Chapter One

I guess I'm the type of girl who can be pretty if I try. Try hard. I'm not trying to sound conceited. Trust me on that. It's my mom who said that. She told me that I am one of those girls who look really plain if they don't make an effort, but pretty cute if they do. I think that was suppose to encourage me or something, but it didn't work. Her comment went in one ear and out the other.

It shouldn't mean anything, my theory is this: ANYONE can look pretty if they try hard. And it's my mom, for crying out loud. Don't all moms think that their son/daughter is good-looking? Just call it motherly love.

I am a very lazy girl when it comes to beautifying myself. I am not ashamed to admit that my wardrobe consists of comfortable, baggy clothes that don't really appeal to the guys. Mrs. Anderson, you know what I mean, right? I mean, you practically see me everyday, and I know that you're one of those people who are into the latest fashion. I know that you were part of the "popular group" when you were in high school. The type that everybody loved and looked up to. I'm not trying to suck up or anything. I'm serious. I don't know how to.

Anyway, make up is foreign to me. I find it a waste of time and money. And what is a bronzer? I've always wondered.

Basically, my mom tells me that I am one of those girls with "hidden beauty." In my case, I have "really, really, really, really hidden beauty," because in one glance (or maybe even six), you would absolutely not see it. Seriously.

Let's just say that I haven't fully matured yet, both physically and mentally, despite my age of sixteen years. I won't deny that. I stay away from guys as much as possible, but the reason why is not because of their cooties…or is it the girls that have that? No, I am not trying to sound stupid. I seriously have forgotten. Anyway, this is not the reason why. This topic goes way beyond that, and if I have the heart and courage to write it down on paper, I will.

I am flat. Seriously. I pretty much have no curves, and if I ever get them by miracle, they would be completely hidden by my big clothes. Not surprisingly, I don't care that my body doesn't have the curvy hips or the round breasts. Especially the breasts. After all, I can only imagine what it's like when I run. Would they bounce a lot? Oh sick! I am so sorry! Forget I said that. I haven't scarred you, have I? I hope not. My mind tends to think up weird things sometimes.

Anyway, I don't care about my physical appearance, period. After all, who is there to impress? Sure, I care about my hygiene (I am a neat freak, after all), but I don't care about how I look. Tell people that if they come to Stone Crest High and see an overly skinny girl wearing large sweatpants and a shirt down to her thighs, with her plain brown hair fixed in a messy ponytail, yup…that would be Lexia Highland. Oh, and please don't pity me.

Is it sad? Well, those who actually have time to take shake their heads at a nobody think so. Most of the time, they ignore me. They do have lives, you know. Or so they say. Do you call partying, getting drunk, and flunking school a life?

Anyway, back to me, the person that everybody ignores. I wish I could tell you that I do have hidden talents, but that would be lying. I am not a girl who auditions for a musical and blows everyone away with her hidden singing ability. To be honest, my voice cracks a lot when I sing. Or at least try to sing. I am also not a girl who gets dragged to a dance floor, insisting that she doesn't know how to dance at all, but becomes a pro in exactly two minutes. Give me twelve freaking hours, and I would barely make progress.

I can ramble on about how my art ability is limited to stick figures and how I used to be the kid who gets bonked on the head (and cries) during dodge ball, but going through my faults would take a really loooong time. Sounds harsh? Well, guess what? I'm merely stating the truth.

So, fine, let's go to the one good thing about myself. I am one smart girl. I am not going to act all humble and modest by blushing and denying it, because I know that I am smart. I am, however, not a dork. A dork is someone who really enjoys science fairs, cries when he/she gets a 95 on a test while insisting that he/she could have done better, enjoys making those robot thingy-ma-jigs, thinks chess is a fun leisure activity, likes to do extra school work even though his/her grades are close to perfect, is a teacher's pet without meaning to be…I could go on, but I think I have proved my point. Notice that I did not add "wears glasses." That one is a stereotype, if you ask me. One that must die. There are many popular or un-dorky girls in this world that wear glasses.

Anyway, back to me. I am one of those naturally smart people. I am those people who stare out the window during class, not paying attention at all, and when the teacher suddenly asks them a question, they answer it correctly and in a calm, unperturbed way. (Of course, I always pay attention to your classes, Mrs. Anderson! …All right, fine. I tend to doze out a bit, but who doesn't? Please don't make that confession affect my grade.) Anyway, I am those people who don't study for a test at all and still manage to get a good grade. (Of course, I always study for your tests! …All right, fine. I tend to be lazy, who isn't?) And I'm very proud of that. Getting a good grade without studying, I mean.

I am nowhere near a dork. I hate being in science fairs. I wouldn't dream of making those robot thingy-ma-jigs since I find them useless, and no way, is chess a fun leisure activity. I only played that game once with my cousin Luke, but that game ended with me chucking the rook (or is it the castle?) at his forehead, just because he took up more than two minutes pondering his next move. Well, what can I say? I do have a short attention span.

And no way am I a teacher's pet. You can wholly agree with me on this one. Teachers either don't like me or don't care about me. Mr. Mort, however, is an exception because he despises me, and I him. (He knows this already.) How many times has he sent me to detention during my freshman and sophomore years? Too many to count, to be honest.

So it was because of Mr. Mort that I found myself in my gazillionth detention. That Wednesday afternoon was going by really slowly, and the ticking of the round clock in the detention room was so deafening. Everybody was either half-asleep or staring into space. A fly was buzzing around about two metres away from me. Really. It was that quiet.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

It was enough to drive a person insane. I sighed very noisily, but nobody turned to look at me or acknowledge the loud sound I emitted. Looking down on my hand, I concentrated on the pen that I was twirling in between my middle finger and pointer. I twirled it, and then did this flip thing with the help of my thumb. (This, by the way, I learned from my Uncle Harvey.) I twirled it, and then did the flip thing again. Ah yes…the way to pass detention time.

Nobody was watching my little act, probably because they were too mature to be amused by it. Or maybe it was because almost everyone was staring out the window, watching the cheerleaders practise by the football field.

The one different thing about Stone Crest High is that almost all of the cheerleaders are very nice people. Not just fake nice, but genuine nice. They do not find amusement in bullying people or making fun of them. No…that job is for the jocks, both the males and the females. Anyone who is a big shot in a varsity team tends to be bigheaded. (Please don't let that one slip. I don't want to be bullied.) They make fun of people because they have power and, of course, the muscles that they have acquired from their sport.

I sighed again as I fiddled with my pen. Twirl, twirl, flip. Twirl, flip, twirl. Twirl, twirl, tw—

Shiiiiiiiiiit. That is exactly what went through my head the moment the pen flew from my hand and sailed towards the teacher in charge, hitting him smack dead on the forehead.

Too bad the teacher was Mr. Mort. The moment this accident happened, the students in detention turned their heads at the sound of plastic hitting skin and bone. It was seriously an accident, Mrs. Anderson. Do you think I find joy in getting another detention? I am weird, but not that weird.

I sensed the room become eerily quieter than before, if that was even possible. The students' horrified eyes darted from me to Mr. Mort, Mr. Mort to me, and so on. Me? Well, I just stupidly sat there, going three or a hundred shades paler. Mr. Mort, however, was the exact opposite. His face was going a couple of shades redder and redder, and there was no sign of it stopping.

It was as if he had gone jogging for hours and was now thoroughly wiped out, minus the sweat and double the ruddiness.

And all of a sudden, right then and there, the image of Mr. Mort, a short man with a pot belly going jogging, clarified itself, and to my and the others students' complete horror, I let out a small, unintentional chuckle. I seriously did not mean to laugh, Mrs. Anderson, but when a funny image of a teacher you strongly dislike pops in your head, you can't help it.

So there I was, thinking, Oh crap. Mr. Mort was still turning red, which was beginning to really scare me. And because of his anger, he was barely capable of puffing out his words to the girl in front of him (namely, me). But, in the end, he succeeded. "Detention…tomorrow…"

I just nodded. I knew I would worsen things if I tried to apologize. I did it before and only succeeded in earning another detention. How that happened, I'm still not sure.

Finally, the clock struck four and the ten or so students in the room were dismissed. The students sloppily threw their stuff in their bag, but I was different. I slowly gathered up my things and carefully placed them in my old shoulder bag. The notebooks and books went from biggest to smallest, and my pencil case went on the right side, while my thick agenda went on the left.

Nobody bothered to talk to me as everyone filed out, but that was perfectly normal. When almost everyone was gone, I placed the strap of my black bag on my shoulder and walked out, avoiding Mr. Mort's glaring eyes.

If I had not received detention that day, I would not have met him. Yes, Mrs. Anderson. All the source of my coldness towards storybooks and life in general comes from an experience with the opposite sex. Surprised?

Anyway, since I feel as if writing this is therapy (which surprises me since I did not expect it to be so), I think it will be safe to talk about it. To keep something like this bottled up inside will make me go insane. So now, I am going to back track to the time before you assigned this helpful (I'm not trying to suck up) English task.

I walked home that day, as I normally would. Stone Crest High is only about twelve or thirteen minutes away from my house. The weather that day was still warm, but despite this, I still wore sweatpants. For some reason, I find shorts uncomfortable, even those long ones that reach my knees. And skirts are definitely out of the question. Imagine if you wear those on a windy day.

As you can probably tell, I'm stalling. That's perfectly normal, right? People stall when they are a bit hesitant to talk to about a part of their life that they want to forget. Unfortunately for me, this experience is unforgettable. Plenty of times I try to push it to the very back of my head and lock it there, but it just wouldn't stay. Do you, by chance, know why this is so? Because I don't. Plenty of times I find myself spacing out and going back in time during this part of my life. It's really hard. Why can't I go back to the times when I was only a child, eating ice cream and playing in the swings?

I'm stalling again. Sorry. But now I won't. I have to get this out of my system.

That day, the atmosphere was darker and gloomier than usual, and I knew that it was bound to rain soon. There was no smell of approaching rain (I don't even know how that is suppose to smell), but the high humidity warned me. This was a pity since I had barely left the school, and still had about ten more minutes to go.

Please get me home before it starts to rain, I pleaded.

And of course, this was the moment when a bright flash of lighting appeared in the grey sky, and the sound of booming thunder soon followed.

Why did I have to jinx it? I thought wryly as droplets of rain began to fall down. At first, it was just a drizzle, gentle pitter-pats, but they began to fall hard seconds later. Soon, I was soaked to the bone and was racing through the sidewalk, hoping to get home as soon as possible.

And because I was in this occupied state, I did not notice the slippery part of the sidewalk ahead me. I wish I could tell you that I luckily avoided it, but that was not the case. I stepped on it and—whoooosh!—I slipped and not-so-gracefully fell right on my ass.

I found myself sitting on a murky puddle, the cool water quickly seeping through the seat of my pants. It's a very uncomfortable experience, trust me on that. No doubt I looked like a real mess at that time.

It was in that precise moment when a black, hot-looking car stopped right next to me. I know nothing about cars, so let's just leave it at black and hot-looking, all right? Anyway, the window rolled down, revealing a hot guy to go with his hot car.

What the hell? Did I just come up with that? I thought. No, I did not make that up just right now to make this story interesting, Mrs. Anderson. I seriously thought that. I even remember frowning at the way my mind worked right there. That was certainly unusual. But then again, I was always doing and thinking unusual stuff...

All right. Getting off track here. Back to the handsome, dark-haired guy…

"Are you all right?" he asked, his mouth curved into a smirk. He didn't sound concerned at all. Just…amused.

I just sat on the puddle like some pathetic girl, forgetting about the water seeping through. I froze, stunned that a guy—a handsome guy at that (I refuse to say the word "hot" again. It's just not me.)—was talking to me. And because of this state, the wheels in my mind started to spin with…well, weird thoughts. What the hell? How dare he smirk at ME! He has no right to smirk like that! He should be penalized! There should be a fine for people who smirk!

"Why are you muttering to yourself?" he cut in, interrupting my thoughts. I can remember his blue eyes taking in my (very) pitiful form, laughing at me.

"None of your business!" I snapped. I didn't mean to be all snappy, but it was a way to distract myself (and maybe even him) from the humiliating situation. Picture myself in my shoes (specifically, my old and worn-out sneakers). I just slipped on a dirty puddle, proving how wonderfully graceful I am to a guy who had witnessed the whole thing. And yes, I was still sitting there in the pouring rain, looking like a lost little girl.

It was in this moment when I asked myself something: Why should I care about what he thought of me? I had no interest in guys. (No, I am not interested in girls either.) I swore to myself to concentrate on nothing but school. Okay, that was a downright lie, but let's pretend, shall we?

Anyway, with this little thought in mind, I hastily stood up and walked away from him, not bothering to thank him for his "concern."

I expected him to shrug and drive off, while muttering to himself about "weird girls in their time of month," so I was unpleasantly surprised when he did no such thing. Instead, he drove slowly, matching the speed of his car with my walking pace.

"Want a ride?" he called out.

I stopped walking and glared at him. "I don't even know you! Do I look like a weak, stupid, pathetic girl to you?"

He shrugged. "Well…yes, at the moment."

I shot him a glare but gave no comeback. In truth, I had none. Pathetic, right? Buzz off. It was not my fault that I had no talent on hurting people's feelings. Yeah… So anyway, since I had no witty retort or insult to say, I just turned and resumed my walking, trying my best to ignore him.

"I'm not going to do anything to you," he said with a chuckle. "Looking at you right now doesn't really turn me on."

I pretended that I didn't hear that. I didn't even glance at him. Okay, Mrs. Anderson. I admit that it hurt a very tiny bit, but I told myself that he was certainly not worth my time.

And twirling pens is?

Okay, where did THAT come from? I smiled wryly and shook my head. Wow. The way my mind works can be so…

"Your ass is wet, by the way."

With this, I whirled at him and shouted at the top of my lungs. "LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU...YOU...STALKER!"

Now please don't assume that I am a short-tempered girl. I can be really patient. Really. Or else I wouldn't havebeen Gregory and Michael's baby-sitter, who are demonic kids, by the way. But anyway, there was something about him that made me really angry. Have you ever experienced that?

I expected him to go really mad and angrily drive off (maybe even shout curses at sky…is that what guys do when they are mad?), so I was, yet again, unpleasantly surprised when he stared at me through his intense blue orbs…and then burst out laughing. Yes, Mrs. Anderson. He was cheeky enough to laugh at me.

Needless to say, I glared at him. Or at least tried to. I'm not very good with glares. "I'm serious," Isaid through clenched teeth. "You're scaring the crap out of me."

"Not as much as you're scaring the crap out of me. All I want to do is help you, and here you are, going all...wonky?" I watched him frown and absent-mindedly scratch his chin. I just stood there pathetically, forgetting about the pouring rain. Why I did not just leave at the moment, I would never know.

Suddenly, he snorted and shook his head. Then he let out a quiet laugh that sounded as if he was laughing at a joke on himself. I just looked at him curiously. "So anyway," he said later on, "do you want a ride or not?"

"Not," I replied immediately. "Now leave me alone."

He shrugged. "Fine," he said, grinning oh-so-roguishly. "Just fine. Have fun walking in this cold rain."

He was off in his hot car before I could say another word.

Yes, I thought that. Hot car? I shook my head as I continued to walk in the rain (which was showing no signs of stopping). Me and my vocabulary…


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