Once I got around the cafeteria, building three was easy to spot. A large black “3” was painted on a white square on the east corner. I felt my breathing gradually creeping toward hyperventilation as I approached the door. I tried holding my breath as I followed two unisex raincoats through the door.
The classroom was small. The people in front of me stopped just inside the door to hang up their coats on a long row of hooks. I copied them.
They were two girls, one a porcelain-colored blonde, the other also pale, with light brown hair. At least my skin wouldn’t be a standout here.
I took the slip up to the teacher, a tall, balding man whose desk had a nameplate identifying him as Mr. Mason. He gawked at me when he saw my name – not an encouraging response – and of course I flushed tomato red.
But at least he sent me to an empty desk at the back without introducing me to the class. It was harder for my new classmates to stare at me
in the back, but somehow, they managed. I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me. It was fairly basic: Bronte, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner. I’d already read everything. That was comforting… and boring. I wondered if my mom would send me my folder of old essays, or if she would think that was cheating. I went through different arguments with her in my head while the teacher droned on.
When the bell rang, a nasal buzzing sound, a gangly boy with skin problems and hair black as an oil slick leaned across the aisle to talk to me.
“You’re Isabella Swan, aren’t you?” He looked like the overly helpful, chess club type.
“Bella,” I corrected. Everyone within a three-seat radius turned to look at me.
“Where’s your next class?” he asked.
I had to check in my bag. “Um, Government, with Jefferson, in building six.”
There was nowhere to look without meeting curious eyes.
“I’m headed toward building four, I could show you the way…” Definitely over-helpful. “I’m Eric,” he added.
I smiled tentatively. “Thanks.”
We got our jackets and headed out into the rain, which had picked up. I could have sworn several people behind us were walking close enough to eavesdrop. I hoped I wasn’t getting paranoid.
“So, this is a lot different than Phoenix, huh?” he asked.
“It doesn’t rain much there, does it?”
“Three or four times a year.”
“Wow, what must that be like?” he wondered.
“Sunny,” I told him.
“You don’t look very tan.”
“My mother is part albino.”
He studied my face apprehensively, and I sighed. It looked like clouds and a sense of humor didn’t mix. A few months of this and I’d forget how to use sarcasm.
We walked back around the cafeteria, to the south buildings by the gym.
Eric walked me right to the door, though it was clearly marked.
“Well, good luck,” he said as I touched the handle. “Maybe we’ll have some other classes together.” He sounded hopeful.
I smiled at him vaguely and went inside.
The rest of the morning passed in about the same fashion. My Trigonometry teacher, Mr. Varner, who I would have hated anyway just because of the subject he taught, was the only one who made me stand in front of the class and introduce myself. I stammered, blushed, and tripped over my own boots on the way to my seat.
After two classes, I started to recognize several of the faces in each class. There was always someone braver than the others who would introduce themselves and ask me questions about how I was liking Forks. I tried to be diplomatic, but mostly I just lied a lot. At least I never needed the map.