A/N: I just want to thank everybody for all their encouraging reviews! I never thought this story would generate as much interest as it already has, so now I know what's top priority as far as everything else I'm writing goes. Well, here's chapter two, and remember, constructive criticism is much appreciated. :o)

"Cindy?" I heard someone ask quietly as I fiddled with the combination on my locker.

When I got it open, I turned to find one of the girls from my English class looking up at me. She was small and mousy, about a head shorter than me, and she childishly hugged the books she held against her chest like an elementary schoolgirl. I looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to say something.

"Yes?" I asked brusquely. I had about three minutes to gather my things for the afternoon, make it up two flights of stairs, and weave my way through the Business and Science Hallway to get to my physics class. I needed every second of those three minutes, and didn't want to waste them waiting on some tiny, nameless chick staring up at me like I'm some kind of awesome goddess. I hated it when people looked at me like that. The truth of the matter was that I was nothing particularly special, and I certainly wasn't above anyone, in spite of the whole popular deal. In fact, I wasn't a very popular popular at all.

She snapped out of her trance after detecting the impatience in my voice. "Um, I just wanted to say that the poem you submitted to Expressions was really good. I could definitely feel the colors. We all liked it, and I'm pretty sure it'll make the final cut when we put the magazine together this April," she said, offering a shy smile.

"Thank you," I said absently, trying to figure out what she was talking about. I know I would have remembered submitting a poem to the literary magazine… "I'm kinda in a rush, so I'll see you in English tomorrow, okay?" I shot her a grin as I shuffled to get my things together.

She probably doesn't even know I can't remember her name, I thought with mild amusement as she walked off with a slight bounce in her step.

I let myself forget about the poem momentarily in my haste to book it upstairs, but once Mr. Hayes began to go over some of the common mistakes made in our last lab reports, I tuned him out. My mind drifted back to the girl's comment about my poem, and I tried to recollect what I turned in for the poetry unit in creative comp. class earlier in the semester. Mr. Gardener usually said something about submitting work to the Expressions committee, and I never turned in anything that had to do with color anyway. I furrowed my brow in confusion. There was no way that the poem was actually mine. Unless…

I reached into my backpack and pulled out my five-subject. I let my eyes roam the orange cover that was heavily doodled on with black pen. "Cindy's Notebook" it proclaimed in large, bold letters. Conventional stuff – hearts, stars, flowers, and smiley faces – and not-so-conventional stuff – alien abductions, pineapples with features crossbred with those of the school mascot, and satellites – filled both the front and back covers, bringing a small smile to my face. This thing was definitely mine.

I opened the cover and sifted through it, looking for signs of page rippage. I never took anything out of that notebook, so if anything happened to be missing, I knew who turned it in. Sure enough, a poem I had titled "#27" – because it was the 27th poem in the book – was MIA. I remembered writing it in orange ink, and I remembered painting rainbows in it with figurative language and poetic imagery.

I was still confused. But instead of asking myself who turned in my poem, I was asking myself why.

About eight or nine of us were congregated at the biggest booth in the local burger joint, having off-campus rights for lunch. We ate there just about every day because we would be seen there, and we sat in the same booth each time for the same reason.

Johnny's was the best diner in town, and no doubt the most popular. In spite of the place's reputation of having the best burgers this side of the Mississippi, they served just about everything imaginable. Sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, whatever you had a craving for, Johnny's probably had it somewhere on the menu.

"Something wrong?" Elle Lewis asked me.

The other three girls at our table were engaged in a conversation about something trivial, and the guys that sat with us were talking about sports. I never really said a whole lot, and what everyone talked about usually didn't interest me in the least anyway, but I would at least listen and then smirk at the laughability of it all. I wasn't even doing that today. I was still stuck on the whole notebook deal.

While Elle spoke, the bells attached to the front door rang, and my attention was drawn to the entrance. As my luck would have it, JC walked in with a couple of his friends. My eyes followed him to the cashier's counter, where he leaned over and said something to the cashier that made her smile and blush. In spite of myself, I felt a slight pang of jealousy.

I must have been glaring daggers something fierce at him, because he turned and looked straight at me. Trying to be nonchalant about catching his steely gaze, I flipped my hair behind my shoulder and reverted back to my group.

"Oh…" I heard Elle say with an air of knowledge.

"What?" I asked, playing dumb.

"I heard about your second period mishap with everyone's favorite Jimmy Dean wannabe," she said, gesturing in his direction with a subtle tilt of her pretty blonde head. I couldn't help but laugh at her malapropism.

"First of all, Jimmy Dean is the scary, old sausage guy on TV. James Dean, the actor in all those 50's motorcycle movies, is the one you're talking about," I said, correcting her mistake.

"Same difference," she shrugged with disinterest.

Just as I thought she was going to dive back into conversation with the other girls, she saw through my ploy to divert her attention away from me and what happened this morning.

"So, Cindy… what exactly did happen second period? You know how the grapevine has a tendency to twist things around."

I sighed. "I was reading the first part of my story to the creative comp. class, and then he commented that the first draft was better. I was like, 'What the hell is he talking about?' and he was just giving me this look like he knew something I didn't. Anyways, I told you how I lost my notebook the other day, right? I was up there staring at him like an idiot when I realized it. So I just walked up to him and reached out my hand, waiting for him to give it back to me. When he does, he rolls his eyes gives me this other look, and… Ooh, I swear to God I wanted to kill him!"

"That's totally not cool, Cindy," Elle said, shaking her head. Lowering her voice, she added, "It's a shame that such a hot guy has to be such an asshole."

"Totally," I agreed, letting my gaze drift back to him again.

Why does he have to be so fine? I wondered, examining him with more scrutiny.

There was just something about JC, aside from the whole bad boy thing, that made him so appealing to the opposite sex. You couldn't really pinpoint it. To me, it seemed to be a combination of a lot of things. It was in the way he did his hair, gelling the dark brown locks to perfection. It was also in the way he carried himself with that arrogant, you-know-you-want-me-and-there-ain't-a-damn-thing-you-can-do-about-it swagger. Then there were his eyes. A silvery shade of blue, they had the power to either melt you or turn you into ice, depending on the way he was looking at you. Oh, and were they ever beautiful, framed by long, dark lashes. You know, I've never seen him turn a kind eye on anyone, but ooh, if he ever turned a kind eye on me…

Stop it, Cindy, you sound like an idiot, I reprimanded myself.

And I can't forget his lips. Those soft, full, and sensual pink lips that were almost always curved up in some kind of smirk or sneer. What a pretty poison they made. His features were chiseled, his strong, taut jawline only serving to accent his lips further. He was beautiful in a way that was purely masculine, but he was so intense and intimidating… Just looking at him drove you crazy. He was sexy and single, but frustratingly unattainable.

None of the girls in our group ever really talked about him outside of mindless gossip, let alone staked claim, but we all wanted him. When we could get away with it, we eyed him like ravenous wolves would eye a piece of meat. To us, he was that faraway fantasy, the kind of man depicted in the trashy romance novels that none of us had the guts to admit we read. The tall, dark, and handsome renegade that every woman wanted to tame.

If it weren't for the fact that all the guys we were dating, or waiting in line to date, openly despised JC with all their beings, the more brazen of us would at least try her hand with him.

If it weren't for the rivalry between JC and my older brother, Tom, I would probably try my hand with him. I don't know how or why they got on each other's bad sides, but they did. And, as a popular, when Tommy turned on JC, so did the other guys. It seemed to me that it became a major incident every time JC was caught talking to one of the girls in our group, and jealous boyfriends and belligerent bad boys never make a settlement that doesn't involve fists.

Watching him walk out of the restaurant with a bag of food and his two cronies, I came upon a small revelation.

Maybe what made JC so damn appealing was that fact that I knew I had a snowball's chance in hell with him.