It was a bit of an understatement, Skye thought. If she was Summer, she could describe it in perfectly poetic prose, but she wasn’t, and the best she could do was say that it was beautiful.
Admiring the scenery did little to dampen the butterflies in her stomach. This was no normal walk to the park. This was a date.
Kind of. Well, she wasn’t really sure. She thought it might be. She hoped it might be.
She turned when she heard footsteps, half expecting it to be a stranger walking home, but it was Joshua. They knew each other through their Social Studies class in school, and sat at the same table for the best part of half a year.
Skye wasn’t sure if she liked him as someone to date, but she liked the idea of going on a date.
She had no idea what to expect.
“Hey,” Joshua said, awkwardly, coming to stand in front of her. Skye stood up from her seat, feeling just as unsure, and didn’t know how to react when he reached out towards her in a belated gesture to… she wasn’t sure what he had been planning to do; his hand quickly fell to his side. “Um, h-how are you?”
“I’m good. I, um, I’m glad you decided to come here.”
They decided to go walk around the park, which was a fair size for its location in the middle of the town. Skye was so focused on her own awkwardness that she barely noticed that Joshua was just as nervous as she was. Their conversation was stilted. It was harder to hold a conversation on a date than in class, Skye learned.
This was what dates were like, or at least that’s what they always seemed in the stories Skye heard from classmates (retelling a sibling’s story, usually), which meant that this wasn’t unusual, which was good. Skye really wanted this to work. Having someone interested in her was an exciting new feeling.
Just as all good things come to an end, all awkward things must too. Skye knew it was coming up to the time that her parents had told her to be back by, and she still had to walk across town to get there. The autumn evening was getting chilly, too, and Skye regretted leaving her jacket at home.
Joshua hovered in front of her shyly. “We should maybe do something like this again,” he mumbled, gaze only meeting hers for a moment before falling back to the ground near her feet. His cheeks were red. Maybe it was from the cold. “If you want.”
Skye nodded, pleased but painfully unsure of how enthusiastic she should seem. “That would be nice.” She peered up at him through her glasses and wondered who would leave first. Should she just walk away? Was he waiting for her to say something else?
There was another long moment of hesitation until Joshua smiled bashfully and ducked in to press his lips against her cheek. Skye almost made a squeak in surprise but stopped the sound last minute, her hands fluttering by her sides, unsure what she should do in return. His lips were warm, and nice. Were they dating now? The thought sent another shiver of trepidation through her.
Josh pulled away and offered another shy smile. “I’ll see you in school?”
“Yeah. Yes.” Skye cleared her throat. “Have a good walk home.” As soon as she said it, she almost cringed. It wasn’t very romantic, was it?
“You too,” he said, and after a moment turned away to walk back the way he’d come a couple of hours before, looking over his shoulder and waving goodbye.
Finally, Skye could relax.
“I think so. How do I know?”
“Do you want to see him right now?”
Skye thought about it, peering into the trees and their lengthening shadows. Finally, she shrugged. Summer huffed.
“Maybe you don’t. In the romances, things are always clear and more… full of passion!”
“But maybe these things grow?”
Summer shook her head. “It should be love at first sight.”
Skye frowned down at her feet and watched the goosebumps rise on her legs as a cool breeze flew past them. “Oh.”
Skye didn’t want to tell Joshua that she didn’t want to see him again. She did enjoy his company, and she didn’t want to be mean. Maybe Summer wasn’t right. Skye tried to remember what her parents had said about how they had met. Had they known they had something special as soon as they saw each other?
“I think I’ll see how it goes,” Skye said, after a long silence, causing Summer to blink out from her thoughts and glance over.
“Okay,” she said doubtfully, eyebrows drawing together. “I wish I was in your social studies class. I could help.”
Skye remained quiet. Summer’s help would only consist of telling Skye about the romantic sub plot in whatever book she was reading and trying to apply it to Skye’s budding relationship. Still, it would be better than Faye’s help, but then anything would.
Skye stretched her legs out and pushed the swinging seat gently, watching the shadows flicker over her legs. It was getting too cold to stay out much longer, but she always cherished the quiet moments with Summer. Their room was shared with Faye, who was loud and usually talking about her friends at school. It was so mind-numbingly boring that Skye wondered how Faye could stand it, and while Summer could just hide away in her daydreams, Skye couldn’t block it out.
She wished that the house was bigger, sometimes.
Summer gave a sigh. “Are you coming inside?”
Skye nodded and stood up, casting one more look to their back garden and the hills behind. The sunset made everything serene and peaceful – very unlike Faye’s chaos inside.
Since Skye had started dating Joshua, there were some lunchtimes where Summer found herself with no one to sit with for lunch. It didn’t bother her – Skye had double and triple checked that it was okay – but it was awkward sitting in the canteen alone, painfully aware that her loneliness was obvious to everyone else.
Summer spent those lunch times in the library, typing away at the computer with the occasional pause to munch on her food. There were usually others there too, finishing projects or taking safety in the library like she was.
A small group beside her chatted over one such project. Summer only knew the girl furthest from her, though knew was a loose term for it.
Summer tried hard to concentrate on her story. She wrote a little every evening and now it was a fair size. It was just for her own interest, too, so she hadn’t been worried about plot holes or silly mistakes. It was fun to be whisked off into a world so unlike her own, with vampires and werewolves and portals to other worlds… and there was a love interest by the heroine’s side, their banter playful and their actions romantic.
Summer stole a glance at Uma. If only this world could be a little more exciting.
Summer blinked at the screen. Her eyes darted to the time in the bottom corner and she wondered how long she had been daydreaming about Uma standing up from her chair and coming over to talk. Of course, if such a thing had happened, Summer would have frozen in embarrassment. Uma would be able to see her writing and Summer didn’t fancy explaining why the love interest’s name was so close to hers…
Her cheeks were warm. From the wistful thought of Uma talking to her, or the mortifying idea that she could read ‘Unna’ in the document, Summer wasn’t sure. She saved what she had done and closed the document anyway. It was better safe rather than sorry.
James perched on the edge of the toy box until he was sure it was going to take his weight, and then scooted back into a more comfortable position, hand resting on his wife’s shoulder as she sat, crossed legged, on the floor beside him. Loxley perched on the table, shoes squeaking as he fidgeted.
“Your head teacher talked to us before school finished for the summer, just last week.” James smiled at his son, who looked up at them, eyes sparkling with curiosity. “She said that, if we all agreed, she would like to put you forward a year in high school. You’ve done exceptionally well and aced the more advanced work, which she said is essentially first year of high school. Anne Arbour High is happy to let you go straight into second year if you want.”
“You got my brains,” Jessica winked, giggling when James pouted. More seriously, she reached forward and squeezed Loxley’s hand. “We’re so proud of you, Lox. You’ve worked so hard, and it’s your choice.”
“I can skip straight into second year?” Loxley asked, eyebrows rising. “Just like that?”
“If you want,” James nodded. “But it’s worth thinking carefully about. You won’t know other people in your class and Liam isn’t skipping ahead. We have no doubts that you can handle the work, but there’s more to it than that.”
“Are you sure?” Jessica asked gently. “Summer and Skye struggled a lot with some people in their class. You might too.”
Loxley scoffed, eyes rolling heavenward. “I really don’t care about what other people think. I want to skip ahead.”
His parents beamed at him. “Okay, if you’re sure, we’ll let the high school know,” James said. Whatever Loxley had chosen, they would have been happy and supported him, but they took pride in the fact that their son had been given the option.
“Definitely has my brains,” Jessica muttered on her way out of the room, causing James to dig his fingers into her sides with a smirk.
“But why?” Liam asked, leaning forward and watching his twin balance awkwardly on the bed, facing him with his tongue poking out.
The image of Liam was upside down to Lox, but he could make out the hurt look all too well. He wasn’t great with people and reading their emotions or body language, but Liam was his twin. Science had said a lot about twins and their ability to know each other.
Lox sighed. “Because learning the same stuff is boring, Liam. I know I can learn more this way, not repeat the entire year. Anyway, we’ll see each other at break and lunch.”
It wasn’t the right answer. “But what about class?”
“We weren’t necessarily going to be in the same class anyway. Faye isn’t in half of Summer and Skye’s classes. Luckily for them..” he added, wrinkling his nose. “It’ll be fine. Do you think I can flip off the bed and land on my feet?”
“You’ll hit me,” Liam complained.
“Get out of my way then!”
Liam didn’t move. “Do you think mum and dad are proud of me too?” he said quietly.
Loxley pulled back from his attempt to flip off the bed. There was no missing the worry and hurt there. He blinked at his brother. “They literally just said they were this morning.”
“But compared to our sisters, and to you, what do I do that’s special?”
“You’re you. That’s special and unique. Anyway, do you really think mum and dad are more proud of Faye than of you?” Loxley said pointedly.
“They probably are,” he mumbled, casting his gaze down on the floor.
“Don’t be a twit,” Lox snapped. “You don’t give yourself enough credit. Anyway, we’re barely out of primary school. Give yourself some time to shine.”
“What if I don’t?” Liam whined. “What if I can’t? And what’s a twit?”
“You should read the books I recommended to you, then you’d know.” Loxley straightened up and twisted around, the blood rushing down from his head and making him momentarily light headed. He refocused on his brother. “I mean, statistically speaking, there’s always someone better than you. There’s someone smarter than me, that’s for sure. Loads of someones. But it’s not about being the best, it’s about doing your best. And you’ll find something where your best sets you apart from others around you. Maybe you’ll be the best cook in this entire county. Or maybe you’ll be the best minesweeper player.”
“Oh, never mind,” Lox sighed.
A/N: Are the chapters a decent length? I used to hit ~3.5-4K on LJ but these are usually 2-2.5K. I’m not sure if that’s the best length – any thoughts?