Attention

"Oh, Isabella, I'm sure you'll just love your new school!"

Veronica was on it again. It was my first day of school, we'd just moved here three days ago, and I'd lost my best friend a week ago. My best friend, gone. Sometimes, I just can't believe the nerve she has. I rolled my eyes. We were in the car; she was driving Kimberley to school first, then me. I slouched in the front seat, a groan escaping my throat. Her eyes flickered off the road for a second. She was glaring at me.

"Watch where you're going!" I screamed. The freeway divider was getting painfully closer every second. We swerved out of the way just in time.

Kim was humming in the backseat ignorantly. She was clutching onto her vibrant pink backpack as if it was valuable. It was completely empty.

We stopped in the parking lot of her school. Veronica stepped out, holding Kim's hand. She walked her to her class.

The keys were in the ignition. The keychain was shaking slightly. I turned it one degree, then pressed the power button on the radio. Music pulsed through the car. I clicked once more, and the CD in the stereo began spinning. A thick low woman's voice played now. The sound that could only be obtained from years of chain smoking. I smiled, leaning back.

I heard the car door open. Veronica's face was red. My head cocked to the side. She was angry, and I had no idea why. When did I ever really know why? Hmm, whatever.

"You know, everyone in the school can hear that." She flung herself through the door. She was furious. I still couldn't understand. "It's ruining you. That," she pointed to the stereo, "is ruining you." The punched the off button before I could even protest. She snapped the keys to ignition, and then we were moving.

Cars were honking all around us. Veronica was an awful driver, as noted earlier. I heard a kind of buzzing sound to my left. Then I realized it was Veronica, finishing a sentence.

"What?"

"You just keep getting prettier and prettier every day. You know that?"

"I don't know how you can say that, because you definitely don't see me everyday. And, yesterday? Oh my God, I was so ugly then. And, boy, last week was pretty bad too. So, it's kind of a day to day thing."

"That's not funny, Isadora."

She was chiding me. How dare she chide me.

"Yeah, I know. Just like when you had to claw your way out of your wedding veil. Because it hated you just as much as I do, so it decided to get a life and strangle you. That just wasn't funny either." Sarcasm was my greatest tool when talking to Veronica.

"Isabelle! That's not funny!" her voice was raising noticeably.

"Isa." I pointed out lightly. "I thought it was hilarious, actually."

"It's not funny!" she screamed, slamming her hands on the steering wheel. The car blared, the loud honk unnerving the people around her. I widened my eyes. We were at school.

I opened the door quickly, grabbed my bookbag, and slammed the door behind me. I lowered my gaze. People were watching me. It was awful. This was how I'd be known at school, the girl whose mom honks for no apparent reason. My face flushed. I was going to be late for class, too.

I took a seat in the back of my first class as fast as I could. I shuffled with my bag, pulling out a pen and a notebook. I started doodling on the pages. Anything to take my mind off of this morning. I silently wished for the day to be over.

"Um…" I heard from above me. I looked up at the boy in front of me. He was tall and lanky, with large hazel eyes. His hair was messy. He looked like he'd just gotten out of bed, put on a clean pair of pants, and then went to school. But there was something weird about it. He had a weird look on his face.

"Hi?" I hadn't meant for it for to be a question. It just came out that way. I mean, why would someone want to talk to me unless they wanted to tell me how my "mom" had scared their senile grandmother, who happened to be in the car on the drive to school that day, into heart failure. I don't want to be blamed.

"You're in my seat." He shuffled a little closer to the desk I was sitting in. I sighed, relieved that his grandmother's death wasn't on my hands.

"Oh," I said, composing myself, "there's assigned seating?"

"Uh," He seemed embarrassed. He kicked the leg of the table, "no, but I always sit here." People were filing into the classroom now. He was staring at me, as if he was expecting me to start doing back flips or something.

"I don't like to sit in the front," I told him. "I don't like the attention."

"Mr. Shinnston is going to bring you up the front and introduce you to everybody anyways." His foot was tapping the linoleum. He seemed very impatient.

"Well, I'd like to keep that attention to a minimum." I leaned back, making my intentions clear. "There's a perfectly nice seat right there." I pointed next to me. "You better sit there before someone takes it."

I could hear him grumbling something as he sat down in the seat on my left. I wasn't going to push it. I was beginning to restart my doodling when the professor came in.

"Hello all!" the teacher burst into the room wearing a smile the size of Jupiter. My jaw dropped, pen falling to the floor. I stooped to grab it as Mr. Shinnston checked roll.

He apparently didn't see me, so I was in the clear for being brought up in class.

Then the unthinkable happened. The boy sitting next to me raised his hand. I glanced over at him.

"Ah, yes. Mr. Davis. You have a question or a comment?"

"Uh, I have an announcement, actually."

I silently glared at him from my seat. He was enjoying this, I could tell.

"Well, please continue." Mr. Shinnston encouraged him. I no longer liked this teacher.

"Mr. Shinnston, you seemed to have forgotten this new girl sitting next to me, whose name has escaped me at the moment."

"Ah! Isa! Class, this is Miss Isa Greene. She moved here from the other Washington, isn't that right?"

I nodded grimly.

"Since class only started a little while ago, I can understand if you guys don't know where you're going either. But, everyone, please try to help her out."

People were turning to smile at me. The boy smirked at me from his desk. I glared at him as I turned away. I tried to hide my face from the eyes examining me, deciding which clique I should be in. I silently wished to die.

Fortunately, the rest of class went fairly quickly, and Mr. Shinnston basically left me alone.

The majority of my class time was spent sketching on either my notebook, or the impeccably clean desktop.

The bell finally rang. As I tried to push my way out, Mr. Shinnston called my name.

"Miss Greene?"

I turned, being knocked in the shoulder by a boy rushing to soccer practice. I rubbed the forming bruise tenderly as I reached his desk.

"Yes, Mr. Shinnston?"

"You have a free period now, is that correct?"

I searched my schedule. I nodded.

"Would you like someone to show you around campus? Just to get a feel for it?"

I contemplated the fastest way to get out of the conversation.

"Sure," I shrugged as I said it. Mr. Shinnston smiled, then turned to face that boy again. My eyes widened. I hadn't even realized he was there.

I started to sidle out of the room again, when I heard Mr. Shinnston call my name again.

"Yes, Mr. Shinnston?"

"You want your tour, right?'

Again, I contemplated.

"Yes." I shrugged again.

"Mr. Davis, please escort Miss Greene around the campus."

"Sure thing, Mr. Shinnston." He smiled and loped toward me. I think my expression must have dramatically changed, because he started to laugh.

"Come on." He said, laying a hand on my back. He gently pushed me out of the classroom.

"Where are we going?"

We obviously weren't going on a normal school tour.

"You'll see."

I was aware of the hand still sitting between my shoulder blades. I started to get uncomfortable. I'm long longer one for personal contact.

"Could you please stop doing that?" I halted in the middle of the empty hallway.

"What?"

"That." I plucked his hand from my back. He looked hurt. "I don't like being touched." I added as an afterthought.

"It wasn't anywhere inappropriate." He said, reaching out to put it back. "Just to help reassure you."

"I know." I blocked his hand. "I just… don't like it."

"But."

"Can we stop talking about this?"

"Okay." He raised his hands in defeat.

I scoffed at how perfect that small gesture was. His eyebrow rose.

"What?' he asked.

"Nothing." I turned and started walking again. I heard him sigh and run to catch up to me. I continued my angry pace, almost jogging as well.

"Why do you hate me so much?" he said as he finally caught up to me. My jaw dropped.

I stopped again, almost tripping with inertia.

"Why do I hate you so much? Ha!" I turned on my heel to face him. "Good joke. As I recall, it was you who pulled all the attention in the classroom to me, Mr. I-Want-My-Seat-Back. And, after all of that, you volunteered to take me on a tour of the school." I flipped back around and stomped off.

"Hold the phone," he grabbed my wrist. I cringed.

"What?" I pulled my hand free and continued stomping.

"I just thought you'd want to get introduced to people. You know, make friends and stuff."

"I," I gestured to myself for effect, "don't make friends. I stay alone."

"Oh, well, I just thought that you might want some friends. Anyways, I volunteered to take you on a tour because I want you to see the cool places. I mean, on a regular tour, you only see, like, a fifth of the school, and it's all the boring places." He chuckled; I glared. "Anyways, I just want to help."

"Sure," We began walking again.

"I'm Owen, by the way."

"Oh, uh, Isa Greene."

"I know." He stopped moving suddenly. "We're here."

I stopped a foot or so in front of him, not wanting to get myself lost. I glanced around.

"Where are we?"

"We just went over this." I shifted my confused gaze to him, racking my name for a name.

"We did?" I said, defeated.

"Yeah, we're here." He made a grandiose gesture on the last word.

I almost growled.

"And that is?"

"We're in the old language. No one comes here, so we're pretty secluded." He seemed reluctant to answer.

"Why would I want to be secluded with you?"

"I don't know. It's just a nice place to be."

"Wait, with you?"

"No, the language quad."

"The secluded language quad?" It was more statement than question.

"That's right."

"In the language quad, no one can hear you scream." I clapped my hands to the sides of my face, dropping my jaw to look surprised. He burst out laughing.

"Though, you never know, you might like being secluded with me." He poked a finger into my rib.

"Ah, no." I took a few steps forward into the clearing. He was right; it was a nice place to be. He sat on a bench nearby. I studied my surroundings, memorizing them.

"So, those are the language buildings?"

"No, they're the old language buildings. No one teaches in them anymore. They're kind of a storage area for old school files. People protested them being demolished because they're old, so they had to keep them around." He patted the spot on the bench next to him.

"That makes sense," I said as I sat down. He was smiling. Whatever.

"So," he shuffled closer to me. I shuffled a little away from him. "You used to live in the other Washington."

"Yeah." He shuffled closer still. I could feel the metal of the armrest biting into my side.

"How'd you like it there?" He stopped moving. His leg was half a foot from mine. Weird.

"It's a lot warmer here. I mean, this weather?" I pointed to the fog above us. "That's July in Washington."

He chuckled. "Well, it's going to get a lot colder."

"Yeah," I smiled, "but I've already got my expedition gear."

He laughed again, louder this time. "It's going to get a lot hotter too."

"I'm sure I can handle coming to school in a bikini in this body. Don't you agree?" We had locked eyes. His smile expanded.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing." He broke the gaze. I frowned. "Anyways, if you want, I can take you to all the cool places in town. I know all the little hangouts."

"No thanks." I smiled, "I'm a hermit, thank you."

"Oh," his smile weakened. "Oh well."

"Maybe some other time. I'm kind of busy right now."

"Okay," his smile perked again. He smiled too much. It annoyed me.

"When does the next class start?" I asked him, glancing around for signs of a clock.

"I don't know. What time is it?"

I don't know." I said, exasperated. "I'm hungry."

"Brunch is next."

"Oh," I said as I rifled my backpack for food. I let out an exasperated moan.

"What?"

"I didn't bring food. Or money."

An awkward pause hung in the air.

"Well, I have a granola bar, if you want it."

"Okay." I said. He pulled it out of his backpack. I snatched it away from him and unwrapped it as fast as I could, then sunk my teeth into it. He laughed again.

"Na-ad?" the sounds all meshed together. Note to self: swallow before speaking. I tried again. "What?"

"Nothing. You just really seem to enjoy it. That's all."

"Well, I'm hungry," I said defensively. I took another bite.

"Okay, can I have some too?"

"No!" I said automatically, before realizing it was technically his. "Fine." I handed it to him. He took a bite, then gave it back. I finished it before he could ask again.

I heard a bell ring. I started to stand.

"Where are you going?" he asked, a smirk on his face.

"I… I don't know."

He leaned back into the bench. I sighed and sat down again.

"Fine," I grumbled. "Where are we going?"

"What's your next class?"

I checked my schedule again.

"Calculus." I nodded.

"Wait, how old are you?"

"I'm a sophomore." I grinned as I said it. "Why?"

"Wow," he said sheepishly. "Well, let's get over there." His face mirrored mine. He stood, then turned to help me up. I groaned, but still let him pull me up by the elbows.

"Okay, I'm up." I said, lightly smacking his hands off of me.

"Okay, jeez." He said, dropping his hold on me. I grinned.

"So, Owen," I said, unable to stop myself from laughing. "Why are you insisting on following me around today?"

"Following?" He glanced over at me. "No. I'm just helping out."

"Right." I said, teasingly. We were nearing a crowded area of the school. Some kind of dread filled me, and I involuntarily reached out my hand. As if Owen was my new Michael. The thought hit me as our hands brushed. I pulled away my hand, the pain almost crippling me. As he turned to look at me, I pretended to study something very interesting on my sleeve. I wiped away a tear before he could see it.

He saw it.

"Hey, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I just got something in my eye. Where are we?" I wiped at my eye some more.

"We're in the quad." I glanced over at him. "The big one." He explained.

"Oh." I nodded as if I knew what he was talking about. We kept walking. I kept glancing over my shoulder at him to make sure I hadn't lost him in the crowd.

"Why do you keep doing that?" he said as soon as we left the quad. I had continued to look over at him every few seconds. I kept seeing Michael out of the corner of my eye where Owen was, and I had to make sure I was still in the right school.

"What?"

"You keep looking at me weirdly."

"Oh, well, if I told you, you'd think I was crazy."

"And that's new?"

"Oh, be quiet." I stopped looking, even though t it was painful to see Michael's silhouette. Finally we reached the class.

"We're here."

"Not this again." I said, turning to face him head on.

"Fine. We're at your Calculus classroom."

"Good boy." I patted his head. He grinned, and started to walk away. "Wait!" I called out. He turned around again. "You'll be here when I get out of class, right?"

He smiled, and nodded. I grinned back at him, then walked into my classroom.

Calculus went really quickly, as did the rest of the day. Owen helped me around campus wherever I needed to go, and laughed at the classes I was in. It was after-school when I realized that Veronica had forgotten about me, and I'd have to walk home. Owen was with me. As usual.

I groaned. Owen didn't hear. I cleared my throat and groaned again, louder this time. He turned.

"What now?"

"I have to walk home."

"Where do you live?"

"Uh," I considered this. "That way, a long ways."

"Wait, past the freeway?"

"Mhmm." I glanced over at him.

"It's going to take you hours to get home."

"Do you have a cell phone?"

"Yeah." He pulled out a sleek, small phone and held it open to me. I took it, then paused. I had no idea what my phone number was. He looked at me, then the phone, then back to me again.

"You don't know what your phone number is, do you?"

I shook my head.

"I can give you a ride…"

"I don't know where my house is."

"Oh. Well, we could go to my house, if you want."

I looked at him.

"Lead the way, Mr. Davis." We grinned at each other.