She boarded with her head down and sat in the first empty seat she spotted. The bus was almost as cold as the air outside.
Great, this ride will last an eternity, she thought as she rested her cheek against the windowpane.
The cold glass felt amazing against her throbbing face. She enjoyed gazing out as the bus went down the more obscure streets. The snow-capped mountains shimmered in the distance. They seemed to offer freedom she couldn't find in her own home.
She braced herself against the seat in front of her with expertise as the bus lurched forward to a stop, keeping her eyes on the outside view. She felt someone shift next to her and sit down hard against the bench, the movement jostling her leg.
Who could possibly be sitting next to me?
People usually avoid her like the plague.
Talya turned to see a thin guy in skinny jeans and a dark green sweater wearing a leather jacket. She had seen him around school and on the bus every morning. He usually kept to himself. He had kind eyes and dimples when he smiled. His brown hair stuck up in random places.
"So, can I ask you a question?" he asked, though he didn't wait for approval. "Are you a natural redhead? Because I adore red hair."
"Um yeah, I am," she replied, brows furrowing. "Who are you, exactly?"
"Oh right, how rude. My name is Steven Clark." He stuck out his hand. Talya looked at him for a moment before she took it warily. "Where is your jacket? You must be freezing."
"I must have forgotten it," she muttered. "I'm Talya Collins."
"Here, I layer," he said as he pulled off his jacket and handed it to her.
She swallowed. "Thank you, but you don't have to do that." She felt her pulse quicken.
He gave her a half-smile, almost shyly.
Why is he being so nice to me? He definitely doesn't owe me anything.
He smiled at her. "I know I don't, but you look like you could use a friend."
A cautious coolness flared through her. Still, something about him seemed trustworthy.
He has a nice smile. And he is right, I could definitely use a friend.
They spent the rest of the bus ride chatting comfortably. They found that they had the same taste when it came to a lot of music and movies.
"Burlesque is like the most amazing movie ever!" Steven practically squeaked.
"I don't think I've seen it yet," she said with a shrug.
"You have to. We'll have a movie night soon. I must show you the ways of Burlesque." He gave a giddy clap.
Disappointment burned through her when Eaglecrest High School came into view. She'd been really enjoying their conversation. She started to gather her things, removing the jacket.
"Here," she said to Steven, "you can have your jacket back."
"Nah, keep it," he insisted as they stepped off the bus. "Would you like to grab something to eat after school? My treat."
She thought about it for a second, though she relished the idea of delaying going home. It was so nice having someone to talk to.
"Sure, I'd love to. We can meet out front?"
"Sounds good. See you later, honey," he called over his shoulder and gave her a slight wave.
An almost happiness settled over her as she made her way to her first class. The hallways were bright. Her shoes squeaked across the white linoleum floors. Of course, she would still have to go home afterward, but at least her day was looking a little less miserable now. This was the first time she could remember having anything closely resembling plans with someone her age.