"Miss Nicolson? If you can't stay awake during my class, I'm afraid you'll have to come in on your own time to learn this lesson on your own time, in detention," Ms. Lewis scolded.
I'd always been a big fan of irony, but not when it was directed at me. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as inconspicuously as I could. Still, I could feel my classmates watching me. I glanced at Bennet, who flashed me a quirky grin. So the irony wasn't lost on him, either.
See, I had a semi-valid excuse for being so tired. Normally, nearly everyone dozed a little during Government, because it was first period and no one really wanted to be taking this class, anyways. Good thing the curriculum was no different than what I'd been learning in all of my social studies classes since elementary school. Usually, the teacher let people snooze. This time, however- the one time I'm not awake- she decides to care. How very typical. Can you say Murphy's Law?
I'd been out late last night, celebrating my best friend's eighteenth birthday. Ben and I went to our favorite place, Crescent Falls. It's a cliff with a curved road wrapped around one side, like a crescent moon. At the bottom of the cliff, there's the forest. The two of us are there more than we are at either of our homes. There's a pretty little pond with mini-waterfalls trickling in. We found it because we once followed a stream that lead there on one of our adventures through the woods- and there have been a lot of those. We've been best friends since before either of us even knew what best friends are.
I looked at Bennet again out of the corner of my eye. He was glaring at some boy I'd never seen before. He must be new, which was odd, considering it was November. Usually, we didn't get many new students, and when we did, they just appeared after summer vacation like they'd always been around. Besides, how did Ben know him at all if he was new?
These questions weren't enough to keep my poor exhausted brain working for too long, and it was a struggle to stay awake until the end of class. As soon as the bell rang, I was out of my seat, racing Ben out the door. We always sat together at lunch, outside on a rusty old bench. Every day, we both rushed to get the good side of it, the side that sags just a little less than the other. It didn't make that much of a difference to either of us, really, but this was yet another tradition we followed.
Within seconds, the hallway was too crowded to run down, so I slowed to a walk. Once the door was in sight, I ran again… straight into the boy from my Government class- the one Ben had been glaring at. I reached out and grabbed his arm to steady him, and he backed up like he'd been burned.
"I'm so, so very sorry," I apologized. I watched him carefully, trying to gauge how angry he was. I needed to figure out if more apologizing would help the situation, or just make him angrier. He didn't really look mad. In fact, he looked almost wistful. "Really, I am. I shouldn't have been running in the hallways."
"Sure," he agreed, starting to walk away. Something about his expression made me reach out and touch his arm, to keep him from going any further.
"I'm Molly Nicolson," I offered, flashing him a smile.
He looked at me for a few seconds before giving me a little cynical smile in return. "I'm Asher Rowe. I'm… ah, new here."
"Do you know Bennet Stevens?" I asked before I could stop myself. My curiosity frequently got the better of me, and I could still remember Ben's glare in class. Asher grimaced and ignored my question.
"I've got to get going," he muttered as he pushed past me and hurried out of the school. I hesitated, then headed towards the bench. I could see that Ben was already there. As I walked, I planned how I would ask him if he knew Asher.