"I only hate a couple things, hypocrites and smokers." She said, smiling. Her long brown hair fell into her face as she tilted her head, the straight strands not affecting her vision, as her eyes were closed.

"Really Madison, you shouldn't hate anything." Her friend, a blonde girl with green eyes, sighed.

"But April... I just can't get over things like that, being a hypocrite or inhaling nicotine. Don't you think it's all so... sick?" She stood up, turning her back to her friend and looking to the orange sunset. "One day I will make such things alien to my life."

"Madison... don't be so hasty to remove things from your life. We're not even to Junior High School yet..." Her blonde friend pouted.

"Don't worry April. I know what I'm doing."

Later, Madison's second year of Junior High.

"Do you have your lunch Madison?" Her mother asked as Madison was walking out the door.

"Like always Mama!" She laughed back, the door clicking closed behind her as she put her backpack on the rest of the way. She rubbed lip gloss onto her lips, then fixed her top before hurrying to the bus stop where the bus was already waiting. She hurried to sit next to April, both smiling to each other before they began to gossip.

"I hear there's a new kid in class." A redhead girl interrupted, leaning over to their seat. "He's some sort of gang member from New York. Like a real gangster! I bet he has a gun at all times, or a knife or something. I bet he even smokes and wears a leather jacket!"

"That's stupid." Madison raised an eyebrow. "This is middle school, he's probably just a normal jock." She shrugged.

"Excuse Madison here, she's anti-smoker cool guy." April laughed, thumbing Madison.

"It's not just that..." Madison scrunched up her nose. "I just don't think someone our age would be like that."

Once to class the new kid gossip had only gotten more outrageous. Madison growled, flopping into her desk's chair and waiting for the teacher to announce the new kid so she could prove he wasn't a gangster in a leather jacket. However, the teacher didn't arrive to class until ten minutes after the bell, and even then she looked pale, worried and very distant.

"I'm sorry for making you wait class, I even missed the pledge. Well, please welcome our new student, Riley Johansson from New York, New York." She announced, the young boy walking into the room. He looked just like they had said; slicked back black hair and a leather jacket. Hands in his pockets and a slouch that made him look tough.

"Poser." Madison whispered.

"'Ey." He nodded to the classroom, which made no attempts to reply.

"Hello!" Another boy on the other end of the classroom smiled. He was sort of the class clown, but he had perfect grades and attendance, as well as a cocky sinister side.

"U-uhm, I suppose we'll sit you in front of Raphael there, the boy who just said hello." The teacher pointed. He nodded, walking down Madison's aisle then turning to get to his assigned seat. A hushed whisper swept over the classroom of the girls confirming their rumors and gossip. "Settle down class, we have to make up for lost time..."

By lunch more girls had swooned over Riley than any other jock in the school. The only one who seemed out of the loop was Madison, since even April had blushed when he walked by.

"Madison." Raphael called and Madison startled. She and Raphael had never really spoken before, and he had always sort of scared her, though she'd never admit it.

"What?" She asked, looking frazzled.

"I was wondering what you thought of the new boy. Personally I think I may just be in love, but that could just as easily be putrid hate." He smirked, putting and arm on either side of her.

"I think he's a crummy poser who wants to be idolized." She snapped, looking away from him.

"I figured as much." He put his hands on his hips, which looked very odd. "Madison. He smelled like smoke."

"Why... are you telling me... of all people, why are you telling me this?" Madison blinked, Raphael grinning at her.

"Because, you wanted to know." He said, then walked away.

"Boys... make no sense." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "I'm tired already."

"Wow Madison, you look sick or something..." April put her forehead to the other girls'. "You're a little warm, maybe you should go to the nurse's office."

"Yeah... I'm not feeling great. Mind telling the teacher for me?" Madison asked, April nodding.

"No problem. You feel better." April smiled, patting Madison's shoulder before heading off. Madison drug herself to the nurse's office, where she was diagnosed with a fever and her parents were phoned.

"Your mother asked for you to wait for her behind the school. She'll come pick you up in just a minute." The nurse said, Madison nodding and heading to the back of the school. She put on her jacket, letting her bag sit next to her on the ground. Suddenly she gagged, smoke getting into her nose. She blinked, looking around for the source but not finding it. It was by then class time, so no teachers would be outside smoking—assuming any teachers smoked anyways. She checked behind the dumpsters, then turned the corner of the building to see the new student—Riley—crouched down with his back against the school, a cigarette in his mouth.

She meant to turn back and just report it later, but wound up coughing before she could. Riley blinked, looking up to her with bored ebony eyes.

"'Ey." He nodded to her, then stood up, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and blowing smoke in her face so she coughed more. "Go to class straight."

"I-I have a fever... I'm supposed to get picked up by my mom." She said, her eyes watering.

"Mm." He looked her over, then slowly smirked. "Rain." He said, and it suddenly began to pour. She blinked, watching him step on his cigarette. "What's your name?"

"Why should I tell you?" She asked defensively.

"You already know mine. I want to know the name of the girl who rats me out." He looked at her, his eyes actually honest.

"I-I'm not some tattletale. My name is Madison." She said, and he looked past her.

"Get by your bag, your mom's almost here." He said, then put his hands in his pockets and walked away. She blinked, then hurried back towards her bag, just as her mother pulled up.

"He couldn't have... what a weirdo." She muttered, then opened the car door and got inside.

The next day Madison didn't go to school, but instead stayed home alone, since her mother had to work. She woke around ten in the morning and brushed her rather straight hair. She dressed herself in a knee-length black skirt and a white tank top, then made herself breakfast and sat down to eat, as well as read up on her homework. Around noon she was startled by the doorbell ringing, and looked carefully out the peephole to see Riley looking back at her.

She opened the door, eyebrow raised.

"What?" She asked, Riley smirking at her. "How'd you know where I live?"

"You look smart, but you don't act smart." He said, shrugging. "Johansson, like the principal Johansson? I'm his son, I just moved here after living with my mom all my life."

"Oh. So basically you just snooped around and looked me up, but that doesn't explain why you're here." Madison kept her eyebrow raised.

"Why wouldn't I be here? School was boring me, so I figured I'd come see you." He shrugged once more. "Can I come in?"

"I guess." She stepped aside so he could walk into the house.

"Were you studying?" He asked, noticing the books and papers laid out on the table.

"Well yeah, I'm missing school." Madison huffed. "You really are some loser gangster."

"Considering you've known me a day and spoken to me twice, I don't think you have a right to say who I am or what I am or what stereotype I fit under. Also, I am far from a loser." He said, sitting down at the table and putting a cigarette in his mouth.

"Don't you dare smoke that in here." She snapped. He looked up at her boredly, and—alas—shrugged again.

"Just suckin' on it." He said flatly. "I was talking to your little friend... ah... April, or maybe it was some other month, I don't remember, but she said you hated smokers and hypocrites."

"Why were you talking to April?" Madison asked, sitting down at the opposite end of the table.

"So she is that month. I just wanted to know what turned you off. My mom taught me to know what's gonna happen before it happens, so I wanted to make sure I could tell what would happen." He smirked.

"That's a silly thing to know." Madison rolled her eyes and Riley blinked.

"Why?" He asked bluntly.

"If you know what's going to happen before it happens, life is no longer fun." Madison said in a very matter-of-fact tone. Riley just laughed, then grinned.

"I like you." He said, then stood up.

"Well I don't like you. I hate smokers." Madison snapped and he just laughed again.

"What? D'you think because I put a stick of shit in my mouth I'm a different breed than you? We're both human you know. We're even both kids, about the same age, just grew up different." Riley said, putting one hand on the table and looming over Madison.

"Oh yeah?" She said, but her voice was shaky.

He flopped back down in the chair next to her. "My mother played piano." He said, holding up his hands with his fingers spread out.

"What?" Madison blinked.

"My mom played piano." Riley repeated. "Had piano fingers, long and slender. Used to play all the time. She was a prostitute, then a mistress, then a mom, and none of it she wanted to be. Wanted to play piano. For ten years she raised me alright, then she started to really crack. Used to tell me stories and then put her arms around my neck and say 'feel mommy's piana fingers? That's what mommy wanted to do with her life is play the piana with her piana fingers. Now when you're living your good life I gave you outside this house remember how mommy's piana fingers felt around your neck', to which I said, 'I can't even feel them now'. Then she would cry."

"Why are you telling me this?" Madison asked, though she looked like she was about to cry. Riley smirked.

"Because, you wanted to know." He said, then stood up once more.

"Hey! Raphael and you—" She began, then stopped, covering her mouth.

"Raphael and I? We used to hang out when we were kids. Then He moved away in third grade. We kept in touch though, and he told me about you one day, said something about you competing with his grades." Riley explained. "We can talk without talking, so he signaled who you were in the class, but I still didn't know your name. It was luck that you caught me smoking." He broke into a grin. "But I admit, I thought I was in deep shit right then."

"If you're so cool then... why do you smoke?" Madison asked, then rubbed her forehead. He blinked, chewing on the butt of the cigarette in his mouth.

"You think I'm cool?" He asked, seeming very precarious with what he said.

"No, but every other girl in school does." Madison grumbled.

"Ah. Well, I smoke 'cause I wanna. You study 'cause you wanna and let me tell you, Raphael gets great grades, 'cause he wants ta." Riley said, flopping once more down in the chair next to Madison.

"You've got to be kidding me. That's your explanation?" Madison rolled her eyes.

"I have my reasons for wanting to. When I started it was to drowned out my mother, now I just keep up with it 'cause I like the way it makes me feel. Are you a virgin?" Riley asked nonchalant, which only made Madison more outraged.

"Why on earth would I tell you that?" She snapped, seeming very upset.

"I'll take that as a yes. Well see, some people get addicted to sex, always looking for the next big bang. That's how my mom was, look how cute she turned out, in a coffin at thirty." Riley smirked.

"C-cof-she's dead?" Madison blinked, shocked.

"Yeah, for no other reason would my dad bother to take me in. The law said he had to. She committed suicide, cut her wrist sitting at the piano, smeared blood all over the white keys. I found her, I called nine-one-one, but she was gone before they got there." Riley kept his eyes closed, the cigarette bobbing up and down in his mouth.

"But not when you got there?" Madison questioned, then almost regretted it. However, Riley didn't even open half an eye, rolling the cigarette to the other side of his mouth.

"She was still alive when I got there. She looked up at me with her head on the bloody piano keys and just grinned. Told me I wouldn't amount to anything, and I'd die just like she did, except I wouldn't even have piana fingers." Riley's voice kept calm. Madison's cheeks went red and her eyes welled up with tears.

"What a terrible woman." She said, her voice in pieces. "To tell her son such a horrible thing."

Riley opened his eyes and blinked in surprise, leaning forward a little. "Why are you cryin'?"

"Because you won't!" She snapped, wiping her eyes to no avail. "Don't you see? All you have is the words of a crooked, wretched woman and nicotine and smoke! You're not cool—you're not a loser—you're nothing but hatred and smoke!" She sobbed.

"Maybe so but... that's me now. I won't... try to change your mind about me. But I wanted you to know, the reason I came here, was because right now... when you're being biased against me 'cause I smoke... you're assuming I'm something I might not be. I have the right to smoke. Maybe it's illegal for someone my age, but if I can get 'em, I should be able to smoke 'em." He stood up once more, this time looking like was planning to leave. He had his hands in his pockets, but he took one out to wipe away Madison's tears. She opened her mouth to say something, but he stopped her with his own.

She blinked, turning even redder and then realizing he was transferring his cigarette. He then stood back up, and walked from her house without saying another word, or letting her talk. She lifted her hand and felt the cigarette in her mouth, soggy and chewed on, but still fine for smoking.

"What is that?!" Madison's mother screamed, coming home around five.

"What?" Madison blinked, the unlit cigarette still in her mouth.

"That's it young lady! You're grounded until High School!" Her mother bellowed, Madison just realizing what she was screaming about.

"It's not like I'm smoking it mom..." She began, then paused. "And I have this year plus next year before high school."

"Well you're spending it grounded!" Her mother hissed. "Go to your room, and throw that thing away! I never want to see, smell or hear of cigarettes again, and we'll be turning your room upside down come winter break, I assure you young lady!"

"Okay, okay..." Madison walked up to her room, ignoring the 'throw that thing away' demand. She closed the door to her room, sitting with her back against it. She took the cigarette out of her mouth, looking it over. Suddenly her mother bellowed 'five minutes! Pick up the phone', so she hurried to her phone and picked it up.

"I got it." She said into the receiver.

"I mean it, five minutes and I'm disconnecting you." Her mother snapped, then hung up her phone.

"Wow, she's awfully strict today..." April's voice came and Madison laughed awkwardly.

"Yeah, I'm grounded until High School, what can I say?" She explained, April making a gawking cough noise.

"She does remember you're at the beginning of your second year in a three year junior high right?" April asked, Madison chuckling.

"Seems to." Madison replied, smirking though April couldn't see.

"Why the groundation?" April asked, seeming confused.

"She thinks I've picked up smoking. She's even turning my room over as soon as we're on winter break. So in about a week now." Madison explained.

"Wow, rough stuff. I just called to tell you about our homework, but we don't actually have any. So don't worry about it. But there is a vocab' test tomorrow, so make sure to go over the words." April elaborated, Madison nodding.

"Gotchya." Madison confirmed. "Should be fun."

"Hey Madison, did that Riley kid drop by your house?" April asked and Madison blinked.

"Oh yeah, he did. Said he had talked to you actually, why?" Madison queried back, April pausing.

"Well, he said he liked you. I just wanted to make sure he didn't bug you too much, I mean, most the kids already know he's a smoker so... wait, Madison—"

"Get off the phone, now!" Madison's mother yelled.

"Sorry April—talk to you tomorrow!" Madison said quickly before the line went dead. "Geeze mom... it's April..."

The next morning Madison put the cigarette in her pocket before she headed off to school, being careful to bypass her mother with only a vocal goodbye. She hopped onto the bus, sitting next to April as usual.

"Sorry about last night, what were you going to say?" Madison asked, April smiling.

"Did Riley give you cigarettes?" April asked, whispering so only Madison could hear, and with the noise on the bus even Madison had to listen hard.

"No, just one. I don't know why—it's useless to me." Madison rolled her eyes. "But I don't really want to just throw it away either. I was thinking about just giving it back to him."

"I guess it's up to you..." April shrugged.

Once in class Madison was annoyed by the fact Riley hadn't bothered to show up. She waited until lunch, and then hunted down Raphael.

"Hey Raphael, where's Riley?" She asked, seeming annoyed. Raphael blinked, then looked both ways strangely before leaning in and speaking in a very hushed voice.

"He stopped smoking yesterday, said he had had his last cigarette and was done with it, but today he felt so terrible going cold turkey he couldn't get out of bed, much less to school." Raphael explained and Madison blinked.

"He quit? Wow... he didn't mention he was quitting." Madison sort of gaped. Raphael just shrugged.

"He didn't make a big announcement out of starting either." Raphael said simply. "If you want, I can tell you where he lives or something. He loves company. Of course if you were grounded or had some after school thing you had to deal with and thus couldn't visit him in his state, I guess—"

"Stop knowing everything! Men!" Madison snapped. "Just go ahead and tell me, I'll sneak out or something!"

Raphael blinked, then laughed. "Alright."

Madison waited until her mother's ten o'clock soap finished, bid her mother goodnight and said she was going to bed as soon as her homework was finished. She then went down to the kitchen and out the window—since opening the door was unfortunately loud. She closed the kitchen window as far as she dared, then hurried off into the night, glad curfew was eleven.

She got to Riley's house—or at least what she was pretty sure was Riley's house—and rang the doorbell. She waited a moment, then rang the bell again. There was a lot of noise, then what sounded like running before the door flew open. Riley stood, bags under his eyes, looking like he had just killed something with red stains all over the white t-shirt he was wearing.

"Uh... come at a bad time?" Madison asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Madison!" Riley smiled, standing up straight. "Not really. Oh. Uh, sorry about that, Raphael's over and he got a nosebleed and it was just pissing me off and the doorbell's sort of annoying so that didn't help... Oh! Come in." He moved aside so she could walk into the house.

"Hey Riley it stopped—Oh." Raphael froze, seeing Madison. "Should I get lost?"

"You're lost already dunce." Riley rolled his eyes. "It doesn't matter, Madison probably doesn't totally hate you."

"No qualms here." Madison shrugged. "Just don't mention this meeting of ours to anyone ever and I'll be fine with you."

"Did you really sneak out?" Riley blinked. "I didn't think you'd be the type..."

"Well I'm grounded so it was sneak out or tell lies, and I prefer sneaking out. Besides, my mom sleeps deeper than a dead person." Madison smirked.

"Mm, well Riley I'm tired so I'm heading home anyways, want to get enough sleep and all that stuff." Raphael said, patting Riley's shoulder. "Try to get to school tomorrow."

"Will." Riley nodded. "Safe walk home Raphael."

Raphael waved one last time before letting himself out.

"So, why'd you bother to come all this way?" Riley asked, looking to Madison.

"I had to give this back to you, sorry, but, I have no use for it." Madison shrugged, handing the cigarette to Riley from her pocket. He blinked, slowly taking it from her.

"But, I smoked my last..." He said, looking anxious. "I thought Raphael told you."

"He did. But I figured you'd know what to do with it a lot better than I ever will." Madison explained. "Sorry, it's probably hard to see after you decided to stop but..."

"No, I got an idea. C'mere, it's warmer in my room." He said, taking her wrist and dragging her to the other end of the house. His room was warmer, and smelled heavily of incense.

"Where's your dad?" Madison asked, her eyes watering from the thick smell.

"He doesn't come home very often." Riley said, beginning to look through drawers of his desk. She sat in the only chair in the room, then realized what Riley had been looking for when he pulled out a lighter.

"You're going to smoke it?" She asked, blinking.

"Only if you do too." He said, sitting on the bed and pulling the chair beside it.

"What? I don't—" Madison began.

"Half a cigarette won't kill you. Besides, we should share at least one thing, and after this we'll be two different people who probably won't even talk very often." Riley defended. Madison pouted, then thought it over for a moment.

"Fine. Half." She nodded.

End of first semester, Madison's first year of High School.

"So are you un-grounded yet?" April asked, Madison laughing.

"Finally! Mom said since my birthday's coming up she'd let me stop being grounded." Madison grinned. "Freedom at last!"

"Really! My mom's threatened long groundations before, but never before has she carried them out—and especially not that and a little more!" April smirked. "You're mom's sure tough!"

"Yeah, I think secretly she's just annoyed since dad won't be home for another year or two." Madison shrugged. "But he's the one who enlisted, it's not my fault."

April laughed and they chatted idly until they arrived at school.

"Madison! April, my sweet!" Raphael grinned, swooping April up. She squealed, then laughed.

"What is wrong with you man?!" She continued to laugh as he set her back down. "I said I was interested!"

"But true love knows no bounds!" He said, gesticulating wildly. "I will woo you yet!"

"Who'd have thunk?" Madison chuckled.

"Oh Madison, I have a note for you... from Riley of course." He said, pulling the folded paper from his jeans' pocket. He handed it to Madison, who blinked.

"He doesn't talk to me for two and a half years then sends me a note? How tacky." Madison smirked.

"He waves hi on occasion, give the guy some credit." Raphael shrugged. "May I walk you to class miss?" He turned to April, who shook her head, but let him walk with her anyways. Madison put the note in her pocket, also heading to class.

Once to lunch she pulled it out of her pocket, leaning against her locker and reading it over.


Your birthday is soon, right? Let's have a party at my house. Invite April & I'll invite Raphael, other folks can come too—sorry, I'm not sure who you hang out with. Your mom (& dad?) can come too.



She smiled, then folded the note back up. "Yeah, we'll see who makes it."

"So it's a yes?" Riley grinned.

"Don't sneak up on me!" Madison snapped, jumping. "Of course it's a yes! I'll talk to my mom when I get home."

"Alright then. I'll provide snacks and other stuff, so no worries. And I insist on making the cake." Riley smiled, looking almost childish.

"You better not... spike it or something..." Madison said, her cheeks pink.

"I haven't gone back to smoking or anything else drug wise since that day and I know you know it." He continued to smile. "So I hear Raphael has a major crush on April..."

"You said that day... that we probably wouldn't even speak again, yet here you are." Madison shook her head. "Just when I really began to believe you."

"Well, I didn't think we would speak again. But then I thought about you more, and dated a few other girls, and hung out with Raphael, and I still think about you more. So I figured why fight it? We can at least be friends right?" Riley shrugged.

"Yeah." Madison smirked. "The ex-smoker and the ex-biased against smokers." She raised her hand, pinky poised up. Riley smirked back, locking his pinky in hers.