"I miss you,
I miss you so bad."
The car door shuts, and I turn my head to see the home that I've lived in my whole life, the one that had always been filled with an atmosphere of hatred and sorrow and depression. There was never any room for happiness for our family, but still, I don't feel good leaving the dark house that I've been a part of for so long.
My mother's friend from college, Lydia Colbert, is sitting in the passenger seat with a smile that isn't quite fake but definitely forced. That's her talent—smiling through anything and everything. Mark, her husband, starts driving down the road, and I find that it takes me everything I have to not look back and cry.
Lydia reaches forward and turns the radio on. She switches it to the country station. A sad-sounding song starts playing, and Mark immediately changes the radio channel.
"I like that song," protests their daughter, Shawna, who is currently seated next to me and probably glaring daggers at the side of me that's facing her. "Put it back on."
"I like this song better," Lydia says innocently, which is obviously a lie, because I know—and Shawna probably does, too—that Lydia can't stand rock music. "Can we just wait until they play something else?"
Shawna slumps back. "God, I hate this family. Why does she even have to come live with us, anyway?"
I try to block out their voices. I used to be good at that, when my father shouted cruel things at me. But I guess that's not true, because I can still always remember exactly what he said to me. So I hear them speaking despite my efforts.
"Shawna," Mark warns.
"She's so annoying," she spits. "She doesn't even talk! How the hell am I supposed to live with this freak? Oh my God, imagine what the kids at school will say. I am totally screwed."
"Language, Shawna," Mark says, just as Lydia turns in her seat and gives Shawna a look that says, 'Shut up or I'll hit you.' It's a look I know too well.
"She's lost her family," she hisses at Shawna, assuming I can't hear her, but I can. "Stop being so inconsiderate."
I look out the window, acting like I didn't hear that. Of course Shawna already knows my situation. She just hates me.
Let me explain what's going on. My dad, who's despised me all my life, crashed into a tree in his car, killing himself and putting my older brother, Cameron, in critical condition at the local hospital. Actually, he's recently been diagnosed as comatose, which just makes everything worse. Oh, and my mother died while giving birth to me.
My life has never been easy, but it's never really been this bad. Sure, my dad always called me a monster—and I definitely don't mean in an affectionate way—and my brother was the only person I could count on, and I only had a few friends in school, but at least I had a father and a brother and a home.
"Deanna," Mark says, lowering the volume of the radio, "do you want to stop by at the hospital before we go home?"
Home? I want to say. Your home isn't my home.
But what does come out of my mouth is, "No, thank you."
I don't talk much. I never really have, but I've heard people say that it's gotten worse since the accident. Not like it was really an accident; everybody knows my dad crashed into that tree on purpose, knowing there was a ditch next to it and that he would surely die of impact. He'd made sure Cameron sat in the back, but my brother still got hurt. Which is why I'd rather come to see Cameron at the hospital some other day, instead of go in now and show him how unhappy I am. He wouldn't like that.
I lean my head against the window and try to just ignore everything that's going on. The only thing I have any interest in watching is the moon, following us silently as we drive to my new home, where I'll be living with this family that I don't know if I'll ever become a part of.
"...anna. Deanna. Wake up."
I open my eyes to the sound of a woman's voice, and am almost disappointed when I see that it's only Lydia. What had I expected, my mother? But I've been doing that a lot the past few months—hearing her voice as it follows me wherever I go.
"We're home," she—Lydia, not my mom—says soothingly, and I know that she's trying. But it still feels strange to call this new place that I've never seen before 'home.'
I get out of the van and stretch my arms above my head. Shawna jumps out, too, and goes into the house.
I turn around to see Ethan, Shawna's four-year-old brother who was sleeping in the back of the van, sitting up and looking around.
"They just went inside," I tell him, because both Lydia and Mark have followed Shawna in. I close the door behind Ethan and we walk into the suddenly bright house.
"Welcome home," Mark says, mostly to me, and I find myself standing in a beautifully decorated living room, one that has a nice, clean carpet and wide windows and just about everything I could have imagined and more.
"Thank you," I say sincerely, because I don't know what else I can tell them. These amazing people, who agreed to take me in even though they don't even know me...I really am lucky in the strangest ways.
I start to haul my bags in, but Lydia stops me. "Shawna, get Deanna's stuff and show her the guest b—er, her room."
Shawna, of course, is appalled. She abruptly stops pouring herself a cup of orange juice and glares at her mom. "Why are you making me do it?"
"Because I can," she answers simply. Shawna stomps over to me and puts the cup of orange juice right in front of my face.
"Just hold this," she demands, and I do so.
"I can get my own bags..." I begin to protest, but then realize that it's actually pretty amusing to watch Shawna act as my bellboy.
She picks up my 'luggage'—a duffel bag and a suitcase; on my shoulder is a smaller bag that I don't think Lydia notices—and then does something that I probably should have expected. She shoves into me as if my bags are so heavy that she has trouble controlling her balance, and as a result the pulp-filled yellow-orange liquid sloshes onto the floor.
Shawna gasps. "Oh, my God, you did not just do that."
"But I didn't—"
"Mom!" Shawna yells. "Look what happened!"
Ethan glances at the stain, then up at my face. "Momma spended lots of time cleaning the carpet for you," he says, making me feel horrible.
"Oh, no," I hear from behind me. "The carpet."
I spin around. "I'm so sorry, Lydia, I promise I'll clean it up right away—"
I can fix this. I can point a finger at Shawna and tell them all that she was the one who slammed into me in the first place. I can raise my voice and say that Shawna's just mad that she's not the center of attention anymore. But I don't; I just stand and watch Lydia's eyes scan the stained floor and then look back at me.
"No," she says, forcing a smile. "It's fine. It's just the carpet, so it's okay."
Yeah, I think. Just a carpet that probably took a long time to get perfect, just a carpet that was probably expensive to get done, just a carpet that had been made to look nice with Lydia's care. It's almost cheesy, but I still feel bad about it.
"Wow, what a bitch," Shawna mutters, just loud enough for everyone to hear, but quiet enough to make it seem like she is talking to herself.
And the thing that hurts most is that Mark doesn't say, 'Language, Shawna,' in that strict tone he used in the car.
First days of school are crazy. This is the first thing I learn from living with the Colberts.
Usually, in my 'old life,' my brother would get up on the first day of school and make sure I had everything I needed, then drive me to school as if our father wasn't in bed with a hangover or in bed with some random girl or in bed doing whatever. Cameron would drop me off, then drive almost twenty miles to get to his school, which was just a community college because we couldn't afford much else. Living with Cameron and our dad was basically like living alone, except more traumatizing.
But here with the Colberts, it's like the insanity never stops. And what's weird is, it's a good insanity.
"Rinse and shine, it's the first day of school!" is the first thing I hear at 5:30 in the morning on the first of September. I'm a light sleeper, so I sit up in bed and see Ethan standing in my doorway with a huge grin on his face.
"Kiddo, that's rise and shine," Mark tells him, ruffling his hair. "Come on, girls, out of bed!"
I slide out of the comfortable, warm guest room bed that I have been sleeping in for the past three weeks, and walk into the bathroom that I have to myself.
"Shawna's not getting up, Daddy!" Ethan complains, and Mark pops into the bathroom for a moment to fill a cup with cold water.
"Sorry," he says quickly. "Be glad you woke up when we told you to."
A few moments later, I'm sure the entire street hears a shriek that's loud enough to, well, wake up someone like Shawna. Except the scream comes from Shawna, who shows up in the hall drenched with the water that Mark just took from the—my bathroom.
Lydia and I are trying not to be rude and hiding our grins, but Mark and Ethan start clutching their stomachs with laughter. I slip back into the bathroom and get ready for school with a smile on my face, something I don't think I've done in a few years.
"Are you ready to go?" Mark asks us at 6:45, when we're all standing by the door. "Deanna, can you drive?"
I panic. "Oh, no, I can't. Was I supposed to be responsible for getting us to school?"
He shakes his head. "No, of course not. The school is within walking distance from here. I was just wondering."
"Oh," I say, relieved. "Good."
We start walking after a few "good luck"s and "bye, see you later"s from Lydia, Mark, and Ethan.
"Listen," Shawna says to me as soon as we're out of the house. "When we walk to school, I want you to stay at least fifteen feet behind me, and do not act like you know me at school. Okay? So don't talk to me, don't wave at me, don't smile at me. None of that."
I roll my eyes at her in her cheerleading outfit and overly done makeup. Like I would ever want to do any of those things.
"Don't start walking until I say so," she calls at me. I cross my arms. "Okay, now!"
I speed-walk the whole way to school, just to get on Shawna's nerves.
We reach the school about ten minutes later, and I watch Shawna go over to a group of blonde girls that have pin-straight hair (that's what electricity does for teenagers, huh?) and are wearing short-shorts. Shawna jumps up and down excitedly with the other ditzes over there, and I turn around to head in the completely opposite direction.
Which is when I run right into the wall of the school building.
"Ow," I mutter, rubbing my head. And then I hear laughter, and feel myself blush.
I turn my head, expecting to see some kids pointing at me or something, but there's nobody watching me. Or so I think, until I see a dark head among the trees directly behind the school.
"Smooth," a voice says, and then the person steps out of the shadows of the small forest.
The boy has straight brown hair that falls in front of his eyes, which are also dark brown, and he is wearing a red varsity jacket over a black t-shirt and jeans.
I can't think of anything to say, so the first thing that comes out of my mouth is, "I like your jacket."
And then I blush furiously because now, not only do I look like a total idiot, but I also talk like one.
But he doesn't seem to want to make fun of that. "Thanks," he says, then gives a strange smile. "It's my boyfriend's."
I honestly can't think of anything to say to that, which just makes him crack up all over again.
"You bought that?" he says, then sees that I'm still confused. "Relax, it's mine. I just wanted to act like one of those girls." He points to the group that Shawna is now a part of.
I still have nothing to say—I'm not supposed to tell anyone that I know Shawna—so I just wait for him to speak.
"What?" he demands. "Got something against homosexuals?"
I shake my head quickly. "No, of course not. I was just surprised, that's all."
"Why?" he asks me with a seductive look on his face. He walks up to me and puts his face close to mine. "Think I'm too hot to be gay?"
I can feel myself blushing yet again as I shake my head. "Um, I—I don't know..."
He smiles but doesn't move. "Well, I'm not, so don't worry. You still have your chance with me."
The bell rings then, causing me to jump and him to wink and laugh. I catch my breath and realize that I want to get as far away from this guy as possible, and all but run inside the school.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything you may recognize. The characters and story-line, however, are mine. ;)