Home > Turned (The Vampire Journals #1)(3)

Turned (The Vampire Journals #1)(3)
Author: Morgan Rice

Caitlin looked and saw that the line stretched back at least a hundred kids. It looked like a twenty minute wait.

As she started heading to the back of the line, a kid on the line shoved another one, and he went flying in front of her, hitting the ground hard.

The first kid jumped on top of the other and started punching him in the face.

The cafeteria erupted in a roar of excitement, as dozens of kids gathered around.

“FIGHT! FIGHT!”

Caitlin took several steps back, watching in horror at the violent scene at her feet.

Four security guards finally came over and broke it up, separating the two bloody kids and carting them off. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry.

After Caitlin finally got her food, she scanned the room, hoping for a sign of Jonah. But he was nowhere in sight.

She walked down the aisles, passing table after table, all packed with kids. There were few free seats, and the ones that were free didn’t seem that inviting, adjacent to large cliques of friends.

Finally, she took a seat at an empty table towards the back. There was just one kid at the far end of it, a short, frail Chinese boy with braces, poorly dressed, who kept his head lowered and focused on his food.

She felt alone. She looked down and checked her phone. There were a few Facebook messages from her friends from her last town. They wanted to know how she liked her new place. Somehow, she didn’t feel like answering. They felt so far away.

Caitlin barely ate, a vague feeling of first-day nausea still with her. She tried to change her train of thought. She closed her eyes. She thought of her new apartment, a fifth floor walkup in a filthy building on 132nd street. Her nausea worsened. She breathed deeply, willing herself to focus on something, anything good in her life.

Her little brother. Sam. 14 going on 20. Sam never seemed to remember that he was the youngest: he always acted like her older brother. He’d grown tough and hardened from all the moving around, from their Dad’s leaving, from the way their Mom treated them both. She could see it was getting to him and could see that he was starting to close himself off. His frequent school fights didn’t surprise her. She feared it would only get worse.

But when it came to Caitlin, Sam absolutely loved her. And she him. He was the only constant in her life, the only one she could rely on. He seemed to retain his one soft spot left in the world for her. She was determined to do her best to protect him.

“Caitlin?”

She jumped.

Standing over her, tray in one hand and violin case in the other, was Jonah.

“Mind if I join you?”

“Yes—I mean no,” she said, flustered.

Idiot, she thought. Stop acting so nervous.

Jonah flashed that smile of his, then sat across from her. He sat erect, with perfect posture, and put his violin down carefully beside him. He gently laid out his food. There was something about him, something she couldn’t quite place. He was different than anyone she’d ever met. It was like he was from a different era. He definitely did not belong in this place.

“How’s your first day?” he asked.

“Not what I expected.”

“I know what you mean,” he said.

“Is that a violin?”

She nodded to his instrument. He kept it close, and kept one hand resting on it, as if afraid someone might steal it.

“It’s a viola, actually. It’s just a little bigger, but it’s a much different sound. More mellow.”

She’d never seen a viola, and hoped that he’d put it on the table and show her. But he didn’t make a move to, and she didn’t want to pry. He was still resting his hand on it, and he seemed protective of it, like it was personal and private.

“Do you practice a lot?”

Jonah shrugged. “A few hours a day,” he said casually.

“A few hours!? You must be great!”

He shrugged again. “I’m OK, I guess. There are a lot of players much better than me. But I am hoping it’s my ticket out of this place.”

“I always wanted to play the piano,” Caitlin said.

“Why don’t you?”

She was going to say, I never had one, but stopped herself. Instead, she shrugged and looked back down at her food.

“You don’t need to own a piano,” Jonah said.

She looked up, startled that he’d read her mind.

“There’s a rehearsal room in this school. For all the bad here, at least there’s some good. They’ll give you lessons for free. All you have to do is sign up.”

Caitlin’s eyes widened.

“Really?”

“There’s a signup sheet outside the music room. Ask for Mrs. Lennox. Tell her you’re my friend.”

Friend. Caitlin liked the sound of that word. She slowly felt a happiness welling up inside of her.

She smiled wide. Their eyes locked for a moment.

Staring back into his glowing, green eyes, she burned with a desire to ask him a million questions: Do you have a girlfriend? Why are you being so nice? Do you really like me?

But, instead, she bit her tongue and said nothing.

Afraid that their time together would run out soon, she scanned her brain for something to ask him that would prolong their conversation. She tried to think of something that would assure her that she’d see him again. But she got nervous and froze up.

She finally opened her mouth, and just as she did, the bell rang.

The room erupted into noise and motion, and Jonah stood, grabbing his viola.

“I’m late,” he said, gathering his tray.

He looked over at her tray. “Can I take yours?”

She looked down, realizing she’d forgotten it, and shook her head.

“OK,” he said.

He stood there, suddenly shy, not knowing what to say.

“Well…see you.”

“See you,” she answered lamely, her voice barely above a whisper.

*

Her first school day over, Caitlin exited the building into the sunny, March afternoon. Although a strong breeze was blowing, she didn’t feel cold anymore. Although all the kids around her were screaming as they streamed out, she was no longer bothered by the noise. She felt alive, and free. The rest of the day had gone by in a blur; she couldn’t even remember the name of a single new teacher.

She could not stop thinking about Jonah.

She wondered if she had acted like an idiot in the cafeteria. She had stumbled over her words; she barely even asked him any questions. All she could think of to ask him was about that stupid viola. She should have asked where he lived, where he was from, where he was applying to college.

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