Chapter One

"Victoria, are you finished yet?"

"Wait a minute," said Victoria Kentare impatiently, flicking her long dark hair away from the keyboard. Her long fingers danced across the keys. She watched the letters as they appeared on the screen, not even needing to watch the placing of her fingers, which hit the keys squarely.

Heather Findley watched her friend type in amazement. The fact that anyone could type so rapidly astounded her. "Tori, hurry up!"

"I'm hurrying." Victoria glanced across the message, checking it just once before she clicked Send. "Okay, Heather, I'm ready now." She unfolded her long legs and rose gracefully from the chair.

Heather admired her best friend briefly. Victoria was tall, slim, striking and Gothic, with long hair dyed black, high cheekbones and ebony eyes. She wore long black leggings and a tight-fitting black top. Her hair was pulled back into a high ponytail that kept falling over her shoulder.

Heather wasn't exactly slim but couldn't be called pudgy either. She was somewhere in the middle. She preferred to dress modestly. She wasn't exactly tall and she wasn't exactly short. Her hair was reddish and frizzy. Freckles were spattered across her cheeks and nose. Her features were pleasant but nothing really to look at.

Victoria turned off her computer and left the room. Heather hurried after her. They waited at the desk in the office to be signed in from the Computer Rooms, Heather placidly and Victoria impatiently. Finally one of the Junior Mistresses, Fiona, signed them in.

"Thank you!" Victoria exclaimed and went up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Heather tried to keep up but her legs were rather shorter.

Victoria strode down the corridor, past all the female Year Twelve's rooms to the strictly Year Twelve only common room at the end of the wing of the Boarding House.

"Tori, my main man!"

"Shann!" Victoria replied with only slightly less enthusiasm. She hugged the little Year Twelve briefly before they broke away from each other and exchanged high fives.

Shannon Stevens was one of the better-known Year Twelves, loved by everyone. She was short, slender, energetic, quite strong and had a tendency to make people laugh. Her yellow hair fell just past her shoulders. She always tied it back.

There was the click of a lighter and the sharp smell of smoke, and with a frown Shann turned to a corner of the room. "Ange, I thought we agreed you'd quit."

Angela removed the cigarette from her mouth and blew out smoke. "If my memory serves me correctly, you agreed I'd quit," she retorted coldly. "I don't remember agreeing to any such thing." She tossed her hair over her shoulder contemptuously.

With her long, dark blonde ringlets, perfect features and smouldering blue eyes Angela looked either innocent or carnal as the mood took her. She went through guys like there was no tomorrow, had dated most of the male Year Twelves and was currently going through them again. She was into hardcore rock and fast cars. She wasn't the only smoker in the Boarding House or school but she was the only one who flaunted it, usually in front of the staff. She was admired in a scared kind of way, snapped at students and staff alike, dominated anyone who didn't stand up to her (and there weren't many) and seemed to tolerate Shann alone. She was somewhere between tall and average in height and looked anorexic, although she wasn't. Angela had lost her virginity at the age of thirteen and didn't miss it much. Her voice was pleasantly low-pitched and sultry.

"Well, if you must, please don't do that here," Victoria commented. Angela raised a rather delicate eyebrow but otherwise ignored her.

Nathalie Jenkins walked in at that moment. She was a little taller than Heather and slightly slimmer. Her short hair was dark brown, and her eyes were either green, gray or blue, no-one had ever worked it out. She was rather intelligent and had a lovely personality. A natural peacemaker, she was a valuable asset to the McBracken Secondary School Boarding House.

Nathalie had arrived in Year Nine and over the years Heather had seen her go from boyfriend to boyfriend. It wasn't that she was a flirt or a slut, because she wasn't one, it was just that none of them ever seemed right for her.

"Well, who have we got here then?" she asked, seemingly to herself and glanced around the room just once. "Ange, could you put that out, please."

Angela lifted her hands in almost exasperation, stubbed the cigarette out on a table and departed without another word.

The window shattered. A Year Twelve who had been sitting near it shrieked and covered her head with both hands. The others rushed to inspect the damage. Angela, who had heard all the noise, came back to investigate. She picked up the football that had been kicked through the window and joined the others. The window overlooked the Boarding House oval, where a group of guys were playing football.

"Give us the ball back!" one of them yelled at the girls.

"Oh, I'll give you your ball back, Alex!" Shann called down to him. She turned, took the football from Angela and ran down the stairs. She signed out to the oval then went out to where they were playing.

"Thanks for the ball, love." Alex walked up to her, his arms outstretched. She avoided him and looked around at the other guys.

Alexander Johns was by far the more handsome, in her opinion. His mother was Greek and he had inherited her dark eyes and hair. She studied the other guys there and recognised the usual group.

There was Christopher Kingston, whom everyone just called King. He had an earring in his left ear and a stud in his chin and was known as the 'bad boy' of the school. His eyes were a dark green-grey and his hair was currently black. Previously it had been a beautiful blue. His parents were rich and gave him everything he asked for, hence his black Mercedes.

In direct contrast to King was Gabriel Christensen, better known as Gabe. He looked younger than his seventeen years. He was dark-haired , blue-eyed and sweet, generally well-liked because no-one could bring themselves to dislike him. Nobody out of the Year Twelves had a better record than Gabe did, except maybe Heather.

Damien Grovener was tall, fair of feature and eyes and suffered from acne. He made Shann laugh, not a difficult feat, and played in the McBracken College football team.

Mark Stevens, no relation to Shann, always had a kind word for everyone. He tried hard at school and by studying most weekends managed to keep his grades at a B average. He had dark blonde hair, green-grey eyes and a nice smile. He would do anything to keep a promise. Everyone liked him, because you couldn't help not liking such a friendly, loyal person.

Jason Williams was broad-shouldered and muscular. He was the male Head Prefect of the school and was better-known as the resident 'Golden Boy'. He was intelligent, good-looking and witty. His hair was streaked with blonde and his sparkling eyes were blue. He was well and truly taken, and quite serious about his relationship with Victoria.

"Shann!" Alex whined. "Give us the ball."

"What will you give me for it?" she teased.

"Umm..." He pretended to think about it. "I'll think of something."

"That's not good enough!"

"Oh, all right. C'mere." He grabbed her for a kiss. She dropped the football and wrapped her arms around his neck. The boys jeered.

After a moment she whispered into his ear, "Let me play?"

"I think we can manage that!" he grinned, and the game continued.

Victoria sighed as she watched Shann tear around the oval with the guys from the window. "Honestly, that girl! I don't think she'll ever grow up."

"Why should she?" Angela, who was sprawled in a beanbag, asked lazily, and Victoria opted not to notice that she had another cigarette in her hand. "She's happy with her life the way it is."

"Is Shann going to the formal?" Nathalie asked. "I can't imagine her in a dress."

"She didn't wear a dress to the formal in Year Eleven," Victoria reminded them.

"And she made quite a sensation," Angela reminded them. She stretched, stood and moved towards the door. Nathalie watched her go almost admiringly.

Down at the office Angela wondered if she could even be bothered filling out anything telling anyone where she was going. No, she didn't think so. Nobody would care if she never came back, anyway. They'd probably hold a party. Angela grinned.

The door opened and King, Alex, Jason, Shann, Gabe, Mark and Damien came in laughing and joking. While the others went to sign in, King went to Angela.

He approached her from behind and slipped his arms around her waist. "Hey babe," was all he said in greeting.

Arching her back slightly, Angela laced her hands behind his neck. "Do you have any money?"

"Don't I always?" He let her go to find his wallet and almost carelessly handed her a fifty-dollar note.

"Thanks." She kissed him lightly. He took her chin in his right hand and kissed her properly before letting her go. She walked out the door.

"Hey, wait! Where are you going?" Fiona called, watching in dismay as Angela opened the gate.

"To the moon," Angela tossed back and laughed, closing the gate behind her.

Shann sighed as she went up the stairs to the female wings of the Boarding House. Angela was too irresponsible and didn't even care what happened to her. One day she'd get herself raped or murdered but still she probably wouldn't care.

Shann was still preoccupied with thoughts of her almost-friend and didn't notice the girl until it was too late.

"Oh, Jo! I'm so sorry," she apologised. "I was just off in my own little world and didn't-" She gave up trying to explain and helped Jo up. Even her small hand almost closed around Jo's arm. Josephine Yardman was anorexic, and looked it. She was much taller than Shann and seemingly all bones- one quick movement and she'd probably break something. Her large brown eyes were mournful, her brown hair cut in a style that framed her face dull and without lustre and her skin pale. She usually stressed about her academic marks when she wasn't depressed and morbid. Shann's nature caused her to be genuinely worried about Jo; if anyone in this Boarding House were to increase the percentage of teenage suicide it would be this frail Year Twelve.

"Oh Jo, what's wrong?" Shann stood back and studied Jo critically. "Nothing a piece of toast can't fix. And a coffee. Come on! I hope you weren't doing anything important."

Jo shook her head.

"That's good then, because you're not getting out if it." Shann took Jo firmly by her hand and led her to the Year Twelve common room/kitchen. She paused to read the notice hanging on the door.

Year Twelve Common Room

and kitchen


Year Elevens KEEP OUT

All guys welcome, provided your name is Jason

She recognised Victoria's beautiful, flowery handwriting down the bottom of the sign. The comment about the kitchen most likely came from Heather, who was very practical and liked things to be absolutely correct.

Shann opened the door and pulled Jo in. The usual crowd was there- Victoria, Heather, the tall, blonde, determined, carefree, sporty Amy, Nathalie and a few other regulars to the common room.

"Hi!" said Shann cheerfully. The girls greeted both she and Jo, although the latter remained silent. Shann's keen blue-eyed gaze fell on the broken glass still lying below the window. "You mean you haven't cleaned that up yet? Oh, you...! You bunch of useless, mad Year Twelves. Here. Someone make Jo some toast, and a coffee. I'll clean that up." She marched out of the room to find a dustpan and brush. In her indignation she'd completely forgotten about Angela, whom she didn't see for the rest of that night.