"Then, taking his hand, the Moorman said to him as they fared forth together, 'O son of my brother, this day will I show thee a sight thou never sawest in all thy life..."
'Alaeddin; or The Wonderful Lamp', Arabian Nights
Fridays were always a violent bustle of bodies, rushing to get the day over with, so that they could start on the weekend. People were already tagging the school grounds and making out in every corner. With the scent of summer waning in the air, everyone was high, agitated, horny or all of the above.
But that's high school.
Rhiannon groaned at the sight of the ever-so-peppy cheerleading squad in front of her locker, magnetising jocks like moths to a very blonde flame. The last thing she needed was a backlash from the cheerleaders if she interrupted their flirting.
She was practically invisible as it was.
She cranked her iPod all the way up, and drowned out all the noise around her. Face Down by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus caressed her eardrums, as Rhiannon squirmed through the crowd to her locker.
Rhiannon lost herself in the familiar lyrics, her hands aching to play the chords. She was almost to her locker when her feet fell from under her.
"Oops, sorry. Didn't see you there, loser." Allegra Hart, cheerleading captain to the Newford Scorpions hissed at Rhiannon in all her blonde haired, blue eyed glory.
Rhiannon really didn't understand what Allegra's problem was, but Allegra seemed to notice her despite her apparent invisibility. Of course, Allegra took it out on Rhiannon in the form of humiliation whenever possible.
There was a reason why everyone called her the Wicked Bitch of Newford, after all.
Rhiannon's earphones fell out and she could hear a few kids snicker as she brushed herself off. She blushed but Rhiannon refused to look anyone in the eyes. Allegra and her cheerleading squad laughed in unison and she couldn't help feeling it was about her.
Rhiannon sighed. It was only the start of the day.
She tied her long, straight brown hair into a messy knot chucking all the stuff she didn't need into her locker. Rhiannon slammed the locker shut, with a loud metallic bang, drawing the attention of a few people around the hall.
Her dark eyes flashed with anger but it was mostly directed at herself.
Suddenly it went dark and she could feel cool hands cover her eyes.
"Ree, don't you think that's a tad too harsh? I mean what did that poor locker ever do to you? By the way, guess who?"
"Deidre, you can let go of me now."
"All wrong, I'm Marilyn Monroe. I can't believe you don't remember me, Rhiannon Louisa Graceling." Deidre kept her hands over Rhiannon's eyes, amusement tickling her tone as she said Rhiannon's full name.
"Let go of me, Marilyn!" Deidre chuckled, as Rhiannon tried to struggle out of her grip.
"Stop Ree! Everyone'll think I'm kidnapping you or something."
"How's my locker in any way your concern? Let go of me, crazy child that I've never met before. " Rhiannon shouted in false protest. Deidre finally turned her around, hands on hips. Her face was a picture of absolute mortification.
"Excuse me? Did you just call me crazy? We prefer the term Mentally Unstable, thank you very much ma'am." Rhiannon just beamed at her friend.
Deidre was about five foot four just like Rhiannon.
But that's where their similarities stopped.
Deidre had a lot more curves on her gloriously tanned body and golden blonde hair that she layered short. She was more hardcore, than the cheerleaders and had the fashion sense of a god. Deidre always agreed to let Rhiannon use her clothes if she ever needed them.
Rhiannon was slender with soft curves, clear milky white skin and long brown hair with traces of black. She grew a little envious of Deidre's golden looks at times but she was comfortable in her own skin.
Rhiannon wasn't nearly as loud as Deidre was. She preferred to express herself through her music than with anything else.
Deidre was the type of person that could brighten up your day no matter the situation and Rhiannon loved her for it.
"Hey! Don't look at me like that, Ree. You always make me feel like I'm doing something impressive and we both know I'm already big-headed. So tone down the admiration for my perfection already, okay?" Deidre shook her head at Rhiannon, fondly.
"The whole fact that you can see me is pretty impressive, I have to admit. But I have to disagree you don't have a big head." Rhiannon gave Deidre a look, a mischievous glint in her eye.
"Why thank you, honey. I always knew someone would –"
Rhiannon quickly interrupted her. "No, you have a huge head."
Deidre slapped Rhiannon faintly on the arm, before stroking her imaginary beard. Rhiannon nearly fell over laughing.
"I'm surprised my huge head fits in the hallway myself, with all the wit and intelligence it obviously has. I mean my careless charm and charisma notwithstanding, this huge head comes in handy you know."
Deidre was everything that made up Rhiannon's best friend.
The bell rang above them and Deidre rolled her big hazel eyes to the heavens.
"Meet you at lunch, and we can discuss what we're doing this weekend." Deidre gave Rhiannon a wink before rushing off to first period, her black designer jeans and ballet flats standing out in the sea of miniskirts and strappy stilettos.
Without Deidre's hyper, high energy, Rhiannon lost her buzz. The beginning of her day started to weigh on her again.
Rhiannon wandered straight to double period music class and took her favourite guitar to the back of the room. Mr. Carson was the laid back sort of teacher who didn't care what his class did as long as they were keeping out of his face.
With one hand Rhiannon reached into her bag for her pick, blindly looking for it as she searched through her playlist for something to play.
She watched helplessly as her bag toppled over and cursed under her breath. She really didn't need this.
Rhiannon hurriedly tried to get everything into her bag, swearing like a sailor when she pricked her finger on her utility knife. Tears threatened to overflow, she thought about how badly the day had started.
It was definitely a sign.
Her vision started to blur and she attempted to blink away her tears.
"Here, let me help." A gentle, masculine voice offered.
Rhiannon felt a shot of electricity pass through her as his hand brushed hers. The voice was like poisoned honey, all at once sweet and dangerous.
He managed to get everything into her bag in a matter of seconds and Rhiannon felt even stupider. She wished desperately that there was nothing embarrassing in her bag.
She stared at the floor, refusing to meet his eyes or even look at him.
"Thank you." Rhiannon mumbled, getting up still looking at the floor as if its greying greyness was all of a sudden extremely interesting. She was used to being invisible, handling attention wasn't her forte.
Rhiannon sat back in her chair.
She strummed her feelings into the notes. Rhiannon tried to understand herself a little better, to understand this constant muddle of feelings that controlled her every action.
Her strumming grew wilder, her pick making an appearance as Rhiannon poured her heart and soul into the notes. She didn't know the song she played but it was as if she was playing a melody that revealed everything inside her.
Rhiannon knew that the notes spoke, some strange magical language that she couldn't even begin to understand. Her hands danced over the guitar, filling the room with her irritation, her jealousy and her want.
She vaguely remembered where she was and let her fingers calmly end their frantic playing. Placing her pick in her pocket, she strummed along to Baby Blue Eyes by A Rocket To The Moon singing silently to herself.
"That was amazing." It was the same poison honey voice as before. She looked up and couldn't help but stare.
He wasn't just handsome.
He was drop dead gorgeous, all five foot ten of him. His blue-black hair was completely careless and windswept, tanned clear skin was pulled tight over leanly muscled arms and his eyes were the most amazing surreal blue that Rhiannon would gladly drown in them. His lips were those of a poet's full, emotional and thoroughly engaging.
He was dressed in a white business shirt that he had rolled up to reveal his strong forearms, a skinny red tie, black jeans and Doc Martins. Rhiannon couldn't help but admire his dark beauty, and a pang at the fact that he would no doubt forget her as soon as he realised what a nobody she was.
Rhiannon pinched herself, as she realised she was staring like an idiot. "Um... thanks."
Rhiannon felt like hitting herself. That was probably the most drawn out 'um' in the history of 'ums'. She gave him a weak smile, as he gracefully took the seat next to her, stretching out his long legs.
"I think you're really good, I'm sure a lot of other people would think so too. You have real talent." He sat back.
He was completely comfortable, oblivious to the fact that his knee was bumping against Rhiannon's leg. Or the fact that her insides were turning into mush. Rhiannon was glad that he couldn't read her mind.
Rhiannon squirmed in her chair, struggling to remain calm. She pulled her legs away from his and she managed to clear her head a little.
"Thanks but I know how good I am, and that's not at all. I would really appreciate it if when you praise my work to at least be honest and not go petting my ego." Rhiannon snapped, immediately regretting it. Just because she was having a bad day, didn't mean she had to pass the vibes on.
She played nervously with the strings of her guitar.
Music was a part of her soul but there were hundreds maybe thousands of people more gifted than she was. Rhiannon was sure she'd never make it in the real world. There were people out there with not only natural gift but technique and years of experience.
Catching the note of sadness in her voice, he looked at her, truly looked at her. His eyes focused and took her all in.
She wore ruby red high tops, denim skinny jeans and a black blouse. Rhiannon covered herself with her guitar, feeling oddly self-conscious. He took a long, lingering look at her before reaching her eyes again and she could almost feel the power of his eyes.
Rhiannon noticed the amazing colour of his eyes once more, and couldn't help but stare dumbly into them. She shook her head.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you." He reached for her hand to comfort her, but she drew away from his touch.
"I'm not upset, okay? I'm not really used to people noticing me, let alone praising my work. I'm just a little, off balance that's all."
"So I unbalance you?" She could hear the smile in his voice and Rhiannon couldn't help but allow a little smile in return.
"You don't really expect me to answer that do you?"
"I'm being awfully rude aren't I? I'm Hunter, Kian Hunter. And you are?" Kian's eyes buried into hers, and Rhiannon could feel them burn into her memory.
"I'm Rhiannon Graceling, pleasure to meet you." She held out her hand for a handshake. Kian casually took it and planted a light kiss on the back of her hand. Rhiannon felt electricity pulse all the way to her toes and she curled them in pleasure.
She blushed as Kian took another long look at her, almost knocking her off her chair with a dazzling smile.
"The pleasure is all mine, I assure you. Did you know you smell irresistibly of cinnamon?" Kian laughed, amusement playing freely in his voice.
The bell rang for lunch and Rhiannon cursed the clock. Now she would have to introduce Kian to Deidre and Rhiannon didn't like that one bit. She relished the thought that Kian belonged only to her, even for a few more minutes more.
"So why come today? Not that it's a bad thing that you came, but why did you decide to start school on the last day of the week?" Rhiannon hedged mentally face palming herself as they stood in line for lunch.
Kian simply smiled, and Rhiannon found she didn't like that smile at all. It was false, an impostor and she never wanted him to smile like that again.
"You know. The usual."
"I doubt anything about you is 'the usual'. Unless you don't want to talk about it, that is. It's fine if you don't, it's none of my business anyway and –" She rambled, looking at him through the corner of her eye.
"My mum got remarried to a total... um... guy. I ended up gaining a step-sister who insisted I get to know the people around here, thus the torture of being new on a Friday." Kian gave her another one of his long searching looks, before adding. "But I have to admit this day has its bright side."
Rhiannon blushed, not sure what to think about anything. Someone knocked into her from behind, pushing her into Kian and she couldn't help but blush even redder if that was even possible.
"Rhiannon, I believe that girl wants your attention." Kian whispered into her ear over the den of noise. She liked the way he said her name it felt like part of a song, the way it rolled off his tongue. Rhiannon felt warm all over, honey dripping deliciously over her consciousness.
She barely noticed that Deidre was waving frantically, trying to gain her attention.
Deidre tired of waiting, walked up to them. She threw Kian her most devastating smile and Rhiannon cringed within herself. Deidre was beautiful when she was careless. But when she actually tried, calling her beautiful was like calling hell, a sauna.
"Ree, would you care to introduce us?" Deidre purred in her sweetest voice, putting her big hazel eyes to good use. She looked at Rhiannon for but a second, urging her to speak.
"Um, Kian this is Deidre Stone. Deidre this is Kian Hunter." Rhiannon rushed, gesturing awkwardly between them.
"Kian – Deidre rolled it on her tongue, tasting it - It sounds so dangerously unique. I find I quite like danger, in fact I love it." Deidre holding her hand out like a lady bestowing her favour and Rhiannon felt a spark of anger burning within her.
Rhiannon held her hands at her sides. She didn't understand this jealousy and resentment she felt towards her friend, all over a guy she hardly knew.
"Thank you. Deidre was it?" Kian shook Deidre's hand.
Rhiannon found herself letting out a relieved breath. She hadn't realised she was holding it in the first place. She couldn't help her satisfied smile at the fact that Kian didn't react in the way most boys would around blonde bombshell Deidre.
Kian was utterly amazing, and Rhiannon knew there had to be something wrong with him. No human boy was this perfect.
Rhiannon turned around, to fetch not only her lunch but Kian's. But when she tried to pay for it all, Kian placed a fifty into the lunch lady's hand, turning away again as if he didn't expect any change.
At least she was pretty sure it was a fifty.
Rhiannon walked to the nearest empty table, bringing the lunch along with her.
"I think Rhiannon fits you better." Kian murmured into her ear, reaching around her to get a cola off the tray. His arm scraped her waist. She couldn't help the warmth that trickled down her spine. Kian was so close that Rhiannon could smell him and he smelled wonderfully of fire and coffee.
"Fits better than what?" Rhiannon demanded breathily, and she realised how dreamy she sounded.
"Ree." He replied, sitting next to her.
Deidre walked past Rhiannon, patting her shoulder and leaning to her ear. "I call dibs on this one, babe. He wouldn't be interested in you anyway." She whispered harshly, before smiling sweetly at Kian under her falsely thick lashes.
Rhiannon couldn't help but feel that Deidre was right. No matter what Rhiannon did, Deidre would always get the guy. It was just something Rhiannon had to get used to.
"So do you happen to have a girlfriend? If you don't, you do know someone as delectable as you should have one? And I personally know someone who would enjoy the experience." Deidre winked at him. Rhiannon couldn't help but feel shocked at how blunt she was, even for Deidre.
But she guessed guys liked that. She played around with her food on the plate, refusing to look at either of them lest she do something stupid like talk.
"I'm afraid relationships with me don't really last too long. So no to both questions, though I appreciate the thought." Kian answered seriously, giving Deidre the once over before shrugging nonchalantly.
Rhiannon wished that Deidre would just leave him alone, it wasn't like it was any of Deidre's business if or who he dated.
"Ok, mystery boy. Do you like cupcakes?" Deidre asked her face a picture of serenity and seriousness.
"Deidre, you're such a completely lost child. I swear I have no idea what to do with you sometimes." Rhiannon would've laughed if she wasn't slightly annoyed at her best friend at the moment.
Kian replied just as seriously.
"Afraid not. They're just too artificially sweet for my taste, I prefer spices. You know mint, cinnamon, nutmeg and all that. I find I prefer cinnamon, especially." He stared at Rhiannon as he said cinnamon, his bright blue eyes darkening. Rhiannon stared back. He was not at all what she expected.
And she found she liked it.
"Does that mean you're a fan of the Spice Girls? If you are I'm afraid I'm going to have to throw you out of the group, understand me?" Deidre threatened, half-heartedly.
"Uh oh. Don't tell me I've been found out already? My secret shame is out. How will I ever survive when this comes out?" He chuckled, seemingly wounded. Kian held his hand to his chest.
"Don't worry you're dirty little secret is safe with us." Rhiannon smiled, after swallowing a bite of her sandwich. Kian reached over and gently pressed his fingers to the corner of her mouth, cupping her chin for a moment too long.
"You had something on your lip." Kian explained, jerking back his hand as if he had been burnt.
Rhiannon almost died, touching her had repulsed him. What was worse was Rhiannon could still feel the place where his touch had scorched her skin and her skin ached for his touch again.
"It wasn't little either, it was a massive blob of mayo." Deidre clipped, wanting to have centre stage once again.
The magic broken, Kian looked back to Deidre as she asked question after question. Rhiannon stopped listening and found her thoughts straying to this weekend. She had to spend it, looking after her grandmother while Deidre went out and broke hearts.
Life wasn't any fair.
"...Seeing anyone?" Rhiannon immediately jumped out of her skin, as she realised Kian was addressing her.
Rhiannon smiled carefully, before delivering an intelligent. "What?"
"Told you she wasn't listening, she does that a lot you know. Doesn't pay attention to a word of what you're saying most of the time, but that's why you know it's safe to tell her your secrets." Deidre flashed Kian a smile.
"But that's why you love me." Rhiannon supplied.
"Yeah, that's why I love you babe." Deidre grinned and she was Deidre again, the friend who actually cared about her and not a harsh boy-crazy flirt.
"I asked if you happened to be seeing anyone." Kian inquired cautiously, looking at her with those deeply blue eyes that seemed to be bottomless. Rhiannon felt like she would faint right there and then, like some kind of damsel in distress.
"Rhiannon? As if! Even if guys actually noticed her, she's too serious about her music to ever notice them back." Deidre snorted, before turning to Kian again.
Rhiannon watched as Kian's face dropped a little but that could easily have been her imagination. Guys didn't choose girls like her over girls like Deidre or even the likes of Allegra Hart.
Rhiannon never noticed how low her friend's neckline was until then, and Deidre seemed to have no problem leaning over the table and flashing Kian her lacy black bra.
Rhiannon rolled her eyes.
"Hey, look girls it's the loser. I can't believe that she's actually got the nerve to sit at our table." Allegra glared at Rhiannon, until her big baby blues were merely slits.
"Speak of the devil..." Rhiannon muttered under her breath.
Allegra was about to drag Rhiannon off the chair when Kian stood up and glared daggers at the Wicked Bitch of Newford. Rhiannon would've dragged him down and made him sit.
If she wasn't absolutely sure he'd just stand again.
"Uh, Kian this is –" Rhiannon started.
"I know who he is, you twit. I met him way before you did. In fact Kian and I go way back. Don't we, Kian?" Allegra boasted smugly, one hot pink finger nail tapping him on the chest. Kian seemed to tense under her touch and whether it was from desire or anger Rhiannon didn't know.
"Unfortunately yes, but that gives you no right to call Rhiannon a loser. She deserves as much respect as everyone else does." Kian snarled, his honey voice turned to pure venom. His blue gaze growing glacial.
"Guess what Allegra? It's obvious he prefers our company to yours now. So you can just go piss off." Deidre growled.
They're like two bitches fighting over a dog, Rhiannon thought. Rhiannon held her breath a second as Allegra's entire body seemed to tense, ready for attack. The venom that Allegra was shooting her way was amazing, considering that Rhiannon had said next to nothing.
Kian struggled to stay by her side.
"Get lost Daphne, I didn't ask you to interrupt did I?" Allegra waved her away. Deidre hands fisted at her sides, anger flashing in her eyes as she looked Allegra up and down. Rhiannon knew Deidre thought she could take Allegra on, even if it meant a suspension.
"It's Deidre. Deidre, not Daphne you stuck up little –"
Rhiannon grasped Deidre's hand, and shook her head at her friend. Deidre took long, deep breaths before settling to glaring icily at Allegra. Rhiannon kept one hand on her friend's shoulder just in case.
"Kian, c'mon these two are total losers anyway. Come hang out with the people who actually have lives." Allegra smiled, grabbing Kian's hand in hers pulling him towards the table of jocks and cheerleaders.
"Stop, jeez Allegra could you give it a rest. What the hell is your problem anyway? Rhiannon is not a loser nor is Deidre why can't you just be nice, instead of being this spoiled brat?" Kian challenged, standing his ground.
Deidre applauded heartily, laughing as the cheer squad glared at her in unison. She held up her hands in mock surrender, before flipping them off, smirking at every single one of them. Deidre looked at all of them one at a time and enjoyed their absolute mortification.
Rhiannon just watched as the gorgeous boy, who was so new to this place practically tear his chances at popularity to shreds.
"For God's sake, Kian. Don't you see what a total loser she is? She's invisible at this school, and you know why? Because I don't notice her, so no one dares to notice her except for little Daphne over there. She's an unknown and doesn't deserve the attention of my stepbrother. Unless you want to be labelled a loser for the rest of your high school life that is. I will not allow it, not at my school." Allegra said in a low voice, every word pierced Rhiannon's heart.
"You messed up –" Kian began.
"She's right." Rhiannon told him, touching his arm. She ignored the heat she felt radiating from Kian's skin, ignored the look of betrayal in his eyes. Rhiannon met his eyes and pleaded with him to agree with her.
"She's right, Kian. Go. You shouldn't ruin your chances of actually having a happy high school life because of Deidre or... me." She swallowed down the last word, looking between Kian and Allegra. Allegra smiled haughtily in triumph whereas Kian blinked, confused.
"I don't need popularity Rhiannon, I've had it and –"
Rhiannon cut him short again. "You say that now, but someday you'll want to be seen and I'd rather not be at fault."
"Rhiannon come on, be reasonable."
"What part of piss off don't you get Kian? I don't want you around alright. Sure I liked talking to someone in music, but you can leave me alone now. I don't need you to screw up the way things are around here alright." Rhiannon said coldly, hoping her lies seemed believable.
Someday he would thank her for this, for not having to be labelled a loser for the sake of two people he barely knew.
"Let's go Kian. You've got so many important people to meet. Let me assure you they're all dying to meet you." Allegra put hands on Kian and Rhiannon stopped watching.
She took a seat, groaning to herself. She pictured Kian being happily led to a dozen ditzy blonde bimbos and her lips press into a grim line.
"Why'd you do that for?" Deidre demanded, on the verge of shaking Rhiannon of her craziness. Rhiannon merely stayed quiet, waiting for the bell to ring.
"Sometimes I wonder how you turned into such a freaking ice queen." Deidre mumbled, pulling her hair into pigtails.
Rhiannon closed her eyes to Deidre's whining. She couldn't comprehend the strange foreboding in her stomach, but it deepened with every step that Kian took.