Chapter 1

The bus was, by anyone's definition, bursting at the seams. Lena scowled from her seat in the back, surrounded by the excessive chatter. Her glare settled on the empty space beside her, as if her predicament were the seat's fault.

Unfortunately, her stare-off with the seat was interrupted as someone in back of her emitted a loud squawk. Giggles sounded from everywhere on the bus as the younger students shifted in their seats and peered over the backs with wide grins on their faces.

"...homework for Strassen was so hard, omigod, and did you see her-"

"…Fantasy wouldn't work on my modem, I tried to install the-"

"…So I told her that she had better stop screwing around with my-"

"…such a backstabbing bitch! I practically made her, and what does she do to-"

"…such thing as jeans with too many holes. The dress code is total B.S., no one actually-"

Lena zoned out from the buzz of conversation, her gaze instead fixated on the window beside her. Leaves of all hues danced across the damp street, finding newfound vigor as the bus wheels churned beside them. They were free; other, more unfortunate, leaves were stuck to the pavement, pressed there by one of the very elements that gave them life.

Her eyes slid out of focus, now lost in her thoughts. I wonder what Mom is doing now… A faint smile crept to her lips. Probably trying to create a new scent for her incense, or something bizarre like that.

"You don't smile very often, do you?" an voice drawled from next to her.

Lena jerked her gaze from the window to the person who now occupied the seat beside her. Any trace of her previous smile was now gone, her face drawn into it's familiar scowl.

The boy next to her raised a pierced eyebrow, pale lips drawn into a smirk. His unkempt black hair casually framed his face, a few strands falling before the azure of his eyes. Across the front of his black t-shirt was a strip of piece of yellow caution tape, ironed on the shirt so it rested diagonally across the chest. They glinted now with amusement at the knowledge that she had been studying him, but remained otherwise blank. Lena, thoroughly annoyed, shot him a dirty look, then proceeded to stare back at the window, fuming. Arrogant bastard.

"Not going to answer the question?" he inquired, his voice laced with amusement. His mouth opened in a yawn, and a glint of metal flashed on his tongue.

Lena opened her mouth to retort. "Now, look here, you-"

"Everyone shut up!" boomed a voice from the front of the bus. Every conversation on the bus occupant's lips died instantly, and fifty pairs of eyes swiveled up to stare at the bus driver. "Do you have any idea how tiring and annoying it is to be up here, trying to pay attention to the road, while all of you keep talking and talking and talking!" With a loud grunt of frustration, he reached over to the radio accompanying the front of the bus to the right of the driver's wheel.

A loud chorus of Smashmouth screamed from the small straining speakers. Nervous giggles sounded from the bus, adding to the noise.

"Oh, Goddess," Lena cursed silently under her breath, ripping headphones out from the inside of her backpack and slapping them over her ears. She didn't notice that after her utterance, the boy beside her snapped his gaze directly to her face, eyes widened slightly.

She had already lost herself in the music.

She scuffed her black boots on the damp sidewalk, scraping the leftover dew off the concrete. She stayed behind the mass of talkative students, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at the so-called 'popular' girls showing off their new highlights. Sometimes school was such a drag.

Shooting a glance at the figure walking steadily beside her, she inwardly cursed. Trust her to be the one stuck with the psycho. "Don't you have somewhere better to be or something?" she asked, not bothering to turn.

The same smirk that seemed to be his trademark blazoned across his features, though Lena couldn't see it. "Not when someone needs me," he said after a pause, seeming to consider his words carefully.

Lena was about to retort when something dark moved at the edge of her vision. Spinning around, she frowned. The lot was empty except for a lone basketball hoop off to the side "Did you see anything just now?" she asked, turning around to face the boy.

But he was already gone.

She fumbled with the combination for her locker for exactly eight minutes. After muttering a long string of profanities, she pounded the puke-provoking orange metal with her fist. After this, of course, the locker chose to open.

"Typical," she muttered under her breath, retrieving her Algebra book from the disorganized mess. She slammed the door shut, tucking the book in the crook of her arm along with her notebook and pen. Walking down the hallway, she casually shouldered the other shoulder strap of her backpack.

In Algebra, Lena became agitated, squirming in her seat and glancing at the clock every five seconds. It seemed to inch by painfully slowly; every tick of the second hand was an era in itself.

Finally, she raised her hand and asked where the bathroom pass was. The teacher, Mr. Donnoly, raised a grey-streaked eyebrow at this, but pointed to the lone desk propped next to the door with the sign-out sheet and pass on it.

After signing her name and taking the large wooden model of a toilet that served as a pass, Lena escaped into the hallway, her mind still buzzing restlessly. Needless to say, she didn't go to the bathroom, just strolled aimlessly around the school.


Cringing at her full name, Lena turned around to face the person who had called out, already knowing whom it would be. "Arianna," she said dully, repeating the formality.

Ari laughed, flouncing up to Lena and slinging her arm around her shoulder. "Hey. Sorry I wasn't on the bus this morning; I had to catch up on a Chem lab."

Lena cringed as she was reminded of her encounter with the creepy guy on the bus. "It's… fine, as long as you're on this afternoon."

"Oh, um..." Ari began, looking apologetic. "Actually, I have to stay after school for play practice…"

Groaning, Lena almost hit her head against the ridiculous bathroom pass, but thankfully refrained when she remembered what she held in hands. "How can you do this to me?" she moaned. "Now I have to sit next to psycho boy again…"

Ari cocked her head in interest. "Who is-"

She was interrupted, however, as Lena's math teacher appeared at the end of the hallway, his face a distinct shade of purple. "Miss Fairbanks," he said, his voice trembling with anger, "Do you quite think you are finished using the bathroom now?"

Getting back on the bus, she sat again in one of the back seats. She was the first one on, which was relatively unusual. But, for valid reasons, she wanted to avoid sitting next to the boy who had sat next to her in the morning. He had been in some of her classes throughout the day. It had been rather strange… and creepy. Whenever she had looked up from her work, she would catch him staring at her, as if her were trying to bore a hole inside of her skull. She was beginning to believe that he really was a stalker.

As the students began to filter on the bus, she caught a fleeting glimpse of his dark t-shirt among all the pastels of the freshman. Sit somewhere else, she pleaded. Anywhere but here.

All that her mental exertion got her was a curious look from the boy as he again sat down right beside her, pushing her bag out of the way. "Nice try," he said easily, sinking back into the seat and bringing one knee up to rest against the vinyl.

"Nice try at what?" she snapped, staring down at her deposited bag.

He closed his eyes, a ghost of a smile still on his face. "Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, Lena."

She frowned when he used her name. Where- oh, yeah. Damn attendance. But I never heard them call his name… or else, I just wasn't listening… She brushed off this thought as soon as it came to her. Who cares, anyway?

His eyes snapped open, the pupils contracting at the sudden light. "It's Kaja," he murmured, then his eyelids fluttered shut once more.

A few minutes later, the bus reached her stop. Sighing in relief, she gathered her books and walked down the steps and onto the sidewalk.

"Lena?" Her mother's echoed from downstairs.

Frowning, Selena looked up from the computer on her desk. "Yeah?" she called, turning back to her e-mail. The mouse clicked as she scrolled down her inbox, deleting the junk.

"Do you know where the ornaments for Yule are?"

"No," she yelled. "Did you check the box?" She kept clicking, deleting all of the credit card and the 'Oh-my-gosh-look-at-what-you-could-win-if-you-answer-our-gay-questionare' e-mails. Only forty more annoying boxes to check before all the damn things went to cyber hell.

"Of course. It wasn't there, or in the attic."

"Then I don't know, Mom."

"Okay, honey. Get your homework done. This Saturday we are going to visit your aunt in Maryland, so try to get some packing done, too."

Lena didn't answer, her eyes still focused on the screen. Twenty e-mails left. Suddenly, an IM box popped up on the corner of her screen. Confused, she looked at the ID. The username was Devocu. She didn't recognize it as anyone she knew. Inwardly shrugging, she accepted the message.


Is your screen name a different language or something?




…Do I know you?


Not exactly.


Who are you?

There was a long pause, and, just as Lena was about to close the window, Devocu started typing again.


Don't trust the pawn.

Lena blinked, surprised. What was that supposed to mean?


What the hell?!

Devocu has just signed off.

Signed off? She thought in disbelief. What a psycho.

She reclined back into the chair, resting her head on her joined palms. A prolonged yawn escaped her as she arched her back and stretched. Two psychos in one day, she thought, shaking her head.

With that last thought, she closed the windows on her account and jumped into her bed with no little amount of eagerness.