As I crouch down, I place the white Lilies on the two graves in front of me. I read over the words that I’ve read a million times. Kathryn Hale. Loving mother and wife. 1970-2008. Steve Hale. Loving father and husband. 1970-2010. Sighing, I sit on the ground in front of my parent’s graves and stare at the gray stones. My mother died seven years ago, when I was eleven. My father died two years later, when I was thirteen. Oh, wait… I forgot to mention my younger brother and my evil stepmother and her daughter.
Mason, my sixteen year old brother, is the only real relative I have left. After my mother died, my father remarried a woman. This woman is… well, she’s pure evil. I’ve never liked her and she’s never liked me; same goes for her daughter. They’re terrible people and when my father died, she took over my life. She makes me earn money and she rarely ever works. I work a day job after school and I sneak out at night.
My brother sneaks out with me during the night, because our step-sister is just like her mother. She uses Mason like an animal. She drags him around like her own personal slave and it pisses me off, but if I say anything, her mother will be on my butt about it. Technically, she has custody of me since I’m still only seventeen, but when I’m eighteen, I will take Mason and we will get out of that house. I don’t know how, but we will.
“Hey, I thought I would find you here,” I hear a voice say from behind me. I turn to see Mason standing there with his beanie on his head and his backpack slung over his shoulder. I push my long, brown bangs out of my face and sigh, “I needed to think,” I tell him and he gives me a small smile. He holds his hand out and I take it, letting him pull me to my feet.
“School starts in ten minutes,” he informs me. School. I hate school. Lexi, my step-sister, is the queen bee of the school and has turned everyone against me. Ever since I started my night activities, I’ve started dressing as a nerd. I wear glasses and usually keep my hair up in a braid or in a messy bun. Today, my hair is in a French braid.
I pick up my backpack and sling it over my shoulder, taking one last glance at the dull, gray stones. When I start walking, Mason falls in step with me, “So, you have a fight tonight,” he tells me and I nod. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mason sigh, “Rebekah, are you okay?” He asks, placing a hand on my arm. I don’t stop walking, but nod again, “Yeah, I just hate school.”
Mason chuckles and we walk up to the school. Central City High, the place where everyone is accepted… not. Taking a deep breath, I nod to Mason and make my way to my first class. Mason goes the opposite direction, since he’s in the grade below me. We’ve been in school for about a month, so I know my way to all my classes by now. My schedule is English, History, College Algebra, lunch, free period, and lastly, PE.
As I enter my English class, there are already people in the class. I pass all of them and make it to my seat in the back. I usually sit in the back, hoping that people will leave me alone. To keep my cover, I keep to myself, but if I have to take action I will.
“Did you see the new guys?” One girl asks with a dreamy look in her eyes. All of her friends turn to her with the same look.
“All four of them are so hot!” I hear Lexi comment.
“They’re total bad boys!” Another one of Lexi’s friends squeals, making me scoff. Bad boys? We’ll see about that.
“I totally call dibs on the blonde guy!” Someone yells. Dibs? Really? What are we in; third grade?
I block out the annoying voices of the wannabe Barbie’s, my main tormentors. I didn’t realize that we had one new student, none the less four. They’re obviously going to be the talk of the school for a while, especially with the way the Barbie’s are talking about them.
“Okay class, settle down,” Mr. Richard, our teacher, says and people sit down in their seats, whispering to each other. Mr. Richard looks around the room and his gaze lingers on me longer than it does on anyone else, sending a shiver through me. Something about him makes me uneasy, mainly because I always catch him staring at me. I hope it’s just because I’m quiet and I’m not talking about the new kids, but I have a feeling that, that isn’t the reason.
Mr. Richard’s eyes are pried off of me when the classroom door opens. I don’t bother looking up as I open my notebook and pull out a pencil. Everyone goes silent as the person walks in the class and this gets my attention. I lift my gaze off of the sketch in front of me and look up to see four guys standing in the doorway. They must be the new students; the one in the front is tall, probably about six foot or six one with golden brown hair and tattoos all over him. I guess to anyone else, he would look really scary, but it doesn’t bother me. The other guys are standing slightly behind him and they’re all around six foot tall, but one has long blonde hair and the other two have darker hair.
I can see what the girls mean by bad boys; they’re all wearing dark colors, leather jackets, their backpacks slung over one shoulder, and smirks on their faces. I watch as Mr. Richard steps towards them, “Why are you late?” He demands, an unhappy look on his face. I roll my eyes at his attempt to be threatening. One of the guys in the back scoffs, “We’re new.” I look to see that it was the boy with long dark brown hair. Mr. Richards walks behind his desk and looks at his computer, “Drake, Ross, Alec and Chase?” He asks, but he knows it’s them. They all nod and he marks them present and no doubt tardy. He’s ruthless on tardies; if you’re a minute late, he says you’re still counted tardy. He sucks.
“You may go sit by Miss Hale,” he tells them, making me look down at my sketch and picking my pencil back up. I hate when he looks at me, it makes me feel dirty. I darken a line on the drawing, “Miss Hale, raise your hand,” he orders and I raise my hand, not bothering to look up. I know they’re all looking at me as they literally circle me when they sit. Someone clears their throat, but I ignore it, just wanting them to stop looking at me. I mean, I know I’m not ugly, but that doesn’t mean I want to throw myself at every guy who bothers to pay attention.
“Hello? Are you deaf?” A masculine voice asks as his hand waves in front of my face. The sudden movement makes me grab it and slam it on the desk in front of me. My eyes widen at what I just did and I quickly let go mumbling, “Sorry.” “At least get to know me before you get physical,” the guy says, moving his arm away. I roll my eyes at his pathetic remark. I’m not some little nerdy girl who will blush and giggle at the smug remarks of this jerk. I may look like it, but I’m not.
When he doesn’t get a reaction out of me, he pokes my arm, making me wince. I had a fight the other day and the guy got me good on the arm, “What?” I ask with a little more venom than I meant to. He raises his perfect eyebrow and smirks at me, “Hey, I’m Drake and you are…”
“Someone who doesn’t care,” I finish with an identical smirk. His face shows shock and the bell rings. I quickly scoop my stuff up, push my fallen glasses up, and walk to the front of the room. As I pass the teacher’s desk he shoots his hand out, grabbing my arm, “Miss Hale, I need to speak with you,” Mr. Richard informs me, but my gut tells me that it’s not about school or anything appropriate. I try to pull away, but his grip tightens. I’m about to respond when his eyes widen at something behind me, “Never mind, we can speak later.”
“Sorry sir, but we can’t,” I tell him before running out of the room, a shudder running down my spine. I didn’t realize that Mr. Richard’s had such a strong grip; I mean, he’s not old, but he’s not young, nor is he small. I reach my locker, put in my combination, and open it. The mirror in front of me shows my reflection… the fake me. My brown contacts cover my naturally blue eyes and I tilt my head to the side a little looking at my hair. I dye my hair dark brown every day before I come to school, but when I’m fighting, it’s a gray to silver ombre. My original hair color is brown, but when I started fighting, I needed a disguise so I permanently dyed it. I wish I could just dress like I want to, but I know I can’t because people would recognize me as the Cinder Wolf. Sighing, I slip my jacket off and straighten out my black, long sleeved, off the shoulder shirt.
The small mirror reflects the Shakespeare quote on my shirt and I read it again: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and I think it describes me perfectly. My skinny jeans and black converse are matched with my shirt, making me remember when my dad bought me this shirt. He always used to quote this when he started teaching me to defend myself and it stuck.
I close my locker and walk to Mason’s locker which is on the way to my History class with Mrs. Leeland. I’ve never liked school and I definitely don’t like History. My favorite subject is English, but even that gets ruined because my teacher creeps me out. I get to Mason’s locker to see Lexi there, pulling on his arm. Anger boils in me and I stalk over, catching Mason’s attention. He gives me a pleading look and I stop next to them, crossing my arms over my chest, “Why are you hanging off my brother like a monkey?”
Lexi turns to me, flipping her ‘perfect’ blonde hair over her shoulder, “I’m not a monkey!” She screeches and I swear she could make ears bleed. I scoff, “Really? Because that’s what it looks like,” I say, pointing to her hands. She gasps and lets Mason go, turning to me with a sneer, “Well, at least I’m not a lonely little nerd.” My eyebrows crease and she takes that as defeat. Laughing, she and her little Barbie wannabes walk away.
“Wow, what did she want this time?” I ask, turning to Mason. He sighs and runs his hand through his hair before putting his beanie back on, “She wanted me to carry her crap to class.” Mason turns to me and disappointment runs through me when I see that he’s wearing colored contacts too. He has blue eyes like me and when we go out at night, he dyes his hair black, even though his normal color is brown.
“Ready for History?” Mason asks. He’s a year ahead in some of his classes, including History, so we actually have this class together. I nod and he closes his locker, “Let’s go,” he says, taking the lead. He may be younger, but he’s an inch or two taller than my 5’6” frame. We dodge around people who are walking towards us and we make it to the room in a couple of minutes. I follow Mason in and we take our normal seats, at the back, and settle in. Pulling out my headphones, I plug them into my phone and start to listen to music. I never really pay attention in this class and the teacher has given up trying to get me to. Mason lets me copy his notes when we get home, so it’s all good.
I lower myself in my seat as I see four new faces come in to the classroom. They say something to Mrs. Leeland before she points in my direction. I internally groan as Drake spots me and smirks. Looking down, I busy myself with my notebook. I can feel eyes on me as someone sits next to me. Someone pokes my arm and I refrain from snapping his finger. He pokes again, but I ignore it.
“What do you want?” I ask, taking my headphones out. Drake smirks at me and pulls his hand away, mid-poke, “Just wondering if you were okay,” he says, confusing me. Pausing my music, I lay my headphones on the desk and turn slightly to him, “What are you talking about?” I ask and now it’s his turn to be confused, “What? Your teacher grabs you and you don’t think that’s wrong?” I swallow and ignore his question by looking away. I reach for my headphones, but his large, tattooed hand reaches them first.
“Your teacher grabbed you?” An angry Mason asks from beside me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” I sigh and look back at him, “Because I didn’t want you to freak out. I can handle myself,” I tell him and Drake laughs, “Yeah, you handled it greatly. If I had not glared at him, he wouldn’t have let go.”
“I didn’t ask for your help or your opinion, so leave me alone,” I growl, grabbing my things and running out of the room. The hallways are empty and as I run, I ignore the calls of the teacher. Acting like the shy little nerd has been easy, up until he showed up. He’s going to make me blow my cover!
I make it outside and to the empty Lacrosse field. Looking around one last time, I see nobody around and I lay on the ground. Being outside has always calmed me down, so that or the punching bag has always been my go to. As I lay here, I close my eyes and calm my breathing. It takes a minute for my anger to go down and when I open my eyes, Drake’s blonde friend is standing over me. I let out a scream and he panics, putting a hand over my mouth.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he tells me. Once he thinks I’m not going to scream again, he removes his hand. Stay nerdy… or whatever, I think to myself. I grab my bag and shoot to my feet, backing up to try and come off scared and shy. He sighs and mumbles something under his breath before looking up at me, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, but you looked kind of dead,” he chuckles. So he’s the joker of the group. I look down at the ground and shuffle my foot, “Oh, w-what are you doing following me?” I ask, throwing the stutter in. That’s what nervous or shy people do, right? I rub the light pink scars around my wrists, in habit of actually being nervous.
“Uh, I was coming to check on you. Drake can have some anger issues sometimes. We just learned to deal with it,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck. Why is he telling me this? Realizing he’s harmless, I sit back on the ground and motion for him to, too. He smiles at me and sits across from me, “Why are you talking to me?” I ask and he looks surprised by my question.
“You’re pretty, you seem nice, and I like to make people happy?” He tells me, making it sound like a question. I tilt my head to the side and look at him, “I thought you were a “bad boy,”” I tell him and he laughs.
“Well, we may look like bad boys, but I’ll let you in on a secret. We’re not that bad; yeah, we may fight a lot and we got kicked out of our last school, but we’re not bad guys,” he tells me, leaning back on his hands. I open my mouth to respond when I realize I don’t know his name, “What’s your name?” I ask and he sits up, “Ross, what’s yours?” he answers, holding his hand out.
“Rebekah, but don’t tell Drake that,” I tell him and he shakes his head, “So what am I supposed to call you?” Well I guess that kind of backfired. He claps his hands together, making me jump at the sudden sound, “I got it. I’m gonna call you Button,” he tells me. I raise my eyebrow and laugh, “Why?”
“Because you’re so small and adorable,” he explains. He’s about to say something else, but the bell rings, cutting off our conversation, “I better get to class. I’ll see you later, Ross,” I wave as I walk away.
I make my way to College Algebra and slip into the room. My teacher greets me as I sit down and I mumble a quick hello. As the students fill in, I don’t see Drake or his friends. Letting out a sigh of relief, I relax in my chair. All I do in Algebra is sit quietly, like my other classes, and take notes. The class goes by quickly and before I know it, the bell rings to signal lunch time. I pack my notebook and calculator, leaving the room and going to my locker where I know Mason will be waiting.
“Hey, Mace,” I greet as I see him standing where he does every day, “Anymore trouble with Lexi?” I ask as I throw my backpack in my locker. He shakes his head, “Nah, I think she got the hint earlier,” he says, chuckling. Once I close my locker, we head to the lunch room and go straight to the line. Burgers and fries, yum. We get our food and make our way to the empty table in the back.
“So, tell me about my fight,” I tell him as I take a bite of my burger. His eyes shoot up and I know he’s wondering why I asked, since I didn’t seem interested this morning, “Uh, well you’re fighting someone new. His name is Lightning. The fight is at ten,” he says, stuffing some fries in his mouth. I nod and take another bite of my burger.
Suddenly, someone smacks their tray down beside me, making me jump. To no surprise, I look up and see Drake and his friends. Drake takes a seat on the other side of me while his three friends sit across from us. I look to my right and Mason shrugs. A hand steals on of my fries and I look up to see Ross smiling, “Hey, Button,” he greets as I glare at him.
“That was mine,” I whine and he smiles bigger, holding out one of his fries. I eye it suspiciously and slowly take it from him. I look to the two guys beside him and Ross points at the one with dark brown hair and brown eyes, “This is Chase,” he says, then points at the one with black hair and greenish blue eyes, “And this is Alec.”
“Hey,” I mutter and Alec replies back with a simple hi. Stay quiet, I remind myself. Stay reserved, I chant.
“So, Ross here won’t tell me your name,” Drake says, making me wonder why he wants to know so badly. I shrug my shoulders and keep eating in silence. I quietly listen as Mason and the guys become friends and start talking about sports. I don’t really care about sports, so I half listen. The thing that sparks my attention is the bell. As soon as it rings, I throw my trash away and go to the library. To keep up my nerd status, I hang out in the library during my free period.
Once free period is over, I make my way to the girl’s locker room for PE. I don’t hate PE, but I don’t particularly love it either. I get into the locker room and there are already girls changing. Opening my locker, I pull out the Nike shorts and blue t-shirt. I quickly slip them on and scurry out of the locker room before Lexi catches me.
When I reach the bleachers, there are already people sitting down. I sit on the end, keeping my distance from everyone. I notice Drake, Ross, Alec, and Chase enter the gym and I turn around to keep my back to them. Suddenly, my glasses are ripped off my face and I look up to see Lucas, Lexi’s good for nothing, boyfriend, “Hey nerd, do you need these?” No.
“Give them back, Lucas,” I tell him. He laughs and throws them across the room to one of his friends. I gasp as his friend almost drops them, “Lucas, give them back!” I yell and he smirks. He goes and gets them from his friend and comes back over to me. I can feel eyes on me and I know who it is. Lucas stops in front of me and stretches his arm up, holding my fake, not that he knows that, glasses high in the air, “If you can reach them, you can have them,” he says, knowing that I can’t reach that high. He’s making a fool out of me.
I have an idea. Smiling sweetly, I kick Lucas in the shin, making him drop his arm. I grab my glasses and quickly slide them on. Lucas curses and stands up straight, making me back up a little. An angry expression crosses his face and before I know it, I’m on the ground. I was not expecting him to hit me. Heck no. I’m about to jump up to attack, but someone beat me to it, “Never hit a girl again,” Drake yells at Lucas who is on the ground sporting a bloody nose.
I stare at the injured Lucas, not even noticing that someone pulled me to my feet, “You okay, Button?” What would a little nerd do? That’s right, act weak. I bring my hand up to my cheek and whimper as I look up at the four pairs of curious and worried eyes. I give them my best watery eyes and take off running in the opposite direction. The fighter in me says to stand my ground, but the humiliated and broken side of me says run away and cry. I listen to the broken side.
“Wait!” Someone, probably Drake, yells from behind me. I don’t stop, but I slow down a little and the person catches up. The person wraps a hand around my bicep, pulling me to a stop, “Hey, hey, look at me,” he tells me and reluctantly, I do. I look up into Drake’s blue eyes to see worry in them. Why is he worried about me? Why is he so interested?
When he realizes that I’m not going to say anything, he sighs, “Are they always like that?” He asks and I know he means Lucas. Looking back down, I nod my head, “Yeah, but he’s never hit me before,” I admit. The loud ring of a fist hitting the metal of the lockers rings through the silent hallway, “I hate bullies,” Drake growls, leaning his head against the locker he punched. His breathing is heavy and I remember that Ross said he has anger issues. I guess this is what he meant. I better try to calm him down before he breaks something.
“Rebekah,” I say and his head snaps up. His whole stance changes as he gets off the locker and steps towards me, “Rebekah?” He asks, sounding slightly confused. I swallow, watching his movements and looking up at him, “My name,” I whisper as he towers over me. A smile stretches onto his face as he realizes I finally told him.
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Rebekah.”