The Force of Gravity(5)

By: Kelly Stevenson


My mom is a hairdresser and works all kinds of hours, so it’s rare when we eat dinner as a family. We have similar features with our dark-brown hair and blue eyes, but I have my dad’s nose. While a lot of my friends complain about their parents, I couldn’t be happier with mine. We’ve always had an easy, loving relationship. And up until recently, I’d say the same for their marriage. I would think their relationship is perfect if it weren’t for the late night fights. But even though things have been strained between them lately, they never bring me into it. They haven’t spoken to me about it, nor have I mentioned how they’ve been keeping me up most nights.

My dad sits across from me at the dinner table and looks at me with his loving hazel eyes. “What’s up, Kay?”

I’m playing with my spaghetti when he addresses me. “Nothing,” I say. “Just really tired. I think I’m gonna go to bed early.”

“How’s school? Everything okay?”

My mind flashes to Mr. Slate before I answer. “Actually, no. Mr. Hanson died of a heart attack over spring break.”

My mother gasps. “No!”

“Yeah. We already have a new math teacher, too. It was kind of a strange day.” A tingle runs down my spine as I recall Mr. Slate’s eyes on my lips.

“Unbelievable,” my mom whispers. “Are you okay?”

I shift in my chair. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

My parents stare at me with concern, and I know they think I’m upset over his death. I admit, Mr. Hanson’s death was a shock, and obviously I didn’t want the guy to drop dead, but that isn’t what’s pestering me.

My chair screeches against the tile as I stand up. “I’m gonna go crash.” I reach for my plate, but my mom stops me.

“We’ll get that, sweetie,” she says.

I stop an eye roll. They’re both looking at me with pity, and nothing irritates me more. I bid them goodnight and go upstairs to wash my face and brush my teeth. I slip into my pajamas and try to push today out of my mind. My phone chimes just as I’m climbing into bed. It’s a text from Tommy. Suddenly, I’m not in the mood to talk. I text him back, letting him know I’m going to bed early and turn my phone on silent. My body is desperate for sleep, and I sink into the mattress.

But I toss and turn.

My mind is restless.

It’s not long before I hear my parents arguing downstairs, and I groan. I wanted to fall asleep before the fighting began. It’s become almost routine in my house, but as long as I can fall asleep before I hear them, I’m able to get my much needed eight hours.

Frustrated, I lift the pillow over my head and press it tightly against my ears, begging my body to sleep. As much as I resist, the idyllic image of Mr. Slate continues to permeate my mind. Normally, I don’t remember the specific features of a person I’ve just met. But somehow, the details of his face are already etched into my memory. Ugh! Why on earth am I thinking about my math teacher right now? And what was with my body’s reaction to him today? I’m just as pathetic as the rest of the girls. A lack of sleep is the culprit, I convince myself. All I need is a good night’s rest, and I’ll feel like my old self again.

After a while, I pull the pillow off my head, and I’m relieved to hear silence throughout the house. My mind finally gives in to my body’s exhaustion, but Mr. Slate’s face is still the last thing I see as I drift off to sleep.





CHAPTER TWO



I WAKE UP TWENTY MINUTES before my alarm goes off. After nine solid hours of sleep, I feel well rested and decide to get a head start on the day. Feeling grimy from skipping a shower yesterday, I take my time underneath the warm stream of water. My mind shuffles through the events of the last twenty-four hours, and I laugh at myself. Who was that girl? I’m definitely not forgoing the coffee today. When I’m finished with my shower, I wrap a towel around myself and plug in my curling iron. I hesitate before heading back to my bedroom.

Maybe I shouldn’t curl my hair today.

I glance at my reflection as my buried thoughts begin to surface. I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying too hard in front of Mr. Slate. I especially don’t want him to think I’m going out of my way to look nice for him. But why would he even think that? What makes me think he’d even notice? You curl your hair all the time, what’s the difference? If anyone knew I was standing in my bathroom unsure of whether or not to curl my hair because of what my math teacher might think, I would die from embarrassment.

I unplug the curling iron and walk back into my bedroom.

After choosing a pair of formfitting jeans, with an aqua shirt that hugs my curves and complements my eyes, I make my way back to the bathroom to dry my hair and apply my makeup. I have to at least admit to myself that I’m trying—without trying to look like I’m trying.

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