14.8K 804 284

As the end of September looms over Hopton Hills, the weather cools

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.

As the end of September looms over Hopton Hills, the weather cools. Despite the fact I'm used to the seasons changing, it still surprises me. From TV, I assumed Tennessee was always hot. Always sticky. The chillier breezes have me looking forward to crisp, cool air and nights of undisturbed sleep. Although the leaves on the trees are still green, the wind is whipping traces of red and orange around their edges. In a few short weeks, Autumn will be here.

In the grainy picture of the Skype camera, it's clear it's hit England earlier. Curled up on a narrow bunk bed, Lydia and Lissie are wrapped up in woollen jumpers, cups of steaming tea in their hands. I spy a plate smuggled out of the dining room: MillFallow lemon slices. My favourite.

'I still can't get over what a dick he was,' says Lissie, popping a minuscule piece of cake into her mouth.

'So, you still haven't spoken to him?' Lydia asks.

'No. It's been surprisingly easy to avoid him. I mean we don't share classes and cheerleading takes up so many of my lunchtimes that I don't go to the cafeteria much.'

Lissie scoffs. 'Could also be that you now have a bodyguard. I can't imagine that wanker wants another black eye.'

James has been an almost permanent fixture since the night of the opening pep rally, taking it upon himself to keep Finch away from me. He'd merged into our little group with ease. Secretly, I know he loves all the attention that Cricket, Anna-Beth and even Elodie give him. In fact, ever since the fight with Finch, and his induction into the football team, he's been getting attention from a lot of girls.

In the three weeks since the pep rally debacle, I've seen a glimpse of what the old James was like: football captain and confident varsity player who has girls flirting with him in the corridor. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I don't want to lose the one I know and like. Not when I've only just got him back.

He isn't like that when it's just us. Then he reverts to the boy from Norris Lake. I run my fingers over the book he'd brought over yesterday. Like the rest of his favourites, it's falling apart at the binding. With so many books and too little time, I don't understand his obsession with reading and re-reading the same ten. He says that when you find something you love, you should hold on to it. Not discard it once you're done.

I can't help but wonder if he's talking about books.

'I see that smile. Sooooo?' says Lydia, angling for information.

'So what?'

'So, do you like him?'

I shrug, keeping my cards close to my chest. How can I answer that honestly when I'm not sure myself? Being with James is easy. Like it was at Norris Lake before everything became so complicated. We share the same interests, same goals, same humour. We match like two halves of one whole. Slipping into a comfortable routine of friendship - sharing books, studying together, heading to Delilah's for milkshakes - is easy. Inevitable.

Under Tennessee SkiesWhere stories live. Discover now