Laith Madden's eyes were a disturbingly cold shade of blue, as he watched Mr. Mahmoud, his guidance counselor, through slitted eyes.
"Laith, look, it's not the end of the race here, all right? You can still catch up to Adrian Matthews. But this last semester, your grades have been slipping a bit, and that's really what pushed Adrian into the valedictory position."
"I had to work." Laith said tightly.
"Yes, well, I think you need to find a delicate balance between school and work, Laith."
"What fucking balance? I have to work thirty hours a week, while that spoiled bastard Adrian gets to go home to his mansion and relax and study for however long he wants."
Mr. Mahmoud flinched at Laith's profanity, but couldn't bring himself to chide the young man sitting in front of him. Especially since Laith all the reason in the world to hate the world.
Laith was an extraordinary young man born into the wrong circumstances. His father had abandoned Laith and his mother when Laith had been born. Laith's mother, Miranda, could barely hold stable jobs throughout Laith's youth due to her struggling health. When Laith was thirteen, Miranda was diagnosed with brain cancer.
At thirteen, in order to help cover his mother's medical costs, Laith made an under the table deal with someone he shouldn't have, in exchange for payment for Miranda's healthcare.
That arrangement ended when Laith turned 16, and his supply of money was cut off. Now, Laith worked as a mover at a local moving company. The tips and pay were good, but the hours were long, and Laith came home to his empty apartment each night sore and sweaty.
"Laith, you know, if you aren't Valedictorian, it's not the end of the world. You still got early admission to Stanford!" Mr. Mahmoud tried to go for cheerful and optimistic, but that singular sentence seemed to darken Laith's already dismal demeanor.
"Which I won't be able to afford if I don't get the Hearst Scholarship, which only goes to the Valedictorian." Laith bit out. The Hearst Scholarship was an incredibly prestigious and sought over accolade at Valencia Grand High. It was a full ride for the Valedictorian to wherever his or her school of choice was, no matter how expensive. It covered books, dorming, tuition, and hell, it even had a bit of a stipend left over for the lucky recipient.
Up until ten minutes ago, Laith thought he was covered for college, and he thought that things were finally going right in his life. Stanford, bills were getting paid, and the Hearst Scholarship. Now, two of those things were about to be wiped out.
"You're sure to get other scholarships," Mr. Mahmoud tried weakly.
"I haven't had time to apply for any others." Laith snapped irritably, and before Mr. Mahmoud could try and interject another conciliatory word, Laith snatched up his book bag and stood up.
"Just admit it Mr. Mahmoud, my situation fucking blows." Laith muttered, as he slammed the door to Mr. Mahmoud's office.
Releasing the breath he had been holding, Tariq Mahmoud sunk down in his chair after his student was gone, "Yes, Laith, your situation does indeed fucking blow."
Fucking Adrian Matthews.
That kid had been the bane of Laith's life for the past 18 years. However, when they had both entered high school, things had taken a drastic turn for the worse.
Both boys were handsome, athletic, and popular with the girls. Competition at Valencia Grand had taken an all new meaning when the two of them entered.
For the past three years, Laith had managed to just barely keep ahead of Adrian in terms of academics, while Adrian had taken a slight edge in the athletics department by becoming captain of the varsity football team. Not that Laith gave a shit about athletics, his own body was sculpted from years of hard living on the streets and now his stint as a mover was really giving him the kind of muscles and body that couldn't be made in a gym.
But now, Adrian had managed to edge Laith out in academics too? That burned at Laith, especially since stupid pretty little rich boy Adrian didn't even need the money. His family was filthy rich and would front the money to his college of choice no problem.
Frustrated, Laith slammed his hand against his locker, the clang banging down the hall, attracting looks from the other students loitering in the hallways during lunch break.
Laith turned his head, and his frustration diminished slightly at the sight of the girl in front of him.
Maribel Asher stood in front of him, her long black hair curling itself around her miniscule waist. Her large almond shaped emerald eyes, a gift from her Hispanic mother, and her milky pale skin, a gift from her Caucasian father, combined to give Maribel Asher stunning features.
"Are you okay?"
Laith's lips thinned out, and he shook his head, "No, I'm not."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Maribel offered sweetly, a certain fondness and yearning in her eyes.
In his head, Laith was thinking that all she had to do was offer those sweet little ruby lips to him, and that would help a hell of a lot. Instead, he reached out and twirled a long strand of her hair around his finger, a gesture so achingly familiar Maribel swiftly inhaled.
It had been so long since Laith touched her, and she was sorry to say that she doubted his effect over her would ever go away. First loves had a way of doing that to you.
"Distracting your boyfriend so that he'll slack off might help my case a bit, Maribel."
Maribel's green eyes instantly registered Laith's meaning, "Did he…is Adrian number one?"
Laith's solemn silence was enough of an answer, and Maribel was halfway torn between feeling jubilant for her boyfriend and feeling sorry for Laith.
"Hell yeah, I am." An arm wrapped itself possessively around Maribel's waist, and turning her around, Adrian Matthews kissed her so thoroughly; that Laith could literally see the bastard slipping his tongue in and out of Maribel's parted lips.
Adrian Matthews wanted everyone to know that Maribel Asher was his through and through. Laith Madden might have had her once upon a time, but Maribel was with Adrian now. She loved him, and he loved her. That was the way things were now, and Adrian liked to rub it in Laith's shitty face as much as possible.
When the two had finally broken apart for air, Maribel's green eyes looked dazed, and Adrian looked dastardly smug.
"How's it feel to be number two, Laith?" Adrian taunted viciously. He hated seeing Maribel with Laith.
"You should know, it's what you've been for the past three years," Laith replied coolly. His eyes slid to Maribel, "in both academics and in your love life."
Adrian's blue eyes darkened, and he bit the inside of his cheek so hard, he could taste his own metallic blood against his tongue. He gave Laith a scathing look that would have anyone else backing off, but Laith casually stared right back, showing no signs of fear. Just when it seemed like Adrian might take a swing, Maribel quickly tugged on his sleeve.
"Don't listen to him, Adrian. Let's just go, I'm so proud of you." Maribel wrapped her arms around Adrian's waist.
"What, Maribel, are you going to deny that I was your first boyfriend? Your first kiss? Your first mind-blowingly intense experience with sex?" It was petty and child-like, but if there was one thing Laith would always have over Adrian, it was that Maribel loved Laith first, and in some deep dark recesses of Adrian's mind, he was afraid that she was still in love with him.
That was it. With a primitive sounding groan that tore from his lips, Adrian lunged for Laith, but Laith was anticipating the attack. Adrian always had a short fuse, and Laith was looking for a fight. Someone to take out his extreme frustration and anger out on, and who better than stupid little rich boy himself who was the source of all Laith's problems?
Adrian was clumsy when he was angry, and Laith was a lot lighter and quicker. Using his weight against him, Laith sidestepped Adrian at the last minute and slammed Adrian into the lockers.
Showers of fireworks bloomed behind Adrian's eyes, but his football trained body had taken harder hits than that. Reeling around, his fists swung blindly, luckily connecting with Laith's side. The feel of his knuckles popping felt good. Distantly, Adrian could hear Maribel crying and begging for him to stop.
He ignored her in favor of tackling Laith to the ground.
And then, two strong arms pulled him back so hard, Adrian could feel the sockets of his arms straining.
"What the hell do you two think you're doing?" A burly coach roared in their ears. Two coaches were restraining Adrian and Laith.
The Principal's disciplinary lecture passed in a blur. Detention for a month. The threat of a possible pending suspension that Adrian knew would never go through. His father was way too powerful for that shit to happen to him. He was the District Attorney of Valencia, and the principal wouldn't dare try and touch him.
The only downside to that was that if Adrian went relatively unpunished so did Laith. Fair is fair, Principal Green had stated grimly.
Laith was really beginning to regret foolishly starting that fight with Adrian. There was a dark bruise on Laith's side from where Adrian's fist had connected, and everytime he bent to pick up a box, there was a tiny shot of pain that came with it.
"Hey man, I got the last of the load." Tom, one of Laith's fellow movers, carefully placed a box with the words fragile written in a girlish loop into the back of the loading van.
"Where're we moving?" Laith asked, taking his seat on the passenger side while Tom started driving.
"Swanky area. Valencia Heights. You know all the political bigwigs live up there."
"Yeah, I know." Laith replied quietly. Oh he knew all too well that every person of power in Valencia lived in the Heights.
"Bad day at school?" Tom was always prying into Laith's life at school, and he always seemed to be particularly interested in hearing about any small nuances that had to do with the girls.
Laith shrugged indifferently.
"Girl problems? Unload on me, son. I'll give you some advice. I've picked up some worthwhile experience in my lifetime, you know."
Laith highly doubted that. Tom was the largest person Laith knew in real life, both in girth and in height. He looked like he belonged in front of a trailer in overalls grilling up cheese sandwiches on his carburetor. Laith had his suspicions that Tom was skirting dangerously close to the jailbait line.
"I'm just ready to get out of Valencia." Laith muttered, as Tom pulled to a stop. Sitting up, Laith looked out the window and his heart skipped a beat. Not this house. Anyone but this one.
"Hey! Over here! Are you guys the movers?" A slim girl with white blonde hair waved them over. She stood in the driveway, her feet planted apart.
"Yes, ma'am! EZ Movers at your service!" Tom recited proudly, not so discreetly eyeing the girl as he began to move the boxes onto the driveway.
After pulling his EZ Movers cap to cover the upper half of his face, Laith helped Tom. When they were done moving the boxes to the driveway, Tom asked, "Where do you want this table?"
"I'll show you." Her white blonde hair swished like a curtain across her back as she moved quickly towards the large two storied house.
Tom held one corner of the vanity table, and Laith held the other. It was a large vanity table, with a gilded trifold mirror and a design of red roses painted around its golden rim. It was beautiful, just the kind of thing he'd expect for them to have.
They followed her up the stairs, and Laith's eyes traveled across the family photos. He was surprised to see one of a small toddler who was unmistakably Adrian and another child that had the same startling white blonde hair as the girl.
Curiosity ate at him now. In all his time knowing Adrian and his family, he couldn't recall if Adrian had a sister.
"Right there," She pointed to the corner of a large bare room with walls painteds robin's egg blue.
Laith and Tom set down the vanity fair, and commenced moving her furniture and belongings into her room at her direction. During that time, both Tom and Laith took long, lingering looks at the girl. She was unique looking to say the least.
A long sweeping curtain of fine white blonde hair fell to her waist, and she was so very slim. Model-esque slender, and Laith wasn't so sure whether or not he found that attractive or not. She had an other-worldly look in her facial features with her wide, expressive ice blue eyes, milky skin, and pale pink lips. She was model pretty, Laith decided, but that didn't necessarily make her attractive.
"Thanks guys," She held two crisp hundred dollar bills in her hands, one for each Tom and Laith when they finished moving everything.
"Hey, are you Adrian's sister?" Laith finally got the courage to ask her.
Her ice blue eyes landed on him and finally gave a long assessing look at the man who had been in her house for the past hour, "Yeah. Twin sister. Do you know him?"
"Yeah, from school."
"Oh!" She beamed suddenly looking much more inviting than she had in the past hour, "I'm going to be attending Valencia High soon. What's your name?"
Laith was about to mumble that he had to go, when the very worst thing that could have happened, happened.
"Ava! Have those damned movers come yet?" Richard Matthews, the district attorney of Valencia, walked into the foyer rifling through his mail. He looked up, and his eyes fell on Laith who was recognizable even with his cap covering the majority of his face.
"Laith? Is that you?" Richard sounded shocked.
"…Yes, sir." Laith mumbled, shifting awkwardly on his feet in the middle of their beautiful marbled foyer..
"You're working for a moving company now?" His tone was derisive, and Laith could feel the anger coursing through his veins.
"You could have had it so much better," Richard sneered, oblivious to the curious looks from Tom and Ava.
Laith nodded and looked at Tom at the corner of his eyes, "Ready to go, Tom? We've finished our work here."
"Sure," Tom seemed reluctant to leave, but he lead the way out of the Matthews household.
Laith was just about to step into the moving truck when a voice called out, "Laith! Wait!"
Ava was running towards him, her fine blonde hair surrounding her like a wispy cloud.
"I've heard of you," She stated when she had stopped in front of him.
Ava smiled, her pink lips curling upwards, a sparkling, knowing look in her blue eyes. She had something up her sleeve, Laith could sense. All the damn scheming Matthews people did.
"From everyone," She whispered, before standing on her toes to push her lips against his.
(A/N): This is my NaNoWriMo entry. I just needed to get something out b/c I've been in quite a bit of a rut ever since I wrote Jilted. It's going to have mistakes, and I'm all too aware of the ones I've committed in this chapter alone. But perfection isn't everything, right? haha, stick with me guys, i promise i'm taking this somewhere, even though the first chapter may seem jumbled. Review, please!