I walked the hallways of my new school, Hillcrest High. This was my second high school. It should be my last. Dad promised that we would stay for three years. Three years would get me through high school and my first year in college if that promise held up. I wasn’t holding my breath. The longest my dad ever got to stay anywhere was two years. The army always promised more. We never got more. I took in the room numbers, trying to find my new homeroom.
“112… 113… 114… 117… What?” I mumbled to myself, confused. Where was room 115? Finding classrooms should be the easy part. I stopped walking, pulling my backpack off my back to look for my map.
I hit the ground instead, the concrete coming to meet my face at an alarming rate, my hands flung out to catch me. My backpack emptied onto the floor.
“Walk much?” a cool, flat voice said behind me.
I looked behind once I was sure I would not face plant into the floor. The girl was tall, her legs made longer by the chunky heels she wore. Her brown hair was in curls that reached halfway down her back. She was the definition of gorgeous. The kind of girl you would put on the cover of a magazine. Her blue eyes pierced into my brown ones like she was daring me to say something back to her.
Daddy didn’t raise no coward, “All the time. Do you pay attention when you walk, or do you expect everything to move out of your way like Moses when he parted the sea?”
I collected my things, putting them in my backpack, forgetting about organization. I wanted out of this hallway.
“Here, let me help,” a blonde bun was in my face as another pair of hands, threw the rest of my stuff in my backpack.
“Clarissa, we’re good here,” she said.
The brunette, Clarissa I’m guessing, stalked off.
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing the last of my things, the textbooks and zipping my backpack shut.
“I’m Becca, Becca Smith, you’re the new girl. Right?
“That obvious?” I asked.
“Small town. When someone is new, we notice.”
I nodded. I knew I was coming to a small town. It was nice to know it was the ‘everybody has known each other since birth’ kind.
“Where are you headed?”
“Room 115, Ms. O’Connor.”
She gave me the directions; the school … well. Which was my decision based on the directions. She didn’t say that.
“Wait, is that a tattoo or something?” she asked right before I could turn and leave.
“On your wrist, that nine. It’s a tattoo, right? That’s awesome! My parents won’t let me get a tattoo until I’m eighteen. What does it mean?”
“Oh,” I said, pushing my wrist out so she could see it better. “It’s not. It’s just a birthmark.”
“I know it’s weird.”
She nodded her head. The bell rung above our heads, signaling we should be in our homerooms. I didn’t know what to say to her, so I walked away.
That first day was the most eventful day of my week. I got unpacked at home. Becca was in three of my classes and became the first official friend at Hillcrest. I should thank Clarissa, but I would rather wrestle a python than talk to her again.
The one thing I didn’t anticipate coming up was the Sadie Hawkins dance. This dance was my worst nightmare even at a school where I had been there for more than a week. I didn’t understand why there had to be a dance where girls asked the boys. This was empowering? Nope, this was nauseating.
There was one boy, his name was Kurt. We had American Literature together. He was nice to me and we were always talking before the bell rang for class and if there was free time. It also was the one class I had with Clarissa. She sat on the opposite side of the classroom from us and gave me death glares any time I looked her way. Kurt was the goalie on our school’s hockey team. With the dance a few weeks away, I needed to get on the asking someone part.
“Ask him,” Becca said, picking at her burger.
We were at The Habit. It was the place to eat in town. … if you were a teenager since my entire school seemed to always be here. I’m addicted to their fries.
We were a week out from the dance. Everybody was eating before the hockey game tonight. It was my first game. Kurt invited me. Now Becca thinks because he invited me to the hockey game, I should ask him to Sadie’s. Becca had confirmed earlier this week he didn’t have a date. She was getting pushy for me to have a date.
“Look, he’s sitting over there. Go ask him.” She nudged my arm.
I sighed. I could do it and get it over with. I didn’t want to miss out on going to the dance. I also didn’t want to be the weird one without a date.
I glanced over at Kurt. He was looking at me. Our eyes locked. His hand lifted, waving. I stood up, walking over to his table.
“Hi, I have a question for you,” I said.
He raised an eyebrow.
“Want to go to Sadie’s with me?
The one thing I am is direct, like my father. I don’t know how to beat around a bush or tiptoe around a subject no matter how nervous I was. I blurted out what I needed to say. It made things a little easier. At least I didn’t have to stand here trying to build up the courage to ask. I only had to stand here waiting forever for an answer.
“Definitely.” He smiled.
That didn’t take long at all.
“Awesome. I’ll see you at the game. Good luck tonight.” I turned, walking away.
“You have everything?” My dad asked.
I nodded my head. It was Sadie’s night. Kurt and I decided to meet at the school. I grabbed my car keys, told my dad I would be home by curfew and walked out the door.
When I opened my eyes, it was dark. Not dark, dim. I could make out a shadow slumped in a chair on the side of the bed. The bed I was laying in. I took in my surroundings. I had IV’s in my arm. There was a monitor beeping behind me, saying I was alive. I followed the IV lines to the bags-was one of those bags blood? The TV on the wall was on but muted. The figure in the chair was my dad.
“Dad?” I asked, my voice cracking with the single word.
“Stacy!” he woke up.
His hand reached for mine. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to remember but the last thing I could pull up was leaving the house for the dance. The dance! I tried to sit up. I tried to lift my head, but it was too heavy like there was a bunch of sand in it.
“Don’t do that. Don’t. Stacy,” my dad said.
I … looked at my dad, really looked at him. He was crying, tears falling down his cheeks. His eyes were red like this wasn’t his first round of tears.
“Dad. What happened?”
“You had an accident. Someone hit at a stop sign. The details are still fuzzy, the other driver isn’t very corporative. He fled the scene. They found him yesterday.”
“Yesterday? What day is it?”
“Tuesday,” he said.
Tuesday. The dance was on Saturday. I’ve been out for three days.
“I thought I lost you there, Love. The doctors had you in surgery. They said you flatlined, but they brought you back. Don’t you go scaring me like that again, you hear me?”
“Roger,” I replied.
I had so many questions but those could wait. The important thing was that I was alive. I almost wasn’t. I wanted to ask if Kurt knew. If someone told him what happened and that I didn’t stand him up. I didn’t want to ask my dad. I would bet he hadn’t left the hospital since I got here. Most of all, I wanted to remember what happened.
He didn’t leave until Wednesday night. I talked him into going home and going back to work. He was getting antsy. There was only so much TV he could take, and I knew it.
That backfired on me when I got discharged Thursday morning. I would wait for my dad to get off work to get me.
“Hey stranger,” Kurt said from the doorway.
I could feel my explanation about to word vomit out of my mouth. It was on the tip of my tongue.
“I wanted to wait until you were ready to see people to visit but then your dad said you needed a ride. Let’s get you out of here,” he said.
I smiled, thankful my dad called him. I didn’t know Kurt that well, but I didn’t want him to think I stood him up.
Kurt grabbed my bag from my hand, “Huh. That’s weird.”
“What?” I asked.
“This whole time I’ve thought the mark on your wrist was a nine, but now I’m closer, it’s an eight.”
I glanced at my wrist. He was right. My birthmark, where the number nine was for the past seventeen years, was now an eight.