Chapter Seven


"Breathe, Otelli, breathe," I chanted to myself over and over again as I willed myself to not allow the sudden wave of homesickness overpower me. I squeezed my eyes shut, hugged my legs against my chest and buried my face in between my body and legs, letting my hair spill over.

When my father had first told me about the move, I had decided that I wouldn't make a huge fuss and be a rebellious teenager even though every part of me wanted to be one. It couldn't have been any easier for them to have to leave everything behind rather abruptly and start over at a whole new environment. And because of that, I told myself that I wouldn't make it hard for them either when we were here. They already had things to worry about and I didn't want them to worry about me any more than required. I figured the least that I could do was to try and get comfortable here and because of that, I refused to be homesick since, technically, this was my home now. I thought that I had to be strong for Elaine too even though I knew that she didn't need me to be strong since she could do that all on her own. It made me wonder if I'm the one who needs her to be the strong one so that I wouldn't crumble and give in to my homesickness.

I hadn't planned to stay in that particular hallway, wedged into a corner for a long time but it took me longer than I had expected to calm myself down. I was glad, though, that by the time the bell rung, I was more or less over my homesickness. Lazily, I pushed myself up, grabbing my bag from the floor simultaneously. Slinging it across my shoulders, I made my way slowly down the deserted hallway to the more crowded ones as I headed toward my Geometry classroom. I was relieved that the classroom was in the main building of the school which made it easier for me to find it.

When I stepped through the door, my eyes instantly land on Katie whose outstanding blond hair with its streaks of purple stood out amongst the people who were already gathered in the classroom. She was staring at the door – as though waiting for me to appear. The moment she saw me, she waved me over.

"Where'd you go?" she demanded the moment I was close enough to hear her, "You said you'd meet us in the cafeteria!"

"I'm sorry," I murmured guiltily as I remembered that I did promise her that I'd catch up with her when Casey had called, "The phone call went on longer than I had expected."

Nice going, Otelli. Really. She's trying to be really nice to you and you ditch her. Way to go.

She eyed me for a moment and looked somewhat hurt as I slid into the seat next to hers, "You still could've dropped by the cafeteria."

"I'm really sorry," I repeated.

"It's cool," she murmured and then frowned, "Did something happen, though? You seem… a little upset."

I shook my head and ignored the way it was harder than normal for me to smile, "Nope. Everything's fine."

She studied me and it looked like she didn't believe me. But before she could say anything more, the teacher walked into class. She turned her attention away from me while I sighed in relief. I don't think I had it in me to try and convince her – much less myself – that I was completely fine.

"Hey, are you free now or do you already have something planned?" Katie asked me as she stood beside my table. I stopped packing my belongings and looked up at her. The final bell had just rung and I was getting ready to leave.

"I'm free. What's up?" I asked her wearily.

She reached up and pushed the strap of her bag further up her shoulder as she shifted her weight from one foot to another, "I was wondering if you wanted to catch a movie with me or something. I could show you around town if you haven't explored it for yourself yet."

After the day I had, I was more than ready to just head home and crawl into bed. The first two days at Hammington High had drained me of what was left of my energy – both mentally and physically. I needed some time away from all of it to regain whatever energy I could in order to deal with the drama my life has decided to adopt. The mental war I was having with myself over the home sickness was wearing me out too.

Katie smiled at me as she shrugged, "Besides, you look like you need some serious cheering up. It could be our first girls' day out. But it's cool if you don't want to."

As I stared at her, I realized that I should say yes. I had been so awful to her and yet she was still giving me another chance to catch up with her. Besides, today was probably a rare day in which I was able to go just about anywhere I wanted after school since mom was picking up Elaine.

I returned her smile, "No, that'd be great actually. I haven't seen beyond school and the house."

"Don't worry, I'll show you around. I'll make sure you won't regret saying yes to me," she grinned.

"Thank you for today," I said as I smiled at Katie who was sitting across from me at a booth in a diner that was a few blocks away from the Hammington mall. The tables felt sticky underneath my elbows but I ignored it as I happily cradled my cup of chocolate ice cream in one hand and dip the plastic spoon into the dessert before sliding it into my mouth.

"No problem," she replied as she, too, dipped her spoon into her own mint ice cream, "If there's anything else that you want to see, just ask me and I'll show you."

After school, Katie had showed me around Hammington. She had showed me the various neighbourhoods – "Just in case. You'd never know when you need to find your way around," she had said to me – and the strip mall where it was quiet and had only a small crowd. She then brought me to the more popular park after I told her that I had already been to the one near my house and it was much bigger than the one I had been to and definitely more busy. Many times, Katie had to pull me to the side to prevent me from getting run over by a bicycle or from crashing into a jogger. It had a much bigger playground too – one I knew that Elaine would squeal at the sight of. She finally brought me to the Hammington shopping mall which was so huge that I got confused and was surprisingly crowded. We had watched a movie and then Katie had brought me to the diner for dessert. We had managed to complete all that in a few hours since Hammington was a pretty small town.

I nodded my reply and then pointed at my ice cream with the spoon, "You were right. Their ice cream is to die for."

"I told you," she smiled.

A minute of silence passed before she murmured, "So…"

I looked up just as she cleared her throat. I watched as she stabbed her spoon into her ice cream repeatedly, seemingly fixated on it.

"What is it?" I asked as I savoured the taste of the ice cream melting in my mouth.

"Huh?" she looked up, confused. I raised an eyebrow and she shook her head, "It's nothing."

When I just continued staring at her curiously, she sighed, "I know you wouldn't want to talk about it. And you probably hate talking about him…. But what's really up with you and Noah?"

Before I could stop myself, I scowled.

"Wow. You really hate talking about him, don't you?" she laughed.

"Yes. Yes, I do. So can we not talk about him?" I growled and it was my turn to stab my spoon into my ice cream as I pictured it as him.

I had managed not to think about my homesickness or my drama in school for the past few hours but now that Katie had mentioned Noah, I could picture his face along with his irritating smile in my head and I couldn't get rid of it no matter how hard I tried.

"I'm sorry," she grinned then turned serious, "The only reason I asked is because… Well, you know there are quite a few rumours going around. But those rumours are really unfair to you and Noah because it might not even be true. So, I thought I should find out the truth from you."

I sighed and leaned back, shooting her a look which made her laugh again.

"Hey, if I knew the truth, I could defend you too," she told me, "It's hard to take your side when I don't even really know what's going on."

"What's the point of defending me? It's not like anybody's going to believe what I have to say," I pointed out.

She shrugged, "That's true. But I'm really curious too."

I sighed as I eyed her from where I sat. She blinked innocently back at me and I had to supress a smile.

"Okay, fine," I said finally as I leaned forward and wondered how many times I would have to retell this story.

Like I had with Casey and Tamara, I told her what had happened whilst skilfully avoid mentioning how he had seen me in my sister's pyjamas on that first day.

She shook her head when I was done, "So, it wasn't as crazy as they made it seem after all."

I nodded as I drew random patterns on the table with my finger.

"He's just a friend after all," Katie summarized and I choked on my ice cream – if that was even possible. She noticed the look on my face and went on, "No? Not even a friend?"

"Yep. Definitely not even a friend," I told her, "A neighbour. If I could control that, he wouldn't be related to me in any way."

She shook her head, "Okay then. You definitely don't like the guy. Noah's sort of Hammington high's very own celebrity," she rolled her eyes, "It's crazy. But for now, you just have to ignore it all till it dies down."

"Speaking of crazy, what's with the purple hair?" I asked her abruptly as I dipped my spoon into the ice cream again. I didn't want to talk about Noah anymore.

She grinned at my sudden subject change but asked, "Pretty crazy, isn't it?"

I nodded - the spoon still in my mouth - as she rolled her eyes, let go of her hair and reached for her own cup of ice cream, "Well, I think you can tell that Laney is the sort of girl who gets a lot of attention from boys. So, we went out together for lunch once and as usual, there were guys from our school flocking to the table to talk to her. I guess she felt sorry for me because I had to sit there and watch as she flirts and then brush off all those guys. She told me then that I would have boys fighting to talk to me if I weren't so… I don't remember exactly what she called me but I knew she meant to say that I was boring. And honestly, if being boring meant not having to fight of guys practically every single minute of the day, I loved boring," she laughed, "She said I needed to do something to make myself more outstanding, you know? So she suggested that I dyed my hair. I said no. But Laney sometimes has this amazing way of making people do what she wants so that's how I found myself in the saloon one day, wondering what the hell I was doing but it was too late since I already had streaks of purple in my hair."

"It looks nice on you though," I offered.

"I like it too. That's the reason why it's still purple. I think if I went with Laney's original plan of turning all my hair purple, I would've changed it back as soon as I could. The streaks were Laney's way of bargaining with my initial disagreement with her whacky plan," she snorted, "My parents freaked though. It's been almost a year but I think they still wished I'd change it back. That's too bad for them though since it's not going to happen."

I watched her with amusement as she dropped her spoon into the cup and looked up at me, "Ready to go? I have to get home soon. My mom's waiting."

"I'm home," I called as I nudged the door to a shut with my foot.

"How was school, honey?" my mother called out. I followed the sound of her voice and made my way to the kitchen. I leaned against the doorway and watched her as she popped something into the oven. She looked up and smiled at me.

"It was okay," I shrugged and she nodded, turning her back to me as she peered into a pot on the stove.

"Where'd you go after school?"

"I went out with a friend," I replied as I looked around the kitchen for something to munch on. When I couldn't find anything, I pushed myself away from the doorway and made my way over the counter to grab a mug.

"How was it?"

I poured myself some water and took a sip. I thought of the day I had had with Katie and smiled, "It was fun."

She turned around momentarily to look at me, "That's great, honey. I'm glad you had a good time. Your sister is in the living room. Dinner will be ready soon."

I nodded and took the mug with me as I made my way to the living room. I found Elaine sprawled on the couch as she watched a cartoon I didn't recognize.

"Hey," I greeted her as I dropped my bag to the floor. I was just about to sit down next to Elaine when the doorbell rang.

"Otelli, can you get that?" my mother hollered from the kitchen.

Groaning, I made my way slowly to the door. Halfway there, the doorbell rang again.

Geez, impatient much?

"I'm coming," I called out irritably.

As I reached the door, I yanked it open and was prepared to brush off whatever the salesman behind the door had to say to me but instead, I found myself staring at people who were definitely not salesmen.

"Hello. You must be Otelli," a woman who looked to be in her forties smiled warmly at me. I returned the smile.

"Hi, do I kn-" I stopped abruptly and staggered back slightly. I had to reach out to stop myself from falling.

"Whoa, careful there," a man said and from the corner of my eyes, I noted that he was around the same age as the woman and wore khaki pants along with a black shirt. But I barely noticed him.

At that moment, a bird could swoop right into my house or a bomb could explode and I still wouldn't be distracted by it. My attention was fully focused on the third person who stood on the other side of the woman.

"Hey," Noah smiled.

I told myself that I absolutely must update soon so there you go!

And I know it's a little short but I'll make up for it soon! ^^