As soon as both of my feet hit the sidewalk, Mom pulls her car away. I’m not surprised. She’s not deserting me; she’s just making sure I can’t change my mind and fling myself back into the passenger seat, begging her to drive straight to Fort Myers. As she stops at the corner, I can see her eyes on me in the rear-view mirror, willing me forward. And then she’s gone.
You can do this. You can do this. I take a deep breath and begin walking quickly toward the front steps, praying the bell rings before I get there so that I'm not forced to stand on the edges of the crowd by myself.
The day is bright and crisp, and although it’s only the end of August, a few yellowed leaves litter the expansive front lawn. Everywhere people are talking, laughing, hugging. A boy squirts a stream of water out of a sports bottle at a girl’s bare legs as she walks by with her friends. A few slight boys dressed in black saunter passed with their iPods on loud enough for me to feel the rumbling beat. Three girls huddle around a cell phone, laughing at a text or a picture.
I absorb this all in seconds, and yet I feel like I’m walking through a fog. My eyes don’t focus on faces, just blurs of colors and noise. All I want to do is get to the front steps and blend in and –
“Oh! Jeez—“ My left shoulder suddenly slams into the side of a tall girl who has just stepped into my beeline. I take a shaky step to the side. “S-sorry…” I mumble, glancing up at her quickly.
The girl smiles eagerly and waves, bouncing slightly on her toes. I immediately assume she thinks I’m someone else and wait for her to apologize and walk away. But she continues to stand there, looking at me expectantly.
I smile meekly. “Hi.”
The girl is about five inches taller than I am, and very pretty and willowy, with wavy honey-colored hair that's almost too long and bright green eyes. Although she’s dressed casually in a gray t-shirt, dark skinny jeans and a gauzy white scarf draped around her neck, there’s something about her that makes me feel seriously unstylish in my pink tank top and faded jeans.
"I'm Sara. You're Lucy, right?"