Bright Before Sunrise
Author:Schmidt, Tiffany

Bright Before Sunrise by Schmidt, Tiffany




For the Schmidtlets


You brighten each of my days …


even the ones you choose to start before sunrise








One night can change how you see yourself.









12:57 P.M.






“You dropped something.”


I totally miss that the girl is talking to me. She’s sat next to me in English for five months and other than her falsely sweet “Welcome to Cross Pointe” on my first day, the only interactions we’ve had are her indulge-me smiles when she leans across my desk to talk to the girl who sits on the other side of me. One is Jordan and the other is Juliana—I’m not sure who’s who. Both have long, light brown hair and toothpaste-commercial smiles.


She clears her throat and taps my desk with her pencil. Then points to the pink baby sock at my feet. It must have fallen out of my sleeve or the leg of my shorts. Even though all of Sophia’s laundry is washed separately in her organic, hypoallergenic, dye-and-fragrance-free, all-natural, probably-promises-extra-IQ-points detergent, it seems to get everywhere. Especially her socks. She’s just found her feet, and her favorite pastime is freeing them.


It drives my stepfather, Paul, into panics about her catching cold. Even when it’s eighty degrees out. What can I say; the baby is cute and crafty.


I reach down and grab the sock—that little monkey must have managed to kick it into my pocket or stick it down my shirt while I was holding her this morning.


“Thanks,” I say to Jordan/Juliana.


“Is it your daughter’s? It’s so cute.” She’s smiling, but there’s something off about the question. Besides the fact that it’s none of her business, she looks too eager, almost hungry for my answer. “You’re from Hamilton, right?”


“What’s that mean?” I ask, crushing the sock in my hand. I already know the answer. I’m the new kid from Hamilton. And because I didn’t grow up in Cross Pointe, with nannies and beach homes, I must be a teenage father.


At least she has enough decency to blush when she stammers something about, “Well, it’s just—I’ve heard that in Hamilton …”


“It’s my sister’s.” I hate myself for answering. For caring even a little what my Cross Pointe classmates think of me.


“Oh.” She looks me up and down again, like I’m a new person now that I’m not someone’s baby’s daddy. “But it is true about Hamilton, right? Did a lot of your old classmates have kids? I heard they even have a program where you can bring your babies to class. I can’t even imagine a baby in a classroom.”


She draws out “imagine” into three syllables: im-magine. And ends her statement with this absurd giggle.


I bite my tongue so hard.


She leans over and takes the sock from my hand. I could’ve held on to it, but I’m too shocked by her complete disregard for my personal space. “This is so little! I can’t believe you have a sister who’s a baby.”


I wonder what part of my body language or expression makes her think I want to continue this conversation. Does she think I’ve been waiting all semester for her to wake up and notice me? Or maybe she’s just bored because the other half of Jordan/Juliana is absent.


“I just can’t get over it—that’s so much younger than you. Talk about an oops—I bet your parents were shocked.” She’s turning her whole body in her seat, leaning toward me; like she’s starving and will feed off whatever information I’ll share about myself. “Whole sister, or half?”


“When I left for school this morning she was in one piece. I hope no one’s halved her by the time I get home,” I say, taking the sock back and shoving it into my pocket. Then I turn around and continue filling out the I-don’t-feel-like-teaching-on-Friday busywork sheet on the themes in the fussy Gothic novel we’re reading.


I hear her exhale in a huff. I’m sure she’s rolling her eyes and getting ready to make some insulting comment about me to someone nearby, but I don’t care.


I am not providing fuel for their gossip. I am not playing any of their Cross Pointe games.


I’m surviving.


Counting down the school days until graduation. Eleven.


Then I’m out of here.










1:16 P.M.






“Brighton! Why weren’t you at lunch?”


I freeze at the familiar voice. I’d been hoping—just this once, just today—I could make it from my locker to class without being seen, but Jordan latches on to my arm as I walk by the door of Mrs. Watson’s room.


“I had to do something for yearbook.” The “something” had been to take a moment just to breathe. The yearbook room had been a convenient place to hide out and do it.


“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” She tsks like I’m being silly and gives my arm a playful shake. “Everyone was looking for you.”