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When we got back there were two cars in the driveway. I grabbed the bag from Newbury Comics and the bag from Bread & Circus. Nina grabbed the rest and we went inside. Viola was cooking dinner in the kitchen, Noah was passed out on the couch in the TV room. There was a man sitting at that table and I guessed that he was Nina, Olivia, and Noah’s dad.

He looked up from the magazine he was reading and smiled at me.

“Hi, I’m Bart.”

“Taylor.” I held out my hand and he shook it.

“Taylor dear,” Once again, Viola was calling me from the kitchen. “Did you go to the supermarket?”

“Yeah, can I put something in the freezer?”

“Go right ahead.” I put the veggie burgers in the freezer. “Taylor dear, dinner will be ready in about 5 minutes so why don’t you go wash up.” I headed upstairs and changed into a white button up shirt and brushed my hair. Then I went back to the kitchen to up my sushi on a plate.

I sat down next to Nina and across from Noah. We didn’t say grace, and the Handell’s were Jewish. All through dinner, Noah kept looking at me, but I chalked that up to my somewhat interesting dining habits.

After dinner I asked Nina to show me where the piano was so I could practice. She took me to a beautiful sunroom where there was a lovely old grand piano. I ran upstairs, grabbed my sheet music, and went back to the piano room. I selected “Flight of the Bumblebee” and sat down to play. I had just gotten through the opening theme when Olivia came in. She looked a bit shy, so I waved for her to come closer.

“Mom said not to bother you but you’re pretty good so I wanted to watch you play.”

“That’s fine. Do you play the piano?”

“A little.” She sounded a bit ashamed.

“A little’s better than not at all, Livie”

“I guess.” Her voice perked up a bit at the sound of a nickname from me. “Will you play some more before I have to go to bed?”

“I’d be glad to.” I went back to my music and she sat down on the couch against the opposite wall. It took me about a half-hour, but I finally got through the whole piece without any errors, but when I looked up Olivia had fallen asleep. Viola was standing behind me in the doorway. She walked past me to Olivia and picked her up. As she walked out of the room she whispered “Very nice dear.” I beamed. It was one thing to be praised by your own family and fans. It was quite another to have someone who should theoretically hate you, praising you, even after you were involved in the destruction of her income.

I practiced for about 15 more minutes, then decided to head upstairs. When I opened the door I was surprised to see Nina’s back on my bed. I grinned evilly. I took a flying leap and landed on the bed. Nina bounced about 2 feet off the bed. She screamed. I laughed. Then I sat down.

“Whatcha lookin’ at there Nina?”

‘Photo album.” I glanced at the book. They were pictures of my little sister Zoë and me. It was her first birthday. “Your sister is adorable.”

“Yeah, but she’s wicked annoying now.”

“Right, well, you should probably go to bed now. You’ve gotta get up early for school.”

“Okay, g’night.” She semi-glomped me and departed.

The next morning Nina woke me up a half an hour before we had to leave. I showered after Noah, and he left me like, 3 minutes of hot water. I put on a pair of relaxed fit jeans and a tight black T-shirt. Then I grabbed my bag, which held my books, notebooks, Discman, and my cell phone, and I went downstairs. Nina was making a bagel and Noah was eating Froot Loops and reading the comics. Nina tossed me a bagel wrapped in tinfoil.

“You do eat bagels right?”

“But of course.”

“Good.” She tapped Noah on the head. “Hey, Goink boy, you catching a ride with us?” Noah grunted. “I’ll take that as a yeas, but I’ll warn you now, Tay’s driving because let’s face it Noah, you suck at driving.” Noah shot a death glare at Nina. She then turned to me. “Did you get your schedule?”

“Nope, but I’ve got Mr. Gould as my homeroom teacher. He’s gonna give me my schedule.”

“Sweet, you’ve got homeroom with us. Just pray you don’t have Mr. Garney for science or Ms. Clardy for World Civ.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Okay, let’s go, I wanna stop at Henion Bakery on the way there.” She tossed me the keys and I went out and started the car. Seconds later Nina came out, followed by Noah. Nina flopped in the front seat and Noah gracefully sat down in the back. I carefully backed out of the driveway. Nina directed me to the Henion Bakery. I parked illegally and she ran in, and came out with 3 coffees and 3 muffins. I put my steaming cup of coffee in the cup holder and handed Nina my muffin.

“Why thank you.” She motioned like she was going to take a bit. Without taking my eyes off the road I swatted her hand. She burst into a fit of giggles.

“Geeze Nina, how can you be this perky in the morning?”

“She hasn’t take her medication yet.” Ah, Noah’s first words of the day. I still loved the contrasting voices. Nina’s somewhat high pitched giggle versus Noah’s low, somewhat lifeless voice. Nina giggled again and held up 2 small white pills, after which she popped them in her mouth and downed them with a large gulp of coffee.

“Do I just follow this road?”

“Yeah,” Noah replied. “In about 15 minutes you’ll see a sign for Amherst Regional High School.”

“Okay.” I paused. “Do you mind if I put some music on?”

“Not at all.” So I leaned over to the glove compartment and pulled out the Black Crows CD that I had bought the day before and slid it into the CD player. I glanced into the rearview mirror and saw Noah perk up at the sounds of the Black Crows.

Ten minutes later (I know I know, I was early, I’ve always been a fast driver.) Amira told me to turn right. I did so and we pulled into a large parking lot.

“Hey, Tay, use Noah’s space. 222.” So I found spot 222 and parked almost perfectly. I grabbed my coffee and bag and got out of the car.

As we were walking down the hall to homeroom, C-192, Nina ran into a group of her friends.

“Leila! I thought you were going to your dad’s this week! This rocks!”

“Ha!” The girl who I took to be Leila, the one with the short bleached hair, shot a grin at me. “Nina, who’s your hot friend?” I blushed as I’ve been told I have a habit of doing.

“He’s Taylor, you know, the guy I told you about who’s staying at our house.”

“Ah, that one.” She winked at me. I coughed lightly.

“Oh, dearie me.” Nina said in her best southern Belle accent. “How very rude of me. I didn’t introduce you guys. Tay, this is Leila, Zoë, Gabrielle, and Zach.” Funny thing though, this tall dark haired Zach reminded me of my own brother Zac.

A bell rang throughout the hall. “Oh shit!” came from Nina’s direction. She grabbed my hand and dragged me to a classroom about 6 doors away from where we had just been standing. Just as we sat down, a second bell rang and a youngish looking teacher walked in.


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