I never saw him again for the rest of the summer, but on the first day of school there he was, yelling out my name as I broke the gate.
I didn't take long for me to spot him in the courtyard, because he was waving at me like a lunatic. With him were a group of kids that I assumed were his friends.
"This is the guy I was telling you about," I heard him say to them as I approached.
I nodded at him, and then at each of them. The first was a girl standing on his left. She had blonde hair the rode in waves down her shoulders, and blue eyes that reminded me briefly of Becka. From the way she was leaning on his arm, I decided to assume that she was his girlfriend and thought Why not? They both seem to be those prom royalty types. On his right stood a boy and a girl who looked strikingly alike. They both had the same black eyes and tiny nose. Apart from their hair – she had fine black hair and he had a colorful mesh of cheap dye – and gender, there was nothing much that would make it appear that they were different people.
"Yeah?" I asked.
"Where 're ya going, Charlie?"
It was a damn good question. As I walked through the gate, my mind was nowhere near where I was going next; I was too busy looking around, thinking about how un-natural the kind of tranquility I witnessed was for high school. Come to think of it, that was probably why he called me over; I could easily imagine how I would seem lost.
"To class I guess," I lied. I still hadn't made up my mind about where I wanted to be.
The girl on his arm giggled, but then suppressed it when I turned to her. Resisting the urge to ask her what the hell she was giggling about, I turned back to Sean.
"Well I thought you'd want to hang with us cool kids," he said with a dangerous amount of sarcasm in his tone. "But since you've got, what, class? At seven thirty…"
Both girls giggled this time, and I grinned.
"Well new kid—lot of catching up to do." I said. I was about to turn when the black haired girl spoke in her tiny voice.
"So I heard your mom died…" The boy who looked like her nudged her gently.
I stared at her, forced to really observe her this time. She seemed to be a big fan of make-up. She wore pale blush and dark eyeliner. She had cherry lipstick and eye shadow that nearly matched it. She was paper thin, so thin that I actually joked to myself that she would snap in half if someone pressed onto her too much. Being as thin as she was, it was hard to sport a figure, but she did sufficiently so for me to notice the slight curve of her hips which her jeans hugged gracefully, and her cleavage was enough to make any man give a second glance. I imagined she was the product of Victoria's Secret ads and fashion magazines, the type I would usually try to ignore. But even as she insulted me with her tactlessness, I found myself intrigued by her for a reason not yet clear to me.
Sean must have thought that I was about to say something hurtful—fair, I thought, as I considered the way I must have been staring at her—because he immediately cut in as I was about to ask what her name was.
"So what does the new kid do besides steal my pond and draw pictures?" He asked with a rather jumpy tone which led me to believe that he was amusing himself.
"Beat sarcastic people up?" I suggested, only half-joking.
"Like to see you tr—"
"He's an artist?" I thought I heard his girlfriend whisper.
That was a new one. I couldn't remember ever being called an artist before, but then, not even my own father knew about my favorite aptitude.
"He sketches," Sean whispered back.
The blonde girl turned to me and stared for a while. I knew that stare; it might have come from scores of different people, but I could always recognize that look in their eyes when I saw it. The way her eyes moved up and down, tracing from my chest to my crotch, only confirmed my suspicion further.
"Can you do portraits?" she asked.
I glanced at Sean and noticed he had a stupid grin plastered on is face, blissfully unaware that his girlfriend was trying to undress me with her eyes.
"Nah, don't think so," I said, deciding it would be best not to get into a quarrel over another guy's girl on my first day.
"C'mon, better than moping around in class, right?" This time it was Sean.
The blonde had stopped staring, and had her arms wrapped around him. She was nibbling on his ear, paying no notice to me. It was like the whole thing never happened.
"And besides, you should think about making friends 'round here," Sean said. His voice cut suddenly into my perplexed trance.
I shook my head stupidly, and then chuckled. Where did he get off talking to me like I was some kind of five year old brat who couldn't make friends for himself? Did he have any idea who I was?
Of course not. I thought. To him I'm just the guy who moved in down the street whose mom died.
I decided to ignore it, for now, and unbuckled my bag, pulling out my sketchbook and a pencil. Sticking the pencil between my teeth I flipped through the sketchbook to a blank page, while I nodded at the twins to get closer to the couple.
"I'm gunna do all of you," I explained.
It took a while for them to understand what I was saying, but when they did, the group huddled together and plastered awkward smiles on their faces, as though they were getting ready to take a photograph. I snapped the pencil from between my teeth and made the first light stroke.
"You know, you don't all have to smile," I said. "It's gunna take a while."
It certainly did, and by the time I was done I was somewhat happy that the blonde girl had asked for the portrait in the first place. It was one of my best sketches yet; I had managed to squeeze them all in on the sideways sheet. The mango tree and study sheds in the background shared the spotlight with fine detail. For a brief moment I hoped the others wouldn't notice this—"you made us stand there all this time so you could draw trees?" they would ignorantly say—but then I decided I didn't give a flying hoot what they thought; I was doing that blonde one a favor.
I got to my feet—I had resigned to the ground about five minutes in—and slowly began tearing out the leaf. I handed it to Sean's girlfriend, and soon they all huddled around it. I felt a sudden wave of self-consciousness come over me as they did that. I examined their faces for the slightest change, something that would tell me whether they liked it or not.
The first I noticed was the rainbow-haired twin. He was scowling.
"My sister's boobs are not that big," he muttered, giving me a harsh stare.
Next to him, I noticed a brief smirk flash on Sean's face, as though he were thinking: yeah, they kinda are.
Pervert, I thought, but my mind snapped back with a you too.
The sister herself was red-in-cheek, and I could have sworn I saw her steal a glance down there as if to see for herself.
Shit. I didn't draw them that big did I? I found myself thinking.
As if she were reading my mind, she flashed me a smile. In my world, that smile meant "Don't worry about it; they probably look better this way, anyways". I found myself swallowed by the black pits that supposedly fell into her soul. There was just something about this girl.
"I like it," she said. I had never seen her lips move. Those lips, bright red and so plump… "Although, you kinda gave the mango tree a lot of detail, think so?"
I felt myself blushing but I couldn't stop it.
"I'll remember to give you a bland background next time." I said with a grin.
"Who ever said anything about a next time?" Her brother muttered.
I grabbed my bag and re-stuffed my supplies.
"Well, I'll see you around," I said to the group before turning away.
"Hey wait." It was Sean. "You can hang out with us if you'd like, you know. Least we could do…"
I turned suddenly and stared at him furiously. I wanted to snap at him, ask him "For what?" Ask him if because my mother died he felt he and his pack of friends had to play nice to me. Ask him if he was the homo, just for fun. Yet somehow, none of that came out. Nothing came out, actually. I just softened my expression and glanced between the group of friends: from the frowning emo kid, who effectively avoided my gaze; to his busty sister; to the annoyingly friendly prom king; and his prom queen. I stared at this group of people, subconsciously aware that although I didn't know their names, I knew they were going to be a big part of my life whether I liked it or not.
I just wasn't sure which one it was.