Monday arrived without a warning, and Emily was not pleased. Veronica tried getting her to let her do her hair, but she was in no mood to put up with things like that today. Her breakfast was left untouched because she felt too queasy to even make eye contact with it, and apparently, she couldn’t even button up shirts properly either.
“Emily, your shirt,” Veronica said as they were about to head out the door.
“What about it?” Emily said, trying not to sound annoyed.
“It’s all wrong, here-”
“I can do it.”
Veronica shrugged her shoulders and stepped in front of her to open the door. Thankfully, Veronica understood that in the mornings, Emily was moody for no apparent reason and the high amounts of stress coming from starting public school only added to it.
The two walked out, Emily buttoning her shirt frantically and Veronica prancing in her new favorite shoes. They hadn’t even gotten to school yet and Emily had already embarrassed herself. Geoffrey opened the door to the car for them and they threw their backpacks inside, crawling in.
“Geoffrey, you should turn on some music!” Veronica called to the front, closing her door. “It’ll be a great way to start the day.”
“Sorry,” Geoffrey said, starting the car, “but your music is on the rather obnoxious side.”
Emily couldn’t agree more. Hearing Veronica’s feel-good, upbeat music at a time like this would make her only more anxious. She just wanted to look out the window and try to collect her thoughts. She needed to get herself out of this slump before she started talking to new people. Actually, she noticed, it was looking like it might rain. That might not be good.
“How are you so excited for this?” Emily asked her, coming out of her thoughts. They always dreaded the same things together, and right now Veronica was the complete antithesis of Emily. “Aren’t you even the slightest bit stressed?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“I guess so,” she answered. “But in a good way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I’m nervous, yes, but somehow excited as well. Nothing interesting ever happens around here, you know? This new school is going to break our same old boring routine.”
“ But I kinda like our boring routine.”
If there was one thing Emily didn’t like, it was getting used to changes. She liked knowing what to expect every day and finding things just the way they were. Emily had no idea what was going to happen when they arrived, and the worst part was, if she did end up hating it, she had two more years of the place to worry about, unlike Veronica, who was graduating this year. Another thought that kept crawling around her head was that Veronica may meet someone new, and if she did, Emily would be completely alone. Veronica seemed to be a natural when it came to talking to people, especially considering the way she and Jameson had hit it off so quickly. Things were just happening all too fast, and Emily barely had time to even process what was going on. She still hadn’t fully believed they were actually going to school until they pulled up by the front gates.
“I see it now,” Veronica said with a smirk on her face.
“See what?” Geoffrey asked.
“The naked people.”
The three of them had a nice laugh for a moment, making Emily forget about how she was actually feeling, but it didn’t last long. Other than the naked statues out front, there were lots of students dressed just like her and Veronica, rushing around in different directions and standing in little circles laughing about something. The grass was perfectly green- so green that Emily didn’t dare step on it, and lots of trees and flowers made the place shady and dark looking.
“We have five minutes until the first bell,” Veronica said, looking at her new silver watch. “Come on, let’s try and find our first class!”
Emily opened the door, grabbing her backpack, and stepped out onto the sidewalk for the first time, Veronica following. Now the reality of it was sinking in. They walked up to the gates.
“Aren’t they automatic?” Emily asked when they hadn’t opened.
“Guess not. I think we need some sort of code.” She pointed to a screen with numbers on the wall.
“But we don’t have a code, do we?”
“It’s okay, I’m sure someone here can help us out.”
Veronica looked around for someone who looked seemingly helpful and landed on a boy with dark curly hair, leaning against the wall with about five other people.
“You have thing for curls, don’t you?” Emily asked as they walked up to him.
“‘Yeah, Guess so.”
The boys eyes started to grow wide as he realized the two of them were approaching him. He slowly took his hands out from behind his back and crossed his arms, taking a step forward. As soon as they asked, he started laughing.
“You two new or just stupid?” he said, now standing next to both of them. This definitely wasn’t the most friendly approach.
“Rude, much?” Veronica hissed, raising a brow. The boy looked startled. “Yes, we’re obviously new, otherwise we would’ve known to ask somebody else. I’m Veronica, and this is my sister, Emily. You are?”
“Lance. Look, you’re supposed to have your own codes, but I guess you never got them, did you? Well, you can use mine for today, but I suggest you get your own soon. If the bell rings and I’ve already typed in my number, it won’t let me open the gate again until the school day is over. Once you’re in, you’re in for good. It’s this new safety thing the school added this year.”
“Lovely,” Emily said. Not being able to leave didn’t really sound like a safety measure to her, but more like a trap. Just then, she began to notice the students walk a little bit faster and break out of their friend circles. They were grabbing their bags off the ground and all heading up the stairs into the school.
“Did the bell ring?” she asked. Lance looked through the bars.
“Apparently so. ‘Didn’t even hear it.”
The students outside the gate with them all flooded closer as Lance typed in his code. Before they knew what was happening, they were being pushed backwards. Emily almost tripped over a girl’s shoe and grabbed onto Veronica for support. They desperately tried to make their way past the other aggressive teenagers, but by the time they actually made it to the gate, it had closed.
“Lance!” Veronica cried, shaking the bars violently.
“Sorry!” was all he said as he ran off with his friends and up the steps.
“No, no, no, no, no, no…”
Emily sat down on the sidewalk trying to think. Veronica furiously typed in random numbers.
“What are you doing?” Emily said, looking up at a desperate Veronica.
“We’ve gotta get it right eventually! If we just keep pressing in random variations I’m sure we could get in!”
“There’s no way that’s happening. There’s like a million students who go here who have already put in their codes. The chances of us finding one that hasn’t been used yet is impossible.”
Veronica pounded on the gates again. Emily wasn’t sure if her sister was about to cry or just completely lose it.
“Veronica, relax! There’s nothing we can do. Let’s just call Geoffrey to come take us home-”
“Look, we’re already late. Why don’t we just come back tomorrow and they can finally give us our codes. Let’s just start over.”
“Let’s climb over the gate.”
“No! Are you literally going insane? Do you want to be labeled as ‘Those Two Girls who Climbed the Gate the First Day of School?’ I really don’t.”
Veronica joined Emily on the ground, looking completely hopeless. How could the school just forget to give them their codes? It didn’t make any sense; it was one of the most important things that they needed. If anything, it was definitely unprofessional. Wasn’t Arlington supposed to be the “finest” school in the state?
Veronica stood up and started punching in random numbers again.
“Just stop,” Emily said. “There’s no point-”
And then the gate actually opened.
The two stood there for a second, dumbfounded and absolutely speechless.
“I- I did it…” Veronica said, not blinking.
“How in the-”
“It was me!”
Just then, a girl with hair like fiery red flames presented herself in front of them. She was smiling and waving, seeming very proud of herself.
“I noticed you guys needed some help. But I’d start walking before it closes, you know.”
Emily and Veronica looked at each other for a quick second, then picked up the pace. Out of nowhere, the girl started to burst into laughter.
“You should’ve seen the looks on your guy’s face! I mean, you didn’t really think you had actually opened the gate, did you?”
“Maybe,” Veronica muttered. It was true; for a second , Emily had thought Veronica had done the impossible. After all, she was always full of surprises. Even so, this was far too unrealistic.
“Well thank you,” Emily said, almost forgetting to express her gratitude. She nudged Veronica to do the same. Instead, she just asked, “Who are you?” The girl stopped for a second as they were about to take their first steps up the stairs, smiling at her.
“I’m Meredith, third year. My mom is a friend of your dad’s actually. I’m guessing you’re Emily?” she said, looking straight at her. “Your hair is definitely golden like she said it would be, not to mention totally gorgeous.”
Emily nodded, completely shocked someone already knew who she was. That, and the fact her father had confided in a friend they had never seen before to help them out on their first day. He usually kept to himself, and the few friends he did have definitely didn’t have any school-aged children.
“Have we ever met before, Meredith?” Veronica asked, starting to study her face.
“I don’t believe we have. And who are you?”
The two went silent for a moment, waiting to see if she was serious.
“This is my sister, Veronica,” Emily said, feeling very awkward and noticing Veronica’s confused expression. Meredith’s eyes flashed back and forth between the two of them, searching their faces.
“He didn’t tell your mother about me, did he?” Veronica said, putting the pieces together.
“No, I don’t remember hearing anything about a sister named Veronica. You two do look so much alike though. The black and blond hair kinda throws you off, but your noses are identical!”
Emily didn’t think she had ever heard anyone compare their noses before. Actually, before today, she didn’t think there was anything about them that was similar. Sometimes Emily wondered if maybe Veronica was adopted or something crazy like that, but thier grandmother looked far too much like her for that to be a possibility.
“Why the hell would he forget to mention his oldest daughter?” Veronica asked, sounding offended. For some reason, she seemed to be looking at Emily for an aswer, but she was completely clueless. Then, as if a spark went off in Meredith’s eyes, she started to speak up.
“Maybe he didn’t forget, actually. My mom was at work when they talked, and she’s usually pretty busy doing surgery and stuff, so she may have not been able to give him her complete attention.”
That definitely made more sense.
“Anyway, it’s nice to meet you, Veronica. Luckily for you guys, I’ve accepted the challenge of helping you out today, so no need to worry. Also, we should probably go inside now.”
The school was a lot bigger than it looked, especially now that everyone was gone; the hallways were left completely deserted, and the echoing from Emily’s perfectly new, white shoes were making her almost too aware of herself. Veronica had found her class almost the instant they walked in, and now it was just her and Meredith. That was when Emily realized that Meredith talked a lot, which was good because Emily didn’t. One of the first things Meredith asked her was what it was like to be homeschooled, which for some reason seemed to intrigue her greatly.
“You mean this is your first time setting foot in an actual public school, like, ever?”
“Yep,” Emily said.
“Wow, that’s insane!”
Emily gave a nervous laugh, taken aback by how shocked she was.
“Sometimes I wish I was homeschooled,” Meredith began, “but I’m not sure if I could stand being away from all the boys, you know?”
Emily went silent. The word “boys” only reminded her of two specific people by the names of Jameson and Edgar Harrison, both of whom she was not fond of. They were also the only boys she had spoken to since she was probably ten years old, which when she thought about it seemed a bit ridiculous, and was probably why Veronica had flung herself so quickly at Jameson. It wasn’t that Emily didn’t think about boys, but it was a little hard to consider them when they were never around. Suddenly a new fear that hadn’t walked out of the door with her that morning started to creep up behind her.
Meredith tilted her head and looked at Emily, her long red hair falling over her shoulders.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never had a boyfriend,” she said, crossing her arms. When Emily only nodded, Meredith stopped and gasped.
“Well it’s not like I ever had the chance,” Emily said defensively. “Where am I even supposed to meet a guy? I mean, the only guy that I see on the regular is Geoffery, and he’s about as moody as they get.”
“Who’s Geoffery?” Meredith asked, eyes wide open.
“He’s just my butler.”
“Oh,” Meredith said, starting to tug on the silver necklace around her neck. After a moment she said, “Well it doesn’t really matter anyways. For right now, the only person you need by your side is me.”
That was when Meredith gave her a smile and shoved her in the direction of her classroom.