{Hello, everyone! This is the newest edited version of my work. I apologize if for some reason, it's worse. Haha! Please review and tell me what you think!}

"Blaze of Fire"

**Chapter one**
-The beginning

Haley pulled out a cigarette and lit it up. A tendril of soft smoke twirled in the sky, making me scrunch my nose up in disgust. She trained a dark brown eye on me and sighed dramatically, blowing smoke from her nostrils.

"What?" she asked in a flat tone. Her hair, a chocolate brown, was tied back in a loose braid slung over her shoulder. With studded bracelets and a pierced lip, she gave me a look of mischievous amusement.

I pretended to be cross and placed both hands on my hips. "How dare you smoke on school property when there is a sign obviously stating otherwise? Hayley Jordan, you make one messed up role-model for us younger folk."

Hayley choked laughter, rolling her eyes and handing me a cigarette. "You're kidding, right? It's not like ditching school was your idea. Anyway, here. Take one. I got my allowance yesterday and bought a bunch."

I picked up the cigarette and tried to throw it through the fence holes. "As if! You know how much I hate the smell. It's disgusting." Waving a hand in front of my face, I strained to fan the smoke away as Hayley blew it at me with a grin.

"You are such a wimp. It's really no big deal! Just breathe," she began, demonstrating. "And release. Totally awesome."

"Yep, lung cancer in a stick. Love it," I muttered.

Hayley was about to joke some response when her eyes went wide and she stopped, spitting the cigarette out of her mouth quickly. I turned, wondering what had spooked her and gasped. Mr. Darkwood appeared in front of me like an uninvited guest, scowling through small glasses. His face was pinched in anger and a bright red vein popped out of his forehead. My jaw dropped.

"Riley Jonnie Carmen! You—you—you . . . . Delinquent! What are you doing skipping school again? I talked to you about this already! This is the fourth time, young lady! And smoking?!" he shouted. I just leaned back a little and raised a hesitant eyebrow. It was something I did without even thinking and I could see my stupid math teacher get even angrier because of it. His hands balled into fists and his face turned an even brighter red. Somewhere, deep down, I began to actually fear a punishment. But just as quickly as the feeling came, I discarded it easily.

"Hey, hey, hey. Hold your horses, Larry; I was just looking for a restroom. A girl's gotta pee, you know?" I replied, using the repeated excuse once again. But the look Mr. Darkwood gave me didn't falter. He absolutely hated it when students, like me, called him by his first name. But at the moment, he didn't even address that.

"Outside?!" he raged instead.

Crap, I thought, mentally kicking myself in the face. I really didn't think that one through.

"Excuse me, Mr. Darkwood?" Hayley asked in a little girl's voice. "Riley and I were just looking to get some fresh air, honest! We learned our lesson the last time we played hooky. My head was just hurting real bad; I swear."

Mr. Darkwood shifted his angry eyes towards me again, as if silently asking me if what Hayley had said was true, for some apparent reason. I managed to shrug and nod at the same time.

"It's true, La—Mr. Darkwood," I mumbled, staring at the ground. He let out a large huffy breath and grabbed both our wrists, pulling us back towards the school entrance. I stifled a groan. Stupid teacher was probably going to call my parents! Of course they would be pleasantly surprised to find out that I was playing hooky again. They had far too much fun punishing me the last time.

Mr. Darkwood cleared his throat. "You guys are coming with me. Hayley, I'm taking you to the nurse's office and Riley, you're going to pay the teachers' lounge a visit," he snarled.

I stopped dead, feeling Mr. Darkwood try to yank me along. The teacher's lounge. A tiny little room with one barred window and a couch that could probably be classified as rock. Basically, it was just a holding cell for kids that needed further punishments because the principal's office wasn't any bigger than a closet. Honestly, this was possibly the worst punishment a girl could get. A stuffy old teacher's lounge with a side of extra homework and detention. Wonderful.

Hayley gave me a solemn look, shaking her head. She knew what I was in for by going to the teachers' lounge. She and I both heard the rumors about the haunted supply closet and all.

Spinning in a whirlwind of hair, Hayley looked over at me again and made a punching motion with her free hand, mouthing, "You hold him, I'll punch." I laughed uncertainly, but Mr. Darkwood took my laughter way differently.

"Why you little . . . . So? You think it's funny going to detention, huh?" he asked. I immediately shook my head, my eyes widening.

"Well then, consider this the punch line." He pushed me into the teachers' lounge and locked the door behind me.

"Wait!" I ran to the door and heard their footsteps stop. "I have a lawyer, you know! I'm sure this is legally torture!" I shouted through the door. Mr. Darkwood just laughed. I cringed at the sound. It was like he had just recently swallowed a bunch of nails and was trying to cough them up. Might as well shove glass down my ear.

"You are very funny, Miss Carmen—"

"Riley, it'll be okay. I'll figure this out. I promise," Hayley shouted from outside. Her words caused a brief slimmer of hope in my heart. That was, until I turned around and saw the room. All brief happiness was next squashed, stomped on, detonated and ultimately just destroyed.

I sat down on the rock-hard couch, crossing my arms angrily. Stupid Larry. I really hated that guy. So, instead, I pictured Hayley going to the nurse's office and stealing a lollipop like I knew she would. Great. What was I supposed to do now? And even worse, now I wanted a lollipop.

My first plan of action was obviously an escape plan. Of course, the windows were barred, the door was locked from the outside and the walls were much too hard to punch. Although, the thought of me literally breaking out was pretty awesome.

I clamped my hands down on the barred window, shaking and growling, wishing for some superhuman strength. It never happened and I slumped back down to the floor, sighing in defeat.

"Darn," I cursed. Next, I tried the door, but it was just as useless a plan as breaking through the walls. As of that moment, there was nothing I could do except sit and stare at an empty water cooler. Yep, I was having such a dashing afternoon.

With a sigh, I looked down at my watch. God, it had only been three and a half minutes. Thirty seconds later, I checked my watch again. Four minutes. Why did time have to go by so slow? Couldn't Larry just talk to the dang principal and have my parents come and pick me up already? Suspension was my next punishment anyway; not jail. This sucked.

For a little bit, all I did was toy with my ginger hair. I braided a strand, fishtailed a strand. I even pretended to cut a strand. Frowning, I counted each of my freckles on my cheeks in a dusty mirror nailed to the wall. And then I just stared at myself, wishing my eyes would magically turn green instead of blue. I hated my wide bright blue eyes. Even a dark blue, I would settle with. At least then, they wouldn't stick out like water in a desert. And even my clothes; a plaid red skit, pristine white shirt, and bright red tie, stuck out like a sore thumb. I had knee socks on. Freakin' white knee socks. This school was horrible.

As five more minutes rolled by, my mind wavered to the story of the haunted supply closet. Hayley had told me about it a couple months ago. Supposedly, a long time ago, a kid had gone in there and disappeared. Never to be seen again. I thought the person's name started with an 'A,' but I couldn't remember. All I knew was that it was time for me to check it out. Any escape was still an escape.

With a flick of my wrist, I had opened the door and hesitantly peered inside. It was surprisingly a lot bigger than I had first expected, with boxes stacked up onto each other, holding mysterious things that I couldn't yet see. Most likely pencils and notebooks, but I looked around in them anyway. I hadn't been wrong. They were filled to the brim with pencils, notebooks and dry erase boards. So far, the adventure was turning out to be something rather dull, so I planted my foot on one of the lower boxes and pulled myself up, climbing like a monkey.

"I am Riley Jonnie Carmen Antoinette," I said in a whisper. "Ruler of everything the world could ever offer." Closing my eyes, I imagined me in a huge intricate dress with beads and pearls and diamonds, holding a scepter in my right hand and feeling higher than life. My hair was up in an extravagant curls and I smiled, confidence surrounding me like a cloud. No one could touch me. I was powerful and in charge. No one would ever tell me no again. I would travel the seas like a madwoman, searching for treasure, beautiful land and riches. I would write about my adventures and people would love my stories, remembering me as a God, and not an outsider. Just because I decided to break the rules and try to be different, didn't mean I was weird. It just meant that I wasn't a civilized dog, following commands and doing what I was told.

In that moment, I felt a bit better. Even happier than I did only minutes ago. I climbed higher, stepping on boxes that soon left me only a few feet from the ceiling. One last box to go and I was sitting at the top of the world, looking down on everyone else with an air of superiority. I was a God just then. Well, until I attempted to step on the last box. Instead of it being filled to the brim with pencils, notebooks and dry erase boards, this one was empty. My foot went straight through the box, hitting the bottom with a thud of crunching cardboard. My knee over-extended and I cried out in pain, falling forwards as if in slow motion. I still remember that last thought clear as day. My life didn't flash before my eyes like everyone else would say in a movie. I was just purely annoyed. This was like, just the thing to happen to me. Of course the last box was empty, sending me falling forward, face first down the other side of the pyramid of boxes. Why had I ever thought otherwise?

"Crap," I cursed.

By the time I reached the bottom of the pyramid, I had bruised almost every bone in my body, even receiving a few cuts, too. Great, what was I going to tell the principal now? "Oh, sorry! I look like I was mauled by a bear because I tripped on a box. It's cool; I have this kind of luck all the time." That would have to do for the time being.

"Uhhg, God." I placed a hand down on one of the boxes to steady myself. My head ached and . . . . Well, pretty much the rest of my body did, too. What the heck was I thinking? Now I would have to climb all the way back up the pyramid of boxes to get to the other side, where the door was. I sighed and leaned back against the wall in defeat, envisioning my funeral if the teachers ever found me back there. That's when a little keyhole on the wall to my right caught my attention. I tried to peer through it, but it was too small. Good thing I always carried around my trusty paper clip! Getting out of bad situations was kind of like my thing.

After a few failed attempts, I stopped. The keyhole was bound and determined to not cooperate. By now, though, I really didn't care. My urge for adventure had gone away half way down the fall, along with my dignity. It was beyond time to leave.

"Okay, let's just get the heck out of here," I told myself. By that point, it was the only thing keeping me going. The hope of principal Lenner finding me and sending me home.

Finally, when I reached the top again, I flipped the crushed box off, just for kicks. Even when it was all smashed and ripped up from my foot, it still looked kind of smug. I guess that's what I got for day dreaming of stupid things. That thought suddenly stung. But I pushed it away and prevailed.

Painfully, I placed my hand down on the crushed box, using it to help me to the top, when I felt something cold. A shiver immediately travelled through my body, making me gasp. What the heck was that?

Ever so carefully, I lifted up one of the flaps and peered inside. Under all the smashed cardboard was a rusty metal key about the size of my thumb nail. It was so tiny, for a second, I just stared at it, completely in awe. It was freaking adorable!

Then it occurred to me. This had to be the key for that little keyhole in the wall! I had actually found it!

"Thanks smashed box, I love you!" I cried and basically slid down the boxes to the ground again. This was probably the single most awesome thing that had ever happened in my life. I had actually found a secret door. Maybe it would lead me to a bunch of people claiming to be my parents while trying to get me to sew buttons to my eyes? That would be so cool. Or maybe, it would lead me to a secret world where I would become queen and fight weird creatures and snow witches. That, or lead me to a white rabbit. Either one of those options would do. Preferably the latter, though.

With a click, the lock turned in the hole. A smile crossed over my lips as I tugged on the key, hoping to open the door. It wasn't hard; I just had to pull it open through a few layers of extra paint that covered it. Easy-peasy.

Dust flew up into the air as I yanked it open. I sneezed and coughed, trying to wave away the poof of dust bunnies as they ran down my throat. When it all finally cleared, I was staring into darkness. The door was probably only a few feet wide and a few feet tall, so I had to get down on my hands and knees to gaze inside. Wow, I couldn't believe what I was seeing! It was a treasure chest! I had finally found buried treasure!

"Heck, yeah!" I cried. Ignoring the pain in my arms, I grabbed the chest and pulled it through the little door. So, it wasn't a Wonderland or a secret land filled with centaurs and such or an alternate universe, but who cared? I had found treasure. I was frickin' rich.

"Come to mama, treasure," I whispered and I opened the box. . . . Books. Books?! Books. Old, dusty . . . . Books. My heart sank to the lowest low, enough so, that I felt like just leaping off the remaining boxes. But then, I realized how much possible money I could make from selling them online. Maybe those babies were worth something! I was certain old books like these could easily score in some bucks.

"What have we here?" I pulled out one of the books and blew dust off of it. It was a bible. I had no use for it, but people loved those things. Money and were suddenly coming to mind.

The next book was a dictionary, an old one. I took a moment to flip through it and a bunch of words instantly came to mind. Euphonious: Adjective, pleasant in sound and agreeable to the ear. Serendipity: Noun, an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. Good fortune and luck. Sagacity: Noun, an acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgment. Elysian: Adjective, blissful and/or delightful.

"Whoa," I mumbled, my mind reeling as I put the book down. Odd, but not at all painful or bad. Just weird. Definitely weird.

I picked up the third and final book and blew dust off the cover, running my fingers lightly over the golden font. The Universal Tree: Norse Gods and Goddesses. My eyes lit up excitedly.

"Score!" I said. My heart suddenly began to race as I picked up the book. The first page read: "WARNING! DO NOT READ UNLESS INTERESTED IN TRAVELING." Oh my God, I thought. I was interested in traveling! Was it going to give me some tips or something, I wondered? I sure hoped so. Anything would do.

With care, I flipped to a random page and began to read it aloud. "Jotunheim, the realm of the Frost and Rock Giants. A cold wasteland that harbors—" and all of a sudden, I was cut off. It appeared, to me, that my hand was stuck to the book. Literally! I tried to pull my flat hand off the pages but it wouldn't give.

"What the heck?" I asked no one. Raising a ginger eyebrow, I used my other hand to try and pry my stuck hand off the book, but it ended up getting stuck, too. Now, this was starting to freak me out. I didn't want to just rip my hand off the page, but it was starting to look like I needed to. With all my strength, I pulled on the frail pages, but my hands just sank deeper. The pages seemed to melt into a liquid mess, causing me to sink deeper and deeper into the book. By about that point, I was elbow deep in the stuff, trying to keep my head from it in case I started suffocating. It was like quick sand. The more I moved to try and pull my hands out of the book, and yes, I meant "pull my hands out of the book," I sank deeper! That's when it began to bubble and I got my hair caught in it. Why hadn't I put my hair up before I went to school? I had been thinking about it earlier . . .

"Ahk, leggo, you stupid book!" I yelled. Now I was scared. The book was eating more and more of my beautiful ginger hair. Soon, my whole head would be under for sure. And just as I thought that, I sank deeper, up to my shoulders. The weird liquid was cold and sticky, sucking me under the melting pages.

And then there was darkness. My head went under, sinking farther and farther down into nothingness. I couldn't breathe. My lungs were empty of air and I couldn't even open my mouth to swallow whatever it was that I was falling into. But soon, I was let go and I fell toppling to the ground. The first thing I realized was the cold. But it wasn't just your average cold, either. It was a suffocating cold. The cold that sank into your bones and froze them solid, leaving them aching all over. My cuts and bruises burned. I was hurting all over; an unmoving ball of pain, standing there in nothing other than my lame old school uniform. Hill after hill of snow and snowflakes was all I could see. I felt my eyes begin to close.

The thundering sound of crushing ice awoke me from my half-sleep. An emergency trouble alarm in my body kicked on and I stood up, trying to ignore the searing fire from the cold.

"Help!" I screamed, lungs burning. "Somebody, please! Help me!" Where was I? What the heck was happening? Was I dead? Wait, of course not; I was in severe pain. Duh, I wasn't dead, but I would be in a matter of minutes unless I got help. I figured I was probably somewhere near Antarctica, so . . . . . I was screwed.

"Help— " I stop short, seeing someone's dark figure off in the short distance. A person! A human! I was alive, I was saved! Yes! I ran towards the figure, pushing through the snow with all my might. All the while, trying to ignore the water seeping into my knee high socks.

"Hey! Hey, you! Can you help me?"

As I got closer to the figure, I soon realized it was male. Thank God! Guys were strong. They saved damsels in distress all the time.

The man stood there, his eyes narrowing and his head tilting just a little to the right. Two green eyes glowed back at me, a million years of pain behind them.

Just before my legs buckled under me, I tried to wrap my arms around him to keep myself from falling, but I fell anyway. Snow hit my skin like a slap in the face. When I looked up, the man was gone. I did a 360 turn around, but the man was nowhere to be seen, as if he had never been there. But that was impossible! He was there, I knew he was. The man with a million years of pain behind his eyes. . . . I wouldn't make that up!

"Please! Come back! I need your help!" I yelled up at the purple skies. But he was gone now and silence was my only answer. I was going to die here.