Sandra held her head up high and looked up above the house to the clouds in the sky. A breeze blew her hair back from her face with the gentleness of a lover, lifting and stroking each strand. She smiled to herself.

"What is wrong with you?" Destiny asked.

Sandra Harris was almost eighteen. She had brown, almost blond, hair. It was almost too light to be called brown. Her eyes were hazel- a mixture of brown and green with the brown being dominant. She was tall and slim and there seemed to be nothing to her. She had long legs and a nice torso, a guy's dream body.

Her younger sister was twelve. She was an almost exact duplicate of Sandra except that she was a little heavier in build and weight. She had also cut her hair, so that people could tell them apart. Whereas Sandra had light brown hair that flowed to her waist with a small hint of wild waviness, Destiny's hair was chopped at her shoulders in a neat way, straight, curved out only at the end.

Sandra ran a hand through her untamed hair and looked at Destiny. "I'm thinking," she said.

"You are smiling to the wind," Destiny told her.

"So? Is that a crime?"

"It is now," Destiny said with a grin.

Sandra laughed and gave her sister a playful shove. "You codfish."

"You're the codfish!"

"I'm a codfish!" Sandra cried in mock rage. "Since when am I a codfish?" she asked.

There was complete silence for a moment. Then Destiny turned and asked Sandra, "What's a codfish?"

Sandra shrugged. "Look it up. It's a fish. I know that much. If you want to know more, go look in a dictionary."

"OK, I will," Destiny said, crossing her arms across her chest.

Sandra laughed and ruffled her hair. "Come on youngling. Let's play the quiet game."

"Sandra, I am not seven years old anymore."

"I know, but it is so much fun to tease you in front of your friends. Did you know that your face goes beet red when I treat you like one."
The bus pulled up to their stop before Destiny could make a good comeback, which made Sandra laugh harder and Destiny angrier. "I'll get you this afternoon. You watch," she said as Sandra climbed the bus steps.

Sandra and Destiny may have been sisters but they went to two different schools. Destiny was in seventh grade at the middle school. Sandra was a senior in high school. The high school and middle school were on opposite sides of town so they rode two different buses. Not that either one minded much. It brought them closer to each other in the end.

Sandra continued to chuckle as she sat in a seat near the back of the bus. The bus was empty except for Mrs. Clovis, the bus driver. Sandra threw her bag behind the seat. She'd get it when they got to school. All she needed at the moment was the book in her hand.

She looked out the window at Destiny and waved as the bus started to drive off.

Destiny threw her a grin and waved her hand in a vigorous way. Sandra smiled, sat back to enjoy the ride, and opened her book, The Black Stallion, written by Walter Farley.

#

TJ Mage watched for the bus through the front blinds. He knew the bus number, and he knew when it would come, but he didn't go outside. He wasn't riding this morning. His uncle was taking him to school this morning and this afternoon, he'd ride the bus.

There was a screeching that TJ knew to be brakes as the bus pulled up. They need to get those checked, he thought as the bus stopped.

There was only one person on the bus. She sat in the last seat, reading a book. He wondered how she could read on the bus. He didn't mind reading although he liked to draw more. When asked what he liked drawing and painting, he always answered, "Anything that is before me."

He watched her through the blinds. She was hot in his opinion, but not his type. He went after the sluts although he flirted with everyone. He was afraid to date a "good" girl although he wouldn't tell anyone. It ruined his image as a tough guy, a hot shot.

He knew he couldn't change his mind looking at this girl. She was his age, but there was that aura of pureness around her that pulled his attention away. She probably doesn't have a boyfriend either. He grinned. Good girls don't date guys until they are out of high school, and they turn down anyone that asks. He shook his head and turned his attention to the blond woman driving the bus. She was looking toward the house as if expecting to see someone come out. He waved the bus on.

The woman shrugged and pulled away. The brunette in the back seat looked up and then turned her attention to the house as if she had just realized they had stopped. She stared at the house although she didn't see him.

TJ watched her. There was something odd about this girl who sat in the back. She turned her attention back to her book as they passed, but TJ stared after the bus until it was out of sight, wondering who the brunette was.

#

She was in first period, tapping her pencil to some tune running through her head. The bell wouldn't ring for another three minutes. She half smiled as she read.

She wasn't following the tune of the song on the radio, much to the annoyance of everyone that waited for class to start, but no one told her to stop. That is until…

"That is very annoying," a male voice said.

Sandra's pencil froze in midair as she looked up in surprise.

Her automatic reaction to the guy standing before her was that he was a heartthrob. He had a long, narrow face with high cheekbones. His face was smooth, a stone weathered over the years to perfect roundness. He had thick, coarse black hair that was chopped so short it naturally stood up in all directions. His ears weren't pierced. His nose, his eyebrows, his lip weren't pierced. His eyes were a deep, powerful green. He wore a black tee shirt with the image of a skull and crossbones on it. His blue jeans were pulled up all the way, unlike most guys at the high school, including Samual Kwela (her boyfriend). His belt had a square bronze buckle, with no design. He wore black boot-like shoes, with matching laces.

Sandra wasn't impressed with him. He seemed to expect a reaction from her, and he wasn't going to get it. He had come to the wrong girl to flaunt his good looks on. She'd give him a run for his money. It was going to take more than rugged good looks to get her attention and keep it.

He was surprised when he got no reaction from her. All she gave him was a look of indifference and a quick, "So?"

"Uh… so stop," he said, recovering from his shock.

She watched him for a moment with one eyebrow raised. "I have," she said.

"Oh."

She almost snorted at him. "Smooth," she said in a sarcastic voice. "Loser," she muttered under her breath turning back to her book.

He frowned. "I am standing right here you know," he said.

Sandra looked up at him with a glare. "Are you ever nice?" he asked.

"Do you always flirt with the first girl that comes within your line of sight?" she countered.

There were a lot of "ooh"s and one, "Ouch! That was cold." He looked up and around just to see how many were listening to their conversation. Almost everyone that had come into class on time was listening.

Even the teacher, Mrs. Sharky, was listening though she pretended not to be. She had heard of Sandra being able to battle with a guy, not giving an inch, many times, but to actually see her do it… she had never.

Sandra watched the guy with no expression on her face. No one around them could tell what she was thinking. It unnerved half of them. She was a snake ready to strike at these times and no one understood it.

She scared many people with her looks, driving them away. It explained why she only had three friends: Dusty Pyressa, Maria Candallas, and Samual. It explained why she was a loner when she wasn't around these three, but it didn't explain why she wanted it that way.

The black haired guy looked around. "Hmm… Interesting. It seems you do this often," he said.

Sandra turned her head to the side as she looked at him. He caught a glimpse of a black mark along her neck, but her jacket fell over it before he could get a good look. "How do you figure?" she asked.

He grinned, hoping that would win her over, but she was still as stolid as ever. "Everyone's watching to see what's going to happen," he said.

"Wouldn't you if there was some hot air between two people and it felt like there was about to be a fight?" she asked.

He nodded. "Then I can't see how you know that I do this to everyone," she said.

"Good point, but why would you want to fight me?" he asked.

She narrowed her eyes. "You're trying my patience, Crossbones," she said.

He grinned. "I have been trying to do that obviously. You hate me for some reason I can't figure out and I want to know what it is."

She looked at him again. "You think I hate you?" she asked, almost as if she didn't believe what she was hearing. A couple of kids laughed, but Sandra silenced them with a glare.

"What have I done to make you hate me?" he asked.

"No one said I hate you. I just don't like the fact that you won't leave me alone. Now," she paused, standing up. "If there is nothing else you'd like to say to me, then take your ass and go flirt with someone who cares."

Before he could say another word, she shoved him away from her, straight in front of a girl with blond curls and pure blue eyes. She wore a cheerleading outfit and sat on a desk with her legs crossed. "Hello," she said in a flirtatious way.

"Good morning," he answered, tipping his head to her.

From the corner of his eye he watched the brunette pull her hair back in a band and then sit down in her seat. The teacher and a couple of other students stared at him. "You are going to take that from her, man?" one guy asked.

The brunette looked at the guy with sharp eyes. "Shut up, Billy," she snapped. "You cowered too and still do."

Billy held his hands up in surrender and sat in his seat. He whistled. "The day you back down to any guy is the day that the world ends," he commented.

The cheerleader grinned. "She already has. She just won't admit it, will you Sandra?" she asked.

"Shut up, Tiffany," the brunette snapped.

The cheerleader frowned. "You say that an awful lot."

Sandra turned to her, her hazel eyes spitting fire. "I can say a lot more Tiffany, and not all of it is fit for your pretty little ears."

There was another chorus of "ooh"s. Tiffany glared at Sandra who wore a self-satisfied half-grin.

TJ was surprised that Mrs. Sharky hadn't done anything to stop this. He looked at her a moment, but she just sat in her desk with an amused expression on her face.

"Well, what if I tell Samual you've been flirting with another guy?" Tiffany asked.

"You'd be lying," Sandra commented.

Tiffany grinned. "Samual wouldn't be that sure."

Sandra's expression was unreadable. "Nothing you do can faze me Tiffany. Goddess knows you've tried up-teen million times."

Tiffany said nothing.

"Hey Sandra!" Billy catcalled.

Sandra looked at him. "What do you want?" she asked.

"You can flirt with me any time you want," he said. He growled and whistled. Some other boys joined in, but Sandra only half smiled.

She stood and walked to his desk. He looked at her with wide eyes as if he hadn't expected her to listen. She reminded TJ of a mountain lion stalking its prey.

The catcalling stopped as Sandra put her hands on Billy's desk. "You want someone to flirt with you?" she asked. She saw him nod once and it was the only sign that Sandra needed. "Then catcall to someone else," she hissed.

Half the class laughed and clapped as Sandra went back to her seat. The smile on her face told TJ that she was happy with her work.

The bell rang and Mrs. Sharky called the class to order. As TJ took a seat in front of Tiffany, Sandra noticed the silver marking on his shirt sleeve. She doubted anyone else had noticed it. It was a good-looking drawing of the wind symbol. The lines were perfectly aligned and it looked like it was printed from a computer, but the silver looked too much like permanent marker for it to have been. Whoever had drawn the symbol either had excellent patience or he was a good artist. She didn't think this guy was either.

#

At the bell that signaled break, Sandra left her seat so fast that no one saw her go. She was out the door before anyone could stop her, walking down the hall to where they always met together.

"Oh, why couldn't Dusty be here? Or Maria?" she said under her breath with a growl.

She had just made it to the empty side hallway, when a hand snaked out and grabbed her, pulling her against a strong, solid chest. Fear made her tremble though she knew who it was.

"You're a little worked up this morning. What's the problem?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Nothing I can't deal with. I am just tired that's all," she lied. She wasn't about to let him know that she was afraid of him. That wasn't what she wanted him to know. It would only bring forth questions.

She looked up into his cool gray eyes and smiled. "You need a haircut," she said as she brushed a strand of long blond hair from his eyes.

"Hey! I like it!"

"I didn't say that I didn't. I just…"

She said no more as he kissed her. She caught a hint of beer on his breath though it was stale and fading.

He pulled away a moment later. "We need to do that more often," he said in a low voice.

Sandra was about to respond when a voice said, "Well, lookie here."

She growled as she turned her head and glared at the guy with black hair. "What do you want?" she hissed.

The new guy actually took a step back and Samual stared at Sandra. "This your girlfriend?" the new guy asked Samual, ignoring her question.

"Yes," Samual said. He pulled Sandra tighter against him. Sandra's eyes widened in fear for a moment and then they returned to normal. She hoped that the dark-haired guy hadn't seen.

He hadn't. He stood and watched Samual, not Sandra. She almost sighed in relief, but she didn't dare. Either Samual would notice or the dark-haired guy would.

"What kind of music do you listen to?" the dark haired guy asked.

Samual had looked back at Sandra, but now he turned to him. "Who are you?" he asked.

"The name's TJ," he said.

Sandra almost thanked him for keeping Samual busy. Yet at the same time, she was pissed that he wouldn't leave them alone. Her, at least. His name stands for Total Jerk. She said nothing out loud.

Samual didn't seem to know how to react to TJ. Finally he shrugged and turned back to Sandra. "Since you don't have a horse show today, would you like to do some real skipping and go somewhere besides here?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No, Samual."

"Why not?" he asked.

"Mom knows that I have been skipping. I need to throw her off my tail for a bit."

"Come on! We could have some fun," he murmured in her ear, touching the bare skin beneath her shirt.

She pulled away before he could react. "I said no the first time Samual. I have to stay out of trouble for a bit. I have caused too much already. Mom's wild child, as she calls me, thanks to you by the way, can't do anything until after this weekend. If her mom finds out, she can't go to the small open show in town."

Samual sighed. "Do you ever think of anything but horse shows?" he asked.

Only Sandra knew the growl in his voice and what it meant. She shuddered involuntarily. "Yes!" she cried hastily as he took a step toward her. She stared at him for a moment. He had stopped.

"Good," he said with a growl. Then he turned and walked away without another word.

Sandra stood for a moment, trembling. She remembered the last time she'd had an encounter like that with Samual only too well. She knew he had no patience for her, especially when he was drunk, which he wasn't as of now but would be later.

She knew just how bad that could have gotten. She reached for her neck for a moment and rubbed the bruise with a shaking hand. Then she shook the fear from her body and turned to leave the hall.

She froze and stared at TJ, whom she'd forgotten was standing there. Her eyes widened in fear and then she put on a mask of indifference. "What are you looking at?" she snapped.

TJ shook his head, holding his hands up in surrender. Sandra shot him a glare and then walked past him, ignoring him.

He stared after her. Tiffany was right Sandra. You only back down to one person. Only one person never allows you to win…ever. Then he turned down the hall and walked to class on his own.