It was during the last couple days of summer that Emily found out about the new kid.
It happened on a Wednesday afternoon, two days after he moved in (word spreads fast in small towns). The day was normal, Emily woke up feeling relaxed; she was almost finished with her summer homework. Sunlight was coming in through the blinds, casting golden rays across her eyes. Emily pushed the woven quilt off her legs and jumped out of bed.
Still under the presence of sleep, she made her way down the hall to the white-and-gold-tiled bathroom. Emily straightened her slouched posture and regarded her tousled reflection.
“You look like a hot mess, girl,” she whispered to it, and gave a conspiratorial wink. She leaned forward seeing her amber eyes narrow. There were still traces of heavy eyeliner in her lashes; spreading across her face making her look like a raccoon if she was being completely honest ---which she was. Emily stuck her tongue out and turned away with great expectations, without bothering to brush out the wild auburn layers that framed her face.
She maintained those expectations until she got to the kitchen, where Kassidy, her twin sister was eating Cheerios. Then she narrowed her eyes again, this time at her. It was bad enough being small, slight, and ivory skinned---to look in fact, as much like a ghost as anything she had ever seen hanging around a haunted house---but to have a twin who was tall, bleach-blond and naturally sexy…well that just showed how unbalanced the universe was, didn’t it?
“Morning Kassidy,” she said in a sneering voice.
Kassidy, who was used to her sister’s moods, was unbothered. She lifted her gave from the quiz section of Cosmopolitan for a moment. Emily had to admit she had nice eyes: deep navy eyes with very dark lashes. The twins had nothing in common.
“Morning,” Kassidy said blankly, and went back to the intimacy quizzes. Not many kids Emily knew would take the results of the quiz seriously, but that was all Kassidy. Like Emily, Kassidy had been a junior at Ever Leaf High, last year, and unlike Emily, she’s made straight A’s while starring on the cheerleading squad, the Mock Trial team, and the Key Club. Also serving as co-editor for the school’s yearbook. One of Emily’s greatest joys in life was teasing her. She thought she was too competitive.
She sighed and gave up the menacing look. “Where’s Jack and Mom?” Jackson Mattheson was their stepfather of three years and even more competitive than Kassidy.
“Jack’s at work and Mom is getting dressed. You’d better eat something or she’ll have a cow.”
“Whatever…” Emily went on tiptoe to the dining room. Finding a bowl of fruit, she picked up and apple and put it to her lips. She ate it within minutes.
It wasn’t always a bad thing being short. She did a few dance steps to the refrigerator, tossing the apple core in the trash.
“No one can hear me scream!” she sang, hyper from the quiet.
“Yes, I can,” Kassidy said with a hint of annoyance. “And why don’t you put some clothes on?”
Holding the refrigerator door open, Emily looked down at herself. She was wearing the black teddy she’d slept in. It covered her where it counted. “This is clothes,” she said serenely, taking a Cherry Coke from the fridge.
There was a knock at the kitchen door. Emily saw who it was through the small window.
“Hi, Chase! C’mon in.”
Chase Ransom came in, taking off his converse. Looking at him, Emily felt a wave---of curiosity. It didn’t matter that she only saw him when he had news of some sort. She still felt a wave overcome her, somewhere between relief and familiarity, when first confronted with him on his visits.
It wasn’t just his good looks, which always reminded her vaguely of Christofer Drew. He had shaggy dark brown hair, a subtle, intelligent face, and gray eyes that could only be described as intense. He was the coolest boy at Ever Leaf High, but to her he was just Chase.
Kassidy felt differently. As soon as Chase came in, she tossed her magazine to the side and gave her hair a quick flip. Infatuation flashed on her face.
Then Chase smiled faintly, as if Kassidy’s reaction amused him. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Kassidy stuttered, not relaxing in the least. Emily had the strong sense that she’s like to push her out of the room and lock the door. Kassidy always overdid the flirtatious sister bit when Chase came over. “So what’s up?” she added quickly.
Chase considered. “Well, there’s a new boy in town.”
“Really? What’s he like?”
“Well, I don’t really know,” Chase said blandly. He smiled.
Kassidy starred at him with obvious adoration.
Emily, for her part, was influenced by curiosity. Chase knew something; he wouldn’t have come over if he didn’t. Not that all of his news was interesting, but the whole town would be talking. This was going to be an interesting school year.
Many people thought Chase and Emily’s relationship was more than friends. That wasn’t true. Emily had known that he was always going to be her best friend. It was one of the many things she knew.
“Is that a new book?” she said, to distract him from his discovery of Kassidy’s bikini.
Chase held it up, “It’s the new Christopher Pike novel.”
Emily brightened. “More vampire stories to add to the collection---I can’t wait. Let me see.” But just then her mother walked in. Emily’s mother was sharp, blond, and serious, like and Army wife. She normally wore an expression of calm servitude.
“Get back here,” Emily’s mother said, getting hold of the book in her daughter’s hands. “Good morning, Kassidy; good morning, Chase,” she added. Kassidy said good morning and Chase nodded, quiet and polite.
“Has everybody had breakfast?” Emily’s mother asked; always happy to cook. When the twins said they had, she looked at Chase. “What about you, Chase?” she asked, gazing into his face.
Chase shook his head and grinned. “Why don’t you have an omelet?” She was already taking down a mixing bowl.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to,” Chase said quietly, but when he saw the maternal look on her face, he couldn’t refuse.
“What are you planning to do today?” her mother said, glancing between Chase and Emily.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Emily looked at Chase. He didn’t come over as much as he used to. “Read; maybe go to the lake?”
“Actually I can’t. I have to leave tonight.” Every summer, Chase went with his grandfather on a spirit quest. His grandfather was Native American and he wanted Chase to know his heritage.
The week of summer stretched out in front of Emily, hot and golden and replenishing. It smelled like pool chlorine and smoky bon fires, it felt like the coolness of night on her skin. A week was enough, she thought.