Irregular Opening – Chess openings with an unusual first move from white
May 29, 2004
Sunlight filtered through the slated windows of the art room, causing dust motes in the air to sparkle like fairy dust. There was almost something magical about it, as if it was a catalyst that would make exciting things — great things — happen. The cupboards were painted by various students of Ms. Wilcox from various cultures throughout time; an Aztec god, a Chinese dragon, a replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night", and an icy-looking chess scene depicting the king and queen — the two most powerful pieces in the game.
Valerian Kimble had never liked that painting, though everyone else had always seemed to. Oh, the painter definitely had talent, but something about it struck her as too cold. The perspective was skewed, strange, and unnatural — one that would be impossible to view in real life. Plus, the king carried a bayonet and towered over the defenseless female. Val had always been afraid that he would bring that the weapon down in a killing arc, like the blade of a guillotine, and cut off her head.
And if he did, would she bleed or would she shatter?
It was the work of a sick mind, not a brilliant one. Val was certain.
" — this is not art, Mr. Lewis, and completely disrespectful!"
Val's head jerked up at the teacher's stern shriek. James Lewis was in trouble again. No surprise there, since he was constantly getting the book thrown at him — not literally, but it looked like the teacher was considering giving him a sound whack with his easel.
"What did he do this time?" Val whispered to her best friend, Lisa Aubrette.
Lisa pushed a strand of blond hair out of her eyes. "Oh, you know James. He was practicing human anatomy — " She started snickering.
"I'm telling you!" James argued, "They were oranges"
"So immature," Lisa added, shaking her head.
James' seat mate could barely contain himself. Val nodded her agreement. Boys. She glanced around the room. Every single one of the males in her class had a smirk plastered across his face. Well, almost all of them... There was one boy who never smiled. Val didn't know his name because he never spoke, but he seemed different from the rest.
He sat in the back of the room where the light was the worst, with stringy black hair and glasses that didn't suit his angular face. He always wore black, though it more like a means of escaping attention than a social calling. Well, if that was the case it certainly seemed to be working. He had no friends and it wasn't like he couldn't get them. It was as if he didn't want them.
As if he considered himself superior to the rest of them.
He was doubled over his desk, sketching with wide, fluid motions that didn't match the rest of his body. His wire-framed glasses slipped down the bridge of his nose as he worked and he was continually pushing them up. Black graphite streaked the planes of skin where his fingers had touched, providing a stark contrast against the paleness of his skin. He moved with an almost awkward grace, like a tiger cub with too-big paws — one that could be grown into with age and experience.
Suddenly, his eyes rose, locking with hers. Val stiffened in her chair. He'd caught her staring at him. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks and quickly turned away, but not before she saw him smile. He never smiles, she thought, heart pounding.
It was... weird. He was an older boy, a senior. They rarely paid any attention at all to the freshmen.
This wasn't the first time she'd caught him looking in her direction.
Val could feel those strange eyes boring into her shoulder blades and shivered. Was he really looking at her, or was it her imagination? She wasn't daring enough to turn around and find out. What if he was staring? What then? She dipped her brush into the burnt sienna paint but didn't dab any of it on her painting. She could think of nothing else but that strange, hypnotic gaze. And his smile.
Nobody had ever looked at her like that before.
She barely noticed when Lisa suddenly stiffened beside her. A few minutes later, the blonde nudged her sharply in the ribs. "What?" Val hissed, setting her paintbrush aside.
"That guy is staring at you again."
Val didn't have to look to know who she meant. A slow blush crawled up her neck. "I don't care," she mumbled, picking at the paint that had dried on her hands. It came off in flakes, like old blood.
"I think he's painting you," Lisa whispered. "Naked," she added, taking delight in her friend's horrified reaction. That earned her a shove that nearly sent her toppling from her stool, and Lisa's paintbrush slipped out of her hand.
While Lisa was exclaiming over the paint splotches she had allegedly gotten on her new pants, Val stormed to the back room to store her painting in the file cabinet. A soft, almost affectionate smile touched her lips. A kangaroo done in aboriginal Australian style, composed of soft dots and lines. Painting relaxed her, especially after her Spanish class with half the frosh football team.
She put the painting in her folder, closing the cabinet door. The smile faded as she stared at the faded stickers plastered on its surface. Her friend's words had bothered her. Who did Lisa think she was, making assumptions like that? It shouldn't have bothered her, but just last week somebody had remarked that she looked like the white-robed queen painted on the cabinet door. An unpleasant shiver had wracked her body at the idea. True, they both had red hair, but...
...But he was staring.
A hand fell on her bare shoulder, eliciting a yelp from the red-haired girl. She turned around too fast, causing her to stumble against the filing cabinet with a metallic thunk. Her eyes widened in disbelief when she saw that the speaker was the tall, nameless boy. It took her a moment to recognize him. The glasses were gone, folded away into a pocket somewhere. He looked strange without them.
"I'm sorry. Did I startle you?"
"No," she lied, shaking off his arm, "And I... I go by Val."
He seemed amused by the inherent dismissal. "I see."
His voice was deep and soft, like a square of folded velvet and that smile... It was like he was a different person. Why am I blushing? "I, um, I'm sorry, but what's your name again?"
She stared at him. "Why don't you just tell me?"
A slow smile spread across his face. "I like to make things... interesting."
Her smile faltered in response as he casually leaned against the cabinet door. "What do you want, anyway?" He was standing too close for her to move around him and his left arm was blocking her escape. A lump formed in her throat and she threw a nervous glance at the closed doorway.
I thought I left it open.
A twinge of fear uncoiled inside of her, and she felt her heart beat that much faster: She was certain that she had.
"I've been watching you," he said. "You're... not like the others, are you?"
It wasn't phrased as a question, and yet it sounded like she was expected to answer. She wet her lips. "The others?"
"Your friends." His voice was cool. "You're different from them."
A shadow fell across his face. "They aren't very nice people."
"Oh." Val swallowed, taking a small step to the side. "Well, I don't agree. And why are you talking to me? I'm sorry if they're being mean, but I don't have any control over what they do..."
"No." He effortlessly blocked her path. "It's because I want to get to know you better, Val," he breathed, running the back of his hand against her cheek, and down her neck, before letting his hand fall to her shoulder. "I don't care about them. You, however, fascinate me."
"I — I do?" Her voice was weak.
"We're reading Hamlet in English right now," he said, "Every time I see Ophelia's name, I think of you. Only you. Always you." He chuckled darkly. "I don't supposed you would be able to appreciate the irony of that."
Her voice died in her throat at the sound of his laughter. She stood rooted to the spot, staring up at him in mute horror. He's crazy. An odd smile quirked his lips upwards, as he closed the last remaining space between them. As if he knew what she was thinking and found it horribly amusing. Bubbles of panic erupted, as if from an internal vent, and she tried pushed him away.
He caught her wrists easily, holding them over her head with one hand. "Why do you suppose that is?" he asked, grip tightening to the threshold of pain. She shook her head helplessly, dislodging the tears clinging to her eyelashes. "What use could I ever have for a girl like you?"
He leaned closer, so close that she could feel his warm breath tickling her cheek, "My little Ophelia." He smelled like cedar wood and peppermint. She started to feel faint. She was choking on his proximity. The door opened, startling Val, and she heard someone scream. Maybe it was her. The boy did not jump guiltily or release her, but she saw his jaw tighten. "It looks like we're both star-crossed."
A second later, the graphics design teacher, Mr. Fujiyama jerked the boy away from her, keeping his arms behind his back. He was generally a pleasant man, but now his expression was angrier than Val ever remembered seeing him. The boy could have easily overpowered the teacher, but he didn't move. Why didn't he? Was it fear of getting in worse trouble? Or something else?
His eyes didn't leave hers.
Val looked away. Ms. Wilcox put a tender hand on her shoulder, mindful of the students outside the door; curious, talking. "Are you all right, dear? Did he do anything to you?"
She shook her head slowly. She didn't have the vocabulary to even begin to describe what he'd done.
A lot of controversy erupted over the issue — mostly local — because of the fact that he was over eighteen and she was still a minor. The school wasn't pleased because the media coverage made it look like they harbored a bunch of rapists. The boy came from a wealthy family, and they were able to reach some sort of compromise: he was expelled, and no legal action was taken. Val never saw him again.
(It looks like we're both star-crossed)
A/n: So here it is, the rewrite! And, as the prologue implies, it will be a bit more... intense... than the original. Ophelia means "help" in Greek, and drowned in a brook in the Shakespearian play. And if Valerian seems more immature, remember that she's only fourteen in this chapter and seventeen for the rest of the story.