Prologue

"Perhaps, life isn't that bad after all."

My name is Xavier Rothman but most people call me X. I guess you can call me an "old soul" of sorts. I say this for two reasons: one, I know nothing of new bands or music but, quiz me on some soulful songs and watch me rattle off stats like a stock broker. And two, I am one of the few people left in the world who values chivalry and tact. In that respect, I was raised traditionally.

But nowadays, chivalry is "for losers". I've been mocked throughout my life for it, by friends and strangers alike. I've even been told to "be cool". So, I watch other people on my street and observe their mannerisms. Perhaps I would learn how to "be cool" from them. You know what I see? Punks being as loud and as ignorant as possible. Oh yeah! Can't forget about those "killer sound systems" in the crappy cars. You gotta make the neighborhood deaf in order to be cool. To be frank, those jerks can keep their judgments.

I prefer to be that knight in shining armor.

High school was a nightmare as it was for a lot of us. And as valid as that statement is, there was one thing – no, one person – in all that muck that made my going there worth every second.

I dabbled in art on occasion. I wasn't good, mind you, but I did dabble. So, when I heard that there was an Art Tribe (a sort of art club), I jumped at the chance. Maybe I would learn a little more about art or maybe there was a science to it.

Wrongo.

The Art Tribe was more of a hangout than anything. It was a place to let our creative juices just flow and bleed our emotions into our work. Needless to say, the place was awesome. As I looked around the room, bored out of my mind, my friend Cicely and another girl walked into the room. Both of them dressed the same due to the school's Twin Day, they both wore a cute little outfit that almost emphasized each of their features. But, it was Annabella – dear Annabella – that caught my eye. She had silky hair that stopped just past her shoulders. Eyes a beautiful hazel, she looked around the room and took a seat in the far back with Cicely. I couldn't help but smile; she was shy too. Her eyes flitted in my direction and on instinct, I hid my face.

Shy but observant.

The day moved on and as the two began to paint a ceiling tile, I gathered the nerve to approach the two of them. Cicely, being her naturally bubbly self, greeted me with a warm smile and introduced the two of us.

"X, this is Annabella," she said, gesturing to us respectively.

"Pleasure to meet you, madame," I said, a smile crossing my face.

"Pleasure to meet you..." she replied quietly.

Pleased with myself, I began to help people out with their projects. But inside, I was only thinking of her. As Art Tribe came to a close, I continued to watch her. I watched her hazel eyes dart from point to point. Her determination to finish her work. Her quiet yet demanding presence. Her timidness. I liked everything about her. And, when Cicely prodded her enough, she'd crack a smile that could melt concrete. But, so many variables were in the air; so many questions unanswered. Still scared of rejection, I held my tongue but my eyes never stopped watching her.