The new school, my Mom promised, would give me a new chance. A new chance to start over; where I could reinvent myself, casting off the life I once had with my best friend. I had lived with her – an apartment on the South Side of town. Then she died. It was shocking, sudden, snipping off the life I had kept to myself. This new school would offer a new chance, my Mom promised. Nestled in the mountains of Georgia, the green spreads of pine trees were starkly different from the northern streets of NYC, my hometown. I didn't hate it, but I was still numb. So maybe my reactions were slightly tainted by my wash of a life.
"Now, the new place is in an apartment building. Like your old place with Anna." My Mom said, turning on a gravel road. The sign at the front read Pine Spruce Apartments on a plain, dirty brick setting. A gravel road? Rural area? This was vastly different from my ever-winding streets and the low hum of street traffic below, accentuated with the high notes of car horns.
My stuff was tucked away in the back of my Mom's Ford Mustang, boxes crumpled and dented. I would have to go shopping tomorrow in downtown Atlanta; the clothes that I packed from Anna's place were sweats, a few pairs of jeans, and a dingy shirt or two. I had one decent outfit…I'd wear it tomorrow, Monday.
Monday: the day my new school life would start. My Mom pulled into a gravel parking lot, (Really? More of this stuff?) instantly turning off the engine and hopping out. She took one long breath, inhaling through her nose and mouth. "Ah. Smell that smog-free air." She prompted me. I wrinkled my nose, opening the back of her car and heaving a box from the back.
Then, out of nowhere, he appeared. Tall, probably 6' 4" or something to my already above average 5' 10". His hair was dark with caramel-dyed tips. Blue-green eyes reflecting the beaches in Hawaii. Hawaii: the last place I'd vacationed with Anna. He peered down at me with something hinting of amusement.
"Hello there." He said in an almost-whisper. I stood silent for a minute. Where the heck had he come from? "I'm Jared," he continued. I realized he wanted to know my name.
"I'm Tyler. Call me Ty." I recited. Everyone had called me Tyler at home. If I really wanted to start over here, I didn't think I could handle anyone's voice calling me Tyler like in New York.
Jared smiling, revealing a gap between his two front teeth. Like mine, I noted.
"So you're new here?" he questioned, taking the box from my arms. Not wanting to be rude, I answered immediately, frowning at his chivalrous taking of my box.
"Yeah. Literally just got here."
Jared grinned again, climbing rickety-looking stairs up to the second floor of apartments. The building was sturdy, woodsy. Looked like an overgrown wood cabin with doors every space or so. He stopped at our new door: apartment 3.
I narrowed my brown eyes. "How'd you know that I live here?"
"It's the only empty room." Jared laughed, kicking the door open with a gentle thud. It was already unlocked. Despite sparse appearances, it was pretty big. Jared dropped the box gently in what I assumed would be my room. The apartment was pre-furnished.
"Okay. How much stuff did you guys bring?" Jared asked, clapping his hands together. I looked up into his eyes for a minute, trying to gauge his expression. I settled on eager, something I wanted to avoid.
I shrugged. "Not much."
My Mom entered then. Her eyes widened, clearly disturbed by the boy in my room.
"Hi," Jared introduced before she could say anything. She set down her box of stuff.
"Hi. I'm Tyler's Mom. And you are?" she said, shaking his hand. It was large in hers.
"Jared. I live here. My Dad owns the place." He explained.
My Mom wiped her hands on her skinny jeans. I had been born when she was only twenty, so she was still fairly young. "Ah," she said. "Do you go to the high school here? Tyler's new. She was homeschooled back in New York."
I cringed. Let the stereotypes flood in.
"Yeah, I do." Jared answered, surprising me with the lack of dread weighing in his tone. "I was homeschooled until my freshman year."
"Oh! Tyler's a freshman. You're a sophomore?"
"You'll have to show Tyler around then! She's taking two AP classes because she was a sophomore in two classes back when she was homeschooled."
Jared raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I will. Could I give her a ride to school? The bus never goes this far out."
My Mom looked pleased, happy that I was making a new friend. Wariness oozed in her voice, though. "Just you?"
Jared laughed again, sounding enchanted with my Mom's overprotective antics. "No, there's two other girls in this building that go to high school here. I take them, too."
"Oh." My Mom sighed. "That would be okay, then. What car do you drive?"
"Honda Civic. Fitted it with offroad tires and four wheel drive."
Great. Another car-obsessed guy.
"My Dad did it for me." Jared suddenly added, staring at me. It was like he was answering my thoughts. I backed up a step. Jared turned his eyes to my Mom again.
"She can meet me down there at 6. I can introduce the others to her, then."
My Mom nodded before smiling politely. "She'll be there." She glared at me like she was challenging me not to. Tempting as it was, I planned on complying. I didn't need to miss a day of school.
"You guys have more stuff in your car?" Shifting his weight from hiking-booted foot to foot, Jared looked even more eager than earlier.
"No." My Mom shook her head. Her many curls bobbed.
"See you tomorrow, then. Nice meeting you, Ms….."
"Okay, then. Ms. Maxwell. Ty." Jared goodbyed, giving us a short salute before shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leaving. I closed the door behind him.
"Well, he was cute." My Mom said, pulling our coffeemaker from her box.
I looked at her like she'd grown a third eye. "I wish."