Freckles, Gymnastics, and a pinch of romance
Connect the Dots
CHAPTER
1
Chapter 1
It’s hard not to laugh when your brother skids into a cardboard box while trying to “skate” in socks on hardwood floors.
With a crash and a ca-clang, Cassius is sent falling to the floor with a pot twirling by his fingers on the light wood floors. A sheepish grin is passed to me from him and he scampers up to quickly put the random pot back on an empty box. Mum would be furious at him for dropping one of her nicest pots in our all-new flat (or, as the Americans say, apartment). Honestly, she’d probably care more about the hardwood floors than her pot.
“Wow, these socks are slippery,” Cassius says with a chuckle and he walks off to our bedroom. I’ve always had the luxury of having my own room, but when Mum said (happily) that she rented a flat with two bed and two bath, my insides crushed in on themselves and my head sirens went off crazily. Sharing a room with my brother is not fun. Not so far, at least.
We’ve been in Manhattan for half a week now. Three days, actually. Hardly anything’s unpacked. Like we have much, anyway. Mum was the beet red face level of angry at Dad, so she whisked us away to the first place on her mind (at least, it probably was; it didn’t seem like she gave it much thought at all): New York City. It was a sensible option, though. We’ve visited New York many times before, and we have a few family members who live scattered around in New York City.
Mum’s out to find a simple job at a retail store or something like that. She’s getting interviewed for a deli down the street a bit; that’s the place she really wants to work at. Our flat is in a pretty nice location in Manhattan, so I know Mum will be working her behind off trying to simply pay for food, clothes, and the rent. She told us she found several simple stores close by and applied to them a day or so ago, and now has a couple interviews.
Nothing special has happened yet, but that can be expected since we haven’t been here long. I’m excited to see where life will take me, though, but currently, I’m after Cassius because I’m pretty sure he’s trashing our room. With? I don’t know. Why? He’s a cruel human being.
When I enter, I see nothing but his legs propped up against his bed and his head of red curls on the ground. He’s on his phone, watching some video.
“Boo,” I say, and he ignores me. After a few minutes pass, he rips out the earbuds and turns to me.
“I saw the cutest girl in the lobby the other day, please go befriend her.” He goes right back to his phone.
Scoffing, I cross my arms and kicked him in the shoulder. “I’m not going to go become friends with some girl just so you can be with her. You go be social.”
“Ew.”
“Your face is ew,” I retort.
“Oh yeah, your soul is ew.”
I roll my eyes and attempt to drag him up. I want to do something fun; go to a park, maybe, or go see which shops around are the best ones to go to. A salami sandwich sounds pretty good, or maybe a large ice cream cone.
I finally manage to get Cassius off his ass and into shoes. I lock the door and lazily clomp down the stairs with my younger brother in tow.
~~~
Cassius ended up whining about the hot weather, so we went back inside without exploring hardly anything. When we enter the building, Cassius points in a direction near the lift and stairs and shouted in a low voice in my ear, “Hey, that’s the girl!”
She is waiting for the lift and is holding a plastic bag full of what looked like groceries or maybe food she ordered. She is typing on her phone with one hand while also trying to pin back her long dark hair.
“Look at her, rockin’ those freckles,” I say with a laugh, jabbing at my brother in the ribs. Cassius always teases me about mine; they’re splattered across my face everywhere. Little red dots speckled over my nose and cheeks.
“Yeah, well, she rocks them better than you do.” Cassius gives me a hard punch on my shoulder, sticks his tongue out at me, and then meanders over to her. I throw my head back and press my hands to my face, not knowing what he is going to do or how bad he is going to mess up. He’s not old, but he’s certainly not young either, and as far as I know he’s not exactly the lady’s man. Right before he gets to her, he shoots me a wink and I give him a lame and half-hearted thumbs-up in return.
I watch them from a distance and nearly laugh when I see the girl’s really surprised expression when Cassius approached her. She blushes, shoves her phone in her pocket, and I hear her say (a bit flustered and uncomfortable), “Ha-ha, sorry…”
A few minutes later, after the girl had gone into the lift and Cassius walked back to me with his eyebrows furrowed, I ask him what happened.
“She’s seventeen.” The lack of emotion in his voice and face makes me raise my eyebrows and a quiet laugh escapes me.
“Tough luck, kiddo, guess she doesn’t want to date younger guys.” I laugh and as it dies down a playful smile spreads across my face. “What’s her name, anyway?”
“Mandy.”
“I wonder if she’ll go to the same school as us? That’d be cool.”
“Goddammit, June, she was so cute.”
“Sorry,” I say, and this time, I actually mean it. Though, he could have gotten to know her a little better than do whatever he did. Ask for her number or something? Tell her he could burp the ABC’s up until “B”? Probably.
Cassius and I take the lift up to our floor - four - and we walk down the carpeted hall until we reach ours. There are a few lonely plants sitting out in the halls, and they look like they’re about to collapse any minute. When I point this out to Cassius, he belts out a holler of laughter and then says no one cares about them. It’s sad, though.
Mum comes home around four. She’s really excited and before she even takes her shoes off she’s squealing and running to give me a hug. Happy Mum means job maybe?
“Did you get that job you wanted at the deli?” I remember her telling me she applied for a variety of different shops of sorts - three, I think. The deli is the one she wanted the most (and I think offered the highest salary).
“Yes!” Mum cries happily, and while she’s awkwardly hopping from side to side on her feet she pulls off her black shoes. “Who’s up for some celebratory pizza?” Mum’s big smile warms my heart, and I know that as easy as that job was probably to get, the opportunity still means the most to her. I grin back at her joyfully and say, “The usual.”
She nods and smiles, nods and smiles.
~~~
It’s our fourth day in Manhattan, and my brother and I haven’t done anything. Mum’s already up and running - starting her training for her new job at the deli down the street a bit.
After begging and begging Cassius to come with me to the library, I’m outside by myself, frantically looking at a map on my phone to try and take me to where I want to go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work too well or load hardly at all, so I’m stuck at an intersection with no idea where to go.
I finally manage to make my way to a colossal building with gorgeous Roman-like columns on either side of the large doors. The building’s old, but beautiful, and I can’t wait to enter the library and dive in, searching through the millions of stories and lives of other people. I’m definitely not a big reader, but frankly, I’m still a bit city-shy and not really wanting to go find a summer job for the rest of the summer, so reading is always a good choice.
People are bustling about; a group of whooping teenagers that makes me ashamed of my age pass by me as I’m crossing the street, and a lot of people are walking around on their phones. Many have earbuds in and are running to music, and down the street, a long line of people are standing in a small to-go restaurant.
Manhattan is great, but I do miss London. Even though they’re both large cities, they’re completely different. From the buildings to the accents, everything just feels strange.
I enter the large library and suck in a deep breath of ‘wow’ when I see the long, tall shelves lined with books of a bunch of different colours. I locate the young adult section and make my way towards there.
In the corner, secluded by stacks of books and a lonely looking bean bag, is a boy with his nose shoved in a book. He’s got the funniest looking glasses that make me just happy on the inside. Browsing the shelves is a girl who looks about my age. She’s wearing leggings with Star Wars characters on them, a bright pink beanie, and a Marvel t-shirt. I want to poke her and say “Damn, I love your fashion sense”, but I don’t.
Instead, I start to browse the books myself and finally settle on four book titles that pique my interest. I leave the library grunting and wishing I didn’t actually get so many books because they were so heavy.
I arrive at the flat complex at around noon and blink in surprise when I see a familiar face in the lobby. The girl with the dark hair and freckles is just sitting on a red woven chair, drumming her fingers on the arm. Cassius said her name is Mandy.
Moving my books to one arm so they’re easier to carry, I walk over to her and say hi. She squints at me and then laughs. “You know that boy, uh, what’s his name… Cassius, right! Don’t you?”
I groan. “He’s my brother. Oh my gosh, that’s really embarrassing.” I laugh, but it’s half nervous and half this-is-actually-funny.
Mandy shrugs and her lips pull into a thin smile. “He was actually really cute and sweet, though. How old is he, anyway?”
“Fifteen.”
The girl sticks her tongue out and squints, laughing at the same time. “I’m Mandy, by the way. What’s your name?”
“Oh! I’m Juniper,” I say, moving the books to my other hand to rest my sore arm. I’m about to say I have to go when Mandy asks if I need help.
I am going to insist that I don’t need help and it’s fine, really, when she says, “I’m just going up, anyway. What floor are you on?”
“Three. Room 306. You?” Mandy holds her hands out and I give her two of the library books, and we head to the lift together. She pushes a strand of loose hair behind her ear and replies, “Wow, cool! I’m 206, right below you.”
I smile as we enter the nice but slightly rattly lift, and remark, “Hey, that’s awesome. Maybe we can hang out sometime.”
Mandy looks at me sideways as she presses the button, grins, and says, “Maybe.”
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