The school bus stopped for another pick-up.
“Scoot over, Missy. Here comes Julie.” Maura said and moved at tad towards the window. She Rummaged through her backpack and pulled out a rubber band. “Here.”
“Thanks,” I took it and pulled my hair back into a ponytail. Maura kept her backpack on the bench between us leaving no room for three people to sit with comfort.
Julie gave a huff and flopped down next to me. Our shoulders banged. “Sorry.” Maura saw but stayed put.
I shrugged and rubbed my shoulder.
“Whew, just made it.” Julie checked me out and smirked. “Running late, I see.” How would she know that?
She pointed. “Your socks don’t match your shirt.”
I looked at them. She was right. I always wore socks the same color as my shirts. “Brown’s pretty close to purple.”
Maura looked over. “Why?” she asked.
“Why what?” I asked.
“Why you oversleep?”
I wasn’t excited about sharing, but I thought I might feel better if I did. “Bad dreams,” I said in a low voice.
“What?” Julie asked, leaning in closer.
“Bad dreams,” I repeated a little louder. I wasn’t in the mood for everyone on the bus to know my business.
A couple kids in front of us turned around and looked.
Maura flapped her hand at them. “Go away.” The kids pulled a face and went
back to talking.
“What kind of dreams?” Julie asked.
Should I tell them?
“Now I remember,” Maura said and she slapped my arm.
“Hey!” I snapped. “That hurt.”
“Remember what?” Julie asked looking past me at Maura with interest.
“Remember I told you a new family moved into the house near Ally’s?”
“No,” I said, glad for the change of subject.
She pointed to the front of the bus. “See the boy sitting up by Bob? That's him. That's Brandon. He’s the one who moved in.”
We all craned our necks to get a look-see.
“Do you see him?”
“I see some dark-haired guy sitting by Bob. So…” Julie said.
“Oh man,” I moaned.
Maura fluttered her eyelids. “Wait until you see him up close. Brown eyes, cute face … ahhhh.” She licked her lips. “Check him out when we get off the bus.”
“How old?” Julie said.
“He’s in 10th–must be 16.” She smiled to herself. “I bet he’ll hang out with Ally’s (Maura’s best friend) brother, Jeff. That’s good for us,” (wink, wink) She added a group of stranded hair and wrapped it around her finger.
Boy-watching. That meant we’ll probably be swimming at Ally’s house more often this summer.
“My pool will get deserted. It’ll be sad and lonely,” I pouted.
It was bad. My social life was already pretty thin. A pool and trampoline were my only advantage.
Maura tucked the hank of hair behind her ear. ”Probably. But the prize of seeing Brandon in a swimsuit with Jeff in their pool will be worth it.”
“Where are Jeff and Ally anyway? They get on at your bus stop,” I asked.
“Don’t know, don’t care.” She started her hair twirling thing again.
That was true. With Maura, I never knew which way the wind was blowing. “You should stop that. One of these days you’re going to end up with a bald spot,” I said.
“Nah, I know when to quit.”
I wasn’t sure about that. I briefly wished her a bald spot. Just a small one. I watched her looking out the window and twirling. I really didn’t want to be like Maura, so I erased that wish.
The bus pulled up to the curb. South Junior High. The driver cranked open the door and kids started piling out. I got up and yanked the notebook I was sitting on from under my rear.
Darn it. My notebook pulled the duct tape covering the hole on the seat off with it. Nice.
Julie looked at both damages. “Not your day, is it?”
“Not even close,” I grumbled as I tore the sticky strip off my notebook and half of the thin cardboard came with it. Nuts. I crumpled it into a ball and tossed it under the seat in front of me. So, I was a litterbug. Sue me.
We got off the bus and headed into school. I made double-sure not to look at the new guy, Brandon. (I tripped right by him when I got on the bus. It was the bus’s fault. It took off before I sat down.)
* * *
Waiting for my third period English class to start, I leaned against the wall beside the door. Mrs. Buckner was still yapping to her captive audience. My neck felt weird. Ants? I reached under my collar to brush whatever it was away and felt… fingertips? Turning I hissed, “Ally, quit it.”
“I was making sure you weren’t wearing a wig. Your hair. It’s getting long like Julie’s.” She stepped back and checked me out. Her brows were furrowed. “You look a little lost.”
I nodded. “First I overslept and had a spat with Mom. Next, Tommy (my nine year old brat little brother) spilled animal crackers on the bathroom floor, and left some chewing gum, which I had the honor to step on. Mashed my Pop-Tarts getting on the bus and ruined a notebook on some duct tape. That enough for you?” I growled. Ally shrugged. I didn’t blame her. My list of complaints sounded pathetic.
The bell rang. Students flooded out of Mrs. Buckner’s room like rats leaving a sinking ship while we tried to fight our way in. I sat down and eyed the wall clock. Fifty more minutes until freedom.
“Good morning,” Mrs. Buckner said. “I want you to turn to page 98. Read through to page 101 and pick one topic for the descriptive story you are about to write.” A small wave of groans rolled around the room. She ignored the sound and walked to the chalkboard. “I want at least three pages. You can double-space.” She wrote the page numbers on the board. ”But I don’t want large hand writing filling in the space. Example.” She started to do sloppy writing.
SCREECH! The chalk had spoken. We all covered our ears.
Mrs. Buckner continued as if nothing happened. “No copying. Use your own words.” She lobbed the broken stub of chalk into the trash can and took her seat. “Friday’s the due date, start working on it now. No excuses…” She was watching us from her desk. “I want to see those hands moving, people.”
“What were you going to tell me in the hall?” Ally whispered at me. We were sitting next to each other in the back, as usual.
I guess she didn’t like my morning torcher and wanted to hear something different. I decided to fake it. “As I said, up late, slept in. What about you?” Ally’s news would be better than mine.
“Did you hear about the new family that moved in?”
“Yes, if you mean Brandon the new hottie?”
“News flies fast.”
“Right. Julie and I got an earful from Maura about him. He was sitting up front on the bus so we only got to see the back of his head.”
“When you do see … GQ all the way,” Julie said, nodding her approval. “Our whole family was over at their house visiting until pretty late. My dad and his are getting along like a house on fire. Name is Miller.”
“He’s friends with Jeff already?”
“Yeah. He’s already been over. They’re hitting it off. So, yeah, I’ll be seeing him a lot.” Ally grinned and wiggled her eyebrows.
“Lucky you.” I leaned closer to Ally, fluttering my eyelashes and puckering my lips.
“Quiet down, girls,” Mrs. Buckner ordered.
We sat back in our seats. Mrs. Buckner seems mean and down to business, but the truth is, I think she’s a good teacher. It’s not like I can’t write, but sometimes my imagination seems to dry up right before it reaches my hand. This doesn’t apply to notes so I wrote a note to Ally.
R u gonna chase after Brandon? He’s gonna be at yr house a lot.
I conveniently dropped my pencil on the floor, leaned down to pick it up and shoved the note under Ally’s foot. She gave me a sly grin and retrieved it.
“U-hmmm.” That was Mrs. Buckner clearing her throat. “Melissa and Ally, you can stop the note passing and start doing your assignment, NOW!”
We both sat up. “Yes, Mrs. Buckner,” we chimed together.