Chapter 2

Encounters of a Different Kind

If the jaws were not attached to their respective owners, they would have hit the floor. While the girls looked as if they'd been visited by the green-eyed monster, many of the men couldn't help but stare. It wasn't every day that a girl who looked like Alana walked into the room announced.

Matthew's eyes weren't ogling the newcomer; instead, they were more curious, as if trying to put pieces of a puzzle together. The teacher gave a sweet smile-unnatural as it was on that face-and asked the girl to take a seat. The girl didn't utter a word, letting the silence be her voice as she sat in the far back corner. He couldn't help but feel a bit awkward, especially with the look she gave him as she passed.

After the strange beginnings, the numbers and formulas came down on all of them with no sign of stopping. In the end, Matthew withdrew from the world of variables to his own world of endless streams filled with words. They danced before him, tempting him to join them and forget the world around him. However, the screaming bells snapped him back to his dreaded reality.

The students stood up, programmed to the location of their next class. Matthew stood with them, but his program was overridden by curiosity. The new girl was coming to him, which was unnatural. He went out of the room, the girl just behind him. She spun him around with strength he hadn't expected to come face-to-face with the greyed eyes.

"Alana, right?"

"Yes, that's me. And, you're-?"

"Matthew. Say, I was-"He wanted to ask her more questions, but with a wary glance, she'd vanished into the crowd. As confused as he was, he hurried to his next class, not wanting to think about the vanishing new girl.

The minutes dragged on for ages before the lunch bell called out. Students slammed books shut inane made a mad scramble for the best food. Luckily for Matthew, he saw Bouncy talking with one of the lunch ladies. Good old Bouncy, always able to win over the adults without too much trouble.

He slid into their usual table, Bouncy half-skipping over to him with two platefuls of food in hand. She set one of them before him, sitting beside him and another one of the drama performers.

"Your favorite; a cold brisket with a side of dirty noodles with hints of the day-old peas," she declared, earning a slight rolling of the eyes from Matthew. Bouncy always over-exaggerated things; she'd gotten him a warm biscuit, buttered noodles (which even his mother would demand the recipe for), sweet peas, all served with a cup of cold apple juice (which was no doubt in the fridge just for the lunch ladies).

At first, things were going as normal; the drama kids were cracking jokes, some even throwing their voices to creep out the others or make them laugh. Matthew and Bouncy were discussing sets for the upcoming plays when he noticed her looking over his shoulder. A smile went across her face, and before anyone could say anything, he was being dragged arm first towards the new girl.

Alana seemed as surprised as he was at that moment; she wasn't sitting with anyone, so to him, she was attempting to get away from people. Leave it to Bouncy to try and introduce people. She sat down next to Alana, Matthew forced into the adjacent seat.

"Heya! You must be the new girl everyone's talking about." Although Alana was trying to say something, Bouncy kept her from going too far. "My name's Amanda, but Dreamer over here calls me Bouncy. Have you two met?"

"Yes, we have. It's a pleasure to meet you, Amanda," came Alana's quiet response. If she was annoyed at the two of them, she hid it well, at least to Matthew. He looked around, the awkwardness of this moment becoming a bit much for him. Great, just what he needed; Bouncy getting him into this situation. Still, she didn't know what had happened earlier, so it wasn't her fault the new girl was weirder than he was, as far as he could tell.

For most of the lunch period, Bouncy talked about the school and how great the decrepit place was, despite the looks. Alana kept staring Matthew down, his eyes watching the specks on the tiled floors and the ants that marched across them. All he wanted was to go home, finish writing whatever parts of his dream he could remember, and go to bed. That didn't seem to be happening anytime soon, though.

Once the call for the end of lunch had rung, Bouncy remembered what she'd said to him before. Panic was on her face, having forgotten how much time had passed. He nodded to her, letting her know that it was still there if she wanted to read it. After the relief spread over her face, she seemed to hover as she made a dash for the doors. All the while, he couldn't help but feel cloudy eyes watching the events, but when he looked, those eyes were nowhere to be seen.

Aside from the ominous feeling from earlier, the rest of the day plodded along as per usual. Once the last bell hollered out, all the students buzzed from place to place to either leave or, as with Matthew, find their predetermined after school location. The drama kids had all arrived, save the few people that were chronically late.

Bouncy was next to him and, moments later, they were sent off to do their assigned duties. The two of them were getting the set ready for the play that would be performed in three weeks. Despite the cracked walls around them, their moods didn't reflect what the greyed walls dictated. Their talks varied from small competitions to discussions of the day's events.

"I did say I had new stuff, didn't I? There isn't much there you haven't read already," Matthew responded, shrugging a bit. Bouncy was always good at reading whatever he had to offer from the night before, if there was anything to show her. She just nodded, though the eagerness was plastered on her face.

It didn't take too long for Matthew to realize that there were an extra set of eyes following his movements. When he turned, there was the semi-plump Mr. Russel speaking with Alana. While her clouded eyes weren't trained on him, he shuddered. Part of him wanted to ask her what her deal was and why she stared at him, but Bouncy would eavesdrop if he tried to speak with Alana right then and there.

"I knew she'd come here. I told you about her drama record, didn't I?" Matthew realized that Bouncy was talking to him and looked back at the screwdriver in his hand.

"Yeah...you did," he mumbled. He dodged the oncoming palm that missed the back of his head, though he knew it wouldn't have hurt him.

"You need to start paying more attention! Geez, either you're forgetful like a goldfish or you're-"

"Don't go there! It isn't like that!" he retaliated. Bouncy wanted him to get a girlfriend at some point, though he refused to think about that. He had enough things to think about, and girls weren't on that list. Despite the look on her face, Bouncy seemed to believe what he said, since she dropped that subject.

It didn't take long for the greying head of hair to bob up and down as a child would when they learned they'd get a piece of candy before they left the store. As soon as Mr. Russel calmed back down, he pointed towards Matthew and Bouncy, Alana headed towards them. Her stride was much like a confident soldier, though he only knew this from the dreams that filled his vision at times. It took a moment for him to register that the blonde was before him, his mind having wandered off for just a moment.

"Mr. Russel said I should ask one of you to show me where the storage room is and get the couch while we're there." Her voice was drained to the point where it was nothing more than a business person speaking to two employees. Bouncy and Matthew looked at each other, a smile growing on her face.

"Dreamer needs his exercise; take him." Matthew's eyes widened, but before he could make a comeback, Alana had started to head for the door. He sighed, his feet catching up to the swishing braid before his mind could register it. Why did he always get these kinds of jobs?

The two of them trudged on, Matthew a tad bit in front of Alana. He felt the awkwardness creep in once again, desperate to shatter the ice that had begun to form between the two of them. At least the storage room wasn't that far away, so the frost between them didn't become a wall.

"Here's the ro-"

"Matt, be careful; not everything's as easy to explain as you think." Matthew was caught off guard by what Alana stated. She looked calm as she spoke, though the storms in her eyes gave a wary look. What'd she mean by that?

"Uh, yeah, well, thanks, I'll take that to consideration." The unease was easy enough to hear, to the point where she looked almost annoyed by it. He managed to get to the couch fast enough, though.

"Anyway, can you help me with this?" She nodded and complied easy enough. He'd underestimated her, though, as he almost went airborne when she got her end of the couch. As small as she was, her arms had to be made of diamond for all the strength she used.

The two of them walked back to the others in silence. A pin could be heard over their silence. The student who'd dropped it was quick to pick it up, but it could still be heard nonetheless. Matthew sighed, his mind going from its own world to keeping the couch from landing on his foot. He wanted the silence to be over, and it was once he and Alana reentered where the other drama kids were.

Bouncy, as per her nickname, bounced up to the two of them with a couple other guys to get the couch onstage. Alana went with some of the girls to paint the set pieces, leaving Matthew to deal with the other guys. He had to fend off the others' comments about him and the blonde, quick to point out there was nothing going on between them.

After everything was said and done, the black head left the room, Bouncy following. She talked all the way to his car, though he wanted the walk to be silent. As he got his backpack into the car, she leaned against one of the windows. He noticed she seemed anxious, but besides that, nothing seemed wrong.

"Anyway, I'll catch you later," he promised. Why was she looking down; he was sure he hadn't said anything to tip her into being mad at him, so what was her deal? She straightened up, though, a smile covering whatever anxiety she had before.

"You, too. I know you have something in your journal, but I'll wait until you're ready to show me." He nodded, then went to the driver's seat. After he turned the car on, he returned the wave from the brunette before he left the school behind him. Perhaps he could force his way through the homework to get back to his dreams.