This is my first attempt at a story. I'd love to hear some feedback at

This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons alive or dead are purely coincidental. All the usual disclaimers apply.

Chapter 7: Turning Corners

I looked back through the narrow channel I'd cut in the mass of brambles to find him casually leaning against the fence, both of his hands lightly gripping the top rail and one foot resting on the the bottom one.

He smiled tentatively at me when my eyes met his. "Hello again," he said and tilted his head to one side in the way a curious puppy might, "um... whatcha doing?"

I opened my mouth and took a deep breath, fully intending to yell at him again. I think he could see what was coming as his smile faded away and he turned his head slightly so that he now appeared to be studying some detail in the wood of the top rail.

I felt very weary all of a sudden. I no longer had the energy or the will to follow through. Exhaling deeply instead, I looked away from him for a few moments while I tried to figure out what to do next. I looked up and caught him taking a peek in my direction before he quickly averted his eyes again. 'OK, this is stupid,' I thought to myself.

"What? Who's stupid?" He was now looking right at me again with a frown knitting his brows together.

"Huh?" Oh shit, did I say that out loud? " didn't mean you were... Sorry, I didn't realize I said that out loud," I shrugged, looking away from him again and feeling more than a little embarrassed.

"Forget it." His frown had gone and was that a hint of a smile hovering about his mouth? "So, what ARE you doing? I mean...I can see what you've done but I was just wondering why you've done it." He brushed a stray lock of blond hair away from his forehead and gave me that curious puppy look of his again.

"Oh...well, there used to be a path here years ago that leads into those woods," I gestured towards the woods behind me using the shears as a pointer. "I was just clearing it of all of that," I said, swinging the shears around and waving them the pile of cuttings on the ground near where he was standing.

Looking down at all the cuttings, he toed them thoughtfully with his sneaker. "You should be careful with those you know," he nodded towards the shears, "you could really hurt yourself handling them like that."

It was my turn to frown. Was he kidding me? Who the hell was he to treat me like a little kid playing with something sharp. He can't tell me what to do, he's no older than I was and...

"I'm just saying," he added quickly, interrupting my internal rant and holding up his hands in mock surrender, "I'd hate to see you get hurt, that's all."

"Yeah? Well, tell that to the other kid. He might disagree with you," I snapped at him.

"Who? Oh, you mean Simon?" he shook his head slowly. "Look, he feels really bad about what happened. He's a good kid, really, he's just a bit hyper sometimes and doesn't think things through before he does stuff. He's always getting into bother because of that."

"He wanted you to beat me with that club you were carrying. Doesn't sound like a good kid to me," I huffed.

He looked puzzled for a moment. "Club? Oh! No, no that wasn't a club. It was a Rounders bat."

"Oh? Well that's okay then," I said in a tone dripping with sarcasm. "I'm sure that being beaten with a 'Rounders' bat would be totally painless."

He looked a little hurt. "You know that's not what I meant. I was just..."

"Whatever," I cut him off, "what's 'Rounders' anyway?" I could feel myself getting angry as I remembered our earlier confrontation and I tried to reign myself in.

"Huh?" The sudden shift in the topic appeared to confuse him momentarily, although he managed to recover readily enough. "Oh, Rounders is a game. It's like baseball, I suppose, only smaller. Not that I really know anything about baseball. You'd know loads more about it than me."

"Why would I know more about it?" I had a good idea why he'd think that of me but I baited the trap for him anyway.

"Well, because you're an American. I just thought..."

"Well you thought wrong," I interrupted, "just because I'm from the U.S. doesn't mean that I like baseball or football or ice hockey. You don't know anything about me and..."

"OKAY!" His raised voice startled me and I shut my mouth mid-sentence. "Okay. I know I don't know anything about you and I'm sorry I assumed you liked baseball. Look, I'm trying to be friendly okay and I really would like to get to know you. But if you don't want that there's not much I can do about it. So... do you really want me to leave you alone?"

He didn't drop his eyes from mine when he'd finished speaking. There was an intensity to his gaze that I found unsettling. It was as if he was willing me to believe him, to trust him. I swallowed. My mouth was suddenly very dry and I licked my lips nervously. Managing to tear my eyes away from his, I made a show of closely inspecting a few of the pruned bramble stems; anything to buy me time to think. What did I want? Did I want him to go away and leave me be?

Yes, I did. I was afraid of letting anyone get too close to me. There was stuff that I didn't want anyone to know about and, if I let my guard down even for just a minute, I could end up getting hurt. So I should just keep myself to myself. That was my plan after all, wasn't it?

"No," I heard myself say, "you can stay...if you want to." Damn it! What was I doing?

"Cool! Thanks Jonathan. is Jonathan, right?" He sounded happy and I wasn't surprised to see that he was smiling as I looked his way again. He had a really nice smile.

"Um, it's just Jon actually," I said, shrugging while mentally slapping myself. 'It's just a smile Jon, get a grip,' I told myself.

"Oh okay, well thanks Jon. I'm Peter, Peter Hawkins," he was still smiling as he held out his hand, "nice to meet you, Jon."

I stared at him dumbly for a few seconds before the realization that he wanted to shake hands kicked in. Oh great! Now I had to not only get closer to him I had to touch him too. Feeling a blush rising from my chest and I lowered my head before it reached my cheeks. I attempted to disguise this action my putting down the shears. I pulled off my gloves and wiped my sweaty palms on the legs of my jeans. Hoping he hadn't noticed the blush, I tentatively closed the gap between us. Keeping my eyes on his hand, I clasped it but pulled free after a single quick pump.

"N..Nice to meet you too, Peter." I glanced up at his face and noticed his eyes seemed to sparkle when he smiled. Turning away quickly I stuffed the gloves into the side pockets of my coat and went back to fetch the shears. My face felt warm again and my hand felt a bit tingly from the brief contact.

As I bent to pick up the shears I thought I saw a flash of something in the woods out of the corner of my eye. Something, paler than the surrounding gray-green environment, had moved, I was sure of it. Still bent over, I turned my head, training both eyes in the direction I thought the movement had originated. There was nothing to see though, just tree trunks and bushes. All was still again. Dismissing the event with a shake of my head, I picked up the shears and turned to face Peter again.

SNAP!! The sharp report of wood snapping nearby made me jump and I spun around, darting my eyes here and there. Again there was nothing out of the ordinary wherever I looked. Maybe it was a dead branch snapping off or maybe even an animal stepping on a fallen twig. I was just about to abandon my inspection when a large bush, 50 feet or so into the woods, suddenly shook violently. It was only for a second or two but it was very distinct against the surrounding stillness.

"Jon? What's up?" Peter asked.

Not taking my eyes off the now motionless bush, I half turned my head towards him. "I..I'm not sure. I think there's something..."

Another bush, far to the right of the original, suddenly shook in the same manner as the first one and then stopped just as quickly. Only this bush was about 10 feet or so closer to the edge of the woods. Closer to me. I took an involuntary step backwards, suddenly gripped by a strong sense of unease. This was all wrong. What the hell was doing that?

There it was again! Off to the left this time and even closer, just on the edge of the woods. 'Okay...Okay...Time to go!' I thought as the fine hairs on the back of my neck started prickling. I took another step backwards, turning around as I went, and dashed across the last couple of paces to the fence. Peter had a puzzled expression on his face as I practically threw myself over and backed away rapidly from where he still stood leaning on the top rail.

"Jon? What's the matter?" he asked again, following me into the field.

I was more than a little spooked by what I'd seen and even more so by the dread I'd felt as those bushes shook. It wasn't until I tried to speak again that I realized that I was panting for breath.

"" I gasped, "there'" I bent over to try to control my breathing. I didn't want to pass out again, not now, not here.

"See what?" he asked, briefly turning his head to peer at the gap in the brambles, "I didn't see anything. What did you see in there?"

"I...I...don't know. There was...a noise...then the bushes...moved. Something was in...the bushes." My breathing was calming somewhat and I felt able to stand up straight again.

"Yeah, I heard a twig snap or something," he shrugged and stuffed his hands into his jean pockets, "it was probably a deer, we have them around here sometimes. I saw a couple of them at the lower edge of the woods last week as we passed by on the bus on the way to school."

"Deer?" I didn't think it was a deer that I'd seen. Although, to be honest, I only had a glimpse of it, so it could have been anything I suppose. A deer wasn't all that far fetched.

"Yes sweetie?" Peter asked in an effeminate voice. He even lisped on the esses making it sound like he'd said 'Yeth thweetie'.

I stared at him and he fluttered his eyelashes at me before busting out laughing. "Huh? What?" was all I could manage.

He was still laughing hard and had his arms wrapped about himself as if to stop his sides from splitting.

"Was that supposed to be a joke?" I frowned at him as his laughter diminished to an occasional chuckle.

"Oh come ON, it was funny! You should have seen your face." And he was off again, nearly laughing as hard as before.

I tried to suppress my smile but I could feel the corners of my mouth twitching. He had one of those infectious laughs that makes it almost impossible to resist joining in. I pursed my lips in an effort to control my traitorous facial muscles and looked back over my shoulder at the path. Whatever it was that was in there...well, I was just happy to be away from it.

"Come on," Peter said, tapped the back of his hand against my upper arm, "let's head back." He set off across the field in the direction of our houses.

Not wanting to be left behind, I cast one final suspicious glance over my shoulder me before scampering to catch him up. I fell into step beside him as he trudged through the long grass.

"So..." He said after a short but comfortable silence.

I waited for him to continue but he added nothing else. "So..?" I prompted.

He stopped suddenly and I could feel him looking at me as I carried on walking. "Are we OK? You you think we can be friends?"

I resisted the urge to slow my pace but I did turn my head enough so that I could see what he was doing in my peripheral vision. "I don't know," I answered honestly, "I've only just met you after all."

"Fair enough, I suppose," he conceded, nodding his head. But was that disappointment I could hear in his voice? It was his turn to play catch up this time and he was quickly alongside me again.

I did look at him properly then. He was facing forward wearing a pretty neutral expression but he was also chewing on his bottom lip. What did that mean? I wished that I knew what was going on in his head.

"Um, but you seem okay so... lets just see how it goes, huh?" I quickly added.

He nodded again but didn't comment this time. He didn't need to. The little smile he tried to hide spoke volumes.

We didn't speak for the rest of short distance to the five bar gate. I climbed over, being careful not to jab myself with the shears, while he leaned on the top bar.

"So, I expect I'll see you in school on Tuesday then," he said, "unless you're around tomorrow afternoon?"

"I expect I'll be busy tomorrow getting ready for Tuesday," I shrugged, "I've got to the school tomorrow morning to be registered and to find out what I need to get; like what books I'll need and stuff. Then we've got to go buy everything. In the afternoon I'm expecting a desk and chair to be delivered for my computer and I've got to get it all set up and tested. We won't be getting Internet access until later in the week though, so there'll not be a lot to test really. I just need to make sure everything's still working after being shipped over.

"Oh okay, no problem," he said nonchalantly, "it sounds like you'll have your hands full."

"Yeah, unfortunately," I said with a frown. I wasn't looking forward to another shopping expedition, "and I haven't even finished unpacking yet. I'll have to do that today or I'll be tripping over boxes forever."

He chuckled. "Yeah, I know the feeling. We moved here last July and I've only just finished unpacking the last of my stuff. My brother's worse than me though, he's still got a couple of boxes of his crap to sort out."

"So you've not been here that long then?" I was surprised. I'd assumed he'd always lived here.

"No, no. We moved here from the other side of Cambridge after... um, after school broke up for the summer." He licked his lips and looked away from me momentarily. When he turned back he seemed not to want to look me in the eye and he was frowning slightly.

I got the distinct feeling that he was about to say something else but had caught himself at the last second. Whatever it was, it had clearly unsettled him.

"I..I'd better be getting home," he said suddenly, backing away from the gate. "I'll see you on Tuesday then. Bye." With a half-hearted wave he turned and made his way quickly to the door in the wall at the end of his garden and was gone.

Now I was the one frowning. What was all that about? One minute he was laughing and the next he couldn't get away from me fast enough. Weird!

I would probably have spent more time thinking about Peter's suddenly strange behavior, had it not been for the tiny droplet of water that struck me on the cheek at that moment. Followed shortly afterwards by another on the forehead as I tilted my head back to check out the sky above me. The clouds were still the uniform slate-gray that they'd been all day, so a specific source of the rain was not obvious. Yet another drop bounced off of the waterproof coat material covering my shoulder. A distant rumble of thunder finally convinced me that I shouldn't waste any more time searching the sky and I hurried back up the drive towards the house before the heavens opened up.

By the time I had reached the top of the drive the raindrops were falling more frequently and I had angled my head downwards to keep them out of my face. As I turned the corner though I was brought up short, as I could clearly hear voices coming from the direction of our front door.

"...drop by one evening later in the week, once we've had chance to settle in properly. How does Friday around 7pm sound? If you don't have any other plans of course." That was my Dad's voice but who was he talking to?

"Well that sounds like a great idea. We'd love to, wouldn't we Simon? And you'll get chance to meet my other son then too. I really don't know where he's gotten himself off to this time. I did tell him that we'd be popping round to say hello this afternoon." That was definitely a female voice and wait... did she say Simon?

"Hehehe, I've got a teenage son of my own remember, I know what they can be like." I heard Dad chuckle as I took a few steps closer to the door. "Okay, well we'll see you on Friday then. Thanks very much for stopping by Mrs Hawkins and you too young man."

I was about six feet away from the door when a blond lady stepped out, closely followed by the red haired kid I'd had the misfortune to meet this morning. As they stepped out they both turned back to the door in such a way that they hadn't noticed me standing there. That might well have continued to be the case had not my Dad also stepped out to see them off. He noticed me straight away.

"Well, here he is now. Talk about 'Speak of the Devil...'," said Dad grinning at me and waving me over, "Jon, come here son, I want you to meet our new neighbors. This is Mrs Hawkins and her son, Simon." They had both turned to face me as my Dad had started speaking and both wore very different expressions.

Mrs Hawkins was really quite pretty and her smile made her even more so. I could see where Peter had gotten his smile from, they were very similar. The redhead, on the other hand, apparently didn't know what to do with his face at all. It seemed to morph through several different emotions; beginning with surprise, then irritation, closely followed by embarrassment and finally ending with bashfulness when he managed to tear his eyes away. The speed of each transition made the overall effect very funny and I had to bite my lip to keep from busting out laughing.

I forced a smile for Mrs Hawkins. I think my suppressed mirth might have helped my smile to look more welcoming than I actually felt at that moment. I really didn't want to meet anymore people today and I especially didn't want another encounter with Simon. Twice today was more than enough.

"Hello Ma'am," I said, remembering my manners, "it's very nice to meet you." I walked up to her and offered her my hand.

"My, what a charming young man," she said taking my hand and gently shaking it. "Simon, pay attention, you could learn something about how to behave properly from this young gentleman. You must be very proud Mr Barrett." The mortified look that flashed across Simon's face was priceless.

"Please call me Thomas, or Tom if you prefer. Either is fine," said my Dad, "and I am. Very proud, that is."

"In that case Tom you must call me Sarah," Mrs Hawkins was quick to respond, "we're going to be neighbors so there's no need for formalities. Jon, this is my youngest son, Simon. Say hello, Simon," she said reaching behind her where Simon had been gradually inching, as if to hide himself from me, and propelling him forward.

"Ugh. Um...Hello," he offered in little more than a whisper. His head was lowered and his right hand was twitching and he started to raise it hesitantly.

There was no way I wanted to shake hands with this kid. "Hi, nice to meet you," I said flatly and turned to my Dad, pretending not to notice the kid's hand which was now half raised towards me. "Dad, I'd better go in and get cleaned up if you don't mind. I'm a bit of a mess." I walked over to him and before I went into the house I turned back to Mrs Hawkins. "Goodbye Ma'am."

"Goodbye Jon," she smiled and waved. "Well, come along Simon, let's get home before the weather gets any worse," she addressed her son as he stood where I'd left him, his hand still partially outstretched, "goodbye Tom, it was really nice to meet you. We'll see you on Friday at seven then."

She turned and started off down the drive towards the main gates with Simon trailing along a couple of feet behind her. He glanced back over his shoulder at me once but he was to far away by then, and the glance was too brief, for me to see his face clearly. But I don't think he was very happy. Serves him right. Maybe he'll think twice in future before he jumps someone.

Once inside I hung my coat up and took of my muddy sneakers so that they could dry out. Dad closed the front door and was waiting for me in the main entrance hall.

He was looking a little puzzled. "So? Do you want to tell me what that was all about?"

"Huh? What do you mean?" I asked, closing the inner door. Giving me just a few seconds to try and conjure as innocent an expression as I could manage.

"You know what I mean, Jonathan." Uh-oh, Dad using my full name is never a good thing. "The way you treated that boy out there. His mother may not have noticed it but I certainly did. You were abrupt and dismissive of him. You'll not make any friends with that sort of attitude. Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" he asked, crossing his arms and giving me a stern look.

"Um..." Damn! What could I say? If I brought up my earlier altercation with Simon that might lead on to having to mention my fainting spell and the real reason why my hands were all scratched up. "Um..." Okay. A way out of this popped into my head. "It's actually not the first time I've seen him Dad. You remember yesterday, after we got back from Cambridge, when you showed me the garage?"

Dad nodded silently and waited for me to continue.

"Um...well, when we walked back up to the house I saw him through a window in his house and he was making faces at me as we walked by. So when I saw him again just now I couldn't just pretend that that hadn't happened and be all friendly and, and stuff. It didn't feel right." Dad seemed to be chewing this over. He could always tell when I was lying but I wasn't this time, not really. I was just leaving out the other stuff that had happened this morning.

"Anyway," I went on, "he looks like he's about 11 years old and I really don't need a little kid hanging around me. Besides, he's got a brother my age and we're going to be in the same class in school. So I'd much rather get to know him than his bratty little brother and ..."

"Just a minute," Dad stopped me by holding up his pointer finger, "how could you know that he's even got an older brother, much less where he goes to school?"

"Because I met him when I was out cutting a path through the brambles earlier," I said, waving the shears I was still holding demonstratively. "I was going to tell you but I haven't had the chance."

"Hmmm, I see," Dad said, stroking his chin thoughtfully, "well that still doesn't excuse you for being so rude to him. He looked pretty hurt you know, when you refused to shake hands?"

"I didn't notice," I said, not looking him in the eye. I didn't want to think about that. I'd only end up feeling guilty about it and anyway it shouldn't be me feeling guilty, it should be Simon.

I think Dad must have mistaken my frown for regret. "Well don't worry about it for now. I've invited them all over on Friday evening. You can apologize to him then, unless of course you see him before then."

'Not if I can help it,' I thought to myself. "OK Dad. Um...where should I put these?" I asked holding up the shears and hoping he would let the other subject drop.

He regarded me silently, as if deciding whether or not I had taken what he said seriously. I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile and arched my eyebrows quizzically to remind him of my question.

"Okay," he sighed, "why don't you go and put them in the conservatory for now. When it stops raining I'll show you the shed where all the gardening equipment is kept." He turned and headed towards the kitchen. "When you've done that come and see me in the kitchen, there are a couple of things we need to talk about."

"Can I go freshen up first?" I asked, following him down the hallway.

He looked at me over his shoulder from the kitchen doorway. "Of course, but don't be too long. Do you want some juice?"

"Yes please." I nodded as as I walked passed him and into the family room.

Skirting the sofas I pushed open the set of French doors and entered the conservatory for the first time. Despite the cold and miserable conditions outside the temperature in the conservatory was surprisingly comfortable. Stopping in the middle of the room I looked out over the garden. The gentle pitter-patter of raindrops hitting the glass roof was quite relaxing and I found myself letting out a contented sigh. 'Things could be good here,' I thought to myself. Although whether or not that would be the case was going to be up to me, I realized.

I really was tired of being miserable all the time. Keeping up the emotional barriers that I'd erected around myself took a lot of effort. And what did I have to show for all of that hard work? I felt like shit most of the time, I'd pushed my friends away and had even been distant towards Dad. I'd convinced myself that I was doing it for them, to stop them from being hurt. Deep down though, I knew that was a load of bull. I was doing it for myself, so that I could carry on feeling sorry for myself. The problem was I wasn't sure I knew how to fix things. I'd gotten so used to feeling and acting this way and, as crazy as it probably makes me sound, I was comfortable with it.

But things had changed now. I had an opportunity to start over; to turn over a new leaf, so to speak. If I didn't make any effort to change then what sort of future did I have to look forward to? It would definitely be a lonely one, that's for damn sure.

Remembering that Dad was waiting gave me an idea. If he wanted to talk to me, that's fine, because now I really wanted to talk to him too.

I left the shears on a small table near the door to the garden and went back into the house and up to my room. Stripping off my shirt and jeans, I had a quick wash in my bathroom and got dressed again. I didn't think I'd be going outside again today so I just slipped on a T-shirt and some sweats.

Dad was sat at his usual spot at the kitchen island drinking a coffee, so I took the stool opposite him. The OJ he'd poured for me was refreshing and I finished the glass quickly, fixing myself another to sip at while we talked.

"So, what's up Dad?" I asked, returning from the fridge.

He looked at me over the rim of his cup and took another sip of his still steaming coffee before he spoke. "We need to talk about how things will work with you starting school this week."

"What do you mean 'how things will work'?"

"Well, for a start, there's how you will get to and from school each day," he began, setting down his cup. "I'm going to be working in Cambridge and you'll be in school in Bedford. They're in opposite directions from here so, unfortunately, I won't be able to drive you to school each day nor pick you up in the afternoon. Which means...that you'll need to use the bus service to get there and back every day. How do you feel about that?" he asked, taking another sip.

I thought about it for a few moments before shrugging. "It shouldn't be any different from how it was before really. It'll probably take a little time to get used to the route and bus timetable, but I don't think it'll be a problem."

He smiled and looked a little relieved. "Good. I'm sure that you'll get used to it soon enough. It won't be too bad, especially once you get to know a few of the other kids on the bus."

I nodded and took another sip of my OJ.

"The other issue, is that when you get home you're going to be here alone for a few hours, until I finish work and drive back from Cambridge. I won't know exactly how long I'll be until I've gotten a feel for what's expected of me. Do you think you'll be alright on you own for a few hours every day?"

"Dad! I'm not a little kid any more," I protested, "of course I'll be fine. I expect I'll get plenty of homework to keep me occupied and I'm quite capable of making a sandwich if I need a snack. So you don't need to worry me, okay?"

"Okay, okay," he laughed, putting down his cup and holding up his hands, "I just wanted to make sure you were okay with the idea, that's all. Anyway, that's all I wanted to say so you can carry on with whatever you have planned for this afternoon."

He started to get up and I thought that I was going to miss my opportunity to say what I wanted to say to him.

"DAD! Wait a minute, please," I blurted out, "I..I need to talk to you about something."

He shot me a questioning look and settled back onto his stool.

Not waiting for him to say anything I plunged onwards, afraid that I'd lose my nerve if I hesitated. "Dad, I..I just wanted to say that I'm sorry okay? I'm really sorry for how I've been acting over the last few months. I know it was wrong... you know, treating you all the way I did, but I did it anyway. I've been really selfish."

I swallowed, I really didn't want to cry, at least until I'd finished.

"But," I said holding up my hand to stop Dad from interrupting me, "I'm going to try, real hard, to do better, okay? And," I continued, taking a deep breath as this was going to be the hardest thing to say, "if you want to talk about M..Mom's acc..accident sometime, then I'm okay with that too."

Dad was already out of his seat and around the island before I'd stopped speaking. In fact, I don't know if he heard the last couple of words clearly, as they were said into his chest after he'd wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close.

I didn't cry, which surprised me, as it didn't usually take much prompting nowadays. Instead I just felt hugely relieved, like I'd had a great weight lifted from my shoulders. I hugged him back, just as tightly, and we stayed like that for a few minutes. Neither of us said anything; we didn't need to. I think we both felt that a corner had been turned.

Dad eventually relaxed his hold on me a little and, gripping my shoulders lightly, stepped back until I was at arms length. I looked up at him and smiled. His eyes looked moist. He squeezed my shoulders and nodded once before letting me go.

"So," he said, his voice sounded a little thick and he cleared his throat, "what DO you have planned for the rest of the day?"

"Um, I don't know," I shrugged, "I still have some unpacking to do, so I suppose I can get that done." Swallowing the last of my OJ I slid off the stool and leaned on the island's worktop.

"Okay. Well then, I'll probably be in the study if you need me for anything." He rinsed out his coffee cup and my glass and left them in the sink to wash up later. "Oh, and if you manage to empty your suitcase just leave it outside the attic door with those other boxes we put there."

I followed him out of the kitchen and headed up to my room as he disappeared into his study.

I lay on my bed for a little while staring blankly up at the ceiling with my hands tucked behind my head. A lot had happened today but I found myself thinking mainly about Peter and the few times that I'd seen him smile. He did have a really nice smile.

Could we be friends? I think I'd like that, a lot. But what about Simon? He was definitely a bit of a brat but, then again, I hadn't really given him much of a chance yet, had I? I knew I'd over-reacted when he'd tackled me to the ground this morning and again on both occasions I'd seen him since then. Maybe I'd get the chance to talk to him on Friday when they visit? Dad was right, I really should apologize to him and maybe we can start over. After all, if Peter and I become friends it could be a bit awkward if his brother and I didn't get along. But what if Peter had changed his mind about wanting to be friends? He did act a bit odd down by the gate. And what if Simon won't accept my apology, what then?

I chewed things over in my mind for a while longer but finally decided that I wasn't doing myself any favors by fretting about it. I'd just have to see how things turned out. Hopefully I'll be able to talk to Peter in school on Tuesday and we'll see how things went from there.

Feeling a little restless, I got off the bed and walked over to the window. It was still raining out, but appeared to be letting up a little. Hmmm, maybe I could go out again in a while. Although, looking at the sky, it wouldn't be too long now before the sun went down. Turning away from the window I thought I glimpsed a hint of motion from that upper window in Peter's house but, when I looked again, the curtains were closed.

I made short work of emptying my suitcase. I basically just tipped everything out onto my bed, giving me a large pile of clothes and toiletries to sort through. I took the empty case and, as Dad had suggested, left it outside the attic door. I still hadn't been into the attic, nor the basement, come to think of it. Oh well, plenty of time for that, especially if there were spiders about. I hated spiders with a vengeance; creepy little bastards with their spindly legs and too many eyes. It wasn't natural!

Back in my room I opened up the wardrobe and set about sorting my clothes into sub-piles. One pile for things that needed to be hung up and another for those that should be folded and put into drawers. I made a mental note to remind myself to ask Dad where the iron and ironing board were kept, as some of my shirts were heavily creased. Packing, I realized, was not one of my skills. Soon enough though I had everything hung up in the wardrobe and had started putting the rest into the large dresser by the window. There was still plenty of space in both, although I doubted that would be the case after tomorrow's shopping trip.

That was one aspect about starting school I especially wasn't looking forward to; the school uniform. I'd never had to wear a uniform before. In my last school we just wore whatever we wanted to. Dad had shown me the uniform on the school's website and the pictures of those kids all dressed the same was just, I don't know, weird I guess. Some of the boys did look cute though, hehehe.

I just had a few toiletries to put away now and that would be it. The shelf under the mirror in my bathroom was quickly filled and I put the less frequently used items in the cupboard under the sink unit.

I caught sight of myself in the mirror as I stood up and did a double-take. Was there something different about my face? I peered closer and turned on the extra light directly over the mirror. It was my eyes, or more accurately the shadows under my eyes that had been there for months now. They weren't gone but they did seem to be far less pronounced than I remember them being. It was a subtle difference but still noticeable, to me at least. They had been one of the reasons I'd tried to avoid looking in the mirror whenever possible.

I ran my fingertips over them and wondered if the change was due to the new environment or maybe because of my shift in attitude. Okay, it could be a complete coincidence but I sort of hoped that it wasn't. I hoped that it was a sign that I had made the right decision. That I was on the right path again.

To be continued...

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