I tell Caroline about the whole incident with Damian and we both conclude that he is somewhat of a jerk. Though, she is still arguing with me about how I was a bit of a jerk too. I was totally not.

"You completely ignored him when he told you congratulations," Caroline says.

"Okay. One: he said 'congrats.' Not congratulations. Two: he ignored me as well," I argue.

She huffs then says, "retaliation is not the way to go."

"It's the way I go," I say while unpacking my stuff for psych.

"Fine. Whatever," she surrenders. "We will talk about this more with Shannon."

"Okay," I say sarcastically which earned me a glare.

"Well, what are you doing tomorrow," she asks.

Glad for the change of subject I answer with, "nothing really. Just hanging."

"Okay, well there is a party at Carly's house. It is like a celebration for Y nationals or something. You have to go."

I think for a second. Carly is a good friend of mine. Not as close as Caroline, Wes, Liz, or Shannon but we are still close. She is the one who won the 200 IM the second year in a row and got 3rd in the 100 free. She was also in all of the relays with me. She is fierce. She is extremely intimidating at first but once you get to know her, she is so funny. She is also pretty popular so I can expect this will be a pretty big party. "Okay," I answer. "Why not. It'll be fun."

"Great! Wes and Liz really wanted to hang since we have been so busy the past month," Caroline says excitedly.

"Okay, but I'm not drinking," I say.

"I didn't expect you to," she answers.

Unlike the entire school, I don't drink. I am not absolutely against it, I'm not one of those people who can't hang around people who are drinking, but I just don't like doing it myself. I hate the way my body starts to feel all tingly and the world starts to distort and blur. And I absolutely hate the fact that you start to lose sense of yourself. I start to feel like I'm losing control. I drank once last year. The night was kind of a blur, so I'm a bit shaky on some parts. But, the night ended with me almost stepping on a charged, fallen powerline. I don't even know how it fell in the first place. Anyhow, ever since I have stayed away from alcohol. My friends don't drink that much either. They never drink during high school season, nor when championships are near. Even throughout the rest of the school year they only drink occasionally.

I say to Caroline, "I know. I didn't really expect you to. I love you guys." Then I give Caroline a one armed hug and the bell rings to start class.

The sky is just fading into a navy blue as Shannon and I drive over to Carly's house.

"Wait, so you absolutely ignored him when he said 'congrats'?" Shannon asks me.

"Yes! How many times do I have to tell you?" I exasperate. I told her about once she got into the car. Caroline was right, Shannon is giving me a much harder time.

"Yeah, but why did you do that?" She asks.

"Because he is a jerk," I answer. "He did the same thing to me!"

"Yes but he is hot," she emphasizes.

"Oh and I'm not so I'm not good enough for someone like him. I should bow down and care for his every need," I spit. This is really making me mad. Partly because it was true. I'm not ugly but I'm not the most beautiful girl in school. I have long dirty, blonde hair that gets tangled after five minutes. My face is oval shaped and when in a cap, actually looks a bit chubby despite being as skinny as the Victoria Secret models and still very healthy. I'm 5'8" so I'm a pretty average height and I'm really tan. But so is everyone else in the state. The only thing that people really notice are my eyes. They are the brightest blue most people have ever seen. Some people even claim that they glow sometimes, though it isn't true. So, I'm not that pretty, especially when I'm standing next to Shannon. A girl with long, perfect, brown curls, a heart shaped face, olive skinned, and hazel eyes.

"No, Sarah! That's not what I'm saying!" She says frustrated.

"That is exactly what you are saying," I argue.

"No. It's just-"

I cut her off, "what? That I will never be as pretty as you are?" We pull to the side of the road next to Carly's house. I turn the ignition off forcefully. "Why don't you go after him instead of trying to date him vicariously through me." I step out of the car, slam the door, and start marching off to Carly's house. I can feel the tingling spark within me at the tips of my fingers and toes.

"Sarah, wait!" Shannon says, running after me. I ignore her and keep going. I just want to get away from her. "Sarah! Stop!" I see other people walking towards the house, already drunk. Others are staring at us.

"Sarah!" She grabs my arm and pulls me around to face her. "That isn't true!"

"It's so true! It's so obvious! You've been drooling over the guy ever since Liz first mentioned him and you didn't even know his name! Now you're pushing me to go out with him when I have no interest in him at all!" I fire. The rage is starting to get the best of me. Something else I lose control of.

"It's just you..." She trails off, looking everywhere but at me.

"What?" I say viciously. "Spit it out."

"You have always been better than me in everything!" She confesses.

"What?" I ask incredulously. "That isn't true!"

"Swimming? Yes it's true. Ever since you came on the team Freshman year you flew by everyone else." She says.

"Your the one who pushed me to join the team in the first place! I never wanted to swim until you convinced me to!" I poke my finger right into her chest.

"I never expected to you get better than me! Much less become a national champion."

"Wait, hold on a sec. That's why you wanted me to join the team? Because you thought you would be better than me? You wanted to beat me out in something?" I ask, anger filling me from head to toe. Crackling beneath my skin.

"No!" She argues, horrified. "That wasn't the reason at all!"

"Yes it was," I say realizing her change in subject from Damian to swimming wasn't a change at all. "That's the reason why you wanted me to go after Damian to. Because you knew I would fail!"


"What the hell is wrong with you!" I'm screaming now. "We have know each other since we were in elementary school! Why would you try to do something like this to me?"

"No! I-"

"Stop!" I cut her off. "I don't want to hear you dumb excuses! Just leave me alone!" I turn on my heel and walk inside the house, ignoring her yells to try and stop me.

I text Caroline. I need to talk to her. My anger dissipates to a despair that almost brings me to the ground. Why would Shannon do something like this? Set me up to fail.

Me: R u at the party yet?

Caroline: Im insde! Ru hEre?,?

Me: Ya. Ill meet u inside.

I put my phone back into the pocket of my high waisted jean shorts. I am wearing what most girls would at these parties; high waisted shorts and a crop top. My top is a bright pink that Shannon helped me pick out. I grimace and push my way through the crowd. I stroll around the house for a bit. Passing people dancing (a.k.a. grinding), making out, and just talking. Mostly everyone was holding red solo cups with who knows what in it. At some point I find a drink in my hand and take a sip. The taste brings me back to my senses and I throw the cup away. I'm not going to let my emotions control me.

I finally find Caroline dancing with some guy with a red solo cup in her hand. Her blonde hair is swinging around while swaying her hips with her arms up in the air. I walk over to her and tug her arm to get her attention. Once she realizes I'm there she squeals, "hey! you made it!" She puts an arm around me and says, "you have to meet my new friend. I think his name is Nick." Great, she's drunk.

"Where is Wes and Liz?" I ask.

"They're around." She says while waving her hand around the room. She then leans in towards my ear and says, "but if you ask me I would say they are hooking up." I laugh out loud at that. The only way they would hook up is if they were so drunk they both thought they were hooking up with Damian.

In the corner of my eye I see a shadow flit in the corner and feel a breeze pushing me over that way. Curious I walk over to it. Then I see Damian. Almost about to hook up with some random junior blonde. I know that because her arms are locked around his neck with his hands on her hips and the girls eyes are closed. He catches my eye and grins mischieviously at me. I roll my eyes and walk away to try to find Wes and Liz.

I bump into people as I try to navigate through the thick crowd. One guy even attempts to try and hook up with me but I push him away. The only reason this party hasn't been popped yet is because Carly literally lives in the middle of nowhere. She lives right on the ocean by the cliff where everyone goes cliff jumping. I doubt this party ever will get popped. The air suddenly gets heavy and I feel claustrophobic. I walk outside to get some air.

Once I step out into the cool night air I instantly feel better. The heat of the party evaporates from my skin but the smell of alcohol and body odor lingers. I lean against the side of the house and close my eyes. The tingling in my skin starts to fade.

"You okay over there?"

I jump at the sound and turn to see it is only Damian. "Shouldn't you be hooking up with some Junior right now?" I snap.

"Jealous much?"

I scoff. "You wish." I lean back against the wall. There is a moment of silence and I break it with, "what do you want now? The practice schedule is online you know."

"Whoever said I wanted anything from you?" He asks.

I give him a glare then jump for the second time at a growl. I see a dark shape in the middle of the yard. An odd shape, one with two bumps out of its back, looking mysteriously like wings. I look around the yard and see it's just me, the dark shape, and Damian taking a fighting stance.

"Didn't expect to find you here," the dark shape said in a low gravely voice. A woman's voice. Then it lunged right at me.

I saw a flash of talons then screamed and put my arms up to guard my face. I was instantly tugged to the left and realized I'm being pulled by Damian. "Run!" He yells at me. I start sprinting. I lose my flip flops easily and feel my feet pounding against the dirt.

"Where?" I ask.

"To the cliff," he says. I feel my skin jump with an electrical charge. I know my adrenaline is kicking in.

We run side by side heading straight towards the cliff. I hear the beat of wings coming closer and closer with every step we take. Suddenly, I feel an agonizing pain in my left shoulder. Like three knives are cutting deep into my back. I cry out then feel a zing run to where the knives are cutting into my shoulder and the knives pull out. I hear a thump behind me but don't dare to look back. Damian steadies me when I stumble and I hear him swear. "There are more!"

I hear the beat of multiple wings behind me and I run harder. I feel a hard wind blow behind us and I hear another thump on the ground. Then I notice the cliff coming up fast.

"What are we going to do when we get to the cliff?" I ask.

"We'll jump."

I look over at him incredulously. He looks right back at me his green eyes practically glowing. No, they are glowing. He takes my hand, then we jump.

The fall feels like forever. I've been cliff jumping before but I've never been chased off of a cliff. It feels like we are going down in slow motion. the next thing I know, we hit the water. I loose Damian's hand and panic hits me hard. I quickly come up to the surface and look around to see where he is. The waves are big and thrashing from the hard wind and I can barely see anything with the salt water in my eyes.

"Damian!" I cry out, not knowing what to do.

"I'm right here," he says coming up behind me. "Can you swim."

"Yes. I am a swimmer," I say.

"I know I meant with your shoulder. Come on we got to hurry. We are going to that cave right there. It's safe there." He points to a dark shadow in the rocks. I didn't even notice it until he pointed it out. We swim hard right to it.

I hear the squawking and growling from above us and I swim faster. We finally get to the cave and I scramble inside. We both sit side by side leaning against the wall of the cave, breathing heavily.

"What...the hell...was that?" I ask in between breaths. He doesn't answer and I just lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes trying to catch my breath. We stay that way for a while. Just leaning against the wall waiting for our breaths to slow. I suddenly feel a stab in my left shoulder which makes me cry out.

He comes over to me and says, "let me see."

"It's not that bad," I say.

"Let me see," he says forcefully.

I reluctantly turn around then I hear him draw in a breath. "Is it that bad?" I can hear my voice shake. He doesn't respond.

I hear him take his shirt off and I quickly turn around to see if it was true. "What are you doing?" I ask him.

"Helping you," he says. Then rips up his shirt and starts binding my wound with it. Once the shirt touches the scratches I cry out in pain. "It's going to sting a bit."

"Thanks for the warning," I say through clenched teeth. He continues to bind my wound and then ties it under my armpit. He leans back against the wall and closes his eyes. My eyes drift down to his six pack and I have to tear them away back to his face. "You okay?" I ask.

He opens one eye then smirks, "you worried, princess."

"Don't ever call me that again." I say my anger rising all over again.

"Princess?" He asks bemused.

"Yes, and if you do I will personally chop off all your limbs and let you bleed to death."

He fakes a wince, "bit graphic don't you think."

I huff turning away from him. There is an awkward silence for who knows how long, then I break it. "What were those things?" My voice is quiet and almost...fragile. But he doesn't answer. I wait for another minute then ask again, my voice harder and more demanding. When he continues to stay silent. I turn, impatient, push him in the shoulder but before I could get my question out he is practically on top of me with his hand on the wall behind me and his face so close to mine I can feel his breath.

"If I tell you what was chasing after us they will only come after you again. The next time they would do more damage than just a wound in your shoulder. No amount of protection could stop them because they will keep coming back until you are dead and they can pick the meat off of your bones," he says in a deadly low voice.

For a minute I'm actually very intimidated. Him being this close to me is extremely unsettling. I can feel my heart beat out of my chest to the point that I swear he can hear it. I can feel the fear etched onto my face, then I swallow it down and say, "so you think I can't protect myself?"

He slams his fist against the wall behind me which makes me jump and shouts, "Dammit, Sarah! If I thought you could protect yourself we wouldn't be having this conversation. You can't protect yourself against those things, that wound on your shoulder tells us both that." He sits back away from me and I let out a breath I didn't notice I was holding. I then realize that that was the first time he said my name.

"Sorry," I say sincerely.

"It's fine," he says. "I'll take you home." He stands and I stand with him. The wound on my shoulder only a throb.

"Okay," I don't even want to argue that I have my own car and am perfectly capable of driving because I already know I will lose.

We have to climb up the cliff, which isn't that hard because it's where people climb up all the time when cliff jumping. The wind pounded hard against us at first, easily drying our clothes. Then as we started getting higher the wind settled and turned to a slight breeze. We get into his car and starts driving me home. I then notice how my pink shirt is torn where the scratches are and my flip flops are somewhere in the grass at Carly's. We are both silent until he pulls up next to my drive way. I am just about to open the car door when he says, "I'm sorry. For that to have to happen with you."

He is still shirtless, but I ignore that fact and say, "It's not your fault. Thanks for, you know, helping me."

"Any time," he says with that smirk and I slam the car door and walk into my house.