Ch. 1

"Hi. Is it okay if I sit here?" a voice asked, drawing me out of my thoughts.

I looked up from the book I was reading to see a girl with bright, curly red hair and bright blue eyes, her backpack slung over one shoulder, gripping her lunch tray in both hands. She had a kind smile on her face and was looking straight at me.

"Umm, okay?" I told her, silently cursing my nervousness around other people. I was painfully shy, my social skills being basically nonexistent, and as a result I had no real friends. In fact, I wasn't sure what I'd do with myself on the occasion that I did have one.

The girl sat down next to me, placing the lunch tray she was carrying on her lap, and continued to smile at me. "I'm new here," she told me, sticking her hand out for me to shake. "My name's Lindsey. What's yours?"

"Astrid," I replied quietly. I didn't shake her hand, mostly out of nerves, and after a few moments Lindsey caught on and put her hand down, much to my relief.

"That's a pretty name. Doesn't it mean star? Or something like that?" When I didn't answer, she looked at me curiously, making me feel that much more awkward about the whole thing. "You don't talk much, do you?"

I shook my head. I never knew what to say to people, and could never understand how people could go on chatting for hours and hours when all my attempts at conversation were, at best, awkward and stunted, lasting for no more than about five minutes.

"That's okay. I don't mind shy people." Then she noticed the book I was reading. "Hey, what'cha reading?"

I gave her the book. She peered at the cover for a moment before flipping it over to look at the back.

"Inheritance," she muttered, giving me back the book. "Sounds cool." I might try it, although I don't read much of regular books. I prefer manga." She grinned, and then took a bite of her mashed potatoes. "Still, dragons are cool."

When I didn't respond, she said, "You really need to talk more. Trust me, you do. What's your favorite color?"

"Red," I replied, startled at her sudden question. Why was she asking me this all of a sudden?

"What's your favorite food?"

"I don't have one."

"Come on, everyone has a favorite food."

It went on like that through the rest of lunch. Lindsey pestered me about every single detail of my life, trying desperately to get me to talk. I wasn't sure how she saw it, but to me it was, in fact, incredibly awkward and stunted, at least on my side. Soon, thankfully, the bell rang for fifth period, and I sighed and got up.

"Hey, what period do you have next?" Lindsey asked before I could leave.

"Trig," I replied automatically.

"Room 501?"

I looked at her oddly. "How'd you know?"

She shrugged nonchalantly. "Lucky guess. I got the same class."

I sighed again, but not so quietly that she didn't notice.

"Hey, you're not getting tired of me, are you?" she asked, looking offended.

I shook my head, not wanting to upset this new girl who was so determined to become my new best friend. It's just that…. I'm so used to being alone." With my incredible sense of shyness, I spent most of my time alone, and the few times where I did make someone's acquaintance, it never lasted very long.

She nodded. "So this is different for you."

"Very different."

"Don't worry, you'll get used to it," Lindsey reassured me, giving me a huge grin, which told me she wasn't going to give up so easily on me, even considering how difficult it was to get me to open up in the first place.

"Hi Mom," I greeted my adoptive mother, giving her a hug.

"Hi, honey. How was school?"

"Fine," I replied. "This new girl decided she wanted to be my friend." I still could just barely believe it, and was half-afraid that I would somehow screw it up like I did so many times before.

Mom looked surprised. "Really?" Then she smiled. "I'm so happy for you! I told you making friends is a good thing."

"Well it's not exactly like that. She just sat down and started talking to me." It was so out of the blue, and I wondered if Lindsey had some ulterior motive for becoming my friend. Granted, she was the new girl, so I supposed she could be just trying to make friends, and thought that I was as good a person as any to become friends with.

"Still, at least you have a friend now," she pointed out. "I know how hard it is for you, honey, but having someone to talk to really helps a lot."

"I know," I interrupted before Mom started lecturing me on how much I needed to make more friends. I understood her concern, but honestly, it was still so difficult for me to take her advice, not when I didn't even know how. "I'm going to start on my homework."

"Okay, you do that. Make sure to keep those grades up and make your dear old mom proud."

I nodded and headed to my room. I didn't have to do much worrying about my grades because I was already a straight-A student. I'd planned to go to an Ivy League college, just as much as any brilliant student would aspire to do, although I wasn't sure what my major would be. In fact, I was completely clueless as to what I wanted my future career to be. There wasn't anything I was extremely passionate about besides my strange desire to fly.

It occupied my dreams, my daydreams, the idea of being so high up in the air that the world was reduced to tiny dots. The desire was so strong, and yet so strange, because there was no way to fulfill it. I was claustrophobic, so there was no way I was ever going on an airplane, and skydiving just didn't come close enough. Stranger was the dreams I had, where I was flying, but by some impossibility—because in my dreams, I had giant wings.

I collapsed on my bed after dropping my backpack by the door. Staring at the ceiling, I thought about Lindsey. I almost never talked to others as a result of my shyness, and the one other "friend" I had ever made dumped me soon after.

Lindsey, though, had wormed her way into my life so suddenly, I wasn't sure what to do. It was unexpected. I wondered briefly what other unexpected things would happen in my life, and if this was the beginning of some big change that would change my little world forever.

Might as well do my homework now, I thought, and went to get it all out.

The next day, Lindsey found me sitting on a bench in front of the school, reading once again.

"I see you're working on that book some more," she told me.

I looked at her and smiled timidly. "It's really hard to put down," I confessed.

Lindsey grinned back, and I looked downward, having no clue what to say.

"Hey," she asked, "are you okay?" When I nodded, she replied with another question.

"Still kinda shy, huh?"

I nodded again, thinking that what she said was a major understatement.

"That's okay! I mean, people don't change overnight, but I'll get you outta your shell soon enough," She told me, grinning. Just then, the bell rang, and we headed to our classes. But before that, Lindsey gave me a quick hug.

"See ya!" And then she was off to her first class for the day.

The day passed quickly. I worked as diligently as ever in all my classes, but I kept thinking about Lindsey, who had basically declared herself my new best friend. And, of course, my longing to fly, although I knew it was irrational.

And, come lunch, she was back again, doing everything she could to squeeze a conversation out of me. It felt odd, having someone right there to talk to me when I was so used to sitting alone and reading. I actually liked it, although I was a terrible conversationalist.

So this is what it's like, I thought as Lindsey chattered on about her favorite manga series (she'd told me the name of it, but I had already forgotten). Having an actual friend to talk about things with.

"So, you're a straight-A student?" Lindsey asked suddenly, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I looked over and saw her watching me, waiting for my answer. "Yeah."

She just shook her head. "I have no clue how you do it. Especially when it comes to Trig. And English. BO-RIIING!"

I just smiled.