Fate is the inevitable.
Fate is the thing responsible for bringing two ever-searching lovers together, yet it is also at the hands of this same kismet that they find themselves ripped apart. It determines every event that occurs and holds the lives of all in its palm. It can make you or break you, and yet it's not that simple.
For ages people have attempted to track fate and beat it at its own game. Astronomers looked to the stars for signs, adding fuel to the belief that the life beyond this one is somehow "up there", among the stars and clouds and skies. Others developed different methods. Tarot cards supposedly answered all your general questions ("What will this upcoming year be like?", "What lies ahead for me in terms of my career?", "Where will I be in ten years?") and horoscopes gave insight into what predicaments you would face that particular day. And of course, you can't forget all the psychic hotlines and the fortune tellers with their grape juice "love potions".
Fate, however, refuses to let itself be outdone. Those that have played the game have lost, and the cost of losing is high. People have paid in terms of their money, luxuries, freedoms, happiness... sometimes even with their lives.
And yet, while the stakes are so high, there are still those that continue to challenge and tempt it. And sometimes such risks must be taken because all it takes is just that one person to triumph over destiny, to overturn the stars and change all the rules. But what happens when the power of fate falls into the wrong hands?
My gaze swept nervously around the classroom as soon as I had finished reading my piece aloud. Regarding every word I write as a tiny extension of myself, I had never taken quite well to sharing my works with those that I knew. Twenty-four pairs of glossy, vacant eyes stared back up at me and I felt my self-confidence begin to falter. I knew what I had read aloud was quality work and already knew that I was good. My lips pursed together to conceal a frown as well as the fact I was chewing on my lower lip. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other and glanced down at the small podium, studying the cursive words that were scrawled on a random piece of loose-leaf paper. I must be losing my touch, I considered as the room's unnerving silence got the best of me.
"Well," Mr. Gardener began, clearing his throat and panning the room with a threatening glare, "I thought that was an excellent opener, Miss Cartwright. I can't wait to see where you'll be going with that idea. Does anyone have anything to add?"
Oh, please, spare me the torture and let me sit down already, I thought anxiously. I was already embarrassed enough as it was. There was no need to add insult to injury.
The sound of Mr. Gardener's voice rose about the raucous of my mind. "Mr. Connor?"
My eyes darted in immediately in his direction. JC Connor was the school's – hell, probably the whole state's – most infamous rebel student. He was the hot topic of many a rumor no matter which social circle you were involved in. The aura of danger and mystery he exuded followed him no matter where he went, making him just that much more irresistible to the masses of girls too ashamed to admit their lust for him. Adding to his enigmatic demeanor was the fact that he was usually so quiet and brooding. On the rare occasion in which he spoke, his words were usually important. I let myself gaze into those steely blue-gray eyes of his and bit down sheepishly on my lower lip.
"Personally, I thought your first draft was much better, Miss Cartwright," JC leered, his eyes dancing with the amusement of watching me squirm. A maddeningly sexy sneer highlighted his features, but my confusion was so thick that I hadn't particularly noticed.
"What in the–" I started to say, trying to think of where he could possibly have attained a "first draft" of my creative writing project.
And then it dawned on me… My eyes were wide as saucers and my face paled. "Oh fuck," I said without thinking.
I had misplaced my coveted personal notebook earlier that week, in which I had written the first – and the more poignant and profound – version of the very passage I had just read aloud. Since I hadn't found my notebook by this morning, I opted to hastily try and recreate the opening preface during my first period class. Of course, there weren't just the beginnings of this story written in the notebook. A lot of personal writings and a few journal entries of sorts were also trapped in the spiral binding of the cheap five-subject notebook that I toted around like a security blanket. What terrified me was the fact that all my private thoughts and aspirations were now common knowledge to him. He'd had access to a part of me that nobody else knew existed, and to say the least, this fact more than simply mortified me.
I could feel teardrops burning in the corners of my eyes, but I knew my face held less expression than an unmarked slate. At this moment I wasn't quite sure whether I should throw a tantrum or run from the room in a frenzy of sniffles and tears.
In the end, I couldn't compel myself to do either and merely collected my paper from the podium and strode as calmly as I could to JC's desk in spite of Mr. Gardener's nagging. I knew the teacher was saying something, but I had blocked his voice from my one-track mind. I reached out toward JC to collect what was my rightful property, avoiding his intense stare to keep my composure under control.
He rolled his eyes slightly and I felt the suffocating urge to smack him with my outstretched hand. I kept myself in check and snatched the notebook out of his grasp, making sure to glare menacingly in his direction before venturing back to my desk.
I slumped down in my seat and zoned out for the duration of the class period. I was definitely upset that JC had taken my notebook in the first place, but that took a backseat to the feelings of exposure I was experiencing. I was a private person by nature and kept matters concerning myself closely guarded.
That notebook was also the most convenient means of venting about the world and certain people whenever I got irritated. If JC were to say anything to the people whose names came up in the middle of a heated written tirade, all hell could – and probably would – break loose. My status with the popular group was definitely a shaky thing. As one of those low-ranking populars, I got the benefits of going on group outings to the local clubs, hearing all the juicy gossip I could handle, and being a guest at all the right parties, but I got leftovers for boyfriends and was not usually asked by the other girls to attend mall trips or movie nights. Since my perch on the social ladder was precarious, I had to make sure to watch my step and my mouth. As it stands, I am not exempt from group ridicule, let alone exile, and if they knew about only a few of the things I've either said or done, it would destroy me.
Populars, when provoked, can be downright malicious when they want to be, and they travel in packs. When one of them is pissed at you, you not only have to worry about that one person, but the whole group. The populars feed off of the fear and envy of those below their ranks, and the two biggest weapons in their arsenal are intimidation and looks. The only way to slip into the group is by association, and none of them associate with people that can't strengthen their stranglehold over the rest of the school.
Every once in a while, someone under the ranks asks me how I got mixed up with them to begin with. I never have a good answer to that question because I still ask myself the same thing. I'm not your average, cookie-cutter popular. I'm no Barbie doll. I'm brunette, rather gangly, and I wear vintage, Buddy Holly-framed glasses. Above all else, I'm actually intelligent. You won't see me sweet-talking or batting my eyelashes at my teachers for passing grades because I can get them just fine on my own in my honors classes, and you definitely won't see me in any cheerleading uniform, either. I'm also quiet and reserved, going by unnoticed pretty much wherever I go. Being rather elusive in that respect, people usually have to take the time to seek me out when they need to tell me things.
So it was pretty strange to me when one of the populars, who was dating my older brother at the time, started inviting me to hang out with her when I was a freshman. After a couple months, the group initiated me officially, and I never really looked back after that. I don't really care much for the people in the popular group – I find them to be just as shallow, insecure, and annoying as everyone else does – and I certainly don't appreciate the way they play games with outsiders, but I don't question it. After all, this is modern day suburbia we're talking about. Each town is exactly like the one next to it, which is exactly like the one three states over, which is exactly like the one fifty miles south, which is exactly like… well, you get the point. The only reason I keep up with the strange, weird world of the populars is the security of having a place to be every Friday and Saturday. They keep me entertained enough, I figure. Besides, I don't have the time – or the motivation, for that matter – to make better friends. I like to think that I'm a normal junior, but the jury is still out about that.
Anyways, I was still a bit steamed when the bell rang, signaling that class was finally over. I gathered my things, making absolutely sure that I had my notebook with me this time, and left the room casually. If I was going to let this continue to bother me, I may as well do myself a favor and pretend it didn't. Stepping out of that classroom, I didn't have the slightest idea how much my little, remote world was going to be change in the days to come. Then again, I was an oblivious little sprite.