Chapter 1

Please to meet you, Garrideb

Thick black clouds. It's going to rain.

Nancy can't helped but to stare outside the window into the dark clouds and think how quickly weather can change these days. A moment ago, the sun was shining orange, preparing for another glorious sunset. Now, there's nothing to see but clouds. Not even a speck of the blue sky.

Global warming.

Her mind was wandering. She thought about one instance, almost a year ago, when they had an April snow. The last winter's ice had just melted and the tiny plants had began sprouting from the rich soil when all of a sudden a blizzard came. Even the flowers were confused whether to bloom or not.

"Nancy."

She turned around in response to the

strong tug on her shoulders than on the mention of her name and looked at the smiling face of a blonde girl.

"Summer."

"What are you doing, still sitting in your chair?"

Nancy looked around the class room. Indeed, the room was nearly deserted with half of the students in the act of leaving.

"I'm sorry. My mind tends to −"

"I know," Summer said, cutting her friend short.

"Not that often, you know." Nancy smiled. She picked up her body bag and tried to stay close to Summer who walked towards the door.

"The rain's coming. If we don't hurry, we'll surely get wet." Summer said and thought of how they will ride their bicycles in the rain. She shrugged at the idea.

Nancy nodded.

"I have a new classmate in Geometry," Summer continued, used to Nancy's timidity.

"Boy or girl?" Nancy asked. She teasingly looked at her friend, quite sure of the answer.

"Boy," Summer knowingly smiled at her.

In Nancy's two friends, Summer's more open to topics about boys. She knew who's who, like a walking data book. She usually started those conversations concerning these particular type of species, a subject foreign to Nancy.

There was a moment of silence as they turned around a corner and headed for the school exit.

"You know what's strange about him?" Summer continued "He has this weird surname. Garrider. No, Garrideb or something."

"Nancy. Summer."

A girl with auburn hair, slightly taller than the two, came running towards them. On her hand was, amazingly, an umbrella.

"Good. You have your umbrella with you." Nancy cheered.

"Yes. But can we use it?" Summer said.

They were already through the door. The rain has started pouring and small pools of water were almost everywhere. They looked at the pouring rain and to the bicycle rails which stood right beside the entrance.

"We can't leave our bicycles here all night. But if we wait− It'll get dark before the rain stops." Meg said.

"Great," Summer sighed.

"I guess we have no choice," Nancy looked to her friends' eyes with a childlike smile.

Summer winced. She was against of using the bicycles in the first place. She thought that there's always the bus or her mom's car. So why use a bicycle? But Nancy and Meg were insistent. They said that they all used the vehicle since fifth grade so what could be the problem. For Summer, the problem was they're older but the two only laughed at her statement.

"But−" Summer tried to protest.

"Don't worry, it's only a little rain." Nancy reassured her.

"Our bags will surely dry tonight but not our books," Meg stooped down and peered through her backpack. She pulled three large clear plastics from it.

"Put all of your important things in the plastic and seal it inside your bags. The rain will soak through the bag but not the plastic." she explained and handed each of them a piece.

"Why do you have these in your bag? Summer asked.

Meg, obeying her own orders, smiled at both of them. "Whenever I swim I need something to put my wet clothes on. Once I forgot to bring one so I made sure I have extras."

"I thought you knew it was going to rain, since you brought your umbrella." Nancy said, closing her brown body bag. "And you brought exactly three of these."

"God's perfect plan." said Meg, quoting their common belief.

In the experience of the three girls, they encountered ironic but helpful situations that only the Divine forces can cause. Like when Nancy was betrayed by her old best friend, she was left to sit alone in the cafeteria. That's when she met Meg. And when Summer had a fight with, coincidentally, Nancy's used-to-be-best-friend, she become the school's outcast, ending up with meeting Nancy and Meg. They became best friends ever since. God's perfect plan.

"Summer, it's not everyday that we can do this." Meg exclaimed.

Summer still looked hesitantly in the rain.

"Just think that we're going through this as a part of life," Nancy insisted. "Like Meg said, it's not everyday we have the chance to do this. First, it's not always raining−"

"And second, our guardians will not let us," Meg interrupted. "Now we have a good excuse."

Nancy smiled. "Besides we're doing this− together."

Summer smiled back to the familiar line.

"We only live once."

"How's school?" his mom asked when he entered the kitchen after he changed his wet clothes.

"Fine," he replied, grabbing a half filled carton of milk and a jar of marmalade from the fridge. He began pouring the milk to a glass and toasting two pieces of bread while his mom still stood in front of the sink staring at him.

"What?" he asked. He knew his mother anticipated a more detailed answer since it's his first day at school. She kept her stare.

"Alright," he said, giving up. "I ate alone in the cafeteria table. All of my teachers pronounced my name wrong and when a teacher did, everyone laughed."

"Don't worry, honey. I know someday things will change." she smiled, continuing her dish washing, contented with what she said. "You'll see!"

He was used of her manually washing the dishes and more used of her wanting to cheer him up. He hoped she's right. Celine, his mother, seldom talked to him. Often, he opened the conversations. But when she feels something's wrong, she'll do it herself.

Nancy woke up in a bright sunny morning, quite the contrast of the previous night. The rain continued to pour all night which for Nancy was a blessing. She loves sleeping through the rain. It makes the air cool, not warm but not too cold.

She opened her window and felt the fresh breeze of the early time of day. The sun has just risen from its sleeping chamber and the birds sang to welcome this lovely spring morning. The ground was completely wet and muddy, the only evidence of the harsh storm that passed.

Thank you Lord for this wonderful morning.

She smiled and thought of their friends' trip back home. Three girls riding their bicycles on their way home. Soaked. Muddied. Yet laughing like little girls who received a brand new Barbie. A priceless memory worth keeping.

Nancy quickly took a bath and dressed, a choice in which she preferred comfort than fashion. Wearing a brown long sleeve topped with white and grey striped hanging blouse and a greenish cropped pedal, she descended the stairs and automatically headed to the kitchen. She found her aunt over the telephone in a serious conversation.

"Good morning, Aunt Beth." Nancy kissed the middle-aged woman in the cheek.

Aunt Beth, an endearing pet name Nancy gave to her auntie after she moved in with her, smiled at Nancy as she sat opposite her.

"Dr. Watson, are you still there?" Aunt Beth paused to listen to the other line. "Yes, I'll make sure the records remain private. You're welcome."

"Busy day?" Nancy asked after her aunt turned the phone off.

"Yes? What about you?"

"Actually we have an audition for a play after school today."

"I see. Make sure you're home before dark but don't do again what you did yesterday. You should have called me. What about Meg and Summer?"

"Of course, we're all in the play. I won't even think of joining that play without them."

Aunt Beth smiled at her niece's response. She knew too well that the three girls don't do anything without the other at least since fifth grade after the three became best friends.

Nancy left Rosehill cottage thirty minutes after seven. The humble abode Nancy lived in is a small cottage with moss covered walls nestled on the top of a hill in the English countryside of Surrey There also stood a worn out fence and a wooden swinging gate. In the front yard various kinds of roses were planted. They were white, pink and red roses which all bloom at the same time during spring. In fact, folks in Surrey used to call this place 'that cottage in the hill filled with roses. Soon, people termed it Rosehill Cottage.

Every morning, Nancy rides her bicycle and drops by Meg's then Summer's It's a usual route they take to get to school. On this route, only meters away from Meg's house, there was a sharp curve before reaching the residential areas.

Nancy turned around this curve then all of a sudden she lost control and her bicycle came to a crash. The whole area was muddy and slippery due to the continuous rain last night.

Nancy looked around, shocked from the past events.

"Ouch. That hurts."

She turned around and saw a young man about her age, looking down at her.

Is he smiling?

Nancy only stared at him and can't believe of what he heard or saw.

How dare he?

The boy made no move neither to help her nor an attempt to show sympathy. He remained standing there and staring at Nancy, who began glaring at him.

"I can't believe this," Nancy said and tried to stand up. She intended to appear like talking to herself even if the complaint is for the mocking boy who's only a meter away.

"Oh no. No. No. I'm sorry." The dark-brown haired boy smirked and offered his hand to the distressed girl.

Nancy hesitated but quickly saw that she have no choice. She let him help her to her feet. She then checked for damage and as far as she can see, only a derailed bicycle chain and a handful of mud all over her cropped pedal.

Nancy grunted.

The boy chuckled.

What kind of humour does this boy have?

Nancy turned to look at the laughing boy and gasped when she realized how close the boy's face was to hers.

I didn't notice that his eyes were blue.

"Don't worry about your bicycle," he smirked. He stooped down beside the broken chain and started fitting the chain back in its place.

Why the sudden change, she didn't know. How unsympathetic he may have been he's still fixing her bicycle.

"I-I have a friend just around the corner," Nancy, said not sure of what to say. "I have to change."

"Okay," he replied, without even looking at her.

Nancy, a little confused to the unexpected events, walked away until she reached a red-roofed flat. She knocked and without hesitation opened the door.

"Meg," she called.

"Nancy?" her friend appeared from a corner. "Where have you been? It's almost− Oh my! What happened to you?"

"Long story," Nancy exclaimed. "First thing first, I need to borrow a change of clothes."

"Come on upstairs."

After a minute, Nancy and Meg descended the stairs, Nancy in a pair of jeans and a black and red striped shirt.

"Don't you think this shirt is a little figure-hugging?" she commented, straightening the shirt.

Nancy was quite surprised when Meg's shirt and jeans perfectly fit her. Meg was kind of athletic and outgoing which does a lot of good in her figure, something that makes Nancy and Summer envious.

"I told 'ya you can pick another if you're not comfortable with it."

"We don't have much time. The boy who's fixing my bicycle will be waiting out there."

"A boy? Fixing your bicycle? What am I missing?" Summer shot her a meaningful look.

"I'll tell you and Summer everything at lunch break. Meanwhile−"

Nancy held the latch and turned it.

"And then you saw your bicycle, all fixed, parked in front of Meg's fence. But this smiling boy who has thick dark brown hair and mischievous blue eyes was nowhere to be found?" Summer repeated and smiled to Nancy who sat opposite her.

"You're exaggerating, Summer." Nancy said, straightened her long raven hair before looking down to examine the cafeteria food.

"So that's what Ms. Nancy who's known to never get upset to any jitter in life is whining this whole morning."

"But−"

"More like a hero to me, you know, focused on helping the people in need than receiving words of appreciation." Meg interrupted.

"Will a hero mocks you and smiles at you when you fell at your bike and is sitting on the mud?" Nancy exclaimed. "I think not?"

"Not quite a gentleman." Meg replied.

"Enough of this. I heard that the participants of the play will have a meeting right after school." Nancy changed the topic without concealing the fact that she wanted to.

"Okay. I guess I'll see you two at the?" Meg stood up to leave.

"Gymnasium."

"−gymnasium after school."

Two days ago, the halls were filled of posters enquiring for students who want to share their talents in acting. Nancy was hysterical when she learned of the piece the drama club will be using, the historical 'Marc Anthony and Cleopatra'.

Nancy, having a passion for history, knew almost everything about the love of the Roman general and the cunning Egyptian queen. It was then that Summer suggested in joining the play but Nancy only dreamt of watching how the club will portray the two lovers not on acting in the play.

In the end, Summer triumphed with the lines, "Don't worry, we're doing this together," and signed their names on one of the posters.

Almost half of the students participating were gathered on the gymnasium when Nancy and Summer arrived. Nancy looked for other familiar faces. Meg was nowhere to be seen while Summer was busy greeting those students she knew.

I never realized that Summer knew all of these people.

Suddenly she felt a tug on her shoulder. Expecting Meg, she turned around.

"Hello!" said a dark-brown haired boy. He was standing on the stage, looking down at her with a pair of sky blue eyes and just smiling.

"Kevin."

The boy looked behind Nancy and greeted the blonde girl. "Summer."

"Nancy, so you've met Kevin." Summer said, smiling at Kevin. "He's my new classmate in Geometry."

"I see," Nancy smiled. "Please to meet you Garrideb."

..Laus Deo..