't see it, trying hard not to look at me in order to shield his disappointment.
"Then again, I guess I could just meet up with them after school. I mean, if you guys have room for me at your table." He looked up at me with a gratefully shy smile and nodded. Everyone else could wait; I wasn't in the habit of disappointing people when I could help it. "Always a peacemaker," Hagan would tease though in our family we all knew that was more his job than anyone else's.
Following George into the cafeteria area which was covered by a tremendous awning, the dynamics of the school become much clearer. There was an obvious invisible line between the left and the right side, the academics and the musicians. The musicians were incredibly loud, tuning their instruments, singing, doing what ever it was that they did. Others only talked around guitar cases and music stands. Still, the academics seemed to completely ignore that there was anyone at all behind the invisible line that was created in the middle of the ten foot space in between the two different types of students.
Seeing that people were looking at us as we walked into the cafeteria, I averted my eyes from the music department though I had hoped to find Broden in those few seconds of curiosity, afraid that I had broken some sort of social rule by acknowledging that they were there. Within the academic side, there were smaller divisions, first between grades, then social groups. Most juniors and most other classes were seated within their own grade levels with the exception of those like me who took classes with both grade levels, I was made aware that there weren't many, but those that excelled opted to sit with their older friends.
Making our way to our table, I saw Jenny smiling at me, obviously glad to see me and I returned her smile warmly. I could see some familiar faces around my table, people who I had barely remembered from my Calc and History classes. They all smiled at me, as though I had specifically chosen their table over all the others, remarkably pleased with themselves. George sat down beside me and introduced me to everyone around the table. I struggled to catch the names as quickly as they were being thrown at me.
"So Attie, how do you like the school?" a boy who I remember was named Brian asked me as he cut into his chicken parmigiana hastily. I smiled at him before answering. He was tall and build, athletic. Blond hair and dark colored eyes, he was anything but physically unattractive.
"It's okay. It's kind of small in comparison to what I'm used to but that's not a bad thing." I was trying to be very diplomatic about my answers, answering truthfully but making sure not to offend anyone in answering. Watching my words was never something I'd had to do before and it was becoming more of a challenge as the day wore on.
"Well New York IS gigantic. Besides, I'm sure Bridge Prep is a little different from your usual private school," a blond haired girl - Emma - besides him answered with an eye roll. I sent her a smile in hopes of apologizing for what ever it was about me that had annoyed her. Her tone was not friendly and all I could do was hope that I wouldn't say anything to offend her further.
"What dorm room are you in Attie? It would be nice to spend time together outside of class," Jenny smiled almost apologetically for the attitude I'd been given. I thanked her mentally for changing the subject. I knew Jenny was the kind of person who didn't speak unless she had something to say.
"Um, well, I'm not staying in the dorms," I shifted uncomfortably, as most of my table stared at me in something akin to embarrassment.
"Oh God, tell me you're not a scholarship student. You're not a townie right?" another girl Alicia asked in annoyance.
"No," I answered uncertainly, "I'm not a scholarship student… it's just my mom lives near by..."
"Ah sentimental reasons, we understand. George cohabitates too. His family's rich enough to buy a house here and live with their 'precious son'," another boy laughed. "His mom's real big on family time." Everyone laughed at his admission and I turned to fin George blushing profusely, an self-conscious smile on his face.
"So you're staying at the Ackerman house?" another girl asked.
"Isn't that the tiny house all the way off in the edge of town near the woods?" Alicia asked in mocking sincerity.
"Well, it's not that small really. But it is next to the woods. My grandfather built it."
I blinked at her attitude and sighed as I pulled Mena's grilled cheese sandwich out of the brown paper bag I'd probably brought from home.
"Your brother goes here too right Attie?" Jenny spoke again, saving me from the awkward rejection of silence.
"Yeah my older brother Hagan's year ahead."
'Is he cute?" Kim was tall and Asian and her emotions were clearly visible in every fiber of her being, changing the way a mood ring does, quickly and obviously.
"Well… I guess. I mean, Ms. Wheaton thought so." Everyone laughed and I laughed too, relaxing into the situation.
"You have to introduce me," Kim's excitement was almost contagious.
"I'll see what I can do," I promised but as I told them about Hagan, my eyes shifted to the other side of the cafeteria, searching for the brother that I could no longer mention in this new life of mine. His large frame was not easily dismissed and as I strained to find him amidst the shuffling of music notes and closing cases, all I was met with was a penetrating pair of eyes that held me.
"What are you looking at Attie?" Kim asked as she followed my gaze to the owner of the intense stare. "Gabriel Gainnes?"
"What?!" It was George who snapped his attention to the other side of the lunch room, to where the subject of conversation stood between a small girl with green hair and another taller red haired beauty.
"I hate that guy. You'd think Gainnes was born a god or something from the way he acts all the time. Prick," Brian muttered in annoyance. Emma was the only one who laughed at his comment. I tried not to look at her strangely as I didn't think the comment was meant as a joke, and almost laughed myself when George whom I thought was incapable of being the slightest bit mean, rolled his eyes at her.
"Well you can't really blame him. If you looked like he did girls might think you were a god too. Let's not get jealous he steals away all your game hm," Alicia who was sitting next to Emma pointed out wryly, tone too edgy to be taken merely as a joke. Emma only smirked at the comment. I looked at the two of them from the corner of my eye and made note to stay as far away as possible. They scared me enough separately and I didn't even want to think of the damage the two of them could do together.
"Do any of you know him?" I asked, turning mostly to George who had been most outraged by my attention towards the other boy but his suddenly blank expression gave nothing away.
"Know him as in spoken to him," Emma scoffed, "no. We don't associate with music majors. They're jerks. And they don't take anything seriously except 'their music'," Emma informed, looking over in their direction to glare openly. I looked at her and waited for her to continue but she didn't.
"What she means to say is that we don't really seem to get along and so we just kind of stay out of each other's way," George explained carefully, his words coming out slowly as he chose them.
"But why don't the two groups get along?" This was the question I had been wondering all day. I couldn't even begin to guess what it was that had created such a division between the two different types of students. They functioned as completely different schools.
"The music department has always hated the academic department and we've always hated them right back, in retaliation I guess you could say," a red haired boy who sat next to Jenny informed me with a shrug.
"But there must be a reason why," I prodded. I didn't know why this division between the students had bothered me so but I felt as though I had to know more about it before getting to the root of the situation and painting myself into a corner.
"The music department has always bragged about how much better they are at everything than us, while calling us uptight supremacists. This of course fueled some hatred sparks between the two groups and since then I guess we've just been trying to out-do one another. They're very egotistical for the most part." George didn't look at me as he said this but towards the other side of the cafeteria, eyes glazed over as he zeroed on someone. From the sadness of his words I assumed it was a girl whom he'd liked who had shot him down because of allegiance to her "better" side. The thought that someone would do that to him angered me and I was surprised that I was already becoming attached to him, protective.
I looked back to the other side of the lunchroom in search of the girl whom I was certain had broken my friend's heart only to be met again with those eyes. They belonged to a tall boy about 5'11, with auburn bed hair and dark hazel eyes. He reminded me of a fox. His eyes were clever, he was irritating, that much could be seen from the way he swatted away a friend who begged his attention, the green haired girl with blue eyes. If anything about his general appearance, the crisp black shirt beneath his navy blazer, non-baggy dark blue jeans, leather jacket, or aviator glasses didn't scream trouble, his attitude did. Nevertheless, he was undoubtedly beautiful.
His eyes, as I looked into them, seemed as though he'd been pleasantly surprised, a confident smirk on his lips as we appraised each other. Then his eyes shifted towards my party in an annoyed expression, as though they were interrupting something shared between us. I looked away embarrassed, turning towards George in hopes of starting a conversation to rid myself of the awkwardness I felt within myself but George was still looking at the other boy, an equally annoyed expression on his face.
"You know Attie, you should stay away from Gainnes," it was Alicia that spoke now, twirling her dark locks about her finger in feigned innocence. "He's not someone you'd want to invest any time in. He's rejected just about every girl on campus. You're new so someone should really warn you. We girls got to stick together," she smiled at me disconcertingly unkind, eyes brimming with what I assumed the though looked like pity.
For a while no one said anything.
"Hey Attie. I've been looking for you," Hagan's voice rang from behind me, pulling up a chair and sitting at our table without hesitation. I turned to him, smile widening as I saw Marie and Carter behind him, though they didn't sit down, probably more aware of the social faux pas than Hagan.
"I knew you wouldn't have any trouble having people help you around," Carter voiced from behind Hagan. I smiled. I hated to admit that he was right. Once I'd gotten to the third floor there were more than enough people willing the usher me from class to class, to make conversation with, most of them guys but at least I hadn't had a second alone since I'd arrived.
"Meanwhile, Carter here has been my personal escort," Marie informer triumphantly.
"Yeah, against my will," he retorted.
"Oh you know you loved it," she smiled back.
I laughed at the two and turned to my classmates to find that they were all completely dumbfounded. It wasn't every day that seniors left their friends to sit with juniors that much was clear and the fact that it was my friends who had come to hang out with us, probably boosted my "cool" factor immensely. This realization didn't make me happy or sad, as cool always meant attention, and attention was always bad. As happy as I was that Hagan had brought Marie and Carter to see me, I really didn't need to be turning the school's entire social structure on its head. I wasn't one to break rules; I was more someone who upheld them, a hall monitor type if you will. I decided to give the juniors a few more minutes of flabbergast before introducing the two parties.
"So how did you three meet?" I was curious and was sure that this would make for an incredibly amusing story as these were the three most fun loving and laid back people I had ever met.
"Well, we're all in the same History class…" Carter began.
"What he means to say is that Hagan almost pummeled him on the way to history," Marie divulged. I looked up at Hagan accusatorily. As far as I'd known, he'd always been a pacifist. His large frame was probably the reason why. Had Hagan ever tried to lay a hand on anyone, he would probably do twice the damage as any one regular person.
"I wouldn't hurt a fly," his hands were up as if to calm me down, "what she means to say is that he bumped into me and fell flat on his back. I helped him up and everything."
"You should have seen him Attie. Carter was all, 'I fell on my wrist! Its sprained! Oh my god its swelling. We should go to the nurse'. It was awesome," Marie's laughing was booming. It was something that started deep down in the pit of her stomach and grew as it was projected out. On anyone else it would have been frightening, still on someone like Marie, any and all things that would have been weird on most, suited her.
"Yeah well, I'm goalie okay? Had I actually sprained my wrist the coach totally would've had a cow and I wouldn't have heard the end of it." Carter informed as he scratched the back of his neck, hoping the excuse would be enough to save him from all of his embarrassment.
"Sounds like quite an introduction." More than anything, I was just glad that they all got along though in my mind I should have already known this. They were all so similar: easy going and friendly. If this was what Washington was going to be like maybe it wouldn't be so bad. There was still much to adjust to but things weren't exactly going badly. I smiled, "Guys this is Hagan my brother and my friends Marie and Carter."
The table seemed elated to be introduced to their senior classmates.
"Hey there," Hagan's introductory smile was almost blinding and I could already see the effect he had on the girls around him from the way Jenny looked more shy than usual, Kim beamed back at him, and Emma scooted away from Brain as if to say, 'I'm not with him'. I was used to Hagan getting this kind of reaction of course. I knew he'd been a big hit with the girls in New York as well though I'd never actually seen it myself since he'd never had a girlfriend, he'd never had enough time for one before, and I vaguely wondered if I would have to put up with some other new face around my house.
His greetings were enthusiastically returned by the girls' hellos and less enthusiastic grunts and nods from the guys. Carter and Marie didn't bother to vocally say their hellos but nodded politely to the younger kids.
"So Hagan, Attie told me you wanted to join the soccer team too. Have you talked to Carter about it yet?" George asked conversationally. I smiled at the small talk my brother and new friend were having. Glad further still to know that Hagan wouldn't be the kind of person who would let this new school put a damper on his social skills. Marie and Carter had been friendly enough with George but in a way that told me they wouldn't be talking to him had it not been for me. Hagan on the other hand, welcomed the other boy with as much friendliness as I had, intrigued with the idea of making a new friend, no matter his age or grade.
Lunch continued on this way and ended with the same high screech as each of my classes had. As I had already gone through the motions of all of my junior classes, at the end of the period I found myself being dragged off by Marie and Carter, offering a farewell smile to Jenny and George who waved their goodbyes.
The day had been going so well that I thought maybe I had gotten away from the menacing experience I had thought the first day of school in this new place would hold for me. Everyone had been friendly with me for the most part, other than people like Emma and Alicia, who I could feel snickering behind my back when I pretended I was busy and the day hadn't been as insufferable as I had imagined, despite all of the work that had been thrown at me.
"So as far as first days go..?" Hagan asked with as smile as he twirled the car keys around his pointer finger. School had let out only five minutes ago and it was drizzling lightly outside. We stood waiting in the left side of the parking lot, hoping that Broden wouldn't take too long as he was known for dawdling.
"It was…. Tolerable." I replied grudgingly. He elbowed my shoulder and I released the smile I had been holding in. "Okay, it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be."
"Of course it wasn't. Did you really think I'd let you have a bad time baby sister? Shame on you." He then took the opportunity to ruffle my hair. I glared at him hoping to scare him out of future attempts at completely messing up my hair, not that I care too much what I looked like but knots were annoying with hair as long as mine, and knew it wasn't the least bit intimidating once I began to smile reluctantly.
In New York, it had been Broden and I that had been the closest between me and my brothers and now that he was refusing to seriously acknowledge me, I'd felt lonely. I didn't want to replace him with Hagan who's green eyes and sandy blonde hair were so the same and yet completely different from the brother whom I had bonded with. But despite the circumstances, I was glad Hagan was finally starting to notice me.
"And how was your day?"
"Well… it was okay. Carter is gonna look into the soccer thing for me…"
"You know you probably shouldn't call it 'the soccer thing'. It might offend him."
He gave me a smile and shrugged though I knew he agreed. "But the homework is gonna kill me tonight. I don't think I remember anything about math since… fifth grade."
I knew how he felt, it had been hard to feel confident in a highly academic school when the last time you completed an assignment was because you were too sick to practice and had finally found the time.
"So have you seen Broden at all today?" I hesitated in asking the question but couldn't help wanting to get out of the rain.
"Nah, I haven't really had the time. Besides, everyone seems to think it's a sin to talk to someone from the other side. But we'll see how he's been doing today soon enough. I mean, he can't hide from us forever." I gave him a shallow smile. Hagan wasn't an open book like Broden, and if you wanted to know what he was thinking you had to pay attention to the words themselves and not the way he said them like you would do with most people. Even then, everything with Hagan was always a guess because he was so good at hiding. Still, I found myself wishing that I hadn't asked that question, feeling as though I'd upset him somehow.
Just then, he took his undeterred warm gaze away from me and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He looked through what ever had caused his phone to vibrate and put it back into his pocket, opening the car door.
I looked at him confused.
"Get in. Broden's not coming, he's got some stuff he has to do."
I slid into the back seat of the car in a daze, staring at the empty shotgun seat that was reserved only for Broden. The rain seemed to come down harder as Hagan pulled out of the school parking lot and drove away from the two ridiculously small brick buildings that had swallowed my other brother and refused to spit him out.
Leaving without him had been so awkward. Hagan hadn't looked or sounded mad, not that I had expected him to but it angered me that he seemed okay with this. My mind was almost frozen at the different-ness of it all. Since second period, I had welcomed any of the new changes that Washington would threaten to bring me. Still, the front seat sat vacant in a way it never had before. I looked at Building B at a distance on the drive home and wondered where he was, what he was doing.
Broden didn't get home until eight thirty that night. He'd come in just in time for dinner as Mena set macaroni and cheese on the table.
"Hey," he'd said as he pulled off his jacket and sat down at the table, water dripping from his hair as he put some food on his plate. He hadn't uttered another word the entire night before he went upstairs at nine forty to practice his cello.
I'd wanted to stop by his room; it was two doors down from mine and ask him what was so important that it had kept him from coming home with us. I wanted to know what was going on with him. But at the same time, I knew that I didn't have the right to ask, I'd forfeited the bond we had that had made that possible in the past. Instead, I let the sound of Bach filter into my mind, visualizing the way Broden's arms moved as the bow touched the strings, before diving into my AP French Literature homework, a comparative essay in French that would probably take me hours to write.
Glaring at the blank Microsoft Word page, the non- progress I had made on my essay, I reminded myself of the promise I had made earlier that day: that I would meet all of the challenges Washington and Bridgepoint presented me with head on. Thinking of Broden, the remaining remnants of my old life, and the mound of homework sitting on my desk, I wondered how much longer I'd be able to follow this personal philosophy before I cracked.
A/N: I'll have definitions for all of the music lingo in the back for anyone who's unfamiliar. ^_^
Monotony - refers to a sound, for example speech or music, that has a single unvaried tone. Opposite = vibrato
Leave some reviews with your suggestions or comments.
Much love. Bzchilakalak
Upcoming Chapter 2: Melisma