Chapter 6:

New Chapter

Life Eats Us Now

The first part of class felt like it went on forever, as if time wanted to make me suffer more. The teacher's talking just kept going, and with every word, I felt more and more embarrassed. My mind got all mixed up, like a big storm inside me.

Was I accidentally part of some big cosmic prank? It felt like the whole universe, with all its bigness and puzzlement, chose me to be the target of a mean trick.

It all started with a quick, little thought in my head. Just a funny one, something to make myself smile while I sat bored in class. And that very thought is now getting back at me. When Mrs. Abney had mentioned that her daughter was in the same grade as me, and we were both going to the same high school. I couldn't help but wonder, what if we ended up in the same class? I mean, the odds were just a third...

But it looked like some super-duper cosmic force, way above us regular people, heard my little joke and decided to have a good old chuckle at my cost.

And, surprise of all surprises, there she was, plopped down right next to me.

It's all so funny, so funny, that my mind is already going all crazy.

That girl was still a mystery, just like the day I first saw her in my living room. She stared ahead like nothing else in the world mattered, like the teacher's words had glued her to the whiteboard. Sometimes, she'd glance at her textbook, but otherwise, she stayed perfectly still.

If I remembered right, when I tried grabbing her attention after taking my seat... my voice had rung out loud and clear. There was no doubt about it. It was impossible for her not to have noticed, even if it was just out of curiosity. But she didn't even flinch, didn't grant me even a fraction of her attention. She stayed as still as a guard, like nothing happening around her mattered at all.

I had all these questions spinning in my head. Did she feel weirded out by me sitting next to her? Maybe she thought I was some kind of intruder, like, "Why's this 'Mr. Dirt' next to me?"

Thinking about all this, it seemed like my carefully planned first day at the new school had turned into a big mess of mistakes. I could feel my cheeks getting hot with embarrassment. I turned my attention back to the teacher. But I shouldn't let myself lose like this... Yeah! It's just how life is! Always finding a funny way of surprising us when we least expect it.

But then again... why is it always just me?

When the third period ended and I was putting my books away, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Someone a few seats ahead was getting up from their desk and coming closer to me. If I remember right, he's the class representative. His eyes were locked on me, like a laser beam, making my already shaky nerves jump even more.

Was he coming over to talk to me? Did he have something on his mind? Should I say hello first, or wait for him to start the conversation? My mind raced with questions as I hesitated, fumbling over what the right move was.

While I was lost in my thoughts, the class rep appeared right beside my desk, taking me by surprise. "You're Reol, right?" His voice was oddly calming and relaxed, which caught me off guard. I kind of expected him to sound more braggy, but he seemed self-assured in a cool way. Is he just trying to act cool?

"Um... yeah," I mumbled, still looking down at my notebook, unable to look up at him. 

"I'm Jonathan, but you can just call me John," he said, introducing himself with a friendly tone. "Just so you know, I'm the class rep. If you're not feeling well, I can show you the way to the nurse's office."

Oh, he's just checking if I'm okay. My nerves cooled off a little, but I still couldn't bring myself to look at him. Those scribbles of ink felt like a noose tightening around my throat, constricting my words and even my vision. "No... I'm fine. just a bit tired..."

John's concern was pretty clear. Maybe he thought I was sick, and that's why he reached out to me. I had to admit, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

Yet, my doubts didn't let up. That voice in my head kept nagging, making me uncertain. What would happen when he found out more about me, the real me? 

Would he still want to be friends, or would he back away like a cautious deer?

The very notion of it felt absurd. John was the embodiment of what most would call a class model, the kind of person who effortlessly stood out from the crowd. He was undoubtedly the top pick for every girl, the one they fantasized about. Even right now, I can see a few girls glancing our way, talking within themselves by covering their lips, only adding more pressure on me.

And he had this big, friendly smile, oozed confidence, along with this charm that pulled people in like a magnet. It's like an unsaid rule that someone like him wouldn't want to hang out or even talk to someone like me.

I shook my head, trying to kick these doubts out of my thoughts. Why am I thinking this way? I needed to quiet down these worries and let this friendship grow. After all, wasn't it true that people could surprise you? Sometimes they saw things in you that you didn't see in yourself.

Inhaling deeply, I steeled myself, determined to banish those gloomy thoughts. Maybe, just maybe, John saw something in me worth knowing. And maybe, just maybe, there was a reason behind it all.

"Your family moved in not so long ago, right?" John kept the conversation going, his voice friendly and welcoming. "You probably haven't had much time to rest."

"Yeah, that's true," I said, kind of amazed by how understanding he was.

"Well, if you ever run into any other problems, don't hesitate to talk to me. I'll do my best to lend a hand."

Was he really going to do his best, or was he just joking around? I struggled to get the words out, feeling like those scribbles and marks were holding me back. "Um... anytime?"

"Did I say something weird?"

"No, not at all... um... thanks. I mean, yeah, I will..."

"That's okay. We can learn more about each other."

Words I'd been looking for... for all this time. I finally gathered the courage to lift my eyes and look at him. It was the first time someone had shown real interest in getting to know me. Until then, I'd always been the one people overlooked, like a background character. But John was different; he brought a surprising spark of hope.

All those walls that had trapped my words for so long seemed to ease up. My thoughts raced as I searched for the right words, to convey the thankfulness bubbling inside me. "Yeah, I feel the same way."

The rest of the class went by without any more hiccups. Nobody else came up to me after John, and for once, I welcomed the quiet. The progress I made today might not have been huge, but it wasn't nothing either. It was a small step, but a step forward all the same.

Walking back home with a friend. The thought kept looping in my mind like a scratched record. The school day had concluded, and the familiar scene playing afterwards: students hurriedly packing their bags, exchanging heartfelt farewells, and disappearing into the bustling sea of people. 

And then there was her. The more I observed her, the more the puzzle deepened. She had a presence, a quiet gravity that pulled at the corners of my consciousness. She never talked unless a teacher asked her something, and even then, she'd answer in just a few words. It was like she moved through the classroom without making a sound, leaving no clues for anyone to figure her out.

Whenever I sneaked a glance her way, I felt like I was pulled toward her mysterious vibe. What's her name anyway? What was going on behind those hard-to-read eyes? The questions kept piling up, and I couldn't help but wonder if we'd ever cross paths beyond the classroom.

She had a presence, that was for sure. Her vibe kind of said "straight-A student," but she was as hard to figure out as fog that disappears before you can grab hold of it.

"Hey, you there, the new student!" A voice cut through the air, and I jumped, turning to see who it was. It was another girl. She was really tall for our age, and also pretty intimidating. I tried to stay calm, but her unfriendly attitude was hard to ignore.

"Why were you looking at Adica like that?"

Adica? Is she talking about her? While my mind was racing, the girl came closer and stood between me and the desk next to mine.

"Let me ask you this one time. Were you thinking something weird?"

"Wh-what do you mean?"

"Don't act all innocent. I noticed you looking at Adica more than once!"

So, her name is Adica... her name was stuck in my head, but that wasn't my main worry. Instead, I asked, "What's the issue here?"

The girl's gaze felt intense, and she said with a serious tone, "If you lie even once, you're gonna wish you hadn't."

"Wh-what? Are you some kind of delinquent?"

"What? You've got some guts saying that to me!"

How much longer would I have to go through these situations? When I thought I could wrap up my first without lashing into any more troubles... they just keep showing up themselves one after the other.

Finally, Adica stepped in, saving me from any further questions. "Emma, he didn't have any bad intentions when he was looking at me." 

Hearing Adica's words, the other girl—Emma, if I heard right—seemed to relax a bit. "But how can you be so sure?"

"We met yesterday," Adica started explaining. "He lives right next to our house. Maybe he was just checking to see if I was the same person he met yesterday."

"Is that how it is...? Lucky you, Mr. Neighbor. I guess I'll let you off the hook this time. But if you try anything weird again, I'll keep my word!"

"N-no... I won't."

"Great." She gave me an overly friendly pat on the back, making me jump in my seat. Then, without wasting time, she turned and began walking beside Adica. "So, where are we going?"

"To the music room."

"Oh, that sounds like a blast!"

If I heard right, her name was Emma. Or I might be wrong... Adica's voice was really light for me catch them properly. I waited until their voices disappeared down the hallway before getting up from my desk, walking up to the front of the classroom. With a quick glance at the seating chart on the teacher's desk, I found there was no Emma listed. However, there was an Emmot Snow. I guess that was her real name, and only her close friends called her Emma. It was a good thing I checked. Otherwise, I might have called her by that name out of nowhere, which would've been pretty awkward.