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In the Woods

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Coming From a small town, Dana Scully was sure she would know everyone who was going to her high school. In her town, there were only two middle schools, and she knew everyone in hers by name and every I the other one by reputation. There would be only sixty people in her grade at her high school and she felt effectively prepared for it. Aged 14, Dana Scully hadn’t seen much of the world beyond the small town of Fort Parburgh. She knew the woods and the mountains and the fields and the river and the lake and of course the town itself. She knew the people and the things they did. She knew all the things that happened, and out of all the things she knew almost all of them were boring.

 

On the first day of high school, she snook out early in the morning, hoping to avoid her parents and siblings getting excited about her starting high school. She headed in the opposite direction of school, as she still had two hours before school. She walked out towards the bridge she often frequented by the river. The walk took around half an hour from her house and was through woods. She was wearing boots, a baggy t-shirt and dungarees, so it wasn’t exactly difficult for her to pass through this terrain.

 

The sun slipped through the trees and lit up the forest as the sun rose, and she breathed in that early morning late summer air that she knew wouldn’t last for much longer. She picked up a soft round stone and twirled it around and around in her hands, perfectly content with herself and the forest and the morning. She reached the bridge that crossed the river. It was over a hundred years old and made of stone that had now turned mossy. If you took off your shoes and rolled up your jeans, as Dana often did, you could wade underneath the arches of the bridge, if the water was going slow enough, and sit on one of the large rocks. It was her favourite place to go alone. Not that she normally went other places with other people. Her mother had described as a girl who mostly kept herself to herself, which Dana saw as an understatement.

 

This morning, however, she didn’t feel like getting her legs wet, so she walked to the middle of the bridge, and sat on it, draping her legs over the edge. From here, she could see the river flowing from the mountains, and all of the little paths that approached the river from the bigger paths on either side. There were little pebble beaches peppered along the sides of the river that these small paths led to, which were quiet now but on the hottest summer days they would be packed with little kids and their parents.

 

Her eyes focused on the furthest away pebble beach that she could see, that must have been several hundred yards away at least, almost out of her line of sight. She checked her watch, and realised that she was going to have to leave now if she wanted to make it to school on time. A thousand clichés about not being late on the first day swirled around her head. Her eyes wandered back to the little beach she’d been looking at earlier.

There was a boy standing there now. He must have been around her age, and she squinted, trying to tell who he was, but she couldn’t make him out. Then he suddenly turned to face her, and she could almost feel them making eye contact even though she couldn’t properly see his eyes. She then realised that this boy must realise that the weird girl was sitting on the bridge staring at him, so she hastily jumped up, grabbed her backpack and ran off.

 

Her cheeks flushed in humiliation a little, and she hoped she wouldn’t run into that boy, whoever he was, at any point in her life. He had been wearing blue jeans, boots, a white t-shirt and he had mid-length brown hair. She tried to associate that image with one of the forty or so boys her age she knew. It could be Ray Shephard, but she couldn’t imagine him being out in the woods and half seven in the morning. Then again, there was no logical reason for her to be out in the woods at that time in the morning either.

 

She sighed, still secretly trying to figure out which boy it was, and if so how to avoid him forever. She wondered why it mattered. She had never liked a boy. Partly, this was because she didn’t have any girlfriends to gossip or giggle with. The second reason was of course that all the boys in her school were disgusting. So, it shouldn’t really matter what this boy thought of her. But she was still feeling a little anxious from the situation. It must be because he was a boy, she decided.

 

After all the time she’d spent pondering and questioning, she found herself approaching the gates of her new school. It wasn’t that scary, really. She’d been in this building many times before, and she knew all the people that were spilling in, so she was unsure why her breathing sped up a little bit and her knees turned to jelly as she crossed the threshold and walked into the playground of her new school. There were a series of benches and tables scattered around the outside, and most of these were filled with groups of people, all greeting each other and asking each other about each other’s summer holidays.

 

She had nowhere to go, and no one to talk to. She could try and find her brother, but she hated his friends and he’d probably just pick on her. She decided to sit on a small wooden bench alone. She only had five minutes before school started, so there was no point in taking her book out. She simply tapped each knee with the correlating hand, one after the other. She tapped her left hand onto her left knee, and then her right and onto her right knee, and so one and so forth. It was a calming way to spend time, and it calmed her unsteady breathing. She remained in this state of tapping and not tapping until the bell rang and she began to move with the crowd into the school.

 

The route to her form room was already etched into her mind, from the months of mental preparation. Dana entered the room, and then looked to the blackboard, which read “Please choose a seat”. She groaned internally, as she hated watching all those pre-established friendship group clot together like blood, leaving her as the lone cell, the one that shouldn’t be there. In order to maintain neutrality, she sat on the second seat along on the second row from the back and nestled her backpack down between her legs. The room filled up with students, most of whom she recognized from her middle school. As they came in, she watched as they formed their own little groups, of the popular kids, and the sporty kids and the music kids. Unfortunately, there was no groups of quiet kids who don’t like talking but do like science, so Dana spent most of her time alone.

 

The teacher, Mrs. Rolland’s, shushed the class, and silence fell. Dana relaxed into the quiet, and carefully payed attention for her name to be called out in the register. She payed attention while timetables were handed out and while notices were given out, but when Mrs. Rolland’s started talking about social activities and sports, Dana’s mind began to drift off. She remembered the boy from the river at this point, and so she began searching the classroom for any boy who matched his description. She couldn’t find anyone, and she breathed a sigh of relief. At least that boy wasn’t in her form group, which saved her from a bit of awkward interaction.

 

Before she knew what was really happening, the forty-five minutes had passed, and it was time for her first lesson. She pretended to consult her timetable, when she knew that she had Biology in Room 13 already.  Although there was no reasonable or scientific numbered to be paranoid about the number 13, there was a hint of anxiety within her about having her first lesson in such an unlucky room. Dana considered herself to be wholly scientific. She didn’t believe in aliens or ghosts or astrology or witchcraft. The superstition around the number 13 she blamed on the Catholic upbringing.

 

She stepped into Room 13 and discovered that it really was unlucky. Unlike the majority of rooms, it didn’t have single seat desks, but double seat desks. This meant she would have to sit with someone else. She checked the blackboard and breathed a small sigh of relief at the fact that seats were assigned. Her seat was in the middle of the second row from the front. Lisa Kelly was sat next to her, which was less of a blessing than the seating plan being pre-designed. She sat at the desk, and began the practice of tapping her knees again, and watching as her class came in.

 

Then there he was. The boy from the river, with floppy brown hair and blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He turned to consult the blackboard, and Dana prayed that perhaps he would not notice her. Maybe if she deliberately failed all of her science quizzes, she’d get out of this class, but then if that was the case, she’d never be able to become a doctor, which she knew was necessary.  However, all hopes of him not noticing her were dashed when he sat down on the table next to her and turned to look at her as he put his bag down on the floor. The bag was light blue and had something drawn on it in a darker blue ink. The boy looked Dana in the eyes, and he conveyed that he recognized her by smiling lightly. She blushed and turned to look at the worn wooden desks. Looking at this boy closer up, she still couldn’t identify him, and began to wonder if she’d ever seen him before. She looked up to check the blackboard to see his name. His name was Fox Mulder. This name was almost foreign to Dana, and she concluded that he must have recently moved to Fort Parburgh. 

 

The teacher introduced himself, and Dana barely caught his name. Mr. Alman. He began addressing the class, leaning on his desk, “You probably all know each other already, from middle school or just from around town. But there’s someone new here,” he said, pointing at the boy sat on the desk next to Scully, “Fox Mulder. He and his family just moved here from… Rhode Island wasn’t it?” The boy nodded silently and looked down at the desk. “Well, you all make sure you make him feel welcome.” He then began handing out new notebooks to the class and explaining what they would be doing in biology over the next few months. Dana’s attention wandered from listening to what Mr. Alman was saying to wondering why anyone would move to this tiny town from Rhode Island.

 

The day passed without event. Dana sat alone at break and lunch and noted that Fox Mulder was also in her history class. She read Moby Dick (again) in-between classes and during lunch, and became thoroughly engrossed in the fictional world, feeling as if she was taken away from the world, she was in. The feeling was intoxicating. Sometimes in middle school, she would question whether climbing the mountain and curling up underneath a tree with a book would be better than going to school.

 

She thought about that as she left school, exhausted. Normally, she would head out to the river or the lake or the woods after school, but today she elected to go straight home. When she got home, she tried to get past her mother who asked about seventy questions as quickly as she could and went into her bedroom. She took off her backpack and placed it at the foot of her chair. She removed Moby Dick from her bag, sat down on her bed and kicked off her boots. She read and turned pages and found herself almost completely gone from her bedroom, until she heard her mother call, “Dana! It’s dinner!” She sighed, put the book down and walked down the stairs to eat.

 

Bill, Charles and Melissa were already sat down, and her father sat down around the same time as her. Her mother placed the tray of unidentifiable food in the middle of the table, and began giving spoonsful of that to everyone, and then dumping a scoop of mashed potato on the plate next to the other food. Incessant chattering about everyone’s day began, and as usual, Dana began to tune out and focus on her own thoughts of Moby Dick and what homework she’d been given that day and Fox Mulder.

 

“Starbuck?” she heard the voice of her father calling out to her.

“Yes?”

“I asked you how your day was?”

“Oh. Sorry. I was just daydreaming.”

“Dana, we’ve talked about this. You need to pay more attention when people are talking,” her mother added. “Sorry.” There was silence.

“How was your day though?”

“Fine. Nothing really happened. There’s a new kid at my school.”

“Are they from St. Margaret’s?” her mother asked.

“No. He’s new in town. His name’s Fox Mulder.” Her mother pulled a face that could be likened to disgust or disapproval. “I heard about his family,” she said, wiping her mouth. “He and his mother just moved here.”

“Where’s his father?”

“His parents divorced.” Everyone looked at the floor for a moment because in their good Catholic household, divorce was not mentioned. “Is that why he moved here?” asked Bill.

“No. I believe his sister was murdered.” Suddenly all of Dana’s insides ached with sympathy. Her father didn’t look very pleased, “Can we please return to a nicer topic of conversation?” he asked. And so, they did, but Dana wanted to know more. Curiosity wasn’t good, especially when it came to those things that people didn’t like to talk about. The conversation had been closed, and she didn’t see any opportunity to re-open it. Dana helped her mother clear up the dishes, and then returned to her room, her mind full of thoughts. They were like flies, swarming around a dead body, buzzing incessantly and impossible to ignore.

 

The homework she’d been given was very minimal. Firstly, there were two placement tests. One for biology and one for maths. She completed them in less than forty minutes with ease. Maths and science were her strong subjects. However, the other piece of homework was a little further out of her comfort zone.

 

Make a short presentation about a part of the history of Fort Parburgh that interests you

 

Unsure of what to write, Dana tried to think of anything remotely interesting about her town. Interesting things had to have interesting things, surely? She racked her brains. A short presentation about the bridge’s history? It seemed a little basic, but it seemed easy enough as she knew her father had a book about all of the bridges that had ever been built across that river. She went to her living room and removed the book from the large bookshelf by the fireplace. The book was less than a hundred pages long, and she quickly located the three-page spread about the West-wood Bridge. Dana began to write about the iron works who provided the metal for the supports of the bridge.

 

Within an hour, she was done. By now it was nine o’clock, and Dana saw it fit to get into her pyjamas. She swapped her dungarees for a pair of pyjama bottoms decorated with small flowers and left her baggy t-shirt from the day on. She then began to read Moby Dick again, sat on her windowsill, which she’d padded with cushions a year ago when she got bored of hurting her back while sitting there. Around half-eleven, she moved from the window to her bed, and by two she was asleep with Moby Dick open on her chest.