Rae leant over and grasped her knees, breathing hard. Jeez, this trainer was really putting her through her paces. It was only the warm-ups, for goodness sake! She knew she hadn't had time to practice since the move, but this… this was ridiculous! No way was she this out of shape.

Let's see… it had only been three days since she started school, and about three weeks since she came to this new country, where her brother went to university. She had never known why he chose to come to this country to study, when their home country, USA was sooo far away.

But now she knew. A sly smile curved her lips. Theresa. Thick auburn curly locks, beautiful sapphire eyes, legs the length of the Nile River, fabulous figure- the whole package. Boy oh boy, her brother would be in big trouble when her parents found ou- her parents… She felt her own teal-green eyes fill up with tears. Her parents had died in a car-crash a year ago. Being here with her brother, sharing the grief, had made it a little better. If not for her abysmally idiotic uncle and aunt and their insistence that she finish the year at her previous high school- she scowled at the thought of them- she would have joined her brother here ages ago.

"Diethel! I didn't let you in so you could slack! Get your butt here and train!" Tyler (he told the team to call him by his last name), the totally hot and unfortunately, also sadistic trainer in charge of the ASH (Avalon Senior High) athletics team which she also unfortunately joined, yelled.

Rae's nostrils flared. "Why did you let me in, if you're going to boss me around like that?" She muttered darkly. She hated being yelled at.

"I can hear you! I let you in because I thought you had potential! Now get your butt here so you can show me how right I am!" A few girls who were on the bleachers watching the team train (and probably Tyler as well) giggled and ooh-aahed. God, be the neurotic bimbos, will you?

"Coach says get on the track now, midget. God knows why he let someone as short as you in, anyway. Everyone knows that midgets can't run." The offender smirked at Rae with a gleam in his dark blue-grey eyes. Rae felt like going at him and tearing out his hair. If anything, she hated being called short even more. Moron! She wasn't short, she was below average. She was petite. Not short! There was a hell lot of difference! Imbecile!

"Get here, Diethel. We don't have all day!"

Rae snapped out of her murderous state and shot a killer glare at the boy who had spoken, trotting down the steps to the track.

"Finally, Diethel! Now, I want to get a better gauge of your speed and technique. I only got a glimpse the other day at the audition. Let's see… Ben, come over here. 4x100 metres, both of you. Diethel, try your best please. Ben's our best runner here, but I really need to see how fast you can go."

Oh god. More exercise? But her blood froze when she saw that… that guy, the asshole who insulted her. That exact same idiot, approaching. Slowly, her blood began to boil. That moron, the best runner in the team? Hah! Who'd have thought?

He reached her and a lazy smile flicked over his mouth. "Hey, midget."

Her blood reached boiling point and began to bubble furiously. "Bastard," she hissed.

"Get ready! Quick!" Tyler stomped his foot almost childishly. Both Rae and Ben began to smile at the sight, but quickly stopped, seeing that each other had the same reaction.

"No one calls me bastard and gets away with it," Ben drawled.

"Oh yeah?" She stuck out her chin in challenge.

"Oh, you're so on. Be prepared to lose…. midget."

Before she had time to slap him, though, Tyler tooted the horn and by pure instinct, she exploded into a sprint. Oh, she'll show him all right. Let's see how fast he is, she smirked. No one, not even a boy had come close to beating her at a race back at her hometown. Moreover, the 4x100m was her pet event. Be prepared to lose, my foot!

Ben snorted at the thought of that midget even coming close to beating him. Him, the record-holder for 4x100m, the best runner in the ASH team, champion in several national races? Him? You've so got to be kidding. The little midget had no chance, none at all.

It was no wonder, then, that his eyes bulged out at her explosion in speed. Who'd have thought that midget could run? He recovered from his initial shock, and forged from behind her. Huh. He simply had a temporary lapse, that's all. A shock. Who wouldn't be shocked after seeing that the midget, however cute she was, with her cropped dark red hair flying in the breeze, her teal eyes full of intense concentration, could even run even half as fast as him?

Behind her… Now just beside her…. Then in front of her! Hah! Even though this midget could run, she couldn't possibly beat him. He spotted the look of surprise as he surpassed. So she wasn't only short, she was also confident huh? Well, he'll show her all right. He'll show her how to win.

Rae's eyes widened as the jerk surged ahead. Dammit! She had gotten the head-start, but by the looks of it… He was ahead. Rae took even bigger strides, trying her best to catch up with him. Ngaaah! The finish line was a few metres away… Run, dammit, run! She pumped her legs harder and harder, and grinned from ear to ear when she saw that she was catching up…. Closer…. closer…

They both sprinted across the finish line and stood, breathing hard, waiting for Tyler to announce the results.

Rae's breath came in gasps as she tried her best not to lean over or bend down, not wanting to show weakness. Disbelief showed in Tyler's face as he read the numbers on his stopwatch.

"Ben, you won…"

Damn! Why? WHY?!

"… by only one second!"

Oh. Well, at least it wasn't by a lot.

The team cheered, and Samantha, the first person she'd met in the track team came over to pat her on the back… hard. Rae almost fell over.

"Wow! Rae, that was really good…"

Rae snorted.

"Seriously! You have no idea how good Ben is. He's like, the fastest runner EVER in our school. You have to be really really good if you get to lose to him by only one second!"

Rae gaped at her. Losing actually meant she was good? Was Sam kidding her? Behind her, Rae heard someone mutter, "Midget!" She turned to find Ben glaring at her, and gave him the equal intensity of her glare. If looks could kill… both of them would be dead by now. Breaking away from the stare at the exact same time, both Rae and Ben turned to bark at Tyler in unison.

"Tyler! I want a rematch!"


"Where are Rae and Isabelle again?" Nicole stretched her arms over her head and yawned widely.

Ashley looked up from her pile of books. "Rae's at track and Isabelle's getting her new phone, if I'm not wrong. They'll meet us here later." She looked around at the school library, checking if they were here yet, and groaned to see that they were not. "You know, I never knew there was a library in the school, much less a library this big. Wonder how Isabelle knew of this place?"

Nicole grumbled, "Whatever, I just wish that they're here. Isabelle's the smart one; she'll know how to do this." She gestured at the pile of papers in front of her.

"Here, lemme see."

Nicole obediently handed over the offending assignment. Ashley stared hard at it for a while. "Erm… I think you should do this… then this… See if it works."

"Huh, you're really experienced at this homework-helping thing huh?"

Ashley laughed, a pleasant tinkling sound ringing in the air. "I used to help Rene, Tiff and Cyn with their homework all the time. You won't believe how stupid they really are, for all the snide remarks and the insults they give."

Nicole raised an eyebrow. "So I guess it's over between you and them?"

"Never been more right in your life," Ashley said cheerfully.

"But… why? I thought you guys were really close? The most popular girls in school, stick together through thick and thin?"

Ashley closed the book she was using for reference, and stared moodily at a spot in front of her on the table. "I don't know. We were, I guess. I thought they were cool, and everything. I looked up to them, thought they were the most popular girls in school and that I wanted to be just like them. Confident, popular, cool. So when they wanted me to be their friend, I was really happy and everything." She paused and frowned. "But I guess I discovered that they weren't really what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be with. Tiff can be sooo the airhead, ya'know? And Cynthia's kind of- I don't know, conniving? She can be a real backstabber sometimes."

She sighed and placed her head on her hand. "Rene's the worst, I think. She pretends to be innocent and nice so guys would fall for her. But really, she's the meanest. She even insulted a girl to tears, all because the poor girl was wearing the exact same shade of pink as her. What's more, she's really… possessive and competitive. You know, there's this guy in school, Aaron. Well, Rene took one look at him and decided she would look good hanging on his arm, so she went all out to chase him. But he rejected her. She was in denial and insisted to everyone who would listen that Aaron was going out with her. I mean like, why would someone as stellar as him go out with Rene?"

Nicole interrupted her tirade. "Whoa. Speak of the devil!"

Ashley whirled around in her seat. "What? Aaron? Where?!"

True enough, six feet of blond hunk walked past, and Ashley's eyes lit up. "Hey, I've got this fabulous idea! Why don't I introduce you to Aaron? I bet both of you will hit it right off, he's really cool, and nice and sweet and smart, he's not mean at all!"

Nicole started to grin, and shook her head in disbelief. "Oh boy, you should hear yourself. You're so totally in love with this Aaron."

Ashley automatically protested, "No I'm not! I'm serious, you should go after him, I'm sure he'll accept-"

"NO, Ashley."

Ashley sank down in her seat and pouted. "Why not?"

Nicole explained clearly and slowly, like Ashley was a kindergartener asking why potatoes didn't came from cows. "See, it's obvious that you. Are. In. Love. With. Aaron. And see, I'm a very nice person. Hunkalicious as this Aaron may be, I'm a really loyal friend. I don't go after guys whom my really really good friend is in love with. Which, in this case, this really really good friend is YOU." She accentuated her point with a jab in Ashley's direction. "You, you, you, you!"

"I'm not in love with him!"

"Oh yeah? Who was going all, 'oh, he's so cute and smart and nice and sweet' earlier?"

"But I don't like him… do I? If I do, how come I don't know?"

"Here's my analysis. Your sub-conscious is still aware that even though you aren't exactly on good terms with Rene, you still want to be loyal to her. If you admit that you like him-a lot, you think that you're betraying Rene, so much so to speak."

Ashley simply gaped at her.

"Ok, whatever! I can be smart sometimes, you know! Put it simply, you. Like. Him. A lot. Ok? Understandable?"

"Hey guys, what did we miss?" Rae chirped as she and Isabelle burst into the library. The librarian glared at them menacingly over her old-lady glasses and shh-ed them.

Nicole shrugged. "Oh, nothing much. Just a whole load of crap homework which I totally do NOT know how to do. We're all in the same English class right? Excellent, Isabelle? Help me with the assignment? And oh yeah, Ash just discovered that she's in love with Aaron."

"What?!" Rae, Ashley and Isabelle exclaimed. Rae and Isabelle took their seats, and Isabelle started looking over Nicole's assignment.

"Haven't you done it yet?" Isabelle frowned disapprovingly.

Everyone looked at her. "Isa? Yeah, McKenzie just gave this yesterday?" Nicole asked.

Isabelle looked back at them. "What, isn't one day enough to complete it?"

"But it's due next week!" Ashley pointed out.

"You guys shouldn't put stuff off when you can complete them today, you know."

"God, Isa, stop being such a perfectionist!" Rae exclaimed.

Isabelle blinked in surprise. "If I'm not, who's going to help you guys with homework?"

They looked at each other, then back at Isabelle. Point taken.

"So, about this Ash in love with Aaron thing… what are we going to do?" Nicole asked thoughtfully.

"Wait… isn't Aaron the guy whom Rene is also crushing on?" Rae asked confusedly.

"Yes." Isabelle said without looking up from Nicole's assignment.

"So…. Isn't Rene going to have Ash's hide if she even dares to go after Aaron?" Rae countered.

They look at each other. Point taken.

"So, what are we gonna do?!"

"Hey, why are you guys talking about me like I'm not here?"

"Hmm… he's in the library now."

"Excellent!"

"Wait, I do exist, you know!"

Rae, Nicole and Isabelle finally looked at Ashley. "Go over and say hi," Isabelle said finally.

"Really? Just that?" Ashley asked suspiciously.

"Yeah, just that. And, uh…. Ask him out as well." Rae offered.

"What?! No way!"

"Way!" Rae and Nicole chorused.

Ashley turned to Isabelle. "Isa! You aren't gonna make me do it, like they are, right?"

"Here, Nic, I gave you a basic idea of what to do, but you'll have to do the rest yourself."

"Wow! Thanks Isa… you sure you don't want to do all of it for me?" Nicole asked hopefully.

Isabelle raised a perfectly arched brow in disapproval.

"Uh, guess not."

Rae waved a hand at Isabelle and Nicole. "Guys! Back to the subject! What's Ash gonna do?"

"I said, stop talking about me like I'm not here!"

Isabelle tapped her mouth thoughtfully. "Well, if she doesn't want to, I say we put it off another day-"

"Go Isa! You rock!" Ashley stood up and cheered.

"-but she'll have to do it in the end, of course."

"You do realize that we're letting you off big time?" Nicole tilted her head to look up at Ashley.

Ashley grinned. "I know. How about you guys come over to my house so I can repay my everlasting gratitude?"

"Ok!" Rae and Nicole ignored the sarcasm and agreed.

Isabelle hesitated. "I'll have to take a rain check on this one."

"Why?"

"I've got… something on," Isabelle replied vaguely.

Rae, Ashley and Nicole looked at each other and shrugged. They packed up, and walked out the library doors. But Ashley hesitated and looked after her shoulder at Aaron, who was still in the library, and then smiled before hurrying to catch up with the others.