03 November 2014 @ 11:29 pm
'Seeing Attraction' Chapters 1-4  
 To whomever I’m allowing to read this…I must really trust you, cause like NO ONE has read this (aside from teachers & students from various classes).
 
As I edit/write this novel, I figured I’d post what I have to serve as motivation during NaNoWriMo & so I can finally finish this thing! PLEASE give me as MUCH constructive criticism as possible! If something doesn't make sense, aren't described as well, or if chapters don’t flow well (I’m worried about this, since I kinda began writing this as separate short stories then ended up just combining them.)

Chapter 1: First Day
“Mom, I’m going to be late! Can’t you go any faster?!” I yelled at her as she pulled up to the high school parking lot. The sudden jolt as the tires slowly maneuver into the school lot excited me yet filled me with anxiety all at the same time.
“We’re here!” I shouted with excitement. I bounced up and down out of my seat  so much I probably resembled Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. My dog, Bear, who was lying on the back seat barked loudly because of it.
“It is 7:50am on September 5th,” my phone voiced aloud to me. 
My voice, not to mention entire body completely drained of all the fun filled adrenaline that was milliseconds ago coursing through my veins like I had had five cups of coffee. Instead I’m filled with dread and fear. “I’m late!” 
“Laurel Renae Burke, you will be absolutely fine!” My mom said from the driver’s seat next to me. “I already informed the school that you might be a few minutes late. It’s not a big deal, honest.” A slight quiver of annoyance could be found in her voice with each passing word. She grabbed a hold of my knee and gave it a tight squeeze to reassure me that everything was going to be okay.
The car slowly turned into the parking lot, the treads of the tires crunched on loose bits of dirt and asphalt as it turned.
The exact moment I felt the car come to a halt, I dashed to take off my seat belt and to open the front passenger door.
“Wait a minute.”
“Ugh!” I groaned. My hand was still tightly wrapped around the door lever, awaiting to embark on my first day of public high school…ever. My mom was notorious for going all “Danny Tanner from Full House” on us and erupt into full-on lecture mode with every ‘life changing event’ that occurred in mine or my brother’s lives.
Going somewhere into town by yourself? Lecture. Staying home alone by yourself for a mere three hours? Lecture. Cooking a meal by yourself in the kitchen? Lecture. Yeah you get the idea. I’m surprised that neither my brother nor I have the sappy music that’s always played within each episode on whenever our Mom does one of them (which is quite frequent).
“Hey, don’t get all snippy at me, young lady!” my mom said, responding to my annoyed grunt.
“Sorry.” I replied, merely ready to just go on with my day and head into school already. “Can we hurry this up, I’m late as it is.” I removed my hand from the passenger door to face my Mom. 
“I just wanted to say how proud I am of you, Laurel. You’ve gone through so much within the past few years and nothing seems to stand in your way. At first when you mentioned the idea of going to public school again, I will admit I was a bit taken aback by the idea, but then-”
“It is 8:00am on September 5th,” my cell-phone said aloud. 
“Yes Laurel, I’m aware of the time thanks.” 
I smiled at her, making sure not to show a hint of haste, but more along the lines of gratitude. The more you look impatient, the more my mother spoke.
“I just wanted to say,” she continued. She tucked a flyaway piece of my hair behind my ear. “To have fun today, Will will be around if you need him and just…be careful. I don’t think you know how big this is, Laur.” 
I grabbed a hold of my backpack that was nestled between my legs on the car floor and looked down. “No, I actually do.”
“Well,” my Mom lifted my chin upward with one of her fingers so I could face her, “I’m sure you’ll make lots of new friends in no time.”
“Yeah, you and me both,” I muttered under my breath.
******
I began walking down the halls of Eastdale High School, making sure my feet moved cautiously with each step I took. Even though I always had my seeing eye dog, Bear, with me at all times, I still hesitated and got nervous from time to time when I was put in new surroundings and situations. 
What if the school bell suddenly rang and a plethora of teenagers moseyed on out of every door like some weird assembly line in a factory? I doubt they would get out of the way for some short and clumsy blind girl. Run over me most likely. 
I let out a shudder from the thought.
Bear, my floppy eared, giant, Labrador groaned because we had been standing in the same spot for more than five minutes. Bear, while trained to follow my every command, got rather fussy sometimes.
I reached into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out my cell phone. I pressed the button in the far left corner, underneath the screen, which allowed me to have the time said to me aloud. 
“It is 8:05 A.M on September 5th,” the digital voice on my phone said.
“Okay, I’m only five minutes late to my first class.” I moved the phone around in my hands and quickly put it back in its original location.
“Let’s go find room 212, Bear!” I stated aloud. I bent down, and with my small hands I felt around for the harness that connected to Bear’s guide dog vest.
After a few unsuccessful grabs of nothing, my hand wrapped tightly around the harness. The two of us quickly walked straight ahead, so as a.) not be even more late then I already was and b.) so I didn’t run into anything in the process. 
Since every number is supposed to be written in Braille on the plague that displays the room number, I switched Bear’s harness to my opposite hand and run my fingers along the fabricated prickly stone walls as I tried to find the correct room I was supposed to be in.
“210,” I muttered aloud as I felt the upraised dots that were etched on the sign. “One more classroom, Bear.”
When I finally reached room 212, I triple checked the Braille markings to make sure this was in fact the right classroom. It was. “Here goes nothing Bear.”
When I felt around for the door handle, I turned it and pushed it all the way open. 
All I heard the second I walked into the room was utter silence. But even though no one has said anything to me, I knew everyone’s eyes were glued onto me. Either they had their eyes glued onto me because of my lack of sight or because of Bear, my seeing eye dog.
“YOU MUST BE LAUREL! I’M MRS. FREDERICK YOUR ENGLISH TEACHER!” 
Not gonna lie, I jumped a couple of inches into the air from shock, when I heard my teacher yell into my face. Literally.
She placed her hands on my shoulders and tried to move me further into the middle section of the classroom. 
Bear let out a low growl. He always hates it when people touch me suddenly that he doesn’t know.
“It’s okay Bear,” I reassured him by leaning down and giving his soft furry coat a quick pat. I then looked up and said to Mrs. Frederick, rather matter of fact I might add. “And I’m blind, not deaf. There’s no need to shout.”
I heard Mrs. Frederick let out a small embarrassed chuckle. 
It’s so funny how nervous people always got around me. Like they think they have to act a special way around me. Just once I would like for someone to treat me like I was normal, not like a blind freak show. 
“Laurel, tell us a little bit about yourself,” Mrs. Frederick said to me shortly afterwards.
“Well, I’m Laurel Burke and I just transferred here. This is the first high school I’ve ever been to, I was originally home schooled. Boy did my Mom freak when I told her I wanted to go to public school.” Now I was the nervous rambling fool. For what I lack in sight, I make up for in nervous and useless banter. “Oh and I’m blind, duh. This is Bear.” I touched Bear’s head lightly and scratched behind one of his floppy ears that was closest to me.
“Well, Laurel…I’m sure you’re really going to like it here at Eastdale. And if you need anything at all, I’m sure anyone would be willing to help you.”
I turned my head to where I heard her voice. “Oh, that’s okay. I want to do things on my own if that’s okay.”
“Oh…that’s fine,” was Mrs. Frederick’s response.
I could tell I completely threw her off guard. Sue me for being a perfectly capable and independent person.
“Laurel, you can sit in the third row, two seats down next to Arianna. Arianna wave so she can see you.” Mrs. Frederick realized her mistake and said, “Oh, sorry.” 
“Just follow my voice!” a girl yelled in the middle of the classroom. I took this to be Arianna. 
I firmly grabbed a hold of Bear‘s harness and said, “Bear, walk on,” hoping that Bear would actually lead me in the direction of my seat.
He slowly moved his paws in front of the other. The plastic desks seemed to scare him.
“It’s okay Bear,” I reassured him.
“Almost there.” Arianna said to me, her voice seemed to come from a mere few feet in front of me. I could tell by the sound of her voice that she was smiling at me. 
When I finally reached my assigned desk, I sat down and awkwardly maneuvered my legs so they were facing the front of the room. 
“Bear lay down.” He gladly did as told.
“I’m Arianna Cromwell by the way.” Arianna said, her smile was still very prevalent in her voice.
“Laurel Burke.”
“Oh, I love your top,” Arianna said.
I felt the fabric of my favorite tie-dyed t-shirt. 
Finally someone that treated me like I was normal. 
******
I walked outside of the classroom, my hand clutched onto Bear’s harness.
While I tried to find the location of my next class, I felt the tug of a hand lightly grip my shoulder and pull me back slightly to face them. 
“So why were you home-schooled for so long?” It was Arianna. Even though we had just met no more then a minute ago, I immediately recognized her slightly raspy voice. 
I jumped slightly regardless, not realizing she was still following me.
I could tell Arianna sensed my jumpiness by the way she lightly removed her hand from my shoulder.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Was I supposed to tell you I was still walking by you?” I heard her voice shift lower to the ground; almost as if she was afraid of what to say to me. “I’m not used to talking to blind people.”
I smiled, touched that someone would actually consider my feelings for a change. “It’s okay. Just let me know where you are direction-wise.”
I felt Bear tug further on, almost as if he didn’t want me talking to Arianna. He let out an annoyed groan.
“Bear stop it! Slow!” I commanded him, while I pulled on his harness firmly. He reluctantly does as told. But I could feel his body slug towards the ground, like he didn’t want to be there, but had to follow my directions anyway.
“For a seeing eye dog he sure has some attitude.” Arianna said. 
I heard the jingle-jangle of Bear’s dog tags sway to and fro, which gave me the appreciation that Arianna was petting him. 
“Yeah, well I’ve had him since I was 14, so we know each other really well.” I looked at the direction where I heard her voice which was now right next to me. “He doesn’t really like people much. Just my family members.”
“Aw, well I think he’s cute, with his bright yellow fur coat and oddly shaped head.” 
It’s at that moment I realized we had been walking for quite some time and I had lost my sense of direction. “Say…where are we?” I asked Arianna.
“We just passed a bank of lockers. Why, where’s your next class?”
I reached down into my pocket and pulled out the schedule the front office gave me. 
“Can you see what my class is after this? I’m too lazy to pull out my phone.” I slightly chuckled.
“Sure.” Arianna took the piece of paper I held out for.
“Stop Bear.” Bear does as told. “Sit.”
I felt the vibrations of his tail hit the carpeted floor in a steady beat. I could tell he was excited to see all the high school kids passing by.
“You have…” Arianna’s voice sounded muffled, as well as in thought. 
I could tell she was both looking at my schedule, the paper a few feet from her face and was actually looking at what class I had next. “Chemistry with Mr. Jones in Room 110.”
I took a moment to think where the elevator was located at this school. 
As if she had read my mind, Arianna asked, “Need help finding the elevator?”
*****
When I had walked into Mr. Jones’ Chemistry class five minutes late, I heard nothing but silence the instant I walked in. Without even being able to see the entire class, I could feel their beady little eyes on me. 
They probably looked up to see this gangly long blonde haired, hesitant teenage girl walk in with a yellow Labrador that had a jacket with the words, “Service Dog” emblazoned in bold black lettering. 
I continued to hold Bear’s harness tightly. My entire body was swaying back and forth from nervousness as if it was a firework ready to explode. 
“Is this the Chemistry classroom?” I asked, my voice soft and afraid, like I was a little kid afraid of my parents.
I never got an answer to my question. Without even listening to what I had to say, a mean gruff voice yelled to Bear, “NO dogs in my lab!”
The sudden loud voice caused me to pretty much jump out of my converse high tops. This wasn’t the teacher, Mr. Jones, right?
“But I need-” I started to say.
He didn’t give me anytime to explain. “I don’t care! The dog stays outside.” 
I heard the heel of his shoes click clack against the cheap linoleum floor. The sound of his shoes embodied the way a businessman would walk anxiously down an office. His footsteps became closer and closer. Somehow I imagined he had a scruffy brown goatee, red plaid t-shirt and dark blue jeans that made him resemble a mean Paul Bunyan. With each loud harsh word he said, it was like I was a tree he was slowly chopping down with his ax. 
“But-” I was afraid this would happen. That someone wouldn’t be as accepting of a blind student. But I never thought it would be a teacher of all people.
Suddenly, I heard a stool squeak as if someone had stood up out of their seat. I heard the sound of someone walking closer towards the teacher and I, the sound of their shoes scuffed the floor as they walked every other step. The sound became louder which each stride they took.
“Mr. Jones-” 
From these first two words I knew that a.) the mean older sounding man I just spoke to was in fact my teacher, Mr. Jones and b.) this young man who was trying to come to my defense was clearly on something. His voice sounded like a jittery kid that was afraid to answer a question in class. Or he could have just downed an entire can of Red Bull.
“I’m not sure if you’re aware of how seeing eye dogs work, but they help direct the blind, like this lovely girl here,” he paused, probably to stick his hand out to motion toward me or something.
I couldn’t help but have this huge dopey smile on my face at the sound of someone both complimenting me and defending me. I‘m used to having family members defend me, not complete strangers such as this boy.
He continued. “So they don’t run into anything or hurt themselves in anyway. This dog…”
“Bear.” I answered for him.
“Bear, won’t be of any distraction to the class.”
No words came from my teacher, Mr. Jones. He probably just stood at us as if we were wasting his time, which in fact we kind of were.
“You don’t want her to run into any chemicals or damage anything-”
“Hey!” I shouted at this remark. I placed my left hand on my hip for emphasis.
“Sorry.” the boy responded. “Just helping you out.”
I could hear Bear’s tail wag, and could imagine his black beady eyes wide, mouth open and tongue hanging out. 
“You won’t be any trouble right?” Mr. Jones stated.
Did he mean me? “Oh no sir! I won’t be any trouble at all!” I responded
Mr. Jones stepped away from the boy and I and headed to what I would imagine was his desk. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t give me that polite crap. Just take a seat. Williams, seeing how you’re without a partner and the best student in this class, you deal with her.”
“Williams?” I questioned, having no clue who that was.
“That’s me. Lewis Williams.” the boy that defended Bear and I said. “I have my hand out.”
But instead of extending my hand to formally shake his, I simply waved to him with my left hand. “I prefer waves. It’s easier.” 
 
Chapter 2: Tonight’s Dinner Special: Interrogation with a side of Judgment
“Laurel! Dinner’s ready!” I heard my Mom yell downstairs, from her usual spot: the bottom of the staircase. 
“Coming!” I replied back. If you don’t, well expect her to march upstairs and barge into your room. I’ve learned it’s best to just do what she asked.
Before I made my way downstairs to the dinner table, I heard the traditional ping of the Facebook notification sound from my computer. This followed my computer to read aloud said notification: “Arianna Cromwell wants to be friends with you on Facebook.” 
Immediately my interest was peeked. Can’t believe she found my Facebook already, I thought to myself. A smile spread across my face at the thought of Arianna typing in my name in the search bar. 
I gently moved the mouse around in different positions on the computer screen. When I heard the robotic voice of my computer say “Accept friend request”, I firmly clicked on the plastic computer mouse.
“Accepted,” my computer voice said as soon as the task was complete.
Just when I was about to peruse Arianna’s profile, a voice stopped me. “Laurel, get down here! Your food’s getting cold!”
It was my Mother, of course wondering what was taking so damn long.
“Coming!” I immediately responded. This however would only give me a few minutes of safety before she or my brother Will, would come barging after me.
Bear let out a loud bark, almost as if he agreed with my Mom, too. But then again, he probably was craving for his nightly bowl of dry dog food right about now.
“Okay okay, my goodness!” I got up out of my chair and walked to the front door, which was only a couple steps to the left of my desk.
Hand on the brass door knob, I opened the painted wooden door which caused Bear to become alert.
He trotted toward me and jumped onto my knees, his paws felt rough against my skin.
“Okay we’re going!” Door open, I made my way to the staircase. While holding onto the banister, I slowly made my downstairs to join my other family members.
I could hear Bear as he moved just as slowly or fast behind me. He always watched to make sure I didn’t trip or anything.
Just as I safely came downstairs, my Mom said rather distant, “So glad you could join us, Laurel.”
Glasses clinked on top of the polished dining room table. Not to mention various utensils scraped against plates. My Mom and Will clearly didn’t feel the need to wait for me. Am I mad about that? Not in the slightest. The sooner they finished, the more time I could eat my own food in peace and quiet. Well, Bear would still be with me. Speaking of which, judging by his jingling tags, and the sound of dog food pellets that bounced around in a plastic dog bowl, that he had eagerly begun to devour his food.
I walked directly in front of me, where I knew my empty chair was waiting.
Ever since the accident, my Mom constantly made sure that everything was perfectly accessible for me. For instance, not a single thing had been moved since I became blind at the young age of 12.
“So…” my Mom said to me after I had found my chair in front of me and joined them.
“So?” I replied back as I grabbed the fork next to my plate. I began to move around the food before me. Judging by the squishy mud-like substance, tiny round cylinders and tender square shapes, I could tell we were having pork chops with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans.
I slightly hesitated with the chopped up piece of meat. I always explained to my Mom that I wouldn’t mind cutting up my own food for a change, but no…she’d think I would like cut myself or something.
“So…” my Mom said yet again, the questioning tone even more present.
Besides for Bear’s trot around the table to rest beneath my feet after having finished his dinner, no other prevalent sounds were heard.
“So?” I repeated just to annoy my Mom some more. If only I could see her classic “mean Mom” expression right about now: wrinkly rolling hills indented in her forehead, an evil glare so veal it would give the Headless Horsemen a run for her money.
Oh wait, scratch that, I heard Will try and stifle a laugh by drinking his glass of milk.
Suddenly, silverware resembled the sound of crashing cymbals. My Mother had dropped her knife and fork onto the table.
“Laurel, are you going to tell us what happened on your first day of school or not?”
God, my Mom sounded like a whiny teenager right now.
After I shoved a few forkfuls of food in my mouth (for dramatic affect of course), I replied with: “Well, nothing outstanding happened.”
“Was everyone nice to you?”
Not knowing exactly what to say that would set my Mother over the edge (answer: just about everything), I responded with, “Yeah, you could say that.”
I continued to pile heaps amount of food into my mouth in hopes of this conversation would end.
This time it was Will’s turn to clear his throat. He leaned in towards my ear and muttered, “You do know she’s not going to let this go right?”
I tilted my head to Will’s general direction (which was to the right of me), “Yeah, I kinda figured that.”
“Well,” I began to say, as I lifted my head up so both my mom and brother could clearly hear me.  “Teachers were interesting.” A not so pretty facial expression was set to match on my face.  
After I told my Mom and Will about the heinous moment with Mr. Jones in the Chemistry classroom (which resulted in a shocked gasp from my Mom and a nod in agreement from my brother. “Yeah, Mr. Jones is pretty douchey.” he had said), I got to the part where I spoke of a new friend.
“I also might have a new friend in the midst,” I said to them.
The three of us by now were finished with our dinner and had pushed our plates away from us, so we could continue our “story of the day” conversations.
“Oh that’s wonderful!” my Mom said, based on the vibrations of her elbows that lightly smacked the table, she must have pulled her hands close to her chest from excitement. “What’s her name?”
Will piped up as well, curious. “Yeah, maybe I know her.” Will, being the captain of the swimming team, not to mention upperclassmen, seemed to know everyone at Eastdale. From the almighty senior, to the meek freshmen.
Her name’s Arianna. Arianna Cromwell I think.”
Instead of hearing nice remarks like, “Oh that’s lovely! Good for you!”, all I heard was utter silence.
I started crinkling my napkin through my fingers, out of sudden nervousness. Why were they acting like this? They couldn’t possibly know her or anything, right?
“Arianna?” Will asked. He dragged her name out like it was an infectious disease or something.
My Mom still hadn’t said anything.
“Yeah, she’s in my English class and helped me around the school today. Why? What’s so bad with her?”
“I’ve just heard some things…” he lingered off his sentence, as if he remembered said ‘things.’
This was not like him. I’ve always thought my brother was one of the very rare few that didn’t buy into the whole ‘rumors and gossip’ thing.
“Like?” I couldn’t believe I was sitting here listening to my brother pretty much say, “Oh that’s nice that you made a new friend, Laurel, but hate to break it to you but…you shouldn’t have.”
“Oh nothing.” was his actual response. I heard him jostle his knee up and down, almost as if he wanted to leave the conversation.
“Mom? What are your thoughts?” Seeing as how she hadn’t said two words since.
“Oh I’m happy for you, honest! That’s absolutely wonderful!” her voice cracked at the end of the sentence. “I just know her mother, Alena is a bit of…” she was thinking of the correct word to say. She tapped her manicured nails against the wood table. “Overwhelming?”
I lowered my head to soak in this new information of Arianna’s Mom, not to mention what my family thought of Arianna. “Oh wow, this is just great.”
I moved my head to face the direction of Will and my Mom again. I said to Will, “Okay, what’s your excuse? You never judge people.”
“Well no, it’s just that Julia’s heard some pretty nasty rumors about her. That’s all.” 
What on earth was my brother talking about? What sort of nasty rumors about Arianna? 
“What? That’s absolutely absurd!”
“You should sit with Julia and I tomorrow, she’ll tell you all about it.”
“Perhaps I will,” I said, complete with a raised eyebrow and a smirk on my face. I needed to know just what exactly people were saying about Arianna.
 
Chapter 3: Second Day’s a Bitch
At school the next day, when it neared lunch time, Will had met me by my locker, and took my arm. Even though I tried to explain to him that I was perfectly capable having Bear lead me while he walked beside me.
“So who exactly is this Julia girl that I’ve heard so much about?” I asked Will as we headed to said cafeteria. Various students could be heard talking in either small or big groups, clutching onto their notebooks and backpacks.
“Your typical Queen Bee extraordinaire. Captain of the cheerleading squad, most popular girl in school-”
“And most likely to date my brother?” I said, cutting him off.
“Um what?” Will said, completely dumbstruck by my comment.
“You heard me,” I responded as we passed a bank of lockers, the constant loud bang rang in my ears even moments after it had been shut. “You seem to talk about her a lot. Do I predict a chance of a relationship in the near future?” I said with a dopey grin on my face. It was nice talking to Will at school. Sure he was considered ’the big man on campus’, what with him being the captain of the swimming team not to mention a senior, but in a strange sibling sort of way we were considered equals. Will was the only one in the entire student population at this school that truly understood me for me. Well, maybe not the only one. I quickly thought of how Arianna had been so nice to me yesterday. I could certainly see us being friends in the long run. 
As I snapped out of my thoughts, I realized that Will had no comment on Julia. He just simply grabbed onto my arm (rather tightly I might add) and led me towards the cafeteria; even though as mentioned I could get there just fine on my own. 
I knew immediately when we had reached the cafeteria. Every voice had turned into a cascading echo that bounced off the walls and vibrated into my ears. All the shrieks and giggles seriously gave me a headache. You definitely could say I was used to a more quiet setting, like my house for instance.
Will must have seen the annoyed strain on my face (what with my nose scrunched up and eyes in slits) since the next thing he did was move in closer to me and whisper into my ear, “Still not used to the noise of your fellow peers I see.” 
I just smiled and chuckled, “You could certainly say so.” 
I noticed we were still standing still and had not yet walked into the vast unknown that was the plastic tables, chairs and the student body, I jokingly asked Will, “Are we waiting for some sort of mysterious valet I don’t know about?”
No reaction. It was as if Will had suddenly seen Medusa and was frozen in stone or something. Taking matters into my own hands, I slightly leaned to the right where Will stood, which caused him to lose his balance and trip on himself. Well based on the screeching sounds of shoes scuffing against the ceramic flooring anyway. I even spooked Bear a little, his paws inching slightly to the left.
“What was that for?” Will asked, once he regained his footing and stood next to me once again.
“So we could I don’t know, eat our lunch within this century perhaps.” I replied.
“Oh…right.”  Will muttered. He began to walk forward to what I assumed was his usual lunch table.
While the two of us and Bear walked, I could hear snippets of different conversations being said at each table.
“That Calculus test was absolutely brutal. I swear, Mrs. Zimmers has it out for me.”
“…I know I couldn’t believe she said that to you! What a-”
“Did Mr. Jones look extra pissed today to any of you? And what’s with all the plaid? Is he trying to look like a lumberjack?” 
I silently laughed to myself at the last comment someone had said. I was glad that I hadn’t been the only one that thought Mr. Jones seemed a bit off today. He practically almost chewed my head off for almost dropping one of the rocks in today’s lab. Fortunately, Lewis was able to grab it before it fell and cracked in two on the floor. Lewis told me that Mr. Jones had sent a glare my way, complete with an exaggerated sigh. I’m sorry but I’m not just going to let Lewis do all the work. I’m not helpless you know.
After we walked further down the cafeteria, Will, Bear and I had finally reached our ‘designated’ table. Will did not hesitate in the slightest in helping me find a place to sit. 
He set his backpack down beside him, grabbed both of my hands and brought them towards the plastic table so I would be able to feel what’s in front of me. 
Both Will and my Mom had always been very cautious of me, and that definitely hadn’t changed over the years as I had become more accustomed to being blind. 
“Will, I got it!” I yelled as I grabbed my hands away from his grasp. I heard Bear’s dog tags jingle out of concern, and from the way Will jumped back in surprise, I could tell he was a bit taken aback from this bold statement of mine as well.
“You sure?” The way he said it, plus with how his presence loomed over me like I was a little kid he was looking after, made me that more annoyed with him. 
“Yes Will, I’m fine,” I responded, heavy edge included. 
“Okay jeez, just wondering.” Will stated. He quietly slinked down into the stool (of course) next to me. Actually it was quite funny, watching as Will tried to scoot his way to the left of me;  Bear did a nice job of blocking half of it, what with his huge head in the way and everything. Bear let out a low annoyed growl Will’s way as he fiddled around on top of the plastic stool.  
Oh boy would I have loved to see that. But Will’s constant moving and nudging elbows with me as he dealt with his broad built shoulders in the itty bitty space he was provided sufficed well enough.
After a few beats of awkward pauses and Bear panting below my feet, Will spoke up once again.
“So who did you sit with yesterday?”
“Oh, well-” But before I gave my brother an answer, I was cut off.
“Hey Will, you will not believe what I just heard from James!” It was a male voice and sounded vaguely familiar, I knew I had heard this boy before, but where?
Without any hesitation or acknowledgement from Will to join us, this boy took a stool directly across from Will, banging his shoes against the metal bars that was 
adjoined on the table in the process. Based on the loud plop that was heard on one of the plastic stools across from Will and I, it seemed that the boy without a care in the world had thrown his five pound, heavy as a brick backpack on top of it, which probably cracked the thin material in the process. 
I noticed that he didn’t even realize I was there, what with the way the table creaked as he leaned so close to Will he could practically sneak a quick kiss his way. 
“First, move your face about two feet away from mine,” Will said to whomever had now interrupted our proximity. “Second, hello to you too, Ben.”
At that exact moment, I immediately knew who was standing before us now. 
His name was Ben Wood and was one of Will’s closest friends. At least that’s what I figured based on the way my brother mentioned his name constantly during daily dinner conversations. Or how I‘ve heard Ben‘s loud and obnoxious voice echo throughout the house while I would be cooped up in my room like a little hermit crab. Like Will, Ben also was on the swimming team, and could probably be just as successful as he was, if Ben hadn’t been such a jokester. But again that’s Will’s word against mine. 
“Oh whoa, you.” Ben said suddenly.
I only assumed the ‘you’ he referred to was me. 
Will confirmed this assumption by saying, “And you guessed it Laurels, he’s pointing at you.”
Having no clue what exactly to say let alone do, I did the first thing that came to mind. Which was I grabbed the brown paper bag containing my lunch out of my purse, which had taken up space in my messenger bag for the past ten minutes now.
An awkward pause took place between the three of us.
I fumbled with the little baggie containing my baby carrots, Will tapped his shoes on the cafeteria tiles, which caused Bear to awake in surprise under me, and Ben probably was wondering what the hell I was doing there in the first place.
“Laurel right?” Ben asked. 
I nodded my head to respond, mainly because for that brief moment I lost all ability to speak. That and I was caught in mid-chew as I ate my ham sandwich. Hey, just because I couldn’t see body gestures, didn’t mean I couldn’t do them myself. 
“Cool, and you just transferred here?” 
For a guy that seemed like your average slacker, he made good conversation. 
I sent another nod his way.
“What are you mute, too?”
Now I was really speechless. My eyes bugged out from the remark and my jaw dropped like I was in a kid’s cartoon, 100 percent dramatic and animated. It’s funny how your facial expressions would automatically change based on what someone had said, done or even heard.
Suddenly, the table slightly jostled from movement underneath. 
“OW!” Ben yelled out. “What the hell!?” 
“That’s what you get for being a dick.” Will said, letting out a small hint of a chuckle along with it. 
Leaning towards me, he whispered in my ear, “Just so you know…I kicked him.”
Following in suit, I whispered back, “Yeah, I got that based on Ben’s shrieking.”
Will brought his hand to my wrist and gave it a tight squeeze. 
I knew exactly what this meant. Ever since I became blind, Will and I had created our own way of communicating to one another if you will. If one of us agreed on something the other said, we would translate it through touch to one another. I projected a small smile Will’s way.
“Hey I heard that! I don’t shriek!” Ben said, as he banged his hands on the table, which caused quite a stir.
“Aw, is Benny-Wenny having a problem?” 
The person who spoke, a girl, was directly behind Ben, given the spot Ben sat sitting at the table. Based on the way she spoke, she definitely knew she was a leader. That people would bow down to her at a simple command. Noting her venomous yet sultry-sweet line she fed Ben, I figured out just exactly who this girl was.
“Julia?” I muttered, which I hoped was under my breath.
Wrong. She had heard me. 
Next thing I knew, Julia took the stool right across from me, slammed her tray full of god knows what kind of food down on the table and had grabbed my hands and placed them in hers. Why you ask? I have no idea.
“Oh my goodness!? You’re Laurel? I’ve heard so much about you from Will!”
Her hands, which were silky smooth to the touch in comparison to my slightly cracked as a sidewalk hands, gripped them so hard I could feel the blood immediately circulate to my fingertips. 
Words escaped me at that moment. I knew that this girl was Julia Simmons, feared yet loved by all. And if Will seemed to like her, then I should, too. Right? 
Fortunately, Will answered for me. “Umm…yeah.”
It took me a moment or two to buck up the courage to say anything. It’s amazing how self-conscious and nervous I was when placed in this bizarre world known as high school. “What exactly are you doing?’
Julia’s hands were still wrapped around mine. My clammy hands probably created a small puddle-like barrier of sweat between both of our palms.
All Julia did in response was, slowly massage her thumbs deeper into my skin, which sent a chill down my spine.
Would it be considered rude if I pulled away from this extremely awkward moment? Probably.
“Blind people communicate by touch right?” Julia replied. Her nasally high pitched voice reminded me that of a dimwitted, Jersey Shore obsessor, manicure every other week, kind of girl. And heck she probably was. 
I made a note to myself that I would ask Will later tonight what hair color Julia had. She better not be a blonde; I wouldn’t want her contributing to the “dumb blonde” stereotype. 
I heard Will let out a small chuckle under his breath. I couldn’t help but laugh as well.
Having no idea how I should respond, “I mean yeah we use our other senses to um, compensate for our lack of sight, but…” I noticed I fumbled quite a bit with my words. Could you blame me? This girl, supposedly ruled the school around here. If I made a fool of myself in the tiniest bit, my public high school career would be over before it even started. I jimmied my hands out of Julia’s tight hold and placed them squarely on my side of the table before I continued with, “you don’t have to physically touch me to talk to me.” 
“Oh,” Julia let out a laugh that was across between a schoolgirl giggle and a snort. “Got it. Sorry.” From the way her voice sounded, it seemed that she had brought her hands to her mouth in shock.
It was almost as if she was a little kid that had just learned that Pocahontas had been an actual person, and not just a Disney film. 
Will’s presence leaned closer to mine, his broad shoulders bumping up against mine. His barely there tiny whiskers of a beard tickled my ear as he whispered, “She doesn’t get it.” 
I tried my best to hold in a laugh, by biting down hard on the straw of my juice box.
Ben must have noticed our “sibling communication” because after he dropped his greasy cheeseburger on his tray (which might I add smelled really good, based on the aromas that wafted in my direction), he chimed in with, “If you’re talking about how Julia and Laurel looked like they were about to get it on; I concur.” 
My nose wrinkled from not only the sheer randomness that had come from Ben’s mouth but also just…the thought. How could that even cross his mind? 
Will, Julia and I both let out a unison “Ew.”
I lowered my head to make it seem that I was more focused on my lunch (which by now was almost finished) then on the actual conversation.
Julia just tapped her manicured nails onto the table, the urgent sounding noise reminded me of when Bear always trotted from one room to another. “You would say that, ya pervert.”
I just smiled along as I devoured my last baby carrot and started to scrunch up my paper bag into the tiniest ball it could be.
After a couple of chews of food and useless banter of the next sporting event, I noticed things had become rather quiet at the table.
I got my answer the second I felt Julia swivel in her stool across from me. A low groan even escaped her mouth.
“Speaking of…”
Julia must have pointed to someone in the cafeteria because both Ben and Will’s stool moved as well, leaving me completely in the dark…literally. 
“What? What is it?” I said amongst everyone.
Julia continued to mention her distaste to whomever her and the others were looking at. “Why is she even still going here? It’s not like she has any friends here.”
I was really intrigued now. Who on earth could Julia be talking about. “Um,” I muttered as soft as a mouse, “Who are you talking about?”
Julia who previously was rustling around in her humongous bag looking for who knows what, halted the second I asked the question.
As did everyone to be honest. It was as if the ’mysterious’ person they were gossiping about moments prior was Voldemort and I was a young Harry Potter, completely unaware of the goings of the world around me. 
“Oh um, Arianna. Arianna Cromwell.” Julia said this with a slight crack in her voice. 
My eyes bugged out and my heart pitter-pattered like a techno drum beat. The way they all reacted to just how she walked into the room reminded me of the earlier conversation Will and I had last night at dinner.
“I’ve just heard some things…” Will had said.
What things? I knew that this was my opportunity to find out just what those ‘things’ were exactly.
I placed my hands on top of one another as if I was in a professional business meeting. This was my odd way of preparing myself to ask the question I was dying to ask.
But it turned out I didn’t have to. It didn’t take long for Julia to touch my arm from across the table to get my attention and ask, “Do you know who she is?”
“Um,” I had absolutely no idea how to respond. If I said yes, would I automatically be ridiculed by everyone? I took a deep breath and said, “Not really. We have English class together, but…that’s it.”
I could feel the lie seeping in my skin like it was radiation. 
Will lightly kicked my shin underneath the table. He obviously knew the truth.
But in my defense I had only known her for one day. So it’s not like we were best friends or anything.
Julia knocked me out of my thoughts. “Okay, then how come at the second she saw you she smiled at you?”
“She knows you’re blind right?” Ben stated, as he chomped on a crunchy chip. 
Will must have thrown an ‘you’re an idiot’ stare to match his comment, “Thanks for pointing out the obvious.”
All of this was too much. I was still used to sitting in my brightly lit kitchen, with my laptop, books and Bear underneath me.
At least something was still the same. I felt Bear’s soft fur as I rubbed my foot against his torso to make sure he was still there. Even though he was a certified seeing eye dog, I always worried about him from time to time.
I plopped my elbows on the table, as I rested my head on the palms of my hands. “Of course she knows I’m blind. And I don’t know, maybe she just likes me?” The more I spoke the more hesitant I had become.
“Well, let’s hope not. Otherwise, you’re next.” Julia said. I noticed now she seemed bored, like she was so over this conversation.
A shiver went down my spine. “Next? What do you mean next?”
Julia moved her body closer to mine so she could whisper the following statement to me, “Oh, you’ll see.” 
I’ll see, what does that even mean? I thought to myself.
 
Chapter 4: The Invitation to Normality
I was relieved to finally reach my locker when my last class had ended. Before reaching into my messenger bag to get my lanyard full of keys to open said locker, I took this moment to listen to my peers.
A group of girls further on down my locker bank row were found giggling to themselves. About what I hadn’t the slightest idea. Add that to the ever-growing list of being blind; you never know if someone is making fun of you right in front of your face or if they simply were just gawking at a celebrity’s horrendous choice of fashion in a magazine. 
I lowered my head to the ground and sighed to myself; I always assumed the former.
Before I could take a moment to wallow in my self pity, the locker to the right of me banged loudly; someone was there. And I knew just exactly who that someone was.
“Hey Will,”  I said to him, no surprise in my tone of voice whatsoever. 
“How’d you know it was me?”
“Oh please,“ I said, while I tried to figure out which key belonged to my locker, “I can hear you coming a mile a
way.” 
Will must have seen the smirk I attempted to stifle. “Hey, it’s not my fault I was given the gift of loud foot strides and broad shoulders!” 
It took me a moment to comprehend what he had just said. Sometimes, I don’t know how we’re related. 
As I felt the grooves of each unique key brush up against my fingers in a colossal wave, I realized (thanks to my brother’s self absorbing comment) that I had lost count of which key went to the lock on my locker. “First off, don’t think so highly of yourself, it’s annoying. Second: thanks for making me lose count.” I held up the keys and gave them a quick jingle for further emphasis. 
Bear’s paws moved slightly on the linoleum floor. He probably thought something exciting was about to happen that involved my keys. He has come to realize that me pulling out my keys meant we were going somewhere. 
I lowered the keys down, so not to confuse Bear anymore then I probably already was. Still maneuvering them between my fingertips, I tried once again to locate the correct key for my locker.
Will must have seen my struggle, because he placed his hands on top of mine over the keys and said, “Need some help?”
Like a roly-poly, I curled my hands around the keys, keeping them from Will’s grasp. “No, I can do this.”
It was then I felt Will’s hand leave mine. He followed with, “Fine. Do it yourself, big girl!”
I nodded my head upward in a smug child-like manner. “Thank you.”
“You can’t see it but I’m folding my arms at you, waiting ever so patiently.”
I chuckled with a hint of nervousness. “You do know you’re not helping in the slightest, right?” Trying my hardest to block out Will’s presence, I focused at the task at hand: finding the correct key so I could finally open my locker.
What should be a simple task for others, was easier said then done for me. Not only were there quite a few keys strung on the metal ring, but keys generally were the same size. Over the years, I’ve learned tricks to tell each key apart, but it took a lot of focus and memorization. 
Tiny key. Tiny key. Tiny key, I kept repeating to myself, keeping the visual image of what I was looking for fresh in my mind. 
It was almost as if my lanyard full of keys was a children’s carousel ride. Around and around the keys would go, where the right one was…I didn’t know. 
I let out a sigh of frustration. After several more turns around the ‘merry go round of keys’, tucked in between my house keys was the tiny metal culprit I had now been looking for a good five minutes.
A squeal of excitement escaped my mouth while Will just breezily said, “About time.” It’s quite humorous how such little and ordinary activities to some, mean the world to me. What could take a mere few seconds, could take five or ten minutes at times.
After I placed the key in the lock, and had gathered the materials I would need for that night, the two of us and Bear made our way out of the school building to head to Will’s car.
While we walked to Will’s Subaru, I noticed Will had gotten a firm grip on my arm, as if he was a cop and I was a thief getting arrested. 
“Will, you don’t need to direct me every which way, you know that right?”
“Well, the campus is still new to you and let’s face it, half of the student body are complete idiots.” As we continued to make our way to the car, I assumed based on the lack of conversation between us, that Will was viewing said student population.
After much inner protest of having Will treat me like a child, I dug my elbow deep into his side, which immediately caused him to let go of my arm. He also let out a loud groan of pain. 
“Oh, god damn it, Laurel! What the hell?”
I just chuckled softly and spread a satisfactory smile on my face. “You know I hate it when you man-handle me and go all Dad-like on me, leading me in a direction. That’s what Bear’s for. I noticed Will was rubbing his now probably aching side with his hand. His clothing meshed together creating a sound.
“A little bit of warning would have been nice. Jeez.”
While, Will was freaking out like a nine year old and I was acting rather pleased with myself, the two of us didn’t even notice someone was now standing before us. 
They had to clear their throat to get our attention.
I looked up at the sound and I assumed Will did the same.
“Sorry to interrupt,” they said, who Will and I recognized as Julia (her high on helium voice was a dead giveaway), “I just wanted to give you these.” 
She deliberately hands whatever it is to Will and not me, aware that it wouldn’t be of any use to me…not to her anyway. 
“What is it?” I asked Will. 
“Party at Ashton Wilkin’s. Friday. Be there,” he read aloud for me. 
It’s an invitation, to a party? And I was invited? 
“You’re inviting me?” I said in shock, as I brought a hand to my chest for clarity. 
“Well yeah,” Julia stated to me, her tone sounding genuine. “You’re new and I figured this would be a great opportunity for you to meet people.”
I made sure to send a smile her way. 
After a brief pause, Julia started speaking, this time with heaps more amount of giggling. “Plus, Ashton Wilkins is the cutest and most popular boy in school. You‘re going to just melt when you see him.”
“Ahem.” Will cleared his throat, either for jokes or to try to be a protective brother again…I couldn’t tell.
Julia ignored Will. Instead she lightly cupped her hand around my shoulder (still thinking that touching was a thing when talking to blind people I guess) and said, “I really hope you guys come.”
And with that, Julia walked away from us, to probably invite even more people to this guy Ashton’s party.
Will and I just stayed in our tracks for a few moments. Even though the two of us didn’t speak to one another just now, I knew that he was contemplating this recent news just as much as I was.
“Think Mom’s gonna go for it?” He asked me, breaking the silence between us. 
“Only one way to find out.” I replied. 
        It was then that the two of us and Bear continued to trek to Will's car.
 
 
 
Current Mood: cheerful