Getting out of bed in the morning is the hardest, most depressing part of the day. That was the conclusion Hannah came to. Every time a noise or an uncomfortable position stirred her gently from sleep during the night, she glanced at the angry red alarm clock sitting on the bedside table.
Five more hours of sleep, Hannah thought gratefully in her drowsy state.
Three and a half more hours; it would have to do.
7: 28 am
Two more minutes…two more minutes! Hannah's foggy brain began functioning, and the mood of the morning would clearly not be a chipper one. Despite her bodies attempt to close her tired eyes and remain in bed, her head was already confused with the numerous details that came to mind. What did she have to do today? What time was her Gram arriving? The kind face of Mr. Armstrong's mother swam before her vision. What-…her mind slowed and she began to drift back into the lethargic state before the frenzy. Two minutes was a long time after all.
Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep….
You awful alarm, were her first coherent thoughts. You evil, selfish, alarm. It certainly had no right to awaken her so abruptly when sleep was in such desperate need. The beeping continued, and only ceased when Hannah raised her hand to shut it off. For a moment, she lay still, contemplating whether or not she should go back to sleep. Heaving a sigh, she pulled her face from her pillow, and rolled from her stomach onto her side. Another deep breath and she had managed to sit up, and clumsily toss her legs over the side allowing her the immediate sensation of the surrounding cold air.
Some soft noises from downstairs carried to her bedroom, and Hannah sat up a little straighter. Before she could lose another moment, she threw on a pair of jeans and a green t-shirt, and rushed to the bathroom. There was no way Joshua would beat her today! Sliding across the hardwood floor in her thick wool socks with such grace was no easy feat. But Hannah was a pro. It was always a competition between her brother and herself to race to the bathroom each morning. For whoever was got there second was out of luck, and faced a wait of at least fifteen minutes.
Today however, it seemed her professional sock sliding skills would not be needed. The bathroom door was open, and the light inside was turned off. Joshua's door, Hannah also realized, was open as well with his bed neatly made, and pajamas folded on top of his plaid pillow. Folded!
Something was up.
Hannah stopped in her tracks (which was rather difficult at high speed) and leaned over the banister to look downstairs a level and into the kitchen. Her hands had a firm grip on the railing, and her elbows stuck up as her stomach was flat against the wooden frame of the banister.
It appeared her house was silent.
"Mom?" She asked questioningly, "Mom! Moommm!" she sang.
No one answered, so Hannah leaned forward a little more, her mid section practically folded in half as she strained to pear into the kitchen. The light was on, so at least one person in her family had to be home. Faintly, the smell of French toast wafted into the hall. Just a little further, she strained to lean down, now mostly in an effort to breath in the amazing aroma.
"Please don't jump; you have so much to live for!" came a highly dramatic call.
Hannah screamed shrilly at the sudden entrance of the voice, and whipped around.
Felix was standing only a foot away from her side, also leaning down from the banister. A large grin was plastered on his face.
"You have a very high pitched scream," he noted, "I think possibly that I have been deafened in my left ear."
Hannah made no response but to place her palm over her chest, and try to calm her racing heart. Her brain was back to not functioning. Blood pumped loudly behind her ears, but despite this, she felt white as a ghost. She took a deep breath and looked at Felix. His green eyes were wide and questioning, but the toothy grin remained.
"Yeah…"Hannah breathed out, "Just…you really surprised me."
His reply was expected, "Well, yeah. I am a shocking person."
That he certainly was. Once again his apparel was something that would make the weak of stomach cringe. His pants were nothing that alarming, just simple black skinny jeans. His shirt on the other hand was a different story. It was either black with green stripes, or green with black. Hannah wasn't sure. The horizontal stripes themselves weren't even that terrible until you stood right up close to him. Lime green and black swam in front of your vision, so narrow it looked to Hannah as if she was seeing double. On top of this he sported a black and red stripped zip-up hoodie with much the same effect. Orange Keds with lightening strips adorned his feet.
"What are you doing in my house…so…early," Hannah asked, taking a step backwards. It was far too premature in the day to deal with this boy.
"Well, I was eating breakfast. But then, Joshua told me to wake you up," he said this slyly.
"You know," she muttered defensively, "I can get up on my own."
"So…you didn't need to come get me."
Inside, Hannah was fuming. Talking to this child was like talking to a wall! She had absolutely no clue as to what was going on inside his head. Well…boys in general really are quite hard to understand, but this one in particular was infuriating! And Joshua; that guy had something coming for him. Something extremely evil. Who did he think he was sending someone to wake her up…who was not only not a girl, but practically a stranger! How embarrassing would that have been?! She was not the kind of person with graceful reactions to boys. Flirting was a foreign language that she stuttered and mumbled in. See? It just didn't work.
Wait…why was she thinking about flirting with Felix? She didn't even know him, much less like him! It was…absurd. Yes, Hannah decided, absurd. Just because he was like, the only guy in her life didn't mean she was going to fall for him; she wasn't that kind of girl.
"I'm going to go to the bathroom now," Hannah told him, making sure her face was turned away. "You can tell my brother I'm up."
"Right," He nodded, preparing to turn around, and then remembered something, "Oh! Josh was wondering if you wanted a ride to school."
Hannah frowned here, "He never offers me a ride to school…not unless mom makes him."
Felix shrugged nonchalantly, "Your mom isn't home. Maybe Josh has just realized the joys of little sisters."
"Doubt it," she replied with a snort, before he continued.
"He also wanted me to tell you that your Grandmother's arriving at three…or four…I can't remember actually."
"Gram?!" Hannah felt her face light up, remembering again why it was even worth getting up today. She hadn't seen her Grandmother for at least four years, and was desperately awaiting her arrival.
Felix allowed a smile to appear. The kind, Hannah realized that you gave to little kids when they get super excited about a new pack of crayons. "Gram?" he asked innocently.
Hannah loved crayons, so she wasn't about to back down here despite the rising blush. "Yeah…my Dad's mom. I haven't seen her in-" she stopped, realizing a ramble was just beginning on the tip of her tongue.
The boy in front of her was leaning a little to close, looking entirely enthralled in what she was saying. Her thoughts were as about coherent as alphabet soup at the moment however, because her personal bubble was being invaded. "Um…are you going with my brother to school?" Hannah asked this lightly, hoping to sound inconspicuous and steer the conversation to another topic.
It was Felix though, so of course that didn't work.
"Why," He smirked, leaning back, "Might my being there change your decision?"
"No," Hannah lied through her teeth, "I'm going to school with Maggie."
Felix laughed, and some of the arrogance fell from his features, "Okay, I'll see ya at school then, Hannah."
That being said, he turned to go back into the kitchen, clicking his tongue like a kid every time he hoped down a stair.
Hannah let out a deep breath, and walked into the bathroom. Pulling the door closed behind her, she glanced in the mirror. Again, her normally pale complexion was flushed for obvious reasons. Her brain went into overdrive as she pulled out her face scrub, and quickly washed her face. It wasn't that she didn't want to go to school with Felix and her brother, she realized, it was just that she was totally, insanely, uncomfortable being in the formers presence. He was a complete mystery; an enigma.
Quickly, Hannah ran a comb through her tangled hair, smoothing it out and allowing a bit of shine. Pulling open the bathroom drawer underneath the sink, she found herself searching for her mascara. Why? She wasn't sure. As best as she could, Hannah applied the black substance to her eyelashes making them long and thick. Okay, she thought, I'm certifiably insane. Before she could convince herself that eye shadow and lip gloss would be a good idea also, Hannah stepped out of the bathroom and headed downstairs. Felix and Josh seemed to have left, a fact for which Hannah was extremely grateful. Heading towards the phone, Hannah grasped it and dialed Maggie's home phone number. She prayed Maggie was still home and could offer her a ride. Her little white lies seemed to be getting her into quite a bit of trouble these days.
The phone rang once….twice…three times-
"Hello? Saunders residence here."
"Hi! Mrs. Saunders, its Hannah. Is Maggie still home?"
Please, please, please!
"Oh, I'm sorry dear, you just missed her. I'd call her on her cell, but you know how she is when she tries to talk and drive."
Maggie's mother sounded genuinely apologetic as she told her this. Hannah could just picture her friend's mother with her similarly curly red hair and the phone to her shoulder, probably tidying up their freakishly clean kitchen even more.
"That's okay," Hannah told her, feeling a buzz of nervous butterflies in her stomach, "Thanks anyway."
"Alright dear, bye then."
Hannah hung up and phone and glanced at the clock. Excellent start to the day, she thought sarcastically. A bus wouldn't reach the nearest bus stop for twenty minutes, and even so she still had to walk four blocks to get there. Walking to school would have to be her mode of transportation for the day…hopefully it would be the fastest. Whatever. It would be better than driving with Joshua and Felix. Glancing outside, she shivered, and thought that once again, bringing her jacket would be a wise choice. The clouds outside were large, dark, and very ominous looking. As of yet, it hadn't begun to rain, but it looked as though that would quickly be remedied. Pulling a pop tart out of its shiny wrapper, she stuffed it in her mouth, shouldered a bag (her backpack was still in her English classroom) and headed out the door.
A large crack of thunder sounded her entrance into Mother Nature's world, followed by a bright flash of lightening. "Why does it always rain in this city?" Hannah muttered as she directed herself down the front steps of the house. Quickening her pace, she chewed her pink icing pop tart, and prepared for the rainy onslaught.
Sure enough, by the time Hannah reached her school, her jacket was soaping wet and her hair was plastered to her face. She had run the last five blocks though, so at least some time was saved. Out of breath, and completely exhausted, she found Maggie sitting in front of her locker with both of their backpacks and a clever expression.
"Hello there, drowned rat, you look like you ran a marathon," was her kind, appreciative greeting.
"Sure did," Hannah nodded, glad to be inside, "Y'know, to help keep myself in this excellent shape and everything." Then she pretended to collapse.
Maggie raised her eyebrows into perfect arches.
"I was almost struck by lightening."
"Ah, there you go," Maggie nodded, understanding. "Heard you got a ride with me to school, huh?"
Hannah grinned, "Yeah, it was raining and…wait" she froze in panic, "Who said I got a ride to school with you?"
"Your brother did."
"Awkward that is. I like the alibi though. Let's stick to it," Hannah laughed.
"Will you fill me in? You look way confused…hey Han, your brothers coming."
Hannah flung her head around, not bothering to apologize when Maggie got a wack of wet blonde hair in her face. Upon turning, she found Joshua and Felix headed toward them, clearly aiming to stop and have a nice little chat.
"Ooh," Maggie muttered in her ear, "Hot emo boy headed this way. Too bad I'm hitched."
"He's not emo," Hannah muttered back, "I only wish he went home and cut himself."
"Ouch…you're so bitter today. He is gorgeous though," her friend laughed.
"Hey girls," Joshua said in greeting. Then he eyed Hannah and frowned, "Go for a swim?"
Felix took a moment to snicker, then jumped into the conversation like the little social butterfly he was, "No Josh, Hannah got a ride with Maggie to school," his tone told everyone he new this wasn't the case, but he continued anyway, "How she got so wet I have no idea!"
"I did get a ride to school," she told her brother, avoiding Felix's sly face.
"Then why are you so wet?"
Maggie laughed here and swung her arm around Hannah, she also looked at her friends face; curious to see what answer she would come up with this time.
"I was hot. So I opened the window."
Joshua rolled his eyes, and seemed content to let it go. An act of which Hannah was very grateful. Her brother's unusual consideration of her lately was getting a bit suspicious.
"Aren't you going to introduce me, Hannah?" Maggie asked, clearly enjoying herself.
"Yeah, sure," Hannah said curtly, "This is Joshua. He's my brother."
"I know who your brother is."
Hannah, however, remained stoic. She was so eager to get out of here…anything but here. Anything.
Felix grinned in a friendly way and stuck out his right hand, "I'm Felix Ryan. Friend to Josh and Hannah."
"Nice to meet you," Maggie replied. Then she elbowed Hannah in the side.
"Well," said Joshua, "We've gotta get going. And Hannah? If you want an actual ride home tonight, I'll meet you at your locker after school."
"Bye, kid," Felix said with a bright smile, as he clapped his hand on her shoulder, "Bye Maggie."
The two boys left before Hannah could even realize her shock at his touching her shoulder, or her anger for being talked down to like a child. In her revelation, she reached her hand to hover over her shoulder where a slight tingling sensation was occurring. Her heart beat was heavy and fast, nervous. In complete sincerity, Hannah wondered why this was so. She had nothing to be nervous about today, not a thing out of the ordinary. At least, she didn't think so. Glancing out the window, Hannah confirmed that yes, the clouds where fat and rainy, the students sluggish and tired, and there was definitely no English oral final nearby…Her train of thoughts were suddenly interrupted.
"Omigod. You looove him, Hannah," Maggie exclaimed dreamily, "I saw it in your eyes!"
Hannah's mouth dropped open in surprise as her eye's widened, and she felt blood rush to colour her pale cheeks. Before Maggie could get the wrong idea, she began to shake her head furiously. It seemed that the situation was past her control however. Maggie's head bobbed up and down enthusiastically, a huge grin spreading across her face so that her eye's crinkled.
"Yes," Maggie sang, "You're blushing, deary!"
"No I am not!" Hannah said desperately,
"Mm Hm. I know you even if you don't. You got all defensive when you started talking to him," she informed her friend knowledgably.
"That's because he is insensitive! I told you he locked me out of his window the other day, right? Then this morning, I nearly fell over the stairs because he scared me so badly!"
Maggie gasped, just for the sake of being annoying, "He was at your house?"
Hannah rolled her eyes, "Stop making things difficult."
"You're trying not to then."
"That's because you're crazy! Get a hobby," Hannah said clearly, allowing the smile full reign.
"My hobby is your happiness, Hannah Armstrong," Maggie told her, staring off into imaginary clouds and raising her arm to the heavens.
Hannah snorted and grabbed her backpack from beside her friends feet as the bell rang. "I've got to get going to chemistry. I'll see you and Ethan at lunch okay? We'll meet at the usual spot and no Maggie, Joshua will not be there nor will his friends." Hannah only stopped to look at her best friend for a second, and regretted it. Maggie's face was smug, though she didn't say anything, so Hannah continued on down the crowded hallways of the high school.
Upon entering the chemistry classroom, she found her mood decreasing several levels in happiness. This part of the day was even worse than getting up or being subjected to Maggie's fantasies. It included one hour of pure hell. Balancing chemical formulas and memorizing elements was just not her thing. Seriously, she thought, who would ever find titrating or pipetting exciting?
Sighing, Hannah took her seat in one of the middle desks and waited for her teacher to come in and create the usual buzz among the students. Before she even had time to pull her fat, over-fed text book out of her bag and place it on her desk, Ms. Lon entered the room. She was a petite woman with a slim figure and at first glance appeared to be a rather attractive person with her large hazel eyes and short black hair.
Hannah new better however; this woman had the personality of Satan reincarnated. She prayed on the weak, favored the smart, and loved to intimidate all those who were unlucky enough to cross her path. Hannah found herself cowering down in her desk a little, trying to remain small and inconspicuous.
"Due to the small fire yesterday," Ms. Lon began in a low, threatening tone, "We will not be able to complete the scheduled lab."
Relieved exhales were heard throughout the room.
"Instead…" She allowed the suspense to build with the expected nervous intakes of breaths, "We will have our unit final today. I assume none of you planned to do all of your studying tonight anyways, so this shouldn't be a problem. Those of you who do procrastinate," Ms. Lon glanced around the room, allowing her gaze to settle on a fearful Hannah for a moment, "I will know."
Well, Hannah thought, this is going to be really, really bad. She hadn't studied an ounce last night, and new that even if she had, it would still be hopeless.
"Who can hand out the tests for me?" The teacher asked. The class was silent however, knowing it was useless to volunteer as she was just going to pick on someone anyway. Ms. Lon was one of the few teachers in the high school…or ever, Hannah assumed, to be able to put such fear into normally uncaring teenagers. This was all too visible as the woman scanned the students in the room, all of whom were avoiding her gaze. "Michael!" She snapped, "Hand out the tests please."
The scrawny boy shot to his feet, his glasses falling off in the process. Dropping to his knees, he scrambled his hands around the dusty floor searching for them. No one moved to help him, and Hannah felt a pang of sadness for the boy. His fingers were shaking in embarrassment when he finally found them, and he stood up again looking uncomfortable. Ms. Lon watched all of this with polite disinterest, and Hannah couldn't help but detest the woman before her.
Finally, Michael made it to the front of the room, and was handed the thick tests papers. He began to deliver them to each student individually, making sure to place it face up and in the right direction.
"Thanks Michael," Hannah whispered quietly as her papers where placed on her desk. Michael smiled shyly, and moved to the student behind her. Hannah opened the booklet and took a deep breath…this was going to be far worse than she had initially imagined. The first question asked for the excess amount of Nitrogen that would be used up in a certain reaction. Numbers, elements, boiling points and formulas flew around her head in disarray. She had purposely avoided this question in her homework because she could never seem to get the answer…Doing something you weren't good at was never fun anyway.
"Are you okay, Hannah?" Ethan asked as he placed his lunch bag on the floor beside him. Hannah's head was between her knees, and her hair formed a protective barrier from the world around her.
"No," she muttered, not moving. Maggie snorted, and Hannah raised her head to glare, "Just so you know, I will be stuck in school forever because I just failed my unit final. You'll have to graduate alone."
"What did you get?"
"Oh, come on," Ethan prodded, "I'm sure you're just exaggerating. You probably think eighty is bad."
Hannah placed her head back between her knees, and muttered something incoherent.
"Didn't quite catch that," Maggie grinned, leaning towards her friend, "say it again?"
"Out of forty?"
"No! Thirty-five percent! That unit final was worth twelve percent of my grade. I'm doomed."
Maggie gave Hannah a pat on the back, and proceeded to open her lunch bag. Neatly, she spread the saran wrap on the floor beside her, and began to devour her cold pizza.
"Why don't we just eat in the cafeteria? I did last year," Ethan mumbled, a question which was becoming daily.
"No." The two girls responded uniformly.
Since staring high school almost two years ago, Maggie and Hannah had eaten on the floor in front of a massive picture of a whale every day. Its thick frame was low, but just at the perfect height to rest your head against if you so desired. They remained adamant that it was better, but Ethan didn't seem to understand. Apparently, he preferred numerous bodies around when eating his food in a sweaty room full of smells and students. Beside, Hannah had told him many times that there weren't even enough chairs in the cafeteria for the whole school. Only about a quarter of the school managed to get a table, and the majority of them were grade twelve's.
Ethan rolled his eyes, and sucked on his juice box with a bitter expression. Maggie chose wisely to ignore this, and instead turned to Hannah with a look of concern. "Don't tell me you forgot your lunch again, Hannah. You have to eat."
"Shoot!" she exclaimed, thumping her head against the wall. "No, I didn't forget it; it's just in my locker." Hannah groaned, and began to push herself to her feet like she was an old grandmother.
"Run, girl!" Maggie laughed, and gave her a gentle shove.
"I'm going, I'm going," Hannah said, still moving at the pace of a snail, "Give me some time to wallow in my misery, please." The she grinned at Maggie, her foul mood finally lifting a little bit, "I may die of hunger on the way though." If there was one person who could bring her out of a depressed day, it was Maggie through and through. That girl's huge grin just always got the best of her.
Hannah continued walking through the hallway, avoiding the mess of legs that stuck out into the middle from all of the other students. Glancing down to make sure her feet didn't decapitate someone, she realized vaguely that the gum she had stepped in by the music store didn't seem to be there anymore. There was no repetitive squish and sticky feeling each time her left shoe touched the ground. This was definitely weird because it was far too attached to be removed on its own. Hannah had actually planned on just buying new shoes, because she didn't like these runners that much anyhow…Plus, the idea of someone else's gum on her foot was enough to make her feel ill. So why was it gone? Her mom had rolled her eyes, uncaring, and her Dad didn't know…Only Joshua new. He wouldn't have taken it off though; it would just be too weird for words. One the other hand, his recent random acts of kindness had not gone unnoticed…he probably broke something of hers.
Hannah gasped aloud.
He probably accidentally broke the heel on those incredible vintage shoes Maggie had found her! Now he was trying to soften her up before her told her! It made total sense. Determined to put the fear of death into her brother, Hannah forgot her lunch and headed towards his locker.
She found him standing with the usual 'band' crowd, but refused to be deterred as usual by their (Fin's) intimidating presence. The shoes must be avenged. Joshua however, was standing slightly out of the circle and Felix or the other boy's didn't seem to have noticed. Her brother's face was a little white, and he leaned against the locker looking slightly limp. In his hand was his call phone, flipped open like he had just received a text.
Unlearned boy, Hannah thought with a tisk, he'll get his phone taken away for sure this time. He didn't put it away though when he saw his sister. His eye's looked wide and Hannah new then and there that her shoes must have met a brutal end, and he new he would pay for it.
"I loved those heels, Joshua! How could you?" She asked desperately, trying to ignore the sudden attention from the group of boy's standing beside him. "Maggie tried so…" Hannah trailed off, alarmed to see Joshua looking so distraught. It occurred to her that the shoes were certainly not the problem.
"You okay, man?" Austin asked, and Felix too looked intent.
"Josh, you should sit down or-" Fin muttered something and traced off.
But Joshua shook his head; eye's still wide and staring at his sister. He frowned, and Hannah could have sworn he blinked back a tear as he walked towards her. Behind him, Felix, Fin and Austin watched with matching frowns as well.
"Hannah," he said quietly. He grasper her elbow with clammy fingers and pulled her a few more feet away from his friends.
"What's wrong?" She asked gently, her pulse speeding up a bit. "Tell me. I'll help you."
"Hannah," he began again, "Mom just called me. Gram had a stroke."
A/N: Hey! Sorry it's been a while. I've missed working on this what with my exams and everything. So I realized I haven't really been thanking my reviwers! So a huge, huge thanks to condemned-2-fate, and Jenny especially! You're advice has been so helpful. Please let me know what all you readers think! I know..sadly, I a, severly lacking plot creativity. I might also be moving a little slow.
Press that lil' purple button!..or off blue or something. I know you want to!