A/N: Chapter 4 up! Please read and review! Thanks and enjoy!
Chapter 004: The Prince of Lucien Heath
The news of my alleged assault on the new student in the academy had spread like wild fire.
Of course the news had morphed into several versions already once we got past fifth period. One account states I punched the student in the face from blocking my way. Another claimed that I stabbed the British student in the eye with a plastic knife. However, there were versions that were close to the truth such as one stating that I kicked the kid's jingle bells all the way back to the North Pole.
I had to admit, I sniggered when I heard that one.
No matter how varied the stories of the incident had been, two facts remained accurate – I was the violent villain. He was an innocent victim. These people had no idea that my action was with due reason and provocation. They just assumed that the Demon Lady has a knack for violence and that it was only natural that I would throw a fit from time to time. It probably didn't help that I did at one time push a student to the swimming pool just to get him out of my way. My behavior caused my notoriety and I made no effort to change the people's poor opinion of me.
I didn't dwell much on the left and right conversations that people whispered here and there. They didn't have much gut to confront me and ask me personally about what happened so they resorted to making up their own versions of the story.
To be truthful, I was happy not to see the British stranger anymore. In fact, I hoped I've seen the last of him. However, since he was now my schoolmate, chances were, I'd see more of him than I would ever dare to tolerate.
The rest of the day had passed by mundanely. I got an A for my essay in history class and another A for my Geometry quiz. I was pleased to get out of the suffocating confinement of the school building. So as soon as the bell rang to dismiss classes, I went straight to the women's locker and changed to my soccer uniform before heading to the field.
Once I arrived at the field, I saw from a distance the congregation of my teammates as they were warming up in a circular formation. I jogged my way excitedly towards them. When I reached them, they all turned my way with a sudden and awkward silence. Feeling the uncomfortable aura surrounding the atmosphere, I made the stupidest effort to break the ice.
"So, who knew cow fart was the main cause of global warming?" I stated cheerfully. "Fascinating discovery, right?"
Dana was the first one brave enough to approach me but not before urging the rest of the team to proceed with the exercise. I eyed my co-captain with amused inquisitiveness as I patiently waited for her to speak. By the way she looked so mortified I knew it was somewhat of a bad news.
"I'm sorry, Mage," she began with a sincere and apologetic voice. "You can't train with us today."
"What?" I automatically reacted, although at the back of my mind, I knew exactly that those were things she was going to say.
"Coach said –"
"Where's Coach Bynum?" I instantly asked, searching for our head coach.
"Right here, Mage," I heard a voice behind me say. I turned and saw Coach Bynum standing a few meters away from me with that mixture of reproachful and apologetic look on his face.
To be honest, the facial expression made him look like he had stomach flu. If I wasn't in a foul mood, I would have laughed.
"Coach, what's going on?" I asked accusingly as I strode towards him. "I know I'm suspended from competing but that doesn't mean I'm kicked out of the team."
"Mage…" he trailed on.
"Are you kicking me out of the team?" I finally asked what was on my mind.
"Oh, dear… Of course not, Mage," he blurted out defensively. "You're still a part of this team but…"
Coach Bynum could find the words to say again so I took it up to myself to force him to say something. "What? Enlighten me, coach!"
"We just need to re-strategize our game plan." Dana finally managed to intervene, fearing that I might pummel our very own coach if I wasn't satisfied with what he was going to say.
"Let's admit it, Mage. Majority of our game plans are focused on you leading the team as the forward while the rest of the team backs you up as you try to score as many goals as you can," my co-captain explained with blunt reasoning.
"And since I'm not going to be playing for a while…" I muttered cautiously, catching on to what my teammate had meant.
"We need a new game plan that for the most part, doesn't completely rely on your football skills. That is, if we intend to win any games at all why you're on suspension."
I turned my gaze towards Coach Bynum but he had only returned it with a slow nod of affirmation at Dana's claim. I have always known my own coach was scared witless of me but it seemed that the evidence was more concrete for the very first time by the way he never made an effort to take a closer step towards me. He was probably afraid I would kick him in the groin like how I did with that new student. I could not blame him for being cautious either. If I was the one whose balls are in danger of being knocked senseless, I probably wouldn't risk coming near myself as well.
Heaving I sigh, I managed to mutter, "I understand."
"Mage, I'm really sorry," Coach Bynum found his voice again. He placed a hand on my right shoulder and gave me a light squeeze before he walked away and the rest of the team huddled together without me.
Realizing that there was no point to linger on with my teammates, I decided to waste my time exercising rather than watch them train minus my involvement. I warmed up and stretched for a few minutes more before I started to brisk walk around the oval. After a while, I upped my pace and then kicked off to a moderate jog.
Lap after lap, I could feel the ache on my legs as I continued to push forward. I forgot to bring my mp3 player, which would have been helpful both as a pacemaker and a motivator as I ran, so I had nothing else to think about but the need to battle the urge to stop and rest.
I had no right to rest.
So after a quarter hour had passed, I've pushed beyond my threshold and regained control of my breathing. I still felt the strain on my legs, the heavy weight they were starting to burden me with and the tightness inside my chest. However, at that point, it didn't matter anymore. I was free from the chains of human exhaustion. I was unstoppable.
Or at least, I thought I was, until I saw Sebastian Lawrence seated on the bleachers while he had his arm draped over the lovable junior, Jessie Winters.
It also didn't help that he shot me that glance. That knowing glance as if he was challenging me and deliberately trying to hurt me.
"Asshole," I muttered to myself, although by the way I returned his glance with a deathly glare, I was certain he got the message.
Without even realizing it, I increased my pace from a moderate to a relatively faster jog. I felt the panging pain on my lower body again but I ignore it. Instead of making me surrender, the pain encouraged me to go even faster. After several laps, I wasn't just jogging anymore.
I was running… really, really fast. Almost to a full sprint.
My lungs were starting to struggle to keep up with my speed and the strenuous effort I was making to keep running. The muscles of my thighs were tightening and I knew that eventually, it would suddenly just stop working whether I wanted it to or not. But at that point, it didn't matter. All I knew was that I needed to keep running. So I upped my pace and went on a full sprint.
After five laps all under three minutes, I knew I was banking too much faith on my physical prowess. Even the greatest athlete in the world has a limit and I was just about to reach my own. Although my body wasn't going to hold out much longer, my mind's resolve remained indomitable.
So I ran and ran until ultimately, my legs finally gave out and I tripped and fell on the ground.
I grunted and sat up to observe the damage my fall had done on my knees and ankles. I was partly grateful that my ankle wasn't badly hurt other than the typical soreness. However, the gash on my right knee, the one that absorbed all the weight of my fall, was so horrendous I was lucky to be in so much pain or else I would have puked right there and then.
I've always been squeamish at the sight of blood. It's one of my few weaknesses.
I touched the wound and winced once I did. I stared at my bloodied index finger and I swear, I was just about to faint when I heard the loud rushing foot stops coming towards me.
Lo and behold, Sebastian Lawrence arrives in the nick of time.
"Shit, Mage. Are you alright?" Seb instantly asked me once he squatted down in front of me.
I didn't answer. In fact, I did my very best to forget that he was there in the first place. I have no logical reason why I wanted Seb to leave me alone when I obviously needed help. Well, I guess a young girl could lose her common sense sometimes.
I rolled over with my palms faced down against the pavement. Slowly, I pushed myself to stand up. I tried not to utter a sound but I was hissing in pain that I almost sounded like a slithering snake. Once I thought I was able to stand uprightly, I felt a strong pang of pain from my injury and stumbled to the ground again.
So… maybe it was beyond a little gash. I might have sprained my patella.
Great. Well, it's not like I'm going to be competing anytime soon. I tried convincing myself.
Seb made the gesture to aid me in my next attempt to stand but the moment I felt his fingertips brush against my left arm, I just snapped.
"Don't you fucking touch me!"
"Mage…" he made another effort to grasp my arm but I snatched my arm back. "Let me help you."
"I don't need your help," I retorted angrily. My efforts to be perpendicular to the Earth remained futile and it made me growl.
"Maybe Jessie Winters does," I added, sounding faux in my sincere voice.
Somehow, mustering the name of Seb's new girl gave me a newfound courage that made me temporarily forget about the pain I was feeling on my right knee. I successfully managed to stand up. Proud of myself, I took a step forward only to lose my balance again.
To the rescue, Sebastian Lawrence caught me in his arms tainted by the scent of Jessie Winters' overpowering floral scent. Oh, God. Now he smells like her, too.
"Mage, let me take you to the infirmary. Please."
I pried myself away from him and this time, I successfully managed to wake a few strides away from him. Even though I was majorly aware that he was following me the entire time, I pretended to remain unawares.
Finally, Seb grew impatient and intentionally blocked my path.
"Mage, listen. If this is about me and Jessie –"
"I know, I know." I waved him off passively. "There's nothing going on between the two of you. You guys are just friends. Ya-da… ya-da. Whatever."
"Bullshit!" I added just when I knew he was about to sigh in relief. "You and I know you were deliberately getting friendly with her to make me jealous. That's low, Seb, even for you."
"Well, are you?" he blurted out with almost as much fierceness as I spoke. "Are you jealous?"
"That's not the point I was trying to make," I tried to sidetrack him. I shoved past him before adding, "Never mind. I really don't have time for this."
Before I could reach enough distance to be out of his reach, Sebastian grabbed a hold of my left wrist. With our backs turned from each other, he commanded, "Make time."
"Not today," I answered to my surprise in a calm and feeble manner.
"Once I find the right words to say."
As soon as I gave an answer, I left. He knew best not to follow me anymore.
I woke up earlier than the usual time just so I could leave for school without my brothers' unpleasant company. I knew they were going to badger me again about my assaulting the new student and my brief encounter with Sebastian Lawrence the day before.
You'd think older brothers would have cooler things to do than keep updates on their little sister's social life.
Apparently, my brothers are too cool for cool. They don't have to do cool things to be popular. They already are. At least that was how Aiden rationalized it when I complained about their constant interest over the comings and goings of my life.
If there's one thing I learned about being the youngest, you never win an argument with the older kids especially if your parents aren't around to take your side.
I had an hour or so before class and I spent it hiding inside the library while reading '1984' by George Orwell. I started on the first page and hungrily reached a hundred and nine pages (I read relatively fast) when I realized I only had five minutes to get to my first class. I wasted no time since and sprinted my way to the Biology Lab.
Just when the bell was about to ring, I set foot inside the laboratory and smiled triumphantly to myself while panting. I made it.
Everyone was settled in their respective seats. I sat alone at the farthest desk. Since the term had started, I had always sat in this location. I had always come and done my experiments without a partner. I have always gone from this class by myself. No one wanted to talk to me. No one wanted anything to do with me and the feeling was mutual.
I took out my laboratory manual, wore the sanctioned attire and gears, and laid out my lab materials as our professor, Mrs. Steiner, had instructed. We were going to study a number slides over the microscope and identify the parts of a developing frog embryo. We were also supposed to make labeled sketches as well.
If I wasn't smart, I would've moaned just like the rest of the class. But I was and I did not.
Just when Mrs. Steiner was halfway done with her brief lecture regarding the topic for the day, the class was interrupted by a knock on the door. Even I, who is usually oblivious to those kinds of noise once I've engrossed myself into studying, snapped by head up once I heard that voice again.
"Good morning, Miss. Pardon me. Is this the Advanced Biology Laboratory Class?"
There he was again. The golden strands of that tousled, sexy bed hair of his looked particularly vibrant in the morning when rays of sunshine glows on it. He looked almost ethereal with the way his gray eyes glimmered from the fluorescent light's reflection. His moderately muscled physique empowered further by his confident countenance. And that smile! The way his lips curled slightly upward to cover his self-assurance with meek innocence.
He was so damn beautiful. I couldn't stand it.
Seriously, why did he have to be in my class?
I figured life was playing another joke on me. It has been constantly fond of doing that to me almost every day since I have been born. Maybe when I was a bit younger I would have laughed at the coincidence. But now, after all the jokes put against me, I've run out of humor. Even jokes can turn into tragedies.
I have learned that the hard way.
"You're the new student, right?" Mrs. Steiner's stoic expression suddenly sparked into life. "Mr. Heath!"
"Yes, I am," he replied again with that unassuming smile. He scratched the back of his head for added effect on his reluctance. It was a smart move.
"Well, then Mr. Heath, welcome to Advanced Biology Lab!"
"Everyone, meet, Mr. Heath. His name should no longer need introduction to all of you. His family owns this academy," our teacher chirped with a slight gesture of the head that psychically instructed us to clap our hands as a sign of warm welcome.
I didn't clap. He wasn't welcome. Not to me, anyway.
"Thank you," he said in a gracious tone with a light hand gesture. He did not seem to get tired of smiling. He must be well-rehearsed in the art of keeping faces.
"Please, call me Byron."
Mrs. Steiner is a forty-five year-old, happily married woman with three children. I didn't understand how someone considered so wise beyond her years in the academe would easily fall prey to the evil clutches of the charismatic teenage boy whose pair of gray eyes had just fallen on mine. He was smiling the whole time but I swear there was a micro-twitch that hinted something feral inside of him.
I do not trust this stranger. I told myself repeatedly.
"You may take your seat, Byron," Mrs. Steiner shifted into a slightly more formal cadence. "There are three more students here who don't have a partner. You can freely choose from them."
I felt a sudden surge of renewed relief. Although I was one of the three, I was fairly certain that the British stranger, named Byron, would choose the other two options over me. Other than the fact that I was the one who physically assaulted him the day before, he would probably want to partner up with the enamoring but superfluous Helga Sommers or the cocky yet unintelligent football player, Gave Carlisle. It seemed like the crowd he belonged with.
My therapist once told me that I had the tendency to judgmental. I told him it was easier than trying to figure people out.
I decided to just forget the whole thing and focus more on re-reading the instructions on my manual so that I could proceed to my work quickly. However, I was again interrupted from my speed-reading when in my peripheral vision I saw the new student took a seat next to mine.
"And so we meet again," he said cordially. He extended his right hand and introduced himself.
"Hi! I'm Byron Heath. I'll be your lab partner from now on."
I only eyed his hand suspiciously before turning my attention back to the manual I was reading. Skimming through it, I responded, "You can't sit here."
"Why can't I?" he asked, looking astounded.
"I prefer to work alone. Your participation will only prove to be cumbersome to my efficiency," I briefly explained in a formal and distant manner.
"I can help."
"It doesn't matter. Leave me alone," I muttered in a hushed yet threatening voice.
"What? You're going to assault my manhood again?" he replied, teasing. "You know, I haven't actually reported that. Maybe I should inform Mrs. Steiner right now."
I snorted at his weak attempt at threatening me. "Go ahead. See if I care."
He jerked back once he heard my reply. He did not expect me to call his bluff. I noticed him eyeing me with the kind of curiosity a child could only possess. Seeing that I wasn't flinching or secretly cowering, he relaxed again and smiled.
"Obviously, you really don't," he finally replied. He was about to add something more but hesitated for a moment. After heaving a sigh, he continued, "I won't interfere with your work, I swear."
If he went on with the smooth façade of his, I would have punched him. For the first time, I finally felt that he was saying something sincere. Something I could actually believe in.
"Whatever." And that was that.
The entire class stilled once everyone got to start working. Byron Heath still refused to leave my table but like he promised me, he stayed out of my way for the most part. He let me work my magic while he took his own notes (or at least, I assumed that was he was scribbling on his notebook). Twenty minutes before the allotted time of completion, I was done with everything. I couldn't submit my answers yet since Mrs. Steiner usually leaves us once we've started working and comes back when we're just about done.
She may not be a very good teacher, after all.
"Do you know what I find so funny?" he suddenly whispered the inquiry, making sure we do not disturb the rest of the class.
"We've become so familiar with each other in a matter of days," he began talking in his flowing British accent. "I mean, physically, with my kissing you and you kicking my… you know."
"What's your point?" I said, shuddering at the very memory of his lips touching mine at that dark alley.
"Yet we still haven't been formally introduced with each other."
"You're name is Byron Heath," I stated plainly. "You've just introduced yourself to the entire class a while ago."
"Well, what is your name?"
I snorted. Thinking fast with a comeback, I replied, "I go by many names, Mr. Heath. I'm not sure you'd want to know."
"Perhaps, a nickname?"
Byron Heath had waited patiently for me to respond although it was clear I had no intention of answering his question. Literally saved by the bell, Mrs. Steiner re-entered the lab and I stood up abruptly to submit my answer sheet and leave the class.
Of course, he was going to follow me. How could I not foresee that?
"It wouldn't be so bad to try and get to know each other, you know?" he told me once he caught up walking beside me. "We could be friends."
Hearing the word friends made me halt for a moment. Why would someone, whom I barely knew, want to be friends with me? Then it clicked, it was because he didn't know who I was and what it meant to be my friend. I realized that he was right. He needed to get to know me to realize that befriending me was impossible.
"Do you really want to know who I am?" I turned to him, making my dark brown eyes stare into his gray ones.
"Ask everybody else," I answered before walking away. "They'll tell you more than enough to convince you to stay the hell away from me."
"And if they can't?" He yelled since we were several meters apart already.
"Don't worry. They will."