I couldn’t come up with a witty retort, but the bell rang, saving me from the rest of that awkward conversation. Finn just nodded, thus ending our exchange, and turned down the hall to go to his next class. Thankfully, it was one of the few he didn’t have with me.
True to his word, Finn wasn’t creepy the rest of the day. Every time I saw him, he was doing something inoffensive that didn’t involve looking at me. I still got that feeling that he watched me when I had my back to him, but it wasn’t anything I could prove.
When the final bell rang at three o’clock, I tried to be the first one out. My older brother, Matt, picked me up from school, at least until he found a job, and I didn’t want to keep him waiting. Besides that, I didn’t want to deal with any more contact with Finn Holmes.
I quickly made my way to the parking lot at the edge of the school lawn. Scanning for Matt’s Prius, I absently started to chew my thumbnail. I had this weird feeling, almost like a shiver running down my back. I turned around, half expecting to see Finn staring at me, but there was nothing.
I tried to shake it off, but my heart raced faster. This felt like something more sinister than a boy from school. I was still staring off, trying to decide what had me freaked out, when a loud honk startled me, making me jump. Matt sat a few cars down, looking at me over the top of his sunglasses.
“Sorry.” I opened the car door and hopped in, where he looked me over for a moment. “What?”
“You looked nervous. Did something happen?” Matt asked, and I sighed. He took his whole big brother thing way too seriously.
“No, nothing happened. School sucks,” I said, brushing him off. “Let’s go home.”
“Seat belt,” Matt commanded, and I did as I was told.
Matt had always been quiet and reserved, thinking everything over carefully before making a decision. He was a stark contrast to me in every way, except that we were both relatively short. I was small, with a decidedly pretty, feminine face. My brown hair was an untamed mess of curls that I kept up in loose buns.
He kept his sandy blond hair trim and neat, and his eyes were the same shade of blue as our mother’s. Matt wasn’t overtly muscular, but he was sturdy and athletic from working out a lot. He had a sense of duty, like he had to make sure he was strong enough to defend us against anything.
“How is school going?” Matt asked.
“Great. Fantastic. Amazing.”
“Are you even going to graduate this year?” Matt had long since stopped judging my school record. A large part of him didn’t even care if I graduated from high school.
“Who knows?” I shrugged.
Everywhere I went, kids never seemed to like me. Even before I said or did anything. I felt like I had something wrong with me and everyone knew it. I tried getting along with the other kids, but I’d only take getting pushed for so long before I pushed back. Principals and deans were quick to expel me, probably sensing the same things the kids did.
I just didn’t belong.
“Just to warn you, Maggie’s taking it seriously,” Matt said. “She’s set on you graduating this year, from this school.”
“Delightful.” I sighed. Matt couldn’t care less about my schooling, but my aunt Maggie was a different story. And since she was my legal guardian, her opinion mattered more. “What’s her plan?”
“Maggie’s thinking bedtimes,” Matt informed me with a smirk. As if sending me to bed early would somehow prevent me from getting in a fight.
“I’m almost eighteen!” I groaned. “What is she thinking?”
“You’ve got four more months until you’re eighteen,” Matt corrected me sharply, and his hand tightened on the steering wheel. He suffered from serious delusions that I was going to run away as soon as I turned eighteen, and nothing I could say would convince him otherwise.
“Yeah, whatever.” I waved it off. “Did you tell her she’s insane?”
“I figured she’d hear it enough from you.” Matt grinned at me.
“So did you find a job?” I asked tentatively, and he shook his head.
He’d just finished an internship over the summer, working with a great architecture firm. He’d said it didn’t bother him, moving to a town without much call for a promising young architect, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty about it.
“This is a pretty town,” I said, looking out the window.
We approached our new house, buried on an average suburban street among a slew of maples and elms. It actually seemed like a boring small town, but I’d promised I’d make the best of it. I really wanted to. I didn’t think I could handle disappointing Matt anymore.
“So you’re really gonna try here?” Matt asked, looking over at me. We had pulled up in the driveway next to the butter-colored Victorian that Maggie had bought last month.
“I already am,” I insisted with a smile. “I’ve been talking to this Finn kid.” Sure, I’d talked to him only once, and I wouldn’t even remotely count him as a friend, but I had to tell Matt something.
“Look at you. Making your very first friend.” Matt shut off the car’s engine and looked at me with veiled amusement.
“Yeah, well, how many friends do you have?” I countered. He just shook his head and got out of the car, and I quickly followed him. “That’s what I thought.”
“I’ve had friends before. Gone to parties. Kissed a girl. The whole nine yards,” Matt said as he went through the side door into the house.
“So you say.” I kicked off my shoes as soon as we walked into the kitchen, which was still in various stages of unpacking. As many times as we’d moved, everyone had gotten tired of the whole process, so we tended to live out of boxes. “I’ve only seen one of these alleged girls.”
“Yeah, ’cause when I brought her home, you set her dress on fire! While she was wearing it!” Matt pulled off his sunglasses and looked at me severely.
“Oh, come on. That was an accident and you know it.”
“So you say.” Matt opened the fridge.
“Anything good in there?” I asked and hopped onto the kitchen island. “I’m famished.”
“Probably nothing you’d like.” Matt started sifting through the contents of the fridge, but he was right.
I was a notoriously picky eater. While I had never purposely sought out the life of a vegan, I seemed to hate most things that had either meat in them or man-made synthetics. It was odd and incredibly irritating for the people who tried to feed me.