Before long the first day of school had come, and Rosalie had gotten a rare gift from her mother — a new dress — for the occasion. “For your birthday,” Alison had explained. This was white, with a blue floral pattern, and it was one of the more grown up articles of clothing that Rosalie owned. In the past, she’d additionally always worn her hair back in a ponytail. She decided today to make a change, pulling it back with a simple matching blue headband. She looked at herself in the mirror with content. With her new look, she seemed more poised, more sure of herself. Fifteen year old Rosalie was still a child, too nervous to talk to people. Now, sixteen year old Rosalie looked like she could go places. Like she could be a part of the school paper and talk to people without overanalyzing everything they said.
Because of the dress, Alison hadn’t bought her new school supplies, but that mattered less to her. She had a good feeling about this year. It was a fresh start, and it was going to be different. She kept her notebooks safely in her bag, and in one of them was an article she had written the night before about the Korean War. She thought it was alright, she only hoped Mark liked it enough.
As she walked down the hallway, getting ready to leave, she heard her mother stirring in her room and realized she had not yet left for work. Alison was a secretary at a local paper company. She never talked about it much, and Rosalie had the impression that she didn’t have any strong feelings for or against it. Love or hate, it was steady work and a decent paycheck.
Rosalie knocked on the door.
“Mom?” she asked.
“Come in,” Alison said.
Rosalie opened to the door. She was sitting in front of her vanity, humming to herself as she brushed her hair. Still in her nightgown.
“You look very pretty,” Alison said.
“Don’t you have work?” Rosalie asked.
“No, I quit,” She said matter of factly.
“This morning,” she responded cheerfully.
“I woke up this morning and thought that I didn’t want to work there anymore.”
“What about money?”
“I’ll find another job. I’m not worried about it.”
Rosalie pursed his lips. This whole encounter was much too bizzare for her to deal with. “I have to go to school,” she said before shutting the door.
At lunch Rosalie took her usual seat by herself. A couple of people who she hadn’t seen since summer had said hello to her so far in the day. She was friendly with a lot of people, but real friends with no one. So far the morning had been alright. She was most looking forward to History and English, which still would be in the afternoon. And of course, after school, when the paper would meet.
Just then, she caught eyes with Mark walking with his lunch tray across the cafteria. He saw her looking and smiled at her. “Are you waiting on anyone?” He asked.
Rosalie shook her head, and Mark gestured for take her lunch and come over. She could scarcely believe it, and she sat there dumbfounded for a moment. When she finally got her things together, he laughed. Still, Rosalie said nothing, and they continued walking to another end of the cafeteria. “How’s your first day so far?” Rosalie asked when she could speak.
“It’s been just fine,” he responded.
They sat down at the end of a table of twelfth grade boys who Rosalie knew by face but not by name. Mark introduced her, but she was mainly focused on him and forgot all of their names in a second. They waved and went back to their conversations.
“Did you know my brother well?” Rosalie asked him.
Mark shook his head. “He was a year above me, but we did have English together last year.”
Rosalie laughed. “And how was that?”
Mark looked at her for a moment, as if he didn’t know how to respond. “I enjoyed it. Read a lot of good books. And I like your brother.”
“He got married,” she said.
Mark laughed. A couple of the surrounding boys heard and they laughed too. “To Laura Martin?”
“What do you think of her?” He asked.
“She’s all right.”
Mark pursed his lips.
“You don’t like her?”
“Does anyone like Laura Martin?” Mark responded. The rest of the table all laughed. Rosalie blushed, not wanting to take the conversation further. Luckily, Mark changed the subject. “So, Rosalie, what do you want to do after high school?”
“I want to go to New York to become a reporter,” she responded confidently. “I’d like to go to college, too. Maybe Barnard.”
Mark smiled. “I’m hoping to get into Columbia. I’ve always wanted to move to New York.”
“I used to live there,” Rosalie said.
Mark’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“My parents are both from there. We moved after my dad died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
Rosalie took a deep breath. “I was really young when it happened. But I still miss New York.”
Mark’s eyes started to wander, and Rosalie wondered if she’d been too forward in mentioning her dad. Even though she’d about him constantly since running into him at the diner, she had to remember this was only really the second time that they’d spoke. Still, the rest of their lunch went by normally, and they ended up chatting about everything and anything. It was nice. It had been far too long since she’d really talked to someone. Maybe this was what it was like, to not have a hole in your heart so deep you wondered if there was something wrong with you. It brought about a sort of warmth, and she hoped that it was here to stay.