Charles

If there was one thing I really hated it was the awkward class introduction when you moved to a new school. Like, what if I didn't want anyone to notice I had arrived?

The moment the principal called the professor into the hallway, everyone's eyes fell on me as I looked down at the white-marble floor from the intricate wooden threshold. It was quite pretty, actually. The warm cream marble swirls moved all over the tiles like when I stirred milk into my coffee that morning. My finger followed within edges of the designs on the door while Principal Flores continued to whisper my situation to the lady in a wine-colored long-sleeve dress.

Coffee... I forgot to finish my coffee...

As I was realizing how much longer the day would be without the help of caffeine, the tall professor lady led me over to the front of the classroom and I turned to watch Principal Flores leave. It made me a little more nervous since I had already gotten used to her.

Professors probably got off on torturing new kids with social awkwardness. I mean, they had to know how fucking uncomfortable it was. It wasn't like in elementary school when everyone got excited for the new kid.

"Children, I want you to meet a new student here to Ludington Academy." The tall woman motioned her hands at me from the front of the classroom with a certain grace that was hard to explain. The curly brown hair on her head was held back in a ponytail so tight that she looked permanently surprised.

She turned and observed me from behind her round golden glasses. Of course, even professors were silently judging me, but they were better at hiding it. "Mr. Paris, my name is Ms. Dalia Angelo and I will be your AP Italian professor for the fall term." She crinkled her eyes kindly before turning back to look around the classroom. "Hm..." She looked young, maybe around her late 20's.

I continued to shuffle awkwardly as she finished searching the classroom of uninterested students. Her hands came together as she turned to smile at me once more.

Firmly, I gripped my shoulder strap and looked straight ahead towards the end of the classroom at the glossy wooden wall trying to avoid eye contact. Even though I wasn't looking directly at the bunch of kids, I knew that every single one was already forming internal opinions about me.

"This is Mr. Charles Paris. He comes to us here in Connecticut all the way from the west coast! Now, isn't that exciting?"

Whispers erupted immediately from the room of well-kept kids as soon as the lady finished with her introduction. The whispers did not come from a source of excitement at all. Compared to their perfectly ironed uniforms, fastened ties, and tucked-in shirts... I looked extremely out of place.

The lady motioned me to an empty seat next to the window in the middle row. "You can take a seat there, next to Mr. Pierce."

That was when I began to walk toward an angry looking guy with a very stiff posture. His eyes glazed over me before leaning forward and whispering something to a curly red-haired girl. She giggled slyly before giving me a disapproving brown-eyed side look while Pierce slid slowly back down in his chair.

Up front, the teacher continued giving her lecture in fluent Italian while I tuned out and looked out through the window. The whole school was a cluster of buildings and gardens in the middle of a forest. I'm sure that Charlee knew what the name of it was. She was always the good one at remembering useless details. Ludington was very different from the schools back in northern California. I mean, it was pretty nice, but I still wished I was back there, even if I had to put up with Dave and his stupid family.

Something that Charlee never understood about me was how much I hated change. Everything in my life was always changing, moving from one place to another, from this parent to that parent... All I wanted at that moment was some sort of consistency.

A group of girls sat out on the balcony in front of the three large gothic style windows of the building across from ours. Their plaid grey skirts fluttered in the wind lifting them up slightly revealing their shorts. One of them giggled, trying to act embarrassed, as she looked down below her at a group of guys walking by even though she obviously wasn't. She giggled following with a flirty wave and I felt myself scowl. For some reason, girls who liked to draw attention to themselves like that were always annoying.

"Hey."

Pierce stared at me with his eyebrows furrowed. He seemed kind of scary, but in a comical way. Like a chihuahua.

Sighing, I rolled my eyes before turning my head lethargically in his direction, "What?"

The guy glared at me with what was possibly the purest look of annoyance I had ever seen. It was even worse than the way Charlee always looked at me. His eyes almost rolled to the back of his head at the fact that Angelo made me sit next to him. His hair was parted to the side and flattened out with gel. It looked very shiny... and hard.

The kid motioned around the classroom with his slender hands as I fought the urge to hit him on the top of the head. His eyes rolled once more from behind his glasses.

Sitting up slowly, I scanned the classroom for any activity. Angelo had stopped talking and everyone was in pairs reading out loud off of a piece of paper similar to the one Ashton had in front of him.

The girl in front of me was speaking to Red with a concentrated expression. "Come hai dormito ieri?"

Red looked up at her with concern before looking down at the page in her hands. "Um..." She flipped it over and read off the back of it. "Uh... door-my-toe mole-toe bean-e la note..."

I couldn't help but almost cringe at the way Red butchered all of the pronunciation in her reply.

Pierce tapped his foot loudly enough to grab my attention and raised one of his thick bushy eyebrows from behind his black-rimmed glasses. It was totally obvious that he had less patience toward me than before if that even seemed possible. He definitely reminded me of Charlee. Where that girl got the patience to not slap me every five seconds was a mystery.

"So, what are we supposed to be doing anyway?" I finally asked Pierce before crossing my arms and slouching further down into my chair.

The kid rolled his eyes for the millionth time when I looked up at him from deep in my chair and snatched the piece of paper from his desk somewhat aggressively. "I'm supposed to ask you these questions and you're supposed to answer." He sighed and followed it with a haughty smirk. "Or try..." The kid sat up straight and cleared his throat before speaking while I watched him expectantly, "Ciao, il mio nome è Ashton. Ciò che è tuo?" He looked at me with a snooty look.

"Charles," I answered while I looked up at the chalkboard ahead.

Italiano Avanzato.

Pierce looked the complete opposite. I could tell he would've rather been partnered with anyone else as long as it wasn't with me, a peasant.

He sighed with clear exasperation before moving on to the next question. "Qual è il tuo colore preferito?"

Of course, my favorite color was ever-present in my mind. Even so, I still pretended to contemplate for a moment while folding my hands on top of the desk. "Hmm..." A smile formed on my face as I sat up and turned to him. "Falu Red," I added emphasis with my hands at the kid who just returned the expression of a cold fish.

Pierce furrowed his eyebrows and turned away from me without saying anything. Finished with me, he casually introduced himself to the two girls in front of him in Italian. "Posso parlare con te?"

"Sì." The girl in front of me nodded to him and they continued going down the questions on the sheet of paper.

That girl in front of me was a sight. Her hair was pin-straight and fell over her left breast releasing a glimmer caused by the light hitting it from outside. I actually hated to admit that her light brown eyes were pretty much breathtaking. They were that kind of light brown that almost looked orange, like looking at a shiny new penny glimmering in the sun.

She reached for her hair with perfect pink nails and flipped it over her shoulder causing it to move almost in slow motion. It was easy to tell that this girl knew she was beautiful, and she wasn't about being modest. I watched her intently as she lifted a subtle eyebrow and pursed her heart-shaped lips while struggling to understand the choppy Italian of the red-haired girl.

Now, even though this girl was extremely attractive, the red-haired girl was the thing that stood out to me the most in that scene. With curly strawberry blonde hair wrapped up in a neat bun on her head, she twirled a loose strand on her finger while leaning toward Pierce, excessively. She was flirting with the kid.

This girl was far less attractive than the other by a landslide, but still seemed too pretty for Pierce. She had one of those upturned noses surrounded by many tiny freckles. Even though she wasn't beautiful, the confidence in her body language made her seem much more attractive than she really was. Maybe confidence was key in this situation. It really made me wonder what she could possibly see in a guy with features like those of Pierce.

A familiar faded melody turned my attention away from the kids in front of me to the window and down at the gardens below. There was a girl sitting in between the trees with a violin under her chin. It was distant, but I could still make out the melody she was playing. Loose dark hair blew in her face and it made her playing come to a sudden stop. She seemed to groan while placing the bow down and then threw the hair out of her face.

These kids, some of them seemed to give me a weird vibe in some way. It was hard to describe it, I mean, it probably wasn't, I just didn't have the vocabulary to.

The bell rang and interrupted my train of thought as Pierce spoke to his girlfriends after giving me another one of his snooty side looks. "I think the academy seemed to lower their standards quite a bit this semester." He was obviously saying it loud enough for me to hear. His tiny hands grabbed the page in from of him and stuffed it into a folder. "I swear, every year they let in more and more indigents..." He placed his things in his backpack as the red-haired girl giggled at his remark.

The ginger continued to laugh as I turned to stare at her directly in the eyes. Little did she know, their rude comments didn't phase me. The beautiful one only rolled her eyes and scoffed while the redhead continued to hold my gaze with a pair of dark brown eyes surrounded by long lashes before turning to exit the classroom. "I think so, too." She stuck up her freckle-y nose and pressed her red lips together before turning as she put her expensive looking bag over her shoulder.

They all poured out through the door along with the rest of the students. Meanwhile, I remained seated, contemplating on what I ever did to these kids, other than exist, for them to hate me so much for no apparent reason.

I figured I would do the right thing and give them a reason. As soon as the last student exited, I quickly threw my backpack behind me and ran until I spotted them down the hall.

Forgive me, Charlee, but these people asked for it...

"Hey, Pierce!" I called down the hallway causing the kids standing nearby to turn and look between Pierce and me curiously, including Pierce's troops. Red rolled her eyes and Pierce turned to look at me with his same bland expression.

"Andare succhiare qualche cazzo." I spoke loudly with a smile before I met his gaze and awaited his reaction.

Pierce immediately went wide-eyed. Gaping, he started to fumble with the strap of his bag before turning bright red in anger.

The red-haired girl stood there next to him with a confused expression. "Hey, Ashy, what does cazzo mean?" She asked Pierce obliviously and at that moment, various students began to snicker amongst themselves.

The pretty girl shot her a warning look. "Francesca, shut up." She turned to me and glowered at me along with Pierce.

I laughed out loud and turned away with a huge smile across my face on the way to my next class and, for the first time, felt grateful that Dave had forced me to go to those Italian lessons with Charlee.