Warnings: Stealing, Prostitution, Illegal fighting, Drugs, Swearing, Child abuse, Kidnapping, Mentions of rape, Mentions of murder

Chapter Four: First Day

Be honest, dear reader. Have you ever read someone's diary? Your sister's? A friend's? That weird guy you see sitting by himself during class? If you have (and actually own a conscious) then you've probably felt that slight guilt that wiggles in the back of your mind as you shuffle through their private thoughts and feelings. It's not a pleasant sensation, but it's not terrible enough that you stop. This is what I experienced as I browsed Allison Lewis' file.

I sat with my back against the dingy wall on mine and Rags' mattress, the manilla folder in my lap. A lamp perched on the dresser next to our make-shift bed gave me enough light to see, though it wasn't bright enough to wake Rags, who slept across from me.

I ran my fingers over the copious amounts of papers stashed inside, feeling almost overwhelmed with the information. Pretty much everything about this girl laid in the folder, including her bloodtype, her favorite book, and (I kid you not) what she got for her birthday last year. Photos of her doing the most mundane things were here too. There was one where she was doing laundry in what looked like a utility room. Another where she bought a tray of food, where I assumed was Manhattan Academy. It was like she'd been tracked for months by the CIA, which I thought was a bit extreme in this case. From what I could tell, she was a normal rich girl who attended an overly fancy school.

But, wait, dear reader. It gets weirder.

Apparently, I would be going to the same school as this chick.

Me. Digger. The delinquent who couldn't even get hired at McDonald's. (Yep, McDonald's. I'm pretty sure all you need is a heartbeat to work there, and I was turned away anyway. Ba-da ba-ba-ba.)

Already there were documents that stated I would be transferring to Manhattan and rooming with (say it isn't so) Charley. I was even given my future schedule, where I discovered I'd be using the name Conner Minn.

Damn you, Johns. We all know you did that just to screw with me.

On top of this, I also received Allison's schedule. It seemed surprisingly similar to mine... (Can you hear the sarcasm, dear reader?). We'd be attending all the same classes except for Ceramics, the one course I thought was more useless than Economics.

The day I was expected to arrive was Monday (God, I hate you people), August 22nd, at ten in the morning. Orientation happened a week earlier, so I guessed a tour of the campus was out.

Something shuffled at the foot of the bed, and a small foot kicked my leg, unnecessarily hard. I winced. "Jeez, dude. You kick boxing in your sleep?" I set the folder to the side, not wanting Rags to see it.

Rags' tired, dark eyes glared at me, before quickly flitting to the lamp beside us. It was his way of saying, "Turn that thing off. I'm trying to sleep, jackass." Guess it was bright enough to wake him.

I rolled my eyes and nudged him with my socked foot. "So sorry, your highness. I'll turn it off." I reached over and turned the switch, casting us both into darkness. There were no words from Rags, but I felt him crawl toward me and plop onto my stretched legs as a wordless thank you. Of course, everything he did was wordless. I'd met him two years ago and he still hadn't spoken, even to me.

Could he handle being on his own? I knew I'd only be gone for nights, but this would be the first time he'd be alone since...well, since we first met. We'd shared a room for two years now; I was always there for the nightmares and the insomnia. Now I'd be away for at least a few weeks, probably months…

"Hey, buddy." I spoke carefully, like I was negotiating with bank robbers instead of a child. "Listen. I...I'm gonna go away for awhile-"

Rags suddenly sat up, eyes wide and small hands pushing against my chest. I grabbed his wrists and squeezed gently. "Hang on, I'm not finished. Just listen, okay?" I tried to hold his gaze. "I'll just be gone for the night and it'll only be for a few weeks. I'll visit you every day for hours, and when I come back we'll leave. Just you and me, alright?" I brushed his bangs away from his face, distantly noting that he still had a fever.

Rags hesitated, clearly torn. I knew how he felt. The very last thing I wanted to do was leave him alone at night still sick. But too much money was being offered to pass it up, especially when we were in such a desperate need for it. Once a foster child graduated high school they were pretty much kicked out to make room for other kids. If I was gonna live on my own and then adopt Rags like I wanted to money would be required.

Rags nodded slightly and let his head drop onto my shoulder. I tried not to flinch when his heated skin met mine. Leaving him like this would be torture for the both of us.

But I still thought it had to be done.

"Everything's gonna be okay," I murmured into his hair, desperately hoping it wasn't a lie. "I promise."

The first day at Manhattan Academy didn't seem real. Let me demonstrate.

My first view of the school seemed even more prestigious than the brochure, which I didn't even think was possible. Even though it was September in New York the grass on the campus was so green it practically glowed. Perfectly weathered stones made up the school's entrance with some words that looked like Latin engraved over the double doors. Kids wearing blue and gray uniforms milled around the yard, laughing and greeting each other like they hadn't seen each other in years. I stood on the sidewalk watching it all and wondering for the first time...just what the fuck was I doing? These people, these prodigies, all knew one another. I shifted my backpack, somehow feeling the weight of their nonexistent stares. I didn't belong here, but was still expected to play the part.

"Hey, Digger!"

I looked up at the sound of my name. Charley ran towards me, wearing his previous big-ass smile. His blonde hair was swept to the side and he was dressed in his Manhattan uniform. For a second, jealousy washed over me. He pulled off Rich Kid easily, while I already felt like an outcast without even stepping into the building. Still, I tried to appear confident.

"How ya doin', Charley? Cut anybody in half while I was away?"

I didn't like the way he avoided my eyes as he laughed. "Right. Uh, no, I didn't. Just lost a few rabbits." He rubbed the back his neck and switched his backpack to his other shoulder nervously. "So...ready to do this? I saw that we'll be sharing a room; we could walk together…?"

I shrugged and turned back to the school. "Why not? I don't see Lis or Kyra, and don't know anybody else."

Charley seemed relieved, though I didn't know why. He didn't have anything to worry about, unlike myself. Then again, maybe he was more desperate than he let on.

Doesn't matter. I squared my shoulders and headed across the yard, Charley in my wake. We got a few curious stares, but I pretended not to notice.

Grinning, Charley nudged me with his shoulder. "You excited? I know this is the best thing that happened to me since I realized the eighty-four pack of crayons came with a sharpener."

I rolled my eyes and nudged him back, probably harder than acceptable. "Yeah, yeah, great experience, blah, blah, blah. I'm just here for the money." Not to make friends, I added silently, as Charley wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I shook it off, ignoring another bright smile aimed my way.

Like the outside, the inside had fancy...well, everything. From the glamorous students walking down the stone hallways, the glass doors showing spacious classrooms, and the light fixtures that reminded me of mini chandeliers. As ridiculous as it sounded, I felt as if I simply breathed too hard I might break or taint something.

I distantly heard Charley whistle as he took in the overdone decor. "Damn...so that's where our tax dollars go."

I snorted at the very idea of Charley sitting down to do his taxes. That was just...no. "Can't wait to try the food here. It might actually be edible." That's when you know you've got it made - school food you can really eat.

Charley nodded, surprisingly serious. "Agreed." There. One thing that can sober him: food. I tucked this knowledge away for future reference.

"Which room are we again?" I fumbled in my uniform pocket for my crumbled schedule, jabbing some girl in the ribs accidently. She glared at me and for good measure, I flipped her the bird.

"We're 236." Charley gave the girl an apologetic look over my head, and pointed at the end of the hall. "Look, elevators! My school only had one and the students couldn't use it unless they broke their leg or something." His blue eyes narrowed and a small smirk curled his lips, as though forming a diabolical plan as we walked. "Thought about it once. One mistake at the school's talents show…" He must've seen my alarmed look because his gaze softened once again back into the Charley I expected. The one that constantly looks like he's heard a joke and probably poops rainbows and puppies.

We reached the elevators and shuffled inside, along with three other students. Dear reader, I don't care how long you've known the person you're riding with, there is nothing more awkward than standing in a metal box with crappy music and no escape. Charley, as always, seemed completely immune to everyone's uncomfortableness. He bounced on his toes and watched the numbers above the doors change until it hit floor two. Our floor.

We stepped out of the metal box of awkwardness, bags in hand, and trudged forward. Rather, I trudged. Charley basically skipped.

Our dorm sat second to last, proudly displaying the number '236' in bold, black paint. Charley produced a key card and swiped it like you do at a hotel, and gestured for me to go first. I obeyed ('Cuz why not?) and got my first glimpse of the room we'd be staying in for the next few weeks.

To my surprise, it appeared to be pretty standard. Two twin beds opposite each other took up most of the space, along with two dressers and studying desks. The only thing that separated this room from any other boarding school's was the small balcony and window between the two beds on the far wall. It'd be great for quick escapes, if the need ever arose.

Charley flopped on the right side bed, his arms behind his head. He sighed deeply and wiggled into the mattress. "Haven't slept in a bed this nice for years…" His blue eyes closed, and not for the first time I had to wonder how the fuck he was so relaxed.

I dropped my duffel bag at the foot of the other bed and matched Charley's position. Already a ball of nerves bubbled in my stomach; apparently, I wasn't made for heist work. My fingers tapped the blue bedspread in an uneven pattern. "So...what's the first step? We're here, classes don't start till tomorrow…"

Charley shrugged, blue eyes still closed. "Dunno. Probably unpack, meet up with the girls. Lis told me her and Kyra would be rooming together like us."

Frowning, I turned toward him and sat up. "Wait, you guys talked? When?"

Charley hummed under his breath. "We traded numbers before we left the coffee shop. I'd have given you mine, but you ran out too quick."

"Oh." I didn't really know what to say to that. Had there been some obligation to hang around that I didn't know about? Or maybe it was just smart to exchange numbers, we were on the same team, after all. I crossed my arms. "Well, maybe I should have your number. Just in case."

Charley dug in his uniform's pocket and pulled out the phone he'd been given. He tossed it to me with an easy grin. "Put your number in and look up mine. I haven't memorized it yet."

I started to do just that (and noticed Charley had already personalized his settings) when the phone buzzed in my hand. A green bubble popped on the screen.

New Text: Lis Callan

Caf. Now.

At the sound of the new message Charley glanced at me. "What is it? If it's Lis tell her I can't afford her."

I snorted and threw him his phone. "Nope. Just her being bossy through text." Not so sure I'd ask Lis for her number.

Charley sighed and stuffed his phone back into his slacks. "Alright. Better go see what she wants. Come on." He hopped off the bed and took the key card off his desk, uniform still pristine, despite lying on the bed. I followed.

"You know where the cafeteria is?"

"Not a clue."

Dear reader, Manhattan Academy didn't have a cafeteria. It had a fucking plaza. Instead of long, plastic tables that were bolted to the floor, polished, wooden tables scattered across the floor. The food area wasn't open (dammit), but people still milled around the room, most of them students. Their voices created a low hum, rather than the shouting and boisterous laughter you heard at my old school.

"There's Lis." Charley pointed to a few tables over and waved to the red-headed girl. Beaming, she spotted him she gestured for us to come over. We maneuvered around chatting kids, because they certainly weren't giving us the right-of-way. Lis grabbed our sleeves and nodded toward the corner. "Check it out. It's her, right? That girl we're supposed to look for?"

"Allison Lewis," Kyra supplied flatly.

I flinched at her sudden appearance. "God, how do you do that? You weren't here a second ago."

Charley narrowed his eyes and leaned closer to inspect her. "Maybe she can teleport. I could really use that. How much you want?"

Kyra stared at him blankly. "Do you need to think of these random comments or do they come to you naturally?"

Lis swung an arm around her and winked. "I'm natural. But I'm sure you all knew that."

"You people get off topic way too fast to be healthy," I sighed. "Wasn't there something about, you know, the girl?"

"Oh, look. She's leaving." Charley stuffed his hands in his pockets as he watched the girl stand up. "Next time, we might actually want to go talk to her instead of talking about her."

Lis rolled her eyes. "We talked about her for one sentence."

"I was taught it wasn't polite."

"We're getting off topic again!"

"Oh, for fuck's sake." I sighed, yet again, and shuffled toward her before she could leave. She was putting her book in what looked like a 1940's satchel. (Don't ask me how I know that.) I stopped in front of her table and did a sort of half-wave that I instantly regretted. "Uh, hey…?"

She froze. Oddly enough, I didn't take this as a sign.

"Listen, I'm new here and, well, maybe you wanna-"

She abruptly scooched her chair back, causing a screech so loud the talking around us stopped. We both winced. And then, before I could even say anything else, she left. Like, full out jogged to the door and let it slam behind her.

I blinked. "Nice talking to you too…"

Someone clapped me on the back. "Nice job, man. You sure know your way around the ladies." Charley grinned and wiggled his eyebrows.

"Fuck you."

AN: Thanks for reading!

Constructive criticism would be awesome! PLEASE!