I awake with a jerk. I glance over at my clock. It reads 4:12. I sit up, rubbing my face. It’s the first day at my new school. I still don’t understand why we came here. Everything was perfect in Florida. I had friends, tons of them. I had a life. Florida was the place I had grown up, and I was content staying there. I had only been living in our new house in Michigan for a couple weeks when it started. The fights, the screaming, the crying. It was never like this back home. I get up, creeping around my small room, trying to find my earphones. Finally I find them and plug them into my old iPod. Soft jazz music floods through my eardrums. I climb back into bed and slowly drift to sleep. In my dream I’m flying. I’m soaring above clouds that are drifting calmly across the big blue sky.
I wake up again. This time it’s because my alarm is going off. I sit up and my earphones fall out of my ears. I get out of bed, turn off the alarm clock and walk across the hall to the bathroom. I turn on the faucet. At first the water comes out as a slow trickle but then it gets stronger. I splash water on my face, forming my hands into a cup and drink some of the water. I leave the bathroom, walking as quietly as I can to my room. Once I get there I start getting dressed, I don’t bother trying to find something cute so I throw on the first thing I see, which just happens to be a pair of faded grey sweatpants and a plain light blue t-shirt. I grab my hairbrush and run it through my short, wavy brown hair.
I walk down the stairs and go to the kitchen. I grab a bowl of cereal and eat it quickly, shoveling the Honey Nut Cheerios into my mouth. My mom comes down the stairs. I can tell she’s been crying because her face is red and blotchy. I decide to ignore it. I ignore all of it. There’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t convince her to leave him, she never would. If she had to pick, I bet she would pick him instead of me.
“You almost ready?” she asks me quietly.
“Yeah, one second. I just have to run up and brush my teeth,” I say before I take my last bite of cereal.
“Well don’t take to long, you don’t want to be late on your first day.”
“Don’t worry Mom, we’ll get there on time.”
We pull into the school parking lot and she drops me off. I walk briskly towards the huge high school. Then out of nowhere all the things that could go wrong, all of the many possibilities flash in front of me. As I walk up the steps people stop and point at me, laughing to their friends. I try to stop the tears from rushing down my face. I pinch myself and open my eyes, they are gone.
I am finally inside the school. Luckily I find the principal's office almost immediately. I knock on the door and hear voices talking loudly. I knock one more time and they quiet down quickly. A petite woman opens the door with a complete pink outfit on. She has a pink shirt with a light pink cardigan, a pink hat, a pink skirt, and to complete the whole look she has on matching pink pumps. She smiles at me, her sparkly white teeth glowing in the dim lighting of the office.
“Hello. I’m Ms. Howard. You must be Marika,” she says, making sure to fully enunciate each word.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“I’m going to give you a quick tour of the school, then I will send you on your way to your first class which is...” She checks the paper I gave her. “I believe it’s math.”
I nod to her.
“First we are going to the science room. It’s on the second floor, room number 603b. Then we will go to the English room, which is also on the second floor. Room number 610b.”
Once the tour is over I find myself in the math room. I am thankful that I have already learned the material that is being taught. I tune out the teacher and before I know it I am back inside my head imagining things. I imagine myself standing up in my seat and raising my hand. The teacher looks at me quizzically before calling on me. I open my mouth and let out a high scream. I scream out all the pain. I pinch myself. My head jerks up, everyone is looking around the room at me. Why are they looking at me? Did that really just happen?
“Ms. Coleman? Is there something you would like to say?”
I look up, confused then I see my arm is in the air. “Oh, no I’m good,” I say quickly. “Sorry.” The bell rings loudly and we are dismissed back into the hectic hallways full of kids.
I grab my pencil and notebook as I hurry out of the classroom. I walk to the lockers and take out my schedule. I hear someone walk up behind me. “Hey. You’re Marika, right?”
I turn around to see a short girl with long, straight, reddish hair. Her huge brown eyes gaze up at me. “I’m Dawn. I just came here last year from Florida,” she says.
“Oh! Wow. That’s so cool! I’m from Florida, too,” I reply as I gather up the rest of my notebooks.
“Where did you live in Florida?” she asks curiously.
“I came from Fort Myers. What about you?”
“Oh, I’m from right around there.”
“Okay, I have to go, I don’t want to be late for class. But it was really nice to meet you!” I say.
“Okay, see you around.”
The next day I wake up about an hour before my alarm and I cannot go back to sleep. So I lie in my bed waiting for it to be morning. Sometimes I have this recurring dream where I’m at this big cottage in the woods. I’m there by myself, all alone. Then out of nowhere there are people attacking me. And there is no one there to help me. The dream always ends with me dying. I started to have the dream when we had moved to our small town in Michigan. I had never seen a cottage like the one in the dream in real life before. But whenever I have the dream it’s always so familiar. Later it occurred to me that maybe I had really only had the dream once but part of the dream was me thinking I had been there before even though I really never had. But now that I think about it that doesn’t really make any sense, so I don’t know. My mind is weird like that.
Finally it is 6:00 and my alarm is going off. I quickly shut it off, get out of bed, and start getting dressed. I get ready with an amazing speed, and by 6:30 I am dressed, I have eaten breakfast, brushed my teeth, and my lunch is packed. Usually I would just get lunch from school but I figured I had extra time, and I didn’t want to waste that time by thinking about this dream and worrying about what could happen during the school day.
I sit at the end of the stairs; my backpack slung over one shoulder. My dark blue nail polish is peeling off and I worry that people will notice it and judge me. Before I know it I have subconsciously peeled off the remaining half of nail polish. There, much better, I think to myself. I check my watch. It says 6:55. This isn’t good. Why isn’t Mom up? We need to leave by 7:00 if I’m going to be on time. And I need to be. I slowly walk up the stairs. I reach the room and knock loudly. “Mom, wake up. We need to leave.” There’s no response. “Mom! Come on! I don’t want to be late.” Nothing. I knock louder. “MOM, wake up!”
I hear muttering and rustling in the room. The door opens. “Okay. I’m up, I’m up,” she says, mid yawn.
“Mom, what happened to your alarm? Did it not go off?”
“Yeah. I must’ve accidentally turned it off instead of snoozing it.”
“Oh. Okay, we need to go now or we’re going to be late.”
“I’m sorry, honey, but I feel really sick. Can you just take the car and drive yourself?” It will be quicker so you won’t have to worry so much about being on time.”
“Okay, sure Mom.”
“Bye. Have a good day honey.”
“I will. Bye.” I run down the stairs and grab the car keys off the wooden hook. I never really drove that much back home but I did get my license. I unlock our small scuffed black Subaru and start the car. I go through all the steps in my head that my driving teacher taught me. I check all the things I need to check. I look behind me and start driving. In the beginning I’m scared, going way too slowly, but after a little while I calm down and it’s almost fun. I turn on the radio and I feel a smile forming on my face. I miss this. I miss the freedom, the exhilaration of all of it. Then I hear a low grumble coming from the car. I turn down the radio curiously. Then there’s nothing, I assume it’s just the radio and turn it back up again. I’m almost to the school when I hear it again. I ignore it at first, but then I hear a loud crash. The windshield cracks and a small piece of glass carves itself into my arm. I yelp in pain. The car stops and then everything is still. I blink slowly. This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, I tell myself but it’s no use because it is happening. I pinch myself and open my eyes, I’m still here. I open the driver’s door and get out, trying to see what caused all of this. Overall the car looks bad but not horrible. There’s a thin crack snaking up the windshield, but other than that there's not any major problems with the car that I can see. “Oh my God,” I say when I see it. There’s a body. I hit someone. I immediately look around. I’m not on a busy road and there's no one else around. I cautiously walk closer to the body. It looks like it’s breathing but I really can’t tell for sure. I’m just going to have to believe that they are. I walk back to the car and get inside. I sit there for a moment. My arm is throbbing harder now. I grit my teeth and grab the small piece of glass embedded into my arm. I pull it out as quickly as I can. The pain blinds me but after a long five seconds it’s not so bad. I put the key in the ignition and surprisingly the car starts. I think of all the things I could do, I could call the police telling them that someone was hit and just make sure to leave by the time that they get there, I could just leave assuming that they are alive and that someone has heard all of this and will call 911. I do the latter and drive off, not letting myself think about what just happened.
Before I know it I’m back home and the place where the small piece of glass had gotten into my arm is still aching. I put the car in park and take the keys out. I pause, just sitting there trying to take it all in. I let all my muscles collapse and I stop moving. My heart beats quickly and I try to catch my breath but it’s impossible. I’m having a panic attack. My vision flashes white and suddenly I am standing at the wreck again. There is a shroud of fog blocking me from seeing where the man lies. I call to him, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” There is no response. I open my eyes to see the shattered windshield. I step out of the car shakily and force my legs to carry me inside.
There was no way to tell that anything had happened other than the crack in the windshield. I sigh, grab my backpack, and head into the house.