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Friday, November 22, 2013

Cover Reveal | Part One

To get ready for The Curse of Betrayal cover reveal, here is the prologue and chapter one from The Thousand Year Curse....

Oh and by the way, The Thousand Year Curse is completely FREE only today and tomorrow!


We are brought up being told tales of love and triumph. Hell, I should know, I’m in the damn books. 
I was brought up being told that there is always a happily ever after and that I deserved one. 
Well, what if there isn’t? 

What if bad things really do happen to good people? I consider myself a good person. 
Yes, I have a special skill set where at times, 
I’ll admit too taking advantage of them. 
But still, I’m good. 

I never hurt someone until the day she came into my life, those thousands and thousands of years ago. 
Her death was my fault. It’s always my fault. This curse is my fault. 
He doesn’t waste one day rubbing that in my face. 

I can’t help that I love her. 
He can’t help that he loves her, too. 
I wish I could die to end this constant torment. How easy would that be? 
I’ve even asked Hades himself for a swift end. 
But no. 
Of course not. 
That would be too damn easy. 

I don’t deserve this.
Yet here I am, walking back into his trap. I can’t stay away from her. 
Her very essence calls to me no matter how many miles I shove between us. 

The problem? 

Neither can he. 

high school hell

I pull in a ragged breath hoping to regain my composure but it’s no use. My heart races and spots blur my visions making me stumble out of the bathroom. I collapse onto my bed and the chills take over, racking my body in long tremors of terror.
With numb hands, I reach towards my night stand for my cell phone needing my crutch. I send out a quick SOS text and hope that Junior is awake. 
Shooting pain travels up my chest making my short breath even shorter. With the lack of oxygen I start fearing that I might pass out and the full on panic starts to take over.
“What’s wrong?” A worried voice rings out in the room seconds later. My vision is still spotty but I’d know that voice anywhere.
“I can’t—“ I start to say but I don’t have enough breath to even complete a god damned sentence. I’m frustrated with myself for letting the panic take over me again so I start banging my fists on the bed hating this empty person I’ve become.
“Shh. I’ve got you now, Ryder.” Junior soothes me, holding me tightly in his arms so I can’t break free. I try to fight him for a second but eventually melt into his arms loving the comfort he continuously brings me. 
Whenever he comes to my rescue like this, it brings me back to my first panic attack about two years ago. I used to be this bubbly, outgoing typical popular girl in school but then one day, my life turned upside down.
My best friend Becca screwed me over. She spread nasty rumors about me to the entire school, turned all of our friends against me and left me to rot on the gym floor. If it weren’t for Junior finding me curled up in the fetal position, I would have stayed there paralyzed all day.
I’ll never forget the way he stood by me no matter what people said. He took the heat along with me and has been outcasted ever since. The only difference is that he genuinely doesn’t give a shit and moved on, making new friends who also have the same I-don’t-care attitude. 
He could care less what Becca or Kevin, the school power couple, think. He could careless if they call him an emo kid for his colored mohawk or a band geek for playing the drums.
Whereas I let the torture sit inside of me and eat me from the inside out. Is it so bad to want to be included and have friends? I don’t think so but through the past few years, I’ve learned a lot—never trust anyone. 
After I’m quiet and coming down from the panic attack, Junior lets me go. I rub my arms up and down, the chills still present in the background but no longer a contributor to my pain. 
“I’m sorry.” I tell Junior hating how he has to come to my aid all of the time. I definitely feel like I hold him back but I have to be selfish—I need him to get through these.
“Don’t apologize. I don’t mind.” He says, grabbing my desk chair and sitting himself down on the comfortable swirler across from me. He knows the drill by now and if that attack shows anything, it’s that the night is going to be a long one.
“I hate that they’re starting up again.” I say, burrowing my head into my hands hoping that I can just crawl into a dark hole and never come out.
“It’s just because you’re nervous about tomorrow.” He says, “After that, I’m sure they’ll fade away again. You just have to know you’re okay. I’m here for you.” He says rolling over to me and making me look up at him.
“Okay.” I say not really convinced.
“I know when you’re bullshitting me.” Junior says when I roll my eyes in his direction. He tackles me onto the bed, pulling his hand up my side to tickle me. He starts the war and a few minutes later, I can barely breathe but for a different reason.
We end up watching reruns of the Walking Dead in each others arms but it’s exactly what I need the night before the start of my senior year. I fall asleep in the crook of his neck but my sleep is far from sweet. I’ve been having bizarre dreams night after night that leave me restless. 

Sept 1
Something is wrong with me. Strange things are starting to happen. 
I don’t understand it. I can’t tell anyone.
I can’t tell my dad. He doesn’t even know about the bullying at school. 
He’ll make me see a therapist and I can’t go there. 
Yesterday, I shut my laptop and the screen cracked in half.
 It’s not like I slammed it. 
I just pushed the top down and the corner shattered. 
That night at dinner I put a plate on the table and it crumbled into pieces. 
Dad thought I dropped it—I couldn’t tell him the truth.
What’s happening to me?

It’s Monday morning, senior year and I have no idea how I am going to make it. I’m dreading seeing kids and teachers. I’m dreading my classes and lunch period. Everything about today scares me.  
Anxious butterflies stick in my throat like cotton as I think about the day and what it entails. I’m pretty sure by the end of the day I may throw them up. 
High school is supposed to be the best years of my life, yet school has become the polar opposite. I’m not sure why I’m freaking out because I don’t think I can drop any lower in the social hierarchy of high school—even if I tried.
Grabbing my backpack off my neat bedroom floor and keys off my desk, I glance at my cracked laptop screen hating whatever has been going on with me. I stop at the door to give myself a last glance in my full length mirror. Today I am going for invisible—my usual ensemble. 
My brown hair hangs at my waist. I don’t even bother to style it anymore since my long locks are straight all by themselves. I have the bare minimum of makeup on—just some eyeliner and mascara since my eyes are my best feature. 
People are constantly telling me how cool they are. To be honest, my eyes annoy the crap out of me. Sometimes they’re green, sometimes they’re blue. They change with the weather, or my mood. Sometimes even my outfit affects them. It’s stupid. Why can’t they just pick a color and stick with it? My eyes makes me different which I don’t like. 
I fix my button up shirt so it lays flat against my stomach. I’m not fat, but I’m not skinny either by any means. I’m pretty average. A little short but normal weight—normal me. 
I’m wearing my favorite pair of skinny jeans. They have a little bit of yellow paint on them from when I painted my room over the summer.  The paint makes them seem cool, or so I think. 
I’ll go for the artistic effect, which is pathetic because I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. In fact, I’m not good at anything. No sports, instruments or anything that requires a skill. 
I used to run a lot to clear my head. I never ran track or anything. I did it mostly for myself. The past couple of months, running has been the last thing on my mind. I just don’t feel motivated anymore. 
Clearing my head, I scurry down the stairs jumping the last two. I smile when I make a perfect yet noisy landing at the bottom. Nobody’s home so I can act like a ten year old if I want to. 
I grab an apple along with the bag lunch my dad left me from the kitchen and hurry out the front door. I spot my little Honda Accord sitting in the driveway looking all old and decrepit. I’ve beat this baby up, but the car gets me from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ so I can’t complain. The exterior is purple with a little bit of rust lining the edges. I change the oil every four thousand miles though, so it runs like it’s brand new. 
Since I am running a little late, I assume my best friend Junior caught the bus. He didn’t show up here for breakfast which is a good sign he’s gone. He’s more or less my neighbor which is how we originally met. 
My dad was alone with me when they first moved here. I think he felt bad when I never had playdates so we went over to welcome them. Junior’s dad and mine actually hit it off. It ended up that Junior and I became best friends, too. We’ve all been a second family to each other ever since. 
As I pass his house I spot his mom, Janie sitting on the stoop having her morning coffee. Nothing has changed with this picture. I wave out my window in greeting.
“Hi Janie!” I call out as I slow the car to a stop in front of her mailbox.
“Hey honey! How you feeling?” She asks, sending me her maternal inspection. I love how she thinks of me as her child. She really has looked after me and been a large influence on my life since I met her. 
“Eh. Junior catch a ride?” I ask her raising my voice over the hum of my car. 
“He jumped on the bus. I told him to give you a break today.” She says giving me a knowing smile along with a slight wink. 
“Thanks, Janie. See you later!” I start rolling up the window.
 “Have a good day!” She adds, waving with the morning paper in her hand as she gives me a genuine smile. I love this woman as if she was my own mother. At times, she is. 
School is only about an eight minute drive, depending on traffic. Today is a perfect day so there aren’t many cars around. I hit almost every single light though, making me frustrated—so much for being invisible today. I can’t hide when I’m running into class late causing a scene. 
I curse myself for running late. Then I curse the lights. Stupid traffic lights are messing with me today. I bang my hands on the steering wheel and the light actually changes. Wow, that’s lucky. I was about to break my steering wheel in half if that thing stayed red another second.
I park my car in a decent spot which is surprising since the first bell already rang. If there’s one thing I can count on—it’s time. 
I reach for my iPhone off the passenger seat and plug in my headphones. Nothing like some good Secondhand Serenade to calm my first day jitters. I blast Fall For You to tune out the world around me before slamming my door shut. I take a deep breath to try and calm myself as I head towards the big brick building. 
As I start walking, the weather changes. Water starts falling, landing on my face in little droplets. It wasn’t supposed to rain today. I bring my back pack up over my shoulders to cover my head from the drizzle. Luckily the walk is short so I make it through the doors before I’m too drenched. 
I get into class only seconds after the last bell rings. Perfect timing. I quickly glance around the room searching for an open seat and settle into a desk near the windows. The rest of this aisle is nearly empty so I can chill by myself over here. 
The teacher introduces himself as Mr. Winters. I’ve seen him around school before. As I’m half listening to his lecture, I notice his name fits him well. He’s an older man, fifty five give or take a few years. He has white hair and gray eyes. They remind me of snow and dark clouds which pretty much equals winter. 
It’s crazy how some people’s names end up fitting them. It’s like Junior. Last year he put these huge gauges in his ear. At first, I thought they looked awful and told him I would rip them out. Of course he never did listen to me. Now when I see those huge rings in his ear, they fit. I don’t think he’d be Junior without them. 
Anyway, my name is beyond stupid. My mother named me Eurydice. My dad was furious. I guess he wanted to name me Morgan, which makes sense because it’s a completely normal name. My mom agreed to Morgan but then changed her mind at the last second. Since she gave birth to me it was her choice so my dad was overruled. 
Whenever I ask my dad why she changed her mind, he just tells me, “Your mom told me it felt right. She said you had to be named that.” Well, thanks for ruining my name, Mom. 
When I first went to school nobody could pronounce Eurydice. Hell, I could barely spell the damn name myself. When I was about thirteen, I tried to figure out a nickname. I thought of hundreds. Dee, Die, E, but none fit me right. I wanted something cool. I played with the letters in my name and came up with Ryder. 
Ryder sounds much stronger than Eurydice and almost badass. My ex-best friend Becca liked it too, back when I cared what she thought. She told everyone Ryder was my real name. The name stuck and when I got to high school, no one knew the difference.
Mr. Winters drags on for what seems like days on end. It’s the usual first day of the year stuff. Introductions, then syllabus, then homework, books and finally reading assignments. I can tell already this day will be the death of me.
The bell finally rings and I jump from my seat excited to talk to Junior next period. Mr. Winters gave us a monstrous book though and if I don’t drop it off now, I’ll be walking with a hunch for the next week. After ten steps my back is already screaming at me to stop. 
My locker couldn’t be farther away from all of my classes. I take mostly math classes, near the labs. Not music or art by the auditorium—where my locker is. I’ve applied all three years for a new locker but let’s be real—they don’t give a crap. 
I’m jogging to my locker when I run straight into what feels like a wall. The thing just popped up out of no where. Letting out a gasp of air, I groan from the pain shooting up my face. After touching my nose, I peek at my fingers and am surprised I’m not bleeding. Whatever I hit felt like pure concrete. 
When I look up, there is no wall at all. Only a tall guy standing right in front of me. I hide my face in embarrassment before I get a good view of him shuffling towards my locker, keeping my head pointed down. 
“Are you okay?” The guy asks me in a deep, sultry voice that sends goosebumps up my arms. I want to get a look at him to match it to his face but refrain. 
“I’m good.” I dismissively murmur pushing past him. I’m still in a rush so I open my locker to quickly drop my book off wanting this guy to go away. 
“Are you sure you’re okay? You hit me pretty hard.” He continues to pursue me, following me to my locker. My invisibility plan has gone down the tubes. 
“Yes, I’m fine. Just in a rush.” I rudely remark. I don’t even know who this guy is. From the quick peek he isn’t someone I recognize. 
When I finally gaze up, I see the most beautiful guy. I use the word guy because he doesn’t seem like a boy but more of a man, yet he has a backpack on, which tells me that he’s a student. He must be an exchange student because guys my age don’t look like him. 
The first thing I notice is his amazing height. He’s at least six feet tall, probably more. I’m only five four so when I stare at him, I literally have to crane my neck up. He’s not skinny. He definitely works out—hard. It must be why I mistook him for a wall. I fight back this unwanted urge to run my hands up and down his chest and wrap them around to his tight back muscles. 
When I look up at his face, I realize I don’t mind the awkward head tilt up at all. He has the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen. He has dirty blonde hair with little flips at the ends. His blue eyes are like baby blue but more piercing. They remind me of the ocean in Alaska—transparent and icy. He’s amazingly handsome and definitely nobody from this school. I mentally confirm my exchange student idea.
“Hello?” He asks me while waving his hand in front of my face. Damn-it, even his hand is sexy with crazy long fingers that I can picture pulling through my hair. I shake my head trying to get those alarming thoughts out and my eyes focus again on his smiling face. 
“Sorry what?” I ask him averting my gaze to the floor as I try to busy myself in my locker. 
“I said, do you need help to class? The bell just rang.” He raises his eyebrows questioning me. His head does a little quirk to the side emphasizing the question. His voice is still friendly but has a weird sharp edge. I think he is tired of talking to me and my inability to form a complete sentence. 
“What? It rang? Dang!” I slam my locker shut as I register his words. The sound reverberates off the low ceiling making me cover my ears. I could swear the noise was way too loud to just be my locker. 
As I turn to leave I notice the guy still standing in the same spot, watching me. I run in the direction of class and shout back to him, “Thanks! Sorry for hitting you.” I turn to go but can’t tear my eyes away from his. My feet are frozen in place leaving me dizzy and confused.  
He nods in my direction then turns, walking towards the auditorium. As his silhouette leaves my vision, I start snapping out of it. Who is this guy? 
Thank god for second period because Junior is in this class and the next one. I rush into class late, thanks to that odd encounter with the stranger. Luckily, Junior is already in class and saved me a seat next to him at the lab table.
We both hate Science so having it together and most likely being lab partners is going to be a test in itself. I don’t care though, as long as I maintain my above 3.5 grade point average, I have a good chance of getting into a college and getting out of this small town. 
Science is boring but we have culinary next which is our elective. Junior and I walk together to class and I feel comfortable for the first time today. Being with Junior helps me to relax and realize that everything is okay. 
I am sad when third period ends since English is next—without Junior. My one lifeline is now gone and I’m back to being alone. I feel the panic start to well up in my mind but I give everything I have to stop it. I pause on my way to class and lean up against a locker, letting myself breathe. 
The class is pretty empty when I get there. I choose a seat at the edge of the room near the windows—not in the front and not in the back so I can blend in. I’m in a low level English class which means this class will probably be full of dumb kids. Dumb kids mean popular kids and jocks—my biggest nightmares. 
I figure I’ll write in my journal, since I’ve got time before the final bell rings. The class is empty, except for two random girls.  

Sept 2
It happened again. 
I shut my locker and it vibrated through the whole school. 
I didn’t mean to! I don’t know why this shit is happening to me. 
It happened in public this time. 
Somebody saw.
This guy is different. He’s got the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen 
but I know something is off about him. 
I can’t explain it. He’s so-

“What the hell?!” My journal is yanked from under my hand and off my desk into the hands of precisely the person I would never want it to. 
“Hm, let’s read what the gay girl is writing about.” Becca snickers as she flips through the pages to my most recent entry. I hate that she’s reading my most secret thoughts. 
“Stop give it back!” I yell at Becca from my seat. She stands up on top of a desk in the center of the room, my diary clutched to her chest. She starts prepping herself to read to the class which is starting to fill up. She purses her lips and fluffs her blonde hair up. Great, more people to witness her proclamation. 
“Everyone!” She calls out to the crowd. “Listen up, bitches.” She announces in a clipped tone. Everyone stops talking to listen to what she says like she’s the freaking President. I sink into my seat in utter humiliation. 
“Oh, Junior! I love you so much, just not like that. I like girls now, don’t you get it? I’m a lesbian Junior. Les-bi-an.” Becca pretends to read from my diary as she waves her arms around animately. Getting angrier by the second, I’m either going to kill her or cry—I’m not sure which yet. I decide to grow up and fight back. 
“Give it back, you bitch.” I protest to her reaching my arms in the direction of my journal. She peers down at me with her evil, manipulative eyes. 
Jumping down from the table she starts ripping the pages out all while staring me in the eye, never blinking. When she’s satisfied the pages are so small I can’t ever read them, she steps up to me.
“If you ever talk to me like that again, I’ll ruin you. You’ll never be safe walking these halls again.” She whispers so only I can hear her. I must look scared because a grin spreads across her lips before she throws the papers right into my face. Her little posse of clones hoot and holler from their desks telling her how funny she is.  
I try to pick up as many pieces of paper as possible stumbling as I bend down. I put them all on my desk, along with the cover and sit down. I try to piece the book back together but it’s worthless. I need this journal for my own sanity!
I gather all the pieces in my hands standing up to toss them in the trash. The only bin is by the door, but I don’t even care anymore. They can watch me all they want. They win, like usual. 
As I dump the papers in, the man-boy from the hall walks in the room. He looks just as good as before but I’m in no mood to deal with more drama. 
Becca has this personal vendetta against me. I don’t know what brought on the torture but I was her best friend until Sophomore year. Something snapped and I’ve been exiled ever since.
Becca only talks to me to tell me what a fag I am or to shove me around. Luckily she hasn’t hit me much but words still hurt. The first time was the worst. I thought I had friends who would stand up for me. Boy was I wrong. Junior was the only person who stuck by me. He’s been the only person ever since thus why I have such an attachment to him.
“Hey.” Man-boy whispers to me snapping me out of my thoughts. I glance up at him in confusion. I give him my version of the evil eye which probably ends up to be more like a twitch before retreating back to my seat. Becca notices the exchange, smirks and pounces on him. She sends one last glare in my direction and then focuses all her attention on him. 
“Hey Ollie, come sit with us.” She purrs. For a second his gaze follows me to my seat and I think he is going to walk over here but in the end he decides against it and sits with Becca and her minions.  
I can’t help but be jealous. It’s not like I claimed Ollie or anything but I don’t want her to capture him. He’s mine—well he’s not but I want him to be. Ugh. Do I? I’ve never had such strong feelings for someone off that bat—this primal urge to claim him for myself and never let him go. 
Gathering my bags from below my seat, I rush out of the classroom not wanting to sit there anymore. I’m not going to watch Becca eye ball him all class. I hate being here. I hate this damn school. I run from the room and find myself outside in one of the empty courtyards.
I need a breather. If I stayed in class any longer, I would have had a panic attack. I can fully picture myself throwing up in front of the class and furthering my humiliation—like that’s possible. 
It’s forth so there’s no lunch hour now which means I am completely alone. I lay back on the bench staring into the deep blues of the sky. What the hell is with the weather today? It’s beautiful now, not raining like earlier. 
I can’t get Ollie’s eyes out of my head. I feel like I know him. I want to hate him. I don’t want to run to him like every other girl in this school and throw my panties at him. I’m sure he’ll have a full bag of them by the end of the day. Fresh meat in a town like this gets a ton of attention—especially grade a beef. 
Something about him calls to me. I want to know more about him. Something is different about him but I can’t explain it—his very presence is unnerving. I close my eyes imagining his blue eyes. God, what is it about this guy. He’s slithering into my every thought. 
I cover my eyes with my elbow letting the cool breeze flow across my face. My hair sways in the wind as it falls over the benches sides. The edges of my vision start to become blurry and blacken leaving me blind. Unexpectedly, my equilibrium is throw off. It’s like I am falling off the face of the Earth.

I fall off the bench landing flat onto my face. I stand up dusting off my butt and go to grab my bag but stop when I notice the blue eyed guy. Only he’s not here. He’s on an invisible screen like I’m watching a movie. He’s in my bedroom with me. I watch myself lay in bed crying and he’s holding onto me. I’m watching myself and Ollie in my bed holding each other. 
My vision fades to black again when it returns. I see myself in the school courtyard. I don’t know if this is a memory or what but I barely recognize myself. Abruptly, the me I’m watching jets across the courtyard running faster than any human I’ve ever seen. I can’t even make out parts of my body as they blur together. She turns staring into my eyes. A smile plays across her lips and then she’s gone. 
Blackness returns and I can’t catch sight of anything. I rub my eyes turning in circles trying to find my balance or something to ground me. A dizzy feeling emerges and the panic sets in. My mind becomes fuzzy and I’m scared I may pass out. Then there is a light.
Only one single light shining at the end of a black tunnel. Immediately I move towards the yellow glow. I start to jog wanting to get out of this black abyss. 
At the end of the tunnel I spot a man. I’ve never seen him before. Light green eyes, jet black hair. He’s God-like. I don’t know why but I trust him to save me. He reaches an arm out for me and gladly, I take it.
Big mistake doing that. I feel like I am in a martini tumbler. My equilibrium is thrown off again and I don’t know which way is up or down. I search for the green eyes but they never return. All there is is blackness. And then, the drop.

I scream not knowing what’s happening. The uncertainty makes me want to cry. I open my eyes and it’s all blue. Not only the blue sky, but two blue eyes staring straight at me. I search to the left and right and realize I’m still at school. I must have fallen asleep. 
“What do you want?” I ask him pushing myself up on the bench. I rub my eyes and try to pat my hair down composing myself. 
“Would you like to eat with me?” What the hell? His question throws me off. 
“Are you kidding me?” I blurt out before my brain tells my mouth to shut the hell up. My face pinches in a way that I am sure is unattractive.
“Um, no?” He asks, genuinely confused. He takes a step closer to me and I scoot off the bench trying to keep my distance. Something about him scares me. 
For some reason, it’s gotten chilly out side. The sun is covered by a range of dark clouds threatening to spill over at any second. I swear it wasn’t like that even thirty seconds ago. Goose bumps cover my exposed arms and I rub them. Something is off. I need to get inside before I get drenched. This weather is unpredictable. 
“Sorry. I’ve got to go.” I grab my bag off the pavement and head for the doors. I can’t think right now. When I stare at him all my rational thoughts fly out the window. “Look, your friends are calling you.” 
I stop walking away once I reach the door and point to where Kevin is waving at him—the ultimate douche. He’s some hot shot on the football team. “I think you should go.” I hint to him.
 Only then do I notice Junior scrutinizing me through the window. I wave to him wanting to assure him I’m okay, and start to walk towards my safety net. I turn back for the last time and see Ollie making his way over to Kevin.
Kevin catches me gazing and raises his middle finger high in my direction. His whole group laughs and I can’t help but feel alienated. Ollie never glances back at me. This sounds crazy but I wanted him to. I wanted to look into those confused eyes one more time. I wanted him to care if I was looking back at him. 
“What’s up?” Junior inquires when we meet. I can’t hide my emotions from him. The tears in my eyes speak for themselves. “What the hell did they do to you, Ryder?” He asks when he notices the puddles forming. He’s overly protective with me—in a brotherly way. He grabs my hand comforting me so I lean into his touch automatically. 
“Can we sit somewhere else?” I ask him in a near whisper. I’m scared if I talk, I’ll lose what little composure I have left. He leads us out of the entry way until we find an empty stairwell to sit on.
I tell him everything. I tell him how I’m scared of the new guy. I confess that if I let him in he’ll leave me like my mother or dump me like Becca. I tell him how she humiliated me in class and bitched me out. The only part I leave out is the super strength or whatever that is. 
It’s amazing when I talk to Junior because he doesn’t judge me. When I talk to him, it’s easy. He knows me too well. I’m not embarrassed. I don’t feel like a complete loser. 
I don’t even realize I’m fully crying until I’ve finished the story. Quiet crocodile tears slowly roll down my cheeks. How can I even have tears left after the last couple years?
Junior pulls me onto his lap and lets me cry into his chest. I wrap my arms around his neck and hide my face. His smell reminds me of home, comforting me. I fit perfectly in his arms which surprises me sometimes because he’s a pretty big guy. I would guess Junior is like five ten or so, but he looks bigger. 
He presents himself sort of skater boy-ish. He’s got a dark mohawk and gauges in his ears. His appearance is quite intimidating.
“Maybe you need a good night’s sleep?” Junior suggests after I tell him how I fell asleep outside.
“Yeah. Probably.” I whisper but deep down I know this is something more. The dream felt so real. 
I get a little boost in morale after my cry session but the day continues to drag. Junior is in my sixth period class, thank God because so are the popular kids. 
They don’t mess with me when Junior is around. Junior has stood up to them so many times, they have given up. He’s not afraid of their fake sense of superiority. His lack of caring makes it hard for them to feel justified.
Me? I’m easy prey because I do care. When I cry, my tears feed their hunger. They’re like parasites on the weak. 
I promised Junior I’d drive him home so I have to stick around for eighth even though I have a free. I stop at my locker exchanging books before heading to my favorite place in the school—the library. My safe haven within the school. 
I chat with Mary, the librarian—we’re on a first name basis. Most of my free time over the past couple years is spent here. Mary actually helped me once when Becca showed up. She pretended the library was rented for a computer class and sent her away. That’s when I knew we’d be close friends. 
After catching up with her, I grab a booth in the back and start my homework. We didn’t get much on the first day, but I figure I’ll do some readings. I put my headphones in and tune out the world, cranking my music up as loud as my phone will let me. Only I can hear the music but I’m afraid someone might hear the bass so I turn it down, not wanting to draw any unwanted attention to myself. 
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice something move. I pull my headphones out of my ears sitting up on high alert. I don’t see anything near me. I guess I’m just being paranoid. 
I focus back on my work but every couple of minutes I gaze around me unable to shake this sensation of someone watching me. 
“Ryder Mason, to the main office please.” A deep voice comes over the loud speaker, signaling my summons to the entire school. I groan as I gather my things and pack them in my backpack.
“Bye, Mary. See you tomorrow.” I say as I exit the library. I bee line for the office and wait on an uncomfortable brown arm chair. I start jiggling my legs, nervous of why I’m being called in. Breaking me out of the thoughts, the secretary invites me into my guidance counselor’s room. 
“Hello Ryder. Please, have a seat.” A tall nerdy looking man says. I sit across from him in yet another stiff chair. “I’m Dr. Keaveny, your guidance counselor. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay.” He says.
“Yes, everything’s fine.” I say unsure of what he’s getting at.
“I’m new here but I looked over your transcript and Dr. Maven mentioned you were one of the top students prior to the start of the year. It says here that you’ve never skipped a class before, yet today you did.” He says and continues, “Will this be a pattern?” He asks condescendingly.
“Of course not. I was feeling ill and went outside to get some air. It won’t happen again.” I assure him, not liking being in trouble at school. This is a new experience for me. 
“Well, to make sure this won’t happen again, you’ll have detention after school all week.” He brings down my punishment.
“Okay, I understand.” I say having to hold back a groan. 
“That’ll be all for today. Make sure this doesn’t happen again.” He stands and I follow him. He leads me out the door and then gives me a final command. “We’ll meet again at the end of the week to discuss the next course of action.” 
“Great.” I mutter, all but running out of the office. I start walking to my car figuring Junior can meet me there since I agreed to drive him home. 
Halfway there, the final bell rings of the day and people start filing out of the brick school. My pocket vibrates so I whip my phone out of my pocket and check to see who it is. 

Need 2 get drum set. meet me @ stage! JR

The last thing I want is to go back into hell but I owe Junior. After I drop my backpack off in my car, I start to walk back inside twirling my key chain in my hand. He probably needs help carrying all of his stuff. Drums are the most awkward instrument to carry. 
I walk to the stage finding the back door that leads to the band closet. I hear some voices coming from inside the room. It’s Junior for sure and some other guy. I figure it must be Aaron or Steve, his band mates.
“Junior, you in here?” I ask out as I barge in the closet.
“Yup, over here. Come help me with my stuff.” He responds almost instantly. 
“Ready to go?” I ask him as I walk in and then I spot Ollie next to him. Junior notices my expression change and inches closer to me. 
“Ryder…” Junior says slowly, like I’m going to erupt. “This is Ollie, he’s new here.” Junior gives the formal introductions. Ollie’s eyes wander to me and he flashes me a genuine, teethy smile.  
“Yeah, I know him.” I bite out dismissively. “He’s in my class.” Junior acts confused by my rudeness. I really am not a complete bitch all of the time. 
“You are?” Junior asks Ollie.
“Yeah. English class, fourth period.” Ollie says back like it’s no big deal. 
“Let’s go Junior.” I grab on his forearm and tug. He doesn’t budge so I give him a disapproving glare. “You know Ollie is friends with Becca. They sit together in class.” I further explain. Hello! The entire reason for my melt down today is right here!
Junior genuinely seems confused. “You’re friends with Becca?” He sounds almost hurt, like he could have had a new friend but I crushed his hopes. 
“I don’t have any friends yet. This my first day here.” Ollie states giving Junior a sincere, honest look. 
“Yes, you do. You were all over Becca in class!” I cut in yelling out to them. I am done with this whole conversation. We are leaving now. I want to go home already!
“I really wasn’t.” Ollie finishes exhaustedly clearly tired of this whole exchange. I must look like a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum. 
“Ryder, give him a break, okay.” Junior pleads to me—scolding me for being a bitch. His eyes are sympathetic but his voice is stern. He is under this guys spell. What a traitor. I decide to just go along with the charade. 
I sigh. “I’m Ryder.” I hold out my hand to him like it’s an olive branch faking a small smile. If it’ll make Junior happy—I’ll do it. He takes my hand and heat spreads within me. Butterflies flutter up my stomach and into my throat rendering me star struck. 
“I know.” Ollie says.

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