A/N: Alright guys, here it is. I know some of you have been waiting a while for this. For those of you who are just starting, Terrible is a story I had started writing a LONG time ago, but it was turning out to be too similar to Twilight (even though I had planned it all out before Twilight was even published). So I put it on hold indefinitely, with the hope that one day I'd return to it and make some major changes. So here it is: the new first chapter of Terrible.
For those of you who read the old version, there will be a lot of similar stuff in here, but here's the main change: Josef is no longer the Josef you know. I've added an entirely new character, and Josef has undergone MAJOR revisions. But I hope you like the change. I'm liking this version a lot better than the last.
Enjoy, and please please review!
The lands of the mystical and mythical have always been a safe haven, a place of magic and mystery that never gets old. In the pages of fantasy, I can get lost forever. I'd much rather sit down and read through a book in one sitting than go to the movies with friends.
If I really had friends, that is.
I don't feel sorry for myself. Not at all. In fact, I rather like my solitude. I don't have to deal with annoying cretins like Justin Ramirez or Chris Corley, the school's top jocks. I don't have to worry about saying something stupid to someone, because I just don't talk to anyone at all.
I just sit, open a book, and read.
So what if it was my senior year and I had no friends? I really didn't want to go to any parties, I didn't want to go to any dances, I didn't want to go to Senior Grad night or Senior picnic or Senioritis. I just wanted to graduate and get out of there to be with people who liked to read like me.
"Hey Smellen, what are you reading now?" I looked up from my battered book at the silhouette of some jock. I didn't really care who it was.
"Ellen. And I'm sure you don't care." The shadow shrugged and laughed, walking away. I sighed and shook my head, burying my nose once more in the pages. I'd picked this spot under the tree specifically so that no one would bother me during lunch today. But apparently the jocks had nothing better to do than try to torment me.
The bell rang and I picked up my bag and headed to class, the book still firmly held in one hand in front of my face as I walked. I'd perfected the art of walking through crowded hallways while reading quite some time ago. Out of nowhere, a hand snatched my book away and I looked up in surprise to see none other than Chris Corley and Justin Ramirez.
Chris Corley was the heartthrob of the school, with sandy blonde hair that fell into his dazzlingly blue eyes. Every time I saw him wink at some swooning girl it made me want to vomit. He was like a poster model for Abercrombie and Fitch, only not quite as attractive, but it was the closest our high school could get.
Justin Ramirez, on the other hand, was like Chris' opposite. Dark, warm skin with a brilliant white smile, dimples, and dark hair. He kept it short, so he couldn't really pull off the whole "hair sweeping in front of the eyes" look that Chris managed to achieve, but he didn't need it. He had big hazel eyes I'd heard girls drool over in the bathroom, and bulging biceps that were probably bigger than my head. He always wore tight fitting shirts to show off his pecs, something the other girls seemed to find attractive. I just thought he looked like a tool. Or gay. Maybe both.
While Chris and Justin may have looked like opposites, their personalities were spot on. Both conceited, both jocks, both womanizers, both royal pains. They'd decided early on that their mission in life was to first, claim as many women as possible and second, torment the living daylights out of me. They never separated, even when with girls, which everyone else seemed to find precious. It just reconfirmed my suspicions that at least Justin was gay.
I was snapped out of my reverie as Chris grabbed my book and began to read loudly. I jumped up and down, trying to grab the book, but he held it far over my head, continuing to read dramatically.
"With a hand on the back of his neck, I guided his head to my throat, and without hesitation, he plunged his fangs into my skin. A thrill of ecstasy shot through me, so much stronger than I had ever felt before—What is this, Smellen?" he said in disgust, flinging the book back at me. I fumbled as I tried to catch it, but didn't succeed. It fell to the floor, and I cringed as I saw the pages bend. When I leaned over to pick it up, Justin shoved me as he walked by and laughed as I fell to the ground.
"Sorry! It was an accident!" Chris gave him a high five and they entered the classroom. I growled under my breath and scooped up my book and hurried into the room.
Great, I thought bitterly as I walked to the back to see someone sitting in my seat. This is probably another joke. He was slumped over onto the desk, his arms folded and his face buried.
"Excuse me, you're kind of in my seat." The boy sat up and blinked at me. I was struck at once by how amazingly gorgeous this boy was. Actually, I couldn't really call him a boy—he was anything but. His light hair spilled over into his warm eyes, and his pale white skin was unlike anything I'd ever seen. Like a porcelain doll. He smiled, a beautiful, dimple cheeked smile, and rose from the seat.
"I am sorry," he apologized kindly. "I'm new here. I didn't realize I was in your seat." He picked up his bag and moved over to the seat beside mine. I was momentarily stunned. His voice was just as sexy as his face.
"Are you a forest god?" I blurted out, then clapped a hand over my mouth, astonished I had let something like that slip. I was usually so good about keeping my unusual thoughts to myself. Chris and Justin, who sat directly in front of me, burst out in laughter.
"A forest god? What's a forest god?" Chris choked out. I sighed and dropped down into my seat. I peeked a glance over at the boy, and found him smiling with a sort of bemused look on his face at me.
"What's you're problem?" I asked nastily, resting my chin on my palm. He just shrugged and turned to face the front of the class.
"I just thought it was amusing." I bristled. So he was one of them, was he? Maybe he'd turn Chris and Justin's little group into a trio. But judging by the glares they were shooting at the new boy, I guessed not. They probably felt threatened that there was someone infinitely more attractive than them in the school now.
"Amusing. Right. You can go ahead and make fun of me now. They do it all the time," I said, waving a hand at Chris and Justin.
"And why would I make fun of you?" he whispered from the side of his mouth. Mr. Garner had started class, speaking in his monotone as he drew some sort of monkey-like thing on the board. "I find it completely fascinating that a forest god would be the first thing you think of when you look at me."
I frowned and muttered, "Now you are making fun of me."
"Certainly not. That would be rude. I don't know you. I have no reason to make fun of you." I looked at him out of the corner of my eye to see if he was sincere or not. He wasn't even attempting to look like he was paying attention to Mr. Garner. He had fully turned in his seat to face me and was wearing an expression of utmost sincerity.
"Right," was all I could think of to say. We didn't speak for the rest of the period, though I was sure I saw the faint hint of a smile on his lips throughout the class. When the bell rang he gave a little nod of his head with a bright smile and walked out the door.
The rest of the day was uneventful. I couldn't help but let my mind wander to the strange new boy. He looked so—different. I couldn't quite place what it was, but he almost looked as if he belonged in one of my books, not in my English class. No matter how hard I tried to push him from my mind, he was always there in the corner, his bemused smile haunting me.
I sat down by my favorite tree at lunchtime and pulled out a book. I flipped to the correct page and stared blankly at it. I couldn't concentrate on the story. I couldn't stop thinking about him. And I didn't even know his name.
There was no doubt that he wasn't a normal human being; that I was sure of. No human ever looked like that, nor did they have the grace he did. No human ever acted like that, either. He was too polite, too precise in his language. He seemed well-educated and sophisticated.
Time traveler? No… he wouldn't enroll in high school if he were. He'd only be visiting, wouldn't he? Why make permanent roots?
He looks so much like a forest god, I thought sadly. Beautiful, graceful, an otherworldly aura surrounding him—he fit the description perfectly. If he were one, he did a good job of covering up his surprise when I'd blurted it out.
I'm thinking too much into this. He's just a regular human teenage boy. A ridiculously handsome teenage boy, I'll give him that, but just a teenage boy.
And with that thought I buried my nose in my book and read.
The next day I walked into the class and sat down, waiting for him to come in so I could ask what his name was. I tapped my foot impatiently and drummed my fingers on the desk in anticipation. I was so curious. What was it about him that was so different?
The bell rang and he still hadn't come. I let out my breath in disappointment, only to be met by the snickers of Chris and Justin. I rolled my eyes and tried to focus on Mr. Garner.
"Where's fairy boy?" Justin whispered with a laugh.
"Did you catch him and put him in a display with all your other creatures?" Chris added. Really—did they think they were funny? They were so unoriginal.
"Actually, I have no idea where he is. And I never said he was a fairy."
"Oh, that's right—he's a forest god," Justin said, nodding to Chris in mockery.
"How could we have forgotten?" Chris feigned horror. I gritted my teeth and pulled out a piece of paper to take notes.
A gust of wind blew through the class, sending my paper whirling away from me. I reached out to snatch it, but missed. It landed a few desks down the aisle and I grumbled to myself as I rose to fetch it. Before I had made it out of my desk, though, a pale hand had snatched it up and held it out to me. I looked up to see him, smiling with that bemused smile of his again. I mumbled my thanks and took the paper, sitting back down.
"I am sorry I am late," he said to Mr. Garner, handing him a note. "They wanted me in the office for a moment to discuss my transfer papers."
"That's all right. Sit down Mr. Kent." Kent? Like Superman?
I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he gracefully slid into his seat beside me. He didn't say anything, simply folded his hands on top of his desk, his long white fingers standing out against the dark grain of the wood.
The class passed by slowly. I couldn't focus on Mr. Garner, so I began to doodle on my paper. I wasn't even really thinking about what I was drawing—I just was.
"You like to draw?" I looked up, startled, to see his face peering at my paper with an amused expression once again. I looked down at my paper and realized I'd been drawing him. I tried to snatch it away, but his long, white hand shot out and grabbed it before I could hide it. He studied it with a smile, then turned to me.
"You are very skilled at drawing," he commented. I looked at the picture, trying to hide my embarrassment. I suppose I had done a good job—it looked just like him. But it lacked that ethereal beauty that made him so handsome.
"You have a good profile," I tried to cover up. "I was bored and noticed you had a good profile, so I started to draw you." He chuckled and handed back the drawing, folding his hands once more.
"Thank you," he nodded his head in a mock bow. "You should pursue the arts if that is what you are interested in. I haven't seen that much raw talent in a long while." I looked down at the paper and back at him. Raw talent? He made it sound like was an expert.
"Uh… thanks." We lapsed into silence, the sound of Mr. Garner's voice droning on and on.
"What's your name?" I whispered after a few minutes of quiet. He smiled.
"I was wondering if you would ever ask. It's Aaric. Aaric Kent." Aaric Kent. It sounded so regal and old. Unusual. I liked it.
"I'm Ellen Waters," I said. He smiled, but it seemed tight around his eyes. Maybe he didn't really want to talk to me anymore. But he'd seemed like he was enjoying our conversation before. We fell into silence again, and remained that way until class ended. He rose from his desk quickly, snatched up his bags, and with a small nod in my direction, fled the room.
It was a cold Monday morning and I was walking to school when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and saw a strange and beautiful man in the park, bent over something by the bushes. He had dark hair, so dark it looked almost black, with extremely pale skin. He straightened up and cocked his head to the side, and I finally got a look at his face.
He was by far the most breathtakingly beautiful man I had ever seen. I'd thought Aaric was beautiful, but this man—wow. He had a strong jaw, a sharp nose, and a well-defined face with high cheekbones. As I stared, he turned his head away from me, staring into the forest, waiting for something.
And then to my surprise, Aaric stepped out of the forest, right beside the man. The man continued to look over his head, not seeming to acknowledge Aaric's presence. Aaric was much shorter than the man, and Aaric wasn't a generally short guy. He was several inches taller than myself, but this mysterious man was a good head taller than Aaric.
Aaric leaned slightly towards the man, his lips barely moving as he spoke quietly. I couldn't hear a word he was saying, but that was understandable since I was on the opposite side of the park from the two. I suddenly realized that I'd been standing in this same spot for a while, blatantly staring at the two of them. I cleared my throat and moved to take a step, but noticed that at my first sound, the strange man turned his head quickly to stare at me. I froze, unsure what to do. He was looking right at me, but I was sure I'd been quiet when I'd cleared my throat.
Aaric looked my way, and his eyes grew wide. He seemed to hurriedly whisper something to the man, and the man's eyes narrowed, still staring at me. I wanted to do something—run away, acknowledge him, demand to know why he was staring—but I couldn't move. I was rooted to the spot.
Aaric finished saying whatever it was he'd needed to communicate to the man, and turned his eyes back to me, his brow slightly raised, his eyes wide. And then the man took a step towards me.
I grabbed my bag close to my side and fled. I didn't want to know what this man was going to do to me, but I got the feeling that it wasn't something pleasant. I'd gotten an odd vibe back there, one that seemed to resonate with danger. I ran all the way to my school, never once looking back to check if he was following. I wondered what I would say to Aaric in explanation later. He'd obviously seen me, and he'd seemed nervous. Now that I thought about it, the past couple days in class he'd seemed slightly skittish as well. He hadn't talked to me at all, hadn't even looked my way, but I could feel that he was uncomfortable.
I made it to my tree on the lawn, leaning against the trunk for support as I panted, exhausted from my mad sprint. I was morbidly curious, but slightly afraid. But after thinking it through, I decided that I was just being silly. It's not like either of them had done anything all that suspicious. Although why that man was at a children's park and why Aaric had come out of the forest was a little questionable. The forest was a dangerous place, and not many dared to venture in there with a large group and flashlights, let alone by themselves with no protection.
I made my way to class, pulling out a book to distract myself from my wandering thoughts on Aaric and the strange man. I sat down in my desk, never looking up from my book to see who was around me. It surprised, then, when Aaric's voice broke through my concentration on my book.
"Do you have any new drawings?" I turned around and raised my eyebrows.
"Why?" He shrugged gracefully.
"I liked your style. I would like to see some of your other work." I tried to stop my mouth from falling open, but it was to no avail. I reached into my backpack and pulled out another notebook—my drawing book. I handed it over to him and watched for his reaction. He turned each page so carefully, as if he were afraid he might rip them, and he studied each picture with avid interest.
I thought it odd that he hadn't mentioned our weird meeting this morning. He continued to pour over my notebook, no sign of what had transpired this morning in his actions.
"These are amazing," he breathed, flipping through the pages. He stopped on one—an unfinished one of mine. I had started it and never gotten around to completing it. It was a detailed picture of a forest. If you looked closely enough, though, you could see in the shadows of the trees a breathtakingly beautiful vampire, his fangs glistening as he held a limp girl in his arms.
"What inspired you to draw this one?" he asked. His voice sounded wrong for some reason.
"I'd just finished reading a vampire book. In one scene he bit the girl he loved and accidentally drained her because he couldn't control his thirst. When he realized what he'd done, he could do nothing but hold her lifeless body and mourn her. I'm not really finished with this one—I just drew it on a whim. I've never really gone back to finish it." He nodded and closed the notebook carefully, handing it over to me.
"You have a lot of talent, Ellen," he said. It was the first time he'd said my name, and it caught me off guard. The way it rolled off his tongue, so elegant and beautiful, was thrilling.
"Thanks." I tucked the notebook back into my backpack. We lapsed into silence, a common routine, I'd noticed. After several minutes of class, he sighed and turned to face me.
"Aren't you going to ask me about this morning?" he asked curiously. I shrugged.
"I figure it's not my business. I barely know you. You can tell me if you like, though." He nodded and turned back to face the front of the room.
"You have an amazing sense of patience," he commented. I smiled.
"That's what I get for having three siblings." He chuckled and didn't speak again for the remainder of class.
"Mom?" I shut the front door loudly behind me, wiping my muddy boots on the welcome mat. It had started pouring like crazy while I was walking home, and now I looked like a drowned cat.
"In the kitchen, sweetie," I heard my mother's kindly voice reply. I dropped my soaking backpack on the tile in the entryway and tossed off my wet raincoat.
"Ellen! Ellen! Look what I made!" I looked down as my littlest sister, Jenny, held up a paper snowflake.
"Wow, Jenny, that's amazing. Did you make that in class?" Jenny nodded, smiling a wide, gapped tooth grin.
"Is Sarah home yet?" I asked her, kneeling down to be on eye level with her. She shook her head, still smiling.
"No. She went out with a boy," Jenny laughed.
"A boy?" I repeated, raising my eyebrows.
"Yeah. Boys are icky," Jenny said, wrinkling her nose. "Jeremy pushed me off the bars today. I don't like boys. I never will." I smiled. Ah, the innocence of youth. You just wait, Jenny. Some boy will come along and you'll be completely head over heels for him.
"I agree. Boys are icky. Is Lorraine home?" Jenny shook her head.
"She went out with Lucy." Ah. Lucy. I didn't like her. She seemed too superficial and fake for my taste, but apparently Lorraine didn't care, because they were practically joined at the hip.
"So it's just you, me, and Mommy?" Jenny nodded excitedly. She wrapped her chubby little fingers around mine and tugged me towards the kitchen.
"Mommy's making cookies," Jenny squealed. She was so easily amused. My mother looked up as we entered the kitchen, completely covered in flour. My eyes scanned the countertop, where several broken eggs lay leaking, and sugar piled in mounds.
"I can see that," I said warily. My mom smiled sheepishly and shrugged.
"I was trying. It's not working out too well. I have to make cookies for the Moms United fundraiser." Ah. The Moms United fundraiser. My mother had joined this ridiculous club type thing that just involved a lot of moms. She said they talked about different ways to raise their children. I think it was just a place they could go complain about their kids.
"Would you like me to help?" I asked slowly. My mom nodded enthusiastically, quickly removing her apron.
"Would you? I'd be forever grateful. You can check in the pantry and the fridge to see if you have all the ingredients you need. Just call me if you need me to pick up something." She darted out of the kitchen, smoothly escaping the mess she'd made.
My mother was so scatterbrained sometimes. I wasn't quite sure how she could possibly manage to mess up a simple batch of chocolate chip cookies when she had the recipe right in front of her, but somehow she did. She couldn't cook to save her life.
It was a good thing my father knew how to cook. He was the chef in the family, and he'd decided early on to teach me everything he knew so I wouldn't become someone like my mom.
Before I could even begin cooking though, I had to clean up this disaster she'd made in the kitchen. I looked around, wondering if she'd just taken the bag of flour and spun in circles to get it everywhere. It was in places it shouldn't be, like inside the silverware drawer, underneath the dining room table (which was in the next room over), and underneath the sink.
Once I'd cleaned up that disaster, I opened the fridge to see if she'd saved anything. As luck would have it, she hadn't.
"Mom!" I shouted, shutting the fridge door. "I'm going to need you to run to the store!"
I hurried down the sidewalk muttering under my breath as I braced myself against the chill wind. I didn't trust my mother to buy all of the correct ingredients in the proper amounts, so I had to do it myself. Sometimes I wondered how my mother was ever able to survive through college on her own. She must have had wonderful roommates that had cooked for her. That, or they had fed her out of fear of her burning their house to the ground.
I quickly perused the aisles for everything I needed, wanting to get back home quickly. I didn't like being outside often—and I was in the middle of a good book right now, which always made me anxious and grumpy. I never liked being interrupted in the middle of a story.
I moved to the shortest line for a cashier and tapped my foot impatiently, gripping my basket in both hands to alleviate some of the weight. I had poor circulation as it was, and standing for long periods of time holding a heavy basket made my fingers turn a lovely shade of purplish-white and cramp up.
The woman at the cash register looked as if she hated happiness, her scowl permanently etched on her face. She slowly scanned each item, as if to spite me for my impatient huff when it was finally my turn. I bagged my own groceries to speed up the process, earning another glare from her, and hurried out as quickly as I could.
When I walked outside, I was hit with a blast of cold air, blinking furiously to make my eyes adjust. It had started snowing while I'd been inside, and I thanked God that I'd put on my snow boots as a precautionary measure. I hugged my coat tighter to me and hurried off down the sidewalk, wanting to make it home as quickly as possible to get out of the cold.
As I passed by the children's park, I glanced over to the spot I'd seen Aaric and the strange man standing before without even thinking. I stopped abruptly, though, as my eyes focused on the tall dark figure standing in the same spot, the snow swirling angrily around him. He turned his head slowly to look at me, and I was frozen in my place, staring into his cold eyes.
He began to raise a hand—for what purpose, I knew not—and I bolted. Maybe he was going to use some superpower to hurl a fireball at me, or electrocute me, or maim me in some other painful way. Or maybe he had just been lifting his hand to wave me over. Either way, I didn't want to find out. I didn't want to be unlucky enough to discover if my first theory was true. I ran the rest of the way home, my grocery bags banging into my legs as I went. I'm sure I was a sight to see, my breath coming out in little wisps in the chill air. I wrenched open my front door, slammed it behind me, and slid to the floor as all strength fled my body.
"Ellen, why are you on the floor?" Jenny asked innocently as she appeared from the living room. I mustered up all my remaining strength to pick myself up off the floor and grabbed my grocery bags.
"I just slipped on some ice, that's all." I went into the kitchen, Jenny trailing behind me with her most prized doll clutched in her small arms.
"Ellen, it's snowing outside," Jenny said with a big grin. I chuckled as I unloaded the groceries, nodding in agreement.
"Yes it is. Would you like to build a snow fort in the backyard after I'm done making cookies?" Jenny shouted her agreement, running around the kitchen.
"I'm going to get my snow clothes on!" she told me, racing down the hall. With her out of sight, I finally let out the tense breath I'd been holding, watching my hands shake against the counter. I didn't know who that dark man was, but he terrified me. And something told me that he waited there specifically for me.
The first period bell rang as I entered the campus. Shoot. My class was on the opposite side of the school. I ducked my head down and clutched my books tightly as I hurried across campus, splashing water everywhere as I went.
I turned a corner and stopped as I almost ran into a couple making out against the wall. With shock I realized the girl was Nancy Mulinski, one of the most plastic, superficial girls I'd ever met. And the boy was Aaric Kent.
"I'm sorry," I apologized quickly as they both stared at me. Aaric smiled a bit, but Nancy looked supremely pissed that I'd interrupted them. Aaric, to my amazement, pulled away from Nancy and stepped towards me.
"Don't apologize. You did nothing wrong. I actually should be thanking you," he said, much to the offended cries of Nancy. "I wasn't paying attention to the bell. I suppose we're all late to class." He smiled and nodded in Nancy's direction.
"I suggest you run off to class," he said in a low, throaty voice. I expected her to protest, so when her face went carefully blank and she nodded, I was amazed. And as I watched with wide eyes, she ran off to class without another word.
"Wow. She must really like you," I whistled. Aaric laughed and shook his head.
"She doesn't like me any more than she likes anybody at this school. I'm just the new shiny toy at the school." I smiled. Boy, did he have it right. I was surprised he was so practical about it. I would have felt highly offended if I knew I was being used only for someone's image.
"We should probably go to class now," he prompted me, breaking through my thoughts.
"Oh. Right. Class." We ran to class, so I was out of breath when we reached the door. I noticed, however, that he didn't seem affected at all. He smiled as he held open the door for me.
"After you." I took a deep breath and stepped inside. I ducked my head as I walked to my desk, which, thankfully, was right next to the door. I dropped into my seat, looking around at the class.
Aaric slid into his seat beside me, pulling out a notebook and pencil. I mulled over my thoughts, trying to sort them out.
I had never thought about it before, but Aaric must be popular. He was good looking, he was new, he was everything every girl at this school wanted. It hadn't hit me until I'd seen Nancy practically sucking his face off. He must be high up in the social ladder. He had to be, otherwise Nancy wouldn't bother with him.
Which meant that I regularly had conversations with one of the most popular boys in school. And he was actually nice to me. We were, dare I even say, friends.
Ok, maybe not friends—I didn't really know him that well, and he knew nothing about me, except that I liked to draw and I was a freak.
Acquaintances, then. Good acquaintances.
I could accept that.
"Ellen," he whispered. I turned my head slightly to show that I had heard him.
"Do you, uh," he paused—something I'd never heard him do before. He was usually very precise with his language, and this sudden lapse in fluency was throwing me off. "Uh, do you have any new drawings?" I had to try to contain my laugh and pressed my lips firmly together in a smile. He'd been nervous about asking to see my drawings? I pulled my drawing notebook out of my bag and handed it to him.
I watched him surreptitiously from the corner of my eye. He flipped through the ones he'd already seen and stopped at the one of the forest and the vampire. I'd worked on it some more—he'd reminded me that I even had it. I'm not bragging, but it was actually quite good. I was pretty proud of it. I'd added more detail to the forest and improved the looks of the vampire. I had to admit, though, that I'd modeled some of the vampire's features from Aaric's.
"You've been working on this," he said quietly. I nodded.
"You reminded me I even had it. I figured I'd start working on it again." He nodded and turned the page. He smiled as he looked at scenes involving my sisters.
"I assume these are your siblings," he said. I nodded, glancing up to see if Mr. Garner was watching. He wasn't. He was severely focused on some drawing he'd made on the board. I couldn't tell what it was, so I turned back to Aaric.
"What are their names?" he asked. I smiled.
"The youngest—that one," I said, pointing at the sketch, "is Jenny. She's five. Then there's Lorraine, who's thirteen, and Sarah, who's sixteen." He looked up at me.
"And you are the oldest at…" his voice trailed off, waiting for me to fill in the blank.
"I'm the oldest at eighteen." He nodded and looked back at the drawings.
"You all look alike," he said. I snorted and quickly looked around to make sure Mr. Garner hadn't heard. He hadn't, but Justin and Chris had.
"What're you looking at, Smellen?" Justin sneered, leaning over to see the notebook in Aaric's hands.
"It is none of your business. And we would both appreciate it if you would not bother Ellen anymore," Aaric said quietly, his voice low as it had been when he'd spoken to Nancy. Justin immediately turned around.
"That was… odd," I said lamely. "You must be really… popular if he listens to you like that." Aaric smiled.
"Passing fancy. People will get over me in a week or so. I won't be a novelty then." He looked back down at the notebook.
"Why do you think we look alike?" I asked, returning to our previous conversation. "We don't look anything alike."
"O contraire," he said, looking up. "You look very similar. You see here? You all four have the same nose. Your eyes are all similar too, though there are variations. Your lips are similar to Sarah's, and Lorraine and Jenny have similar lips. The structures of your faces all imply the same parentage and—"
"All right, all right, O all-knowing one. You're right. We look similar." Aaric chuckled and handed the notebook back to me.
"Do you have drawings beside the ones in this notebook?" he asked. I nodded slowly.
"Yes. I have several. Why?"
"If you don't mind, I'd like to see them. I enjoy viewing your artwork." I was speechless. He actually wanted me to bring my artwork to school so he could see it?
"What, are you some kind of art talent scout or something?" I joked. Aaric smiled and shook his head.
"I love art. I think it is the foundation for all thought and creativity in the world. I find it fascinating that someone your age can create such beautiful masterpieces while some much older than you cannot." One again, speechless. I cleared my throat and nodded.
"I have a few other notebooks I can bring in, if you want."
"I'd like that." Aaric smiled, then turned to face the board again. And we didn't speak for the rest of the period.
There was something about him. Something that was different. The way he spoke—it was too out of place. And his obsession with art—no healthy teenager was as obsessed with art as he was. And that glow—that ethereal glow around him was stunning—and completely nonhuman, I was sure. Whatever he was, I was going to find out. I loved mythical, mystical creatures, and I was not going to let this one slip by me.