Eli stared at the new kid with complete awe. He counted the number of pimples she had on her olive-skinned face and to his amusement was able to outline a crudely shaped frogs head from the acne. He wondered what sort of skincare she was in to and if she had considered maybe changing brands yet. Her hair was done up in a lacklustre ponytail and the hair-tie she used had to be at least one year old. Her shoes were fairly tattered and unpolished, especially for the first day of a new school year.
"Excellent." Eli thought, another kid not navigating life on a silver spoon like the rest of his classmates. He was growing tired of overhearing the privileged snobs of Prominence High babble about their designer shoes or whose father owned the bigger Jeep. Would this mysterious creature be the key to his crippling loneliness and alienation in this unfamiliar and unfair campus?
"Alright, class. Who can give me an example of mutation in animals?"
The class was collectively quiet until the stranger put her hand up. The teacher scanned his clipboard.
"Uh, yes. Cadence."
Cadence cleared her throat - Eli sensed a touch of nerves.
"One of my favourite examples would be the red winged blackbird. They have a super small red feather making them just the slightest bit different but they know the difference, so do the other blackbirds. And it is believed that they are the preferred breed."
"Fantastic example. You're already my new favourite!"
The class chuckled arrogantly causing Cadence to blush and lower her gaze in embarrassment.
"Oi! Enough of that! You'd do well to pay attention to this bright new spark. Half of you in here can't even spell genetics."
Eli was in utter amazement. Not only did she not appear to enjoy the smell of her own farts like the rest of his colleagues, but she was smart. It was an extremely welcome change.
Eli breezed through the pop-quiz in a matter of minutes, multiple choice was always his strong point and he always managed to hit just under one hundred percent. He asked to be excused and as always, Mr Sanders let him.
On the trek back to his locker, he made sure he avoided stepping on every single line between each section of concrete and counted these small victories along the way. He buried his head in his locker as he put away his biology books to exchange them for a snack and his sketchpad. Just as he was about to close the locker door he heard two voices echoing through the room. He remained 'hidden'.
"Did you hear that Jody made out with Eric from the soccer team?"
"Shut, up! I thought she was for sure a closet nun."
"I swear. My cousin told me and she's good friends with Eric's sister."
The girls cackled away like twisted hyenas as they skipped out of the room. Eli slammed his locker shut and marched out with his head down as usual.
"Fuck, the people here are stupid. All they care about is gossip and Instagram. Fake bitches."
Eli could feel his breathing becoming heavier and his eyes began blinking more often than normal.
"Calm down, dude." He ordered himself. Eli sat down at his routine spot, took a bite out of his granny-smith and started sketching away. Within minutes he had crafted a rough draft of a nemesis for the comic book he had been working on. A female villain sporting a weathered and tarred wedding dress. He would have to think up her superpowers and backstory but he already had twelve ideas swarming around his brain at the same time.
"Nice cartoon, spaz." Some meathead muttered on his knuckle-dragging stagger past.
"Eat dick." Eli replied.
He spotted the meathead stopping in the corner of his eye but his friend ushered him to keep walking. Eli didn't break his concentration from his sketch. He had added gothic makeup and long sharp nails to his work and was considering whether it needed a weapon or if her powers would be telekinetic, or perhaps chemical; similar to Poison Ivy from the Batman series.
Cadence scuffled past and the unbreakable bond to his sketchpad was finally diminished. He watched her innocently as she moved and he snapped the end of his pencil without even realising how much pressure he was placing on the paper.
"I don't like people. But she seems cool."
Eli took a massive bite from his apple before jumping up and heading back to his locker. There was no way he could finish his drawing now so he decided getting a head-start on English was the best course of action.
"Incredibly early as usual, Mr Matthews."
"Morning, Miss Loder."
"Kids giving you trouble again?"
"No, not today. Just lost concentration and I wanted to get the good seat by the heater again."
Miss Loder gave him a warm smile and offered him the seat closest to her desk and more importantly, closest to the heater.
"How's your comic book coming along?"
"It isn't really. I've nearly finished all the sketches but I keep second-guessing my storyline and change every speech bubble about thirty times before I'm happy."
"Well, they do say we are our own biggest critics. If it's anything like the short stories you submit for class, I bet it is absolutely breathtaking."
Eli blushed and took his seat. Miss Loder had a quiet giggle to herself. The bell rang and the masses kicked off their migration. Eli pulled out his textbook and notepad and ruled up the page for today's lesson. English was his favourite subject. He couldn't really give a stuff about analysing poetry from World War I or writing an essay on it but when it came to creative writing; he was right at home and the rest of his school commitments would have to wait. Miss Loder always submitted his stories to local and state contests with or without Eli's permission but usually the feedback was 'brilliant descriptive terms and imagery, but too dark' or 'tone down the depressive tones of this story and you'd have a best-seller'. He ignored the critics - not out of pride or sensitivity; he just didn't care what others thought. He wrote for him and nobody else. Eli's mood would switch to unstable very instantaneously if he avoided channeling his creative outlets for too long. So technically, he wrote for the sake of the rest of society to. Eli pulled out a marker and scribbled 'write for the greater good' on his hand.
The students stampeded into the near empty classroom and the overwhelming chatter littered the area. Then Cadence came strolling in. Her matted ponytail swaying in the breeze. Eli started growing concerned about his increasing attraction to the new kid but he was glad nonetheless. Another plus to this arrival was the fact that you could bet your month's allowance on the chance that the only spare seat being available in most classrooms, was next to Eli. Cadence awkwardly looked around for a seat before noticing the empty chair next to him. Eli covered up the writing on his hand as he interpreted it as weird upon second thought and he didn't want his first impression with Cadence to be that of creepiness.
"Well, well. Hello there, dear. I'm Miss Loder. I'm always excited to meet a new face."
Cadence shyly waved and smiled at the teacher.
"Why don't you jump up and tell the class and I a bit about yourself?" She suggested.
Cadence swallowed a bit of stage-fright and slowly stood up.
"Uh, hi. I'm Cadence. My family and me -"
Cadence went a faint red. "Sorry, I."
"That's alright, dear."
"We just moved here from Paragon Coast, my dad is a town planner and he got offered a job here and he took it. We were all sick of that city. Expanding and filling up way too quickly. I miss the beach already, but the people there sucked."
The class chuckled. Eli continued staring at his notepad but a small smirk formed.
"You'll find the people here are a lot more relaxed and friendly out this way."
"Yeah, I really hope so. We only got here a couple of days ago and I hadn't even left my house until this morning."
"Oh, well welcome to the real world young Cadence. I'll have somebody show you around during lunch after this lesson. Where is your family staying?"
"My dad bought the old three-storey place on Cherry Street."
Eli's heart sank as his throat and mouth was depleted of all moisture. The hand he was covering up the scribble with began trembling.
"Eli? Are you alright, dear? Do you need some of your medicine?" Miss Loder sincerely asked.
Eli shook his head and tried gathering saliva, to no avail.
"Step outside and try and relax, sweetie."
Eli got up quickly and stormed out of the room and headed straight for the bubbler to revive his hydration. He gasped for breath as he guzzled large amounts of refrigerated water. He leant against the balcony as he tried to settle his breathing.
"Out of all the houses in Penniville, of course she had to live in that one."