Here's a link to chapter 1: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/Cloudthing/Serendipity--chapter-1-146811
Thank you very much for reading! Please let me know what you think.
I was twisting and untwisting a short lock of my hazel hair around my finger when Judy finally opened the curtain of the dressing room. "What do you think?" she asked.
The blue shirt clung softly to her pale skin, emphasizing her blush. I nodded in approval. "Beautiful, yet understated," I said. "We're totally getting it!"
Judy's face lit up. "Really?" she turned around to see it from behind. She really was like a model, tall and slim and beautiful, with her dark hair twisted into long waves at her back.
She seemed graceful when standing, but then, I knew she was a clutz the minute she tried to walk. As if to prove my point, she tripped over her own feet, catching the curtain to steady herself. It almost fell down. "You have two more shirts to try on before wrecking the place," I joked with her.
She grimaced at me. "Are you getting that green tank top?" she asked, seeming like she wanted to change the subject. Her full lips slipped out in a pout.
"Yep, I think it brings out my eyes."
She smiled at me. "It does! And it's so nice with your skin, too."
I checked my reflection in the mirror. I was as short as ever, almost two heads under Judy. Shoulder length, straight hazel hair, tanned skin, and bright green eyes – the only part of me that looked like my mom. The only part that didn't feel horrendously average. I smiled at my reflection, and the eyes crinkled in joy.
"I think we can wear these to dinner tonight," I said. I watched as Judy's reflection blanched, and then turned a deep scarlet.
"I'm still a bit nervous about meeting strangers," she admitted, almost whispering.
I stood at the tip of my toes and tried to pat her head. "It's alright, they'll be so happy to see us," I tried to soothe her. "They're new, and they're transferring mid year. That can't be easy. I feel kind of bad for them."
Judy nodded. "You're right. They'll need us to be extra nice to them. If they're as beautiful as their parents, though, I doubt they'll need any help getting along with anyone."
We grinned at each other. "Ok, now go try on the pink shirt I chose for you!" I commanded, laughing and turning back to my own booth to change back into my normal clothes.
Dinner was a quiet event. All three of us seemed too hyped up to hold any real, meaningful conversation. Judy ate with us most days since her parent's divorce. I didn't know what her dad did when she was away, but she didn't seem too worried about that, so I told myself I shouldn't be either.
I'd never really liked Judy's mom. Angela seemed too flighty for her own good, too soft to handle the world. I could see a lot of similarities between my mom and her. Only, my mom divorced right after I was born, and Angela hung around.
When we were in elementary school, Judy and I used to lock ourselves in her upstairs bathroom as her parents fought and screamed at each other. We'd sit on the cold tile for hours and she'd cry silently with her head on my shoulder, her tears pulsing.
After the divorce, it seemed only natural that Howard would get full custody. He had a stable job, and though silent and gruff, he really did care about Judy's wellbeing. I couldn't say the same for Angela. She took her part of the divorce money, bought an RV and decided to travel.
Once every few months, Judy would receive a post card with her mom's messy scrawl. She saved them in a jewelry box by her bed. As much as I hated Angela for leaving Judy here and going off on her own, I could understand her. I could imagine going through heartbreak deep enough that you just had to run away. But I could never understand leaving a person as good as Judy behind. If she ever came back, I wondered if I would confront her about it.
Judy cleared the table as I started on the dishes. She let out Spot, gave him his dinner, and then started chatting with my mom.
I was still doing the dishes when the guests arrived. First I heard the now familiar voice of Deborah, with a soft, "How do you do?" and David's with a following, "It's great to see you again." I heard Judy gasp quietly again as my mom chattered pleasantly away.
I hurriedly shut off the water and dried my hands on my jeans. Does she need me? Is she ok? I plastered a smile on my face as I sped to the door. I cut in delicately in front of Judy, wishing for the hundredth time that I could be taller, to offer her a tiny bit more protection. I wished putting myself between her and the strangers would make her feel more at ease.
"Hi," I said, taking them all in for the first time.
David smiled, and for the first time, it seemed kind of fatherly. "Edith, Judy, I'd like you to meet the rest of my family." He gestured at the three people behind him.
The first one, the shortest, was staring intently at Judy. His eyes, the same strange honey color, didn't seem mean, exactly, but definitely curious. It felt almost invasive, the way he was looking at her. I tried to make my back a little taller, to spread out in front of her a little more. He was beautiful, of course, his golden, tousled hair looked effortlessly styled, and his broad shoulders stiffened as he turned to look at his dad. Their eyes crossed for a split second, and then he looked down at me. "Hi, I'm Max." He smiled carefully at me and then at Judy. I glanced at her and saw that she was blushing silently.
"And I'm Jane!" trilled a high soprano voice. The girl behind him, with cropped dark hair moved forward. She had a lovely, heart shaped face and was grinning at us. "I can't wait to be friends with you two!" she added. I could see she meant it, and that warmed me a bit more to her.
I smiled back at her, while I felt Judy stiffen behind me. The first one, Max, was staring at her again. I wasn't sure if I should do something. Punch him maybe? Talk about something else? What could I talk about?
Then, suddenly, the third boy smacked Max on the head. Max turned around stiffly, and they exchanged what seemed to be an intense gaze. The air felt heavy inside my lungs for a moment, and I realized I was holding my breath. Then the third boy said, "Hi, I'm Nick." He was taller than the rest of them, taller than even David or Judy. He was the only one that wasn't chalk pale, but his skin still seemed incredibly smooth. He looked… well, bored. Beautiful, of course, just like the rest of them, but he really looked like he was craving a way out. His honey eyes traced the garden path longingly. I fought a smile.
Deborah cleared her throat. "Behave, kids," she chided sweetly, smiling at them with her eyes. I was right on my first guess, she was a mother figure through and through.
My mom laughed, and I could detect and uncomfortable edge to the sound. "Come on in, I see you brought cake with you! Isn't that wonderful?"
She nervously smoothed her hair behind her ear as she led the way to the living room.
We all followed in an awkward line.
"I'll make a pot of tea," I volunteered as everyone started settling on the two sofas. They looked like models, rather than an ordinary family. I blinked at them twice, trying to clear my head.
"I'll help," Jane chirped in, and she moved gracefully to my side faster than I thought possible. I thought I saw her mother give her a warning glance from the corners of my eyes.
I smiled at the girl, who was a head taller than me. She seemed genuinely nice. "Do you dance?" I asked as we headed to the kitchen, trying to make conversation. Her steps seemed so elegant and smooth.
"I do gymnastics," she admitted, "But I haven't practiced in ages!" Then she suddenly giggled, and the sound was like a bell being rung, clear and rhythmic. Thought I hated to admit it, it was somewhat unsettling.
I put water in the kettle and searched around for cups. We didn't have enough that matched so I chose random mugs, hoping they weren't chipped.
"So, uh, were you sad to leave Alaska?" I asked, handing her half of the cups. Our fingers touched briefly and I noted how cold hers were.
"Not really," she shrugged. "I mean, I liked the snow and everything, but I heard it's almost as rainy out here." She cradled the glasses against her chest and we started walking slowly towards the living room.
I smiled at her. The weather. Always a safe topic. "It sure is. Do you like the rain?"
She nodded. "I absolutely love rainy weather!"
"Right now it's hot though," I commented, "Like a rainforest. The humidity here is crazy."
"Well, I lived in the rainforests before, it really isn't that different," she said, and I just stared after her.
Lived in the rain forests? Umm… what?
She didn't catch me staring. She hummed and put her share of the glasses down. I did the same, shook my head to clear it, and glanced at Judy. She was talking with my mom and Deborah. I was glad that she seemed comfortable enough with them.
The boys – Nick and Max were sitting very still next to their father. Though burley wasn't the right word, they looked much older, like they couldn't be seventeen. Jane plopped down next to Nick and leaned her head back on the headrest.
Trying to be hospitable, I ventured a question. "So, are all three of you starting sophomore year?"
Jane smiled at me, her tiny, fairy like features laughing, but I couldn't see what was funny. "Oh, I'll be starting my freshman year. But Nick and Max are in your year."
Nick was staring into space, and acted like he hadn't heard her, or me for that matter.
Max cleared his throat. "Yes, we will," he murmured. I saw Judy's head shoot up to study him.
I shifted my weight uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Oh, the kettle," I remembered.
"I'll get it," Judy said, getting quickly to her feet – too fast, stumbling and catching herself on the sofa edge. Blood rushed to her face.
"I'll help," Max offered hastily. I frowned. I still didn't like the way he looked at her. Like he was trying to complete a task. Like something about her was frustrating him.
My mom didn't seem to notice anything off about the exchange. "Judy, be a dear and get us some plates and spoons too so we can have this wonderful cake!"
I was sure she only asked her to bring something breakable because there was a second pair of hands coming along. I bit my lip, wondering if I should join too or if it would be too rude.
Max turned around to look at me. "We'll be fine," he reassured me, trailing after Judy who has already escaped to the kitchen. I didn't know my face showed how worried I was. I tried to rearrange my features as I sat in Judy's place next to my mom and Deborah.