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Authors: Shelena Shorts

The Pace

BOOK: The Pace
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THE PACE
Shelena Shorts

The Pace

Published through Lands Atlantic Publishing www.landsatlantic.com

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved

Copyright © 2009 by Shelena Shorts Cover Photo by Suzanne Mazer and C. Paul

 

ISBN: 9780982500507

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author or publisher.

Chapter 1
CRASH
 

U
sually, the end of summer brought on a descending cloud of gloom. But not this year. For the first time, I approached September with the comforting knowledge that I could, once again, go to class in my pajamas.

Well, not really
go.
The truth is, when it came to school, I didn't have to go anywhere. I literally rolled out of bed, powered up my laptop, went to brush my teeth, and then logged into my classes. There were no more bad hair days, at least none that anyone else could see, and no more piles of rejected outfits on my bed. It was simple. Just thinking about it made my upcoming senior year seem a lot less dreadful. But I have to say, it didn’t come easy.

The path to my virtual gold mine came at a price. It took enduring three moves to three different states before my mom realized I shouldn’t have to start over as the new girl again. For her, moving wasn’t a big deal. She’d always been outgoing and considered it as a way to, “see what’s out there,” but by the third move, I’d seen enough and she knew it. I can even remember the apprehension in her face when she approached me. “Sophie,” she said, four months into my junior year, “I want to move back to California.”

I could’ve flipped when she told me, but the weird thing was, I didn’t. I actually liked the idea of moving back. That’s where I was born and where my nana lived. My only apprehension was doing it in the middle of the year, and that’s when she told me: Nana was ill. We couldn’t very well leave her to take care of herself; so we moved, leaving behind my best friend Kerry, and the snowy winters of Virginia for the distant, familiar sun of California.

At first, I drowned myself in misery at the thought of starting over again, but then my mom discovered California had an
online
high school. That meant I didn’t have to be the new girl after all. I wasted no time enrolling, and once that was taken care of, everything else just sort of fell into place.

My mom ended up finding a job at one of the medical centers at the UC Berkeley college campus, and then she bought us a yellow, two-bedroom house right outside of San Francisco. It was a small, old house, but she said it had “good bones.” I just hoped the avocado-green appliances weren’t part of the skeleton.

The nicest part about it was the layout. One of the bedrooms was upstairs and one was downstairs, and each had its own access to the two-story deck with its ridiculous hillside view. I would’ve settled for either room, but she insisted I have the one upstairs because it had more room to set up my workstation for school. It also gave me all the privacy I wanted, which turned out to be more than we’d both anticipated.

Within a few weeks, she decided I was spending too much time up there and missing out on being around other kids. Then, she began pressuring me to participate in my school’s social events, saying I should get out and meet people. That was easy for her to say. She talks to people in elevators. The idea of roller skating, standing in line for ice cream, or going on a field trip didn’t appeal to me. Plus, they all blatantly defeated the whole purpose of avoiding the awkward attempts at making new friends, so I cringed until she gave me another ultimatum.

My second choice was to have lunch with her on the Berkeley campus once a week. I mulled it over for about five minutes before deciding it wasn’t a bad idea. She
was
letting me attend school from home, and the only visual interaction I did have with kids my age was seeing a green dot by their name if we were online at the same time. So, if all she wanted me to do was have lunch with her, and call walking the college campus interaction with kids, I certainly wasn’t going to complain. In fact, I actually looked forward to it.

I found that being on campus was noticeably different from high school. I could show up in my sweatpants and a mismatched T-shirt if I wanted, and the only person from whom it would draw attention was my mom. It made it easy to keep up my end of the bargain, so I met her there every Thursday, and she agreed to let me keep going to school in my room.

It was a good deal, and it became such a tradition that we ended up keeping our meetings throughout most of the summer. The only exception was the last three weeks, when I was in Virginia visiting Kerry. It was the longest time I’d gone without seeing my mom, and she acted as if my absence had been an eternity.

When I returned, she wasted no time luring me back into our routine. “Oh, come on, Sophie,” she pleaded. “Come this Thursday. The food doesn’t taste the same without you.”

It really wasn’t necessary for her to lay it on that thick. I didn’t mind going. The food there was much better than the PB&J I usually ate at home, and letting her pick my brain for an hour was well worth not giving up my senior year online. So, on the last week of August, I headed to Berkeley, willingly, resuming our routine.

When I arrived, the campus was crowded. Classes had already started for the semester, and I expected it to be nearly impossible to find a parking space among the circling cars of students who were trying not to be late for class. For me, finding a space wasn’t ever that serious, so I usually just drove up and down the rows until one became available. This time I got lucky. I found a space so quickly that I actually got to our favorite sandwich shop first.

I went in and saved us a table by one of the big glass windows overlooking the garden. It never quite felt like a school until I looked around and noticed that most of the patrons were under twenty-one and carrying backpacks. Some were sitting with their friends laughing. Others were just sitting alone eating and listening to iPods. I tried not to stare too much as I waited, but one girl in the corner caught my eye. I watched her pull out a stack of books from her messenger bag and start flipping through the crisp pages. It made me wonder what classes she was taking, and then I thought about my own schedule.

I was set to take a pretty standard course load, which included British literature, Algebra II, U.S. Government and Economics, Environmental Science, physics, and photography. My schedule wasn’t too bad. I liked English and science, and I was excited about the photography. Government would be my least favorite.

I started to crinkle up my nose at the thought of government work when my mom bent down to give me a kiss on my cheek.

“Hey honey. What are you thinking about?”

“Just my schedule,” I answered, dismissively.

She sat down across from me. “Oh. Are you nervous?”

“Nervous about what?”

“Your senior year. This is it, you know, before you’re all grown up.”

“Oh come on, Mom, don’t start with the,
you’ll miss me
stuff already.” I dropped my shoulders in dread at an anticipated talk about my future. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

“I’m just saying. This is a big year for you.”

“I know.”

She paused for a few seconds and then leaned forward like she was about to tell me a secret. “I’m starving, and I’m not sharing today. I think I’ll have that huge chicken salad.”

I was glad she let the conversation about my cloudy future drop there. “Sounds good,” I replied, wasting no time hopping up to place our order. Normally, my venture in line was uneventful, but this time I seemed to have acquired a shadow. I turned to see an older man in a tweed blazer. At first, he didn’t say anything, but he was standing way too close for me not to notice his presence. I kept trying to scoot forward and he kept trying to stand beside me. He finally gently tapped his wrinkled hand on my shoulder.

“Excuse me,” he said, politely. I turned around and raised my eyebrows in response. He was observing me as if I were a painting. “You look so familiar.” I gave him a quick look-over, and I was sure I’d never seen him before. He tilted his head downward, eyeing me over his spectacles. “I would recognize those jade-green eyes anywhere.”

Now he was giving me the creeps. “Um, I’m sorry, I don’t know you.” I smiled as nicely as I could and turned around. I could still feel him staring.

“Did your mother go here?” he asked, not giving up.

I turned around slightly. “Uh, no she didn’t.” I tried to offer a final forced smile, hoping it would satisfy him.

“Are you sure? Not even one class?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“You look
very
much like a young lady I taught years ago. She was in my photography class.”

“Oh, that’s nice.” I wasn’t sure what else he wanted. I smiled one more time and took two more steps closer to the register. Another minute or two passed.

“Maybe your aunt went here?”

OMG.
I turned again. “No, I’m sorry. No one I know went here.” Thankfully, the girl behind the counter called me up to order.

I’m not sure what that was about, but I wasn’t used to people telling me I looked like anyone. People usually looked at my mother and then at me like I was adopted. She was fair-skinned and had a vibrant, strawberry-blond, naturally wavy bob. I had a year-round natural tan, and my dark hair was completely opposite from hers. Not only was it black but it was also straight, and slightly layered past my shoulders. The only features I have of hers are her slender build and green eyes.

I definitely take more after my Brazilian father, but he was never around growing up, so people didn’t have anything to go by when figuring out where I got my looks. Instead, they always asked me where I was from. Any questions about me resembling someone else took me by surprise, and oddly, that man wasn’t the first person on campus to approach me about it. The thought made me turn around to glance at the professor one more time, and he was still staring. I gave him a final nod and then took the food to our table.

BOOK: The Pace
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ads

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