It was six in the morning when I finally pulled myself from bed. Six is normally early for me – I usually waited until I had no longer than 15 minutes to prepare for school – but today wasn't any normal day. It was a day, I was sure, that could change my life forever.
Picking up a stack of folded clothes from my bedside table, I shuffled sleepily across the hall to the bathroom, pulled off my nightgown, and hopped into the shower. The hot water pelting against my bare skin drove away the remaining bit of sleepiness. I exited the shower fully refreshed and pulled on the clothes I had picked out for myself the previous night – a dark blue sweater that clung to my curves perfectly, matched with a pair of black jeans. I pulled a comb through my thick curls and washed my face. I rarely wore makeup, besides lipgloss and mascara, feeling that any more than that would take away from the perfect caramel of my skin. It wasn't that I was arrogant enough to believe I had no need for it, but I've never been able to find the right shades to accentuate my natural appearance. For the most part, I risked leaving the house looking like a clown.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror for what seemed hours, a poor attempt at bringing down the anxiety that threatened to consume me. It was my first day at Crestview High, a school that only the richest of children could afford. Though I hadn't come from a rich family, it had been a dream of mine to attend the school that offered the brightest education. It wasn't until the end of my junior year that my mother had saved up enough money (thanks to the multiple jobs she was working) to afford one year of tuition. If it weren't for her, I would be spending my senior year at the same public school where teachers rarely showed up with a positive attitude and the will to teach students to succeed in life. Don't get me wrong, the public school could offer the same education as private schools, but the lack of funding combined with underpaid teachers had proved to be a challenge.
Deciding to skip breakfast, I picked up my backpack, bid my mother goodbye and headed out toward the 1999 Ford Taurus my mother had purchased for me when I got my license at sixteen. Of course I had hoped for something a little more flashy, but it was either a Jaguar or my education. I was mature enough to make the correct decision.
The drive to school took a little over half an hour but it was well worth it. It wasn't until I pulled into the parking lot that my heart sank in my chest. The lot was lined with Jaguars, Porsches, Mercedes, and Escalades – a far cry from the tattered Taurus I was driving. Creeping through the lot in search for a space, I could see the other student's eyes glaring at the car as it pushed past them. A group of girls, standing next to the only available spot, turned their noses up in disgust as I pulled into the space.
"Great first impression," I muttered to myself switching off the ignition and exiting the car with my backpack in tow.
As I made my way to the front office to pick up my schedule, I could hear the remarks of snotty girls along the way. "Who is she?" "O-M-G look what she's wearing." "Did she buy that at Wal-Mart?" "Did you see her car?" "Looks like another poor kid who took her parents life savings to come here." "What a shame."
I ignored the remarks as best I could. It was too late to turn back and reenroll in the public school, having already paid tuition, and being an outcast was a small price to pay for a good education. At least that is what I told myself as I pressed into the front office and gave the clerk my name.
"Ahhhh, Natalie Johnson." The clerk says shuffling through a pile of papers on her desk. When she found the one she was looking for, she pulled it from the pile and handed it to me. "Here is your schedule and at the bottom of it is a map of the school. Goodluck."
With that turned her seat back to the computer and began typing away as if I were no longer there.
"Excuse me, maam?" I say, my voice shaky.
Without turning toward me, she pushed a hand through her bleach blonde hair and glared up at me with murderous eyes. The look was enough to make me want to bolt out of the office never to return again.
"Look miss," she says roughly. "It's the first day of school and I'm already behind on my work. So please excuse me if I'm not in the mood to hold your hand through the rest of the day. It's not that hard to look at your class schedule and follow the map to all your classes. Now if you'd please excuse me, I have work to do. Thank you."
Indeed, it was going to be a long day.
Studying the map, I found my locker easily and was surprised, when I opened it, to find a brand new HP laptop sitting in it. For a moment, I feared I had opened the wrong locker and looked up at the small numbers engraved in the metal above it. 5698 it said. Yep, it was the right one. I pulled the laptop from the locker and examined it. Sure enough, my name was tagged on the very top along with a list of my classes.
"All of your books have been downloaded into the laptop. That way you don't have to carry around a backpack full of books." A soft tenor voice interrupted my thoughts.
I turned to face the intruder and my breath caught in my throat. Standing in front of me, so close I could feel his warm breath caressing my face, was the most beautiful guy I had ever laid my eyes on.
His thin lips pulled up at the corners as he flashed me a smile, showing his perfect pearly whites and babyish dimples. The smile brightened his golden tanned face. His eyes, dark pools of brown and black, stared a hole into mine.
I must have stared a moment too long, for his smile faded and was his brows furrowed together. "Is everything alright?" He asked, a concerned edge to his voice.
"You're kinda….close." I stammered, searching for words.
The smile reappeared on his face as he took a step backwards. "I'm so sorry." He apologized using one hand to brush his dark curls from his face and extending the other out to me. "My name is Jonathan Randall. And you are?"
"Natalie," I answered, confused as to why he had given his full name. I placed my hand in his and he gave it a light squeeze.
"Nice to meet you Natty," he says, still holding onto my hand.
"Umm, it's actually Natalie," I corrected him and immediately felt foolish. Of course he had caught my name. He was probably shortening it so that he would be better able to remember it.
His eyes narrowed and he smiled apologetically. Before he had a chance to apologize, I returned his smile, hoping I was grinning too hard. "Actually, it's okay if you call me Natty."
His face brightened and again I was blown away by his beauty. "Then Natty it is." He says finally releasing my hand. "So what classes do you have?"
I was so captivated by his eyes I couldn't will myself to speak. I simply handed him over my schedule, which he studied before handing it back to me.
"Wow, your schedule is quite ambitious. I'm impressed."
"What's so impressive about it?" I asked, taking his words as an insult.
"You have Advanced Placement English, Calculus, Creative Writing, Advanced Chemisty, and World History. Those are all pretty tough courses." He answered, smiling down at me.
"Actually," I looked down, my neck beginning to hurt from looking up at him. He stood over me like a tower at six feet. "They were the courses the principle suggested when I enrolled. He felt anything else wouldn't be able to keep my attention."
It was true. The principle had found my transcripts impressive enough to insist I be placed in advanced courses. Though it shouldn't have, the way Jonathan had reacted had insulted me greatly. Did he think I wasn't smart enough to take the courses?
"I'm sorry. I think you've misunderstood." He offered an apology. "I'm actually in several of these courses myself - English, Creative Writing, Calculus and Chemistry. I was just surprised, because most students who transfer here usually enroll in cake courses. I apologize if I offended you."
He flashed me another toothy grin and was instantly forgiven.
"Would you like me to walk you to the classes, being that we're going in the same directions?" He offered, his smile slightly fading as if he was worried I would turn down the offer.
I gave him a nod, still embarrassed by my reaction to his previous statements. "Sure."
With that, he grabbed my backpack and pushed it into the locker before slamming it shut. He, then, grabbed my laptop and started walking down the hall. He had made it about five feet before he realized I wasn't following.
"Are you coming?" He turned toward me with another smile.
I avoided his eyes to keep myself from being locked in them and bid my legs to move. Once I caught up, he led me to the first class, AP English, making sure I took the desk next to him.
He spent the first three periods walking me to each class (second course Chemistry and third Creative Writing) and making sure I chose the desks closest to him. Several times during class, I would look over at him and catch him staring at me. He never once looked away when I caught him, he'd just smile at me for a moment then continue on with his assignments. His presence was actually beginning to make my day go by a lot smoother.
After third period was lunch time. I had expected him to walk me to the lunchroom, but he apologized stating he had to leave for the rest of the day. Again, I found myself alone as I sauntered into a lunchroom full of snotty kids cutting their eyes at me as if I had the plague. I found an empty table and sat there for a few moments before deciding that it was a big enough accomplishment surviving half of the first day. It was then that I made the decision to return home and collect my thoughts for the next day.