Shades of Fire

Full Summary: I am very close to losing all passion I have for writing. And now, this new whacked teacher of mine decides to make me, and the rest of the class, do a stupid and horrendous writing project. So I ended up choosing the mysterious boy from the bookstore as my writing subject. He has no clue I'm observing him. But for the record, I am not stalking him, I swear – even if he thinks differently. What a jerk.

Chapter One: Muse

"Comparatively, of course, comparatively, I can only see what others want me to see as oppose to what I should see. And forcefully, of course, forcefully, I can only speak what others want to hear as oppose to what I want to say. For now, for now, for now ... but not forever."

I couldn't exactly tell what I had written. I was tired, but at the same time, convulsing in laughter because what I had written sounded so smart. It sounded intelligent and I was almost sure I could pass that off as some sort of intellectual and well thought out prose or poem for my Writing Seminar class tomorrow. I've never written well to tell you the truth. I've never poured out at least two sentences without some mistake attached to it – grammatical mistakes and awkward sentence structures to be precise. The last sentence was a fragment. I knew it was a fragment. I realized that it just didn't sound like a complete sentence, so it must have been a fragment. I was unenthusiastic to change the mistake, so I left it the way it was. When I was tired, I did not care how things were done just so long as they were done. I had an obscure thought process when drowsiness hovers over me.

I always thought writing had no bounds. I thought that when you wrote, you were never wrong and that incorrect thought is how I landed in the mess I made for myself. I was in eighth grade when I told my parents I wanted to pursue a career in writing. I thought that day that maybe I wanted to major in journalism because it sounded fun and exciting. I told my mom and my dad that I wanted, more than anything, to be enrolled in the Excelsior Writing Program at Grandview Preparatory School. The enticing pictures of their brochure lulled me into a trance that I couldn't exactly pull myself out of. It was dreadful how fast the teachers and the students swung and wrapped the lasso of rules and regulations around my neck and pulled me down.

I was being hung in all directions.

The school's mascot was the serpent. Needless to say, I laughed at it the first time I saw it. A serpent at a preparatory school? It just didn't fit together. The school colors were black and gold, and that wasn't too bad. Despite the logo and colors, the school itself is magnificent. Imagine antique gates around the premise, a huge gateway door to the dining room (lunch hall) and green grass all year round. Even when it rained, the drops of rain pelting the stained glass windows would reflect the most beautiful light. I've only stayed on one side of the school for the Writing Program. Lunch and gym were the only times other students from other areas intersected. Of course, we had the occasional classes during freshman year that were mandatory for all students to take like U.S. History; there was some intermixing there.

I must admit to my fault that in my mind, I thought my first day at the Excelsior Writing Program would make me into a new person. I was right, wrongly right. I thought that in a group of peers that shared similar interests as me would become my friends as fast as I could greet them, but the idea never really manifested into reality. All of my peers, my fellow freshmen that year, had their eyes set on the prize of publication; it was on fame and glory and they were willing to get there by trampling over anyone who was in their way. I suppose I was in their way.

On the first day, the teachers slammed down a book of grammar rules on my desk telling me what I could write and what I couldn't. They told us in their stern voices that the book was our bible, our torah, and our holy parchment. I knew then and there, I had made a mistake, but I couldn't get out of it. What would I tell my parents after they spent ten thousand dollars for only half of my semester at Excelsior? Don't get me wrong I loved to write. But the process of writing became so tedious I lost all pleasure when I wrote a poem or when I typed a narrative. For a program that was supposed to enrich the outlook of writing, it was ironic how much it actually destroyed mine. Ever since, I've been stuck in what I'd like to call " Permanent Writer's Block". And yes, I couldn't even think up a clever name for that.

"Heidi, Kim is on the phone for you!" My mom screamed.

A smile flickered on my lips. I grabbed the phone. "Hey, what's up?"

"Hold on one minute. I gotta put Mike on three-way." There was a silence and a push of a button. I know it sounds sad, but I never learned how to put someone on three-way. I couldn't push the right buttons on that phone if my life depended on it. "Hey, Mike?" I heard Kim say.

"Yo, what up?" Mike's voice bellowed in the receiver. " Finished with all that homework, Heidi?"

I groaned. "Finished horribly, but yes."

I heard Kim sigh on the other end. "I have no idea why you punish yourself like this. You should have backed out four years ago. Four."

" It's because she's a writing demon." Mike laughed. He would always make hand motions when talking about my writing—extravagant ones.

"More like a writing failure. But, please, I don't want to hear anything about writing. Could you guys please stay away from the topic?" I pleaded.

"Sure," Kim laughed. "Oh, but Mike, what's for English homework?"

I could hear a snicker from Mike's end of the conversation. "Oh, a three-page essay on The Bell Jar. You know? The girl who went insane because she was putting too much pressure on herself to excel in school; who got a scholarship for writing a fabulous essay. Yeah, that one."

"You morons." I seethed through the phone. "Are you guys trying to imply something?"

"Us?" Kim acted innocent. "Mike, I don't think we were trying to imply something."

"Yeah, it's not like we're implying that if you keep going at the rate you're currently going at, that you'll end up like Sylvia Plath – dead at the age of 30," Mike informed.

I sighed. "She died when she was 31, not 30."

"Holy shit, she knows." Mike joked.

"Mind you," I told him. "Remember I spent about two months at the library researching her biography and analyzing The Bell Jar and her poems for an essay, which I still ended up getting a B on."

Kim tapped the phone with her fingers. I could hear it echoing into my brain. "Oh, yeah. I remember now. You threw a huge fit that day."

"Did not!" I protested.

"Uh, yeah you kinda did," Mike replied. "'Oh my gosh, guys! I can't do anything right. I got a flipping B on my essay! Someone shoot me, please!'" He overly exaggerated what I really said that day. But yes, I was pissed for getting a B.

"Ha!" Kim laughed. "Yup, that's Heidi in a tantrum."

"Ugh, you guys are impossible, you know that?" My face was twisted in embarrassment. " Switching subjects now," I began, "how's the infamous Bernard High?"

"Pretty well," Mike responded. "I mean my classes are okay. Chemistry rocks cause I sit behind this hot chick that does not NOT own a pair of low-rise jeans. Great view from behind."

"Asshole," Kim spat out. "Typical male hormones."

Mike laughed. "You're not jealous are you, Kim?"

"Me? Jealous? Impossible!" Kim yelled through the receiver.

"Jeez, could you warn a girl before you do that?" I rubbed my temples. "Sounds like jealousy to me," I mumbled.

I heard a stifled laugh from Mike. I wondered if Kim was going red in the face at that moment. She did once when we were in seventh grade when the guy she liked, Aaron Johansen, told her that he liked her hair. She squealed after he left –any normal girl would.

"Shut up," I heard Kim wail.

I giggled. "So Kim, enjoying senior year too?"

"Mm-hmm," she answered. "But college applications are destroying me and my counselor is so backed up with transcripts, I couldn't even get mine yet. It's insane."

My eyebrows rose. "College applications?"

"Yeah, Heidi, did you forget?" Mike playfully asked.

I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be truthful and tell him that it completely slipped my mind or lie. "Of course I remembered!" I decided to lie.

"Which college?" he asked.

Mike had a weird knack for these kinds of things. He could tell if someone was lying. "A college." I answered.

"Which college?" This time it was Kim's turn to interrogate.

"Jeez, like what is this? Interrogate and attack Heidi day?"

Mike sighed. "She forgot."

"She forgot," Kim agreed.

"Do you even know what you're majoring in?" Mike's voice had a lecturing tone to it. I hated when he did things like that.

"Something that involves writing, obviously," I replied in a "duh!" kind of voice.

I think Mike rolled his eyes. Is it possible to hear eye rolling?

"I know that you like writing, but do you really want to do what you're doing right now for the rest of your life?" Kim asked.

"God, I hope not," my voice murmured into the phone that I could almost here it echo back at me like a voice in my head. " What am I supposed to tell my parents? Thanks for paying thousands of dollars for my tuition to Excelsior, but I've decided it's not for me?"

Mike answered quickly, "Maybe you have to find your niche."

"Are you being perverted?" Kim scolded.

I laughed. "No, he means I should find what I'm good at and what I like. But it's definitely not journalism."

"So then what is it?" Kim asked.

"I wish I knew," I whispered. I looked at the clock on my nightstand. "It's ten o'clock. I got to go to sleep. I have long day tomorrow – just like every other day."

"Good night," they both said in unison.

"Good night," I said. I was sure they'd be up until twelve talking some more and I laughed. Kim was jealous, I'm sure that Mike was lying and I was laughing in hysterics at the very possible thought. So much MTV teenage drama. Then again, that helped me finally understand Laguna Beach.

I had my Writing Seminar class first thing in the morning. I grabbed my papers furiously from my locker and rushed to the third floor. Everyone around me carried these colorful and sometimes exotic satchels with clever names, sayings and quotes on them. I, however, carried my books in my hands; they were just novels, notebooks and such. I suppose that could have made me stand out. Sometimes I wished I had what everyone else had: the satchels and the bold glasses. Everyone wore vibrant glasses and at times I cursed my perfect 20/20 vision. Was it the satchel and glasses that made the teachers appreciate students? It could have explained so much. Despite it all, even writers have a certain image about them. I guess someone had deemed that I didn't have the image.

As I arrived into class, I grimaced at the way the desks were in the form of a two-row semi-circle. I just didn't like the feeling of it. I took a seat towards the edge because it was the best way to keep myself unnoticed.

To tell you the truth, as my talent subsided, so did I. Being noticed is nerve-racking.

I tapped the desk in a unified beat.

Writing Seminar was a mandatory class. It had four levels for each year of high school, but senior year was the most crucial. This class decided who would be the top five speakers for the graduation ceremony and I could tell everyone had their claws leeched onto the dream. This year Miss Havenfield decided who would be the top five to be reading and no one knew how she was choosing the five. When I was in eighth grade I had the image of myself standing on a podium, reading something so breathtaking, my audience was in awe. But with everyone so much more determined and academically inclined than I was, I found the fight futile.

"What a wonderful poem!" Clarissa beamed.

I turned my head.

Clarissa was the shadow behind Lorraine Ethan; the one who mimicked and followed her. I guess this was her usual morning idolization completely personalized to Lorraine.

"I know it's wonderful," Lorraine said as she drew her right leg over her left, lifting her chin only slightly over the air. She always wore a skirt – always. I guess she had some sort of power in feminine clothing.

"The lady is a tramp, isn't she?" I heard a voice mumble over my shoulder.

I looked over to see a girl I've never noticed before. "I suppose so," I replied.

Seclusion during school hours had been my goal since I arrived, or at least when I realized that was my only option in this school; I've only had a few exceptions. I never spoke more than five words to anyone before because no one has spoken any more than five words to me. This girl spoke seven – eight if you count the contraction as two words.

"I suppose that skirt helps her float around the room. I mean all that air in her head is just not enough to carry that five-ton baggage of ego she has stored up her-"

I looked at the girl behind me again; that was definitely more than ten words. I gave a small smirk from the corner of my lips. She was funny.

"I'm Valerie," she gave a small wave from the hand that was tucked securely under her chin.

"Heidi," I answered.

She narrowed her eyebrows. "Heidi…" she whispered. "That's a cool name."


She sighed. "Valerie is too plain. That's why when I write something, the main character always has this far-out, unbelievable name. Like Liliasonia or something."

I kept silent. Although Valerie was nice enough to talk to me, she still came off a little creepy. Her voice was raw, scratchy and at the same time, mellow, melancholy and pretty sarcastic to-boot.

Her eyes drifted towards the desk. "I can be quite the talker sometimes. Sorry," Valerie apologized.

"Oh, no, not at all. That wasn't it," I protested. "Totally … not."

"Are you sure? Because I could have sworn for a split second, you were inching farther away from me," she smiled.

I laughed. " I'm just not used to people talking to me," I told her truthfully. Man, I must have sounded like a dork.

"Same here," she said. " I just transferred here about a week ago. It took the counselor about three tries to get my schedule right. And now, here I am."

"Where are you from?"

"Oh I didn't move or anything," Valerie told me. " I just transferred to this school. My counselor from the other school recommended it. So I said, 'Hey, how bad is it going to be?' Well, to be quite honest," she leaned in further and whispered directly into my ear, " This school is kind of weird."

I nodded and sighed. " So I find out after three years that I'm not the only one who feels that way."

Valerie chuckled. "Are people always so in-your-face in this school?"

"Only if they think that you're in their way."

"I read one poem for my Poetry and Prose class, and everyone stared at me like I had some sort of disgusting leech on my face, sucking away at my blood."

I winced. "I think they're just jealous. I've seen this case before."

"Jealous? Because my face was being sucked by leech?"

"Contrary to your beautiful metaphor," I began laughing, "you must have had some amazing writing skills. People will only be mean to you if you're good at writing, and if you're not, they just ignore you or laugh at your face… depends on the person really."

She huffed. "I think it's just the students in the school – well, besides you. You're the only sane person I've met so far."

"Sane?" I told her.

"Sanity is relative, of course."

I grinned. "I'm an exception."

Valerie grabbed out a couple of her books. "Isn't everyone?"

"Good morning everyone!" Miss Havenfield greeted as she glided into class. She was young, perhaps too young to be deciding which five people would be going to be our graduation speakers. Rumor says that Miss Havenfield finished her Masters at Princeton University, top of her class. That must be the only reason she landed this job. Other than that, she was too over zealous compared to every other teacher in the school. I always thought the requirement to be a teacher here was to be boring and crude.

"Why, Miss Havenfield, what a wonderful dress!" Lorraine exclaimed.

The teacher graciously smiled. "Why thank you, Lorraine."

"Suck up…" Valerie whispered. Her voice somehow cut through the air and into my ears. I grinned.

"Today let's start by sharing our homework from last night. Volunteers?" Miss Havenfield asked.

Lorraine's hand shot up first.

"Yes, Lorraine."

The conceited princess smiled. "I love you so, my dear counterpart: one who I have not met. I love you so, forever so; I cannot live without your breath. You speak to me, my love, you do. Oh how I only think of you." She gave a dramatic pause as Clarissa clapped fervently, I could barely tell her hands were moving. They looked like the wings of hummingbird; they really were inhumane.

Others joined to clap. I suppose it was good. I had to admit at least she could rhyme. My mind was just not as rhythmic as that. My composition didn't even make sense when I read it this morning. The drowsiness the night before clouded all judgment I had.

But people have said that the subconscious is the best place to find truth – I do wonder what idiot said that.

"Anyone else?" Miss Havenfield asked.

I could see Lorraine looking at anyone who dared to challenge her. I almost had the guts to raise my hand, just to spite her, but I didn't. Suddenly I heard a pencil fall from behind me. Valerie bent down to pick it up.

I could see how the teacher's eyes glimmered. "You're the new student in our class aren't you?"

Valerie was lost. She turned to look around her until she realized that Miss Havenfield was talking to her. "Oh, yes."

Miss Havenfield looked down at the roster she had lying right next to her. "Miss Valerie Heart. Very pretty name," she smiled. "Why don't you read your choice composition piece so maybe everyone gets a bit of insight of who you are? You do have your composition don't you?"

Valerie nodded. I could see in her over-bearing hazel eyes that she was about to object to reading her poem, but she sunk back and cleared her throat. She began: "Windless nights creep from under the ground. They whisper of wishes so fervent, so solemn. They breathe upon the water with an icy mist that hovered cautiously from the deepest end of the ocean to the waves at the tip. I heard them, only me. I heard them because I am caught in between."

My mouth hung agape. Perhaps that composition was only a few sentences, but it was pleasantly dark; it wasn't gothic or depressing, but insightful. She knew how to express it when she spoke too. She had very eloquent speech. She paused when she had to and spoke quickly when needed. I clapped after about a five second pause and soon everyone joined me.

I looked towards Lorraine and the scowl on her face was priceless.

I took a glance back at Valerie and she grinned.

Miss Havenfield was clapping as well. "You're going to be a great addition to the school. You have very raw talent. The crossroads between death; it's a very interesting concept to choose. Anyone else willing to share?"

No one dared to raise their hand, but this time it was because Valerie would outshine them all. They kept their hands down and their eyes averted.

"Well, if no one is willing to share, why don't I give out your homework assignment while we're at a little break." She grabbed a piece of chalk and began writing. "Your assignment is to make a list of observations about an object, person, place or thing that you see around you." Everyone groaned. "Before you all think this assignment was back when you were in third grade, just wait. Once you've made a list of observations, I want you to write it out – you all hear that? Write it out on a piece of clean notebook paper. I want a composition in about paragraph about your observations. I don't want you typing it because I want your train of thought to move from your brain to your fingers and into the pen of which you write with. Use good vocabulary. That is your only homework. Now let's get started on a discussion about good literary and rhetoric devices."

I couldn't believe it. She was treating us like children. First of all, she was making us write out such a stupid and pointless assignment that I have five of lying around my house from freshman year. I could just pick one up while I was going to the bathroom or something.

I didn't understand Miss Havenfield. Her bouncy brunette waves that drifted down to her shoulders were inconceivable. She just wasn't a teacher. She must have been some kind of a joke the school hired.

"I can't believe we have to write this…" Valerie whispered from behind.

"You're not the only one," I answered. "Nice composition by the way." I added.

Valerie rolled her eyes. "That thing I wrote? Right…"

"Modesty is not the best attribute to have in this school," I advised her. "They'll trample you dead if you act like that."

Valerie's eyes widened a bit. For a girl who came off as cool and laid back, she had the facial expression of a deer in headlights. This school could do things like that to people like her. "This isn't a school; it's a jungle," she exclaimed under breath. " It's all about the survival of the fittest, isn't it?"

I laughed. "More than you know."

No matter where I was, I always felt dissolved in a sea of people swarming into and out of my life my life for only a brief second. I suppose this town could do things like that to me. I felt like an ant on an anthill and I only marched to and from places by the force of another. I couldn't say that I enjoyed it.

The bustling city streets always made me feel rushed and out of tandem. You could say I lived in a miniature version of New York City, and yet the perks of the Big Apple were nowhere in sight. We didn't have a China Town so any good food was out of reach, or a Starbucks on every corner. Sure, we had one coffee house, but it really didn't even smell like coffee in there – don't ask me what it did smell like. I'd rather not get into that discussion. My point? I live in a town with nothing to show and nothing to be gained. The high school here, where Mike and Kim go to, didn't even have much of a sports record either. We might as well have been blotted out of the map.

I actually had one place I liked in this crazy city. Near the corner of Ash Street and Lincoln Avenue, across the bookstore, there was a bench that was always empty. The first time I stumbled across it, I had to check for dirt or bird droppings because when I first saw it, it was glowing. Before you jump to conclusions and call me crazy, this bench had something about it. Something powerful like when you come across a location that just screams at you. I ended up always sitting there to read after school. You could ask why I didn't go into the bookstore to sit down and read, but there's this feeling, the same dissolving feeling, that made me feel comfortable as oppose to minute and unappreciated. Everyone was walking around you and you were just in this space. No one could get in and sometimes it was nice that way.

This time I decided I might get some inspiration from that bench for that pointless project Miss Havenfield assigned us. You have to be in your zone to get inspiration, I believe.

I plopped myself down and took out a notebook and pen. I drew some glances around me exasperatingly. Okay, perhaps this was harder than I thought. All I could see was a sign that said, "Don't Loiter" and a Movie Rental shop and that bookstore I mentioned earlier. People were passing furiously with their own personal agendas. I couldn't even look at the same face for at least ten seconds.

So much for an easy assignment. I was about to give up and write up those observations about an apple in my pantry at home. I could get more out of that than I was even getting here. I sighed and looked at my blank notebook. Maybe that loitering sign had some hidden meaning.

Or maybe I was just utterly desperate.

I glanced upward and I noticed this guy sitting down against the wall of the bookstore with his eyes on his book; he took all of my attention and I held on for the ride. I never noticed him before, but it's probably because I was too busy reading all of the time to even notice anything around me. I could tell he was a little bit scrawny because his arms looked thin and branchlike. His hair was a mess. Strands of hair glided across his forehead and every two seconds he'd have to brush it out of his eyes. I could tell he was probably twenty at the most by the way his eyes looked. Even from far away, you could really see those vibrant blue eyes. They were so alive and so frivolous that you just knew.

I began jotting down all these notes and observations. Of course I had to shift my head back and forth while cars were passing by, but I could get a good view of him. This is one of those rare moments where I actually loved my 20/20 vision. He looked so intent on this book of his that I almost believed all that surging concentration entered right into me. My thoughts just flowed out of the pen. Every word was genius. I knew this bench, which I had found, was a great muse and source of inspiration. But then I thought about it. What if it was this guy, who I was writing about, that muse? I had hoped to believe it was the bench. But I kind of knew it was him.

Author's Note: So here's the first chapter of my newest story. Man, I worked really hard on this and I hope that you all like it. There's not much romance yet… but I promise that there will be soon.

Please comment on this story! Tell me if you hate it, like it, think I should change things etc. Thanks!