I woke up with a twitter in my stomach and my palms sweaty; I always dreaded the first day of school. On the inside I was more than a little bit nervous, but I tried not to let it rule me. I knew once I got through this first day everything else would be just fine. Besides, being entirely timid was almost impossible having been raised with three rambunctious older brothers. Jamey was a year older than me and was a senior at our high school while Kevin was away in his final year at college. My oldest brother, Bryan, lived in an apartment downtown, but usually came home for Sunday dinners.
As I was getting out of bed I heard a loud knock on my bedroom door. I grabbed my glasses from the nightstand and slid them on my face so I could focus. Being able to see sharply always helped me to clear the fog of sleep from my head. 'Hey, Kenz, get your butt up!' It was Jamey on the other side of my door. He was only a year older than me and this was his last year in high school. I know he was looking forward to his senior year; he'd been talking about it ever since school had let out in June.
'I'm up, I'm up.' I grabbed my clothes and ran to the bathroom. Luckily, it was empty. Usually I had to battle someone to get my turn, but apparently my father had left for work early today and Jamey was already ready. Once I was cleaned up I pulled on a pair of blue jeans and a green hello kitty t-shirt. I pulled my reddish blonde hair into a loose pony tail and went downstairs for breakfast. I really wanted to pull on a baseball cap but I knew that wouldn't fly at school. I was a bit of a tomboy that way; it was just another, according to my mother unfortunate, effect of being raised in a household dominated by men. I didn't wear makeup; it simply took too much time to put on, precious time that I could spend sleeping. I'm not really much of a morning person to tell you the truth.
My mom was sitting at the table with Jamey, eating. 'Morning, Kenzie. I made breakfast,' she said, stating the obvious. My mom is easily one of the most beautiful people I know. She had her long reddish blonde hair pulled up into a twist that was clipped to the back of her head. Her greenish-blue eyes stood out like two jewels. Jamey had inherited those eyes, and I have to admit to being more than a bit envious. Unfortunately, the only thing I seemed to inherit from her is the hair and her petite stature. Like my dad I wear glasses, and my eyes are brown. My nose is straight and my cheekbones high, genetics contributed from my great-grandfather Kincaid whose mother was a Native American.
I smiled, grateful for breakfast being ready as my stomach growled impatiently. 'Thanks, Mom.' I turned to my brother. 'You don't have to worry about taking me to school, Jamey; I'm going in with Annie,' I told him.
'You know I don't really mind,' he said, but I could tell he was only saying that to please our mother. My brother Jamey was always the golden boy. Actually, all of my brothers were popular when they were in school. Somehow I had been the only one of the Kincaid's not to have inherited the popularity gene. He was pretty popular, my brother, and I knew he didn't want his nerdy little sister hanging around. Not that he was ashamed of me, or embarrassed by me, but you know how guys are. How can you pick up cheerleaders with your sister by your side? I completely understood Jamey's predicament which was why I was more than happy to ride in with Annie.
'So, did you hear?' Annie asked me as way of greeting as I climbed into her little Honda Fit. Annie had been my best friend since fifth grade when her family moved in next door to mine. Having a girl my own age in close proximity was exciting, especially after having been raised in a household full of boys. She had gotten her license during the summer and her parents bought her the car as a birthday present. Being and only child definitely had its perks, I had mused on more than one occasion.
'Hear what?' I asked, buckling my seatbelt.
'Megan called me last night and said that some new family had moved in two houses down from hers last week. They have twin boys and they'll be going to our school for their senior year.'
'Oh really?' One glance at Annie's face told me there was more to the tale. 'And?' I prompted.
'Well, according to Megs, they are extremely drool-worthy. And best of all, they're single.'
I laughed. 'Megan thinks every guy is drool-worthy, in case you've forgotten.'
Annie grinned. 'Yeah, I know. But the girl seemed genuine in her admiration of the twins.'
A few minutes later we pulled up to the school and parked. We grabbed our stuff and headed into the school. The first day of my junior year was abuzz with the news of the Riley twins. Annie and I stood outside where my homeroom class was comparing our schedules when a sudden fury of whispering caused us to look up. There, coming down the hallway, were what I assumed was the Riley twins. They looked almost identical in features, although I noticed right away that their styles seemed to be completely different. In fact, if you didn't know it already and they weren't standing right next to each other, you probably wouldn't peg them as twins. One of them seemed very much like my brother Jamey they way he was dressed, all Abercrombie & Fitch. His hair was cut in a neat short style; he walked in front of the group coming down the hall talking with a blonde haired girl I recognized as Cyndi Jacobs, a senior, and the captain of the cheerleading squad. The other one didn't seem interested in anyone around them; instead, seemed to be fiddling with an ipod as he followed his brother and Cindy down the hallway. His hair was cut in some sort of funky style that was part long and part short and all spiky. It looked very rock star.
Suddenly, as if he felt me staring at him he looked up and right into my eyes. His were a bright blue. I quickly looked away and turned back to Annie. When I glanced back they had passed and their backs were to us.
'Megan was right; those boys are the hottest thing since sliced bread,' my best friend said, never taking her eyes away from them as they made their way down the hallway.
'Don't you mean best thing since sliced bread?' I pointed out to her.
'No, I mean hot,' she returned. 'As in H. O. T. T. Hot.'
I tried not to roll my eyes; my mother kept telling me how rude the gesture was. 'So what, they're good looking? That doesn't mean there's any substance there.'
Annie flashed me a grin, 'Substance is overrated.'
'Eh. Whatever. Look, I've got to get to homeroom. See you at lunch?'
And with that I hurried to my first homeroom of the new semester. Classes were ok for the rest of the day. I wasn't friends with many of my classmates; about half of them were seniors because I was in some advanced mixed classes between juniors and seniors. Annie and I didn't have any classes together except for English, which was last period. Some of the kid's in my classes recognized me though and greeted me friendly, asking me how my summer was; mostly I responded by waving back. A few girls I was friends with shared the advanced classes with me and I talked to them a little bit about summer vacation. The hot topic of conversation was the Riley twins, a topic I had heard more than enough about for one day. I really couldn't wait until the day was over with.
Other than our little group, I didn't really have many friends at school. Oh, I was friendly with pretty much everyone. Even David Wilcox, one of the most popular guys in our grade, copies my math homework sometimes in homeroom, usually right after I finish doing it myself. I'm really bad at doing homework at home. You might think I'm some goody goody, but I'm not really. I rarely do my homework at home, so if I don't get it finished between homeroom and lunch then I can't turn it in. I'm extremely good at tests though, so that really helps me keep my grades at a good level.
Lunch was a welcome relief from everything. Or so I thought.
'I heard they were originally born here, but they moved a long time ago,' Annie was saying as I took my seat next to her. All the girls at the table were smiling and nodding.
'I heard that too,' Emily Short said, pushing her glasses back into place where they had slipped down her nose. She was a year younger than all of us, but she was in our class as she had skipped a grade in elementary school. I sighed. Even little Emily wasn't immune to the fascination with the twins that was sweeping the school like a virus.
'It's true,' Megan said; she was considered an authority on the subject of the Riley twins since she lived only two houses away from the mysterious new transfer students. 'I heard my mom talking to Mrs. Riley and apparently she just got a divorce, that's why she moved back here,' she said, and then took a bite out her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Megan ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every single day as long as I've known her. Once I asked her why and she said she simply liked them and I left it at that.
The girls at the table mulled over this new information while eating. The topic soon turned to what classes we were in and what clubs any of us were thinking of signing up for. I, for one, was thankful for the change in topics.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by. Finally, my last class of the day arrived. I settled myself at a table at the very back of the room, pulling out a notebook and a pen from my black messenger bag. I noticed someone coming towards me and had a moment to realize it was one of the already famous Riley twins. It was the one with the weird hair.
'Hey,' he said, barely glancing at me before taking the seat next to mine.
I nodded, slightly annoyed when it seemed as if every other girl in class was glancing back to sneak a look at the boy, shooting daggers at me with their eyes as if I had somehow enticed him to sit next to me. Annie, however, gave me a huge grin and a thumbs up which caused me to smother a laugh.
While I waited for class to begin I doodled on the front of my notebook, doing my best just to forget about everyone else in the room.
Finally, the class was settled and our English teacher, Mrs. Kramer, began to take roll call. Of all my classes, this is the one I had been looking forward to all day. It was a mixed Honors English class, which meant it was made up of juniors and seniors. I had had Mrs. Kramer the previous year and she had recommended me for the class. I loved Mrs. Kramer's writing assignments because she gave us a lot of freedom and didn't try to stifle our creativity the way some teachers did.
'MacKenzie Kincaid,' the teacher called.
'Here,' I said, not glancing up from my doodles.
'Jackson Riley,' Mrs. Kramer called a few minutes later, catching my attention. I glanced over at the boy next to me as he mumbled 'here' in response. He really was a good looking guy, despite the strange hairstyle and numerous piercings on various parts of his face. There were lots of good looking guys in our school though, so that wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I guess it was just the novelty of twins that had all the girls going crazy. I sincerely hoped it would die down soon so life at Shelby High School could get back to normal.
'See anything you like?' he asked suddenly. It took me a minute to realize he was talking to me. To my embarrassment I felt my face flush and I frowned in response.
'Not really,' I retorted.
After class I gathered up my things, stuffing them into my bag. I had barely thrown it over my shoulder when Annie grabbed my arm and practically dragged me from the classroom. 'Oh my god. I can't believe your good fortune. Jackson Riley sat right next to you!'
I shook my head, failing to see what the fuss was all about. 'So? He's cute, in a weird sort of way, I admit it.' Annie gave me a look. 'Ok, extremely cute. But he's kind of a jerk.'
'What? Why do you say that?'
'I don't know. Just the vibe I got from him; it wasn't friendly at all. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way.'
'Pfft. That's ridiculous. Hey, there's your brother.'
I looked to where Annie was gesturing and saw that Jamey was hanging out in the senior parking lot talking with a group of friends. Annie had a bit of a thing for Jamey; to be entirely honest she's had a crush on him since sixth grade. Jamey was oblivious, as boys so often are. He didn't think of Annie as anyone but his little sister's friend, and therefore, unfortunately for Annie, she was seen as an extension of me.
'Yup. Mr. Popularity.' I looked closer. He turned to the side and I saw Ben Riley standing in their group, Cyndi Jacobs practically glued to his side. I've always disliked Cyndi. Everything about her was phony, from her hair color to her fingernails. Once she tried to date my brother but Jamey knew she only wanted to latch onto him because of his popularity so he turned her down. I've always been proud of him for that decision, because honestly, a lot of guys wanted to get with Cyndi. Well, Jamey might be one of the popular kids but he's not an idiot.
'Ah, I see Ben Riley's in with the in crowd already,' I said.
'Are you really surprised?' Annie asked as we walked to her car. 'He's gorgeous. Of course, he's not as gorgeous as Jamey.'
'Ugh. Don't make me throw up. How many times do I have to tell you not to talk about my brother like that in front of me?'
Annie grinned wickedly and I knew she did it just to get on my nerves. I honestly didn't mind Annie crushing on my brother. At first it had been kind of awkward but it'd been going on for so long now that it didn't bother me at all.
'Want to hang out tonight?' Annie asked as we got into the car. 'Celebrate the first day back to hellschool?'
'I would, but I probably should do some homework or something.'
'Puh-lease,' she said, giving me a look. 'You and I both know you're not going home to do homework.'
I admitted that she knew me too well and after a small debate we decided to go to Westview Square. It was basically a big outdoor mall and a popular hangout spot about fifteen minutes away from our neighborhood. There were all kinds of shops and a movie theater. I liked it because there was a used bookstore there that I frequented.
I was standing in one of the cramped aisles of The Book Mark leafing through the pages of an old paperback fantasy novel when I noticed someone standing at the end of the aisle. I thought it might be Annie, she had gone to look in another store and I was supposed to have met her in the courtyard in front of the theater ten minutes ago. I looked up surprised to see Jackson Riley standing there, looking through the shelves as if searching for something in particular. Since he wasn't looking at me I took a minute to examine him. Again I was struck with how different the two brothers were, despite them being twins.
Ben seemed more like my brother, had that whole popular thing going for him. He wore preppy clothes like polo shirts with the collars popped up with khaki shorts and a pair of sunglasses resting on top of his head. There was a crowd of people gathered around him at school, mostly the same kids that hung around with Jamey.
Jackson was almost completely opposite. He had piercings all up both ears and a ring in his lip, something that would have horrified my mother; she thought any boy with piercings was automatically a juvenile delinquent. His dark hair was cut in a funky sort of style, short and spiky on one side and longer on the other with bangs that were constantly falling into his eyes. He had a couple of blue streaks in his dark hair which seemed to match the color of his eyes. He was dressed in some sort of dark concert t-shirt and a pair of baggie jeans. He seemed like he didn't want to be bothered by anyone. I hadn't seen him hanging around anyone at school except for his brother, and even then he seemed to be just tagging along more than participating in any conversations. In English he hadn't talked to anyone or participated in class. Well, except for that comment directed at me. Standing so near to me I was suddenly struck by how tall he was, probably close to six feet judging from my five foot two perspective.
Suddenly, I realized I had been caught staring when I noticed him looking back at me. 'Hey,' he said pointing a finger at me as if he was trying to figure out where he knew me from, 'Red head from English class.'
Irritated, mostly at myself for having been caught, I snapped the book I was holding shut and put it back on the shelf. 'I have a name,' I bit out, 'new kid with funky blue streaks in his hair.'
He laughed. 'You're funny; I like that. And I do know your name.'
'Oh? What is it then?' I challenged him.
'Yeah, well, it's been nice chatting and all, but I've got to go. My friend's waiting for me.'
'You didn't look like you were in a hurry before. I hope you're not rushing out of here on my account.'
'Don't be ridiculous; I just told you, my friend is waiting for me.' I made to move past him, irritated when he moved to block my path. I looked up to see him sporting a lopsided grin. Even as I felt my heart skip a beat I dismissed the feeling as being completely ridiculous. No matter how rational I liked to think I was, I couldn't help my reaction to this boy.
'Can you let me by?' I said, aggravated.
'Hmm. Only if you say the magic word,' he drawled.
'Please, let me by,' I nearly growled. He grinned and moved aside. As I was walking past him I fought the urge to elbow him in the side.
As I predicted, Annie was impatiently waiting for me outside the theater. 'I should have known better than to let you into that bookstore alone,' she started in on me. 'You never take only fifteen minutes.'
'If that's the case you should only be mad at yourself for not thinking ahead and telling me to meet you in half an hour.'
'You smart aleck, you always have an answer for everything, don't you?'
I grinned at her. 'I try.'
Annie laughed as we headed back to her car. No matter how hard I tried to forget about it the rest of the way home and that night I was distracted by unwanted thoughts about my encounter with Jackson Riley. My last coherent thought before falling asleep that night was that this school year was going to be full of surprises.