I got to school in record time. Not even noticing that there were a few other cars in the junior area of the parking lot, I went into the math and science side of the building and put my backpack in my locker. I raced towards the track field and plugged my earbuds into my phone and started to run, not even checking if there were any other people there.

Running had always been an escape. It felt like I was in a whole other universe when I was running. It was an illusion; pretending that I was in a world where I didn't have the problems I had, that I could be the best version of myself without any other people's opinions weighing me down.

What I didn't realize is that running wasn't an escape solely belonging to me.

After just running a few hundred meters, I bumped headfirst into a hard wall of muscle, and fell onto my butt.

"Ow! What the hell!" We both exclaimed at the same time.


Oh joy. The one day I decide to get to school an hour before school starts is the day that Tyler decides to come an hour early too?!

"Hey you okay?" Tyler asked me.

I stood up and brushed off the dust, all while ignoring Tyler's outstretched hand.

"As if you're actually genuinely concerned about me. Lemme guess, you just don't want me to tell everyone that their beloved athlete runs to escape his troub-"

His eyes widened. "How do you know?" He asked, then quickly realized his mistake, "I- I mean, what?"

Ignoring his slip up, I continued, "Don't interrupt me! Haven't you learned that it's rude to interrupt your elders?"

"You're only two months older than me, dumbass. I don't think that allows you to count as an elder," He mused, "Actually, you are so immature, you can probably pass as a 12 year old if not for your height."

"So what now, you're insulting my height?" I was pretty tall, probably taller than most of the girls in my school, standing at a height of 5'7".

In fact, I'm pretty sure that the only girl taller than me was Alexandria Llyod, who stands at the impressive height of 5'10". Believe or not, I'm fairly sure that some, if not all freshmen actually think that she's a male, especially since she insists on people calling her Alex. She's also taller than a lot of the boys in my school, mainly because half of them haven't hit puberty yet.

"What if I was?" He retorted.

"Wow, never thought you would be so petty. Just because you're half a foot taller than the average height for men doesn't allow you to compare yourself to me. I'm what, 2 inches taller than the average height? For women, not men. Isn't that enough?"

"So what now? Should I thank my Scandanavian blood or something?"

"Oh shush, look at us. Straying off topic. Again. You know, somehow, when I'm trying to be nice to you and converse with you, it always turns into an argument," I sighed, "What's wrong with you?"

"Oh, so it's my problem again?"

We stared at each other, fuming.

"Ahem, this is the track field. You aren't allowed on here before class," a gruff voice behind us declared, clearly annoyed.

We both turned around and took a look at the person who interrupted our conversation.

Standing tall and proud, was one of our track coaches, Mr. Franco, who also doubles as the field monitor, making sure that no one was up here when it wasn't allowed. Lots of people were scared of him -specifically because he has a million tattoos and a huge graying beard- making his job much easier.

However, once he realized that it was us, his "two most promising pupils", as he called us last year, his mood changed drastically.

"Oh, sorry guys, Didn't know it was you. Jayleen! How was summer?" He cheerfully asked, then seemingly realized that Tyler was there, and greeted him too, with an artificially exuberant, "And you too! Tyler, how is your baby sister, Kim?"

We turned to look at each other with a curious look on our faces. Did he not see both of us there? Tyler and I don't often agree on things, but one thing we agree with each other is that over the years, we have come across a slight hunch that Mr. Franco has a slight favoritism towards upperclassmen, especially females.

It's kind of creepy, especially since I have just officially become an upperclassman yesterday, but I know that no matter what, Tyler will protect me, especially since what happened last year.

As much as Mr. Franco creeps me out and makes me want to throw up and go cry in the corner of my room for a whole day, if I wanted to become track captain, I can't have one of the more influential coaches hate me, so I mustered up as much energy as I could, and smiled my brightest smile towards him.

"Oh no, sorry about that, Mr. Franco. We were just discussing our private lives. Sorry for bothering you," and with that, dragged Tyler by his shirt off the track as fast as I could, leaving a stunned Mr. Franco behind us.

Once we were in the parking lot, I let go of his shirt.

"Oh gosh, it's a good thing I'm not in his physics class this year," I muttered under my breath.

"Well, unluckily for me, I do," Tyler groaned, "Everyone knows that he doesn't teach, and only keeps this job so he can gawk at all the girls."

I snorted. "Well, isn't that good for you."

"Yeah, well I'm actually here early to try to convince Sherry to switch my science class to Ms. Wilder's," Tyler boasted, "So, I actually have a genuine excuse to why I was here early. What about you?"

Shit, seriously? That's my class. Mrs. Wilder is deemed one of the nicest teachers in school, with the whole school hoping to be in one of her classes. This year, she's only teaching one AP Physics class, which I am in. I knew that Tyler was in AP Physics, since he had boasted about it to Jayden when we got our schedules.

Knowing Sherry, the student secretary, she'll fall for whatever charm Tyler pulls and do whatever he says, just like the rest of the female population in Lillard Academy, which means that he'll be in my science class today.

I noticed that I was still slowly inching forward. Shoot, what am I going to say? Or should I just continue walking as if I didn't hear him?

Being the coward I was, I kept on walking.

"Wait, Jayleen! I asked you a question! Are you just going to keep walking as if you didn't hear the question?"

I turned around. "Huh? Oh, look at the time. It's 30 minutes to class. Don't you need to talk to Sherry? I have to go pick up Aliyah. It was nice talking to you!" I quickly said, then turned back around and kept on walking towards where my car was parked.

"Seriously, Leen! You can't just walk away from all your problems," Tyler shouted out, and when he noticed I wasn't stopping, he ran towards me, and gripped my hand.

I struggled against his hold, but it was like our hands were superglued together.

He sighed. "Look, I know we have a lot of disagreements, and can't get along no matter how much others try, but I just wanted you to know that I actually care about you, okay? And that I won't judge you if you come and talk to me."

With the last bit of strength I had, I wrenched my hand away.

"I don't need your pity."

But I kept his words in mind, because you can never be too sure.

And then I was off to pick up Aliyah.

word count: 1,328 (ayy we back with long(er) chapters!)

i actually wrote this chapter mostly in one sitting, what?!

x. lys