Valley of the Sun
Chapter Six: Lockers
If there was one constant annoyance in the universe, it was the first day of school. I'd never felt less comfortable in my life, walking into Horizon with my backpack over my shoulder, with Grace shadowing me with her backpack over the other shoulder. Mirror images of each other. It somehow struck me as very, very wrong
Maria-Elena came skipping up to us as we neared our lockers - directly across the hall from each other, like a mirror - and looked back and forth between us for a moment before greeting us perfectly, as she always did. With a pair of mock curtseys, and a smile in her eyes, she said, "Infanta
," to Grace, then turned to me with my traditional "Reina de Castilla
I knew without asking how she could tell the difference; Grace was wearing polish and earrings, while I had opted to go au naturale
. Otherwise, we looked identical. Not something a stranger, or even a random classmate, might pick up on, but this was Maria-Elena we were talking about; she'd been the third of our Three Musketeers for ten years.
Then she asked the question I - we
- had been dreading. "How's the Chief?"At least she had the courtesy not to call him 'Dad' or by name.
I glanced at Grace, knowing she was thinking the same thing; that was a rumor I dearly hoped would never get started. Maria-Elena crushing on Charlie was bad enough; the whole school knowing about it would be far, far worse.
"Fine," Grace supplied. "Back in Washington."
I nodded. "Work, you know."
Grace shuffled off to her locker, and Maria-Elena followed me to mine. "You should talk him into visiting more often."
I scrunched my eyes closed, then opened them to work the combination on my locker. "Let's talk about something else."
"Mom showed me her class list. We're all in the same period."
I twisted around. "I thought you were taking German for your foreign language."
Maria-Elena nodded. "I am, but Mom went to talk to the principal. She told him that Spanish class would be better for me and my college applications than a free period... since I took AP Biology in summer school. Passed, too. Had to find something
to do while you guys were planning the wedding."
I glanced across the hall at Grace, who was flirting with a guy in a football team tee with the locker two doors over from hers, and grumped, "I suppose I get my wonderful
mirror-image lab partner again, then." I hoped she could hear the sarcasm. The science lab was enough of a disaster waiting to happen with one
Swan, much less two trying to work together.
"Whose wedding?" The girl crouched to the lower locker three doors over asked. She then slammed the locker and straightened up, her paisley ankle-length skirt rustling around her ankles with the movement. "I love weddings." She stopped, glancing at me and Maria-Elena. "Sorry, I'm Carrie. Carrie Stone. And yeah, I know. I'm new here, just moved from Philadelphia."
She must have seen my grin at the silly sounding name. Maria-Elena fielded the introductions. "Maria-Elena de Portola. And this is Bella Swan. That's her twin, Grace." She pointed across the hall. "Their mother got remarried on Saturday."
Carrie smiled. "Nice to meet you. Twins, huh? I bet people get you two mixed up all the time."
I shrugged, glanced at Maria-Elena, and pointed out. "Not if you know what to look for."
"Too true, Reina de Castilla
. What do you have first?"
Carrie fumbled with her schedule. "American History. Room 45, Fisher."
I nodded. "Us too. Well, Grace and I, anyhow. I haven't seen Maria-Elena's schedule. You'll probably be right next to us if they do the alphabetical thing."
"At least I'll know the girl next to me, then." Carrie smiled.
Maria-Elena shook her head. "No, Grace would be in between. Bella and Grace are nicknames... by full names, Grace is first in the alphabet."
"Really?" Carrie looked curious.
I shrugged, and dropped my voice to a whisper. "Isabella Marie, properly. And hers is Charlotte Grace. But please
, forget that as quickly as you can. We both hate them."
"They are a bit... old-fashioned, I suppose." Carrie said, and I glared a bit as I closed my locker. "Okay, okay. Where's 45?"
Maria-Elena pointed down the hall. "Right this way. And yes, I'm coming too." She smiled at me. Raising her voice, she called out, "Hey, Grace!"
Grace slammed her locker and ducked under the arm of the hovering football player, rushing to catch up with us. "Who's the new girl?"
"Carrie Stone." Carrie held out a hand. "Nice to meet you. I overheard these two talking about the wedding. I love weddings."
"Nice accent." Grace said, shaking her hand quickly. "Where are you from?"
"Philadelphia." She pulled her hand back and waved it in front of her face. "Is it always this hot?"
The corridor was air-conditioned, but there's only so much you can do with that much body heat and a corridor that opens to the outdoors. Grace just grinned. "Welcome to Phoenix."