Chapter One

"Tyler! Hey, wait up!" Chelsea Rivers called as she chased after her best friend in the junior high hallway, deftly maneuvering her way through the crowd. School had just let out, and it was especially hard to find daylight squished between people excitedly swapping weekend plans and last-minute homework.

"Tyler! Wait for me!" The male in question ignored her and instead quickened his pace.

Chelsea was panting when she reached the tall boy of nearly fourteen. She took in the slump of his shoulders and the neutral face Tyler put on and tried to find a way to get through his defiance.

"Look, Ty, I'm not happy about my moving either," Chelsea sighed gently, brushing back her unkempt hair impatiently. "If I had my way, we'd be going to high school together, like we always said so. Don't be moody now, I can't stand it," she pleaded, looking suspiciously bright-eyed.

Tyler refused to meet her eye. And then, "I just wish Uncle Trevor didn't have to go the freakin' zillion miles across the country for the promotion," Tyler said quietly, referring to his godfather, his parents' dear comrade, and Chelsea's daddy.

"Yeah, well..." Chelsea trailed off uncertainly, knowing that they were up against the impossible. "Look, I have to go," she said reluctantly.

Words were deceiving. It was such a simple statement, but right then, it meant their whole world. They both knew that "having to go" meant Chelsea was leaving permanently, moving away from the city they lived and grew up in. For good.

Tyler raised his chin finally and the two's eyes met. Tyler's pair of intensely dark blue eyes, stormy and resigned, against Chelsea's normally lively twinkling blue-gray ones, now downcast.

"I'm going to miss you so much!" Chelsea burst out suddenly, and embraced Tyler, holding him tightly. Tyler, not knowing what to do, returned the hug awkwardly, the way you'd expect a boy at his age to.

"Here's my real goodbye," Chelsea thrust a funny-looking drawstring bag into his hand abruptly. Then she hitched up her baggy overalls against her wafer-thin figure and ran off without a backward glance.

Tyler gazed after her wistfully, wishing he'd formed a proper goodbye. He wasn't good at translating his emotions to coherent sentences, and in effect botched these situations horribly. Unable to bid away his curiosity and feeling stupid at staring off into the busy hallway, he went into an empty classroom for privacy and emptied the contents of the little pouch.

And a craftily handmade booklet fell into his hands. It was decorated with an astrology theme, their mutual passion. He flipped it over, and immediately the smiling faces of a two- year-old Chelsea and Tyler loomed before him. Both had milk moustaches and Tyler attempting to carry her, all smiles. Next was one of Chelsea and Tyler making funny faces, front teeth missing noticeably. Chelsea and Tyler dripping with mud, totally asking for a parental unit sermon. Chelsea wearing goofy heart-shaped shades and her mom's pearls and heels. Seven-year-old Tyler practically swimming in his father's too large Armani business suit, dimple showing adorably. Chelsea pinching Tyler's cheek teasingly, Tyler's arm thrown loosely around her. There was even one of Tyler's face smeared with lipstick, chasing Chelsea who was smiling a mischievous smile.

Tyler's reminiscing smile morphed into an inexplicably sad one after he'd flipped over the entire booklet. They'd grown up together, with pictures of a glorious past to prove it. It was just too bad the slots for their future would be empty.




Nearly four years later..

Tyler POV

"What the hell are you still doing at home?" My stepmother, Claudia, exclaimed as she yanked off my jersey-knit covers. Immediately, a freezing blast of cool air swept into my bed, and I jerked up instinctively, groaning as I tried to snatch back the cozy, warm comforter and the remnants of my sleep. Failing miserably, I resorted to praying fervently that she'd do me a hell of a favor by leaving me alone.

"I could ask you the same thing," I shot back snidely, not interested in having Claudia in my face so early in the morning. It was a pity she didn't have a godforsaken meeting at the country club or tea with other bored wives/mothers as usual.

"It's nearly ten on a Tuesday morning. What's your excuse?" She demanded crossly. She stared at me steadily, arms crossed over her lavender twin set, matching lavender heels clacking impatiently.

The effects of a hangover started to take its toll against me, and I didn't, couldn't, respond. I fumbled for a couple of headache pills I keep handy for instances like this and chugged it down before replying.

"I was up cramming a project," I lied flatly, starting to get up.

"Don't make me laugh."

"Me and a couple of guys downed a few beers," I shrugged. I should've guessed a good-boy adlib wouldn't fool her corrupted mind. Oh well. I have a hangover. My brain can't be functioning well.

"Honestly, Tyler Raileveu, I don't know what to do with you!" She stormed out, probably to rat me out to my father, who couldn't care less.

I ran a hand through my tousled black locks, yawning. Claudia and I don't get along. Even if the end of the world comes, we'll still probably be screaming each other's respective heads off. She's such a drama queen and always messes with my life even when I've told her repeatedly to butt out where she doesn't belong. I'm not four, not eleven.. but s-e-v-e-n-t-e-e-n. Get that straight. I don't know how my father can stand her, let alone for almost ten years, a freaking record.

I grabbed my cell phone which was blinking 'no space for new messages' and flashing with several missed calls. Kylie, Kylie, Mandy, Kylie, Mandy, and Ina. I flipped over the various girls' names disinterestedly. I'd hooked up with a bunch of girls in the weekend, and now they expected me to commit or whatever. See, that's the reason I don't go exclusive. I don't have the patience to deal with girls when I'm already forced to deal with the likes of Claudia.

I stumbled jaggedly into my bathroom and in half an hour, I was cruising down the boulevard towards school. Otherwise known as the place where most of my fondest memories are laid. Not. The smooth sounds of 90s rock blared loudly in my silver convertible, top down at the moment. Some pedestrians I zoomed by threw me dirty looks, but I was just amused. To be honest, I really didn't give a flying damn on what they said or didn't say.

I got in school just in time to get a couple of books and head to fourth period. On the way, I ran into Alec Wharton, my good buddy. He's a total jock and he's pure whacko/a crazy misfit when he wants to be.

"Hey, man! Long time no see," he joked. He waved goodbye a bunch of people he was with and stepped in stride with me.

"Hey, Alec. Hey, Tyler." Someone called chirpily and I turned around. Jessie Kingbridge, a pretty blond junior. I nodded, not in an unfriendly way and Alec flashed a million watts smile.

"Yeah, well, I was having fun until I got busted by no other than Queen Bitch herself," I rolled my eyes and Alec chuckled. What Claudia didn't know was that I'd cut all my classes since Friday, and had gone to hang out with a couple of old friends in town. "Besides, can you blame me for preferring to get out of this boring shit hole?"

"Definitely not. In fact, I'd applaud you if not for the fact you left me groveling in school while you were having fun. Some friend," he replied, but we both knew he was kidding.

"Hey, guys!" Jenna McCraw called as she passed by us. "How's it going? And when's that dinner you promised me, Tyler?"

"Haven't thought about it yet. Later, Jenna."

"Oh, okay. Umm, see you around?"

"Sure," I said carelessly.

"That girl can't take a hint. Your little flirtation with her ended what, last month? Hey, by the way, there's a new girl in school, Tyler."

"What about her?" I answered, knowing there was something there if Alec bothered to mention her.

"Well, she's hot. And there she is, right behind you."

I turned around slowly, my trademark smirk on my face. See, not many people can fully appreciate the beauty of a smirk. It's practically an art. It takes skill and inspiration to produce a lethal one.

But right this moment, I couldn't conjure it up. My facial expression faltered as every sane thought flew right outta the door.

"Well, well, well, Tyler Raileveu. What a surprise." A slender chick with long reddish curls and blue-gray eyes sparkling with mirth drawled lazily. She grinned mischievously at me in an all too familiar way.

Once I was able to wrench my jaw closed, I gaped at her in astonishment.

" Chelsea?!" I said, amazed. "Is that you?"

"No," Chelsea responded sarcastically. "I'm Chelsea's identical twin. What, have you forgotten me already? Tut, tut."

"What the fuck are you doing here?" I asked my oldest friend until maybe fourteen, none other than (drumroll please). Ms. Chelseeeeaaa Riverssss. I was still gaping at her in shock, Alec watching amusedly.

"You sound like you wanna flying-kick me to wherever I came from," Chelsea teased.

"Come on, man, where are your manners?" Alec hinted at me, nudging me in the ribs to introduce him.

We both ignored him. "Why didn't you tell me you're moving back? I can't believe this crazy shit." A huge grin started to spread across my face.

"It was worth the stupefied look on your face," Chelsea was laughing.

I gave her a once-over, taking in my childhood best friend. I hadn't seen her in ages. And I have to say, she's really grown up and matured since I last saw her. Her formerly unmanageable reddish tangles were now silky and gleaming, her locks curling in a delicately pleasing way. She really did have a beautiful, unique aura about her.

My best friend's back. Lookin' fine.


The shit has just hit fan.