Chapter One: Winter Brings

Falling leaves of the bare trees, and a cold chill wind were the two best indications that fall had fully began and winter would follow shortly. Of course, there was always that feeling, too. Change was near and its feeling was so subtle, but you could always just tell. It was a sense that triggered the mind where it was obvious something different was around the corner and the only question would be time. And as always, time that went on its own pace: never too fast, never too slow, but always at a soft beat with its own purpose. Time and change were hand in hand. As time continued, change would never follow too far behind.

The difference in the weather was just an indication.

" It's too damn cold in the morning!" Vanessa huffed loudly, trailing her feet on the ground, stepping mercilessly on the fallen leaves of colors. Vanessa Lynn was not the best morning person and could barely stand change in general. But she tolerated as well as she could with cursing, glares and sarcastic comments.

As the first bell rung its slightly annoying ring, Vanessa just put one foot into the school and darted up three flights of stairs, passed three hallways and stopped abruptly at her locker. Just because she didn't like time, didn't mean she couldn't play with it, mess with it and beat it at its own game the way she did. She unpacked her stuff quickly, stuffing her backpack into her locker and racing down two more hallways until she was knocked over, by no accident.

Books scattered on the hallway floor and a menacing chuckle rose from silence. Vanessa bit her tongue, bent down and picked up the spread papers and binders. She didn't have to look up to see who was laughing. She knew quite well.

" Oh Vanessa, you better watch where you're going," the voice above her hissed. This time she did tilt her head up and look. Stared at the one she despised most, Cindy Cunningham. " You don't want to have an accident, now do you?" Cindy laughed.

Vanessa looked down, still biting her tongue. " Of course not," she whispered fiercely.

Cindy Cunningham was far the most favorable and popular person in her grade level, and perhaps possibly in the entire school. Her traveling fan club of social climbers, her newly manicured nails in the morning, her brand name shoes, shirts, skirts and shorts and lastly, popular by most guys, her unnatural bust-line increase during freshman year, compliments of Principal Cunningham, or Daddy as she'd call him, made her the highlight of the school. It was strawberry blonde hair, perfect eyes and nose and lips and everything. Possibly, she was Barbie as a human.

And Vanessa Lynn? Well, perhaps she was the polar opposite. She didn't have many friends if any, no brand name clothing unless you call TJ-Maxx "purely" brand name and a body she'd hide under her fleece sweatshirts and loose pants. Her hair was let down most of the time into dark red waves and slightly dulled blue eyes, but she wasn't ugly. Oh no, but the thought of caring about the way she looked never once really dawned on her completely. She thought looking decent was just as good as looking like a model, but you don't have to physically starve yourself to be that way.

Vanessa strapped her books with her arms and held them close to her chest as she walked just a bit further to the classroom on the corner. She walked in, and saw Cindy grinning that same grin moments earlier. She sighed, looked down and walked towards the back of the room, her seat, without hesitation. She plopped down on her seat, dropped her books casually on the table and stared at the board, waiting for the teacher to come in.

First block teachers were always late, especially Ms. Winston, the Creative Writing teacher. She was a new teacher in the school, and still after three months into the school year, Ms. Winston still had trouble finding her way from her car to the classroom. But none of the students had much of any objection.

To her left, Vanessa saw in the front of the room a colt of hormone crazed boys gathering around Cindy, as she continued to babble on and on about her extravagant birthday party weeks ago; only she could still keep her (un-needed) celebration of birth alive. Though, there was a lot of doubt that those boys were even listening to what she had to say, but that fact didn't faze Cindy. The sheer fact that the majority's attention was on her, and solely her was just enough to satisfy her ego.

The tip of the doorknob turned and in came Ms. Winston, holding a sheer plastic turquoise bag that carried most of her belongings, as the rest of her stuff were carried in her overfilled hands. The smell of espresso filled the room, slightly bitter but entirely refreshing. " Hello, hello class!" She exclaimed as she placed her belongings on her desk. " I'm so sorry for keeping you waiting, but I have amazing news today!" It was the usual routine for Ms. Winston to embrace the class in her morning greeting and pearly smile before apologizing for her constant lateness.

She took a brief sip of her coffee, then gently placing it back on the mahogany desk. " Now," she spoke in a definite teacher-like voice, " I have just wonderful news. It just hit me yesterday as I was flipping through my small library in my house. There are just so many classic authors out there and just studying about one would be enormously trivial, so we'll talk about many in class. But in addition to that," she paused, most likely inclining for dramatic effect, " we are going to have our first creative writing project this year in dedication to all these talented authors!" She exclaimed.

A wave of groans and moans filled the entire classroom. By emphasizing, "first" creative writing project; there was no lie in that. Perhaps it was the first creative writing project in all school history. Objections were made by the only one who could have some substantial say in the matter: Cindy.

"Ms. Winston, um, you can't possibly be serious?" she spoke, outraged as many of the other students were.

The teacher was surprised and taken back. " What do you mean, Cindy?"

" This is Creative Writing class. But it's really not even a class. Half of us are just taking this class to fulfill our graduation requirements because this is the EASIEST class to take. No work, no projects, no grades and all of us always walk out of here with a perfect grade," she explained, still fuming.

For once, Vanessa found no room for arguments with Cindy in this case. Creative Writing wasn't supposed to be a difficult course, or a working course at all and that's precisely why she took it. That's why literally half the class took it.

Ms. Winston looked at Cindy, and studied her carefully. She looked into her bag and pulled out a small packet, sat it on her lap and then spoke in the same voice, " I am aware of this perception. Indeed I am," she began; Cindy slowly began grinning – she felt as though she would win this one, like all the others. The teacher lifted up the packet and showed the class. " The other Creative Writing teacher gave this to me before I came to teach, before she retired, explaining that this curriculum is fool-proof. No ifs, buts or ands and the students don't care about it, making it easy. The principal approves it so there can't be a single thing wrong with it," she still spoke informatively. " I did more than just breeze through it; I read it page to page and I realized, it teaches you students absolutely nothing about the art of creative writing. So then I thought, 'I shouldn't even follow this' so this is what I think of the old curriculum," Ms Winston let her students see one final look at the paper and then tore it in half, walked over the garbage can and threw it out, paced back to the desk, sat on top of it and smiled.

Cindy was in disbelief as was the rest of the class. " But, but …"

" That's different?" Ms. Winston asked. " Well, changes are a part of life. You're gonna have to get used to that," she said, still smiling.

Vanessa couldn't help but laugh lightly, barely audible to the other students, but audible to herself. Cindy was the principal's daughter and any of the teachers messing with her was like shooting themselves in the foot five times. But, the nice thing was that Ms. Winston dared to do what no other teacher did, and Vanessa loved it. She absolutely loved it.

A hand rose. It belonged to Bryan Hamilton. Vanessa stared at him, considering it was all going to be a smart-ass comment that he would have to take back later – after all, he was the class clown. Ms. Winston pointed at him. " So what's the project?" He asked, actually interested.

The teacher grinned enthusiastically, noticing one person, though one she least expected, actually considering this assignment. " Well, it's an assignment where you will have a partner and you two will work on recreating a short story of any classic author that I will assign to you and your partner. So in short, you will be abridging any novel or play that your assigned author has created into your own story with plot and diction emulation; requirements will be handed out next class but I want you guys thinking about the project," she explained.

Bryan snickered playfully. " Oh, so we're not going to go dig up their dead bodies and interview them? Darn, that was the highlight of my life too!" He exclaimed, laughing as a couple of the other students joined along in the hysterics.

Ms. Winston sighed. " No, Bryan, no morgues involved or graves,"

Vanessa rolled her eyes. Yes, that was Bryan: the one boy who couldn't keep a straight face in class for at least ten minutes.

The teacher glanced around the classroom thoughtfully. " Since I'm not sure if all of you are even taking this project seriously, I will pick your partners for you, in groups of the opposite sex, too. That way, I know that you will have to work,"

By this point, even Vanessa was grievingly upset. Working with a partner, nonetheless an assigned one was horrific on its own, but at least there was a guarantee that Vanessa's partner would surely not be Cindy and that's saving ten or so years of her life. For a moment's time, she looked back at Bryan, who actually deceived her when she heard him ask Ms. Winston that question about the assignment, because at that moment of the question, and that precise bit of time, he actually sounded sincere. No strings attached, but that was just impossible.

The end of the day came slowly and drearily, as Vanessa believed everyday. One hour of class seemed like one day of work, tiring and unexciting. The ticking of the clock drove her madly insane during the last three minutes of her last block class and as Mr. Anderson continued on about significant quotations, the second hand of the clock was moving ultimately too slow for her taste. Any slower, she might just have an aneurism.

Tick tock, tick tock.

Moving slower by the minute, then slower by the second. Vanessa stared.

Faster.

Faster.

Move faster.

Please?

No luck.

She sighed into her hands as she doodled some drawings in her notebook, random writing and some pictures of anything. She was not a creative person. Doodling was just a boredom past-time and English, writing, or anything in relation to creativity, she could barely tolerate. Her mind wandered to thoughts of the morning where she sat in Creative Writing class earlier that morning. The only pure reason she took the class was for her graduation requirement, but now Ms. Winston made it ten times harder for her. She had no particular interest in writing, English, drawing, painting, pictures, analyzing and anything in that nature.

Vanessa knew for sure that she was screwed over. Big time.

Ring! Before the students left the class, Mr. Anderson called out above the pack of teens, " Don't forget to write your opinions on these quotes for homework," he began, " We'll be analyzing them next class in order to fully understand the significance!"

Vanessa pulled out the paper, stared at it briefly and read the first quote, "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." She laughed lightly and sarcastically. " Right…"

Mr. Anderson looked at her, " You don't think that's true?" He asked, smiling.

" Not entirely, no. Because sometimes first impressions are really the truth,"

" Sometimes, maybe. But you can't determine truth by yourself." Mr. Anderson responded. " You better get going. See you on Wednesday, Vanessa."

" You too, Mr. Anderson," she replied casually, exiting the classroom, pondering the quote for only a moment's time and considering her teacher's perception. She shook her head and walked away.

Right when she reached her locker, she began to fiddle with the knob, putting in the combination and opening the locker door. At the moment she opened it someone slammed it shut. She pursed her lips together, closed her eyes and just re-did the combination.

" Whoops!" Cindy's voice floated painfully in her ear, then laughing wholeheartedly.

" God I hate her!" Vanessa whispered deeply, seething from her teeth. She packed her stuff into her backpack and without a second thought of looking back; she left the school with only part of her sanity with her; the rest of it turned to desperation and anger.

Author's Note: Well, here's my first story on and the first chapter of my story, Silver Linings. I hope you guys read it and enjoy. Please read and review! Love reviews. Chapter Two may come next week. Sorry if the first two are too much of introductory chapters to the story and characters. I promise you that this is still good stuff and good plot to read.