Thanks to TO-Lauren for her support (and the summary). Thanks to Kylie for hearing me babble. And thanks to everyone who asked about Adam and Marie when they read Sugar Rush.


Chapter 1: The Secret Life of a Nerd-Girl

I never really liked Airports, which is funny considering how much time I've spent on them. Traveling was the part I hated the most about playing basketball, I love the game itself and the rush of adrenaline that came from thousands of cheering fans screaming my name; but traveling? That I had a problem with.

Okay, it's not exactly with traveling, more with heights.

But, what could I do, here is where I'm supposed to be. I wonder how Marie felt all those times she had to come pick me up when I returned from away games. And with all the kids in tow – our children, Jack, the oldest; and the girls Lillian and Daisy – now teenagers, back when they had been toddlers, it must have been hell for her; but Marie never complained. Now it wasn't time for me to complain.

"Dad! You didn't say this was going to take so long!" Fourteen-year old Lillian complained.

"I didn't think the flight would be delayed." Adam answered calmly, use to his daughter little tantrums.

"Calm down, Lillian." Daisy said calmly from behind a book.

"I'm bored." Lillian declared.

"Daddy, why don't you tell us a story, like when we were little?" Daisy suggested.

"Daisy!" Lillian complained.

"Why not? I'm bored." Jack said. Backing his littlest sister just to annoy the other one.

"What story would you like?"

"How you and Mom met?" Daisy asked and I realized that we had never really talked about it. Up until recently I hadn't been home a lot, and I didn't know exactly what Marie had told them.

I took a deep breath, "Alright." I said and saw as the three of them settled as comfortably as possible into the plastic chairs of the waiting area.

"Listen kids, a lot of things conspired to get your mother and I together, the least of which was a fire. Back then – well, just like now, actually – there were three schools in town: Central High School, John Adams Alternative and Cedars Preparatory School –"


Twenty-two years ago

There had always been an undeclared war between Central High and Cedars Prep, both schools competing in every aspect from academics to sports and arts. No one really knew the why of it, but it was safe to say it would take a catastrophic event to see such rivalry end. And a catastrophe did happen the summer before Marie Rush's junior year.

Central High School went up in flames on a clear July night for no good reason at all. Some said there was an undercover alien-research facility under the school and they had to blow it up when information was compromised, but that was just a rumor. Some others said it had been the Cedar's seniors' prank that had gotten out of hand and that was an even worse rumor.

The truth remained that, by the end of the summer, everyone from Central had been transferred to either John Adams or Cedars. And even though Cedars Prep had a gorgeous campus and was arguably one of the most affluent schools in the country, no one from Central wanted to go there.

Marie Rush didn't care much either way; she didn't have much hopes of Cedars Prep being any different from Central High: She would still be a nerd, she would still get mocked, her sisters would still refuse to acknowledge her in public (well, Kelly and Lydia would, anyway) and she would fall in with her usual crowd of misfits and computer geniuses – she knew for a fact that at least three of the members of Central's computer club had been transferred to Cedars as well, and nerds tend to gravitate to each other in awkward situations, anyway.

So, the first day of classes, Marie donned her Cedars Prep uniform, rolling her eyes as she could hear her kid sisters Kelly and Lydia complaining through the thin wall that separated their bedrooms. Kelly and Lydia were clothes whores and –though they were thrilled at going to a school were rich guys were in abundance – they weren't happy about the uniforms consisting on gray plaid skirts, white blouse or polo shirt, burgundy sweater and vest, red knee-socks and black shoes.

It really wasn't that dreadful, but trust Kelly and Lydia to make a storm in a shallow pond.

Marie went downstairs and grabbed a frozen waffle, eating it straight out of the package without bothering to heat it up, and then she went towards Liz's car. It wasn't really Liz's, it was supposed to be for the five of them, but Liz was the only one with a license, so she was the designed driver always and all other four Rush girls were at her tender mercies behind the wheel.

She got into the backseat and made herself comfortable, enjoying the few minutes of peace and quiet before her sisters came out and shattered it all. Absently she looked at herself in the rearview mirror, she had long, wavy/frizzy dark brown hair and dirt colored eyes hidden behind a pair of glasses. Marie didn't think she was all that bad. Not that it mattered as no one noticed her anyway, not Liz and Jas who were so close to each other they seldom let anyone into their little club; and certainly not Kelly and Lydia who cared not for those who didn't belong to the beautiful people tribe.

Marie sighed as she saw Jas and Liz come out of the house. Kelly, Lydia and Jasmine resembled each other, all three of them beautiful and blond – Kelly and Jas were quite classy, while Lydia was a bit more skanky. Liz and Marie were both dark haired and brown eyed, they looked quite alike but no one ever pegged them for sisters since Liz was a jock – not a mean one, actually, she was quite nice – and Marie was a nerd.

At last, Kelly and Lydia came out of the house and, looking at all her sisters, Marie had to admit she did feel a bit lonely; she didn't really have friends to speak of (the boys and girls from the computer club weren't friends, at best they were colleagues), and no one was even really that nice to her outside sometimes Jas and Liz and Liz's best friend Charlie (whom Marie had helped to study for finals last year). Jasmine, Lizzette, Kelly and Lydia were so friendly, outgoing and charming, all qualities which Marie so conspicuously lacked.

Looking wistfully out of the car's window as Lydia and Liz argued, Marie wished someone understood her. No one did, she wasn't the most outgoing person to begin with and that coupled to the fact that she was into science, and anime and online gaming, well, none of her sisters were into that stuff so they didn't knew what she was talking about half of the time. And her parents, well, her father wasn't so bad, a little self-absorbed perhaps, and Liz was clearly his favorite, but he was okay; now, her mother… she only loved Lydia –and perhaps Kelly – the other three were screw ups as far as she was concerned. Which made no sense to Marie but there you have it.

After a while Cedars came into view. Marie had been there a number of times for academic competitions, but Cedars' campus was still something to be seen, it was a gothic, castle like brick structure, it looked like something out of a romance novel on the outside, even if on the inside it was full of the newest equipment and technology. The weird part was that Cedars wasn't a private school, it was just a public school located at the heart of an affluent neighborhood, and all the parents were more than happy to pour money into it.

As soon as they stepped into the school, Kelly and Lydia disappeared together, and Marie ran into some of the geeks from Cedars' computer club, which offered to show her to her homeroom. Since she had no better offers, Marie followed them.

Homeroom was the first time she had seen him: very tall, dark haired and so handsome. He was sitting near the corner of the room, engrossed with his computer; usually, Marie wouldn't have noticed – it wasn't like guys like him ever noticed her, anyway – if not for the fact that, as she walked by, she caught a glimpse of his laptop's screen and saw he was checking the cinescape forums. Marie smiled faintly, she remembered being a n00b at cinescape forums, they were so big and so full of people that almost always someone would answer to whatever post you made, even if it was only another n00b just like yourself.

With a happy sigh, Marie went to sit at her desk and stared out the window, it was weird being at a new school after an entire life of going to Central, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad.


Adam Parrish was decidedly uncomfortable as he sat in the cafeteria during lunch period. One would think that after two years of playing varsity basketball he would feel comfortable among his teammates but he didn't. Now, as a junior, an upperclassman, he felt just as awkward and alien as he had when he had walked into Cedars Prep as a freshman, after going to Spain for the summer – where, for some reason, probably hormones, he had shot up to six foot two and gained muscles – he had been awkward, lanky and even shy, unused to the attention and the fawning. He had joined the JV basketball team just because his cousin had taught him to play that summer and he actually liked it. By the second semester he had been transferred to Varsity. Starting his third year with the team, he had had it with the jocks.

Especially now that the Central High kids were pouring into the school, since rich kids were more cliquey than most and they were bristling at what they felt was an invasion of their territory. Especially after the principal and Will Daniels –the student government president – came and made the announcement that all grades of Central High were to have a representative at the student government.

Adam had no problem with that, it was their school now, and it would be for a while still until Central was rebuilt; but he, as usual, was alone in his opinion.

"I can't believe it! Even if they are wearing the uniforms you can tell them apart from, well, us!" Sherry, the head cheerleader, was complaining as she clung to his arm and pressed her breasts to it.

That part wouldn't have bothered Adam, he was a sixteen year old guy, if not for the fact that Sheri had bathed in perfume and everything about her was fake, from the bleached blond hair to her nose and boobs, not to mention her teeth and nails. Who even cared about NAILS?

Sherry kept pressing her fake, hard boobs into his arm while the rest of the cheerleaders and his teammates agreed with her.

"We might get some reinforcements for the team." Adam said in a hard voice, which he always affected when talking with THESE people, even if he ended up truly hoarse by the end of the day. "Cavendish and Stuart aren't half bad."

Adam saw in their faces that they wanted to disagree, especially Marshall and Wood, who were seniors, but they all knew Adam had been named Most Valuable Player the previous season, and that he was likely to become team captain next week when Coach made the appointment, so they kept quiet, shifting their talk to some party someone was throwing in a couple of weeks.

Adam tuned out, thinking about a history paper he had been assigned and that he had to pick up his younger brother Eric from his cello practice later that day. Adam was startled when his blackberry beeped, and even more so when, as he was reaching into his pants for it, he heard another phone beep loudly. Looking around he saw a dark haired girl, who seemed vaguely familiar, pull out a sidekick and smile into it. His attention, however, was quickly diverted by the message he had received.

His favorite on-line gaming site, The Kingdom, had been down for two days for maintenance and the little text let him know the server was back up. Quickly, he logged in and checked his status at The Kingdom, and clicked busily away, sending his character into a quest. He probably would have kept playing on his blackberry for the rest of the lunch period if not because of the small commotion that broke over at Will Daniels and Jeremy Benedict's table, Will was yelling at some girl – which was actually quite out of character for him – and then, to Adam's everlasting amusement, the unidentified girl grabbed a fistful of Will's shirt and proceeded to throw up all over his shoes. And so, Barf Girl was born.

Adam would have gone back to his game, if not because Will actually picked Barf Girl and carried her outside the cafeteria. Then, Adam heard a weary sigh coming from behind him and dark-haired –beeping-sidekick girl left her seat and went after Will and Barf Girl.

Adam put the whole thing from his mind, dismissing it as something amusing but not noteworthy. Another beep from his blackberry announced a new message and Adam grinned.

The message came from The Kingdom's server, and it had been sent just two minutes ago; it read:


Server is back up.

Are You Coming4me?

Adam smirked as he typed his reply. Squirrel4president was a fellow Kingdom player – a girl, he hoped, since sometimes he got decidedly flirty with her without even trying to - with whom he had been feuding ever since she had beaten him in the King of Swords quest at level 10, about a month ago.

Coming4u (which was the stupid name his 10 year old brother had stuck him with since Eric had filled the registration form and thought the name was predatory, it never occurred to Eric that it also sounded slightly perverted).



You are on, squirrel-face


End of Chapter One