Chapter One

She was the type of girl everyone loved. The girl you had in your freshman English class who still said 'hi' to you senior year as you were on your way to the cafeteria to pick up your cap and gown. The kind of girl who said 'hi' to the loners, and wasn't thought of any differently except that she was a wonderful human being. Actually, wonderful was putting it lightly. There were never any words when anyone was asked to describe her. Gorgeous couldn't cover her beauty and brilliant couldn't cover her mind. She was ranked twenty-five in her class of four hundred and six. Bloody genius compared to number two hundred and eleven out of three hundred and two. Yes, that's me. Number two hundred and eleven. For three years in a row. I figured it a damned good accomplishment. And, I happened to find it a nice round number, only seven hundred off from being 9-1-1, which apparently only I found utterly hilarious. My parents didn't, but it didn't matter because they were out of the picture by my junior year.

My mom had lost her fight to cancer when she was forty-five, at the close of my junior year. I found out when I was in my math final, the perfect time to get life shattering news that the woman who raised me was now dead. And not only that, but a few weeks into summer my dad thought it would be hilarious to have a mental breakdown and kill himself in our kitchen. I could never describe how joyful I felt to see his scattered brains spilt on our perfect white linoleum kitchen floor, his life shattered like the wine glass he had in his hand without the gun.

I had just washed that floor the night before.

It could have been days that I stood there staring, unmoving, and numb at the image of my dad's rotting body on the floor. The smell must have gotten to me at one point; I think that was when I fainted. When I woke up I sprinted to the bathroom and puked in the toilet quite a few times or however many times I felt would clear the stench from my throat. I didn't go back to the kitchen; I went to their bedroom and picked up the phone. My fingers were trembling horribly, but I got the buttons 9-1-1 pressed. Only seven hundred away from my class rank number.

The ambulance came, though by the smell of the house I'm sure they figured out my dad had been rotting for some time now. Bastard probably shot himself after breakfast. I know I'd think to put a bullet through my eye socket after downing two sunny side up eggs with a side of toast and bacon. In fact it's the perfect way to die in my mind. Next to of course shooting straight through my scrotum and letting my balls unravel in a heaping mess of blood until I die. That would definitely be my next choice.

I tried to tell this theory to my cousin at the funeral but, apparently sarcasm isn't welcomed in the presence of death. I found this odd seeing as irony was perfectly welcome. My mother had told my father to look after me because these were my "precious years of life" you know? All that going to college junk, and he goes and shoots himself. Maybe he caught a peak at the tuition prices in the local newspaper and freaked. That's the story I stuck to for the rest of my life. Not that I ever told anyone outside of those who already knew but, it was much more comforting in my head to say he freaked at the cost of sending you to college and now you'll never have to go, rather than he only lived to love your mother but you weren't worth the troubles of life.

It was arranged for me to live with my wonderful Uncle Melvin. Now, don't get me wrong Uncle Melvin's a pretty awesome guy but he's not too bright. In fact, his right hand proves my theory correct. Apparently he thought oven mitts weren't a necessity to pull the cookies out from the oven… Or maybe it was tater tots. Either of which didn't leave Old Uncle Mel in good standings of intelligence and I'd often blamed my two hundred and eleven class rank standing, on him. Uncle Melvin lived ten minutes away from my house, or what used to be my house and was now the government's. He didn't have much but it was enough to survive my senior year. I went to the same school, or so I was told. But apparently rumor had spread that my parents were dead and now I was some kind of freak that wasn't to be communicated with.

Girls looked at me with sympathy, which I didn't want, and yet couldn't miss the opportunity to milk my situation for all it was worth. I tried not to take too much advantage of the attention by peeking down a few of their blouses as they bent over my desk to ask me if anything was wrong, though my eyes occasionally slipped further south than I could control. Of course I tried to hide it, I'm not one to brag; and it would definitely ruin my avoidance from the guy population who looked at me now as if I was about to burst any moment with anger and violence and rip their faces off. I have to say, it was tempting.

In any case it did not feel like my same high school.

I had managed to scrape by and walk across that stage with the rest of the class, but my parents weren't in the bleachers, so it didn't matter anyway. And then college came. Good ole' city college. The university for dummies and number two hundred and elevens. I was signed up for four classes. Bonehead English, bonehead math, a psychology class (the happy alternative for chemistry) and art appreciation, which I started to appreciate more and more as I discovered the hottest girl on campus was in my class. I lost interest in the slide show quickly every day, and simply began staring at her. She sat two rows to the right and three seats ahead of me. Dark hair that was straighter than paper and just a few inches short of her waist, and two bright blue eyes that took in the world as it was filtered through long black lashes. And there was no doubt that perfect smile shaped mouth could produce the most perfect kiss. Her neck was long, slender, and led to a slightly pronounced collarbone and the perfect swell of her chest. She was a fan of spaghetti strapped shirts and backless tops, which I had no complaints about. Every single shirt provided the perfect display for the two identical palm sized globes settling on her chest.

Every day after class she walks through the quad in the direction of the library. She says hi to the cheerleaders gathered by the huge oak tree, the nerds playing chess in the shade of the maple trees, the retards in the wheelchairs, excuse my insensitivity, and a few more people who she passes. And each and every single one of their faces light up as if she was a bloody saint sent from the lord almighty. Not only does she know half the student population, she studies every day after class before she has to leave for her next one. Before you start thinking how weird it must be that I know her schedule the truth is I don't, but I had enough trouble with grades in high school and now that I'm paying for my education I better try at least a little harder to make it through. So every Tuesday I follow her route to the Library where I sit and try to read a chapter or two in my text book.

The thing is she's too distracting. I peered up from my text book one day and saw her flash a glimpse of a smile, but I looked down so fast I couldn't even be sure if it was for me. It wasn't fair that someone so pretty could be unmarred by distractions as she studied and one split second smirk has me reeling over two words in the chapter for the next ten minutes. I'd try to tell myself it wasn't that great of a smile, didn't even show any teeth, but I knew damn straight if it happened again I'd probably be floored. If I was one of the retards in the wheelchairs and caught a glimpse of that smile I'd probably piss my pants. Not to mention I couldn't possibly distract myself with thoughts of if she ever said hi to me.

I was able to clear my mind of her while I was at home. Not having her in a one mile radius the whole day helped me to calm down. I'd do my homework, most of the time, and then I'd grab my guitar if I felt like it and play some little nothings. I wasn't that good at all but I liked plucking at the strings like a loser. It helped my self-esteem a whole lot. I never got excited for the next day, no matter what I knew was going on in class. It'd be the same people, same teacher, same subject, they weren't going anywhere for the next four months, and neither was I. I was stuck here in this deadbeat town until I died.

It occurred to me that both my father's death and my chosen second favorite were far too morbid and far too messy. Suffocation. That's the way I wanted to bite the dust. Plastic bag or drowning, either way was slow and painful. If suicide was the chicken's way out I figured drowning myself might be the bravest method to it. Then again of course I could look directly into the eyes of dream girl, that might knock the air out of me long enough to die. Damn it. There she was again. Haunting my mind as always. I hate saints. I didn't even go to church.

Uncle Melvin ordered a take-and-bake pizza and burnt it lightly on the bottom. I took two slices anyway and went to sit at the dining room table and glance into the TV. Election time. The news was always going, twenty-four seven in this house. Mel might not have been too bright but he certainly had an interest in politics. Personally, liars in controlling offices appealed to me just as much as the memories of my dad saying he loved me. I glanced up just enough to catch a glimpse of the two lead candidates, but forced a block into my mind so I didn't have to listen or think about it. The pepperoni on my two slices of pizza was slightly singed as was the sausage. I shoved one piece into my mouth one bite at a time, chasing each with a sip of soda to help down the crunchy crust.

Melvin asked me how my day was, though his eyes were preoccupied with the television set, so I didn't bother him with details. He asked me if I had met anybody yet and my mind flickered briefly to the dream girl. I said no. Thanking him silently in my head for the distractions I would have now as I went to bed, for that flickering thought was not easily put to the back of my mind again. I slept horribly. I always did. However tonight the vision of the dream girl interrupted my choppy nightmares, and I wasn't sure which one I preferred. Haunted by beautiful women I would never have the courage to talk to, or nightmares about my parents' ingenious plans for life? It was definitely a tough choice, but luckily I got the best of both worlds because she walked into the kitchen just as my father put a bullet through his head. All she did was stare at the body, as unmoving as I was.

The next day was a Tuesday. I hate Tuesdays. It was bright and sunny and hotter than hell outside when our brilliant teacher decided we go out to the grass to have a drawing lesson. I couldn't help but wonder how this fit into a college education but after a slight groan I didn't argue. After all, I would be able to see this dream girl in actual light and not in a dark lecture hall. We filed outside and claimed a spot on the bright green grass despite the fact that it itched my calves like poison ivy and I was constantly swatting little tiny bugs off of my books and papers. And of course it could only get worse as dream girl herself decided to sit down next to me, graceful as can be, with her hair braided in two pigtails. She tied a scarf around her hair to match the light green skirt she wore, which rendered her absolutely helpless as she tried to sit. She settled her books next to her and folded her legs to the side, looking up at me with a great smile that caught me off guard.

"Hi, I'm Macy Collins," She reached out her hand towards me and I looked at it, dumbstruck as to what exactly she wanted me to do with it. Reaching out to shake it briefly I couldn't help but notice how my hand engulfed hers in a sea of rough callus, and I quickly pulled away.

Ou, Macy Collins…Fancy. "Blair," I said curtly but politely, turning my head away and scooting discreetly in the opposite direction.

She didn't seem to notice, "So what are you majoring in?" She asked.

"No idea," I mumbled, grateful that the teacher had begun teaching her lesson.

It confounded me that this beautiful creature would even want to socialize with me; I've got holes the size of sipping straws in my ears that I put there voluntarily. I've also got a pierced eyebrow and tongue and haven't worn a color other than black or white since the day of my father's funeral. As I've been told, I used to be rather attractive, my mother was a very pretty woman and my dad was quite the hunk in his younger days but after their death I saw no reason to celebrate color or perfect appearance. Today wasn't much better than any other day, my hair was gelled into disarray, my black T-shirt sported a band logo on the front and my black dickies shorts reached just past my knees.

I could tell she was taken aback by my rudeness but I sensed she wasn't going to give up.

The teacher rambled on about finding something to draw, it didn't have to be pretty, it just had to be what we would consider art. I hated still life. Seemed to me that life was always moving and never still, why else would I be here on this very Tuesday instead of standing in my kitchen staring at my dead father? The class scattered before I realized what was going on, and I got up quickly before Macy Collins could start another conversation. I walked over to the wooden bench at the end of our boundaries and stared at a crack in the cement where a small weed was pushing its way up towards the sun. I set to work drawing this on the paper I had grabbed nonchalantly as the stack passed by me. Was I interested in this weed? Did it represent some sort of obstacle in my life or what my life had become? No. It was a weed. I had to draw something. Simple as that.

Sure enough Macy Collins sat herself down next to me, her drawing pad on her lap and perfect tiny hands holding her pencil so delicately I was amazed it wasn't sliding out of her fingers.

"You know that's not bad," She said leaning over my shoulder slightly.

I closed my eyes. I wasn't angry, in fact I think part of me was…what was that emotion called again? Excited? Happy? Something along those lines because my chest was tingling the slightest bit. However this dream girl would find nothing of what she deserved in me and I was determined to let her see that. Besides, it would be an honest miracle if someone like her who could walk amongst the A crowd with her chin held high, would like to know more about the dark presence lurking in the back of her art appreciation class. Appreciation, isn't that a funny term to name a class? I don't appreciate art at all. It seems dreary to me that people would want to put colors on paper when they can see them clearly every day. But that's getting off topic now.

I nodded slightly to her comment but paid no more heed to it. I couldn't invite a conversation with her that would lower her social status; I mean already people were staring at this beauty and the beast scene taking place before them. She could tell them we were stuck in a theater production together and we were rehearsing one of our scenes that day on that bench.

"Are you shy?" She asked softly.

What a question. Am I shy? Well no, I'm not shy that's why I'm bursting with conversation and obviously satisfying your need to know what I'm all about. "Not necessarily." I muttered, trying hard to concentrate on the weed in front of me but her hand was only two inches from my thigh and the only thought clouding my head was that I wanted to place mine over it.

Macy Collins furrowed her brow and began sketching the fountain that was ten feet in front of us in the center of the quad. It wasn't a complicated fountain, yet with the way she was drawing it I thought it might have been the most beautiful fountain anybody had ever seen. She waited a few more seconds before shrugging and putting her pencil down, "If I'm bothering you I can leave." She said.

I finally took the chance to look up at her and definitely regretted it. Whatever doubts I had about suffocating under her gaze, were indefinitely proved correct. I furrowed my brow confusedly and then quickly tore myself away from her soft stare, "No, no you're not bothering me."

Her face seemed to brighten up, but I couldn't tell for sure. You can only catch so many facial expressions out of the corner of your eye. Of course I wanted her to leave, but simply for the fact that I didn't think it would be a particularly wonderful sight if I dropped dead from loss of air if I managed to make eye contact again. The thought of me curled on the ground all blue and purple and swelling with the stink of death nearly made me laugh out loud but then that would have raised a question and I didn't have a lie big enough to cover that image.

"Where do you think you'll transfer to?" She asked casually.

I shrugged, "Maybe nowhere."

"Nowhere? You're just going to get an associates?"

I shrugged once more, "Don't really have any interests."

"That's hard to believe."

Finally. A statement I didn't have to answer.

"What did you like to do as a kid?"

Damn it. "Draw pentagrams on the side of my house and burn babies as sacrifices to the Wiccan gods." I figured this would be a weird enough answer to scare my death threat away but she merely laughed.

I'm pretty sure I must have looked as though she punched me in the gut as I looked up, I was definitely not expecting that reaction. She smiled back at me, "Well, I'm sure there's some department that will take you."

"You're laughing."

"It was funny."

What – Who was this girl? Devil worshipping funny? What if I actually did that?! "Who's to say it was a joke?"

She chuckled more softly, "Well then I hope they were bad babies. Though I hear goats are much better in cases of sacrifices. The gods like their blood more I think," She put on a contemplative face as she leaned back a little bit.

"No, the babies are sweeter, besides they make more of a fuss when you kill them."

She snickered, "That's horrible."

"And yet the smile is still on your face," I muttered.

"Hmm?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Uh-" I fumbled for words, then I figured I'd ask the obvious, "Why are you talking to me anyway?" I asked as politely as I could.

She shrugged, "You seemed interesting."

"Interesting?" I asked, looking up and glancing at all the cheerleaders gathered by the Oak tree that were whispering and peeking up at the odd sight of seeing us sitting together.

"Yes. Interesting."

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint but there's not much to learn," I finished my weed drawing and started to stand up.

"I'm sorry you think that," She stood as well and I wondered briefly if she was even finished with her drawing.

We walked back to the grass and sat down, she again by me and I again slid away discreetly. We kept our drawings in our lap and waited a couple more minutes for the professor to return from her post to collect and talk about our masterpieces. I was sad to say my weed looked like a sorry explosion at the corner of two blocks of sidewalk. While Macy Collins's fountain looked like a work from heaven, then again, the woman was a saint. I thought briefly that maybe she was trying to "save" me. You know, rescue my life from corruption and purify my soul to feed to Jesus or however that junk worked.

"What high school did you go to?"

"What questions don't you ask?" I replied snidely.

"Questions you don't have answers to."

"Touché," I grinned. But once I realized the corner of my mouth was higher than its normal standpoint, I wiped it off my face, "Bader High School."

"Oh! One of my best friends went there for a couple years actually, do you know Austin Tally?" She leaned closer.

I'd heard of him before. Who hadn't? The captain of the football team didn't step lightly through high school. "Yeah," I said through clenched teeth.

"What about Toby Grit?"

Toby Grit was a stretch. He was the math club president. Total nerd, yet totally discreet about it. Except for the mathlete patch on his letterman jacket, he went through high school holding a few close friends and no problems about his status on the academic side. He was number three. It was very obvious at graduation he was not happy to be sitting in the crowd while the valedictorian and number two gave their speeches to the departing class.

I nodded and kept my eyes pointing away from her, hoping not to invite any more questions though by now I should have realized that was as hopeless as an anvil dropping from the sky and crushing me where I sat.

Thankfully our professor started the discussion of our works, and I didn't have to wait unsuspectingly for another question to pelt me from behind. Each student except me, for I had a talent to go unseen, explained their work of "art" even though some looked like no more than scribbles. Most didn't have anything to say. There isn't much to say about a blade of grass really. You could make up a story about how a great ant conquered the blade and walked all the way to the top, and during his victory dance was swept away by a hungry blue jay, but let's get real. Who has that kind of creativity in this art "appreciation" class. Half the class didn't even have a reason for drawing exactly what they had on their paper. Or not enough sense to say it struck their fancy.

The class was dismissed and before Macy Collins could strike up another conversation with me I started power walking to the parking lot. It was Tuesday, my study day, but there was no chance I was facing her in the quiet constraints of the library. I was going to my car, where I would sit like the loser I always had been, until my next class.