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The Impossible Vastness Of Us

“I like him,” Hayley said quietly. “There’s something mysterious about him.”

“He’s a snob.”

She frowned at me. “No. I don’t think so. I think he’s just sad.”

“Sad?” I made a face. “How so?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he needs a friend.” She nudged me pointedly.

I gave a huff of laughter. “Oh, yeah, I can see that happening.”

“What?” Hayley seemed confused as we started walking toward the car again. “I think you two might get along if you just make an effort. You know he’s the kind of boy I would have loved to see you with if Eloise hadn’t gotten there first. A boy like that needs someone to shake him up a little. You’re so good at shaking people up.”

I grunted and rolled my eyes at her teasing. “You, Hayley, I’m good at shaking you up. I’m pretty chill with everyone else.”

And anyway... Hell would freeze over before Finn Rochester would ever look at a girl like me.

And it would seriously, seriously take a miracle to make a boy that cold appealing to me in any way. It didn’t matter how pretty his face was.

* * *

Large wrought-iron gates swung open into a courtyard from the sidewalk and hugging that courtyard was Tobias Rochester High School. Housed in an imposing Federal-style building that was set back from the street, it looked like the king of the pretty row houses in the fancy neighborhood in Beacon Hill.

I stared up at the building, trying to ignore the pounding of my heart.

Unfortunately, my morning had gone speedily downhill. When I woke up it was to sunlight spilling into my beautiful, peaceful new room. I was surprised by how well-rested I felt. Seriously, now I understood why people often described beds like a cloud.

I’d then taken an awesome shower in my huge new bathroom and I’d put on one of the many outfits Hayley had forced me to buy the day before. I was wearing Armani skinny jeans and an oversize Alexander McQueen T-shirt. Hayley (or Theo actually) had even bought me jewelry, and I was wearing a new watch and bracelet, as well as a pair of small diamond studs in my ears. A pair of Tory Burch flats finished the casual but expensive look and, as much as I hated to admit it because I felt like the walking privileged, I looked pretty good.

And that’s where all the “good” stopped.

Theo wasn’t at breakfast because he went into the office really early. Hayley was still in bed and Eloise was sitting at the breakfast table being waited on hand and foot.

I decided to help myself in the kitchen, hoping to make conversation with the cook, Gretchen, only to discover Gretchen really didn’t want me in her kitchen. I think it was the glaring and the shooing hand gestures that gave her feelings away.

I ended up out in the dining room with my new soon-to-be stepsister. The silence between us was so thick it was stifling as we ate.

Gil came to inform us that it was time to leave for school and I grabbed up my new school satchel (I never, ever thought I’d use the word satchel), and hurried after Eloise.

The tense silence continued between us during the thirty-minute drive to school. When we pulled up to the school, Gil opened the door for Eloise and she shot out of the car as if I had the plague.

Gil gave me a sympathetic smile as I got out and told me to have a good first day.

So far Gil was pretty much the only person in the whole Massachusetts experience that I might actually like.

I got a few curious looks from kids as I walked through the gates and into my new school life. Theo had sent Hayley a class program list a few weeks back and I’d filled it out. Within twenty-four hours I’d been given a schedule and he’d sent on textbooks so I could be somewhat up-to-date on what we would be discussing in class. Plus the school had an intraweb and the teachers were cool enough to list each upcoming class discussion and the reading that was expected for it.

As organized as I already was, I still had to register my arrival. Following signs for the school office, I took in the modern interior that was incongruous with the building’s exterior. The school office was chic—all shiny glass, white, glossy painted wood and expensive computers.

“May I help you?” A middle-aged woman with short blond hair smiled at me as I stepped inside the office.

I gave her a small smile, hoping I didn’t appear as nervous as I felt. “My name is India Maxwell. I’m new.”

“Oh, Miss Maxwell, of course.” She came around her desk to offer me her hand. As I shook it she introduced herself. “My name is Ms. Llewellyn. I’m the head of administration at Tobias Rochester.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You, too. We’ve been expecting you.” She turned to her desk and shuffled through some papers before producing a large envelope. “This is for you. Inside you’ll find important information about the school, including leaflets on a list of extracurricular activities we have here at Tobias Rochester.”

“Thank you,” I murmured, feeling overwhelmed already.

“Headmaster Vanderbilt would like to introduce himself.”

Headmaster Vanderbilt turned out to be a guy probably only five years or so older than Theo. I expected someone stuffy, pretentious and more than a little condescending, but Headmaster Vanderbilt—a tall, reed-thin man who wore a tiny pair of rimless glasses perched on his big Roman nose—was warm and welcoming.

His welcome, in fact, would be the warmest I’d receive that day.

My first class was Microeconomics and to my horror Eloise, Finn and their whole crew took the class. I hadn’t been expecting to see them all together in one class and while the teacher introduced me I had to quickly put my mask of indifference on.

Eloise didn’t acknowledge my presence as I took a seat on the other side of the classroom. My eyes drifted to Finn but he was staring at the teacher, almost too studiously, like he was trying to avoid my gaze. I shook that suspicion off, knowing Finn thought he was superior to me—I probably wasn’t even on his radar.

Not that I cared if I was on his radar or not.

My Microeconomics teacher was pretty cool and I got through the class not feeling totally out of my depth. I considered that a positive for the day.

Fiction Writing was next and Charlotte was in my class. When I walked in, her eyes lit up and I thought I detected the beginnings of a smile before a thought passed over her expression. Her shoulders slumped, and she looked like she wanted to blend into the background.

I decided to ignore her weirdness and waved at her as the teacher approached to introduce herself. The teacher saw my exchange with Charlotte and insisted I sit with her.

“Hey,” I said as I took the seat beside her.

Charlotte gave me a half smile, half grimace. “Hi.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t cheat off you.”

Her answer was a tremulous smile.

Encouraged, I nodded at her violet dress. “That color looks awesome on you.”

Appearing almost taken aback, Charlotte glanced down at the dress and ran her fingertips over it. “Really? Bryce said it washed me out. She said I look trash in it.”

Of course she did. I got more than a few mean girl vibes off that girl. “Well, she’s wrong. It’s really cute.”

“Thanks.” Charlotte gave me a shy smile before wariness replaced it and she turned determinedly to face the front.

Her body language told me not to push talking to her, but I felt hope.

Smiling inwardly, I faced forward, too, and listened to the teacher as she started class.