Winter break had passed. Soon, the excitement of the coming New Year had died down as well. January, and February had quickly come back into view and with it, a repeat of the first half of the year which included stuffy and crowded morning buses with workers struggling to drink their very hot hot hot coffee, the struggle to even find one seat on the Christ forsaken metro, teachers who had to pretend to be eager to teach students who were unwilling to even bother to look like they cared, and a plethora of high school students all so original and yet unoriginal in their personalities, and of course, a sense of endless boredom.

In which displeased Astrid very much to the point of becoming secluded in her mind as she suffered the horrible punishment of the boring cases once more. From simple theft and fraud, to domestic and sexual abuse, cases in which she had the ability to solve from the vicinity of her dull room, cases that the county police should have been able to at least without her silent interference, physically condemn those who were guilty of these crimes.

Something else also occupied her mind as well, and the same was chattered on the lips of her fellow students, teachers, and of course, Frankie.

"It's almost Valentine's Day!" she would yell with evident excitement and a sparkle in her brown eyes, and from her full chocolate colored lips she would smile and chatter about it about twice as much as the normal student in her perpetual happy and emotional tone.

Astrid subtly envied Frankie's excitement at the upcoming day of supposed love, but not because of the reason's one would think.

The whole ordeal about finding a suitable spouse for the specific day, or confessing one's proclaimed love in front of the entire student body had no effect whatsoever on Astrid, things she had witnessed before. She preferred to ignore the public confessions of couples that only lasted a few weeks throughout her years in the Deepcourt school system. And though she had no interest in romance at the moment, she had never really seen it's good points in action. Her parents were a good and efficient example.

How she went from catching a drug dealing, prostitute handling, child abandoning felon to having random quips about Valentines Day was beyond her. She supposed it was contagious.

However, the situation called for chocolate, in which was generally fine with Astrid. Bars, and peanut butter cups, and little caramel filled drops, all put even an extra bounce in her usual apathetic walk. Especially since Mr. Permafrost made the best chocolate during this part of the season claiming that chocolate was the true equivalent of love.

Astrid believed she had full reason to believe that claim.

XXX

"But you know, you should be worried." Frankie said randomly, as they were walking to Technology, the walls already covered with red wall paper and little pink hearts, the day of red coming up quick and fast.

Astrid didn't say anything because she knew what Frankie was about to imply, and though it annoyed her to a certain point, she didn't need to irk her usually joyful friend with snarky words under a frosty attitude. She could just ignore it and disclaim it with as much efficacy.

Frankie continued without words of question from Astrid, "You know, about all the chocolate girl's are gonna give our favorite Hispanic." She ended in an ominous tone.

"You mean George Lopez?" she said, with a false quip in her tone as she recalled a show that has frequently made both children she was watching over laugh as they watched reruns on her television despite the late time and the reoccurring fact that Astrid never really got that much sleep. There were simply not enough hours in the day to help with that.

Frankie spluttered, "W-what! No! I mean Leon dummy! Stop evading my questions that are supposed to make you second guess yourself!"

"I wasn't aware." Astrid coolly said, "Chocolate bar?" she then suggested, waving one of Mr. Permafrost's bars in her face, effectively catching her attention.

Frankie pouted, then quickly snatched the bar and observed it, the blue star usually at the top replaced with a vibrant red one, signifying the said month of 'love'.

"Fine, it not like I'll get anything out of – OH MY GOD! This has caramel in it!" Frankie said, shocked by the sweet corruption of flavor and the mixture of caramel and chocolate, something Astrid herself has taken quite a liking to, the sweetness enough to calm her nerves. It had certainly shut Frankie up.

It wasn't like she never noticed. It was just that she chose not to. It was easier and less conflicting that way. Her life didn't need things as unethical as worries for such a ridiculous holiday spawned by propaganda and the media to be shared by two special people who loved one another. In truth, the whole thing was a contradiction. What if a whole lot of people had eyes for a specific someone?

What if the person who was targeted by those people was as oblivious – or maybe he chose to – to it all as if he were a child, taking it all in astonishing stride?

Why should she treat it as her problem?

Taking a bite out of her own chocolate, she decided it was much easier to turn to the chocolate.

Rather than deal with Leon Amador.

XXX

Her heartbeat thumped erratically as she tried to watch him as unnoticeably as she could; her hair was incredibly short to support the cute curly and chic style, but not useful when you wanted to hide your lingering – and they were lingering – eyes.

He was with his Asian friend, Jiro, who was waving his arms up and down, who in hindsight was funny to the normal bystander, but got on her nerves as his motions got in the way of his face. And she didn't know how she could possibly multitask between paying attention to her friend's conversation about the next dances, latest gossip that she already knew, Alexis's domineering voice going on about how many boys would fight for her hand for the right to her only presence at the dance, but also watch him.

It was all irrelevant too her. Everything was irrelevant to her when he came into the picture.

Jiro was calm and engrossed in his choice of food now, so she now had a clear view of the back of his head, the inky black locks so handsomely ruffled and tousled in the right places. It was growing a bit too long, now reaching the back of his neck.

"Faye!" she jumped, eyes wide and alerted.

She met Alexis's narrowing eyes, pretty when she was pretending to be nice, but chilling yet red hot when messed with, the tricky little brown orbs of hers.

With a voice she assumed was aloof she said, "Yeah?" trying to sound annoyed from being supposedly interrupted from a conversation she was a part of with another girl next to her at the table. Funny, how she couldn't even recall the girl's name.

"I was asking you what you thought about the secret valentine crud this school's trying to pass off like its Christmas! You know, Secret Santa and stuff. You should stop staring at Amador and just go and talk to him." She said haughtily, crossing her arms like what she said was law.

And it was, in the end, everything came down to either being accepted by Alexis or being killed socially by the girl. Faye could vaguely remember the girl named after what people drove on, on the ground. And how mercilessly cruel Alexis was to the point where Faye though the girl was going to do something drastic. But since she was back the next day, Faye supposed she was just overreacting a bit. But that didn't deter her authority as not only did all the girls at their table follow Alexis's example and laugh, but the cruel rumors and snarky words about the mixed girl were spread to proportions that Faye had no hope to control .

Fighting down a blush, she remembered that Alexis did the something like this back then, bringing him up to get a reaction out of her. A blush, a scoff, denial. Sometimes she wondered why she was her best friend.

"Yeah, why don't you?" the girl across from her said

Soon the whole table was telling her to; once again leaving her amazed at the amount of significant power Alexis had over people.

Getting up, she heard no more as they all silenced, Alexis included, not really expecting Faye to go this far, "So now you think you have the balls to do it." She said, not wanting to falter from her surprise.

Faye's light hazel eyes stared right into hers with a wavering determination that said she wasn't sure, but her voice was sure when she said, "No, but I have the ovaries."

And Faye walked off with confidence in her steps, thinking about how five minutes ago she was observing the male with no intention of talking to him, and now she was about to talk to him right now. Her heart began to freak out again. She was only a few feet away from him now. And she could see his face, and the things that had plagued her thoughts ever since.

The milky smooth tan skin and the strong lean posture and facial bone structure. The way his nose wasn't too big or too small, and his significant amount of piercings on one ear while the other only had one. She stared at his lips and wondered if they were rough or smooth; probably smooth. They looked lovely when he smiled. His hair was surely growing longer as he had to multitask between tucking part of his hair in and holding his tray. And his eyes . . . God his eyes were beautiful, almost the color of crimson red.

She was almost in front of him and was about to say something when his face brightened considerably, eyes a lighter color, lips upturned. And eyes in a different direction as he walked right pass her. Towards someone else in another direction.

She turned and was horrified by the sight of Astrid Graves.

With unkind eyes, and other features the complete opposite of Leon's.

With hair and skin that looked like the sun had never touched it's golden rays of light upon them. And blue eyes that were disscompassionate and unfeeling and gave her the sudden chills as if she had forgotten her jacket that morning, it made her unwillingly pull her black uniform blazer closer around her body. And lips, that looked neither soft nor rough, always in a plain frown.

And yet, he only... only smiled at her.

Along with their friends, they left; her last sight of Leon was his smile. But instead of warming her heart, it froze it. Because he wasn't smiled at her. It was at Astrid; steely faced, calm and cold Astrid; who didn't even have the graciousness to smile back.

And it was then Faye stood there. Thoroughly embarrassed and filled slowly, uncharacteristically with anger.

She could see Alexis smirking in the corner of her eyes.

XXX

Picking at the insides if his right ear, Red glowered at nothing as he tried to erase the sound of Ms. Bodice's ranting and raving in his hearing range. It was nothing new to him, the usual sport of having to listen to pre-prepared lists of complaints from teachers about his attitude and of course, the never ending nagging about his failing grades. He 'wasn't applying himself enough and taking consideration of his intelligence.' According to some of the administrators who had just a small sliver of hope for him.

Blah. Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blah-Blah, Bitch about this, Bitch about that.

That was pretty much all he heard. The usual.

Then his eyes narrowed in annoyance as he remembered something he wasn't used to hearing.

They were fuckin' assigning him a tutor.

Because he showed no signs of improvement by doing any forms of hard work done by himself. Let alone applying it to school life. And when he though about it, there was no way in hell he was going to do some dumbass schoolwork that didn't teach him shit.

He wasn't as smart as Astrid, whose glare was attitude itself, or insightful as Keir, who constantly slept in class which should have warranted punishment at least! Nope, teachers decided to pick on kids with 'bad grades' because they were stupid and foolish and easily fell to the threat of calling their parents.

Allowing a snarky smirk, he remembered the shocked face of Ms. Bodice as he literally said, quote- I don't give a fuck if my parents come here or not, won't make a difference- unquote. The fake orange woman had turned red and kicked him out of the room.

She had thrown the paper holding the name of his tutor and place he was supposed to meet him before he left school for the day.

Pulling the slip out of his pocket, he saw in her overly feminine writing in blue ink, he read-

Riske' T. Panetta-Rose

Media Center, Room 12B

2:30

Sweet! At least he got to miss Phys Ed. The gym uniforms were horrible!

XXX

Alexis tried not to be smug as she looked at Faye's display of refusing to look at anyone at the table. It put her between a fine line of pity for her friend and anger at the person who had been the very subject of her annoyance for years. Holding back a growl as she though of her very name, she planned.

Alexis's weak points were schoolwork depending if the subject actually made her head hurt or not. But her very strong points, contrary to what people thought was manipulation and the very usage of people, using their vulnerable emotions and wants as such, that was very, very wrong.

It was planning, and then going at it with tenacity and maybe some of her extended powers of popularity of course.

The only one who had not fallen into her intoxication, as per plan were people she did not like very, very much. And they would feel her scorn soon, but at the moment they were nothing but shit on the ground compared to the current situation. Faye had her eyes on that Amador boy; and even though Alexis thought she would have looked much better by his side she wasn't particularly interested, and so she would make sure her friend got what she wanted.

If she did, then Faye would no doubt feel indebted to her in which Alexis would have her at her complete disposal until she was of no use. But it wouldn't matter then, Faye would have her boy toy, and Alexis would have loyalty at her disposal.

The Lunch bell rang as she sat completely still, fingers interlaced cleanly and eyes cunning and deceitful as in less than thirty seconds she already had the key thing to her plan.

The fabled Love Guru.

XXX

"Fuck my life!" Red droned on, leaning in his seat and dangerously leaning towards hitting his head on the floor. His feet were propped up on the table as he waited for more than thirty minutes for this kid to come and teach him pointless shit. Oh, it was funny watching Jiro's reaction when he heard that he got to skip PE with the spittle spitting Mr. Hambertis, who always reeked of cigarette smoke and was always wheezing and yet always yelling for the students to not live a sedentary lifestyle and over exert themselves in physical activity. He wasn't that bad, but in truth Red hated the man.

Off subject, Red had decided to come there at two thirty on the dot, watching for any students who would no doubt whisper about the 'Red Death' willingly walking into a library. Because library meant studying, and studying meant applying yourself, two of which was not his style.

When it became cool to study, call him.

The private media rooms within the confines of the library were equipped with overused tables with scratches and markings and horrible drawings of penises and crude cusses, and Red, who was certain he was in room 12B, occupied the one with a dinosaur computer in the corner facing the wall that most likely went out of date years ago.

SO WHY WAS NO ONE ELSE IN 12B!

This was not only a waste of time, but also a waste of effort. Fuck this, he thought running his hand through his blond and now dyed black locks, the contrast growing on him. His face was in a pout, frightening to others but to those that really knew him, despite his ritual acts of thougness, cute.

He decided to wait until 3:15, giving the dick who had kept him waiting for so long a mere three minutes before he left and skipped PE instead, not caring and really regretting his actions of actually trying. He really needed something to mellow down.

Despite contrary belief, Red was not and never would be a smoker; he had bad experiences of past fights with those who smoked, and they were really strong mofos. Plus it was annoying to have someone try to talk down on you while they fought only to have fistful of cancer breath in his face. And of course Mr. Hambertis was another factor to this.

Anger management classes were . . . just no. He would not even bother trying to explain that.

3:14, and getting angrier by the second, it was really grating on his nerves at the moment, so he tried to smile to himself, but winced when he saw his refection in the window pains of the media room; he looked like he was in pain. What he really needed was one of Jiro's heavily sexual intended jokes or one of Astrid cool admonishing glares that made him freeze up.

3:17, UGGH, damn it! That it!

And he got up, chair scrapping loudly as Red threw his black-chained bag over his shoulder ready to leave when the door opened ready to reveal the guy who he had been waiting for.

Very intricate or in everyone else's case, smarmy and acidic curses rested on Red's tongue, fiery and hot, the current hate in his eyes enough proof of that. His shoulder broad and frame lean as his fist clenched and were ready to sucker punch whomever in the face; suspension could go screw itself.

But then he caught sight of the person, and his shoulders slumped uncharacteristically, his fists limp and eyes wide. He could swear his mouth was open like all those idiots he'd seen on TV. With the dramatic music and everything. But he had real reason to quickly change from anger to dumbfounded surprise.

"The fuck . . . " only words he could utter.

Wasn't Riske' T. supposed to be a guy?

XXX

Kamden was sick.

No it was not influenza, or the sudden mass increase in mono that was going around the seniors and juniors at Fieldwater. It wasn't something as little and puny as a sore throat or runny nose, nor was it something as serious as an STD or CAD.

Kamden Graves was struck with the incurable sickness known as boredom. It was quite sad really. He truly believed that this sickness could almost never be cured.

And he wasn't such a trooper as Astrid to bare with the lack something invigorating on the mind and go to school. No, he took as many sick days as he could get away with, unable to wait for graduation so he could just live out the rest of his unentertaining days in the comfortable confines of his lovely cluttered room. School was a bore. Cases were often a bore. People were a bore. Life was a bore.

Scratching his long and tangled hair that was still in it's single braid, he realized that the last time he had truly taken a shower was days ago, and he was usually punctual with his hygiene. But Father had insisted that he find some information for some old friend of his. Something about a trail of money going missing at several banks where investments were made or something . . .

Getting up from his revolving chair, he watched as the thing span slightly from the loss of his weight keeping it from spinning. He suddenly felt a case of OCD come onto him as he decided to take the longest shower he had ever taken and get some new clean clothes on. Maybe get some shuteye. His dreams though, would probably be just a dreary as life though.

Hearing the doorbell sound is what stopped him, as he was seconds away from removing his large black tee.

Knowing nobody else would dare go answer the door, neither the residents or workers, Kamden stopped and left his room as his dark brown eyes needed a moment to get used to the change of environment from his dark and barely lit room to the bright and thoroughly cleaned hallways of his father's manor.

The doorbell sounded once, twice more, before he began to hear loud and obnoxious knocking. The sudden onslaught of noise to his delicate ears brought an annoyed glare to his eyes as his mouth remained passive and in an empathetic frown, lower lip slightly overlapping the top lip.

"Yes. Yes. I hear you. I know you're knocking. I'll be there in a moment or two." He said to himself, his bare feet dragging themselves across the floor as he finally reached the door, thin and feminine fingers covering the sculptured metal knob as he opened the door to reveal someone that suddenly made everything not boring. The mysterious appearance of a person that added whole new possibilities of occurrences that made his mind whirl, as his face remained passive. So many things . . . that would keep him alert and property sedated.

Suddenly life was not a bore. This kind of excitement was a staple in his life.

At the moment, in front of him was Astrid's mother. Mrs. Dana Helena Graves.

Though he had only seen her in person once, he was able to make out the changes, though subtle, in her. Her brown hair that had been in long and cared for then, was even more groomed, if possible and cut short and close to her shoulders, the deep brown color not snowing any signs of graying. She also had bangs now, cut in a straight line in the middle of her forehead and parted evenly in the middle. Her face had aged but her skin was still fair, and it seemed time had not dimed her fashion sense either, as she wore a long blue petticoat held together with a delicate gem encrusted belt below her breast, with white pointed heels that to Kamden looked painful.

In her hands she held and white and white-gold purse, her hands wringing the handles out of nervousness he noticed, and her lips, painted a pale red were pressed against each other tightly. He supposed she had something on her mind she wanted to say.

His eyes met her without any effort, and hers met his, a small trembling underneath the false headstrong gaze.

She was very straightforward with what she wanted.

"I want my daughter back."

Kamden smiled creepily at all the possibilities of fun he was going to have.

"You'll have to talk to father about that."

"No. I want to speak to my daughter."

The smile abruptly left his face, his way of scaring her, and it worked as he witnessed her as she jumped slightly and her eyes widened without preamble. He opened the door nice and wide, slight bewilderment and a steadily patience hidden within his dark henna eyes.

He gestured to the inside of the manor with a flourish that made Dana glance warily at him as he said, "Welcome to Hollowmill."

Yes! I know it's a short chapter, especially with my long absence that will be explained . . . soon. But still, enjoy and review, and talk to me, send me messages, I need to hear ( actually read) from people about the things I've been doing and opinions that will fix or improve them.

Ja~