Rose Fox

Written By: Madeline aka Iris Jean aka Mira aka Angela aka far too many more names to count/tell

Chapter Two: "It's Like Seeing My Double"

Everything was the same, never different, never changing. Nothing was new, original, unique or even attempting to show any diversity. The boys and girls all looked the same to me, wearing the same uniforms as all the rest of them always wear. The teacher seems nice, and she reminds me of an old mentor of mine, Erikita Tellah, by disposition, behavior and beauty, but only vaguely. Mrs. Ulrich was especially nice, but she was nothing special—or so I thought. I was to be proven wrong later. Very, very wrong. (It's surprising how wrong I—a genius—can be, and so very, very often!).

The boy who sits next to me is different from them all, that I could tell immediately. Not only is he the only redhead I've seen, and the only guy with long hair, but he is also the only one who wasn't staring at me like a dog, or even trying to be polite or courteous to me, the new arrival. My anger flared; how dare he! But then I realized that he must be leaving me alone because he could tell that was what I wanted—at least, that's what I thought I wanted, what I showed I wanted, and he was indulging me. Upon realizing this I came to see that I was behaving like a spoiled brat, and I was embarrassed. I shifted nervously, but didn't back down from my behavior.

He smiled, because he noticed.

Now that I think about it, he is beautiful, isn't he? His hair is silky smooth and perfectly conditioned—of a far better quality than all of the girls in this class—and the color was exceptional, partly because it was natural, partly because it was…different. I wondered why they had allowed him to keep the color (it was so bright and forbidden) and the length (he's a guy!). One thing not even I can get away with is my natural hair color—it's not black. My hair is naturally red, and they get angry. I can either have it long or red. I chose long, because that's what dye's for, and besides—I need it long. It is a necessary, inflexible essential.

His emerald green eyes betrayed inner strength, great intelligence and a heart of warm gold. He was a nice guy, a smart guy, a perfect guy. He gets along with everybody, no doubt, and the girls love him. The guys envy him, but they don't hate him, because he is so nice. He's the perfect guy. I know the type. He could get away with anything—like me—but he's too nice and honest to do so—very unlike me. He probably loves his mother, and has never had a girlfriend.

Guys like this are prone to snapping and possessing dark sides.

I could see it all in his eyes; I can read people, especially if I feel connected to them, and I can see myself in those brilliant eyes of his. I feel drawn to him; because I can tell he has a past as bad as mine. He masks his sadness and his horrible past with his intelligence, his kindness, his perfection. Nobody can tell, because they are all callous and self-absorbed. Human beings—by nature—think only of themselves. They are selfish as a species, and cold and uncaring as a race. It sickens me.

But I have no right to be sickened, because I am no better than them.

And it took a look into this boy's soul to see it.

Pain, aching, loneliness, struggle, sadness, grief, horror. Those are some of the things I see in his eyes, which can also undoubtedly be seen in my eyes as well. The ache of a horrid past, still haunting, even when it's long gone, done and over with. The feeling of responsibility for all and everything, even when it isn't your fault. The detachment that comes with knowing you can only hurt others, never help them. The only way to keep them safe is to be removed from them, protecting them from your company, because all you can bring is pain and suffering. Everything I saw and know within my own self I see in him, as if looking in a mirror, and a lot more besides. As I looked, I discovered things within myself that I had never before seen. I have been denying them, but seeing them in another made me realize that I had it too. A dire need to prove yourself, to make your family proud, to show the world that you can do anything, that you deserve to live, you deserve happiness—to show your mother you love her more than anything, and that she shouldn't be sad on your behalf, because you are worthless compared to her.

Just to name a few.

The bell rang and most of the class got up and streamed out of the room. Daniel and The Boys (as I would come to know them) said good-bye to the redhead, who smiled and waved back. He didn't move. He was one of the few who did. The other ones were the teacher, Mrs. Ulrich, myself, and another girl. The girl was bright and cheery, practically a mini-Patricia (Mrs. Ulrich). She was blonde, and she wore golden earrings and pale pink lipstick. She turned around, bright blue eyes sparkling and smiled.

"Stefi! Time for another day of advanced math. You excited?"

I smiled. She does this every day, and it's rather sweet. "As excited as any other day," I replied. She laughed at the joke I make at the beginning of every single math class, her laughs bubbly and uplifting. Her name's Winifred Ulrich, Ms. Trisha's younger sister. Winnie (as she prefers to be called) is a very intelligent young girl, who can be seen as a prep, but really isn't. She's not a snob—she has a good heart, and she's perpetually nice and sunny.

She eyed the girl sitting next to me—Lyn—and gave her a sweet smile. Without looking I knew it was not returned. Just as nothing ever bothers Ms. Trisha, it never does bother Winnie, either. They are both very persistent and stubborn, refusing to admit the worst in others. "And who's your friend?"

I smiled at the low, throaty growl I heard originating behind me. Winnie had to stifle a giggle. Ms. Trisha smiled, still writing on the blackboard at the front of the room. "She is Rose Lyn Fox, the new student. You saw her arrive," I replied. "I don't know her." I hope that didn't come off as rude and callous as it sounded.

Winnie shrugged, leaning on the back of her chair. "I don't really pay attention. So many things happen; this world's on such a high speed that I can't catch everything."

Ms. Trisha turned and put her hands on her hips. In mock seriousness she "scolded" her little sister: "Now, now, why don't you just come out and admit that you fell asleep again and didn't notice the huge silence that came in the middle of homeroom?"

Winnie blushed and stayed quiet. Ms. Trisha and I laughed. Winnie turned to face the front, and I could tell that she was still red in the cheeks.

The classroom slowly began filling up with students, the torrential flow speeding up and increasing in speed rapidly as more and more students came in. There were so many, and they came in so quickly, that for a brief time I felt afraid. Large groups of people frighten me, because I feel like they're all watching me, staring at me, judging me, and it makes me uncomfortable. Being around normal people makes me remember that I am not one of them, and I feel like I stick out even more than I really do. I feel enclosed, like they are ganging up on me, a mob preparing to attack my unworthy self.

But, of course, that is all utter nonsense and complete rubbish.

…For right now.

Once everyone was inside and seated there wasn't even enough space for a single other person to sit down. It had all started so quickly, and was over just as fast, it had taken me completely by surprise, allowing me absolutely no time to react. My first day at school was full of surprises; and I'm not fond of surprises. But I would have to get used to them, because from here on out they never end and they only get worse (or should I say better? Perhaps a little bit of both, as you will soon see).

As soon as there were no more seats up for grabs, Mrs. Ulrich closed the door and proceeded to address the class from the front of the room. The bell hadn't even rung yet. They class was perfectly silent, hanging onto her every word in a way I have never seen any teacher ever able to get a class to do. In every single class—no matter where you go—there is always at least one person goofing off, not paying attention, sleeping, or in some other ways ignoring the spoken word of their elder. Not even the goof-offs were goofing off, and the "delinquents" were listening as well (but how much of a delinquent can you be in advanced math? I mean—come on!).

Oh yeah, there is one here—me.

I quickly fixed that.

"…and I know all of you are ready for the upcoming finals, but ready is not nearly good enough. I don't want you to pass, I want you to excel. You are the best this school has, and your scores must reflect that. I will not have my students—all of you, my best students—doing poorly by my standards. You are very bright, extremely intelligent, the best. If your scores do not show what I know, I will get angry, and you do not want to see that. I say this for you, because I love every single one of you, and I want you to do well. You need math, and in this world all of you will do well if you try to even half of your potential. I will not let you mess yourselves up; I am strict because I love you, and I will work you hard—out of love. If you work yourselves hard here and at least a little bit at home you will do as well as I know you can, and you will make me proud."

Wow, she sure is one dedicated teacher. She's nice, yet vicious. She loves deeply, and doesn't want they whom she loves doing badly. She is dedicated, and such dedication is rare and refreshing. It makes her remind me of Eri even more than before—soft and sweet, yet hard and fiery. It's nice, and perfect.

At the end of her passionate speech she said nothing more; she just sat back down at her desk. I had been listening intently to her little speech and was disappointed that it ended. She had left me hanging, begging for more, providing no closure. This surprised me. Most teachers would have given a bit of closure, to reimburse what they had just said, but Mrs. Ulrich did no such thing. She said what she wanted to stay, letting it sink in. I was shocked, and stunned. I was so out of it that I didn't notice that everyone had gotten out a piece of paper and a pen or a pencil and begun to do the work on the board. I looked at it, and saw a list of page numbers and problems to do. It was over-whelming, the amount of work given. Page after page, problem after problem, with no reprieve in sight.

This is the toughest teacher ever!

I was unable to comprehend the amount of work, much less think about starting it. So much, so very, very much work, and everyone was working hard and silently. No one spoke, except in rare hushed tones for paper, a pencil, or help with a problem. Nobody goofed-off; they all worked diligently, a surprise to me. I have never seen anything like this. It wasn't that the teacher was strict—she is quite the opposite of that—but that she commanded their respect, so they did what she wanted, which is for them to work and do well.

And I wanted to do the same, but I couldn't. I had no book, no paper and no pencil. It surprised me that she didn't even acknowledge that I, as a new student, might need help or guidance. She's nice, and I doubt that she was fooled by my mask, how I act and how I dress. She knows I'm smart, and that I don't want to work, so she left me to do what I wanted. She didn't want to anger me by acting like a mother, so she retaliated with this persona, to make me feel as I wanted to feel—as I was projecting myself and who I was.

She is far too smart.

She left me as I thought I wanted to be left, which taught me the error of my ways.

But I was too ashamed to admit the truth; not after how I've been acting for the short amount of time I've been here so far. She's doing the same as the boy beside me is. Letting me be, because that's how I'm showing I want to be treated, and people deserve what they think they want what when it's as stupid as what they really wish they don't have. What am I to do? I wondered. I was being a stupid, selfish girl—just as bad as they around me. How could I fix my stupidity, without admitting my error and my own humanity?

"Psst," I heard someone hiss. The sound came from my left and I assumed it was directed and someone else. I heard it again, more urgent and insistent this time—"Psssst!"—louder and more noticeable this time. I'm surprised that not everyone heard. At the third "Pssst" I turned around, and saw the redhead. But he hadn't been the one to hiss at me to get my attention. The hissing had been done by the girl on the other side of him.

This girl was beautiful, and by beautiful I mean radiant. What others thought about me I thought about her. Her hair was midnight-something, shiny and practically black in its darkness and depth. Only when the light reflected off it could you see the purple it was made of, which made it seem as if her hair was shifting, shimmery and highlighted. I wondered why that was allowed, with the dress code, but decided it would be better to ask that later. Her eyes were—at the moment—a light, pale purple, lavender even. She had ivory pale skin, not pink like mine. She looked cold, hard and pissed off—not very patient or tolerant at all!

The redhead smiled. In a whisper, he explained to me, "Hello, my name is Stefan, and this is Sofia. You can call me Korrin and her Kassandra. We, too, go by our middle names." He smiled, but purple-hair remained tight-lipped and angry on principal. The redhead ignored her. "I assume that you aren't going to do the work, or am I wrong?"

I was stunned, speechless. He was awfully close to me, in order to be heard, and I felt myself captivated by his beautifully sad eyes and irregular good looks. I found myself unable to speak. I took in a deep breath, but that only made things worse. I tasted and smelled his scent, and I felt myself slipping into a spell-like trance, unable to react or do anything for his beauty. I knew that this was the same enchantment most of the girls in this school cannot escape from, and I don't care. He smelled so nice, so sweet, so beautiful…like freshly opened roses, as far as I thought I could tell… (Roses? Yes…the heavenly scent of roses…)

I heard Kassandra sneer, most obviously due to frustration and disdain at my silence and seemingly spinelessness. She continued staring down at an angle; her eyes closed dreamily, her voice as sharp as the sharpest knife, even less kind than usual. "Leave her alone, Korrin, she's obviously not going to answer. Let her brood in the corner like a little child and leave her alone—she doesn't need or want your sympathy. She doesn't deserve it."

This angered me more because it was the truth I saw in myself, as opposed to the actual words themselves. I boiled and felt my rage mount up, threatening to burst. I fought it down and got myself under control. By that time both Korrin and Kassandra had returned to their work. I felt this over-whelming and over-powering to prove Kassandra wrong, no matter what the cost or consequence—it immediately became my number one goal, mission and aim in life, high above all the rest of all the things I've ever wanted to do or accomplish. Everything was diminished compared to her.

I bent my head down love and edged toward Korrin. In a soft, yet loud, whisper—meant more for Kassandra to hear than for Korrin—I said, "I, actually, do plan on working—but I lack the supplies to do so. Would it be okay if I borrowed some of yours? I would absolutely love for you to help me in that small way."

Korrin smiled and Kassandra grimaced. I smiled inwardly, secretly pleased with myself. Holding back a laugh, Korrin replied, "Of course I'll help you; after all, what kind of a person would I be to refuse such a polite request?"

Sofia Kassandra Valentine is one of my best friends. I know what you're thinking—you're thinking about earlier, when I said I had no real friends, right? Yes, I know, it may seem like I lied, but I didn't. Kassandra isn't just my friend—she is a kindred spirit, and I don't see her as a friend. You make friends, you choose friends, friends can become more, and such relationships can change. Friends can fall in love and they can go sour and the feeling can morph into hate. Friendship is flexible, and complicated. Such things are not possible between me and Kassandra—we are alike, two parts to one soul, the same in many ways. It is her, myself and one other that create such a close bond. They are both bonded to me, but not to each other. It's somewhat hard to explain.

In other words, we are soul siblings.

I have known Kassandra (only I am allowed to call her Sofia, which I rarely do, because she prefers to be called Kassandra—although, every once in a while, I use her first name, but that is only when necessary—much like when a parent uses their child's full name—it serves as a warning) for a very long time. Her mother and my mother knew each other before she (Mrs. Valentine) passed away. Her mother, Valeria Valentine-Jessamine, was a very strong woman, much like Kassandra herself. Her and my mother, Sylvia Mordechai-Henna, were like sisters when Mrs. Valentine (Valerie) was alive. That made her my aunt, and Kassandra my cousin.

Mrs. Valentine's death came as a great shock to us all. Kassandra and I had been 7 at the time, and our mother's had been 32. My mom was always beautiful, and she always appeared much younger than she truly was. My dad leaving us took a few years from her in terms of looks, but she had remained, basically, unchanged. But the death of her best friend had ravished her beauty. She was still beautiful to me—she forever would be—but she looked closer to her age in her grief. She looked old, and it wasn't good for her.

Valerie Valentine died in a car accident. Her brother, Joshua Jessamine, had been driving her home from North Carolina where she had been visiting her family. It was raining, and he slid on the highway and drove off the edge. He just barely survived, but Valerie didn't make it. He was paralyzed from the waist down, but Valerie was dead. He felt so horrible, so guilty, so broken that he committed suicide a month after leaving the hospital. He set himself on fire in his wheelchair, which is how Valerie died—she had burned to death. (He was thrown out of the car, while she was trapped within the heart of the flames—he had heard her scream as the flames ate her alive; poor guys was tormented, it's little wonder he committed suicide).

I remembered the look on my mother's face perfectly when she got the news. Her youth seemed to melt away as I watched her listen. All color drained from her face and she could no longer support herself. She fell back into a chair and was too shocked and grief-stricken even to cry. I didn't understand, but I was scared, because of how my mom was acting.

Kassandra and her sister, Phaea Valentine, were brought to our house to live. In her will, Mrs. Valentine had left everything to my mother and a few things to her brother. (Their father—Valerie's husband—had died some years earlier, when Kassandra was just born). It was written that her money went to her children, and that if she would that my mother would take her two girls in until Faye (short for Phaea—and prettier to spell than Phae) was able to support them in the house Valerie had just bought for them all.

Of course, my mother agreed.

They only lived with us for four years, because Faye had been 14 when it happened, and as soon as she was 18 she moved back in to the house in which they had resided with their mother—per her requests. The house was right next door, so my mom didn't have to worry. She checked on them often and continues to worry about them to this very day. They are all she had left of her best friend, who had helped her through so much, and who she had helped in return. Faye and Kassandra soon came to see her as her surrogate mother.

Kassandra—she was Sofia back then; actually, Sophie—was happy to live with me and my mother, but she was sad that her mother was gone. She understood, but she gotten over it faster than my mom and Faye. She cried—still does, as I well know—but she was also quicker to be happy again. She enjoyed playing with me. We brightened up my mom and Faye. Without us they might not have gotten over Valerie's death, as much as you can get over a death, that is.

We have been through so much, it's like we are related, only thicker even than blood.

After Math first period I had Language Arts with Mrs. Melody Barry, then Gym with Coach Donald Nix; after that came history with Mr. Roland Guntri, then French with Madam Veronique Laurent, and then freedom. After a day of uniformity—as boring as I had know and feared it would be—I was freed from school, let loose, set free, as if the door of my cage had been unlatched and I was permitted to leave. My first class had been intriguing—for the people, not the material—but the rest of it was just dull.

Korrin's so nice, and Kassandra challenges me, makes me think. Nobody's been able to do that to me in a very, very long time. It's odd and refreshing, finding such intelligence—in four people!—on my first day. That's quite a lot more than I could have ever expected. What a day…

Once out of school I wasn't sure of what to do or where to go.

I was new here in South Carolina. I didn't know the territory, the people, or locations. I didn't know where I could go, what I could do, or who to avoid, who to approach. I was as alone and ignorant as a little fish in a big lake. I wasn't yet accustomed—I hadn't yet grown to fit here—so I was clueless as to where I should begin. I couldn't go home, it was too early, and I couldn't go back, there was nowhere to go back to. I was stuck.

The only thing I can do now is move forward.

And that's just what I did. As soon as I exited the school building I was about to breath in a breath of relief. I immediately started off towards the hill. I planned to walk up this treacherous hill, not roll down and die, and head off towards town. From there I can begin to get to know my new home, and the ways around the city itself. That's the most important thing. I must know every street, every way, every landmark and every place—that would be my foundation. From there I could learn the alleyways, but I'll save that for a later time.

I ran into my first heap of trouble very quickly—as soon as I reached the top of the hill.

I was tired and panting as I reached the top, already beginning to come to despising this hill. It was worthy of the title I had heard used during warm-ups in gym—"The Goddamn Bitch Mountain." It really is a bitch, isn't it? I know knew this from experience. And what was to be witnessed and experienced by me only seconds later would forever cause me to hate this hill even more than before.

I reached the top and paused to breathe, not even bothering to stand or look up. I just lay there, my legs half off the top, panting, breathing in dirt, cursing the hill. It took me a good couple of minutes to notice that I was not alone, here at the top—and I couldn't have chosen worse company for my current state and position.

"Lookit whaz we have got hurr," a slurred voice said. It was hard to tell, but I think it was a guy's voice. Shocked and frozen, I slowly lifted my head up. Here, at the top of the Bitch Mountain, a group of five—two girls and one boy—were standing, all delinquents, obviously a bunch of punk bad-asses, smoking and doing drugs, glaring down at me. I swallowed hard and cursed my luck—at a High School named Fortune (aka Luck), no less!

One of the girls stepped forward. This one had spiky green hair and cat-like eyes. She wore fish net stockings, steel-toed boots, a short skirt and metal accessories, which I thought were quite tacky. She had several piercings, and she wore several chains over her black attire. "What the hell are you doing here, you little bitch? We don't allow outside wannabes like you to defile our hill." Her voice was high-pitched and squeaky; it hurt my ears to listen to her speak.

I pushed myself up and sneered. They were all disgusting and unclean looking. Just looking at them made me uncomfortable and squirmy, almost sick, even. They looked disease ridden, and I felt my stomach churn from disgust. "Who would want to defile such a shitty hill—especially since it looks like you've defiled it plenty with your…ickiness?" I was thinking, You sure I'm the wannabe? But I thought I was probably already pushing my luck as it was. (Like I have any!)

The squeaky-voice girl growled and glared at me, angry at my back talk. The slurred-speech dude stepped towards me. His clothes were horribly ripped and filthy, and he appeared to have the most piercings of them all.

I knew I was screwed. These were punks, there were disgusting, and they were foul, this is all true—but they also outnumbered me, and they weren't a bunch of pansies. I couldn't beat this patch of thugs off without it looking suspicious. It would start rumors, I would get in trouble, and enough of my secret would get out for us to have to move again—and they weren't worth the uprooting and disturbing of my life—yet again. I didn't want the pain, but I had no choice.

Slurry-speech boy dragged me farther towards the center of the hill, and I resisted minimally—too much and I'd break free, and they would get angry. If they thought I was weak they'd go easier on me—I hope. The five of them encircled me, grinning evilly, puffing on cigarettes and joints, violence in their eyes. Especially squeaky-voice girl—she looked as if she would enjoy this the most of them all. She was probably their leader.

This was going to hurt.

(Why do I have this horrible habit of getting myself into massive amounts of trouble, doing the worst possible thing I can do in any given situation, making things even worse for myself? Why me, oh, why must it always be me?)

Kassandra and myself were leaving school in a rather unhurried pace. Kassandra's always a bit hurried and impatient, but she has learned to calm herself around my mother and myself—if she doesn't, she gets angry, and she would feel horrible yelling at the two of us. Especially at my mother, because she would feel saddened. I, on the other hand, take it with a grain of salt, because I know she really doesn't mean what she says half the time—people with nasty and/or short tempers have this nasty tendency to say exactly the wrong thing in any given situation. Besides, if I get angry at her for being angry at me, I know what would happen—and it really isn't worth it, getting angry or reacting to anger, so why bother?

We were leaving slightly later than most of our peers, most of whom rush out of Fortuna like there's a feeding frenzy, desperate to escape the school building. I, on the other hand, have business in the school after hours, and I take my time, because such rush is idiotic and unnecessary. Kassandra stays with me because we are so close—as friends, and as neighbors—and it's easier to wait and take a bit more time than to fight through a crazy crowd for a fraction of a time of more freedom from school.

As we walked towards the entrance, through now deserted halls, me carrying my slim binder for a report, her carrying nothing (as usual), she remained uncharacteristically silent. Well, it's not really uncharacteristic, because she does have her moments; time when she lapses into periods of silence to think and to ponder. During such times I remain quiet, leaving her to her thoughts. I generally let others start conversations, because it would be rude to interrupt someone who is busy, unless what you have to say is important.

She did, however, speak up, which shocked me because I wasn't expecting it. "Do you think that new girl'll make it here, at Fortuna?"

I was startled by her question, but I quickly recovered and thought it over. "I do not know—it depends on what you mean by that. Do you mean the classes, the students, the teachers, the environment, the location, or what?"

Kassandra shook her head, still staring down at the floor as we walked. "I mean all of it, yet none of it. I'm not sure that she—as an outsider—knows enough to keep her ass out of serious trouble. This place is far more treacherous than most people know, and I'm not sure she's made of strong enough stuff."

I chuckled, holding out my hand to push the right double door open, while she opened the left. Before I could reply, I noticed she was staring ahead, a blank gaze of faint curiosity and puzzlement upon her face, which quickly turned to frustration and displeasure. I silently turned and followed her gaze, to check and see what she was staring out so intently.

She scowled, and commented, her voice a distinctive, menacing and dangerous growl, "See what I mean, goddammit!"

I shook my head and sighed sadly. I said nothing in reply.

She didn't quite register what was happening, no she did not. One minute, Rose Lyn Fox was being punched, kicked and beaten by steel-toed boots and leather fists; the next thing she knew she was seeing spots and the beating ended. The pain wasn't lifted, so she knew she was still awake, but pain was no longer being added to it, one small thing for her to be grateful for. She ached all over, and knew it would only get worse, and that she would be feeling it a helluva lost more intensely as time went on—especially tonight. She groaned at the thought.

Curious and not at all tempted by the option of staying sprawled out on the grass, vulnerable and prone to attack, she sat up slowly, moaning and groaning for the pain. She throbbed and felt sore, and she knew she would look a right sight tomorrow. Her bones creaked and her muscles strained. From every fiber of her being she knew she wanted to lie back down, but her mind was buzzing from curiosity, and she just had to know. She just had to know why it had stopped—so she could be rightly grateful and appreciative.

At first she didn't fully process the scene before her—for shock and distorted vision—but things soon came into focus, and she watched the events before her unfold, too surprised to move or react or do anything, aside from watch, that is.

Standing there, in front of Lyn, were the five punks—that much is a given. They stood at equally spaced distances away from one another, squeaky-voice girl a step ahead of the rest. The other girl, dressed in shorts and a tank top, her hair bubble-gum pink and platinum blonde, a tall Mohawk atop her head, stood on the far left, next to slurred-speak guy. The other two guys stood to the right of squeaky-voice.

They were all purposefully facing the front, the edge of the hill, where two figures stood. Lyn recognized them immediately. It was Korrin and Kassandra, wearing the school uniforms. They looked cold and hard, all humor and kindness gone from their eyes. Kassandra hadn't had much to begin with, but they had possessed a joking, care-free, laid-back quality Lyn hadn't realized to exist at all until she saw her without them. Korrin, however, looked so different that it was as if he was a different person—the change was scary.

Lyn shivered; they looked pissed, thankfully not towards her—if it was her, she would have already run.

But squeaky-voice girl did no such thing. She held her ground. Lyn thought that to be stupid and suicidal, but she had to admire the girl for her bravery—although it was more lack of cowardice and brains, but still! The others looked uncertain, but they remained strong and unflinching, despite how uneasy and shaky they really were.

Kassandra spoke up first. "What the hell are you doing now, Janey?"

Squeaky-voice girl growled. "Don't call me that!" she roared. Kassandra and Korrin did not flinch—although Korrin blinked—but the others winced painfully.

"Why shouldn't I?" Kassandra sneered, an edge in her voice, although she did not raise her volume. "It is your name, after all."

She snarled, like a wild cat ready to pounce for the kill. Her fists were clenched and she was leaning forwards. "No, it's not!"

"Being a bit rebellious?" This time it was Korrin to speak up, his voice at it's usual soft volume, although there was no humor or good-naturedness left in it, only a cold, hard quality which shocked Lyn, sending shivers up her spine, having affects on her that Kassandra's voice never could. "Ignoring your heritage and family because you want to be different? Unique? Free? Idiotic and wasteful, if you ask me, Janette Mulligan."

She scowled and everybody tensed, prepared for her to attack. She did no such thing. Kassandra and Korrin were completely unphased and unbothered; they hadn't even reacted. "You shut the hell up, pussy-boy, before I get angry!"

"What, you aren't already?" Kassandra barked a humorless laugh, void of even a small remnant of real amusement. "You're pathetic." She sounded genuinely disgusted—Lyn wondered why. But, this was no time to ask, so she held her curious tongue.

Korrin put a hand on her shoulder, and she relaxed. Nobody had even noticed her tense—apparently he had seen something the others had missed, and prevented a nasty and unpredictable attack by Kassandra. "Don't," he whispered so only Kassandra could hear—Lyn picked it up by reading his lips.

Kassandra sighed, calming down, and complied bitterly.

"What are you doing here?" pink-haired girl demanded, her voice deep and husky. If she didn't know better, Lyn would have thought her a very pretty and strong woman—as it is she could be pretty, but her punkedness ruined that. (She's obviously strong—you'd have to be to dress like that!) Mohawks are tacky, especially on girls (and don't even get me started on piercings!) "You know this is our hill—we made that agreement before, remember the one?"

"Yes, I remember it quite well, the one forbidding us from bothering you if you showed us the same courtesy," Korrin calmly agreed. Kassandra nodded. "That was an old agreement—a treaty, if you will—to prevent any more strife and trouble between us."

"Prior to that agreement," Kassandra picked up, surprising everyone but Korrin with her poise, elegance, eloquence, and calm business-like tone, "there had been much strife and discord between us. We would fight, sometimes we'd win, sometimes you'd win. Things were hectic and violent and bloody and dangerous. No one was safe."

"And the 'treaty'—as you wanna call it—fixed all of that," squeaky-voice Janey sneered impatiently. "What's your point?" she demanded of pink-hair.

Pink-hair sighed. "My point is that if you don't want it to be rendered null and void, meaning fighting would once again reign supreme, you better tell us what the hell you're doing on our hill, right quick. Don't you agree?"

Korrin nodded. "I understand you're impatience, Natasha Christian, I really do." Lyn was shocked that she had a name, that Korrin used it, and that she had sounded so…so…intelligent. "But we have good reason to be here, which counter-acts the effects of the agreement."

"Which means, Tasha," Kassandra began to explain, "that we are doing nothing wrong, we have every right to be here, and you better stop being such a smart-ass about it."

Natasha scowled, but held her tongue, far more rational than Janey.

"Whaz yurr damn reezan, then?" slurred-speech asked, his words blending together and buzzing and humming as he spoke, making him hard to understand.

"Her," Kassandra simply declared, pointing in Lyn's direction.

Everyone turned to the still sitting Lyn, who had froze and paled when Kassandra pointed at her. Kassandra did not lower her finger, and no one lowered their gazes. Lyn found herself feeling flushed and self-conscious, along with paralyzed, so much that she was unable to move—a very knew and scary feeling for her.

Janey turned, scowling. "What about her? She is none of your concern—she trespassed, she must pay the price, you cannot interfere!" she barked.

Korrin remained calm, although Kassandra bristled as if she was an angry wildcat preparing to pounce. "Yes, but she is a new student—an oblivious, ignorant, naïve new student. She only just arrived. She does not know your ways, your customs, or your boundaries. No one has clued her in, either, so you have no reason to punish her in such a way."

Janey calmed, although she was still peeved—Kassandra did not. "Not our problem," she muttered defiantly.

Kassandra scoffed. "Excusez-moi?" she asked in disbelief, her French flawless, as if she had actually misheard.

"You heard me—it's not our problem who knows and who doesn't. She should've been more careful."

"But she has never been here before!" Korrin exclaimed, losing his composition for the first time. Even Kassandra was taken back, but she was also the first one to recover. There was fire in Korrin's eyes, the first (and only sign) of his temper any of them (aside from Kassandra) had ever seen. His temper is not as frequent or as prone to surfacing as Kassandra's, but it can be just as vicious—if not more so—because he only gets angry for others, never himself, and it is a very sparing rarity.

"Not—our—goddamn—problem," Tasha spelled it out for him. "Now get lost or get beaten down." She and the others stood defiantly before the two, prepared to fight, daring them to fight, to start something they would regret.

Korrin scowled and turned; Kassandra followed suit. They spoke in hushed whispers between themselves, so soft and quick that no one else could hear. Tasha, Janey and Lyn strained to eavesdrop on them, but to no avail. After what seemed to be an eternity, the two of them straightened up and turned around with a great amount of dignity, poise, pride and defiance.

"We can't fight the lot of you…" Kassandra began.

"…there are just too many of you," continued Korrin.

"We surrender…" Kassandra breathed.

"…to your superior strength," Korrin sighed.

Janey relaxed, looking smug. The other guys did the same. Tasha tensed. So did Lyn. She stared, disbelieving. As if she couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her jaw hung, slack, and she was denying their words with every fiber of her being. Janey and the boys were already rejoicing—without letting it really show. Lyn looked betrayed. Korrin flashed her a sympathetic look, but there was no truth or conviction behind it. He had returned to his normal self, as had Kassandra. Lyn felt…betrayed, although she had not known them very long, and they had no reason to feel any obligation towards her—and she had no right to expect one.

"Buh-bye," Janey sneered, obviously convinced and overwhelmingly pleased. She high-fived slurred-speech guy, and they turned to face Lyn—all except one. Natasha. She remained stationary, facing the two offenders, who had still not left. She was tight-lipped and narrow-eyed—she saw through the crap, and she didn't like it. Seeing the look in Kassandra's eyes—bloodlust and preparation for fun—she sighed and gave in. There was nothing she could do.

How did they not notice their tones; how did they not get the hint? Not even Lyn did!

Idiots…

Idiots!

Idiots.

Lyn didn't notice any of this. I'm soooo screwed!

Kassandra was the one to make the very first move of the very few that followed.

We hadn't really been planning this—at least, not specifically. We didn't go off by ourselves and say "Let's pretend to give in and see if we can fool them"—we could have been heard, and that would have been the end of that. We wanted to end this with minimal pain—more for them than for us, you must understand—and that's what we spoke of. If overheard, surrender would have made perfect sense. It seemed cowardly, but we aren't cowards, and everyone knows this. Or, at least, they should. It's quite obvious, no?

But some people are just stupid. Janey—for example. We didn't fool Tasha, but then again, she's hard to fool. If she wasn't so determined to go against her rich-kid, alumni, stuck-up heritage she could be up there with the big fish; Kassandra and myself, for example. She's got brains, and brawn, and she's loyal. So loyal, that she'll never betray her friends—her "gang"—the only real family she's ever had, no matter what for, no matter how stupid they have come to be. It may seem silly, and idiotic (as Kassandra often points out and sneers at) but it's a rare quality these days, and I admire her for it. I really and truly do.

So she saw what the others missed, and she was unable to prevent it, to save her mates from their own stupidity. She just let it happen, because she had to let it happen. Although she did not run—she couldn't—she did not idly stand by, although she knew fighting would be (in the end) completely useless. She resisted for her friends, even though it was their own fault, she couldn't do anything, and she could've saved her own self.

Such blind stupidity—as Kassandra calls it—bugs her more than true idiots. Ha!—as if.

Kassandra lashed out first, aiming for Tasha's torso. She was blocked, which was to be expected. Kassandra saw it coming and counter-struck, catching Tasha in the chin, sending her backwards. Once she started the fight, I had no choice but to follow suit. I rounded about the two, sending Timothy Wilkins—the one with the slurred speech, due to use of drugs since a young age—sprawling backwards, in turn knocking over Kevin Lacey and Jonathan Fry. Timmy, Kevin and Jon were caught completely unawares, falling into a heap.

Janey was so shocked that she almost fell over herself. She eyed the fallen boys and turned to me, her eyes open wide with fear. She saw me, standing there, quite calm and unaffected; Kassandra and Tasha were still engaged in a fight that was to be short, yet extremely vicious. Kassandra and Tasha have some deep, hidden issues they have to work out—and the battle soon became very personal. Best to let them fight it out, blow for blow. They were silent as they fought.

I took a step in Janey's direction. She gasped, startled and frightened, and proceeded to back up. I continued toward her, really moving for Lyn, but she knew that not. She was frightened, and had soon tripped over her boys, landing on the top of the heap, ensuring them even more struggle and trouble to get up and freed from the entanglement I had so easily and casually caused.

I knelt by Lyn, a slight, reassuring smile on my face. She got over her initial shock and look of hurt and smiled—for the first time, as far as I have seen. Her smile was a mystical, magical, beautiful thing, and it warmed me up from the inside out. I smiled wider, happiness virtually radiating from me, and she blushed, averting her gaze to the grass between her legs.

How sweet, and beautiful, she really and truly can be…

"Are you alright?" I asked, laughing inwardly at her reaction to my smile. I was used to such a reaction, seeing as how most all girls act like that around me—even some adults. Winnie and Kassandra don't, because we've known each other so long; Tasha and Janey don't, because I am not even close to their type; and besides them there is only one other who does not react as such, but I'm not sure she really counts.

Lyn nodded and regained herself rather quickly, although she was much brighter than she had been before. "I feel rotten, and sore, and I'm gong to hurt tomorrow, but other than that—I feel just fine. I'll live, so don't worry."

I smiled, relieved. "That's good." I stood up and held my hand out to help her up. "Need a hand?" I was still smiling, unable to stop.

She laughed and smiled, taking my hand and hoisting herself up. She winced painfully, but other than that she betrayed no signs of being hurt.

By this time Kassandra and Tasha had finally stopped their fight, and Kassandra had arisen the victor—of course. There was no doubt of who would win, but rather of how long it would take for her to win (no offense meant to Tasha). It all depends on how violent or strong Kassandra allows herself to be today, and whether or not she feels like teaching Tasha a lesson and really wailing on her. She tried to explain the process and what affects her day-to-day performances once, but it was lost on me, and I only have the vaguest, fuzziest idea of how it works; she got so impatient halfway through that she gave up and hasn't tried to explain it to me since. I haven't tried to get her to not give up, to make another attempt, because then she might really get angry—I'll just have to do without knowing, for now.

Tasha was on all fours, coughing violently, trails of saliva running out of her dry mouth. I winced, feeling her pain, but did not go to her—she would not take kindly to help, because that would be a sign of weakness. For her own sake and preference I let her be, and Kassandra and I proceeded to—without a word—trot carefully down the hill and proceed on home.

They had surprised me yet again, and I wasn't quite sure as to how I was supposed to react. Before I had been able to give the matter much thought, they were halfway down the hill, proceeding much better than I had that morning. I winced as I moved, dragging myself over to the edge. I reached there—moving as fast as I could—in time to see Kassandra do a handspring onto the concrete. She proceeded to go on her way as casually as if nothing had happened, and Korrin proceed on after her at a more leisurely place.

They just left me there.

A little while later—as I was still standing there dumbly, too struck to take notice of anything or use my brain enough to go on after them—Korrin turned to see if I was still up on the hill. (I got the feeling he knew with all certainty that I was—but, of course, I dismissed such an absurdity). He stopped dead in his tracks to look at me with a heavenly expression. It took me a while to realize he was patiently waiting for me to come down.

I felt embarrassed at my slowness and proceeded to follow him down the hill; although I traveled far slower than was necessary—just in case.

Kassandra turned, and saw that I wasn't even yet halfway down the hill, and that Korrin had stopped to wait for me. She jogged impatiently back to his side, tapping her foot and taking no care in even trying to concealed her emotions. She growled softly, tapping her foot angrily and audibly, fidgeting restlessly, making me nervous. I began to hurry, almost tripping in the process—which would have sent me tumbling down the hill. If anything this only succeeded in annoying Kassandra even more than she already had been.

Why can I never do anything right?

I finally made it down without dying—although I scraped my palms on a few jagged rocks—and power-walked over to the waiting pair, faster than I should have, but as slow as I dared with Kassandra standing there. When I finally arrived she sighed to show her disgust and impatience, turned sharply and set off once again, rushing as if to make up for lost time, although it would do no good with Korrin at his slower pace—for my own sake.

"Where do you live?" he asked politely, his eyes fixed up again, where Kassandra paced angrily, waiting for us to catch up.

"O-on B-B-Blizzard Avenue," I was finally able to stutter, fumbling my words horribly. I blushed fiercely, which embarrassed me all the more, making me very self-conscious of the fact that I was looking like a dork before the eyes of Korrin.

I detected what seemed to be a slight smile on his lips, briefly, before it disappeared. "I know where that is. We'll take you there. Home."

"Oh, n-no!" I protested, once again turning ten shades of red. "I couldn't insist, I just couldn't!"

"Well then," he chuckled, "it's a good thing you aren't, hm?" I didn't know what to say. "We are taking you because you need to be taken, and because we want to, not because you asked or insisted. Besides," he added forcefully, before I could object, "it is on our way."

"Yeah," Kassandra called back. "'Cause if it wasn't we wouldn't be takin' ya, now would we?" As an afterthought, she mumbled, "I know I certainly wouldn't."

Korrin sighed and shook his head. "Just ignore her—she may seem all rude and mean and nasty, but that's just her way of hiding her truly kind nature—no matter how hard it may be to see. She's too nice for her own good really."

I giggled.

"I heard that!" Kassandra shot back at a roar.

"Good!" Korrin called up. I burst out laughing, as did he. Kassandra remained silent and fuming all the way to my home.

They arrived at 14 Blizzard Avenue just as dusk began to sink in. The sun was fading rather slowly, but even so they were just on time. Lyn needed help getting up the stairs, which Korrin was more than willing to give. She smiled at them—yes, even at Kassandra—before saying good-bye, and good-night, and waving them away. She watched them walking away until they were no longer visible in the fading light. With a sigh of complete and over-whelming relief and happiness, Lyn turned the doorknob and stepped inside.

A good end to a mediocre day. Ah well—I've had much, much worse.

Not too bad, considering my hellish existence, no bad at all…

Especially compared to what'll happen to me next…

This was kinda long

But I hope you liked it.

I am treating this more as a novel

With chapters to match,

But I like it

And think it's good

So I hope you'll show me patience

And take the time to read…

It would be most appreciated—as would be reviews!