Alexa dropped her red messenger bag carelessly on the top of the table and slumped into the rock-hard blue chair. She let out an aggravated sigh and rested her chin on top of her messenger bag, the nylon smooth against her chin.

It was a Monday, which was already a bad enough day in her book, but it was also the first day of a new trimester. Those, in Alexa's opinion were the worst; with having to start new classes and get acquainted with new teachers.

"Good morning, everyone!" the man sitting on the table in the front of the room exclaimed. "You all know that this second period economics with Baker. And, if you didn't know that then I'd recommend that you get out." He glanced around the room with a bemused smile as he waited for someone to realize that they were in the wrong room and dash out. But no one did. "Anyway, I'll start off with roll, just to get things going."

Alexa rolled her eyes and pulled her sketchbook from her messenger bag, pushing the bag off to the side of the table. She paged slowly through the sketchbook, passing pastel drawings and pencil drawings, sketches of faces and bodies, collages done with magazine cutouts. Alexa spent most of her time with a pastel or drawing pencil in hand, a sketchbook open in front of her. When she was at home, Alexa was usually hidden behind a large canvas that was sitting on her easel, holding a long paintbrush and creating beautiful pictures with oils. She loved all art but painting was truly Alexa's passion.

"Alexa Haverford?"

Alexa looked up, wondering just how many names she'd been spacing through. She smiled and raised her hand slightly. "Here."

"Haverford," Mr. Baker repeated with a curious smile. "Like Marshall Haverford?"

She could've killed him. "He's my father."

"Wow! So you must be really excited for the season to start?"

"Oh, definitely," Alexa lied in a flat voice.

"Is your dad still bent out of shape over not being able to sign Carlos Beltran?"

"He never really was."

"Well, I think it'd be a good fieldtrip to go and contribute to the local economy and catch a day game."

Alexa managed to hide her disgust. "I'll talk to him about that."

"Great!" Mr. Baker looked down at his attendance sheet. "Michael Henley?"

Alexa let out a very quiet but very frustrated sigh, silently cursing her father for being who he was. Marshall Haverford was a Southern oil tycoon, the sixth generation in the Haverford family of billionaires. He'd gone to Harvard, gotten his degree and developed a real estate empire. He moved away from Houston when he'd met the love of his life, a beautiful music teacher Tracy Brown. Tracy lived in Portland, Oregon and didn't want to leave her family behind. So Marshall moved to Portland and they were married. Marshall's father died shortly after the wedding and he received his inheritance. Being an only child, Marshall received about eighty percent of his father's fortune, the other twenty percent going to his mother. No one (Marshall and Tracy aside) were ever completely sure just how much he'd inherited but it was rumored that Marshall's net-worth grew nearly three billion dollars upon receipt of his inheritance.

In 1987, Marshall and Tracy's only child was born. They named her Alexa, a subtle tribute to Tracy's mother, Alexandra. The week after Alexa was born, Marshall bought her an unofficial late birthday present; the Portland Rivers, a struggling and almost laughable Major League Baseball expansion team. Within a few years, he'd turned the team around and they were the American League champions in 1990, losing to Cincinnati in the World Series.

Most kids probably wouldn't mind if their father owned a professional sports team (especially if, at 21, the team became theirs) but Alexa absolutely detested it. Since she was old enough to realize it, the Rivers had been a curse. She hated baseball, the Rivers especially.

Alexa pulled out her cell phone and text messaged her best friend, Noni. All she said was, looks like i'm daddy's little girl.

With her cell phone sitting on the table next to her sketchbook, Alexa began doing an abstract charcoal drawing of Mr. Baker as he talked animatedly in the front of the room. He was sitting on a stool and waving his hands around as he criticized the local economy. Alexa couldn't care less about what he had to say. It was the first day and she knew from experience that the first day never counted.

Noni's reply came very quickly because her cell phone was almost always in her hand, waiting for a message from Alexa. Noni's reply was simple and it said, i'm sorry, lex. baker will 4get soon.

Alexa smiled and set her cell phone back in her purse. She loved Noni like the sister she'd never had. She had the best personality that Alexa had ever encountered, not to mention how supportive she always was. She was always at Alexa's side, ready to use her amazing sense of humor for comic relief. It had been Noni who'd opened Alexa up freshman year when she was too scared in her new environment to even speak out in class. And it had also been Noni who'd taught Alexa how to be a friend.

Noni was petite – standing about 5'4", a perfect compliment to Alexa's 5'8" – and strikingly beautiful. She had baby blond ringlets and shamrock green eyes set in creamy ivory skin with high cheekbones and heart shaped-lips. She and Alexa fit perfectly together and, whenever the two of them entered a room, everyone looked up.

"Hey, babe," Noni said as Alexa sat down next to her in photography. Her old, sturdy Nikon was sitting on the table, next to which Alexa set her black Prada camera bag. "You survived econ, I see."

"Mr. Baker wants to take a fieldtrip to a day game to contribute to the local economy."

"Don't tell your dad about that one."

"God, I know," Alexa groaned. "He'd be thrilled. Abso-fucking-lutely thrilled."

"Language!" Mr. Vance, Parker Academy's long-time photography teacher called from his desk. "Put a quarter in the jar!"

Alexa glanced over her shoulder at Mr. Vance, who hadn't even looked up from his copy of American Photographer. "But, Mr. Vance!"

This time, he looked up. "Oh, Alexa, it's you. Never mind the quarter."

"Thanks, Mr. V."

"How do you get him to do that?" Noni begged.

"He likes me."

"It's not fair!"

"Noni, really, he likes you too. You can swear all you want without being bucketed."

Noni looked enlightened. "Really?"


"Sit down, people," Mr. Vance ordered, still at his desk and still immersed in his magazine. Photography was one of many full-year classes so he was already well-acquainted with his students, especially his advanced students, who he'd been teaching for two years already.

As Mr. Vance began taking roll and his students went about their normal business of developing film and mounting pictures, the door opened again. This was normal, people were always coming in and out of Mr. Vance's classroom. But, this time, the person who walked in went over to Mr. Vance's desk.

"I'm new," he said in a smooth voice. "The lady in the office told me to give this to you."

"Thanks." Mr. Vance paused while he looked down at the paper that had been handed to him. "Patrick. You can sit anywhere. I'll talk to you in a few minutes."

Alexa saw Patrick out of the corner of her eye and she watched him closely as he walked around the table and sat diagonally across from her. He was of average height and build, with neat light brown hair and matching brown eyes. He was good-looking, she noticed this right away and, when he saw her looking at him, he smiled.

"I'm Patrick," he said quietly, so as not to disturb Mr. Vance's roll call.

"Alexa. You're new?"

"From San Francisco."

"Well, welcome to Parker," Alexa said sarcastically.

"Thanks. It's definitely an... interesting school. Not like my old school."

"Did you go to a private school?" Noni asked curiously, eyeing Patrick. She smiled sweetly at him, trying to look inviting. But not too inviting.

"Unfortunately, yes. My parents have a thing for private schools."

Alexa nodded in understanding. "Mine too."

"New assignment, everyone!" Mr. Vance announced, ignoring the groans from many of his students. He'd gotten up and he was now passing out the assignment sheets. "Put your name on it first. I'm tired of the all no-namers."

Alexa took out a black ballpoint and, in her neat handwriting, wrote her name on the top of the paper, first and last. Patrick did the same thing on his paper but his eyes stayed on Alexa's paper. More specifically on her last name. Haverford. He wondered silently if she was any relationship to Marshall Haverford. He was just about to ask when someone loudly interrupted the class.

"The Rivers just signed Julio Lopez!" Jeremy Davis proclaimed loudly from his spot behind his always-open laptop.

"Nice!" Malcolm Jackson said, his voice nearly a yell.

"Christ," Noni groaned. Her eyes widened when she realized that she'd said one of Mr. Vance's forbidden words. But she smiled triumphantly when Mr. Vance didn't demand that she add a quarter to the jar.

"At least my father will shut up about him now," Alexa muttered.

"Why are they so obsessed with this? It's like they'll die if so-and-so doesn't play shortstopper!"

"Shortstop," Alexa corrected. She rolled her eyes. "Sorry. It's just habit."

"Not baseball fans?" Patrick asked curiously.

"Not at all." Alexa paused and looked away from Patrick when she heard someone say her name. She looked up and saw Malcolm leering at her. "Yeah?"

"Tell your dad we said thank you," Malcolm said with a grin.

Alexa narrowed her eyes. "Right."

Patrick almost smiled; he was sitting across from Marshall Haverford's gorgeous daughter. It was obvious that she had a deep hatred for baseball but that didn't change the fact that her father owned a team.

"Your dad?" he asked, trying his best to sound confused to the situation.

Noni glanced at Alexa and was surprised to see that she no longer looked angry. "Her dad owns the Rivers," Noni said matter-of-factly. "And people like to point that out all the time."

"Your dad seriously owns the Rivers?"

Alexa nodded.

"That sucks," he lied. "It must get annoying."

"More than you know. It's all I ever hear about."

"But wait... I think I read about that somewhere. Isn't the team yours?"

"It will be in a few years."

"Are you going to keep it?"

"I doubt it."

Patrick nodded in understanding. He wanted to know why Alexa hated baseball but he didn't ask, he just assumed that it was because she'd grown up with the hassle of owning a team. He almost laughed. How could owning a team be any kind of hassle? It would be his dream-come-true.

"You guys can go take pictures now," Mr. Vance told them. "And you'd better come back!"

Noni and Alexa pushed back their chairs and stood up in unison. Getting out of class to take pictures was the best part of photography. Often, they would truly use the time to take pictures but they also went for coffee at Starbucks or went back to Alexa's house, not returning until their fifth period writing class. School was taxing and Alexa and Noni sometimes needed a break. A long break.

"You," Mr. Vance said, pointing at Patrick. "This class is self-explanatory. Have Alexa and Noni fill you in. They know it all."

"Right," Patrick said with a nod. He turned around and saw Alexa and the other girl – Noni, he now knew her name was – standing at the door, looking at him like they were waiting for him.

"C'mon," Noni ordered softly.