Present Day

"What the hell, Harper?"

"Huh?" I said, lifting my eyes from the sheet music.

"You played the wrong note. That's a low G not an E. You would think after three years of band, you could tell the difference."

I sighed and tried again, holding the flute against my lips. I blew air through it, moving my fingers to match the notes I needed to play. All else disappeared around me except the sheet music. B flat, A, C, G, F, B flat again: notes played in different succession, creating a song.

"Better, but you're mixing up eighth notes with triplets. We have two weeks left to perfect this one song before the first game, and I'd rather not look like a fool out on the field."

"I'll get it, Chanita, trust me."

"I'm not worried about you getting it sitting down. I'm worried about you playing it on the field. Learning the music is the easy part, marching to it is where everything goes to hell."

I rolled my eyes. Chanita was being melodramatic. We would pull it off. There was no doubt in my mind that this year we would surprise the crowd. I'd be damned if we messed up my freshman year. Being a band member was bad enough, but if we screwed up, we would be the laughing stock of the school.

"Well I'm starving and tired of listening to you play, horribly I might add."

"You could have left a long time ago."

She feigned hurt. "La gasp, and leave my poor, defenseless best friend alone in the band room and let who knows what happen to you, certainly not!"

I laughed. "You act like I can't hurt a fly let alone a human being."

"Well duh, because you can't. Why else would I stay by your side?"

"Oh, you know, I thought maybe it was because you actually liked me as a friend, but I guess not."

She laughed and stuck out her tongue. I smiled, rolling my eyes again as I put my flute away. She jumped up, knocking over one of the music stands. It clattered to the floor.

"Oops, anyways, hurry up before I leave your ass."

"I thought you said you wouldn't leave me defenseless?"

"That was before my stomach started to eat itself, now come on!"

I sighed, collecting my stuff before following after her. We walked down the hallway, passing one of the side gym doors and the boys' locker room. The smell of rotten fish and dirty socks wafted through the closed door. I almost gagged as we picked up our pace, cutting left then straight. Chanita skipped ahead, swinging her ebony arms as her black hair bobbed up and down.

I smiled as I trailed behind. We cut right, passing rows of lockers on the right then slipped through one of the archways into the cafeteria. Tables upon tables could be seen as we walked to one of the vending machines. Chanita held out one of her hands as the other pressed against her hip.

"Seriously? Do you ever carry money on you?"

"Hell no! If I did, I surely would get robbed."

"Robbed in Mathews? I highly doubt that," I said, pulling out a five from my jean pocket.

She snatched it out of my hand, grinning. The machine buzzed as she inserted the money. After much debate, she picked A4. She ripped open the hot fries' bag as soon as she pulled it out. I rolled my eyes and collected my change. A crunch could be heard as Chanita popped them in her mouth.

"Is that all you wanted?"

"Of course not, I want a drink too," she said, holding out her hand again.

"You really need to carry money or at least a purse."

"Why would I do that when I have you, a walking piggybank?"

"Sometimes I hate you."

"Awe thanks, I love you too, Harper."

She smirked, her brown eyes bright. Her pink aura was just as light. I smiled, bumping into her. She laughed, pushing back. I stumbled backwards, falling onto my ass. Chanita snorted, squealing like a pig.

"Thanks, you're such a great friend."

She continued to laugh as I picked myself up. I rubbed my behind as I walked away.

"Hey, wait! I need your money!" she called.

I stopped and looked down at my hand. The change I had received glistened. I clenched my jaw and turned back toward Chanita. I pulled back my arm and let them go. Quarters flew in every direction. Some pinged to the ground while others bounced off the tables then hit the tiled floor. Chanita stared, gaping. I walked back through one of the big archways and turned right, passing the glassed, outdoor area. I heard her call out again, but I ignored her. I strode through the science hallway. I was halfway to the end of the hall when I heard them.

High pitched squeals, giggling, the clapping of hands, and the unmistakable aroma of cotton candy were the only warning I had before walking right into the jaws of the cheerleading squad. I froze, blinded by the array of colors flashing before my eyes only I could see. I had two options: creep behind the beehive, pressed against the lockers or go all the way around and pass Chanita on the way.

I didn't know which was worse: facing the queen of the Blue Devils cheer squad or dealing with my best friend who had plucked a nerve. I could have gone with the lesser of two evils and gone back to Chanita, but my pride said otherwise. Instead of clinging to the lockers like I had planned, I walked straight through them. Blondes and brunettes stumbled backwards, cursing and pushing each other. I kept my head down, my face hidden by my brown hair and continued walking. I had almost made it to my turn, passing the gym, when she spotted me.

"Who do you think you are, interrupting my girls' from learning this cheer?"

Her voice was icky sweet but held a note of malice. I cringed. I was screwed; no one escaped Adalyn. Her viper green eyes locked onto me. I was her prey, caught in a trap. Her blonde ponytail swung behind her as she sauntered toward me. The squad spread out until I was the only one in Adalyn's line of fire.

"Oh, it's just Harper Smith," she said, her voice coated with venom, "just one of the many unimportant, unpopular, band geeks."

I clenched my hands, holding them firmly to my sides. She wasn't going to spark anything; I wasn't going to beat her to a pulp despite what my thoughts hoped. She circled me. Her neon orange aura flickered in and out of my sight.

"Have you lost weight? Oh wait, you can't. All you can do is put on more; soon you will look like Big Bertha."

Her minions laughed, exposing their necks. I fought the urge to fight and ran. Their laughter followed me, taunting me. I turned sharply to the left, tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn't bother to wipe them away, what was the point when more would show up. My sneakers squeaked then lost traction. I pitched forward. I threw out my hands, catching myself in the nick of time. The impact jarred my arms. I took a sharp breath as pain radiated from my right wrist. I sat up, tucking my knees, and surveyed the damage. Nothing seemed out of place. I twisted my wrist back and forth, wincing slightly.

"Hey, you okay?"

I nodded, catching the sight of cleats. My eyes traveled upwards, passed tight yellow pants, bare abs, and stopped at his eyes. They were brown yet green. His eyes reminded me of the forest: green leaves against brown bark. He held out a hand. I took it cautiously. His fingers wrapped around mine. I winced as he helped me up.

"You sure you're fine?"

"Yeah, just landed on my wrist wrong, no biggy."

I shrugged it off, looking away. I frowned, realizing he was still holding my hand. Before I could snatch it away, his grip tightened. I gasped as a surge of pain went up my arm.

"Seems to me like your aren't fine."

"What's it to you?" I said through clenched teeth.

"You know what, forget I even cared," he said, letting go.

I stood frozen as he brushed passed me. I hadn't noticed his aura until then…a rich blue, like mine. I turned, about to say something, when she appeared. Cotton candy laced poison. Adalyn materialized out of thin air.

"Jaxon!" she squealed. Her spray tanned arms wrapped around his neck.

I felt like throwing up. I must have actually made the noise because her viper eyes locked onto mine. She smiled. My chest tightened at the sight of the glint in her eyes.

"Harper," she enunciated like she was talking to a child, "will you be a dear and scramble back into the hole you came from, thanks."

I held my tongue, fighting the urge to claw out her eyes. I looked away and caught Jaxon's eye for a split second. He was the first to advert his gaze. I turned and walked away. I straightened my shoulders and held my head high. I wasn't about to let her win. I left only because I wanted to, not because of her.

"Now where were we?" I heard her say.

"Not now, Adalyn."

I smirked. I could only imagine what her reaction was. I pictured her being detached from his neck, her throwing a hissy fit, before storming off. I wished I could have seen it for myself, but that would have put me higher on Adalyn's hit list. I made it halfway to the band room before I heard his voice again.

"Hey, Harper?"

I turned, meeting his gaze.

"Yeah?" I called back.

He opened his mouth to say something, but he never got the chance. Football players burst out of the locker room.

"Hey, Jax, you ready?" one of the guys' said.

He glanced my way then at one of his buddies.


"Unless you like broken bones, I don't think so. You don't even have your shoulder pads on. Come on, Bro, get your head in game, or are you too busy thinking of Adalyn naked. I know I would be if I had a smoking hot babe like her."

I didn't stick around to find out what happened next. I bolted to the band room. I pushed open the double doors and went straight to my usual seat. There were only a few band members present. When I said only a few, I meant over half of the band was here. Disadvantage of living in a small town, small band.

"Hey, Harper."

I looked over to see Danny waving his hand. I smiled.

"Hey, Danny, what's up?"

"The sky," he said, grinning, "actually nothing really, unless you count being man-handled by quarterback Jake."

"That's horrible."

"Nah, it wasn't all bad. He got man-handled by coach when he saw us."

I laughed. "Well, I'm glad you didn't get hurt."

"Me, get hurt? Nah, I have tough skin, nothing can hurt this body," he said, punching his chest.

He winced. I rolled my eyes.

"That's good to know. At least I can count on your thick skin to protect me," I joked.

He grinned, pushing up his glasses. His blue eyes magnified in the lens, matching his crystal blue aura. I looked away and concentrated on putting my flute together. The clinking of metal soothed my raging heart. I pressed the flute to my lips; the cold metal was like a balm. I closed my eyes for a second, savoring the moment. I took a deep breath and started on my scales. B flat scale: b flat, c, d, e flat, f, g, a, b flat, then back down. I repeated the notes in my head as my fingers glided over the keys. Next up was the C scale, and then E flat.

I went through each scale with precision. There was no room for mistakes. I finished the A flat scale, when Chanita waltzed in. She walked with the confidence of one of the populars instead of one of the band. I knew that look: eyes twinkling, reapplying lip gloss, tousled hair. Chanita just got back from a make out session. I wasn't privileged enough to have experienced one, but I knew the signs from watching the popular crowd. She took a seat beside me. I didn't say anything. I knew in a minute she would be gushing about this guy, so I waited.

A minute passed then five, and still nothing. I frowned. Why wasn't she blabbing? Maybe she just wanted to build suspense. I waited a little bit longer until I couldn't take it anymore. I laid my flute on my lap and glared at her.

"So you going to tell me or not?"

She glanced at me then away. "Tell you what?"

"Um, about the boy of course."

"What boy?"

I clenched my jaw. "The boy you were making out with before sauntering in here."

"I don't know what you're talking about." She wouldn't look at me.

"Oh come on! It's written all over your face."

She shook her head. I sighed, giving up. I thought best friends told each other everything, I wanted to say. I couldn't though. If that were true then I wouldn't be hiding my secret. Ever since I could remember, I've been able to see a person's aura. Everyone had one. I was just now figuring out that two people could have the same aura. I just didn't know what it meant.