Crying Smiles

 

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Chapter 1

Brisbane. I had moved to 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, then I followed 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. ‘So…do you like it here?’

I nodded. ‘It’s nice.’

He nodded in response, looking away. ‘I’m sorry we moved.’

‘You’ve apologised to me five times already. You even called me from your car on the way here. I forgive you, Dad. It might be fun to start somewhere new, anyway.’

He raised his eyebrows and glanced in my direction again. ‘You always were on 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. Fun, I had said. I only hoped it would be.

I pushed off the wall and followed out.

***

‘Emma! Are you awake?’

‘Yes! I am!’ I responded to Mum’s call. 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 me to make you some?’ she asked, gesturing to her mug. 

I shook my head, finishing my mouthful. ‘No, thanks.’ I was already wide awake and I didn’t think I needed more of a kickstart than what my nerves were already giving me. 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. ‘Are 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, giving Dad a 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 small smile on her face. ‘Let’s go.’

Mum was already holding my keys in her hand, when I came back downstairs, my bag slung over my shoulders. Dad walked into the hall with his mug 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 and 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 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.

***

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 leant 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 11?’

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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Chapter 2

English was taught by Mr Rowan Ferris. He wasn’t a bad teacher, but I missed my old English teacher. We were seated on double tables, lined up in columns behind each other. I sat in the first column, second row, a spare spot next to me. The young Robyn, who was in my class, sat two seats left to me, beside the window. Grace wasn't in this class, however the sour, blonde-haired boy sat near the back.

Arriving at the Biology lab I found an empty seat next to the blonde-haired girl who had smiled at me that morning. I found out that her name was Jessica, and that she was very friendly. During one of the teacher’s lectures, she turned to me. ‘Where are you from?’ she whispered.

‘Newcastle, New South Wales,’ I replied keeping my voice low.

‘That’s a lot of new.’

I laughed. ‘Not as new as I feel here.’

She smiled. ‘I’ve never heard of Newcastle. I’ve been to Sydney, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, though.’

I raised my eyebrows, ‘What happened to Hobart?’

She laughed silently and shrugged her shoulders. She flicked her hair back and gazed out of the window before leaning towards her friend on the other side of her.

As soon as the bell rang, Jessica left with her friend. I walked out into the hall, unsure of where I should head to. There were a lot of people either hurrying or dawdling in large groups, down the halls. I walked through several corridors, peering into each doorway as I passed. I found the music room where I’d have my lessons later that week. Walking left, at a corner, I found the girls’ bathroom or at least one of the facilities in the school.

I considered hiding in one of the cubicles for the whole of recess, but decided against it. I frowned and started to back up, when I heard someone call my name. ‘Emma!’

I looked down the hallway and saw people glancing my way. Then, I saw a head of frizzy hair bob my way, her earrings swinging by her bare neck. She pushed through the crowd and I stepped back against the wall.

‘It’s always a mess getting through between class,’ Grace commented flicking a piece of hair out of her face.

‘Well, you certainly know how to get yourself through a crowd,’ I laughed.

She smiled and mocked a curtsey.

The hall was starting to empty as people found their usual places around the school to spend recess with their friends. I stepped back to have good look at Grace. She was wearing the school uniform, but her arms were covered in colourful bands and bangles and she was wearing a long necklace with the letter ‘G’. The pink of her lips made her musty green eyes stand out. She looked pretty.

‘How were your first lessons?’

I shrugged my shoulders. ‘They were okay. I had English then Biology.’

‘Oooh…Did you like Mr Ferris? A lot of girls seem to think he’s an angel. I don’t personally. I mean, who would like a teacher?’

I laughed. ‘No. Personally, I don’t crush on anyone who is over 40, unless they’re famous.’

G laughed and put her arm around my shoulders leading me back towards where I came. ‘Come on.’

She led me to a table in one of the courtyards, where three other people were already seated. One of the boys, who G seated herself next to, looked like the boy she had yelled out earlier. However, when they caught each other’s eyes, they smiled.

The couple in front of us were looking very interested in what each other had to say. The girl had short, black hair, that cropped around her ears, and wore spike stud earrings. Most of her face was covered with make-up, her deep-red lips bright against her dark African skin. The boy sitting next to her was confident. His mess of dusty-blonde hair looked like an overgrown lawn, and he was continuously trying to pat it down with his hands, as he talked.

‘This is Thomas,’ G pointed to the boy sitting next to her and he smiled at me. I could now see that he was wearing a red bow-tie against his navy-blue uniform and he was fidgeting with a pen in his hand. ‘And those lovebirds are Tina and Scott.’ I smiled at them and they hastily waved back before continuing their conversation. ‘Sometimes you can never get a word in,’ G mumbled quietly into my ear.

She started talking to Thomas and I looked around the courtyard. It wasn’t very big, but it was large enough to fit in another five tables with students seated around them. I didn’t recognise any of them. In front of us there was the school and the door we had bypassed.

Behind us was a large plant box, with a small tree growing from the middle. In the distance, behind the tree, was the oval. I could see small figures moving around, chasing a soccer ball on one half and a football on the other.

‘This isn’t the only courtyard, but I think this one is one of the best in the school,’ Grace said as if she had read my thoughts.

I nodded, watching the small figures run to one end of the oval as an even smaller silhouette shot into the goals. Cheering was barely audible from where I was seated. I turned back around, towards the rest of the table. ‘So, what class did you have this morning?’ I asked starting a conversation.

‘Maths,’ G muttered.

‘Ugh, that’s horrible for a Monday morning!’ I exaggerated. G nodded, smiling, and just past her I could see Thomas raise his eyebrows and mutter under his breath. ‘What’s that?’ I cheekily asked him.

He looked at me and frowned. ‘I said that Maths is only horrible to those who can’t do it.’

I gaped and laughed. ‘Whatever!’

He stared at me for a minute longer, before chuckling out loud.

Tina and Scott finally turned our way and Tina leaned in to say something to G that made her laugh. Scott talked to Thomas. I smiled to myself, happy that I had made friends and had somewhere to be at lunch.

***

‘So…tell me! Did you talk to any cute boys?’

‘Uh, hello to you too…no I haven’t,’ I answered, bluntly, over the phone.

‘Yeah, hello, whatever…made any new friends?’ Abigail was my best friend from Newcastle. She had the cliché orange hair, green eyes and outgoing personality. There was never a moment when she couldn’t make me laugh. We had promised to call each other as much as we could, in the time spent apart.

‘Yes, but you should see what they do at lunch! They all find a spot and make out with anyone they can find! I think the whole school is in on it,’ I held the phone between my chin and shoulder as I zipped open my school bag.

‘What?! Don’t the teachers do anything?’

I paused before answering, considering whether I should tell her that when I meant the whole school I meant the teachers too, but she was too gullible. ‘Abigail, I’m just messing with you!’

‘…oh…aha.’

I shook my head and grinned thinking about how easily she had been sucked in. ‘I made a new friend as soon as I set foot in the school. Well, after I crashed into a boy, but Grace is really nice.’

‘Wait…was the boy cute?’ she asked slyly. I groaned and heard her laugh on the other end. ‘You probably made out with him at lunch with your new friends.’

‘Yep, you got me! No, but I did see a cute boy. Well, he’s more like gorgeous and his last name is Robyn.’

‘How did you manage to only get his last name and not his first?’ Abigail chuckled.

I laughed. ‘I have no idea.’

***

On Tuesday, I made a new friend in Music. Her name was Brianna. We began talking after we were seated next to each other. She was interested in the piano, while I was interested in guitar. During the lesson, I had the chance to hear her play and she was good. I played her a bit of my guitar that I had brought from home. ‘How long have you been learning?’ Brianna asked me as I strummed the guitar, absent-mindedly.

I shrugged, ‘I think about six years? Yeah, six… I started lessons when I was eleven.’

She nodded flicking through her book and tapping the table playing imaginary keys. The school only had one piano to share between the students. ‘I have a friend who plays the guitar in a band. She’s good at it. Do you think you want to make a career out of your music?’

I stopped strumming and stared at the ground, thinking. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. ‘I think I want to be an artist…but in drawing, music, writing and photography.’ I nodded at the idea.

She looked up at me. ‘That sounds really interesting. I want my music to be my career. I can sing too. I used to sing to Bella’s guitar in her garage, before she joined the band. Hey, do you want to come to her gig this Friday night?’

I smiled. ‘That would be really cool. Thanks!’

Now, I had something to do on Friday. ‘Great! I’ll text you the details.’

***

I flicked a piece of fluff off my blazer as I leant against the brick wall of the school. I watched cars pulling into the car park and students passing me into the front hallway. I checked the time. G should have been here already. I had called my best friend Abigail, again the night before. She had told me that she had had a fight with my second-best friend, George.

Apparently, George had started talking to a girl in my old school who didn’t have a very good reputation concerning boys. Abigail had told him to be careful. I wasn’t sure what he was going through now, but it didn’t sound like he cared much about anything anymore. I made a mental note that I should call him. The bell sounded off and I checked the car park again once more. G was late.

I walked into the school towards the Society and Culture class making another mental note that I should ask my parents for a dog. It was a random thought to have popped up in my head, but when it had, the realisation had hit me that I would really like a pet. I had had a dog before, back in NSW, but she had passed away the year before.

I was lost in the day dream of picking out another furry best friend that it took me two glances to realise that G was walking my way. I smiled to her, but she kept her frown in place.

‘What’s wrong, G?’ I asked concerned.

She came to a halt as she reached me and then turned to face the other way so she could walk beside me. ‘I…last night Tina and I had a fight. We were talking and I zoned out at one point. Next thing I know, she’s yelling at me saying that I never listen to her.’

She paused as we slid past the group of boys I had seen the first day at the school. I could just see the head of the blonde-haired boy standing in the group.

‘I then, said that she was always talking to Scott and usually I could never get a word in. She hung up on me after that,’ she said before adding, ‘Which ironically proved my point.’

I nodded, taking in every word.

‘And then this morning my mum received a call from my Grandma, explaining that Grandpa is very sick and because he’s old there’s a chance he may die,’ her breath caught as she said it and I squeezed her arm reassuringly. ‘I wanted to call Tina because I have always kept her on an update about my Grandpa,’ she finished.

‘You’ll make up. As soon as she hears about your Grandpa, she’ll rush back to you,’ I said fully sure of it myself.

She looked up at me. It was odd to see her without her cheerfulness. ‘How do you know?’

‘I know because I had the same experience with my best friend back in Newcastle. I had had a fight with Abigail and we were on non-speaking terms. Then, the day after the fight I was away from school. Abigail knew that this was very unusual for me, so she skipped school after the first lesson.’ I laughed remembering Abigail’s undying bravery to do as she pleased. ‘She walked all the way to my house. Now, during the time I had missed school I was in my backyard burying my dog’s ashes.’

It was coincidental that I had been thinking about getting another dog, this morning and now I was recounting a story about when my old dog had died.

‘My parents and I had put the ashes in a large hollow rock that had been engraved. We were standing in front of it and placing lilies beside Lorelai’s rock when out of thin air another figure knelt beside the rock and began sobbing. It was Abigail.’ I wiped away a clean tear before turning to G and smiling.

She looked at me and smiled back.

‘It’ll all be alright.’ I said putting my arm around her and giving her a little shake.

Stepping into the classroom, I looked around to see if our usual seats were still free. They were, though this time young Robyn was sitting behind my seat instead of the girl whom had sat there, last lesson.

He was slumped comfortably in his seat with one leg stuck out. He looked bored as his eyes searched the room. When they landed on me, I hastily smiled before glancing back at G. She looked more cheerful and I gave her another reassuring smile.

The teacher walked in and the classroom quietened down. He gave a small smile as he sat down at his desk and opened his laptop.

I gazed out of the window as he went through the roll, only tuning in when my name was called.

‘Here,’ I half-heartedly said.

His eyes skimmed the room and landed on me. He smiled and then called the next name.

Maybe, I should adopt a Labrador. They were cuddly. Or maybe a German Shepard; a friend and also great protection from burglars.

Mr Preston stood up pulling down the blank screen and turned on the projector. A title reading ‘Politics’ slowly came into focus.

‘You will need to take notes,’ Mr Preston announced to the class.

I grabbed a pencil from my bag and opened my book as I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned around into the handsome face of the boy behind me. Even though he was smiling, I could see something hidden in his eyes.

‘May I borrow a pencil?’ he whispered. I passed him a pencil and gave him a smile.

‘Thanks, Smiley.’ He leaned back into his chair and looked back at the teacher in deep interest.

I turned back and focused myself on the power point trying to calm the brief fluttering in my chest. I scribbled down a note half focusing on the power point and half focusing on whether adopting a Jack Russell would be a good idea.

***

When the bell went, I heard people quietly cheer. I wasn’t into politics much either.

Mr Preston smiled. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow for a double period.’

Some people sarcastically cheered and others groaned as they slowly filed out of the classroom. I stood zipping up my bag. G waited for me by the door. I pushed my chair in and headed towards her.

‘Hey!’

I turned and saw the young Robyn holding out his hand.

‘Oh! I almost forgot. Thanks.’ I took my pencil, my hand slightly grazing his. I hoped he didn’t hear my breath catch.

‘I’m Nick by the way. Nick Robyn.’

‘Emma Loren.’

He smiled, but I could still see the hidden hint of something I saw before, in his brown eyes. My smile faltered as I realised that it was grief. He knew I saw it because he dropped his smile and glanced away.

G moved out of the way to let him pass and he muttered a goodbye and left the room. G looked at me and grinned, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I was wondering why Nick had put up barriers when I had seen his grief. Well, I sort of guessed that part, but I wondered why he was feeling grief in the first place.

‘What’s wrong with Nick?’ I asked as casually as I could.

G shrugged, ‘Nothing as far as I can tell. Nick is very popular around the school. They say he’s got style. He’s probably the best-looking guy in the school. Well, at least that’s what I think.’ She was still grinning at me.

I shook my head and gave her a smile. I headed towards the door and she followed me out. Mr Preston looked up and nodded his head with a smile as we walked out the door.

‘Sadly, though. He’s already got a girlfriend. Allison Mare. She is probably the most popular girl in school. Her and Nick are rich. Some people think that both of their parents decided that they should date. That would be a nightmare though. Your parents telling you who you should go out with…’

I zoned out, thinking to myself. Maybe, that was why he looked so sad. Maybe… I shook it out of my head. It wasn’t my problem to worry about. I hardly even knew him.

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Chapter 3

I straightened my denim jacket and white summer dress. My hair was resting over my shoulders and my sandals tapped lightly at every step I took on the wooden floorboards of my room. I grabbed my small shoulder bag and checked that my phone, purse and car keys were tucked in safely. Then, I shut my bedroom door behind me and headed downstairs.

Dad poked his head around the corner of the kitchen, ‘Be safe, young lady. Don’t get up to mischief.’ He waggled his finger at me and tried speaking in a firm voice.

I chuckled, ‘Okay, you too Dad. I’ll be back before 11:30.’

I walked out of the front door and down the porch steps. I had told Brianna that I would pick up G, and meet her at the club that the band was playing at.

G was waiting for me on her front porch. She was wearing a very colourful dress and it suited her. She ran down to me and slid into the passenger seat, grinning as usual.

‘Do you know how to get there?’ I asked. Brianna had given me the directions, but I was still new to the city.

‘Um… Can I have a look at those directions?’ I passed her my phone with the text. She read through. ‘Yeah, I do.’

‘Have you been to the club before?’ I asked, keeping my eyes on the road.

‘No. I’ve walked by it though. I remember where it is.’

‘Cool.’ I pulled out of her street and followed her directions.

‘Cute lock screen, by the way!’

I grimaced as she placed the phone in the cup holder, the lock screen glaring up at me. Before it went to sleep I saw the picture of Abigail and I at our year nine camp. Abigail had her arms draped around my neck and her legs wrapped around my waist. George had taken it. He was taking a picture of me posing by a tree, but Abigail had jumped up on me from behind. In the photo, I was trying to balance myself before I fell over. We were both grinning and I remembered George laughing as he photographed the memory.

I focused on the road in front of me and G’s directive voice.

***

The club was quite big and there were a lot of people waiting to get in. Three bands were playing that night and apparently, they were quite ‘the rage’, including Bella’s band, which the name I had yet to learn. It didn’t take that long for us to get in despite the length of the line. Either that or I hadn’t noticed because I was enjoying the warm atmosphere of the night. The club lights outside were twinkling and casting our shadows onto the road next to us. G and I then started talking about photography and ways in which photos were taken best in certain degrees of light. Then, before we knew it we were inside.

Brianna had invited another one of her friends too and they were waiting for us by the stage. Brianna introduced me and G to Simone who she had been friends with for quite a while. She was also interested in music and played the piano.

We talked while we listened to the first band play a couple of their songs. It was their last song when Brianna took G and me into the back to meet Bella.

I followed Brianna and Simone through the crowd of people and through the backstage door. It was a lot quieter down there and I took a deep breath of air that didn’t contain the scent of sweating, dancing bodies. G looked as if she was doing the same. Brianna took us into a lounge area where there was a small group of people tuning their instruments and preparing to play. I saw one person holding a guitar and running through her notes. She looked up and smiled as we entered the room.

Brianna smiled at her, and she stood up, putting her guitar down softly onto the chair that she had been sitting on. The girl embraced Brianna and then Simone. A couple of other band members glanced up and watched before continuing preparing their instruments. Brianna pointed to G and me.

‘That there is Emma. Emma Loren. She’s in my music class and is also studying guitar.’

‘Guitar going good for you?’ Bella asked.

I smiled and shook her hand, ‘Yeah, I love it.’

‘And that is Grace, Emma’s friend.’ Brianna pointed to G.

G shook Bella’s hand and smiled too, ‘Just call me G.’

Cheers and clapping sounded out through the room as the crowd in the club cheered the first band off the stage. Bella looked back at her band members and they all stood up.

‘Good luck Bella,’ I said. I gave her an encouraging smile.

She winked at me and smiled at Brianna and Simone. She said something that I couldn’t quite make out over the noise of the crowd demanding for more music. Bella and the rest of her band fist bumped each other and then headed towards the stage just as the first band slumped into the room looking exhausted, but cheerful. Brianna and G complimented a couple of the band members and they grinned back waving their hands in thanks.

Simone, Brianna, G and I headed back into the club to hear the next band. We danced for ages and I was impressed by how well Bella could play the guitar. She spotted me in the crowd and I gave her the thumbs up.

I dropped G off later that night and headed home arriving at 11:23. I gave a brief recount to Mum and Dad and then slumped off to bed, exhausted.

***

My laptop buzzed to life. I tapped my desk impatiently waiting for it to start. Kicking my feet on the ground, I pushed myself around in the chair. Spinning, I saw the blue screen of my laptop and I stopped myself so I could type in my password. My desktop popped up and I clicked on the blue and white symbol.

Waiting for the call to connect I turned on my radio, to create background sound. My CD spun to life. I was just turning down the volume when the screen flickered and a face appeared.

‘Hey George!’ I said as heartedly as I could.

He smiled. ‘E, what’s up?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m just hanging around missing you,’ I pulled a pouty face.

He nodded. ‘I’m missing you too E! What have you been up to?’

‘What have I been up to? What about you? I heard that you’re hanging around with Marie.’ I went straight to the point.

He looked away from the screen and paused before he answered. ‘Abigail’s been talking to you. What else has she told you?’

‘Not much else. Just that you had an argument, but George…why Marie?’

‘What, are you going to tell me who I can and can’t associate with too?’ he snapped.

I shook my head and softened my voice. ‘No. I was just wondering why the sudden change in what you thought of her. You used to go on and on about how you thought she was a stuck-up bitch.’

He shrugged. ‘I don’t anymore.’

We sat in silence for a minute, before I spoke. ‘So, school here is really cool. I made some new friends and I even went out to a gig that I was invited to, last night.’

‘A gig, huh?’

‘Yeah, my friend’s friend was playing in one of the bands. She plays the guitar too. Their band name is Call Me Back Tomorrow.’

‘Have you called them back yet?’ I laughed softly, shaking my head, and he continued, ‘You have to send me some photos of your new home.’ I frowned. Home; that was what Brisbane was now. George sensed my thoughts and smiled warmly. ‘It’s okay E. Your home is still here too.’

I smiled. Home was where my friends and family were and they were here and there. There was nothing wrong with having more than one home. ‘Are you coming to visit me?’ I asked.

He nodded. ‘Sure. Actually, how about we meet in the middle, then it will be easier for the both of us?’

‘Yes, let’s do it. You can bring Abigail and I’ll bring my new friend G.’ He frowned, pausing and I realised what I had just said. ‘You’ll make it up with her, G. Don’t worry. Hey, I can’t call you G anymore without thinking about Grace!’ He didn’t reply. He was still looking down, away from the screen. ‘George?’

He looked up suddenly. ‘I have to tell you something Emma.’ I stared at him. He only ever called me Emma when it was serious. I waited and his eyes shifted away and then back again. I could see that he was wringing his hands in front of his laptop. ‘I’m gay.’

I continued staring at his pixelated face moving on the screen. ‘I know,’ I replied. He furrowed his forehead, opening his mouth and then closing it again. ‘I mean, I didn’t know, but Abigail and I have been questioning it for a while now. You never hang out with boys, just A and me. I’ve also seen the way you look at Mike and the other boys on the field.’

He cocked his head to one side. ‘Oh.’ I smiled and then watched a grin grow on his face. ‘Well, okay then. I…uh…I don’t know what to say.’

I laughed. He laughed.

‘Well, now I can say that I have been hanging out with Marie because she has a really cute boyfriend.’ I snorted, ‘OMG George! Are you telling me that you’re planning on stealing Marie’s boyfriend from her?’ He nodded and stuck out his tongue, squinting his eyes. ‘You’re such as user!’ We cracked up.

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