Chapter 1 - Signs (Bloc Party)

The shooter is scared.

Scared to death, I'm sure.

He's so scared that I could see his eyes and upper lip water up even with a mask on.

He's holding the gun, but his hands still tremble.

His whole body shakes.

I look around. The hallways of the school look even creepier now that there's a man standing with a gun, and everyone lying on the floor.

I could hear the gunman's breathing from here. I'm lying down, too, and from my position, I could see almost everything.

A cellphone rings.

Suddenly, a loud, screeching pang! goes off.

There's blood on the floor.

And the pang! still echoes.

* * *

The whole student body has assembled in the gym. The PA system announces that there won't be any school for a week so the police could investigate on the shooting. The atmosphere is still heavy; even though they just said we wouldn't have school. I look at everyone's faces: sweaty, fresh from shock, silent. The voiceover also announces that the gunman is with the police now, and it also says the name of the girl who was shot: Laura Anderson. The name sounds familiar, and then I remember that she was my classmate in 3rd grade. I don't think I've been friends with her… except for that one time when she told Frankie Davids to shoo when he was trying to grab my crayons. I thought back then that she was odd for standing up for me—and so I never said thank you to her. We're juniors now, and I still haven't said thank you to her. Now I will never get to.

When the voiceover finishes saying that the school has informed all our parents about the incident today, the students break down into chatter.

"Charlie!"

I turn around at the sound of my name. (Hello. Charlie Bedford here, sixteen years old. Black hair, brown eyes, medium height, medium build. Just your ordinary girl—and yes, I am a girl, though my name says otherwise.)

I see my best friend Wes going through the crowd of depressed-looking students, waving a hand to get my attention. He's a senior, but we've been friends since we were young enough to wear diapers.

"Hey," he says, as he comes near me. "Were you one of the people in Lincoln Hall?"

Lincoln Hall is the place where the gunman shot Laura. I nod.

"Aw man." Wes looks at me sympathetically. "Are you okay?" he asks.

I nod, though I could sense that he sees the distress in my face. He gives me a hug, and reassures me that everything will be all right.

"I know that. I just want to go home," I say. "Wes, let go of me," I add.

He does as told.

"Well, I think they'll let us out soon," Wes says.

"Yeah. I hope they do."

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Right here, in the school cafeteria, sitting infront of my deformed lasagna, I could feel my stomach doing backflips.

Weeks have passed and the shooting is still all over the local Rhode Island news. I've somehow managed to take off the trauma I've been having, despite the constant reminding of my surroundings. I don't know if I'm supposed to feel this way, to still be affected by it. I mean, I was just a mere observer of the whole thing, I barely knew Laura, but how come I still feel like I'm such a big part of the shooting? I wouldn't know if the others who were in that hall feel the same; I'm barely acquainted with anyone who was there.

"Um, are you gonna eat that?"

I look up. Wes looks at me inquisitively, then his eyes flash at the lasagna.

"No."

"Great." Wes grabs my plate and chews on the lasagna like a dog chews on its bone. "What're you thinking of?" he asks.

"Nothing," I reply.

"Oh, you're thinking of something. You've got that look on your face again."

Then suddenly, Sadie Marino, Wes' girlfriend, yanks him in the arm, and says, "I'll just borrow him for a minute."

Wes quizzingly looks at her for a minute, then tells me, "I'll be back."

They both disappear, and I am left there, sitting with a half-eaten lasagna.

Ugh. I hate that Sadie person. Of the sixteen years I've known Wes, she is by far the worst girlfriend he has ever had. He usually goes for the smart, sensible ones, but this time—I don't know if he lost his mind that way—he went for the resident slut of my school. Sadie is not only stupid, but also the most unamusing girl you would ever meet. Her conversations revolve around her new Blackberry, or how she found the perfect sweater for Bruce (who, by the way, is a Chihuahua.) She's more of a Paris Hilton wannabe than herself.

The worst part is, I could never talk Wes or Sadie out of this doomed relationship. This is, by far, the first time Wes has ever been persevering in a relationship; despite the fact that Sadie is everything he isn't. I don't want to ruin that. I can't tell Sadie to break up with him, either, because there really isn't anything to reason out on why she should. I mean, there is not one bit of dishonesty in Wes. In fact, he's too good to be a real man that I'm starting to think that he's some sort of robot. (Okay, pretty corny, but hey.) He's fairly good-looking, too, with black hair and dark gentle eyes, plus he's in pretty good shape.

I remember the first time Wes told me who his new girlfriend was: it was a typical December Friday, a little more than a year ago. He'd come over and go online and download the latest episode of Gossip Girl with me, even though he hated that show. Sometimes other friends would accompany us, but that Friday, it was only the two of us. We were eating dinner with my dad and Briar, my twenty-five year-old sister, who was home for the holidays. My mom was working late, so Briar cooked some weird pasta she learned back in Chicago, where she's based for her job as a journalist.

Briar told Wes that she wanted to catch up with him, because they've been friends when we were little, too. She asked if he had a girlfriend, and to my surprise, Wes grunted a bit and said something like "Oh man."

"Well, I'm uh… Glad you asked. I was meaning to tell this to Charlie later on, but now that the question's raised, I guess I'll just say this now," Wes said. He glanced at me nervously. I've never seen Wes act like this. It's just a question, anyway.

"What, you getting married?" I joked.

"No."

"Then what?"

He looked at me and sighed. "Charlie, I know you won't approve of this. But since I'm a good man, I'll say this right now and not hide it from you: I'm dating Sadie Marino."

My reaction to this is probably obvious. I was nagging Wes everyday, I even made a list on Why Wes Should Stop Dating Sadie Marino. It took two tickets to a Coldplay concert to get me to leave the situation at rest, and from that concert on, I don't really mention Sadie in any of our conversations. Neither did Wes—except when needed.

But back to now. It's been ten minutes already, Wes hasn't come back yet—did he say that I should wait for him? Well, maybe I'll just wait for five minutes. If he's not back by then—

I hear the bell ring. Stupid, stupid bell. Everyone in the cafeteria has already gotten up and has headed to their classrooms. Which leaves me. Waiting for Wes. And a stupid, stupid, Sadie Marino.

The second bell rings, which means that I really am late for class. I decide to just ditch Wes—it won't be the first time that I'd do that anyway.

My next class is History. Which is coincidentally two buildings away. Great. Just great. I make my way to the classroom, and I realize how creepy the halls are now that there aren't any students to fill them up. Flashes of the shooting appear in my head, but I instantly try to push them away.

It won't work.

Dammit.

And then, everything's black, and when I finally open my eyes, I realize that I'm still standing, and I didn't exactly lose conscience, and that there is a gorgeous boy standing infront of me, with deep, greenish-grey eyes. He stares at me as I try to recollect my thoughts.

"What happened?" was what spat out of my mouth.

The guy, still staring at me, said, "You bumped into me, duh."

I could feel myself blink long and hard.

"Oh," I say.

Then the guy moves, and leaves me there, all alone.

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History was just as dull as ever. Even if I was a good ten minutes late, it still seemed like the period was the longest of all periods. It did give me time to think of what happened to me earlier before the period, though: I bumped into this tall, brown haired, green eyed guy, and practically lost my conscience because of god knows what. Luckily I didn't. But something about that incident just gives me weird feelings in my stomach… Is it the fact that I might have a crush on that guy, even if he's incredibly rude for just leaving like that? I don't know.

My face probably looks preoccupied since I could see my mother waving a fork at me. We're having dinner right now, with roast pork and mashed potatoes. My family could afford having fancy dinners like these, but for the most part, we're not really that rich. My mom works in some law firm, and my dad in the community hospital downtown, as a doctor-slash-consultant.

"So, honey, what are you thinking of?" My mom asks me, chewing on her mashed potatoes.

Funny. That's the second time this day that I've been asked that question.

"Oh, I'm just recalling my day in school," I say, half-chewing, half-talking.

"Well why don't you tell us about it?" asks my dad.

Fine. "Not much happened really… Wes ate part of my lasagna, some Sprite spilled on my jeans, they announced the date and venue for our prom— That's pretty much it."

My dad chews on his roast pork and says, "That's great, honey."

My mom, however, squeals and asks for prom details. ("Where are we going to get your dress? Who's going to be your date? What should your hair look like? What about makeup?")

All I could say is "I don't know," because I really don't give a damn about prom.

My mother scowls at me and says, "You better plan fast, honey, or your prom will end up a disaster."

"But my prom's four months away, mom."

"Still. You'll just procrastinate, and at the end, you'll be all sad because you didn't care about prom four months earlier."

Whatever.

Back at my room, I turn on the laptop. Wes IMs me.

Gay_magnet: Hey, I have a question.

Angst_in_my_pants: Yes?

Gay_magnet: Who are you bringing to prom?

Angst_in_my_pants: I don't know.

Gay_magnet: Oh come on.

Angst_in_my_pants: Why do you want to know?

Gay_magnet: Because I care.

Angst_in_my_pants: Tsk. Tsk.

Angst_in_my_pants: Who are you bringing to senior ball?

Gay_magnet: My girlfriend.

Angst_in_my_pants: Oh, yeah. You have a girlfriend.

Gay_magnet: It's not my fault you don't like her.

Angst_in_my_pants: Hey, I didn't say anything against her today. That's a big accomplishment, eh?

Gay_magnet: Oh yeah, you didn't! I'm so proud of you, Charlie! :D

Angst_in_my_pants: Eeew. Since when did you use emoticons? You should know not to.

Gay_magnet: No, I don't use emoticons. I just did that to piss you off.

Angst_in_my_pants: Ass.

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Weekend mornings here in Rhode Island are usually cold, with breezes of wind swinging past your window. Today isn't any different—however, I decide to wake up at 3:30 am, grab a coffee at an open twenty-four hours Dunkin' Donuts, and take a stroll down the park near the lake. It's weird how I always feel giddy when I'm in this park. The maple trees, autumn leaves, and the smell of fresh air somehow remind me of the good old days.

I walk down the pathway, gripping my jacket. It's 4 am, so the sun begins to slowly rise, although only little sunlight seeps through the trees that surround me.

It's fun to be in this park this early. I could do anything I want, I realize. I kick a weirdly-shaped rock to the left with all my might, taking advantage of my freedom.

To my surprise, I hear an "Ouch!" somewhere in the distance. There's a person here at this hour?

I walk a little faster, wanting to find out who it is. I turn left, down the mud path—which leads to another cemented path, where cling clang sounds seem to come from.

I halt to a stop at the sight of the guy I bumped into yesterday. He picks up the exact same rock that I kicked and observes it. Paint cans surround him.

I walk closer and clear my throat. I don't think he's aware of my presence. He looks up, startled at first, but forms a grin when he sees it's me.

His light, almost opaque green eyes seem to twinkle in the sunlight.

Okay, I make him sound like freaking Edward Cullen, but gosh, he's so gorgeous.

I just stare at him at first, but he motions me to come nearer.

Should I? It takes me a few seconds to decide what to do. I end up walking very, very slowly towards him. He watches me with steady eyes.

"Hello," he says, as I come close enough beside him.

I smile back, uncertainly.

"What do you think?" he asks, nodding towards the ground.

I look at where he's looking. Now I know the reason for the paint cans: the dilapidated cement path is painted in different shades of red, with black and white touches. He used several strokes, each of it unique, with its own shape and form. The whole piece doesn't look like graffiti or street art at all; it looks like real, genuine art. It's mesmerizing in its own way. It looks almost… revolutionary.

"Well?" he says, his tone expectant. I snap out of my gaze, remembering that he wants my opinion.

"Uhm," I start, looking up at him. His face wears a pleasant, maybe even welcoming look. "It's… it looks like the kind of art that some people may not like, whereas others may find inspiration in it." Wow. Didn't know I was an art critic.

He grins. "So do you like it? Or are you one of those 'people that may not be pleased with it'?" he says, quoting my own words.

"Don't worry, I think it's awesome," I say, reassuring him.

His grin widens into a smile. "Thanks," he says, looking pleased with himself. "Hey, you're that girl that bumped into me, right?"

Oh. For a minute there I almost thought he didn't remember. "Yeah, that was me," I say. "Sorry I didn't get to apologize then. I wasn't really… in the right state of mind." Or maybe I was just lost in a trance by his unbelievable beauty.

His smile still remains. "Oh, it's okay," he replies.

Wait, shouldn't he apologize too for his rude exit?

I look at him for a minute, half-waiting for a sorry to come out of his mouth.

But nothing happens. He just stands there, looking at his art.

Okay, I know it's just one little thing, but this is starting to piss me off. Maybe I should just leave. "Well, I better get going," I say rather icily. "That's great art, just keep on… vandalizing," I add, trying to sound polite. I don't think I did.

I turn around quickly, and immediately scowl once he can't see my face. What's up with this guy?

I'm about to turn left, when he suddenly calls, "Wait!"

I turn around, hesitantly.

"What's your name?" he asks, his face showing no expression.

"Charlie," I answer.

"But that's a boy's name." His face is still blank, expressionless.

"I know," I say, and start heading home.

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A/N: Hey guys, thanks for reading! Please review, they make me happy. A lot. :) It's my first time writing a fic, go easy on me!