I was running down a narrow pathway, searching for that familiar cottage at the edge of the forest. Tall oaks on both sides shadowed the winding path ahead.
Unable to see anything beyond the sharp bend to the left, I kept running. The forest was very quiet and still except for the occasional flurry of squirrels.
Finally, short of breath, I reached the bend and caught a glimpse of the glistening red brick cottage further down the path. Relief washed over me.
I rushed down the path towards the little cottage. This was the first time I had reached this far.
It was a small cottage with a tiled roof and a chimney, which oddly enough, was emanating grey puffs of smoke. The fireplace was lit. Someone had to be inside. This was new.
I knocked on the front door not knowing what to expect. The door flung open and I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the blinding bright light...
"Jane Thornton! What are you doing?"
I looked up, and to my dismay, Mrs. Sutton, my history teacher was glaring straight at me. I looked around to see twenty bewildered faces, some barely hiding their smirks, looking back at me.
A few girls on the far side of the class room broke out in a wave of giggles quickly silenced by a swift look from Mrs. Sutton.
"Jane? Are you unwell? Do you need to see the nurse?"
Mrs. Sutton, at forty something years old, was tall and graceful, with kind eyes and a face that held the kind of symmetrical beauty that may have broken a few hearts in her youth.
She was compassionate and kind but stern when it came to mischief makers. However, she had a soft spot for me. Yeah
"You look pale. Come with me"
I immediately got up and followed her to the nurse's office all the while thinking about the daydream that I just had for the third time this week.
Once before I had been close enough to see the cottage, but there was no smoke coming out of the chimney. The cottage itself was eerily familiar but I could never figure out why.
The nurse's office was dark and smelled of spirit. The nurse herself was rather grumpy and unpleasant and I had no intention of being stuck here for the rest of the day.
I glanced at her, trying to look as healthy as I could.
"Hi Hilda, this is Jane. She was not feeling well in class today I was hoping you could help her. I must return to my class. Jamie looked a little too glad to see me leave."
Hilda the nurse scrunched up her nose and grimaced at me over her spectacles.
"What happened to you?"
"I was feeling a bit dizzy; I think I'm all better now"
The nurse let me off with a glass of water, a note for my parents, and a fifteen-minute lecture on the perils of sleep deprivation; after which I was rushing back to class.
I realized history should be over now, in which case I might as well get to my locker first. I quickly turned around and my face suddenly bumped into something very hard.
There was a distinct "thud" and a sound of books scattering all over the floor. I could feel tears collect in my eyes and a searing pain in my nose.
I immediately dropped to my knees to pick up the books and quickly wiped away my tears.
"Hey it's alright. I'll get it"
I looked up to see a friendly face smiling down at me.
"Hi, I'm Julian" said the face. "I'm new here." He smiled from a corner of his mouth and suddenly the smile disappeared. "Are you alright? Do you want to go see the nurse?"
He had seen my tear stained face. I could feel myself blush. It took a few seconds for his words to make sense. Not the nurse! I panicked and jumped to my feet.
"I have to get back to class"
I turned and walked away in the opposite direction as fast as I could. ................
"Janey you fell asleep again, didn't you?" I should have known that Meredith would not let it go. Meredith and Becky were my two best friends, both of whom lacked any respect for privacy.
I met them in nursery school, where we sat next to each other and shared a box of crayons. We then proceeded to eat one of the crayons together and have been inseparable ever since.
Meredith with her long auburn locks and blue eyes was one of the prettiest girls in school. She was a cheerleader and extremely popular.
In comparison, Becky was petite and slightly rounded with a sweet angelic face. I was the geeky brunette with glasses and no real talent except for being a profound nerd.
The bell rang, and we scattered away to take our seats. Mr. Miller, our math teacher walked in. He was having a conversation with another student. Someone I recognized immediately.
Someone I had bumped into and run away from in the hallway a few minutes ago. Mr. Miller gave a conclusive nod and gestured towards the classroom.
The new guy scanned the classroom and noticed the empty seat beside me and smiled. Where was Becky when I needed her? Ah yes. Becky was seated next to her new-found love, Robbie.
It seemed I had no escape. I sat quietly while he made his way to the vacant seat next to me. "Hi, Jane is it?"
"Is your nose alright?"
"Yes, thank you."
He shot a quick smile at me and looked back at Mr. Miller.
"He is totally cute!" Becky was gushing at lunch. "Where do you think he is from? Do you think he has a girlfriend?" I reminded Becky that she had a boyfriend.
He was seated at the Jock's table. It was unusual for new students to join the jock's table, but it seemed like he fit right in. It also seemed like he knew a lot of them.
"He is a transfer student. He knows the jocks because he played against them in his previous school. And I'm sure he will be joining the team here."
Meredith sat down with her lunch tray and filled us in on the rest of the story.
"His father passed away and he moved out here with his mom to live closer to his grandparents." "What happened to his dad?" I asked.
"They say it was a car crash, but I heard the police are still investigating. His father was one of the most influential men in the city. Everyone is talking about it."
I tuned out of the rest of the conversation and found myself lost in thought about the cottage and who may have been behind that door.
Where is that forest and why is it all so familiar? Have I actually been there before?