One or the Other

Prologue

"Oh, Lana, your daughter is simply adorable!"

The eight-year old girl smiled as the adults around her cooed. She loved attention and she never tired of it. Her mother would also look fondly at her whenever she received praise and that was what she loved the most.

"She is also an endearing and outgoing girl, isn't she?" one of the other mothers said. "I wish my daughter was more like that: confident. That is good in such a young age!"

Her mother straightened, beaming with pride. "Yes, my Astrid is very confident but humble, aren't you?" She was caressing her daughter's cheek.

Astrid smiled. "Whatever you say, Mommy."

The mothers gathered cried in delight. "And so obedient! My, what a perfect child!"

Astrid beamed as expected. As the adults continued to chat and lose interest on her, she started scanning the party with her young eyes. Most of those present were adults with teen-age children. It was a garden party. It had rained the night before so the soil was damp but that did not stop the guests from having fun. After looking around, she finally spotted a brown-haired girl who looked the closest to her age, though she was very young. Tugging on her mother's hand, she pointed to the girl who was with her mother.

"Can I go speak to them?"

Her mother, judging the brown-haired girl's mother harmless, nodded. "Be polite, okay sweetie?"

Astrid nodded and headed for the girl and the woman. When she came near enough, the woman looked up and smiled at her.

"Hello, there," she greeted in a friendly manner. Astrid smiled politely.

"My name's Astrid, Ma'am," she said courteously. "I just wanted to see if I can play with your girl. She's the one closest to my age."

The woman smiled. "You're about eight, aren't you? Seven maybe?"

"Eight, Ma'am," Astrid answered, rocking back on her heels. Maybe she doesn't want her to play with her daughter…

"I have one of my sons here," the woman continued. "He can play with you. He's with his daddy right now but I'm sure he'll come here later. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

Astrid shook her head. "No, Ma'am. I wish I did so I don't have to look for people to play with all the time."

The woman smiled. "I have four sons and Devon here is my youngest. She's currently five. My eldest, Austin, is ten, turning eleven. But it's my son, Cedric, you might be interested in. He's also eight. I am Mrs. Shawn, by the way."

All of a sudden, Astrid saw a figure approaching them. When she turned to take a look, she saw that it was a boy. He was a bit taller than her – but no more than an inch. Just like the girl falling asleep in her mother's arms, he had brown hair that had some golden strands that were highlighted by the sunlight. His eyes were blue-grey in color and serious – for an eight-year old. When he reached them, he gave Astrid a dismissive look – which the young girl found extremely irritating, yet disturbing – and turned to his mother.

"Mom, Dad told me to tell you that he's going to take Brice and Edan home," he started, his voice giving a hint of what he thought of his brothers' antics. "A girl got a crush on Edan and started chasing him around but Brice got a crush on the girl and started chasing her around. They knocked a table over and now, they're all dirty."

His mother smiled. "As long as no one's hurt… Cedric, this is Astrid. You two are the same age. Astrid, meet my son, Cedric."

Astrid beamed and held her hand out. "Hello! Pleased to meet you."

Cedric took her hand but did not shake it. His eyes were intent as he stared openly at her.

"Are you smart?" he asked directly. Astrid, taken aback, stammered.

"U-Uh… I don't know…"

"How can you not know?" he said dubiously. "Are you saying you're dumb then?"

"Cedric…" he mother said in a warning tone, which the boy ignored.

Astrid's smile was completely gone. "Dumb?" she echoed. "I don't think I'm-"

"Well then how can you say you don't know if you're dumb?" Cedric asked, eyes unblinking. "What grade are you in?"

Astrid paled, abashed. "G-Grade one."

Cedric raised an eyebrow, reminding her of an adult. "Grade one? I'm in the third grade and we're the same age. You are dumb then."

"H-Hold on!" Astrid cried. How rude was this boy? So what if she was in the first grade even though she was supposed to be in the second? "I-I-"

Cedric let go of her hand. "I don't want to make friends with someone dumb."

"Cedric!" his mother cried, appalled. "Apologize this instant!"

Astrid then did something she has never done in her whole life. She bent down, scooped some mud near her and threw it at the rude boy. It hit him smack on his face. His mom gasped. Growling, she tried to push past him back towards her mother. But the boy stuck his foot out, tripping her. Astrid fell face first on a puddle of mud, completely ruining her dress and hair.

Stunned, she sat up and looked up at those cold blue-grey eyes. She did not pay attention when her mom ran towards her, calling her name. She did not notice the adults who had all turned to look at them, shock and pity in their eyes. She did not notice Cedric's mother apologizing to her own mother. All she could think of was the boy standing superiorly in front of her.

To her embarrassment, she felt hot tears falling down her face. Furious, she wiped them away with her muddy hand.

"You'll pay for this!" she yelled. "Just you wait!"

For the firs time ever, Astrid saw a smirk.

"Go ahead," he challenged. "Do your worst."

"Astrid, we're here."

I could feel myself being shaken gently. Opening my eyes, I scowled at the dream and the memory.

Cedric Shawn. Hmph. I'd be lucky never to see him again.

Unfortunately, there is a very big chance that I will. After all, I am moving back to the suburb from whence I came.

Cedric and I used to be neighbors. The popular Shawn siblings ruled PMP with Austin, the eldest, as a born leader. Brice, the second, was the charmer. Edan, the perfect golden child, had students and teachers alike gushing over him. Devon, the friendly youngest child, was an excellent fighter and a beautiful dancer…

And of course, who could forget the cunning, reserved and vicious genius that is Cedric Shawn?

What is annoying is that I thought I had already escaped him when we moved closer to the city. But then my parents decided to throw their twenty-two years of marriage away and stay as far away from each other as possible. My mom, who I chose to go with since she, at least, isn't getting remarried, decided to return to our quiet suburb. Life chooses funny ways to torment a person.

"Where are we?" I asked groggily instead. The trip took a while since we decided to come via car.

My mom's voice was excited. "Ready for your surprise?"

Surprise? Well, my mom did not tell me where we were going to move to. She wanted it to be a surprise. Maybe it's going to be some fancy house on top of a hill or something! That thought instantly brought me out of my sleepy stupor as I straightened. My mom, however, placed a blindfold around my head.

"Mom, is this necessary?" I asked, unable to keep some of my impatience and excitement out of my voice. I just loved surprises!

"Hold on," she said. I heard her open her door and shut it before probably running around over to my side to open my door and help me out. I got out without trouble despite the fact that I was blind to my surroundings.

I did know that it was raining lightly. The sky was somewhat dark due to the heavy clouds and I could hear the sound of rain falling. Again, I was reminded of the very first time I was tripped and tasted mud. My expression darkened.

"Ready?" my mom asked breathlessly. Memories forgotten, I nodded enthusiastically.

The blindfold was pulled off and I had to let my eyes adjust before looking around.

Hmm… This street is very familiar…

I finally looked up at the house. I thought my heart fell down to the pit of my stomach.

Can I take back what I said about surprises?

"You did not…" I began in a disbelieving voice.

"I did!" my mom cried happily, not noticing the step I took backwards. "Aren't you so glad, Astrid?"

She can't be serious.

Automatically, my eyes drifted to the left. I saw a figure standing on the porch of that house, an umbrella in his hand. I have not seen him in a couple of years but I could recognize that relaxed yet confident stance a mile off…

…And he was looking straight at us.

I looked at the smiling face of my mother and forced a smile of my own.

"It's very nice, Mom," I lied through clenched teeth. "It's the house right next to our old house…"

"I know!" she beamed happily.

Did she know that she also took me one house closer to the domain of the one person I could call my enemy?

My name is Astrid Myles and I am Cedric Shawn's new neighbor.

A/N: I could not help it. Lots of my reviewers probably want to shoot me right now. This is a spin-off from The Fine Line Between Hate and Love and this is happening at the exact same time as that story so expect some cross-overs. Well, tell me what you think.

Did anyone expect Cedric to be such a brat when he was a kid? LOL!