Shades of Fire

Chapter Two: Bubble

I know it's wrong to listen in on conversations, especially when people intentionally put you outside the conversation for a reason, but the temptation always overwhelms me. My parents are morning people and I luckily inherited that trait, or else I'd never manage through 13 years of school. I could here my mom's shoes banging against the kitchen table as she flipped pages in a magazine and my dad was at the counter with his coffee; I knew because he had just placed the cup on the counter table. My hearing amazes me sometimes. My mom and my dad were always at least three yards away from each other. They never really sat together – at the same table anyways, unless, God forbid, we go out to eat at a restaurant and they have to share a table. They rarely talk to each other and when they do it's about me. So when I hear a conversation exchanged between the two, my ears become sensitive and I can't help but eavesdrop.

"It's Heidi's senior year," my father mentioned.

I knew my mom didn't take her eyes off her magazine without even looking at her; she never does. "Why, yes. It is."

You could always tell their conversations were exciting, couldn't you?

"I sure hope she enjoys writing. She did coerce us into letting her go into that writing program after all."

Coerce? I did not coerce them to anything! My dad exaggerates.

"Me too. She should enjoy it. I mean, she has been in that writing program for four years."

Four years, mom, but only for the sake of you two. Okay, maybe I was being too defensive.

My dad sighed. "Well, Jane, I have to be going to work."

"Okay, Louis. Enjoy your day." I know my mom still didn't take her eyes off her magazine.

So the conversation ended there and I lay in bed for a minute just contemplating the sure disaster that would arise if I told them I wanted to major in something other than writing. I needed to send out my college applications soon and the inevitable was crawling closer and closer. If it weren't for me, my parents would have split, if you hadn't guessed it already. They were too young when they got married and my existence into this world had complicated matters. I suppose I was the excuse they used to keep their marriage alive.

By that point, I drove myself out of bed to get ready for school.

&&&

"Tell me the truth, is there some sort of leech on my face?" Valerie asked me as I got into class. She pointed to her face with both hands, her eyes bold and wide.

I narrowed my eyes, inspecting. "Not if that leech was miniscule and microscopic."

"I swear there is a leech on my face. And everyone can see it but me!" she exclaimed again.

"Getting the cold shoulder from your peers again?" I asked. She nodded. "Get used to it."

Her mouth fell agape. "That's your brilliant advice? Get used to it?"

"You weren't this overdramatic yesterday when you read your poem. Is it like a delayed reaction thing or something else?" I gave a laugh, putting my books down on the desk.

"I wasn't too worried or anything until I got this in my locker." She handed me a picture of a rat, perhaps nearing death, with a note that wasn't too friendly either.

"What's this?"

Her face was hooked into a confused expression. "How am I supposed to know?"

"It says ' Do you like rats? I hope you do. Because the next time you pull off a stunt like yesterday's poem, you'll be seeing one in your locker'."

"People in this school are freaking me out!" She exclaimed. "Who the hell do you think would send it?"

"My bet is on Lorraine." I suggested.

"She can't be that witch-like can she?"

I smiled. "No she's just that bitch-like."

Just as I said those words, Lorraine walked through the door. She stopped, looked at Valerie for a moment and huffed to her seat with Claire trailing behind, mimicking the exact same actions.

"Speaking of the devil," Valerie whispered. "At least she's not hiding her disdain for me. Are you sure it's her?"

"Who else could it be?"

"I've only been in this school for a week and a half. I've got nothing." She sighed. "But, I suppose I'll let this one go. I really don't need any trouble. But I swear, the next one I get, I'm going to walk straight up to her and just give her what she deserves!"

I looked at her. "Which is…?"

"I'm deciding between a bitch-slap or a WWE smack down."

"That skinny thing can't withstand a smack down."

"Then bitch-slap it is," Valerie decided, nodding her head in confirmation.

I laughed.

Miss Havenfield walked right on cue. She had her coffee in her hand and to be honest, I smelled the coffee before I even saw her gliding into the room as she always did. As my biology teacher once said, "Diffusion is a beautiful thing."

"Hello, hello class!" she said in great zeal. I had a feeling that the coffee she was drinking ran straight into her, caffeine and all. Or maybe it was just pure caffeine in that cup of hers. "I am so excited today. I just absolutely cannot wait to read what you guys wrote. Unfortunately, we won't be sharing our observations today. So just hand them in on my desk before you leave."

I knew I didn't have to look to see how much disdain Lorraine had in her eyes. Being the center of attention was all she knew how to do and if she couldn't do that, well now, she would be lost, wouldn't she?

I sighed. At least she had the courage to be the center of attention. She knew what she wanted. I was the stowaway on a train to nowhere. Everyone else knew his or her destination. And yet, I couldn't tell where I wanted to stop and time was counting down. It was almost the end of the line.

"Before we start the lesson, the homework is to continue with this assignment that you did last night." Miss Havenfield had that brief and sly grin on her face that I didn't quite enjoy seeing. She was up to something, but the question was what?

Lorraine's hand and arm flew up in one swift motion. "What do you mean we have to continue the assignment?"

The teacher's smile grew wider and wickeder. She was waiting for that someone to ask. She paused, letting us all feel the reverberation of the drumming drama build up until we could sustain no more. "This assignment isn't just an assignment. It's a yearlong project! You're going to do the same thing every so often with the same object and you will see how much things change in time … hopefully none of you are doing food, which can easily rot. But isn't that exciting? I did the same thing for my senior year of college and it was the most fun I've ever had!"

For a moment, I didn't believe her smile was human. That was her idea of fun? "What the hell…" I whispered.

I heard a stifled laugh from behind. I turned to see Valerie mouthing the word, "Nice…" I could see that sarcastic smirk plastered onto her face.

Life had never tasted so sour.

&&&

I had the urge to throw the ball at her face, I really did. Gym class was the only class that gave me the opportunity to be violent, but I held back. What was the use to cause so much attention to myself? Lorraine was just standing there. She was an easy target and I could have just gone for it, but I didn't. I guess I had a weak spot for drawing attention away from me and the last thing on my list was to actually get people to see me as an insane woman. I had to wonder though, would Claire jump in front of the girl she so worshiped? It was a hypothesis I truly wanted to test.

I jumped as the whistle blew and we went back into the locker rooms to change.

"A future Nobel Prize winner shouldn't be subjected to such degrading sports…" Lorraine mused as we all went in.

Claire nodded in return. "One shouldn't."

Oh for heavens sake it was basketball! The worst that could have happened is what I intended to do to her. Okay, so maybe she had a reason to be scared. But ugh. She had a head full of air, she really did. I could hear them talking from behind the lockers while I was busy trying to get my tight gym shoes off, which for some reason became glued to my feet.

"You know what I hate Claire?" she asked.

"No, what?" her shadow responded.

I could hear a slight inhuman gurgle. "I hate that new girl. She thinks she's so much better than me. Who does she think she is anyways?" She must have been talking about Valerie.

Claire echoed in a strong "mm-hmm!"

"I just hate how … show-offy she is!"

I had to think to myself. Show-offy? Okay, for one thing, what horrible choice of words. And secondly, how could this girl be so oblivious to her own cry for attention every day of class. She was one of those girls that no matter what you said, they'd be set in their ways. I wouldn't call her stubborn. There's stronger word for that. It starts with a B and rhymes with witch. Any guesses? Oh wait, didn't I already use this comparison? I have to think up of a better one next time.

"Oh well, it's her first year here and her last. It's not like she's going to get into the top five anyways," Claire advised.

"Well, I hope she knows that, or else," Lorraine hissed.

Was that a threat? I had to wonder. The lockers slammed closed as I was still struggling to get my shoe off.

&&&

"What the hell is that?" Mike asked, carefully pointing to some misshaped critter.

"Looks like a dog to me," I told him.

"That thing… ain't a dog," he exclaimed.

Kim chortled. "It's definitely a dog."

"Dogs are supposed to have hair." Mike informed. "That so called 'dog' has none whatsoever. It really looks like a crossbreed between a raccoon and a hairless cat."

"So then maybe it's a cat," Kim rolled her eyes.

"But it doesn't look like a cat…" Mike insisted even further.

I sighed. "It's an animal and as long as its not peeing on my leg, I'm okay with it being whatever it wants to be. Cat and/or dog included."

"But what if—" Mike began before Kim put her hand securely over his mouth.

I laughed. "God bless you, Kim."

"It's the only way I know how to shut him up," Kim said.

All three of us, Mike, Kim and I, were casually sitting in our local diner. Like I said, though hard to believe, this town has its perks. The food was not only affordable and cheap, the way we needed things to be, but also it was insane –insanely good. I was munching away on some fries while I watched Kim hold down Mike's big and unstoppable mouth as well as she good. We always requested a booth mainly because the cushioning made a long day of school feel not so bad and I always took up the entire half of the booth (the one facing the window of course – bustling people are always a beautiful sight to see). Lucky me, I occasionally got to see Kim and Mike flirt everything out of their systems at the end of the day. It was like a soap opera after school. Free admission people!

"Ouch!" Kim yelped. "He bit me!"

I raised an eyebrow. "You bit her?"

"She left me no choice. Her hands were clammy," Mike said.

"So you bit me?" Kim asked.

"Not my fault you can't keep your hands un-sweaty." Mike laughed as Kim pushed him roughly that he almost fell out of the booth.

I rolled my eyes. Another day within the conversation of my friends. But I really wouldn't trade it for the world. However, after today's long and excruciating day of school, I could use a little less romantics. "Could you two keep the flirtatious promiscuity to a low today? I'm trying to eat."

"If you can use smaller words – what the hell does flirtatious promiscuity mean?" Mike asked with his confused jasmine-tea colored eyes, hued with a lime-color liveliness.

I put my hands down on the table. "Let me break it down for you guys, okay? Enough with the hormones! Go make out in the corner if you have to, but just not here."

"Ew, gross. Thanks for ruining my appetite," Kim said.

"Now you know how I feel," I told her.

"Oh come on, Kimmie. Kissing me is the fantasy of every girl in school. Don't tell me that you don't fantasize about it," he began puckering his lips, pretending to try and kiss her. Then he laughed.

Kim folded her arms. "Not one bit."

"Ha. Liar," I muttered but not loud enough for them to hear me.

"What's eating you anyway?" Mike asked. "You've been a tad moody lately. It's not that time of the month, is it?"

I gave him a look. "Okay one, no. And two, ew."

"Hey, we learned in health class today that guys should be more open to females," Mike defended.

I sighed for the umpteenth time today. "I think they meant emotionally. Not 'ask them about their menstrual cycle'."

"At least I didn't use the m-word." I knew he was referring to the word 'menstrual'. Men.

"Anyways, what is bugging you?" Kim interjected.

"My stupid Writing Seminar project. It's so pointless. I don't even get the point," I told them. I began to munch fiercely on my fries. I was angry and hungry; it was a sure signal to not mess with me.

They both looked at each other and laughed.

"Oh, thanks for the support." I said sarcastically.

Kim spoke in between breaths of laughter, " Oh I'm so sorry, Heidi, it's just that you always complain about homework and projects from that school of yours. And it's just funny."

"I do not always complain about homework!"

"Uh, yeah you do," Mike chimed in. "How is this any different? No offense or anything, but you look more dead than usual."

"Because…" I began. First of all, they didn't know I had to track down a guy I didn't even know to do this assignment and perhaps stalk him because that's the only conceivable way of getting any observations that Miss Havenfield wants. I just had to pick a person – a person I didn't even know. I should have stuck with the apple in the pantry or better yet, the "Don't Loiter" sign.

"Because why?" Mike asked.

"Because I said so." I was getting annoyed at these questions. "Besides," I began again. "My object of choosing, to do this lifeless project, isn't exactly something I … can find again."

Kim looked confused. "You mean…?"

"I mean," I started. As I was about to tell them, I saw him. I saw him passing right by the diner. The same sulky posture, messy hair and slinky arms passed right by me. "I mean I have to go…" I figured that my voice trailed off because that's what usually happens when something intrigues me enough. I pulled out a five-dollar bill, slammed it on the table and dashed out of the diner. " Sorry guys, I'll talk to you later!"

I had to make a run for it. He was tall, so I immediately assumed he might be a natural track athlete and my theory was proved correct. By the time I got out of the diner, he was almost a block away from me. Then it hit me: he didn't know I was following him. For all I knew, if he ever found out I was following him, he'd think I was some sort of stalker or something. I had to keep low.

I admit I felt like James Bond or Austin Powers (and by the way, it was kind of cool). I was sliding behind people, working my way through the crowds like a snake in water, trying not to be noticed but at the same time keeping at least a five-foot radius around him. I noticed he sheltered his hands in his pockets the entire time. I didn't know why, but I was hooked.

It must have been at least ten minutes before he crossed the street over to the bookstore like where he was yesterday. I didn't want to sit down at that bench anymore. I didn't feel like that bench had anything left to offer.

He was my muse after all.

I stood near the corner of the street across from that bookstore and I saw him pull out a book from his pocket, perhaps the same book as yesterday. For some reason, I felt like there was a bubble – a huge bubble, clear and repelling, that kept everyone around him out. He was sitting there secluded from the world. No matter how repelling I knew that bubble was, somehow … I wanted in.

&&&

Author's Note: Hey, I'm back with a brand new chapter (I actually have a couple chapters finished, but it takes a while to edit and such… hence the quick update) Again, I am very sorry that this is a little bit of another filler chapter, but it must be done. Otherwise, things wouldn't make sense later. So, again, sorry if I bored any of you guys, but I swear I tried to make it as interesting and humorous as possible.

Please review if you can! Any types of comments are welcomed! General, constructive – I love them all.

A big thanks to Nickletastic, Dreamless Infinity, Katie Jane Parker, Twinkle Star Bell, Woodstock1969, and Fairytale Gurl for the great reviews! And thanks for all the great constructive criticism as well as the amazing comments!

The next chapter will have actual interaction with Heidi and the muse. And as the summary goes, it might not go so well. Stay tuned!

Thanks.

Eva