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"Not so perfect any more, are you?"

I squinted at the black figure standing against the sun. "What?"

"You heard me. You're always walking around with your nose up in the air as though you haven't got a fucking care in the world, but I guess we all know that's a lie now, isn't it? You act as though you're above us because you don't bloody give a shit about anything. But now you've been taken down to our level. Tell me, Kee, how does it feel to be one of us 'little' people?"

John Mawson didn't bother to wait for my answer before he changed his tune and cracked a grin, stepping over the raised pavement to sit down at the bus stop next to me. He raised an eyebrow expectantly.

"Like I'm going to bash your head in if you don't get out of my face."

"So aggressive," he sighed, shaking his greasy black hair away from his face. "Seriously, Keeson, the boys and I want to know how you're holding up – being the talk of the town and all."

He couldn't have made the insinuations clearer if he'd tried.

"I'd be doing all right, if the narrow-minded dickheads that continue to poke their nose where it's not wanted would just piss off," I snapped.

"Denial," John told me, "is not just a river in Egypt. But I can understand, Kee. After all, if my mum went and—"

"Shut the fuck up about things you know nothing about," I shouted, punching him in the chest before I'd even had time to think about it. It hurt like hell, but the grimace of pain that flashed over John's face was well worth it. He should've known he was pushing me to breaking point.

I hadn't met John Mawson until recently. He was acquaintances with one of my best friends, but despite the fact we'd lived in the same town all our lives I'd never really bothered with him. His dad was the owner of the bore plant just out of town where a lot of people worked, although that hadn't stopped him sending his son to the dilapidated local high school a few towns over.

He'd graduated a few years ago, but was consequently mates with most of the younger people in my town, and until lately, that hadn't been a problem as I had no intention of hanging around any more than I had to. But circumstances had changed – now it felt as thought everywhere I turned, Mawson was right behind me. I'd originally met him at his own party where I'd punched him for his troubles, and since then we'd managed to maintain an antagonistic acquaintanceship.

Until now, I hadn't taken his offensive comments to heart – merely responded in kind. But today I was in no mood to trade insults.

He paused, looking me over so carefully that for a moment I thought he was going to leave it at that. "You know, Keeson," he began, a smirk threatening to break out on his face. "You'd better loosen up; it's the only way you're going to get anywhere and anyone – even your mother doesn't want you," he added, eyes roving meaningfully over my body before he looked up and met my hostile stare, and winked.

My eyes were shooting fire. "Why don't you just fuck off?" I spat, loathing him more than I could remember hating any one else in my life. I took a step towards him instinctively, and he stood up, moving back.

"You might at as well get used to it," he said, as a large, dirty bus rolled to a stop a few feet away. The door opened, releasing the stench of stale body odour and the voices of teenagers swearing like their lives depended on it.

"Hop in," he said, voice oozing a sense of perverse satisfaction. He watched me step up, walked away a few more metres and then called back, "Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life."

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A/N: Author Notes generally work on a 'need-to-know' basis; there are a few things you may or may not need to know here. One) This prologue acts as an excerpt or deleted scene from some point in the middle of the story (it has been pre-written before postage). Two) This was formerly part of Chapter One, and as a result of the separation they are the two shortest chapters in the entire story. Three) Any other information on my style and idiosyncrasies of writing can be found on my profile, or simply be inquired about either through a review or PM. Four) Thanks for reading this far. :-)

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