Remembrance Online - Michelle Madow

CHAPTER 1

Today was going to be different. I could feel it.

It wasn’t because it was the first day of school, or that it was ten minutes after the time Jeremy agreed to pick me up. There was something strange in the air.

Or maybe I was just being ridiculous.

Tires screeched around the corner, and I looked down the street, recognizing Jeremy’s red Jeep Wrangler speeding down the pavement. He pulled up in front of my house and I hurried to the side of his car, swinging the door open and hopping onto the hot leather seat.

“Way to be late for the first day of school,” I said, pushing a few strands of hair off my face that had gotten out of place during my dash to the car.

He looked at me and smiled, his blue eyes hidden behind his sunglasses, and reached to tuck a loose curl behind my ear. “Liz,” he calmly spoke his nickname for me. “It’ll be fine. The teachers won’t even care on the first day.” He leaned back, the sunlight shining through the window glistening off his sandy hair. He looked like a model featured in a summer clothing catalogue; the pale colors of the blue and white striped shirt and khaki shorts he wore intensified his golden tan from his recent outdoor soccer practices.

“Not all of us have gym first,” I pointed out. “Your teacher might not care if you’re late, but mine will.”

He shrugged and turned to look at me again. “Why didn’t you straighten your hair today?” he asked, unhappy with my decision to let it dry naturally.

“I like it like this,” I said, unsurprised that it didn’t take long for him to mention it. I’d started to embrace my curls over the summer, which was easier than straightening my hair every day. It wasn’t like they were springy and uncontrollable. They were loose and flowing, the kind of curls people cherished before the invention of flatirons.

“I like it better straight,” he told me. “You look so young right now, you could pass as a freshman.”

The words stung. I took a deep breath to calm myself, keeping my eyes focused on the road. “If I’d straightened it, we would have really been late to school.”

He reached his arm across the gearshift and squeezed my hand. “I’m sorry, Liz. I meant it as a compliment. You look great when you straighten it.”

I shrugged and pulled my hand out of his, looking out the window as my house disappeared behind us and blended in with all the others in the quaint New England neighborhood. The early September leaves were still green, and I soaked in the last days of summer, not looking forward to the weather getting cold. Even though I’d lived in Pembrooke—a town right outside of Manchester, New Hampshire—for my entire life, I still hated the winter. Whenever snow, sleet, or ice fell to the ground, I stayed in as much as possible. There was no point in going outside and freezing to death.

Jeremy stopped at a red light and reached over to turn on the stereo.

The heavy pounding of an awful rap song filled the car; it was so loud that the floors vibrated with the bass. The old man in the rundown truck next to us glared and shook his head in disapproval.

“When did you start listening to this kind of music?” I asked, lowering the volume.

“Some guys on the team got me into it.” He grabbed his iPod off the dashboard and handed it to me. “Check it out, it’s pretty good.” I glanced at it before putting it back where it was, uninterested in the other songs in the album. “You know,” I said, looking back over at him, “I just realized we don’t have a song.”

The words sounded stupid after I said them.

He thought about it for a second. “I guess we don’t,” he said, switching the stereo over to the radio. “Why don’t you put on any station, and whatever comes on will be our song.”

It sounded ridiculous, but I reached towards the tuner to change stations, closing my eyes before turning it.

AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blared through the speakers, and I turned if off so quickly that I feared the knob might break off in my hand.

“Great pick, Liz,” he said with a laugh, driving into the parking lot of The Beech Tree School—a private school for kindergarten through 12th graders that sprawled across a small campus. We drove past a variety of cars—everything from used Volkswagens,