A small calico cat pushed the bedroom door open with its head. It smoothly entered the room through the crack between the door and the wall, and walked over the light carpet floor, over to the double bed in the corner. The cat wasn't very fond of the soft floor, but the bed was another story. It took a swift jump up onto the end of the bed, and started walking over to the pillow, careful not to step on the legs under the blanket. First when it reached the pillow could it touch the sleeping teenager by swinging its tail in her face.
The sudden fur from the cat tail woke up seventeen-year-old Caroline Wethey. She quietly yawned as her cat meowed at her to wake up. To the cat's disappointment, Caroline dragged the blanket over her shoulder instead of getting up. It meowed again, and got right up in her owner's face, sniffing her forehead. Caroline giggled tiredly, and her hand appeared out of the blanket to scratch the cat's head. Byt the touch of Caroline's hand the cat started purring, but of course that didn't stop it from meowing at her to get up again.
"Relax Jazz, I'm getting up...," Caroline giggled.
Jazz meowed back at her, causing her giggling to get louder.
"At some point..."
The cat fell onto its side along Caroline's chest, where it closed its eyes. Caroline moved her hand to Jazz' neck and started scratching her there instead. Not even a minute had gone by when the cat fell asleep, and Caroline stopped scratching. She knew that was all Jazz wanted. Being very quiet and careful not to wake the cat, she removed the blanket from herself, and swung her legs off the bed.
She stood on the side of the bed for a few seconds, letting herself fully wake up while deciding the first thing to do. As the calming sound of Jazz' purring slowly faded out, Caroline walked over to the other side of the room, and sat down on the stool she got from the kitchen. For as long as ever had she said she would get her own stool for her dresser, but it never happened. And so the grey metal stool from the kitchen counter worked perfectly. She was just going to sit on it for ten minutes while doing her makeup and hair anyway.
But it did look pretty ugly in her room. It didn't really fit the theme of the bed, dresser and desk. All of those were made of a reddish brown wood, and had a kind of cozy feel. That was the main reason Caroline said she would get a new stool, that she of course didn't get. She rarely got anything done, and hadn't done that a lot since the accident.
She looked up in the mirror at her tired reflection. The image of a pale high school girl stared back at her. The girl she was used to seeing every morning. Brown wavy hair, which just reached the middle of her chest. Deep blue which might remind you of the ocean; Beautiful, but empty. Small lips, and an equally small nose covered in light freckles, which got really visible in the summer sun. Nothing was really special about her. Caroline was just another girl in town. That girl you might see sitting on her own on school breaks, or that you just pass in the supermarket, or see on the bus.
Caroline grabbed the hairbrush laying on the dresser top, and started dragging it through her thin hair. It went through without any obstacle, meaning this wouldn't take long. Very well, a minute later, Caroline put down the brush, and grabbed her makeup. She put on a light layer of it on her face, just covering some small spots, and filling in her eyebrows a tiny bit.
"Carrie, we're leaving in fifteen minutes!" A voice shouted from somewhere in the house.
"Coming soon mom!"
Caroline hurriedly finished her left eyebrow, and got off the stool. She opened the highest drawer on the right of the stool, and pulled out a white cold shoulder shirt as she pulled the bottom drawer open with her foot. A pair of black jeans got picked as the bottoms for the outfit. She threw off her short nightgown, put on a bra, and got into the outfit she picked a minute earlier.
By now Jazz was awake again, and was stroking Caroline's legs as she walked up to the door, and dragged it open from the crack Jazz left. She walked out into the upstairs hall area, and pushed the door behind her almost shut.
The stair room on the upper floor of the Wethey house wasn't big. Just a regular room, with hardwood floor, painted walls, and four doors. Two bedrooms, a bathroom and a study. One of the bedrooms obviously belonged to Cornelia, and the other was empty. Up until four years ago, Noah had been living in there. Until he died, when he was just eight. Now it was just a room. All his things were left, just like they were on the day he left.
Caroline looked into the room. The dark blue walls, wooden furniture, and loads of toys and drawing made everything feel like yesterday. They had been so close, and then Noah was ripped away from her, changing her completely.
She swallowed saliva which had gathered in her mouth, and diverted her glance from the room. Some days it brought good memories, but right now Caroline just remembered what happened in there the day Noah died. There was no need to stand there and think about them, so she just turned on her heel, and sprinted down the stairs, into the kitchen.
"Good morning, sweetie," Mrs Wethey; Daviana, stood by the kitchen counter, spreading butter on some toast.
"Morning mom," Caroline smiled slightly at Daviana as she grabbed two piece of a loaf of bread.
"Did you sleep well?" Daviana asked.
Around the time of Noah's death, Caroline had periods of time when she had an extremely hard time falling asleep. Even though she was tired, and lay in her bed, pressing her eyelids together. It was just impossible to drift off. At the moment, she was in one of those periods, but today she had actually gotten a full night of sleep.
"I saw Jazz went to wake you up," Daviana turned around from the counter, and smiled at Caroline, whose lips crept up into a smile.
She looked down at the white, black and tabby cat walking around her legs.
"She just wanted to be scratched a little."
"Of course she did" Daviana looked down at the little creature as well. "Everywhere except-"
The two of them giggled together before going back to their respective breakfasts. Caroline threw her pieces of bread onto a small plate. She reached out for the fridge door, and took out a package of cheese slices, and a couple of pieces of ham. The cheese went right on the bread, and the ham on top of it. She never used butter, as she had never liked it. Everyone thought it was weird, and she took some strange pride in it.
"Has dad already left?" Caroline looked up from her sandwiches.
"Had to go in early. Some coworker was sick, so he took her shift."
"I guess that's why you're driving."
Daviana nodded again. Caroline's dad; Larry would usually drop her off at school on his way to work. Caroline could drive, but it was just more convenient for them to do it that way.
"I can drive myself to school today. So you won't have to just drive forward and back" Caroline suggested.
"No, no. I need to drop by the supermarket anyway. The school's on my way."
Caroline smiled at her as a way to show that was good. Then she took her finished sandwiches to the kitchen table.
Vetherville wasn't a big town. It wasn't even close. Just a small town in east Missouri, built up around a 150 feet hill. You could see the whole town from the top. Most neighborhoods to the south, the main part of town in the west, smaller neighborhoods north, and the big barley fields in the east. On the other side of the field lay the big forest. The one thing you couldn't see the end of from the top of the hill.
The Wethey's had their two-story house at the end of the Aspen Street cul de sac. Nothing was unusual with their house. It blended in perfectly with the other ordinary houses. White siding, black roof and corners, and the double door on the little porch. What made the Wethey's house stand out from the others were the red roses along the sides on the front side of the house. They reached as high as the roof over the porch, and really shone to you when you walked up the street.
Daviana and Caroline pulled out from the garage in one of the family's two cars. Caroline leaned back in the passenger seat as Daviana turned the car to drive out of the cul de sac. They started driving down the road, and forward to Vetherville high a mile away.
Going to school was neither an escape or a captivity for Caroline. She got to get away from all the memories and trauma about Noah at home, but she didn't come to a better place. No one waited for her there, and she didn't have the perfect grades and friends from a few years ago. Not only Noah had left her when he died. Everything had. Happiness, friends, emotional peace, a good life...
A few minutes after leaving the house, their silver car stopped on the high school parking lot. Caroline unbuckled herself, and stepped out of the car, grabbing her bag off the floor on her way out.
"Thanks for driving me, mom," Caroline said, smiling at Daviana.
"No problem, sweetie," Daviana smiled back. "Have a good day."
Caroline closed the door right before Daviana started driving again.
"Wish I could say I will," she mumbled to herself as she turned around.
The daily sight she met was a usual high school. A big brick building, with glass doors in the entrance, and a big sign saying "Vetherville High" hanging where everyone could see it. All over the parking lot and area outside the school were teens. All of them looked pretty much the same, wearing the same classic 2016 fashion. Every girl had a choker of some kind, and literally everyone had either Adidas track pants or ripped jeans, and white sneakers.
While Caroline didn't really follow fashion, she certainly blended into the crowd.
She pushed the glass door open, and walked into the school. Even more people were in there. Not giving anyone in the hall a glance, Caroline walked down to her locker. She unlocked it and hung her jacket in. At the time, she was probably the only girl who had her jacket over her shoulders, and not hanging on her elbows.
Three girls who were wearing their jackets according to that fashion rule walked up to their lockers, pretty much right next to Caroline. It wasn't a coincidence that they were so close. The teachers did that on purpose, as they thought Caroline were still their friend. But that was long ago, back when Caroline actually had friends. It had been those girls.
"And then he, like, took off his shirt, right in front of me," the redhead of the group said as she let her jacket slide off her arms.
"You're kidding," the blonde said. "You and Brandon did not-"
Caroline closed her locker door loud enough for her to miss out on the details of Hope and Brandon's latest make-out session. Not letting herself be bothered by the strange looks she got from the girls, she walked away, and went into the English classroom.
A couple of people were already in there, drumming their pens on the desks, or just staring off into space. Caroline took her seat in the third row, and let her gaze go out the window. There was nothing out there but the football field, a path leading to the entrance, and a few trees, but Caroline found comfort in watching the wind blow through the trees. The way that the leaves and thin branches waved back and forth. She could just watch that forever.
In no time at all, the entire class was in there, and the teacher was as well. Caroline snapped out of her trans by the waving trees, and instead let her eyes wander through the classroom.
"Hello class," the teacher put down her pile of folders on her desk in the front of the classroom.
No one made a sound, causing the next few seconds to just be awkward silence.
"We're going to continue the study of phonetic writing today, and there will be a test on April 18th," the teacher continued.
"And today is...?" a boy in the front left the question flying in the classroom.
"The 12th," another boy replied in a second.
The teacher went on to explain in unnecessary detail what they would be doing during this lesson. Caroline didn't really listen. It wasn't needed. She knew they were just going to be working on the same quiz papers as the last multiple English lessons. When the teacher finally stopped rambling, she got the papers out and stared down at the sentences, lines, and weird phonetic signs. None of it made sense. Why was this important?
"Oh, I forgot to remind you!" the teacher burst out after a minute of Caroline staring at the useless signs. "A new boy is starting tomorrow. So be on your best behavior. Not only when you're in my class, but for the whole day."
Great. Another kid who would just think she was weird, just because he didn't know her backstory. To most people in her class, Caroline was "The girl whose brother died". But to a few she was just "The sad weirdo who doesn't talk to anyone". That would certainly be the situation with this new kid. Just another soccer jock probably, who doesn't understand her. Just another weird phonetic sign, maybe. One that looks just like the others, and is just as hard to understand.
Caroline didn't understand them, and they didn't understand Caroline.