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Episode 14 Part 32

By:  Lenady

“This is your WJXB afternoon weather forecast. We can expect a front to move through tomorrow night, dropping rain on the plateau and possibly some snow on the mountains-"

 

The radio clicked off, suddenly filling the car with a tense silence, tempered only by the sound of road vibrations and the engine. Tilly looked up warily from her book, expecting a comment of some sort from her dad.

 

It never came.

 

Her parents were quiet in the front seat. They sat stiffly, her dad straight as a ruler while her mom was angled towards the window, her hands perched neatly on her lap. She’d been fine that morning, directing the movers with her typical lofty air, but Tilly had noticed a change at the last rest stop when she came back to the car carrying a couple of hot chocolates. She’d been subdued, as if all the life from that morning had been sucked out. Tilly’d mumbled a soft ‘thanks’ and sipped at the steaming drink, trying to ignore the way her mom’s shoulders had sat, raised and curved inward. Tilly had winced, a slight bitterness gathering in her mouth over and underneath cloying sweetness, when her Dad had came back to the car and slammed the door shut behind him hard enough to make the loose change in the cup holder rattle.

 

The ride since then had been awkward and too quiet. Not that her family typically talked a lot anyway…

 

Tilly breathed in quietly and tipped her head back against the seat, resting her cheek against the scratchy gray fabric and looking out the window at the neighborhood they were driving through. Houses, mainly bungalows, lined the street in a nice neat row. A church, white and black, came into view, then the public high school that her mom was adamant she would not be going to. It was a small town, like all the others. She didn’t think they’d ever lived anywhere with a population over 12,000. Most places had been well under that number actually. At least the nearest Walmart, one town over, was a supercenter. That was a plus.

 

“There it is coming up,” her mom said, pointing out to the left and catching Tilly’s attention. The house was a Victorian, painted a soft yellow and white. It was large to Tilly, but probably just a little on the small size to her mom. Her mom had gushed over it for weeks, especially the back yard (‘garden,’ her mom insisted it be called) and wrap-around porch, to the point of driving Tilly insane. If she’d had to hear about the detailing on the living room mantelpiece again… As they got closer though, Tilly couldn’t argue about its charm. Still, the standard nerves dominated over any budding excitement she might be feeling.

 

She winced as she realized that the driveway as well as the curb out front were conspicuously empty.

 

“They’re not here yet,” her dad grumbled and slowed down, turning into the driveway. “And they left at least fifteen minutes before we did.”

 

“So we’ll have a few minutes before they get here to get used to the house,” her mom said, appeasingly.

 

“I’m paying them too much for them to be this inefficient.” His voice was raising somewhat.

 

Her mom just nodded, before opening the door. She walked around the car once, looking up at the house with a satisfied smile before frowning and knocking on Tilly’s window. “Don’t just sit around in there.”

 

Tilly leaned over and grabbed her book bag, tossing in a few items that had fallen to the floorboards, before opening the door. “I don’t ge-" Tilly started before she realized, looking around, that her parents had already left the driveway. She sighed and slung her bag onto her shoulder, slamming the door shut and leaning against the car.

 

“Thought it’d never get sold.”

 

Tilly turned her head. A boy with shaggy blond hair was standing not two feet away, looking up at the house. His clothes (ripped jeans, a band t-shirt, and a faded flannel button-down) were oily, as was the rest of him.

 

“Um, yeah,” Tilly said, pushing herself up a little straighter against the car. “The real estate agent said something about that.”

 

“The Marshalls, the guys who owned it last,” he said stepping a bit closer, “Well, they were kind of,” he tipped his nose up in the air. “Thought it should go for more… or at least that’s what my mom said. Did it get lowered again or…”

 

A whole slew of questions hung in the air, unasked, and Tilly turned away.  “Don’t know. Not like I’m the one paying it.”

 

“Yeah,” he said, “I live down the road. Couple of houses that way.” He pointing to the left.

 

Tilly just nodded.

 

“So, you going to Oakview Independent or FHT Academy?”

 

“The Academy.”

 

“Ah, cool. Guess I’ll be seeing ya round then. Well, other than being neighbors and stuff. I go there too. What grade?”

 

“Sophomore.”

 

“Nice.” He shuffled his feet on the pavement. “You don’t talk much do you?”

 

Tilly looked over, a little surprised and shrugged. “Sorry,” she said, setting her bag down on the ground. “Just… moving. It always sucks.”

 

“Do it much?” he asked, leaning against the car. Oh, and her dad was going to have a fit. She smiled, just a little.

 

“Once or twice a year since I was six? So yeah, I guess you could say that.”

 

He whistled. “Dude.”

 

She shrugged. “You get used to it. Except the parts you don’t get used to. If that makes any sense.”

 

He nodded. “It must be kind of cool though. Seeing a bunch of different places. Getting to make a fresh start somewhere.”

 

Tilly rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “What’s so fresh about it? Just because it’s another town doesn’t make it fresh. Everything’s pretty much the same wherever you go. Different names, different faces, but underneath it all it’s the same. Same town, same school, same people, just a different coat of paint. And besides, everything else you carry with you. Your parents didn’t change, you didn’t change, all the other junk didn’t change. What does it matter if your closet is on the left side of your bed or the right, or whether the kitchen has a double oven, or whether you’re five minutes from school or twenty?” She stopped and blinked, then looked down while she realized that she’d just figuratively spilled her guts to a total stranger. She could feel her face heating up.

 

He didn’t seem to notice. “Gee, that’s… optimistic,” he said, glancing over.

 

Tilly shrugged. “Optimism, pessimism. That’s got nothing to do with it. That’s realism.”

 

“Well, I don’t think it’s realistic.”

 

“People are people.”

 

“Yeah, and I say you got to give people a chance,” he said, straightening up and pulling himself away from the car. “Name’s Erin.”

 

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