The sun was beaming down relentlessly. I was laying lazily in the grass, my eyes closed.
Beside me there was flirtatious giggling and hastily exchanged whispers. Trust Drake to always keep the girls entertained.
A cool breeze swept over me and with the wind someone's voice was carried over to us.
I didn't need to open my eyes to find out who it was. I remained still, already knowing that he would be right next to me in a bit.
As always Gabriel didn't disappoint. His arrival brought the usual happy greetings coming from the girls with us, which he always answered pleasantly while dropping down in the grass next to me.
"Haven't you guys ever heard of blankets? My pants are going to be ruined from sitting here," he complained.
"Go away then," I said, still not opening my eyes.
"I have something important to tell you," Gabe announced grandly.
"Did you finally find your athletic abilities?" Drake joked, causing one girl to giggle and the other one to defend Gabriel in protest.
Gabriel ignored all of that and just continued, "You know how my parents basically bribed the school into keeping the third bedroom in our dorm unoccupied?"
By the way he sounded, I knew that he was looking directly at me. I opened my eyes.
"Yes," I said slowly.
"Well, it seems like that is no longer working," he said dramatically.
I sat up now more engaged in this conversation. "What do you mean?"
My eyes were absentmindedly scanning the front courts, where we were currently at. It looked more like a park than an entrance to a school.
A black sedan made it way over the slim driveway that split the park and led to the car spaces in front of the main building. The car didn't look like it belonged to any of our teachers.
"Someone is going to move in with us," Gabe replied to my question darkly.
He didn't like having room mates – I wouldn't even be his roommate if it hadn't be impossible for the school to accommodate his outrageous demands.
I shrugged. "No one is going to move in any time soon," I said to him.
Drake snorted at that. "Except maybe that girl. I mean, she has to live somewhere."
Both Gabe and I turned to look at him.
I recognized the two girls hanging on to him – they were regulars – they both looked at Drake in confusion.
"What girl are you talking about?" the blonde one, Samantha, demanded.
"Oh," Drake's grin widened as he looked at me as if there was some joke I was missing. "We are getting our first female student and it looks like she is going to be rooming with Zane."
These news set scowls on both girls faces. I heard Gabe muttering something under his breath but didn't care to pay attention.
Could Drake be right? Would this girl be rooming with Gabe and I? For some reason this made me feel somewhat uneasy.
We had already passed the gates of Winton Academy and where now driving through the welcoming park that led up to the actual school building. The scenery was quite beautiful, very peaceful.
I looked out the window and saw various boys lounging around, talking walks or playing sports. They all looked harmless enough in their carmine cardigans and tan pants. I wore the same colors, only a skirt instead of pants. The academy had been forthcoming enough to provide my one of a kind uniform just in time. Seeing how quick they were to arrange everything, I had to wonder if this uniform had been already made for some other purpose. I pushed that thought aside, seeing how there weren't that many uses for a school uniform and pondering on the limited options was a bit disturbing.
The main building of the academy looked more like an elegant old manor than a school building which was the look of many long standing private schools. Winton Academy had a long history of tending to the minds of young heirs, future leaders and prodigies.
I saw a few girls wandering around as well, none of them in uniform, which made me wonder. They had to be locals visiting the grounds.
My father parked the car neatly next to a few other cars. It looked like he had parked in a spot reserved for a teacher, since the wide-arrange of fancy, expensive cars – which I guessed to belong to the students – was a bit further off.
"Daddy," I started to plead again. This time I heard myself to be more panicked than aggravated. "I don't want to go to school here?"
My father cut off the engine and turned his beautiful brown face to turn to me.
"Querida, I know that this is not ideal," he said, for the first time actually sounding a bit conflicted," But I'd rather have you be here and maybe even be unhappy instead of you being dead."
The way he ended his sentence was so flat that it sounded like this was a sure thing to happen. I shuddered.
I knew that this was for my own benefit, but it didn't really feel like it. Like I was being punished for doing absolutely nothing.
Two years of this torture. Always having to go, always having to start new and always being wary of everyone I came across.
I felt a tear slide down my cheek.
Dad made a frustrated noise before he engulfed me in a tight hug.
"I'm really sorry," he whispered to me,"I will take care of this and then you can live wherever you want."
I just nodded at that whilst quietly crying into my dad's shoulder.
I heard my mother walking up to us.
At that I looked up. I hadn't even notice that she had left us alone for a moment.
"I called Ace," she explained with a tight smile. From the discussions of the past days, I knew that my mother didn't like the newest developments much either.
She then added, "He'll be here in a couple of minutes."
Dad let go of me, patting my head lightly.
I perked up a little at the thought of seeing my brother. "What about Chazz?"
Mom shrugged. "I can't reach him and Ace doesn't know where he is either."
My dad mumbled something with a frown on his face, no doubt wondering why his son would not come to greet his family. It wasn't like our arrival was unannounced.
It wouldn't be surprising though if Chazz had completely forgotten about that – he wasn't exactly known for his dependable memory.
We loitered around the car for a few minutes, none of us really saying much.
"Hey," the booming voice of Ace finally greeted us.
He was walking up to us with his arms wide open and a big grin on his face.
"I missed you guys," he confessed already pulling mom into one of his bear hugs. She almost disappeared beneath his huge arms – only the waves of her blonde hair were still visible.
"We missed you too," Dad laughed, shoving him slightly. Of course Ace didn't actually budge – I doubted that he even felt that shove. As always it was fascinating to me how my brothers had managed to outgrow our father.
Andres De la Vega was by no means a small man. His height was a respectable amount of 6'0'' and he probably weighed about 200lbs – yet my brothers have been towering over him for quite some time now. Ace looked even taller than the last time I had seen him and also a lot heavier.
Needless to say that in this pack of triplets, I was the dwarf barely making it to a 5'5''.
I was a bit of an abnormality, seeing how my mother was also a tall, statuesque woman just as expected from a world-renowned model.
I sighed inwardly at my existence as a dwarf between giants, when it was my turn to be crushed by Ace. His warm hug and the rumble of his familiar voice was soothing my anxiety a bit, even if his conversation with my father didn't.
They were discussing how I was not able to move in with my brothers, since the two of them already had a roommate, who apparently refused to leave his bedroom behind. The alternative of my brothers just switching rooms with someone else apparently hadn't worked out either.
I tried not to dwell on that. Since the students here all had separate bedroom within their three man dorm rooms, I tried to pretend that it would be okay enough.
Maybe I even got some nice roommates.
Ace led the way to the principals office, while my mother admired the surroundings and kept pointing out artful artifacts and architectural brilliance. While I had to admit that the main school building did have an alluring charm along the lines of old British aristocratic mansions, I just didn't feel like sharing my mother's staged enthusiasm.
She was definitely acting more awed for my sake than she actually was.
The dark interior of the school had the potential to be quite depressing, but it looked very sophisticated and polished. Ace led us through the corridors and up two large beautiful staircases, covered with a carpet the same carmine colors as our uniforms.
Every now and then he would point in a general direction and explain what kind of classes he had there. My parents both nodded eagerly as if they hadn't had this tour before and kept trying to push their fake enthusiasm on to me.
I just shrugged mostly and tuned Ace monologue out. Surely, he would give me a more interesting tour of the school's premise later on without parents involved.
The walls of glass in the stair wells enabled me to look out on the backside of the school building or rather the entire rest of the campus.
It was wide and mostly green in a very lush and scenic kind of way – I liked it. The buildings all looked similarly old to the main one and were squattered irregularly not really giving the feel of a school campus but rather the private estate of a very rich lord. I could see a football field and tennis court and a round ground level building nearby that seemed to hold some interest for the students, judging by the numbers of people that were strolling toward it.
From the two short glimpses that I had caught, it looked to me that the students lived here pretty effortlessly and kinda outdoorsy – I wasn't quite sure if I liked that.
We came to halt in front of a set of wooden doors. The Winton crest (just a 'W' in a circle) was carved into the dark wood – I had to roll my eyes at that.
Ace didn't bother knocking and just opted for dramatically opening the doors, revealing a surprisingly modern looking office space behind it.
The milky glass counter shone the brightest in this already way to well-lit room.
The western wall was once again taken up entirely by a window, the seating area on the right consisted of an off-white couch, two matching armchairs and a small glass coffee table. The beige carpet actually looked really soft and for some reason a few vases filled with beautiful white lilies were to be found around the room.
The counter divided the room somewhat into a small working area for the red-headed secretary that was currently sitting at her desk, typing, and the waiting area. On the far right side was another wooden door, that most likely led to the principal's office.
Upon our arrival the secretary looked up. Her eyes first landed on Ace, which earned him an earnest smile before she caught sight of my mother and her face fell.
This was a common reaction whenever we were out in the real world with our mother.
"The De la Vegas?" she asked unnecessarily, seeing how she was completely aware of who we were.
My father – as per usual – took control of the conversation,"Yes, yes. I'm Andres De la Vega and this is my wife Constance. We are here to enroll our daughter as you are probably aware..."
The secretary's glance briefly swept over me, while she nodded her head eagerly.
"Of course, of course. I will inform Mr. Thompson right away. You may take a seat while you wait."
Ace had already taken up most of the elegant leather couch, before she had even spoken.
"Is there anything I can get you?" she asked with honest concern.
My mother smiled her award-winning smile at her while she declined. "No need to inconvenience you," she said breezily.
"Oh no," the secretary -the name plate on the counter said Mrs. Gerald – insisted,"It would be no trouble really."
Dad just waved her off, almost dismissively and she hurried to get word to the principals that a bunch of A-Lister were waiting for him.
Instead of sitting down with the rest of my family I strolled over to the window. The view from here was quiet beautiful. It showed the front side of campus from where we had just come. The parking lot took up quite a bit space, most of the cars being black SUVs with the school crest on it. There also were some high end luxury cars parked their, that I had noticed earlier – most likely belonging to students who insisted on having their cars shipped here. I knew Chazz car would have to be among them, since he drove Ace and himself to school after the summer break. I briefly wondered if I could convince my parents to ship my car over. Most likely not.
The park that we had driven through was really beautiful from up here. Someone had really put an effort into arranging the fauna in an aesthetically pleasing way.
I heard a door open followed by a deep male voice greeting us enthusiastically.
"The De la Vega family, always a pleasure," he sang.
"I don't know why you are making a face like your cat has died. This actually good news."
"I don't see how," I grumbled back in response to Drake's overt enthusiasm.
"Riiiight," he said and I could practically hear him rolling his eyes.
We were on our way back to the dorms. Gabe had left before us, complaining about how the staff had taken all his stuff out of the spare room and he now had to rearrange his 'atelier'. He had taken the girls with him, since they had seemed to eager to help him out. I suspected that they would do most of the work.
Drake and I had taken our time with returning to the dorms, making a lengthy stop in the dining hall to get some lunch.
"We could switch rooms, if it's too much trouble for you," Drake suggested.
"If you wanna live with Gabe," I said and shrugged.
He made a face. "I'd rather not."
I would have chuckled at his disgusted expression if it weren't for the appearance of a certain someone that made me consider spewing up my lunch instead.
He strolled casually toward us with his two loyal dogs trotting behind as always. Even if he made it look like a chance encounter, I knew for a fact that he had purposely searched us out – or rather just me.
"Ah look, I found it," he said loudly, confirming my suspicion and causing his followers to snicker like 5-year olds.
"Jeez, Milow," Drake groaned. "For the last time, I'm not going to help you find a girlfriend."
Milow scowled, not liking to be reminded of past incidents.
"That's not- Just shut up, okay?"
He had finally reached us and came to a meaningful stop, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
"Word around campus is, that you are the lucky one who got the girl as a roomie," he then addressed me.
"How did word get around?" I asked lamely, already suspecting Gabe.
"Oh well... The 'Prodigy twins' have been campaigning around campus for the last two weeks, looking for someone that wants to switch rooms with them or move in with you guys. Those two were basically trying to get her into their room, but since Leon..." he trailed off. He didn't need to elaborate. Everyone in our year knew that Leon Zavanella would rather die than give up his room – there had been an entire arc dedicated to that.
"Wait, wait, wait," Drake chimed up."The twins? Did you just say two weeks? How is that even possible, we only heard about this girl a couple of days ago? Hell, I haven't even signed my NDA yet."
Milow sneered at him. "Maybe you should read through it before you hand it off," he said, "Her name is in there."
While this seemed to be an interesting piece of information for Drake, I was really starting to get impatient.
Milow and I didn't talk unless to curse each other out, so this conversation had already been lasting too long when it started. Considering that, I decided to just leave them to it. There was no way that I would ever be caught happily exchanging gossip with Milow of all people.
I pushed passed him and his idiot friends, who had names but I didn't bother with them.
"Hey, where do you think you are going?" one of them grunted.
I didn't bother turning around whilst replying,"Somewhere I don't have to see your ugly faces."
With that I took off, without even glancing back at Drake, who did call something about me just waiting for a minute – as if.
I made my way back to my housing, hoping it wouldn't be too much going on in my room.
Then again, I didn't feel like getting in the middle of Gabe's rearrangements so when I reached the House instead of going to my room, I decided to hang out on the third floor for a bit.
Ace and I had just been kicked out of the principal's office and were slowly making our way back downstairs, when Chazz ran up to us yelling.
I was squeezed by him before I even had a chance to reply.
"So good to see you. You look as tiny and cute as ever," Chazz complimented me. He let go off me and I finally had a chance to actually look at him.
"You grew your hair?" I asked incredously. His formally semi-short black hair was now lazily hanging into his face, making him look like the cool kid in every High School movie ever made.
"You don't like it?" Chazz sounded actually disappointed. I appraised him more carefully.
Both of my brothers looked almost identical, which was a given as part of the triplet trio. Still as much as they looked alike, they didn't actually look like the same person. I guess that I could include myself into it as well. We all had the same features, yet each of us had a different face. Ace was more round and generally muscled than all of us, while Chazz had a softer face and was a bit leaner. We all shared the same golden sun-kissed tan -a mix of our fathers darker complexion and our mother's fair skin- and had the same thick black hair and almost matching eyes.
"I like it," I finally decided. "Makes you look even more like a pretty boy."
Ace snorted at that. "Told you," he muttered.
"Well, at least I'm pretty," Chazz shrugged. "Not everyone can be an ugly beef cake like you."
The bickering between the two of them continued all the way back down to the car.
Dad had given us the keys to take care of my luggage while our parents had a 'private conversation'. No doubt some kind of money exchange was involved in that conversation.
"So there is something real to talk about," Ace said. He had just heaved the last of my suitcases out the trunk. I cringed as I watched him carelessly drop it to the ground.
Chazz groaned in annoyance – his usual reaction when Ace started to get more serious.
"Do we have to do this now?" he asked. "Mila just got here."
"Exactly. We should maybe talk before word gets around that she has arrived."
He turned to look at me.
"We really did try to get into a dorm with you, believe me," he said, making a face. "It is pretty much impossible to get anyone around here to exchange rooms – especially two people at once."
I frowned at that. "Wouldn't you just have to ask your roommate to switch with me?"
Chazz laughed a humorless laugh. "Leon is an asshole," he said as if that was an explanation. "Also, most people don't really want to live with Gabriel Evans."
The disgusting feeling of anxiety was starting to settle in my stomach once again upon realizing that I would be left to room with two guys I didn't know – one of which was apparently not even that well-liked by his peers.
"Anyway," Ace said. "We all live in the Green House together, so we will be nearby if you need something."
I just nodded, not really feeling assured by this.
"The thing is," Ace continued. "That there is a cup going around."
"A cup?" I asked.
"Yeah," Chazz said. "It's a thing we do around here every now and then. Basically it's a bet that everyone can buy into and the winner takes all."
"A bet," I echoed.
"Don't be worried," Ace said whilst putting an arm around my shoulder. "We won't let anyone near you. I just thought you needed to know."
My mind was slowly wrapping around what had just been said. "You are saying that there is a bet going on which involves me?"
"Whoever gets the girl, gets the cup," Chazz clarified. "I heard the buy-in was fifty bucks – the cup has only been started yesterday, but I imagine that the price money is going to be a nice stack of cash."
I didn't respond. Not only was I the only girl in a place filled to the brim with teenage boys but there was also a price on my head – so to speak.
Great, this was really going to suck.