I’m standing once again in front of the body mirror staring at myself. This time, I’m wearing a school uniform. It consists of white socks, ugly leather shoes, a plaited navy skirt, a white polo, and to top it all off a matching blazer. I look horrendous, let me tell you. I’m not sure whose idea these uniforms were, but they should be sued. At least everyone else at school will be wearing the same thing.
There’s a knock at my door then. I don’t bother to answer. A few seconds later, Leo pokes his head inside. He looks me over once before speaking, “Breakfast is ready.”
“Thanks, but I’m not hungry,” I tell him, smoothing down my skirt.
“Greer, I’ve barely seen you eat since you got back. You’re sitting down and at least eating a piece of toast.” He commands.
I sigh but don’t argue. My uncle’s right, I’ve barely touched food in several days. I haven’t had an appetite. I grab my plain black bag off the floor and follow him through the house. I can instantly smell the food he’s cooked.
On the table, several plates are piled high. I take a seat and stare at the arrangement. He’s gone overboard to make me breakfast for my first day of school. My eyes stop on a plate of chocolate chip pancakes and my heart drops. They were mom’s favorite. Leo sets a glass of orange juice in front of me and takes his seat. It’s silent for a few moments as we load up our plates.
“So, we need to go over some things before you leave.” He says.
I look up at him silently. He wants to go over the details of my new life. We go over them so much that I’m pretty sure they’re engrained in the back of my eyelids. I even have a file sitting on my nightstand.
“You’re Greer Evans. You live with me, Leo Martin, your mother’s brother. You just moved here from Essex, Vermont. It rains there this time of year. Your parents died in a car crash two months back. You were at home reading Tolstoy when it happened.” He ticks off the items like he’s reciting a list. Leo said that every little detail mattered. He also said that we had to stick close to the real truth. I could deal with all the other lies, but the way I was lying about my parent’s death made my heart quicken. I felt like I was betraying their memories. “Anything else you want to go over?”
“No, I think I’ve got it,” I tell him, setting down my half-eaten piece of toast. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.
Leo stands to his feet and retrieves a large envelope from the counter. He digs inside and comes out with several items. The first is a driver’s license with my new name on it. The second is a brand new smartphone with a pink case. The password is written on a post-it note stuck to the front. The last item he hands me is a set of car keys.
“I had a car brought in last night. The registration and title are in my name.” He explains and then brings out a few more pieces of paper. “This is your new birth certificate and social security card. I’ll keep those for you just in case.”
I nod and stare at the picture on the driver’s license. It was taken only a week ago, right after they cut and died my hair. I’m smiling in the picture, but if you look into my eyes I bet anyone could tell that I was faking it.
Leo looks down at his watch and sighs. “You should get going.”
I stand to my feet and swing my backpack over my shoulder. Leo walks me out the front door where I spot a new Toyota. It’s blue in color and has a bumper sticker with my new initials on the back window.
“Just type in the school in your GPS, it’ll take you there,” Leo says as he opens the door for me. I slide into the front seat and stare up at him. “You’ll do great, Greer. Just remember what we talked about.”
I nodded, gripping the steering wheel tight in my hands. “Thanks, Leo.”
He nods back and his eyes skirt around our street. “Have fun at school, kiddo. I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”
I don’t have to ask what he means. Leo has eyes everywhere, literally. I wouldn’t doubt it if he placed an agent in the school somewhere to keep an eye on me. Leo is the state marshal assigned to protect me but he’s also my uncle, which means that he’ll do anything to make sure nothing happens to me.
He closes the door and watches me back out. As soon as I’m out of the driveway, I turn on the music to try and bury my nerves. I check the time and realize I have a few minutes to stop for coffee. My father always swore by coffee in stressful situations.
I pull into the parking lot of a small coffee shop only a mile from the school. I can literally see the high school as I step out of my car. I palm a five-dollar bill and walk into the café. It’s crowded as the bell on the door overhead. There are several people inside that wear my matching uniform. A few of them turn to look at me as I walk up to the counter.
I order a Frappuccino and then step back to wait for my coffee. My body instantly reacts as I notice someone coming up behind me. Ever since my parents died, I’ve been on high alert of my surroundings. In Witness Protection training, they drilled me hard in karate and self-defense. Being totally aware of everything going on around you was a mandatory obligation in the class.
I spin around quickly and grab onto the wrist that is about to touch my shoulder. In one fluid motion, I manipulate the bone until the person yelps in pain. I let go seconds later, my eyes focusing on the person I’ve just assaulted. Dark gray, blue eyes stare down at me in disbelief. My eyes skirt around the coffee shop and I notice several eyes staring at me. My name is called just then. I hurriedly take my coffee from the counter, muttering an apology to the guy who’s still staring angrily down at me, and then run from the shop.
As I slide into my new car, I rest my forehead on the steering wheel and try to control my breathing. Holy crap, good going Greer. Way to not stand out. I just assaulted someone in public and I’m pretty sure everyone and their mother noticed.
I back out of the parking lot and head to the high school. Once finding a parking place, I take several more minutes to compose myself. I take several sips of my cold coffee and then step out of my car. With my back on my shoulder, I walk through the front doors and to the office.
The school is small. So small that I’m sure everyone here will hear about my incident at the coffee shop. There were several students watching me as I attacked the poor kid. If I wasn’t mistaken, he was wearing the uniform as well. That means I might run into him today.
I stop in the hallway to watch the bustling students. Everyone’s smiling and laughing, happy. I instantly know I don’t belong here. No one here knows how dark the real world is. I feel like they’re living in a fantasy world where high school is this great place filled with hopes and dreams. It’s not, it’s a nightmare. It’s a reminder that I’ll never have a life like theirs. Maybe Greer Thomas was like them, but Greer Evans isn’t.
I push open the doors to the office and stop in front of the secretary. She’s a middle-aged woman with bushy hair, a long jean skirt, and wire-framed glasses. She taps a pen against her mouth as she studies her computer. I clear my throat and her dark eyes stare big and bright at me.
“Oh!” She drops her pen and gives me a huge smile. “You must be Greer Evans!” It’s not even a question. She knows who I am right away. Which means they don’t get too many transfers.
I smile back at her, “Yes, ma’am, that’s me.”
“Great.” She stands to her feet and shuffles through a stack of papers. She comes out with a few and pushes them across the desk to me. “This your class schedule.” I look down at the classes and see that most of them are familiar. “This is your locker number and combination.” I take that from her as well. “I’ll call someone down to show you around. Let me see who has some classes with you.” She types something into her computer and her eyes roam the screen. “Awesome, it looks like Adam Cornell has your first period. Just take a seat and I’ll track him down.”
I thank her and find a seat near the row my windows. I play with the buttons on my blazer and stare down at my feet. My heart is still pounding. I’ve never been the new kid in my life. Back home, I’d grown up with the same people since pre-k.
“Greer, right?” A voice interrupts my daydreams. I look up into a pair of puppy dog brown eyes. The boy smiles at me, showing off bright white teeth. I can tell his uniform has been tailored to fit him, after all, this school was for rich elite kids. He runs a hand through his short brown hair. “I’m Adam.”
I stand to my feet, push my glasses further up my nose, and give him a weak smile. “Hey.”
“Let’s see that schedule of yours.” He says and takes the slip of paper from my hands. I watch him look it over for a moment. “Cool, we actually have most classes together. It’s a small school.”
He leads me out of the office and into the student body. No one pays any attention to us. Several times I have to apologize for bumping shoulders with someone.
“Welcome to Arden Prep, by the way.” Adam smiles over at me. “We don’t get many transfers in the middle of the year. Where are you from?”
“Vermont,” I say on autopilot.
“No way, that’s cool!” He beams. “I’ve never been on the east coast before.”
“It’s rainy,” I say softly.
He laughs, “well, Washington should be somewhat familiar for you. It’s the rainiest state in the U.S.”
“Good to know.”
Adam starts pointing out a couple of my classes before we stop in front of a row of lockers. He taps one, telling me it’s mine. He shows me how to key in the code and then I store my backpack inside.
“So,” Adam leans against the locker next to mine and stares down at me. “Why’d you move?”
I gulp. Stick to the script. “My uncle got a new job.”
“Your uncle?” He eyes me curiously. “What about your parents?”
I barely know the kid and I’m about to scare him off. “They- uh-” I trail off when tears threaten to prick in my eyes. “They were killed in a car accident.”
Adam’s face falls, “wow, Greer, I’m sorry. I’m a really nosy person. Seriously, I suck.”
I give him a weak smile, “how were you supposed to know that the new girl didn’t have parents?”
“I really am sorry.” He tells me again.
“No sweat, forget about it.” I wave him off.
Adam smiles at me, but before he answers I’m aware of someone stalking their way towards me. The boy looks somewhat familiar, but I can’t place where I know him from. He’s staring me down from across the hall with angry dark eyes. Unlike every other boy in the hallway that’s wearing a blazer, he wears a leather jacket over his white shirt. His strides are powerful and angry as he closes the distance between us.
Adam notices the boy now too and his eyes grow wide. He moves out of the boy’s way. I’m suddenly backed into the row of lockers. The boy hovers dangerously close to my face. I’m aware of every person in the hallway staring at me, gasps and murmurs work its way into my ears. The angry boy sticks a finger in my face, ”You!”
It’s the kid I assaulted this morning.
The first day of my new life and I’m already dead.