The People Of Astoria

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Well, I’m afraid I’m still holed up in my writing cave… and without much else to offer the Blogging Universe I present to you all another section of my WIP ~

P.S. ~ Feel free to give feedback in the comments section below…this is just a draft and there’s always room for improvement!!

 

“You better hurry, Bry or you’ll be late,” her mother said, handing her a couple of dollar bills for lunch and nodding at the backpack sitting on the floor by the doorway.

“Alright, alright.”

Bryze shoved the last bite of her pop tart into her mouth, grabbed the cash and made her way to the door, swooping down briefly to pick up her schoolbag as she went by.

“You’re sure you don’t want me to take you on your first day?” Faith called after her.

Bryze didn’t even turn around; she just kept walking toward the exit as she yelled back, “I’m sure.”

 

The bus stop was just two houses down from them. On top of that, it was easy to spot given the small pool of students that had collected there. Bryze took a deep breath and marched onward preparing to face the new crowd. Since it was close and she could see their driveway from the stop, she allowed Ava to tag along. Bryze knew she’d find her way back home when it was time.

“Nice dog.”

Bryze looked up to see who had said it. It was a girl, probably the same age as herself. She had a set of blonde pigtails that hung down her shoulders in long braids along with big blue eyes that seemed just the slightest bit magnified by the bright green glasses she was wearing.

Bryze smiled.

“Thanks, her name is Ava. You can pet her if you like.”

The girl smiled back and reached out to pet Ava’s thick coat.

“Wow, she’s so soft!” she exclaimed, clearly surprised by its smooth texture.

“I know. You’d never know it to look at it.”

The girls grinned at each other, both petting Ava as she happily basked in their affections.

“I’m Sara by the way. I live just a few houses that way,” she said, pointing to her left, the opposite direction from where Bryze had just come.

“I’m Bryze. We just moved into the big red house at the end.”

Bryze had barely finished her sentence when an older boy who hadn’t paid them much attention before now, turned around and interrupted their conversation.

“You live in Maniacal Manor?!” he demanded, his words drenched in disbelief.

“I don’t know…is that what you call the house?”

“The big red manor, house number 81? Yeah, that’s what I call it. That’s what everyone calls it!” the boy ranted at Bryze, who still didn’t really understand what he was talking about.

“Why? I mean, I know it’s an old house and it obviously needs a ton of work but…”

“Oh it needs a ton of work alright! Along with an exorcism or two! That place is cursed. Haunted by the poor souls that died there…after they went completely insane just from living in that house. Only an idiot would willingly live there,” the boy said, shaking his head at Bryze.

She just looked at him for a moment trying to figure out if he was really serious about what he was saying. He certainly seemed to be. However, the longer Bryze let everything he had just said to sink in, the more ridiculous it all began to sound. She couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Everyone around looked at her utterly bewildered. This was not the reaction they had anticipated, least of all the boy who had issued the warning.

“That’s crazy! You really think the house is haunted? Please! Sure, it’s got some weird stuff in it, but none of it’s evil…just old and busted. That’s a good story though. You should save it for people who haven’t been inside the house and don’t know any better.”

Bryze chuckled again and returned her attention to Sara.

“I don’t suppose you believe all that stuff about the house, too?” Bryze asked when she saw the worried look on Sara’s face.

“Well…it’s just. I’ve seen it.”

“Seen what?”
Sara twisted her fingers uncomfortably, not wanting to upset Bryze.

“The ghost,” she finally whispered.

Bryze’s eyes grew wide.

“You have? What did it look like?”

“I don’t know…I couldn’t see a person or anything…just a light…in the tower.”

Bryze thought about what she had heard for a moment and shrugged.

“Hm, that would explain why all the bulbs needed to be replaced,” she replied, half joking hoping it would break the awkward tension that had set in. Bryze had been fully prepared for being the new girl. She had even anticipated that someone would have some joke prepared for the dilapidated shack she now called home, but being the girl living in the haunted house everyone called Maniacal Manor – that she had not had the foresight to plan for. For a moment she wondered how freaked out they’d all be if she told them she was related to the supposed loons who not only built the place, but then apparently did God knows what to garner reputations as haunted inhabitants who seemed more suited for a mental ward than a home on quiet little Ratcliff Circle. Bryze was still deep in thought with a sly smirk resting on her lips when the bus pulled up.

She turned her attention away from the kids who were already climbing on the bus and leaned down to talk to Ava.

“Alright girl. Time to go home. Go on now. I’ll see you in a little bit.”

She gave her one last pat and then watched as Ava trotted down the sidewalk and up their driveway. When she was sure that her dog had made it home safely, she went and boarded the school bus as well.

She had barely made the steps when she heard the doors shut behind her and the bus began to move. A bit jolted from the sudden movement, Bryze gripped onto the back of the first row of seats to steady herself. As soon as she regained her footing, she scanned the length of the bus in search of an empty seat. She was relieved to see that Sara had decided to save her a spot and was now waving Bryze over to join her. She swiftly moved her way through the narrow isle and plopped down beside Sara who was now thoughtfully glancing out of the window. Bryze looked up just in time to see what had caught her eye. They were passing right by her home at that very moment. Maniacal Manor, she thought, I guess I can see it…

Just then Sara noticed that Bryze had seen her stare. Embarrassed, she began to ramble, “So, where did you move from?”

Bryze welcomed the distraction.

“LA.”

“California? Did you ever see any movie stars?”

“I did actually. There was this one time I saw Charlie Sheen at a gas station,” Bryze recalled.

“Really? What was he doing?” Sara’s eyes were wide from excitement.

Bryze paused a moment before slowly answering, “He was getting gas…”

Sara shook her head and laughed out loud.

“Of course he was! Ha, I can’t believe I asked that. Anyway, did you talk to him?”

“Nah, my mother did though. They made all kinds of small talk while they were pumping gas just a few feet from one another. She didn’t know who he was the entire time. I had to tell her when she got back in the car. By then Charlie was long gone,” Bryze grinned at the memory. Her mother had ranted the whole way home that she couldn’t believe she had been talking to Mr. Sheen and didn’t even recognize him. In her Mom’s defense, even Bryze had gotten so accustomed to seeing the man in a bowling shirt, shorts and loafers he was a bit harder to spot when he was actually dressed like a normal person.

As the ride continued, Sara filled Bryze in on everything she felt was noteworthy about Astoria. For starters, the boy who had been so affronted at the mention of Bryze’s residence was Timothy Clayton. He was a junior, one of the only ones still riding the bus. Sara explained that while he had received his license some months ago, his father had instantly revoked those rights when Timothy was caught tearing up the football field of a rival school in his Jeep Wrangler. Apparently, Mr. Clayton was mortified by the event, although some rumored it was the getting caught part that upset him more so than the action itself. The Clayton’s were a well-respected family in the community, with both Mr. and Mrs. being esteemed members of various boards and committees, including the school board. Timothy was their shining star, always excelling at school and in sports. He was sure to be team captain of the football team next term, in spite of the poor showmanship he had shown by destroying the other team’s field after losing the game to them earlier that afternoon.

As Bryze listened to Sara talk about Timothy, her head automatically turned around in search of him. He was sitting all the way in the back, surrounded by several other boys, all wearing the same letterman jackets. Bryze had never quite understood why people took such pride in being labeled. She found it even less appealing that they all strived to be identical, wearing matching clothes and talking about all the same stuff. The last thing Bryze ever wanted, was to be like everybody else. Mostly because she was never that impressed by the kids she met to consider it a compliment to be compared to them. It went both ways really. The other kids never seemed to have much use for her either. Bryze had gotten used to being an outsider. She was comfortable with herself and had even learned how to laugh at herself when others made jokes at her expense.  She didn’t care what they thought of her. The only opinion that mattered to Bryze was Ava’s.  Ava was her true friend. She had shown a long time ago that her love was unconditional and that her loyalty was unwavering. Nothing else mattered.

Silence set in as Sara finished her story, and Bryze turned back to look at her. Maybe things would be different this time. From the looks of it, Sara was a bit of an outsider herself. Bryze couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly that made her stand out from the crowd. She was definitely rocking her inner nerd, but even those guys usually ran in packs. Sara was different.

“What?” Sara asked when she noticed Bryze staring.

“Nothing. I was just wondering why you didn’t sit with all the other kids from our stop, I guess,” Bryze said, shrugging her shoulders.

“Sit with those guys? Yeah, right,” Sara mumbled as she peered over at the boys and girls from their street. They were clearly considered the cool kids. Something Bryze had never been considered, nor had she ever wanted to be. Who wants to be a sheep? That’s what her mother always said. Which was funny really, because there was no doubt in Bryze’s mind that Faith had absolutely been one of the cool kids in her time.

“So, you guys don’t get along?” Bryze asked, trying to feel out the situation a little more.

Sara shook her head, “Not exactly. Most of the kids at school say I’m fable minded…they think it’s a really clever play on words since they think I’m stupid and they like to make fun of the fact that I still believe in fairy tales.”

Bryze glanced over at her out of the corner of her eye. Had she just heard her right?

“What do you mean, you still believe in fairy tales?”

“I just find them fascinating. The magic, the adventures…and I suppose it appeals to me that it’s usually the least likely person who swoops in and saves the day.”

Bryze smirked.  She thought back at her treasured book resting on its brand new shelf and then looked back at Sara. Astoria was turning out to be alright. Maybe she had finally found a place where she belonged. Even if the majority still leaned toward being sheep, at least she now had Sara to keep her company amongst the herd.

She took one last look at the crowd around Timothy Clayton and then turned back to Sara. She stretched out her legs, revealing two colorful mismatched socks at her feet and laughed, “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to sit with them either. They seem weird.”

Sara saw Bryze’s socks and began to snicker. Then she unzipped the hoody she was wearing and proudly displayed a bright purple and pink tie dye shirt underneath.

“Totally,” she agreed, exaggerating her tone. A second later, both girls erupted into fits of giggles that didn’t let up until they arrived at the school and had to compose themselves enough to get off of the bus.

 

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