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Just Keep Walking

Author: Silver
Rating: Moderate
Status: In Progress


Chapter 1

I walk into my new school. I was a Junior, but I wasn't here before. My mother had to fnd a new job after she got laid off. I knew the drill, keep your head down, eyes low, and act like you don't exist. It was better for me that way.

I ended up in the principal's office. She was blabbing about rules, procedures, how to dress, and what to do. I could feel myself growing impatient, and as soon as she stopped talking I said quickly, "Thanks. I'm good from here." "No you are not, Maria. You don't even know where to go for your classes. I'll have someone show you around." 

She called for someone, and in minutes a girl was there, her long, blond hair falling behind her shoulders perfectly. "Hi" I muttered, glancing at her. "I can show her around ma'am." Blondie smiled, grabbing my wrist and pulling me out of the room. "My name is Sarah. What's yours?" "Maria." "Oh." Sarah shrugged, continuing down the hallway. "It's Mexican, from my mother's side." "Good for you." 

"I'll get you  map and a list of your subjects." Sarah continued, knocking on a door labeled "Room N18". She opened the door and walked insde, dragging me along with her. Sarah sat down at a table with two other girls. 

"Believe me, the more you hang out with us, the better off you'll be." One of the girls, a redhead, piped up. I already knew who they were. They were the cool girls, the ones everyone wanted to be friends with. I knew they would lose intrest in me pretty fast, since I didn't go skydiving, or mountain climbing, or whatever the hell rich kids did.  

The trick was to avoid them, but not to challenge them. That way they don't see you as a threat. If they did, they would forage around my life to find something to humiliate me with. And if I become their friend, they would forage around my life to make sue I was "worthy". 

The other girl, another blond, was doodling on her paper idly. I took out my notebook and starting taking notes, keeping my eyes fixed on the paper. Sarah nudged me. "You don't have to do that. We can just get some other kid's notes later." "I guess, but I would rather trust myself on notes. I don't want to get any cruddy half-assed notes from some random person." I sighed, continuing to write. 

"Don't worry. We'll get Natalie's. She has the best notes in the whole school." The redhead smiled, pointing at a dark haired girl with brown eyes and freckles sitting  two seats away. Natalie was focused on her notes, scribbling down dates and names in neat, perfect handwriting. 

Chapter 2

As soon as class was done, Sarah walked over to Natalie and grabbed the notes from her hand. "Thanks." Natalie just looked away and picked up all her books. "Sarah, why don't you just make a copy of the notes and give Natalie her's back?" I suggested, wondering why I even said anything. "Because then she would be able to pass!" Sarah explained like I was a two year old. I just shrugged and picked up my books, avoiding eye contact with Natalie.

We walked to the lunch room, and went to the café. There was normal stuff: pizza, sandwiches, salad. I picked up a tray and headed over to the line. I chose my stuff quickly, and payed the lady sitting behind the counter. Sarah motioned me over to sit at their table, and I slid next to the redhead.

Just as I figured she would, Sarah brought up what they did for fun. "I went horseback riding over the weekend. What did you do Grace?" "I went to Disneyworld." The redhead replied. "How about you Claire?" "I went to Hawaii!" the other blond one announced. "Oh my God! No way!" Grace squealed. "Yeah. And I met this super hot guy, and man could he really take a girl out!" Claire sighed dreamily. 

Then Sarah turned to me. "What about you Maria?" The other two fell silent and turned to look at me too. "Nothing really. We had to move, so we didn't have time." I shrugged, twirling my fork. "That's too bad." Grace said sympathetically, while Claire stared at me like she'd never seen anyone who hadn't gone on a vacation over break. 

The bell rang, and we left the lunchroom. "What's next?" I asked, putting my tray on top of theirs. Sarah glanced at the papers. "Just P.E." "Oh. What's for P.E.?" Sarah shrugged and opened her locker, taking out her gym clothes. Grabbing mine, I followed her to the changing rooms. 

Chapter 3

I clutched the dodgeball tightly in my hand. I threw it weakly, and it bounced on the ground before rolling to the feet of a tall guy with brown hair. He picked it up and threw it at me. Just as I wanted. I always get out early in games, so I don't draw attention to myself. The ball was headed at my face, and I ducked. I really didn't want to get a black eye. I was standing up as another one caught me in the stomach. 

I walked over to the "out zone" and waited for someone to win. Both sides were diminishing, and soon it was one-on-two. On the other team, with just one, it was Natalie. The two on our team were guys, so I was sure they were going to destroy her. They threw balls at her like no tomorrow, but she dodged every one. Finally, she caught a ball that was headed towards her feet. 

Only one more. I realized. She was doing pretty good. The guy looked her over, then aimed the last ball directly at her. Natalie grabbed it, dropping the ball she held in her hand. Everyone on the other side cheered. They all started high-fiving each other ad congratulating her.

So Natalie isn't really unpopular. Just with the girls. I thought, wiggling through the strem of people leaving to congratulate her. I stopped short when I saw one of the guys who had gotten out agains her watching with strong dislike. When she was leaving, he "accidently" grabbed the back of her shirt, lifting upwards. Natalie whipped around and smacked him in the face, tugging her shirt down quickly to cover herself. 

"Geez, it was an accident bitch!"

"Back off Jack! Nothing is ever an "accident" with you!" Natalie spat, turning away. Jack glared after her, then turned to the boys next to him and started muttering to them furiously. I frowned and went to the changing rooms. I had seen it all before, so  I was pretty sure Natalie was in for a rough ride. 

~~

Sure enough, after school, Natalie was walking to her car when someone dumped a giant bucket worth's of water onto her. She screamed, probably because he water was ice-cold. The crowd of people started laughing, and walked off to their cars. 

Natalie flipped her wet hair out of her face and went to her car. She went into it, and tried to turn on the engine. It didn't start. "Oh sorry! I used your car engine as a pizza oven. Was that wrong?" A guy asked sarcastically. 

Natalie opened the front of the car to look at the engine. It was covered with melted cheese and tomato sauce. She slammed down the top, then picked up her books and bakpack and started walking way from the school. Everyone left, still laughing. 

I stood there for a moment, indescisive. I looked at Natalie as she walked down the sidewalk, her hair still dripping down her back. I had been to a lot of schools, but I'd never seen the person's engine vandalized. There were people who spray painted the outside, but that was different. 

I sighed, turned, and climbed onto my motorcycle. I rode in the opposite direction, and didn't look back. I pretended not to notice the familiar guilty pain that reminded me of what I had just done. It would go away eventually... or so I had always told myself.

Chapter 4

I stopped beside my house and opened the door. My mom was reading the ads section of the newspaper. "Here's a job: McDonalds, ages 15 and up. All you need is my signature." "Rather not." I groaned, flopping onto the couch. "How about Petco? You're good with animals." My mom continued.

"Why do I have to get a job? Some kids have cars, and phones, and have fun!" I spat, glaring at her. My mom put down the newspaper and looked at me with sympathetic eyes. "You know why." 

My dad had been an alchololic, and when my mom got pregnant she "refused to have me be exposed" and divorced him. In the fight, my dad made a deal: you get me and I get the money, or vice versa. My mom chose me, and he got all the money. All of it. Mom was left broke and pregnant with me. Now, we were scraping by. Barely. 

Mom interupted my thoughts. "Please choose one. Either McDonalds, Petco, or the grocery store."

"I'll take Petco." I shrugged, standing up.

"Good. I'll take you there tomorrow. And that reminds me, how is school?" 

"Like every other school mom." I was already at my bedroom door. "Well, try to make some friends this time, would you sweetie?" My mom called. 

I closed the door and sat down on my bed. I opened my backpack and started working on homework. I heard a meowing sund and froze. Looking up, I saw a cat was sitting on my open windowsill, it's gray fur sticking up. I put down my book and checked its neck. There was a tag. It read, "If lost, call 555-846-1953." I dialed the number. 

"Hello." An old woman's voice answered the phone on the fifth ring. "I found your cat." I said, scratching it behind the ears. It was purring so loudly I was having trouble hearing the woman over the phone. "Oh good! I was about to put up the papers. Come over to my house. It's 8888 Coral Drive." 

~~

I stopped outside the house and knocked, holding the squirming cat in my arms. A young woman opened the door, and smiled. "Thank you. This means so much to me. Stay right here, and I'll be back in a minute." She said, takng the cat and going into the house. She came out a few moments later with a $10 in her hand. She gave it to me. "Um, this isn't necessary." I said, trying to give it back. 

The woman shook her head and closed the door, leaving me standing on her porch. I blinked, then turned and went down to my bike. I got onto it, and noticed a person sitting on the front steps of their porch a few houses down. It was Natalie. 

She looked up, and I waved. She stared at me, then looked down at her book. Closing it, she went back into the house, slamming the door. I frowned and went over to her house. I knocked, and an old man opened it, and looked me over. "What do you want?" He asked in a croaky voice. "I would like to talk to Natalie." "What? Speak up, I'm half deaf!" I repeated myself. 

The old man frowned. "Can't you girls leave my granddaughter alone! You're always humiliating her in school, why do you need to follow her home?" "I-I didn't do that! I just want to explain something to her." I stammered. 

"Yeah, like how funny it was when they poured water on her! You know, her clothes are ruined, and she's in tears!" The old man yelled, slamming the door in my face. I sighed and knocked again. "Get away from this house, or I'll call the cops!" The man yelled. 

I turned and walked over to my bike, got onto it, and paused. I looked at the door again, but it remained closed. Then, I pedaled away. 

Chapter 5

The next day, I went to school early, determined to find Natalie. Her car was still there, with a ticket stuck on the windshield. I put my bike on the rack, secured it, and went into school. I went to her locker, or the one with the word "BITCH" painted on it. She was taking out her books and putting them into a pile. 

"Um, Natalie?" She looked up, her eyes flashing. "What do you want?" She asked, stuffing some of the books back into her locker. "Um, I noticed your car is still here." I began. "Yeah. My dad's looking into how to fix it, but it was too late to get the car and bring it back." She spat, glaring at me. 

"It's a long way to get to your home from school by walking, right?" "What do you want to do to make me more miserable? Fill my bag with rocks?" Natalie asked sarcastically, standing up. 

"No, I was trying to ask you if you wanted to borrow my bike, since my way is shorter!" I exploded. She turned and stared at me. "Yeah right." "No seriously!" I said, walking after her. "And I can fix your car." I continued. That made her stop in her tracks. "Look, stop it okay? I'm sick of you guys!"

"I swear, that I'll fix your car, and that there are no "traps" with my bike!" I snapped. "I got it from my mom! Natalie shook her head. "I don't get it! You're mad, and you won't let someone make it better?" I said, seething with annoyance. Natalie gave up. "Fine. What's in it for you?" 

"I don't know" I admitted, looking into her brown eyes. She looked at me, then turned and walked away. 

~~

I walked into Petco, and went into the office. Half an hour later, I was cleaning out mice cages. I tried not to breathe through my nose as I shoveled the dirty bedding into a trash bag. By the time I finished cleaning all the cages, it was time to go. I signed out, and went back to school. By now, someone had put on another ticket. 

I took the car and pushed it down the road. I rolled it down the streets until I reached my house. I opened the top. By now the cheese and tomato sauce had hardened. I took a scraper and started working.

By the time I finished, it was late at night. My mom was at her job, so she had no idea what I was doing. I tried starting the car with the keys Natalie gave me, and the engine roared. I drove it to Natalie's house, trying not to crash into anything. I didn't have a driver's liscense, so I was driving as legally as I could. 

Pulling into Natalie's driveway, I stopped the car. I got out of it and knocked on the door. The old man opened the door, and stared at me. "You! I said I would call the cops if I saw your face around here again!" He yelled, slamming the door. 

"Wait!" But I was talking to the door. I knocked on it again, and this time Natalie opened it. Her eyes widened when she saw the car, then turned to me. "Seriously?" 

I nodded, and gave her the keys. She turned it on, and smiled when she heard the car start. She got out and walked over to me. "Thanks." She said, looking at my eyes. 

I nodded, and gave her the keys. She turned it on, and smiled when she heard the car start. She got out and walked over to me. "Thanks." She said, looking at me. I shrugged, then started down the stairs towards the street. "Don't forget this!" Natalie gave me my bike. I climbed onto it and secured my helmet. 

"See you tomorrow, I guess." Natalie called. I turned, waved, then left. 

Chapter 6

I went to school the next day, and put my bike in the same spot as usual. A few people were muttering about Natalie's car, but most of them thought she had "been served". I went to my locker and got my books. It was room N18 again. The first time since the first day of school. I never really liked Social Studies, but I was worried about the popular girls, since they didn't have any of the same classes as me. 

I sat down in the desk, and this time they didn't sit near me, which was a relief. I hated talking to people who got everything they wanted and were snooty about it. I took notes this time, and by the end of the class I had a page front-to-back worth. 

As I expected, Sarah, Grace, and Claire took Natalie's notes. I had copied down my notes again, so when we were leaving, I dropped it into Natalie's bag. She looked at me, surprised, then kept walking. 

By the time it was lunch, I was already mentally exausted. Sitting down in an empty table, I started eating my soup. I saw Natalie walking towards another table. She sat down, and I had a sudden urge to talk to her. I had never had a friend before, and even though I knew it was dangerous, it was still tempting. 

I shook my head. Better not involve myself. 

Sarah and her friends sat down next to me. "Who fixed that bitch's car?" Claire asked me. I shrugged. Well it doesn't matter, because we are going to wreck her life in P.E. today." Sarah laughed. "What?" I said, a little too quickly. "Someone's eager." Grace smirked, but all she said was, "you'll see later." Then they left, leaving a hollow feeling in my stomach. 

~~

P.E. came too fast. I realized now was time to make a descision: choose Natalie or choose me. I really didn't want to go with either, but I came into the class prepared. It passed uneventfully, and I figured they were bluffing. I was wrong. 

After class, someone had stolen Natalie's clothes. Pathetic. I was surprised that it was so childish. But of course, they also decided to set up recorders. So she was trapped inside the bathroom stall, because if she tried to leave, or do anything, it would be recorded for the school's amusement. 

After school everyone drifted off, and Natalie was still stuck in the bathrooms. I decided to choose Natalie. I grabbed some of my spare clothes, and went into the room. I passed them to her, and a few minutes later she came out of the stall and raised her eyebrow at the camera. "I know. Bitches or what?" I frowned, my voice cold. "Agreed." Natalie's voce was emotionless, and her eyes gave nothing away. 

Then she punched the screen. It went black. "That problem solved." Then she left. I followed, going to my bike. I was climbing onto it when Natalie stopped me. "It's getting late. Want to come over to my place?" 

I nodded, and she put my bike into the car. Then she drove with me to her house. Natalie opened the door, and we went inside. It was really nice, with furniture and pictures on the wall. One of them showed Natalie and the old man I had seen next to each other, along with an older lady, who was sitting in a wheelchair. 

She noticed me staring. "They're my grandparents." "Oh." I said, trying to think of what to say. "Do you want to call your parents to let them know you're here?" "No thanks." I didn't want to have to admit that my mom didn't have a phone, or explain why. "Okay." Natalie shrugged. There was an awkward silence for a few minutes. 

"Hey sweetie! Where were you earlier today?" A voice asked. It was the grandmother, who wheeled her way over to Natalie and hugged her. "Hey grandma. This is Maria, from school." I waved at her, feeling my cheeks flush. "Hello Maria. You're the one who fixed my granddaughter's car, right?" The old woman smiled. "Yes." 

"Well, thanks. Natalie was so embarassed about the whole thing. I mean, you're the first friend she's had since that nasty breakup with her boyfriend. Humiliating, really, since it wasn't her fault. That Jack wanted hr to skip school, drink, drive illegally, do drugs.." Natalie coughed over the rest of her grandmoher's sentence. The old woman continued, oblivious. "When Natalie refused, he dumped her and made her as popular as dirt." Her grandmother told me, oblivious to Natalie's face turning red. 

Natalie hissed, "Grandma!" "Oh, that's right. You don't like to admit awkward stuff like that. Your parents would be so proud-" "Maria, how about we go to my room?" Natalie asked loudly, cutting across her grandmother. I nodded,sensing she was embarassed, and followed her up a set of stairs until we stopped by a door. 

Natalie opened it, and walked in. The room was dark blue, with a large window on one wall.  She sat down on the end of her bed, wrapping her arms around a pillow. I followed her, closing the door behind me. "You have a nice room." I say, trying to make conversation. "I guess. Is yours?" 

I considered. My room was crappy compared to hers, with broken windows and cracked paint. "Mine's... lacking." I shrug, trying to act nonchalant. "Huh. Well, maybe we can plan something. Go over and give it a makeover. Would your parents mind?" Natalie suggested. "Parent. I don't have a dad. Besides, we don't really have that much money." Wait, did I really just say that? I realized, my face tinging pink with embarrasment. 

"Oh." Natalie dropped her pillow and looked at me, her eyes watering. "My parents were in the Navy. They died in combat." She turned, and picked up two identical medals. "Medals of Honor. They both died together in Afghanistan." Her voice was sad, but proud. I pat her on the back, unsure of what to do. Natalie burst into silent tears, and buried her face in her pillow. I sort of hugged her, my eyes filling with tears. I barely knew her, but still felt her pain. 

~~

Natalie's grandparents had offered to have me over, but I refused. I had to get home before my mom flipped. I climbed onto my motorcycle, and drove away before I said something stupid. It was pretty common for me to screw stuff up. 

But even I couldn't have this much screwed-upness. What Natalie and I totally forgot was that recorders have a battery chip that can be downloaded. What happened the next day changed my life, for better or worse, I'm still not sure. 

Chapter 7

I put my bike in it's usual spot and got off, noticing a few people looking at me funny. Probably my outfit, I thought, weaving through students to get to my locker. I was wearing skinny jeans, brown boots, and a tanktop that said "American Idiot" with it's symbol, a heart grenade. 

When I finally got to my locker, the word "Freak" was written across it with spraypaint. I raised an eyebrow. Maybe because I was acting weird yesterday, but, like always, I began analyzing every possible situation. Of course, I was so naive that I missed the completely obvious. 

I was heading to homeroom, and stopped dead. In the main hallway, there's a giant screen for news reports and announcements. And playing on it was yesterday, with me sneaking in, giving Natalie a way out, me insulting the popular girls of the school, and her punching the screen. It going black. On repeat. Not stopping. Endless. Again and again. Showing everyone. Me a target now, too. An allaince with the most unpopular girl in the school. 

My breath was coming in short gasps, my sight blurring. Spots appearing in the corner of my vision, or what was left. I was backing away, hyperventilating. I wasn't supposed to draw attention. I was supposed to stay in the shadows. Be invisible. Not make friends. 

I ducked into an empty classroom and leaned against the wall, taking deep breaths. I need to calm down, I told myself. I knew  was in trouble, but hadn't I known that before when I went to help Natalie? I chose her over me, after all. I guess it's time to make good on that. Reassuring myself, I left the classroom and walked to homeroom, and slid into my seat. 

Other students were watching me, and I tried to ignore them. A wad of paper hit me n the back of the head. I pretended not to notice. Nothing important is going to happen. People will just avoid me, like they always do. I was lying to myself and I knew it. 

TBC

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