Crying Smiles

 

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Emma

Brisbane.

That was about a twelve-hour drive from my old home in Newcastle; a twelve-hour drive from my old friends and my family.

I sighed and emptied the stack of CD’s from the box in front of me, sliding them into the rack sitting on the floor. I looked up at the desk and wondered if I’d have space to fit the rack next to the CD player but ended up just sliding it to the wall and standing up.

That was three boxes unpacked. I dusted my hands on my pants and wandered over to my window. It had a window seat that could lift, so that I could storage my photos and books.

I sat down just for a moment to look down my street again. The street looked quiet despite my parent’s and my arrival. The houses went from one-storey to two-storey and from shabby to chic. We had a chic house; the kind of two-storey that had arched windows and a veranda at the front. I gazed down at the moving van in our new driveway, watching as Dad and one of the moving men we had hired, carried an end each of the dining table. Chet looked like he wasn’t bothered by the weight of the hardwood at all, but Dad on the other hand was pulling faces and shuffling in short steps.

Before I stood back up, I noticed the rest of my boxes sitting in my Captiva. I turned around, scanning the room, looking over each piece of furniture. I wasn’t going to unpack anything else until I had decided that the layout was just right. I bit my lip and inhaled, before nodding to myself, happy.

I wandered out of my room and hit the steps, just coming into the hallway as Dad and Chet passed with the table. I dodged backwards and waited for them to pass, before following them into the dining room. Dad dropped his end onto his foot and cursed loudly. Chet inhaled and left the room, looking irritable. I smothered a laugh and leaned against the doorway, crossing my arms.

Dad finally let go of his foot and sighed, leaning against the table. He watched me. ‘How are you feeling, Emma?’ he asked wearily.

I shrugged. ‘Not bad.’ I glanced around. ‘It’s nice,’ I admitted.

He pulled a small smile in response, watching me for a long moment before looking away. ‘I’m sorry that we moved. I just felt that… that-’

‘You’ve apologised to me five times already, Dad. I know you love your job. I understand. I only have two more years of school, anyway. It might be fun to start somewhere new.’ I truly did understand his and Mum’s decision. The being fun part… that was a different story. It was going to be tough, more like, trying to get used to a new home, new city, and new friends. Who knew how I was going to come out at the end.

Dad raised his eyebrows and glanced in my direction again. ‘You always saw the positive side of things.’ I smiled, and he stood up, walking over to me to kiss me on the forehead. ‘Thank you.’

Then, he left to help carry in more furniture. I stood there for a moment longer, wishing that on the inside I was feeling just as positive, but fear still ate at my insides.

I pushed off the wall and followed out.

                                                              ***

‘Emma! Are you awake?’ Mum’s called up patiently, from the kitchen.

‘Yes! I’ll be down in moment!’ I responded, hurriedly. I straightened my blazer and ponytail watching myself in the mirror. The uniform was pretty smart for a public school. Since it was right in the city, I guessed that the students had to make an impression.

I stared at myself, nerves worming in my stomach. A city school was a big school. There’d be a lot of students. However, that also meant that a lot of other people would be starting the year, just like me. It wasn’t too bad to be honest. 

Content with that thought, I hurried out of my room to the kitchen. Mum pointed to the plate of toast sitting on the kitchen table and I smiled at her, sitting down. ‘Thanks.’

She waved it off, over a cup of coffee. She finished taking a sip. ‘Do you want some coffee?’

I shook my head, finishing my mouthful. ‘No thanks. I’m awake.’ My nerves were already giving me the kick-start I needed. To hell with the other new students. I was worried about me.

I redirected my focus on the doorway as Dad walked in, staring puzzled at the tie around his neck. He was trying to tie it in a loop, but his glasses kept sliding down his nose. If only he had gotten them fixed properly, after he had sat on them. But, no. He had insisted that if he could put watches together then he could repair his own glasses. He still didn’t want to admit his failure.

Mum watched him, shaking her head, before placing her mug on the bench and pressing forward to help him. He sighed and gave in as she tied the loop for him and tightened it against his collar. He gave her a sheepish grin and she just smiled. The two were polar opposites, but for as long as I could remember they had always been in love. I had never seen one happy without the other.

Dad thanked her by placing a kiss on her cheek. He moved towards the table, sitting down in front of me. He pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes, before smiling at me. ‘You excited?’

I nodded and swallowed. ‘And nervous.’

He picked up his own toast. ‘I would be.’

‘You’ll be fine, Emma. You’re a confident girl,’ Mum reassured from her place at the sink.

I shot her a smile. ‘Thanks.’

‘You’re welcome. When you’re ready we’ll get going. I have to use your car today. Your Dad is using the Sedan.’

I nodded. ‘Okay. I’m ready.’ I finished my last bite of toast and stood up slipping my plate into the sink. ‘Oh, when are we going to get the dishwasher fixed?’ There had been a perfectly good dishwasher in place when we moved in about a week before, but after the first time we had used it, it had leaked, and we’d had to wash everything by hand. Not that that was hard, with the three of us, but it would still have helped.

Mum shrugged. ‘Your Dad was supposed to call them yesterday,’ she answered in an implying tone, shooting Dad a pointed look.

Dad responded defensively. ‘I did! They...just didn’t answer.’

‘So, you call them again. You only called them once.’ Mum shook her head again, turning to wash out her mug in the sink. There was a small smile on her face. ‘Let’s go.’

I ran back upstairs to pick up my bag and hurried down the stairs again. Mum was already holding my keys in her hand. Dad walked into the hall with his mug in hand and waved goodbye, giving me an encouraging smile. I laughed at the patch of spilt coffee on his shirt and he glanced down and groaned. I heard Mum quietly mutter an explicit word under her breath and I smiled to myself. I followed her out the front door, to my car.

Like my room, I kept all I loved in my car. I had a small pile of books in the back along with a box that I still needed to unpack. I had a small crystal dragon hanging from my rear-view mirror and CD’s piled up in my glove box. Mum pulled out of the double driveway and I watched the houses and trees flash past my window.

She glanced over at me and gave me an encouraging smile, ‘You think you’ll be okay, today?’

‘Yeah. You?’

She looked back at the road. ‘I’ll be fine.’

I nodded. My mum didn't usually say much and so small and simple conversations like this were normal. My mum liked to use her words wisely. Like I had mentioned before; she was the opposite of Dad; stoic to clumsy. She knew how to be in charge and some people felt intimidated by her in certain occasions. People who didn’t know her personally wouldn’t think that her heart was as big as it was. Next to my dad, she was the kindest (and the most beautiful) person I knew.

I watched everything flash past me as I thought about school. Then, I thought about my old school. My old friends. I held back my tears. This was a new life. I was going to try and be a new person.

 

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Nick

Gripping the banister tightly, I leaned closer to overhear the conversation. They were talking about me. I just knew it.

‘…can remind him the importance of this family name. He needs to start shaping up. Yeah, his grades a good, but his behaviour…’ Father expressed to my mum in his deprecating tone.

‘I understand. He doesn’t have the greatest friends. I mean, Sebastian Evan’s influence on him, last year had him in a lot of trouble. But Nicholas adores him. I don’t think you’re going to be able to convince him to make better friends,’ Mum voiced. 

‘No. I can’t, but we can. At least he’s dating Allison.’

Allison. Chewing my lip, I thought about her. I wasn’t entirely a fan of our relationship, considering it was our parents who had set us up, but I had been willing to comply because I’d had a small crush on her. Now, having gotten to know her more, I didn’t feel the same way. Don’t get me wrong, she was a lovely girl and had been the sweetest to me all this time, but my heart wasn’t in it. To be honest, I just didn’t think she was my type.

‘Hmm,’ Mum began in response, and I creased my forehead in worry, because I knew that tone. She had some news, and considering they were talking about Allison and me, I knew it wouldn’t be good. ‘I was talking to Quinn, just the other day during lunch, and she told me that Allison has become a little restless in the relationship. Quinn worries that her daughter has become anxious due to the lack of attention Nicholas has been giving her.’

Shit, I muttered. I didn’t want to hear the rest of it, so gritting my teeth, I pushed myself away from the banister and backed myself into my room, to finish getting ready for school. 

Running a hand through my hair, in frustration, I scanned the mess of my room for the books I needed. I’d planned to pile them up the night before but having gotten distracted I’d completely forgotten and now I had no idea where to find them. I dropped to my fours to search under my bed.

Score. There was my maths book. Most of our work was completed on our laptops and devices, so most of our schoolbooks were not filled during the year. I could have gone out to buy new ones anyway, but why not use the formulas I’d already copied down?

After another ten minutes, I’d found all my books for the day and was ready to head downstairs and face the storm of disapproval. A.K.A. My parents. 

My phone rang, and eager for delay, I answered it. ‘Hey, Nicholas! I just wanted to call and ask if you wanted me to pick you up, this morning. I thought about stopping at the bakery on the way. You don’t mind missing the first twenty minutes of school, do you?’

I bit my lip, partially feeling regret for answering the phone. Now, I felt guilty for even thinking that. ‘Hey, Allison. Good morning. I don’t know if I can. My parents asked me to talk to them, before I head off to school,’ I explained managing the chirpiest voice I could, only for her sake.

There was a small sigh of disappointment and I closed my eyes, feeling like a dick. ‘That’s okay. I’ll pick something up for you anyway. I’ll see you at school.’ She blew a kiss into the phone.

‘I’m really sorry. But you know my parents, Al. I would otherwise,’ I apologised to her, picking up my bag and swinging it onto my back, as I began to move out the door.

‘I do,’ she replied, her voice softening as I called her the name she was fond of hearing from me. ‘Good luck with them. I was lucky this morning, that I escaped the house, before my mum lectured me on the whole good grades thing. I didn’t do so well, last year.’

‘What are you talking about? You received above standard for all your classes,’ I exclaimed, having known the report she received.

‘Yeah, but all in the form of B’s. She wants A’s, if not A+’s. You know my mum,’ she echoed, sighing.

‘Right. Control freak,’ I replied, feeling angry for her. Allison worked her ass off for her parents, as well as for herself. She was smart.

Allison laughed, the sound bubbling through the phone. ‘Alright, Nick. I’ll see you soon. Love you,’ she bade goodbye.

After the slightest moment of hesitation, I responded. ‘Love you too, Allison,’ and hung up. Maybe, it was true. Maybe, I did love her, but not in the way she loved me. We’d been good friends since primary school and she’d been there for me through everything, including the fights I’d had with my parents. I understood her, because we came from the same wealthy, reputation-obsessed families, and we didn’t have anyone else to talk to.

Ben, Logan, Mitchell, Kin and a couple of others were all in the same group. We looked out for each other, as others who didn’t come from wealthy families tended to despise us through their jealousy.

It wasn’t that I was wealthy. It was all my parents’ money that had given me the privileges others my age hadn’t had access to. But it wasn’t all happy and fancy. My parents had to work for that money. Work, work and work. Most of our parents didn’t have a large part in our lives, because they were absent majority of the time. All the clothes, devices, and fancy houses were not as enjoyable, alone.

Ben knew that better than all of us.

I paused on the top step of the stairs, staring down into the front hall. Father and mum were still talking in the dining room, probably over toast and coffee. I could attempt to pass them, without them seeing me, but I was sure that even though they were deep in conversation, they were just passing the time while they waited for me to emerge.

Sighing deeply, I relinquished and made my way downstairs. Just as I had predicted, as soon as I became visible in the doorway, their eyes swung to me and they began to speak.

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Emma

Mum leaned over and kissed me on the cheek before I stepped out of the car. I smiled at her as she pulled out of the car park avoiding the mad rush of other cars and students. I waited to let a group of students about my age walk past. They were talking and laughing amongst themselves, catching up after the holidays. One girl, with blonde hair, smiled at me as she noticed me moving out of the way.

I walked through the front doors trying to stay as small as possible, so people didn’t have to push past me. I needed to find the front office, so that I could collect my timetable. I had looked it over on the school website, but the printer was still packed, and I hadn’t memorised it.

I looked around as I walked looking for an obvious sign, but there were too many students standing around in groups, or quickly filing through. I pushed through looking down the next hall but saw nothing familiar. I stopped to turn back around, but as I did I crashed into a student. His books fell to the floor and I bent down to help him, but he shook his head, gathering them up.

‘I’m so sorry!’ I added quickly.

‘Watch where you’re going next time,’ he mumbled gruffly as he stood up. He flicked his blonde hair back and glared at me.

I didn’t have a response, but I raised my eyebrows considering asking him for directions.

My answer was no.

He stood there for one moment longer, his eyes on mine, and then he shouldered past me.

Nice, I thought.

I moved to the wall and leaned against it, away from any more possible collisions.

After a moment, I heard a shout from up the hall and looked towards a group of boys wearing navy blazers. They were welcoming the blonde-haired boy into the group, smiling and clapping him on the back. They laughed as he spoke and turned around to point in my direction. I guessed, he must have been recounting the incident.

I jumped as someone tapped me on the shoulder, and I spun around.

The girl looked a little taller than me from her golden-brown, frizzy head of hair. Her earrings, coloured brightly, hung down on either side of her face. She had musty green eyes and golden freckles across her button nose. She was smiling, her shiny pink lips turned towards her cheeks.

I returned a smile.

‘You need help?’

I nodded. ‘Do you know where the office is?’

She looked at me and opened her mouth to say something but was knocked into the wall. Her smile vanished as she yelled into the crowd of rushing people. A wimpy looking boy looked back at her and cowered. He muttered an apology and fled. She did seem a little intimidating, but it disappeared when she looked back at me grinning. I could see a hint of pink in her mouth as she slowly chewed a piece of gum. ‘I’ll help you get there.’

She grabbed my arm firmly and led me into the crowd. I heard her yell at someone else but didn’t see them. We stopped on the other side of the hall.

She let go of my hand and motioned towards the door labelled ‘Reception Desk’.

‘Thanks.’

‘No worries! My name’s Grace,’ she held out her hand, ‘but people just call me G.’

I shook her hand and smiled, ‘My name’s Emma. Emma Loren.’

‘I’ll see you around,’ and she disappeared back into the crowd.

The office was much quieter; the noise from the hall only just audible through the door. Sitting in front of me was a lady behind a desk. Three chairs lined either side of the wall next to the doorway, but no one else was in the room. I walked up to the desk and slid my bag off my back, placing it next to me. The lady looked up at me and smiled, ‘You must be Emma. I’m Jan. You’re starting year eleven?’

I nodded. ‘Yes, I am.’

She looked at the computer in front of her and started typing. While I waited, I looked around the room. Three big windows lined the wall behind the desk. I could see a basketball and tennis court not far from the building. The walls behind the chairs were lined with advertisement posters and brochures.

The lady coughed, and I looked back.

She was still watching the screen, but she addressed me, ‘Your mum has already sorted the paperwork out with me, so all I need to do is run through with you a couple of things.’

I waited as she stood and proceeded to the printer which was spitting out sheets of paper. She gathered them and passed them to me. The papers were warm. ‘That first sheet is a parent note which just talks about the curriculum. You don’t need to worry much about that one right now.’ I looked at the next sheet. ‘That one is your lessons timetable-’ the door opened cutting her off and a boy entered the room.

He looked rushed with his ruffled black hair slightly swept back and his chest rising quickly underneath his shirt.

The reception lady forgot about my notes and walked back to her desk. She fiddled with a stack of paper as the boy watched her.

He looked to be around my age, but slightly taller. His dark eyes flicked from Jan to the courts outside, his mouth turned down in a frown. His nose was smoothly shaped, as was the rest of his body.

In other words; he was gorgeous.

I stopped watching and looked down at my timetable. First lesson: English. Great! The lesson after that was biology: another favourite.

I glanced up and found the boy watching me. I smiled, but his gaze only softened.

Jan finished looking through the stack of paper and stood up straight with a triumphant grunt. ‘“To Mrs and Mr Robyn…” I knew it was here somewhere,’ she smiled at the young Robyn, but his tried smile looked more like a grimace.

He took the paper held out in her hand and left without a backwards glance. Jan watched him go and then remembering that I was still there, hurried over.

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