Chapter 2

5 minutes later

I slid into homeroom just as the final bell rang, my eyes searching desperately for a seat. That was one of the worst parts about the first day of school, trying to figure out where to sit. Too close, and you can't get away with doing homework in class. Too far back, and then the teacher's really got an eye on you. Plus, it was no fun to be stuck next to someone like Stinky Stan—fifth period chem. Last year. It was murder—or worse.

But, as it turns out, I didn't have much of a decision. There was only one open seat left, and it was the front. Next to pretty boy. I quickly took my seat, dumping my bag on the floor, and doing my best not to stare and the boy next to me.

Which wasn't easy, seeing as he was as every bit as gorgeous as I had assumed early in the parking lot. You'd have to be a raging lesbian not to be attracted to this boy. Of course, that immediately caused my distaste to form. He was hot, and he probably knew it. And nothing was worse than a male that new he looked good.

Coupled with the theatrics in the parking lot earlier, I was determined not to like him. But even I had to admit, watching him from the corner of my eye, my interest was piqued. He seemed completely absorbed in whatever flimsy novel he was reading (I couldn't tell, the cover was down), absentmindedly running a hand through his mane of brown hair.

"Alright guys," Mr. Malcolm said, shutting the door. He held a stack of blue papers in his hand. "Get these signed. Make sure to bring in two doors if you want a locker. Any Questions?"

Homeroom the first day of school was always a bore. Usually, the thirty minutes were reserved as a bit of a study hall, announcements, and other miscellaneous activities. But because we were only getting back, all the teachers were supposed to be going over the rules and procedures.

Judging by the fact Mr. Malcolm had returned to his desk to finish his game of tetras, I figured we were safe from the speech. I took my blue sheet and passed the stack back before shoving it into my book bag.

Another piece of paper I was going to have to forge. I'd gotten really good at it throughout the years.

"Hey, where's Room 207?"

I started, looking up at Pretty Boy, my eyes wide. Did he…was he…actually speaking to me? I quickly straightened up. Aside from Ross, and a few others, people tended to avoid conversation with our group. They figured we'd cut them or something. Which, you know, we probably would…

Well, I wouldn't. But Ross might if you crossed him the wrong way.

"Ms. Perry's English class?" I squeaked out. Red flushed into my cheeks, showing my embarrassment. I was not used to being intimidated so easily. I was the one who did the intimidating.

He just smiled and nodded. The inside of my stomach warmed: he had dimples just like Ross.

I mentally shook myself of my stupidity. "Um, yeah. I actually have her next if you want me to take you…"

"That'd be awesome," he held up the cheap map that they give all new students and freshmen. "This thing is impossible to read."

I nodded, drumming my fingers on the desk for something to occupy my mind. "Being new sucks," I said lamely. Not that I would know, because I was born and raised here, but I figured starting out someplace where you knew nobody would be tough.

If only I could have that chance. Nine months until graduation, though. And then I could go off and be anything and anybody I wanted to be.

"Yeah. I'm Ezra, by the way."

Ezra? I resisted the urge to snort. It was a pretty uncommon name, especially around here. Most people named their kids William or Jack or Jacob, the latest favorite. Rich people could be highly unimaginative sometimes.

Then again…they could also be extremely weird. Like with the name Ezra. I've heard worse, though. Ross has a cousin from New York City whose name is Green. Green. Who names their kid after a color?

"Eloise." My name wasn't particularly common, either. But it was more so than Ezra. Which sounded kinda girly, really.

Okay. Now I was just being mean.

He gave me a tight smile, like he knew I was secretly making fun of his name, or something. He turned back to his book, signaling our conversation was over. Fine by me, then.

I pulled out a book of my own. I didn't really get much of a chance to read but when I did have some spare time, it was spent at the library. That place was a godsend. Ross often wondered why I spent so much time there in the first place, and was always the first person to drag me out from the dozens of stacks. Ross didn't read much.

Quite frankly, the library was the only good thing about this damn town.

"You read D.H Lawrence?"

I glanced at Ezra, and then the cover of the beaten library copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover. This was my second go through of the novel, and I was enjoying it immensely. Some of the classics, I can't figure out why they are classics in the first place (dry, much?) but this one was simply beautiful.

And raunchy. I'm sure even Ross would enjoy this one.

"Yeah." I fingered the cover. "Why?"

He held up his own novel, and my eyes instantly locked to the title, Women in Love, another of Lawrence's masterpieces.

"I haven't read that one, yet. Is it good?"

He shrugged, his eyes wandering back to his book, as if looking at the cover could give him the answer. "Better than Chatterley, in my opinion."

"Not possible," I scoffed.

He smiled, and my heart instantly thudded against my chest. "I didn't peg you for the reading type."

My eyebrow shot up. "I'm in your AP English class. I'm either suicidal, or I really like literature."

"I know," his gaze wandered to my clothes. "But I figured, you know. Never mind."

"Right." Guess I wasn't the only one doing the judging earlier. Only, unlike him, I was correct in my assumptions from the parking lot. He was a pretty boy. A guy, who had it all—money, looks, intelligent, the whole nine yards.

And then there was me. The girl in the clothes salvaged from Good Will and the Salvation Army. The girl too skinny for her own good, with the telltale bags under her eye. The kind of girl who skips fourth period gym to go smoke pot underneath the risers.

Yeah. Of course I wouldn't read. Let alone for fun.

I focused back on my book, waiting for the bell to ring. Maybe If I got to English fast enough, I wouldn't have to sit next to him.

But eventually, the bell did ring, and I was up and out of my seat.

"Hey, Bitch." I was immediately ambushed the second I stepped out of Mr. Malcolm's class by a short, slight girl with heavy black eyeliner smudged around her eyes.

"Grace," I squealed involuntarily, wrapping the girl in a hug. Aside from Ross, she was my next closest friend. However, I hadn't seen her in months because she had spent the entire summer gallivanting across Europe. "Ah, I missed you."

Grace beamed at me, her tan skin giving her a healthy glow. I guess Europe had done her some good, despite her reluctance to spend two months with only her parents for company.

Grace did not get along with her parents. It was quite ironic her name was Grace in the first place, because any time there was trouble, Grace was somehow always involved. Her parents had threatened to send her to an all girls' boarding school many times over the years. But they knew that Grace would still find a way to act up.

I wasn't quite sure what Grace was rebelling against, exactly. Her parents seemed nice the few times I meant them but knew well enough to leave it alone. "I missed you, too. And, girl, do I have stories for you."

"Please tell me they involve hot European boys?"

She just smirked.

As we began to push our way around confused freshmen, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Eloise?" I glanced behind me, only to find Ezra looking at me expectantly. "Uh. Room 207, remember?"

I groaned, inward of course, and motioned with my head to follow me and naturally quickened my pace. Maybe he would get the message to leave me alone if I refused to speak to him. I didn't care if he was one of the most attractive males to ever grace my presence.

Well, okay, maybe I did a bit. But I could overcome that.

"Who's this?" Grace gave him the classic eye-over, breaking out into a wide smile of approval.

Grace, despite her 'don't-talk-to-me' demeanor, knew how to grab a male's attention. She had the right body type: decent size boobs and a round ass coupled with her killer confidence and snug, dark clothing.

It was hard not to be jealous.

So, when I noticed him grinning at her, positioning himself to fall in step next to her, I was not surprised. "I'm Ezra."

"Grace," she said.

"That's a pretty name."

Pretty cliché, I snorted. I was not in the mood to hear them flirt, so I tuned them out, and worked on making to my first class on time. They chattered, and I ignored them, a skilled I had carefully honed over the years. I had learned quickly at a young age some things were better left unheard.

Grace left, making her way to whatever class she had next—I had forgotten. I vaguely heard her say goodbye, and found myself waving back, even though I had made no conscience decision to do so.

"Grace is nice," Ezra said. "Is she attached?"

"Yes." The words flew out of my mouth. "I mean, no. But she's not much of a dater."

The grin returned. I was beginning to hate that thing. "I'm not either. Who said anything about actually dating."

I rolled my eyes. "You're not her type." Which wasn't strictly true. Grace didn't have type. But she strongly favored boys who didn't rely on Daddy's plastic to get them everything they wanted. Boy with balls, as she would put it.

"Au contraire. I seemed to be exactly her type."

"Why are you talking to me?" I growled. I barely knew this guy, and yet here he was, blatantly trying to get into my best friend's pants. Brilliant move. I don't know why I expected better really, but watching him sit there in homeroom…reading…he seemed, different.

Not the cliché, horny, rich bastard. Oh well.

"Because I'm new here, and you're the only person I know," he said simply. "Plus, don't you know you have to go through the best friend to get the girl?"

"Oh, god."

I was about to tell him everything wrong with this statement, but we had thankfully arrived to the English class. I quickly made my way into it, finding a decent spot in the middle, and settled down.

"Psst." I felt the end of the eraser jab into my back. "Look, I'm sorry, I was only kidding."

Right. And I'm Dali Lama. I craned my neck around, just as the bell rang. "Out of all the seats in the world, you had to chose the one right behind me?" I didn't even remember seeing him come down the aisle…

"Well, yeah."

"Alright, class," Ms. Perry boomed, calling everyone to attention. I had never had her myself, but I knew through the rumor mill that she was a good teacher, and nice enough, as long as you didn't step on her toes. "I hope you like where you are sitting because it's going to be your seats for the rest of the year."

I let out an audible groan.

"Now, since this is an AP class, I expect the same level from you as a college professor would expect of his or her students…"

The worst part about the first day of school, aside from the fact your body is no longer used to waking up at the crack of dawn, is the fact that every class was the same. Forty-five minutes, times six, of the same back to school speeches.

'I have high expectations do your homework, no cheating, disrespect will not be tolerated.' Blah. Blah. Blah. It was a wonder I was still awake when I stumbled into third period Art, the one class I would have with Ross all day. And it was the one class I would probably enjoy all year.

"Hey babe," Ross said, as I plopped myself down on the table. This was our third year in Art together, and the teacher, Mrs. Mayers, was a total pushover. No assigned seats or anything. And the best part was that you pretty much got an A for turning in anything. She said art was subjective, and as long as we put meaning and effort behind our work, it was worthy of a good grade.

Needless to say, it was a pretty awesome class. Ross spent most of his time trying to slip in as many phallic symbols into a presentable piece as possible. "Hey."

"Long day?" He put an arm around me, and rubbed my shoulder.

"Yeah," I sighed, leaning into him. I had ditched pretty boy after English, thankfully, and suffered through Spanish II with Grace—we had both failed it last year. Foreign languages weren't really my thing, or Grace's either. Not that we really bothered to study. And, of course, she spent the entire time gabbing about Ezra and how adorable he was.

"Hey, Ellie."

Oh, no. Speak of the devil.

"Ezra? What are you doing here?" I demanded, sitting up and narrowing my eyes. Was he going to be in every single one of my classes? Ross recognized him from the parking lot earlier, and I could feel him tighten in the seat next to me.

"Mind if I sit here?"

"Yeah," both Ross and I said at the same time.

He sat down across from us anyway.

"How do you know that guy?" Ross half-whispered, shooting Ezra a furtive glance.

"He's in my homeroom and English class."

Ezra leaned across the table towards me. "Ooh, am I making the boyfriend jealous?"

"You better watch it," Ross hissed.

"He's not my boyfriend. Look, Ezra, what do you want?"

He gave me an innocent look, and I couldn't help but find myself speechless by his green eyes. They were bright, and simply put…enchanting in almost a creepy sort of way. Ezra probably got a lot of people to do what he wanted with those eyes.

"We're friends, aren't we? Come on, lighten up Ellie."

"Don't call her that."

Ezra straightened up, holding his hands. "Alright, alright. I'm Ezra, by the way," he said, nodding to Ross. "I mean no harm."

"Ross."

"You look really familiar. You don't happen to drive a red Volkswagen, do you?"

I shot Ezra a warning look. But judging by the smile on his face, he knew was he was doing. One look at Ross, clad in his black clothes, with an eyebrow piercing and scowl to match, not to mention the very visible tattoo winding up his left arm (I was with him when he got it, and it was the only time I'd seen him close to tears…), and Ezra had singled him out as someone not to mess with. Which, judging from the few hours I'd known Ezra, made him only was to piss him off even more.

But through angering Ross, he was making my life hell.

"Yeah, I do, actually."

"Right, yeah, I think I saw you driving this morning. I was in the black Ferrari. Really great car, you know. I got it as a birthday present."

"Good for you," Ross spat, recognition flaring through his nostrils. Oh, this wasn't going to be good. "But next time you cut me off, that car is going to be smashed into tiny, little pieces. You got that?"

"Most certainly."

"Ross," the tension in the air was heavy, like a humid summer afternoon. "Guys. Chill."

Ezra sighed, and leaned back in his seat, pulling a sketchbook out of his backpack. He silently began to work on the sketch assignment left on the board. I followed suit, ignoring Ross's looks.

I had, in a way, defended the new guy. A new guy Ross didn't like. I was going to have to answer to that, later, when Ezra was out of sight. This had to be the longest day in the history of first days.

Ross seemed to have forgiven me by the time lunch arrived. Fourth period had passed without incident—neither Ezra nor Ross was in my Math class, and I was thankful from the break. However, it didn't stop the gossip from reaching my ears. Many of the girls, like I had predicted, already had their sights set on Ezra.

Which was fine by me, they could have them.

Ross and I were standing in the Caf line, Ross rubbing small circles on my lower back. I new he was still smarting from the conversation with Ezra, but he thankfully avoided the conversation.

"What do you have next again?"

"History," I answered, not looking forward to the class. Mr. Robinson was known for being a bore. But I had to take World History to graduate, and Mr. Robinson was World History teacher.

I stocked up on food quickly. Lunch was the only proper meal I got a day, so I made sure to eat right and filling. I would be lucky if I was allowed whatever David didn't eat in the evening. Consequently, everyone at our table thought I had the stomach of sumo wrestler.

"Still eating like a man, Eloise?" George, Ross's good friend asked, the second I set my tray down at the table. Ross sat next to me, followed my Grace on my right.

"Still acting like a five year old, George?" I quipped back. "Glad to see things haven't changed over the summer."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Great comeback," Grace sneered. They had a thing awhile back, and the animosity between the two still held up. It had ended badly, when George walked in on Grace in bed with another girl.

Grace wasn't picky with her lovers.

"Grace?" He said. George was a lanky, awkward fellow with jet-black hair and a hooked nose. He had his cute moments, but the real appeal lay with his incredible guitar playing. All he had to do was crack out a guitar and sing a bit, and the ladies were all over him. "Shut up."

I didn't blame them—I spent all freshmen year with a crush on him.

Grace, maturely, stuck her tongue out at him, the metal piercing glinting in the sunlight. "Whatever. Everyone down for the basement tonight?"

"I can't. I have to work," I lied smoothly. My shift ended at five, but I still had to be home to cook and clean. Plus, I did want to keep up my grades a bit. They weren't valedictorian material by any stretch, but the were good enough. And who knows? Maybe one day I could make it to college.

"Go suck a cock. We were supposed to talk tonight," Grace moaned. "I wanted to tell you all about Europe."

"We can talk tomorrow night," I imitated her whining voice. David was going out of town on a contracting job. I was excited, because if he got the job, it meant he would be gone a lot during the year. "Promise."

"Whatever. Ross, you got the shit?" George asked.

"What kind of question is that, eh?"

"Just wanted to make sure you didn't get soft on me this summer, Rossie-boy." George motioned to the front of the cafeteria. "Who's that fresh meat?"

We all turned around instantly, even though we already knew who he was referring too. Ezra. Walking arm and arm with the Pretty Committee. No shit, the actually call themselves that. I think it was meant to be a joke, but the name stuck.

They were these three girls, classic beauties, I guess you could say. If this were a cliché high school drama, they would be the mean girls. But they weren't that bad. A little on the dull side, but they threw wicked parties.

"He's already been captured by the whore squad," Grace scoffed. She was only bitter because the pretty committee drew guys in like bees to honey. In other words, they treaded on Grace's territory.

"I repeat, who the hell is that?" George demanded.

"Why don't you ask Eloise? She's already buddy-buddy with him," Ross sneered.

"Jealous much?" Grace snorted, then looked at Ezra longingly. "Ugh. There goes that."

"Slut much?" George asked. I bit back a laugh, knowing it would cause Grace to give me one of her death stares. Instead, I opted to defend her.

"Bitter much?"

"Alright, Alright," Ross interceded, before lunch was taken up by who could out do the other in 'much.' "Let's not be fucking ridiculous here."

The table fell silent, and I watched as Ezra followed the Pretty Committee to a table near the windows, already filled with other jock-esque people. I'll give the TV dramas one thing; sport kids tend to stick together. So do the self-proclaimed Indies, the straight laced top twenty-five, the choir kids, etc. etc.

Even the druggies. Yeah, I was really starting to hate the whole label thing.

But Ezra looked totally at ease with them, and I cringed mentally. I mean, I should have seen this coming. But, as much as part of me strongly disliked him, the other part of me expected him to sit with us at lunch. He had spent the better part of the morning bothering me.

"When's your free periods, Eloise?"

"Fourth Block, Tuesdays and Thursday. Sixth today, Wednesday, and Friday." The classes rotated every day, much to my annoyance. It was hard to keep up with when I have what class.

"Score," Grace said. "I have free period sixth, too. Meet me and Matt on the risers?"

"Yeah," I agreed reluctantly. I had planned on spending the time in the library, but I had already backed out of tonight. And in this group, you kept up or you were out.

And I liked being in most of the time.

I wasn't surprised to see Ezra in History. I was even less surprised when he came and sat down next to me. He didn't say anything this time, and we sat stoically all class, with me silently begging him to say something. The silence was awkward.

I met up with Grace on the stadium risers liked promised. It was the one place on campus where everyone came out to get their daily smoke or whatever. Even the administrators didn't bother, turning the other cheek. It was a nice place, too, because gym classes were always out in the field, and we had a clear view of boys. Boys without shirts.

Last year, Ross had gym when I had my free period, and Grace and I spent a lot of time oohing over his six-pack. Not that I hadn't seen it up close and personal…but Grace didn't know that. She knew we were close, but not close enough.

Grace pulled out two cigarettes, and tossed one to Matt. Matt was also in our group, if you could call it that, only he didn't have our lunch. I didn't know him particularly well, but Grace did, and he somehow made past the Grace seal of approval, so I figured he was decent enough.

I waved the package in front of me, as a formality, but I shook my head no. Despite the prodding of both Grace and Ross, I really didn't hit the drugs hard. I experimented, but rarely went out the bounds of alcohol and pot.

I wanted an escape, not a death sentence.

"Here, take a swig of this stuff," Matt said, handing me a flask. I consented, smelling the cheap scotch. Better than nothing. I took a sip, leaning back against the next level of risers.

"I forgot how painful this place was."

"Only one more year, though," Grace took a drag. "And then community college."

"What a fucking party," Matt added.

I remained silent, taking another swig. I did not want to think about the future. Not today, anyway. Matt and Grace chattered away, as my eyes fell to the field.

Coach was giving a tour, apparently, because a crowd—mostly freshman, they were the only ones required to take it—with a few upper classman scattered in the group. Ross had failed two years in a row, but managed to scrap by last year. How you fail gym was beyond me. Ross just skipped one too many times.

And then I saw him. Ezra was everywhere. Fucking everywhere. He saw me though, and I felt his eyes on me as I took another sip on the flask. My head was already a little bit little. For being cheap, this stuff had a kick.

In the distant, I could see his eyebrows furrow, and he looked away.

I just took another swig.

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