Read On a Slippery Slope Online

Authors: Melody Fitzpatrick

On a Slippery Slope

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Cover

Dedication

To my son, James, and my niece, Teaghan

Prologue

N
ot
too long ago, the mere thought of Maple Ridge would've caused my stomach to twist in knots, but now that I'm here I can see that it's really not that bad. Actually, meeting Gabby, my new next-door neighbour, and going to the Josh Taylor concert (an incredibly amazing, dream-come-true experience) was the best start I could have ever imagined to the rest of my life. Yes, everything has been
perfect
so far — my new house is crazy-gorgeous; my new friend, Gabby, is awesome; and the concert was beyond wonderful. But even though everything seems great, I still have this niggling feeling that just won't go away. It's hard to explain, but it's like it has all been a little
too
perfect. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I'm worried about tomorrow. I hate feeling worried, I mean it's a dumb, useless emotion, right? But I can't help it. What if Gabby isn't in my class? What if the kids are all horrible? What if this move turns out to be the worst thing ever? I just can't shake it … this feeling of doom. And then there's the matter of A.J. I can't begin to tell you how much I've been obsessing over that wacky mystery.

Anyway, tomorrow, good or bad, I'll know everything.

1

Raccoon

I
'd
really like to start this on a positive note, but that's not going to happen — not today. It's hard to be upbeat when you are alone and pretty much terrified. I thought I'd have Gabby by my side, but no, she had to pick today of all days to come to school late. I don't understand why she couldn't have kissed her grandparents goodbye at home. Why the
entire
family had to go traipsing off to the airport just to do it
AGAIN
is a mystery to me. I mean, I'm all by myself, and I need her, and she was supposed to be here to help me through this day! I couldn't believe it when she messaged me this morning:
Sorry, won
'
t be at bus stop. Taking grand-peeps to airport. See you at school. Oh, and Hannah, stop spazzing! You
'
ll be fine!

So, I'm standing here at the bus stop, alone and freezing because, against twenty minutes' worth of my mother's nagging, I insisted on wearing my flats instead of boots. And guess what! Surprise, surprise … every single person at the bus stop is wearing boots, except for me, of course. So on top of the distinct possibility of getting frostbite, I'm sticking out like a sore thumb. Why, oh why did I fight so hard to wear flats? (
Stupid mistake number one.
) On top of this, I don't know a single soul here, and what's worse, I'm about to head into a school where I'm a complete unknown … an invisible
nobody
. Junior high is hard enough at the best of times, but starting at a school where (according to Gabby) all the kids have known each other since kindergarten, has me scared stiff. Although, that could also be from the slush I'm standing in.

The crazy thing is, I could have totally avoided all this stress if I had just gone to Gabby's parents' Big New Year's Eve Bash, which would have been the
perfect
opportunity to meet people, but do you think I went?
No
, of course I didn't, and do you know why? I'll tell you:

  1. I was stupid.
  2. I was shy.
  3. A.J.

Okay, so you have to understand that when Gabby dropped the whole A.J. bomb, I was like — this is crazy! I mean, what are the chances that the boy I met on the plane and Gabby's brother are the same person? Pretty slim, right — even if they do have the same name. Regardless, I was a little freaked out. Actually, a lot freaked out; the shock of the news pretty much knocked the wind out of me. Seriously, the second I heard her say
A.J.
, my body went stiff as a board, except for my eyes, which was kind of weird, because I could blink (apparently a lot) because Gabby suddenly cried out, “What's wrong? Why are you blinking so much?” I was about to respond when she asked, “Why aren't you answering? Hannah, say something!”

I tried to speak, really I did, but just as I opened my mouth, Gabby shrieked, “Oh no! Hannah! You have something in your eye! Don't worry, I know what to do!”

So I was like, “Wait … what? There's nothing in my …” but then she grabbed my arm and pulled me out of my room, through the hall and down two flights of stairs to the workshop in the basement where she insisted on washing out my eye at the eyewash station. (Who knew we had one?
Why
do we have one?) Of course, there was nothing in my eye, but I figured resisting her would be useless; she was determined to get whatever was in my eye — out! Keep in mind, this all happened only minutes after arriving home from the airport and from meeting
probably
the cutest boy I had ever seen
IN MY LIFE
, whose name just happened to be A.J., which
OMG
, is the same name as her brother!

So, while Gabby was busy flushing my eye, I took advantage of the sudden quiet, and tried to make some sense of the situation. I considered that
maybe
A.J. is a popular name in Maple Ridge. I mean, the initials
A
and
J
could stand for a million different name combinations, right? Adam John, Andrew Jeffery, Alex James, Alfonso Jean-Luc … but then I wondered … what if it's not just a popular name? What if Gabby's brother is the actual boy who sat beside me on the plane? The boy who lent me his iPod, the boy who … no! It couldn't be him! That would be horrible because the way that A.J. made me feel
was
awful,
really awful
, well, actually more weird than awful, like I got all sweaty and tingly and wobbly and dumb. Let's just say, it wasn't fun. Anyway, when Gabby asked me to the party, I decided that even the possibility of coming face to face with that boy again was just a little too much to handle, especially on the day that I had to say goodbye forever to my best friend, Rachel, back in Vermont, go through the extremely scary experience of my very first plane ride, and move into a new house, in a new neighbourhood, in a new state. As you can see, my day was already pretty emotionally overloaded, and I just didn't need any more stress. Good decision or bad, I didn't go to the party.

So, here I am friendless and freezing at the bus stop, wishing I could just get this day over with, A.J. and all. There is a huge tree looming over a wooden bench that some of the kids are leaning against. The bus should be here in a few minutes and even though I've been dreading this since the moment I left Vermont, I just want to get on the bus so I can stop shivering. No one else seems bothered by the cold, but of course they're dressed for it.

Finally, the bus arrives, and even though I have the urge to shove every person out of my way so I can escape the frigid water that's now seeping into my shoes, I stay back and wait so I can slip on the bus, hopefully without anyone noticing. Just as the doors to the bus open, I hear a loud cracking sound from above, so of course, I look up. (
Stupid mistake number two
.
) A huge mound of slushy snow lands on my face with a cold smack. Oh, this is going to be a wonderful day for sure … not!

So, I step on the bus, wiping the snow from my eyes, and find myself an empty seat. I sit down, plunk my knapsack beside me, and give my eyes another wipe. Great! The back of my hand is black. The mascara, that I decided to experiment with today, is now (I'm sure) smeared all over my face. I reach into my bag for my hoodie and press it against my face, deciding it's way more impor­tant to get the black off than to warm my frostbitten feet. Suddenly, something hits me in the side of my head. Half of a sugar donut rebounds off my ear and lands on my seat. A few kids are snickering. “Wow,” I mutter as I pull bits of cake from my hair. Then, the other half hits me. Okay! The first one
maybe
was a mistake (if early-morning food fights are a regular thing here) but that second one was totally on purpose! Could they be any less mature?

“Hey, leave the girl alone!” I hear a guy yell to the kids behind him.

Well, at least someone is coming to my rescue. Thank god; they can
'
t
all
be awful
.

“Wait … or should I say
raccoon
!” the same guy adds loudly, pointing his finger and laughing.

“Raccoon!” his friend yells. “Hey driver! Stop the bus! You let a raccoon on.”

The driver ignores him, but the rest of the bus is in hysterics. I can't even believe how rude and immature these people are.

This is way worse than I even thought it would be. Part of me desperately wants to jump up and scream, “Why don't you all just
GROW UP
!” Another part of me wants to run back home, get into my nice warm pjs, crawl into my beautiful new bed, and go to sleep — forever! In the end, I decide to keep working on the black smeared under my eyes. Luckily, at the bottom of my bag I find a little pack of wet wipes that Mom threw in last night. Perfect … one of these should do the trick. Hopefully …

“Hey,” I hear a voice behind me whisper. “Hey!” it comes again, this time with a little shove to my shoulder. “Your dad is the new weatherman at Channel Nine.”

I turn to see a pretty girl around my age. She's wearing a North Face jacket, a slouchy Burton beanie, and a pair of Oakleys propped up on her head. I'd say she's into sports. She just looks the type.

“Well, am I right?” she demands.


Um
… yeah,” I say, shrugging.

“And you live in Piper the Viper's old house,” the girl beside her snarls like she's accusing me of some horrible crime.

“Hmm … you must think you're pretty special,” Sporty Girl hisses.

I look at her, wondering what the heck she's talking about.

“Well you know what?” she goes on, “Piper wasn't special and neither are you! I don't care who your father is.”

“What?” I'm confused. Why would she care who my father is? “Look,” I say, suddenly finding my voice, “I have no idea who Piper is, or Piper the Viper, or whatever her name is, and I really don't care!”

“No, you look, New Girl!” she barks back, narrowing her eyes, “You'
re no Piper
— that's a fact, and your dad is gonna suck as the new weatherman!”

“My dad! What are you talking about?” I almost screech, wondering what her problem is.
Why does she keep talking about my dad and who the bleep is Piper?

“What am I talking about?” Sporty Girl sneers. “Your dad is a job stealer! That's what!”

“Nice!” Sporty Girl's friend frowns as she kicks her boot hard into the back of my chair.

“What's your problem?” I throw my arms up, staring at them.

“YOU!” Sporty Girl huffs. “So, stay out of our way; got it?”

The bus stops, and kids are up before the doors even open. I decide to stay on until the last kid gets off. No one waits for me, which is good, considering.

“Look, kid, don't let it get you down. It's only your first day,” the bus driver says, cracking a half-hearted smile. “Bound to get better. Right?”

I frown. “Hmmm … hopefully.”

“I'd stay away from those two, though,” he says, pointing out the window to Sporty Girl and her friend, “they're not very nice.”

“Yeah, I kinda noticed,” I mutter, forcing myself off the bus.

Hopefully, that's the last I'll see of Sporty Girl and her friend for the rest of the day, but with my luck, it won't be.

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