Chapter One

Light had been poking out from the cracks in between the curtains for a while now. The sounds of birds chirping could be heard through the thin crack of the window; and from it came a cool breeze of crisp autumn air. Clearly it was time to wake up.

The alarm clock beeped. It was ten o'clock. She reached out to turn the clock off, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep. Yet she changed her mind and decided to get up. There was work to be done.

Natalia lay stubbornly in her bed, not wanting to actually have to get out of her bed. The cool breeze was brushing against the side of her face. Natalia pulled away the covers and got up; she walked to the window and pulled the curtains aside; looking out to see a crisp but sunny October morning. Slowly walking into her closet she pulled out a pair of track pants and a shirt then walked out of her room to the bathroom.

Natalia Elizabeth Williams had turned seventeen years old two weeks ago. This was her last year in high school. She couldn't wait to graduate and start university.

Natalia thought of her life as perfect. Her school year had started off well, she had her friends with her, and there was just the right amount of drama in her high school life.

Natalia had never thought of herself as popular, in fact most of her time was spent in the library during lunch times; not to mention her disdain for the 'Mean Girls' that ran the popular cliques. Yet she was well known in her own right as one of the Technological Studies Department stars. Her rise to this status was the several short videos and designs she had created for her Communication Technology class, which were displayed on the school televisions in the hallways.

The first month of grade twelve had gone by with minimal amount of stress and drama. Natalia hoped that with everything so nicely balanced, she would not only get into the university of her choice, but also get a well earned scholarship. It seemed as though the fates were favoring her, since her year was going as planned. This was the year Natalia believed she would do wonders in. It was truly going to be her year.

Natalia went to the kitchen after washing up and changing her clothes. "Good morning!" Her older brother said. "Don't you sound chipper today?" Natalia commented. "It's a great day…and I'm cooking. No complaints here." He shot back. Derek was twenty years old. He had put his studies on hold as he had gotten a job with a graphic design firm. He was making breakfast alongside their mother. "Okay…so what's there to eat?" Natalia questioned him. Their mother smiled. "He made chocolate chip-blueberry pancakes…and I'm making omelettes. If you want waffles, they are in the freezer." She told Natalia. "I'll eat the pancakes." Natalia told them both. She grabbed a few plates and set the table. As her father came downstairs, Natalia got a carton of chocolate milk and put the mugs and tea, and chocolate milk on to the table.

Once the food was ready, they all sat down to eat. The family of four talked as they ate their breakfast. Natalia's mind ran through the homework she had to get done for Monday. As she ate, lost in her thoughts, she heard her name being called. "Okay Natalia?" Her mother asked. It seemed as they were all waiting for Natalia to agree to something. She didn't have a clue to what it was. "What exactly did you say?" She asked her mother sheepishly. Her parents sighed. "You're going to have to clean up the guest room, that's all." Her mother repeated. "Oh? Is Grandmother coming?" Natalia asked. "No. Actually we're going to be having a lodger staying with us." Her mother told her with a smile. "What?" Natalia asked in disbelief. Her parents looked puzzled at her reaction. "We agreed to let a student stay with us for the time being." Her father spoke up. "You actually know this person." Her mother added. Natalia's eyes narrowed. This couldn't be good, she thought instinctively. "Who?" She asked.

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He peered out of the window. Everything was going past him in a blur. The rain had stopped once they had crossed into the province. The train had slowed down during most of the storm, had now sped up. He would be reaching his hometown in a day.

Dallas Scott Owen was on his way back to his hometown of London, Ontario. It had been three years since he had been gone. He had been studying at the University of Calgary on a sports scholarship. He had been his high school's soccer star. His friends, family, and the entire school council had rallied to get him into a school with a proper sports scholarship. It was a year later he had turned his back on the sport and decided to continue his studies in geology. The people, his parents, family and friends who had helped him get the scholarship had never understood why he had done it. His community, understandably, felt betrayed.

Dallas ran his hand through his hair once more. Why had he thought this was a good idea? He wondered to himself. He had taken a year off from the University of Calgary to be a visiting student at the University of Western Ontario. All this so he could come home…and get a second chance.

Dallas thought back to the conversation he had had with his room mate back in Calgary. "Are you sure about leaving?" Jonah had asked him, for the millionth time. Dallas had been standing by his suitcase, packing up the last of his things. "Yea, I'm sure." He lied. Dallas was far from sure about the move, but deep down he knew this was his only shot. "Why are you leaving, Dallas?" Jonah had asked again. "I told you already. Toronto FC is holding a huge training camp for students across the country. At the end of it all, they are going to pick five of the top players." He told him, repeating this again and again had been giving him hope. "You really think you can do this, don't you?" Jonah said as he shook his head in disbelief. "Yea, I do. I think in the last few months I finally found my love for the game again. I kind of miss playing." He told Jonah. "Good luck then, man. I really hope you get it." Jonah told him, as he thumped Dallas on the back. "Yea, so do I." Dallas had muttered.

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"I have to clean up for The Great Disappointment?!?! How fair is that?" Natalia complained, as she and Derek cleaned the guest room together. "He's not that bad, Lia." Derek said, defending his best friend. Dallas and Derek had grown up together. They even looked similar. Derek had dark brown hair and green eyes. He was a foot and a half taller than Natalia. At that moment Natalia chose not to think about how Dallas looked.

"Yea, yea…still he let everyone down. Just so you know I'm not going to play nice. No way! Because he just turned his back on all of us…And of course here I am; having to clean up for his royal pain in the…" Natalia started. "Don't let Mom hear you say that, squirt. She'll make you wash your mouth with soap." Derek said, sniggering. "Very funny." Natalia told him, making a face. "I'm not going to forgive him for disappointing!" Natalia told her brother, adamantly.

"You know from what I remember you didn't always hate him so much." Derek told her, he had a smirk planted on his face. Natalia froze in place. "What are you talking about?" She asked him, trying to act indifferent. "Remember that soccer ball that you keep in your closet…the one he signed, 'with love', and gave to you in our senior year…right after he got accepted to UOC." As Derek said this, his smirk became more pronounced. "If I remember correctly…didn't someone in this room…used to have a crush on 'Disappointing Dallas'?" Derek asked. Sure enough he got an answer. WHAM!

Natalia had thrown a large pillow directly at Derek, and it had met its mark: his face. "What was that for?" Derek scowled. "For mentioning that I used to like him." Natalia told her older brother. She was armed with another pillow. "Don't you dare tell him that!" She told him. "Or you'll do what? Beat me over the head with another pillow?" Derek inquired. He had her there, she thought. What could she do? Absolutely nothing…Natalia stuck out her tongue, feeling rather childish.

The two of them continued to clean up the room.

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Dallas was jolted from his sleep. His train was stopping. It seemed home had come sooner than he thought. Dallas grabbed his two suitcases and struggled to walk on to the platform. Once he had managed to get there, he stood and scanned through the crowd. Already he could see some of the people he knew. They looked stunned to see him. It wouldn't be long until their small neighborhood started discussing the reason for his return.

London may have been a large city, but there were quite a number of townships within it that were small. Everybody knew everybody…and it didn't take long for news to spread.

"Dallas! Over here!" Dallas turned in the direction of the voice. He smiled at the familiarity of it. "Long time, no see!" He said. "You're telling me!" Derek said, as he walked towards his best friend.

Derek and Dallas had been inseparable growing up. Getting in to trouble was a full time job for the two of them. They had graduated together, but then had gone their separate ways. Still they had kept in touch. Dallas had called Derek in advance, asking him if it was alright if he stayed with the family. Derek's parents had readily agreed. Dallas was in sorts their second son.

"So what have you been up to?" Dallas asked, as Derek drove them to the house. "Well, mostly I've been working. I haven't had time for much else." Derek told him. "What happened to going to Sheridan or Humber?" Dallas asked. Derek had been planning to go to college to study computer programming when a job offer had come in. Instead of going to college, Derek had decided to work for S.H.M Designs Inc. The pay was great and he would be able to save up for college. That had been the plan…

"Well…I was going to quit after getting the money for college…but then I guess I liked the fact I didn't have to do any tests or exams…the pay is good…so yea…it's a long and pitiful story." Derek told his friend, he laughed as he said this. "Seriously? I thought you really wanted to go to college?" Dallas smiled. "I did, but I guess this way I'll have money to go to college and I'll be able to help Lia pay for university." Derek said. "You're working for your kid sister? What happened to the Derek who never did any favors for anybody?" Dallas said as he laughed. "That's a good question." Derek said, joining in the laughter.

The two caught up, as Derek drove towards the house.

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"Mom! Dad! I'm home!" Dallas said jokingly, as he entered the Williams' house. Derek's father chuckled as he came into view with his wife. "It's very nice to see you, Dallas." Derek's mother said as she gave Dallas a hug. "Thank you for letting me stay here." Dallas said to them. "It was nothing; we told your folks that we would be delighted to have you." Derek's father said. "Derek, help Dallas get his things upstairs." Derek's mother said. Soon she and Derek's father returned to the living room, where they had been talking.

As both Derek and Dallas walked along the hallway to the stair case, Natalia came down the stairs from her room.

She glared at the sight she saw. Just because of Dallas, she had spent all of yesterday cleaning out the guest room. The one person who had insulted the neighborhood…and she had had to clean the room for him. She was not at all happy to see him. "Great…it's you. Are you here to disappoint again?" She said sarcastically, as she spotted Dallas and Derek a short distance away from her. She walked up to them. "No, I'm here to amaze you all. And for future reference, I think it would be better if you greet people with a smile and tell them it's nice to see them. After all I think it's nice to see you. Nat, right? Or was it Nit?" Dallas said with a confident smirk. Derek, wisely, kept quiet.

Natalia's anger flared. She walked right over to him, standing close to him. "Firstly, I don't think it's nice to lie to some one about how nice it is to see them…when clearly it's not. And secondly you very well know my name is Natalia, and everyone usually calls me Lia." Her face was inches from his. "I'm not a lice egg in somebody's hair! If you ever say that again…I will make sure to put some nits in your hair." With that she tread on his foot and walked away in a huff, stopping suddenly as if she remembered something.

"Hello Derek." She said to her older brother, smiling sweetly. "Hey squirt. Didn't I tell you to take it easy on him?" Derek asked her. "He started it." She said pointedly, before running up the stairs to her room. She could hear Derek chuckling as she left.

She closed the door behind her, once she entered her room. The nerve of him to call her 'Nit', Natalia fumed. He had always been like that. Even so she had to admit she had had a small crush on him back then. When she was little, and Derek and Dallas used to be at the house pretty much all the time…but back then he hadn't noticed her.

He still looked good, she had to concede. His dirty blonde hair was tousled; he was still a foot taller than her, and looked just like the soccer star she remembered. His light brown eyes still twinkled.

Too bad she didn't feel like caring much for him now.

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Dallas couldn't believe his eyes, as Natalia left them, he couldn't believe how much she had changed from when he had left. Her brown hair was now shoulder length unlike the short pixie cut he remembered, she was average height and slender. Apparently she had learned to use eyeliner while he had been gone. Her ocean blue eyes were framed by sharp black lines, making them look even more effervescent. She looked gorgeous, even though she was simply dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

"What happened to her? When I left she was a right little squirt…now she's like…like…she killed my foot!" Dallas said, trying to control his thoughts, as he turned to face Derek. "I believe it's called the teenage years…she went through them while we all weren't looking." Derek chuckled. "Are you serious? Don't you have trouble keeping guys away?" Dallas asked. "I scare them away with a metal baseball bat." Derek told him, as they came to the entrance of the room.

"That room is Lia's, the bathroom is the room over there, and that's my parents' room." Derek pointed the rooms out. "I'm across from the foot stomper? Just great…" Dallas said, with a grin. Derek laughed. "Don't worry she won't hurt you again…at least I don't think she will." Derek reassured him. "Still are you sure you want me right across from her?" Dallas asked with another wide grin. "Unfortunately for her, I'd rather have you going out with her, then one of those high school losers. At least you understand that I'll kill you if you hurt her." Derek told him. "Small comfort…" Dallas muttered. "So how come I get your room?" He asked Derek. "Dad got the basement built, so I moved downstairs. You can come down after you settle in." He told Dallas. "I've definitely got to see it."

Derek helped Dallas unpack. "So what is the master of disaster up to these days?" Dallas asked. "Homework." Came the monosyllabic reply, as Derek hung up some of Dallas' shirts. "That's it? Even we never got that much home work in high school." Dallas said. "Actually we did…you and I just didn't complete it." Derek told him. At this they both laughed. "Glad you're back, man." Derek told him as he left the room. "Glad to be back." Dallas mumbled. In all honesty there were many reasons why he was glad to be home…and one of them was fuming at him in the room across the hall.