Chapter 1: Everything has a beginning
I hate this.
This… This first day of school brouhaha.
I hate stepping in this auditorium, with the dramatic red curtains, the hospital-ish, clean smell, the noisy chatter of my schoolmates bragging about their out of country summer trips…
"Oh, I went to the Hague. It was ah-mazing."
"Really? I've been there for like, a thousand times. Such a bore. I went to the French Riviera."
"Dah-ling, why there of all places? I heard the nouveau riche has been encroaching on it like… well, roaches."
"Ah ha ha ha!"
What a waste.
I've listed about a thousand "resolutions" and "to-do's" for that stupid summer break and here I am feeling like I slept it all away. Like I just woke up, realized that my summer vacation was a dream and then went off asking myself, "What was the dream about again?"
I still couldn't figure out where my once coveted break went.
Yeah, right. Who was I kidding?
I knew where it we-
"Oof!" I quickly held on to the rough surface of the wall to prevent myself from tumbling down the carpeted stairs. Damn it. That's gonna produce some light scrapes.
"Get out of the way, loser!"
My jaw dropped as an army of tall, broad-shouldered boys wearing Dreyson Dragons sweaters rushed past me and towards the front row seats. I winced as one of the so-called elites' bags hit my face; the force of it made my head bang up against the rough wall. Of course, their posse of female admirers flowed close behind them. A dozen or so "regular" kids looked my way with genuine pity and concern but none made a move to help me. Three times that number looked on passively although I swear they heard and saw what had happened.
I hate it that my high school is so typical.
Ah, heck. It's my last year here anyways. Move on, move on.
I plopped down on an empty seat strategically placed behind a very tall girl. I then partially opened my bag.
Why, hello there, DS.
The school director says the same thing every year. Welcome, dear students of Dreyson Academy blah blah blah. And he goes on and on about the school's history like we give an ass and a half about it. Then he goes awarding the top scorers of the entrance exam, which kinda announces to the whole world who the bullies are supposed to pick on later at lunch.
That is, if the kid wasn't of the "right sort."
You know what I mean.
Darn. I used up all my potions.
And then everybody claps politely. Yawn, yawn.
My other pokemons are all level three. Great. Gonna get murdered again. Gosh, this new version is harsh!
Then the eardrum explosion-inducing screams start.
I instinctively covered my ears as the girls around me began leaping to their feet and howling like rabid, crack-whore hyenas. The tall girl in front of me began weeping and waving this huge silver and blue banner. Damn. She gets worse every year.
"James! James! James!"
Ugh. For crying out loud! Gosh.
The angry squeal of microphone feedback told me that Jameson Xavier Sterling had conquered the stage and had taken the microphone. The abrupt silence that followed the rah-rah-rah meant that he had raised his almighty hand. Cue rolling of eyes.
I have nothing against him.
I will even agree with you that he is quite the male specimen. I think he's the only eighteen-year old boy I know who has sculpted an eight pack. He has those pointy canines. Like, literally a killer smile. His shoulders are Adonis-like broad and definitely manly. His voice was known to make girls faint. His very dark honey-blonde, verging on brunette hair is always a picometer away from the definition of "long." You could bet your asses he'd never be sent to detention hall becau—
"We love you, Mister Class President!"
Yeah. There. Random fangirl beat me to it.
Class President. Three years in a row. Soccer captain for this year. Top of the class for every exam for every subject every year.
Dreyson Academy's one and only hero. The fucking shithead.
Sorry about the language.
Oh. No. I didn't mean him.
The stupid gym leader murdered my last pokemon.
But yeah, Sterling's kind of a poophead too.
But only to me.
Which I don't really give a flying fu—
Which I don't really care much about because I've mastered the art of avoiding him since the first time I saw him. Which was long ago. Which was—
He hates me.
It's my last year in this hellish school that would basically springboard me to the great Ivy League universities. So I'll just focus on my studies just as usual, and avoid troublesome things that would just complicate my generally happy and simple life.
My blood instantly froze. Without meaning to, the skin around my eyes spread outwardly, pulling itself taut. The world of cute little pokemons hopping about evaporated in my brain as I realized that the auditorium had gotten rowdy and buzzy. Everyone was whispering.
And everyone was looking at me.
I didn't like how their eyes were staring at me.
My hands instantly clutched my ratty Jansport close.
His voice boomed once again, drowning the crescendo-like murmurs.
I slowly turned to face him. I hoped against hope that I wasn't the one he was call—
Crap. He was looking straight at me. Well, fudge.
I could only make out his tall, infamously manly figure. The rest of his details were a blur.
So sue me. Not wearing glasses is a good excuse not to greet anybody in the hallways. Besides, I was fairly okay with things when they're kinda near.
Just enough to read books. Or play Nintendo DS games on your lap. Hidden in your bag.
"Uh… Gosh, this is really difficult," he kinda abashedly said in between "aw, shucks" chuckles.
What the hell was this?
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. I couldn't decide about my next course of action.
He shakily exhaled a lungful of air and cleared his throat. "C-Claire. I… I just want you to know that I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all the sh… For all the crap that I put you through. I w-was… Oh, God. Uh… I was… I was trying to get your attention."
Get my attention.
Um… He called my name to… get my attention? Well, duh. Captain Obvious reporting for duty. Wha—
"There. I said it."
Wait, what? Said what again? What did he say?
He chuckled shakily into his microphone. I could even hear him gulp.
Maybe a ghost possessed him? A secret twin? Why was he so nervous? Jameson Xavier Sterling NEVER gets nervous. He's a big, cocky, arrogant, spoiled jerk who wouldn't think twice about cutting a girl's hair JUST BECAUSE HE FELT LIKE IT.
"I… I've liked you since… s-since third grade."
The auditorium exploded into a cacophony of exclamations, bawling, protests, awestruck, hyper comments and disbelieving laughter.
He tortured me for years.
Oh, the daily snide, "witty" insults. The elaborate practical "jokes". It wasn't enough that he had to take first place in all of the exams and I had to take the half forgettable, half laughed upon second place. He-
"I know you're recalling every single hurtful thing I did to you. I know you don't believe me. Yeah, I deserve that. I deserve all of that and more. I'm sorry, Claire. It was… I was wrong. I was stupid."
Oh, mighty Cthulhu. He was kneeling down. Kneeling!
"I… I just wanted you to look at me!"
Bullshit. I glared at you every chance I got.
"B-But you never… Damn it, you never did."
Great. Wow. He was making it sound like I was the one at fault! Like I deserved it!
"No! I'm not blaming you! I'm just… Claire, I just wanted you to acknowledge me."
I was briefly taken aback that he knew what I was thinking, but then again, he always had a knack for that. He'd know what I was thinking and he'd throw it right at my face.
I was stuck in some sort of dystopian dream with an odd "happy ending" stereotypical twist. Like a classic, too-good-to-be-true, feel good rom-com storyline.
It didn't sit well with me.
Something was going on.
I forced my slack jaw to close and I stared as the director and some other teachers proceeded to grab the microphone away from James while others tried to drag him off the stage. I would have laughed my ass off if only James hadn't tried to win an Oscar with his fake dramatics and with me as prop.
"Claire, I'm in love—"
"Ooookay, everybody!" Mr. Matheson's forced, cheery voice boomed loudly out of the speakers making some girls yelp."Oh, sorry. Eherm. Um. Run along now, children. Happy, um, first day of school."
"Tssss." I shook my head while snorting. The huge rumble of everyone whispering and getting to their feet signalled the end of the show.
It was probably dare.
Or maybe another attempt to make my life as hellish as possible.
No way that confession was real. I looked around and smiled contentedly. Everyone was laughing and rolling their eyes. It's not as if everyone didn't know about James' constant bullying of me. They all knew it was a joke. I mean, goodness! Last year, he started a "Claire Miller has herpes" campaign and everyone knew it was false but they spread it around anyway.
Well, bring it on, Sterling. Throw me every little joke you got in that stinkin' book of yours.
You ain't got a chance with my stealth techniques.