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Authors: Kristina M. Rovison

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BOOK: Pieces of a Mending Heart
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“Hello,” I say, voice shooting up a few octaves, shaking. I mentally chastise myself for being such a
dimwitted moron
at the moment
, but keep my friendly face composed.

             
His eyes smile, but his face remains stoic. “First day, huh?” he says.

             
That voice
… I nod, unable to form coherent thoughts while the tingles turn my skin to ice. I’m uncomfortable feeling so meek just by the sound of his voice, but there is nothing condescending about his tone; maybe I’m going crazy.

             
“Mine too. Well, first day back,” he says, sounding embarrassed but keeping his expression pleasantly neutral. He reaches up like he’s about to run his fingers through his hair, but stops and
drops his hand, a miniscule bitter smile gracing his lips.

             
I can feel it rolling off him
, the
acrimony
, as if in waves of sap; the thick, heavy, sticky emotion clings to my sensitive skin, trying to work its way into my system. I somehow find the strength to pull back, willing it away with just a flick of a mental finger. I smile, finally feeling in control once more.

             
“You went here before?” I ask, putting my books into alignment in my bag, avoiding looking at the picture in my wallet at the bottom. It’s buried, out of sight. Just like David.

             
PANG, the greed and grief starts pumping through my veins, working their way from my heart to every inch of my
pathetically human body. I taste them on my tongue, smell their putrid odor in my nose, and feel the ban
ging of their demons in my head as they
try to force their way into my mind, attempting to once again steal my sanity. I grip my stomach in an attempt to stop the gagging, but then I feel something else.

             
A hand rests tentatively on my shoulder, squeezing lightly. The gagging sensation leaves me, along with the emotions that were just coursing through my veins. I look up, stunned, to see concerned blue eyes boring into mine. I feel as if he sees something I don’t; as if he’s looking into the very depths of my soul and trying to unscramble the mess that was once a thriving young woman.

             
He is the first to break the silence. “Are you alright?” he almost whispers, instinctively leaning closer.
The freckles on his nose
are rather adorable and add a refreshing youthful look to this otherwise rugged looking boy.

             
I just
stare at him like an idiot
until my body, again, acts of its own accord and nods. He immediately relaxes, the clouded look leaving his eyes as he takes his hand back slowly. I instantly miss the pressure of his fingers, and I find myself slouching before righting it quickly. My father taught me to never slouch, and literally beat
it into my head that it was one of the
worst, unladylike habit
s
a girl could possess.

             
“I’m Tristan. Tristan
Presidio
,” he says, offering not his hand, but a stunning smile.

             
I smile back, unable to help myself. “I’m Katherine. Katherine
Prince
,” I respond, standing and slinging my backpack over my right shoulder. My shirt sleeves ride up, so I quickly tug them back down, hiding my scars.

             
His eyes take on that knowing look again, and his smile doesn’t falter. “I know,” he says, voice laced with an unidentifiable emotion. That is strange to me, that I do not recognize it. Determining emotions is something God has made very simple for me, which is both a blessing and a curse. More of a curse, really… literally…

             
Tristan speaks again, quickly. “I mean, eve
ryone’s been talking about you last week
. It’s not o
ften there’s a new student here. Shields Valley isn’t exactly a popular place to relocate to,
” he says, tugging his jacket sleeves further down.

             
I bite my lip out of habit. It’s a nervous tick, something I do when I’m feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable. My name being spewed from peoples mouths’ is not something I consider desirable, and Tristan must see this on my face, because he breaks the short silence again.

             
“I know you’re going to be ambushed all day by curious students,” he smirks, motioning towards the few students looking
at me as they leave the room, “but I
was wondering if you’d want to-”

             
He gets interrupted by Scott’s naturally traveling voice. “Katherine, enjoy your first class? No teacher in this whole school is better than Mrs. Hollis,” he finishes, sending a wink in her direction.
He winks an awful lot.
She rolls her eyes and turns back to the blackboard, writing down various things I vaguely recognize.

             
I am freed from having to converse with Scott by the warning bell that tells us we have two minutes to get to the next class. Turning
back towards Tristan, I feel my usual
boldness about to
reappear.
“Where’s your next class?” I ask.

             
He seems surprised, eyes darting to Scott’s back before returning to my gaze. “AP English. Yours?”

             
I smile. “AP English,” I say, som
ewhat flirty. Th
at surprises me slightly; I’m not the flirty type.

             
Tristan smiles, his ch
eeks turning a faint rose color, which is just adorable.
“Then we best get going,” he says, motioning towards the staircase leading to the second floor.

 

 

 

Chapter 4

             
Walking next to Tristan to English is distracting to say the least. I keep fighting of
f the urge to stare at him
and more than once we’re cor
nered in the hallway by people introducing
themselve
s
to me
.
Only a few acknowledge the boy beside me.
Ev
entually, we arrive at room 213, about three minutes after the bell
. Luckily, our excuse makes sense; I got lost on the other side of the school and Tristan dutifully showed me the way. The teacher was fabulous, to say the least.

             
We take the last two seats available in the room, on opposite sides of the tiny class. Mr. Morrison, the middle-aged, pudgy, upbeat man clearly has the entire class charmed with his presence, and I immediately take a liking to him. We receive our first assignment, which is to write a personal essay about our worst fears, in less than seven-hundred words. I stuff the assignment requirements sheet into my bag, not wanting to think about fears right now.

             
I take the opportunity to glance around the classroom during Mr. Morrison’s lecture; I
love
English and have already studied Pride and Prejudice, so I’m paying little attention. The students in
the room seem
to be fixated on the lesson, but I catch the kind eyes of a girl sitting in the seat behind me. She smiles, showing a mouth full of braces with red bands. I smile tentatively back, hoping to make a friend out of the seemingly quiet girl.

             
Tristan surprises me yet again as the class continues. Not only does he thoroughly know the material, but has very interesting interpretations of major characters. The students in the room seem to be having a difficult time looking at him,
which
sparks my curiosity. Mr. Morrison seems thrilled with
Tristan’s know
ledge, but it is obvious he’s
i
s hesitant
to reveal his insight. He seems
… almost shy.

             
I couldn’t imagine a boy like Tristan being shy; it went against every single teenage stereotype known to man. His strong build, incredibly handsome face,
sweet voice… I feel
a
flush
grace
my cheeks as I think about him, so I quickly avert
my thoughts elsewhere. I glance
up at him
once more as the teacher turns
the lights off to play us a scene from the movie of
my favorite
Jane Austen novel.

             
He’
s smirk
ing at his desk, eyes closed,
head shaking ever so slightly. It would’ve looked strange to others, but I often find myself doing this when I have a moment of quiet. If I
didn’t kno
w better, I’d say he was talking
to himself, but his mouth moves so slightly I can’
t be sure from afar.

             
Without warning, his head snaps up and his eyes survey mine. He lifts his hand slightly and points towards the front of the room where an old television has begun pla
ying the opening scene. I try to look casual, but don’t succeed so I just look
at the television
, feeling out of control again.

             
Besides, a boy like him doesn’t seem the type that would be interested in a being friends with a girl like me; a girl with something to hide, something- someone- to find… a girl who will stop at nothing until she finds what she’s looking for.

             
The lights
flash back on before I know it
and the students groan unanimously as the blinding fluorescents assault our sensitive eyes. A few minutes later, after some discussion on the accu
racy of the scene, the bell rings and Mr. Morrison dismisses the class. My head acts of its own accord and shifts towards Tristan, who i
s already halfway across the room, heading towards me, looking at his black boots.

             
“Miss.
Prince
? May I please see you
for a moment,” Mr. Morrison says
from behind his desk.

             
Tristan frowns slightly before immediately masking
his face again, cutting off any
emotion that may be threatening to make it
self
known. He waves at me and nod
s his head in farewell and walks
out the door, not looking back. The instant longing hits me like
an invisible wall, and I rock
back on my heels, grasping my stomach.

             
Walking towards Mr. Morrison’s desk, I observe the ridiculous amount of books he has on the shelves on the opposite wall. “Yes, sir?” I say quietly.

             
His head snaps up, face stunned. “Now Katherine, don’t you call me ‘sir.” Don’t make me feel old,” Mr. Morrison smiles kindly. “I want to discuss something with you,” he says.

             
“Mr. Morrison, I have already read Pride and Prejudice, so I apologize if you noticed my di
straction
in class today,” I blurt out, not thinking. My eyes widen slightly and I look down, tugging at my shirt sleeves.

             
He smiles, looking impressed. “I am not concerned with your academic situation, Miss.
Prince
. I
have no doubt that you will be a fantastic student. What I wanted to mention briefly-” he’s cut off by the ringing of the warning bell. “Don’t worry, I’ll write you a pass. What I wanted to mention briefly,” he continues, “is that… Well, I am very aware of your previous situation before transferred here. Your secret is safe with me, if
it’s something you wish to keep private
. The faculty was made aware of your… circumstances upon your arrival.”

             
I am mortified. How could I look my teachers in the face if they all thought I was nuts? I came here hoping to start fresh; new people who knew nothing about me. In every sense of the word, a clean slate. Mr. Morrison must see the mortification on my face, or in my suddenly wide eyes, because he jumps right back into lecturing me.

             
“Katherine,” he mutters softly, taking my upper arms in his tiny
hands. I flinch, but he grips
tighter. “Katherine, you are most
welcome in my classroom, anytime you need a place to go. Do you understand? I respect you; I will not treat you any different than any of my other students. You are always welcome to visit me,” he finishes, releasing my arms and stepping back.

             
Honesty was rolling off the man in waves, and I didn’t need to be cursed- or blessed- by God to feel it. My throat constricts, and I immediately duck my head, letting my hair shield my cheeks. “Thank you, Mr. Morrison. I promise not to cause any trouble,” I say, eerily formal after his speech.

             
His face looks slightly pained before it evens out again. “Yes, Katherine. I expect wonderful things from you,” he says, voice back to his usual cheery tone. “Now, your pass…” he
says
, scribbling something o
nto a spare sheet of paper and then
handing it to me.

BOOK: Pieces of a Mending Heart
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