“Look at the sky!”
“It’s the same one we saw last night.”
“But look at all the stars!”
Casey sat up and looked at her, a frustrated look on his face.
“Bridgette, it’s the same sky we saw last night, and it will be like that forever and ever because nothing out of the ordinary happens in this stupid town. Take it from me. In two weeks, everyone will be treating you like normal.”
Bridgette sat up and looked at him sympathetically. “Case, did you know that I have never seen a night sky as bright as this? Never! In my entire life! That,” she pointed to the sky for emphasis, “is absolutely the coolest thing I have ever seen in my sixteen years of living.”
“And in my sixteen years of living here, I can tell you, it will not get cooler once you’ve seen that same night sky five thousand times!” Casey plopped back down onto the grass, wincing as the back of his neck hit the hard ground.
“Do you know how long that… thing is supposed to go till?” Bridgette asked, still looking at the sky.
“What thing? The neighborhood welcome Mary insisted on throwing? I dunno. She usually kicks everyone out by 10. The lady likes her beauty sleep.”
Bridgette looked at her watch. “I’d better get going, then. My parents want me home… now, actually.” She loomed over Casey, a mischievous smile on her lips.
“See you tomorrow!”
The next morning, Casey pulled grass out of his hair, and tried to rub away the stains on his one clean pair of jeans. Coming back inside, he noticed that no one was at home. He panicked, if only a little bit. Where did they all go? He then read the clock on the oven: 9:00. Typical. Even if he had gone to sleep in his own bed, he wouldn’t have been on time. His breakfast consisted of a misshapen vanilla fudge square, what he thought to be his mother’s finest. He grabbed his backpack and rushed through the door. He wasn’t in any hurry to get to school, so he took the scenic route. Even after memorizing almost every inch of town, Casey was surprised at how much he didn’t recognize, all the people and shops he had never passed by.
He eventually arrived in the middle of a lesson about the Civil War. As he made his way to his seat, Casey could see the glazed-over eyes of people he’d known since kindergarten, listening to Mr. Michaels talk about the significance of this town at the time of the Civil War. As he started off on this particular tangent, Casey could feel himself falling asleep too.
“You know, and you’ve probably never heard this before, but Dawnbrook was actually a very important site while the Civil War was raging. The town was basically a haven for runaway slaves, before the former slave owners ran through our town, taking their slaves with them. You know,” he chuckled and puffed out his chest a bit, “I play one of the well-known Dawnbrookite Henry Jenkins in the town’s annual Remembrance Day reenactment.”
“You’re telling me I’ve been rooting for this guy all my life?” David, a lanky boy who was doodling in his notebook, muttered.
“I think that’s really cool,” Bridgette said, louder than she should have.
Mr. Michaels walked over to her, a twinkle in his eye. “Ah, Miss Reynolds. I agree. It is ‘really cool.’ You have much to learn about this town, and I know that you have already learned so much from Mr. Kennedy over here. Like how to be on time.” Mr. Michaels shot Casey a look, which Casey avoided. Mr. Michaels turned from him and continued on with the lesson.
Once history class was dismissed, Casey had a free period. He made a beeline for Bridgette, cornering her outside.
“What did I miss?”
Bridgette led him to a bench, her smile widening. “So much! In English, Yoda just kinda showed up, and then in AP Bio, we mutated some cells, and then—”
“You are such a terrible liar.”
She shrugged. “I tried. But for real, we didn’t do much of anything. How was the grass?”
Casey rolled his eyes but couldn’t hide his smile. “It was fine. A little hard, though. And wet. Did you get home okay?”
Bridgette nodded. “I actually got home on time! That would never have happened in Austin.”
“D’ya ever miss it?”
Bridgette took a long deep breath before responding.
“You know, I don’t think I do. It was always so hot down there. I’m glad to be up here. I find it so quaint.”
Casey snorted. “Really? Lemme tell ya, everyone’s just playing nice until you’re fully assimilated. That’s when they’ll strike. I already know for a fact that Teresa hates the way you dress. She told my mom that she’s going to make you a whole bunch of clothes.”
“That’s just gossip. She wouldn’t actually make clothes for me, right? At least not for free.”
“You never know. Around here, we love a charity case.”
Bridgette sighed, looking at the school’s front door. “We should go back inside. I need to retake a Bio test.”
Casey stayed sitting on the bench. “I’ll meet you inside. I needed some fresh air.”
Bridgette nodded absent-mindedly and turned away from him. Casey watched her as she stumbled into the school, to an area that was no where near the biology classroom.
Casey went through the rest of the day, always noticing the empty seat directly beside him. When school was finally out for the day, Casey walked to his mother’s sweetshop, hoping to find Bridgette there somehow.
“Casey!” His mother smiled at him as he entered. “Glad to see you finally got up and about. How was your day?”
“It was alright,” Casey muttered. “Have you seen Bridgette? I saw her this morning but she disappeared.”
“No,” his mother said, a worrying frown forming on her lips. “Is everything alright?”
“I-I think I spooked her. I said some stuff I didn’t mean, and I—”
“I’m sure you’ll be able to find her and apologize. It’ll all turn out alright in the end. Fudge for the road?”
Casey accepted the same type of vanilla fudge he took that morning and rushed home. On the lawn of the house next door sat Bridgette, her brown hair spread across the lawn. Casey laid down next to her silently.
“I know. I’m sorry I left. Did I miss much?”
“Yeah, actually. Yoda came— for real this time. And—”
Bridgette laughed, a sharp, loud laugh that echoed across the street.
“That’s what you missed,” Casey said with a smile, turning his head to her. “I’m serious. Yoda came, and he was all like, ‘Sorry to miss Bridgette, I am.’”
“Aren’t you so glad I showed you those movies?”
“Um, I could have done without them, to be honest.”
Bridgette stared at him in disbelief for about a second. “That is the worst thing you’ve ever said to me, we can’t be friends anymore, I’m done with you.”
“Star Wars. Who doesn’t like Star Wars?”
“Me. I don’t like Star Wars. We have been over this.”
Bridgette grimaced at him and sat up.
“Thank you. For saying sorry. I know that it’s going to take some time to figure out where I fit here, and I really need someone to lean on. So, thank you. For being a friend.”
“Yeah.” It came out weakly. “I’m your guide to everything Dawnbrook. Even the not-so-nice stuff.”
“Yeah, like, what was the deal with that story in history?”
Casey widened his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Basically, we have this big event celebrating exactly what he was talking about. And every single year, we hear that story over and over again in class. I think this is the first time we’ve had a teacher who is one of the reenactors. It’s kind of not the greatest, but it’s our one big claim to fame. Dawnbrook,” he said as he lifted his hands and spread them above his head, “a haven for runaway slaves.”
“Wow. That’s… gotta be a lot. What, the same lesson ten years in a row?”
“You get used to it after a while.”
Bridgette nodded. They sat in silence for a while before Casey sat up.
“Hey. Do you want to come over tonight?” We’re having pasta. And whatever fudge my mom didn’t sell today. I know you like that cookies-and-cream kind she makes.”
Bridgette smiled softly. “Sure. But I think my parents want to come too, if that’s okay. They’re always saying how dinner should be a family affair or whatever.”
“Of course! I’ll let my mother know when she gets home.”
“You know what I just realized? I don’t know if we have any homework. And that worries me. A lot.”
“Just ask across the street. There’s gotta be someone who knows what to do.”
Bridgette nodded and ran across the street, turning back to Casey for only a moment.
“See you tonight?”
He nodded. “See you tonight.”