She was used to being on her own. She was used to enjoying being on her own. But now that her other option was being with him, being alone didn’t sound so great anymore.
She’s the new girl. Again. Her dad’s late to pick her up from school. Again. She sighs, checking her phone and swinging her backpack from one shoulder to the other. There are a few other high schoolers milling around outside the one-story building. They joke with each other, one boy tossing a girl over his shoulder as she giggles. She barely notices. Most of the cars from the parking lot have cleared out so when she hears one approaching she looks up hoping to see her father. A boy driving a pick-up truck slows to a stop in front of her. “Hey,” he calls out tentatively. “Hey, weren’t you in my econ class?” “Uh yeah,” she says, distractedly, glancing back down at her phone again. “Hi.” She had been planning on avoiding making new friends. Again. “Uh,” he starts, “um, do you like, I mean, do you need a ride somewhere?” She looks up at him. Really looks at him. He’s smiling, a little unsure. She checks her phone one more time and when there’s still no reply from her dad, she sighs and says, “Yeah, actually, that’d be great. Thanks.”
They ride with the windows down. It’s warm in Ohio for October and the breeze brings relief – she made it through the first day at a new school. Again. She directs him turn by turn until they reach the hotel where she and her father are staying. “You live here?” he asks, eyebrows raised. “Yep.” She’s used to the tone of surprise. Most people get the wrong impression – that it’s so very glamorous to move about the country staying in hotels and living off of room service. She’d probably have the same impression if she were on the outside looking in.
“Well, thanks for the ride,” she says, looking over at him. She had texted her dad not to worry about it, that she had gotten a ride from a friend. She looks down to notice that he hadn’t replied to that message either. He’d never been much of a worrier. She puts her phone away, reluctant to get out of the truck and head into the hotel suite she shares with her dad knowing it’s empty. After a day of talking to almost no one, she would usually be grateful for continued silence, for time to spend inside her own head. For some reason, today, sitting in this truck with this other person, she didn’t feel in such a rush to be alone.
“So, where did you move from?” He’s awkwardly trying to make conversation. He doesn’t mind her staying put. She’s pretty, with long blonde hair and nice brown eyes. “Well, that’s a hard question.” She smiles as she shifts her body to face him more fully. She’s opening up, feeling comfortable talking to him, feeling comfortable talking to a stranger. This is new for her. She takes a moment to really look at him, to take him in. He has dark hair pulled back into a pony tail – something she never would’ve thought she’d appreciate on a boy. She almost doesn’t notice his green eyes as they struggle to maintain eye contact. She thinks this kind of conversing with a near-stranger must be new for him, too. “My father and I have moved around a lot,” she finally says. “We were in Tennessee last and before that it was Arizona and before that Washington State. I’m only a junior and this is the ninth high school I’ve been to.” “Wow,” he responds. “I can’t imagine having to endure that many first days of school! You must be brave. I’ve never lived anywhere besides Grayton.” “Must be nice,” she says, almost to herself as she looks away. Feeling as if she’s shared enough for today she repeats awkwardly, “Well, thanks for the ride,” and moves to get out of the truck. “Oh, by the way, I’m Lee,” she says as she steps down from the truck, turns and smiles. She tucks her hair behind her ear before offering her right hand to the boy who will become her first friend since grade school. “Bryan,” he says and he shakes her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Lee.” “Yeah, you too.” She smiles and walks into the hotel.