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A Sunless Garden

By An Jooken

Romance

Chapter 1

Everybody kept telling him it was his own damn fault. But how was he supposed to know that the one cop in town who wouldn’t let it go, would be the one to arrest him? Of course it had to be Laurel’s dad who arrived first at the scene. He probably just did it because Oliver had recently started dating her. He had probably known that Oliver’s dad was planning this…

“Ollie, you’re making your scary face again,” Thea complained. The eight-year old brunette was sitting next to him on the Queen family jet. It was a small jet, but it served its purpose, even though Oliver was cursing that purpose right now.

He forced a grin for his sister’s sake. “I’m sorry, Speedy. I’m pissed that dad’s making me leave,” he said.

“Oliver, mind your language,” his mother scolded mildly from where she sat a few yards ahead. Oliver just stick out his tongue at her back.

“Do you have to leave?” Thea asked in a whisper. Sure Oliver was pissed at his dad, but he didn’t regret stealing that keg of beer for his friends. The only thing he regretted was having to leave his little sister. Which only served to make him even more pissed at his dad. And mom hadn’t even protested this dumb idea!

“Tell you what, I’ll make sure to get kicked out of this school in no time, and make dad send me somewhere closer to home. In the meantime just be as annoying as I know you can be, and maybe they’ll let me come home.”

Instead of smiling, as had been his intention, Thea just nodded solemnly, a sad look on her face.

“Hey now, who’s the superhero in the family?” he asked.

“I am?” she asked more than answered. It had been their little game ever since she was little. She’d pretend to be a superhero and he’d be the villain. Of course she beat the hero every single time because she was so damn quick on her feet. Hence the nickname.

“Yes, you are. And superheroes are brave, remember?” She nodded. “Besides, I’ll be home in no time,” he said with a cocky grin. Finally, the little girl managed a smile, and threw her arms around her brother’s waist.

“I don’t want you to go,” she whispered, so quietly he’d almost missed it.

Oliver wasn’t sure what to say to that. He’d already told her that he didn’t want to go, what more could he do? He opened his mouth to mutter some more platitudes, but was interrupted by the pilot’s voice on the intercom.

“We’re approaching the landing strip. Please fasten your seatbelts.”

Oliver’s dad came out of the cabin and sat down next to his wife, steering clear of his children. Good, Oliver thought bitterly, He should stay away from me.

Ten minutes later, the plane was on the ground, and Oliver was contemplating what would happen if he simply refused to get off the plane. In the end, Thea’s scared face was the only thing that made him cooperate. For all their arguing, he really loved his little sister.

They all got off the plane, followed by two men carrying Oliver’s baggage. They were met by a blonde woman standing next to two black SUVs. She looked like a secretary to Oliver, so he paid her no mind. The airstrip was small, and surrounded by the desert. Who in their right mind builds a school in the desert anyway? If he hadn’t been in such a sour mood, he might have thought it beautiful, but now all he could see and feel were the negative sides of this place. The heat pressed down onto him and the air tasted funny.

When they reached the woman, Oliver’s parents shook her hand in turn. “Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Queen. My name is Melinda Brightley, I’m the vice principal, we exchanged emails,” she informed them. Huh. Not a secretary, then. She motioned them all to get into the cars and they set off for a drive. Thea and Oliver were in one car, accompanied only by a silent driver, while his parents, Ms. Brightley and another driver were in the first car. Oliver could only imagine what his parents were telling the deputy about his misbehavior.

It took about fifteen minutes before the school came into view. And it was quite a view. The school was founded in 1873 – as his mother had told him a few million times – and was the most prestigious school in the South-West of the United States. It was certainly the most expensive. When commiserating with his friends back in Starling over his fate, one of them pointed out that this was the kind of school you only got into when you were a millionaire. Or billionaire, in his case.

The building looked old, but very well maintained. He could imagine the inside being a perfect combination of the old with the new. There was no sign of a desert here, the entire property was lush with green grass, parks and trees. Oliver had to admit it looked impressive.

He was still determined to hate it, though.

They pulled into a garage that held another ten or twelve identical vehicles. Of course a school like this wouldn’t use school buses… With a smile, Ms. Brightley led them to an elevator and up four floors. Just like he’d imagined, the halls were furnished with antique-looking furniture and very modern security measures.

Thea clung to Oliver’s hand as they made their way to the vice principal’s office. Once inside, she asked their parents to sit in the huge chairs in front of her desk. Looking at him and Thea, she knelt so that she was at eye-level with the little girl. “How would you like to explore the school with your brother? We just got a new foal in the stables, maybe you can start there?” she asked gently.

She got points for talking to Thea like she was a lot older than she was. He was also unable to resist that wide-eyed stare she was giving the deputy.

 Ms. Brightley looked up to smile at Oliver. “My assistant is outside, he’ll show you the way. You have access to everything except the security building, and your sister can use all of our facilities for the day. The ice cream in the food court is exquisite,” she said with a wink.

Even though Oliver actually thought she was pretty nice, he rolled his eyes for show and took his sister outside. Let the adults gossip.

/*/

“We’ll come visit really soon,” Thea promised as she clung to Oliver’s waist. She was doing her best to hold in tears, and Oliver suspected that the only reason she succeeded was because she’d had such a great time that day. She’d seen the foal, ridden a pony, visited the aquarium they had, and had eaten an ice cream. She’d also insisted on visiting Oliver’s room – that he was forced to share, what kind of a private school was this anyway?

Thea had proclaimed Foxville Collegiate Academy the coolest ever – yes, with that inflexion – and had said that that was the only reason she was allowing him to stay there. Sometimes, his little sister really amused Oliver.

“It’ll be okay, Speedy, I’ll get kicked out before you know it. They can’t handle a party animal like me,” he joked, stroking her hair.

Thea sniffed, but finally let her big brother go. “I’ll miss you. Call me?”

He grinned. “Every day. You’ll get sick of hearing my voice.”

Thea nodded solemnly and went over to their mother. She’d given him a hug and a kiss earlier. His father came to stand before him. Oliver knew that it was his mom’s fault as much as his dad’s that he was getting sent here, but dad had been the one to offer the suggestion, so he bore the brunt of Oliver’s anger.

“I hope you’ll be miserable,” he said, without the venom he’d intended to say it with.

His dad smiled sadly. “I know you can’t see it yet, Oliver, but I think this is going to be good for you. And I hear Malcolm might send Tommy here after Christmas. You can still graduate together.”

Oliver refused to look at him. If he thought that this was going to placate him… “Oliver, I…” his dad trailed off. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Ms. Brightley said that students are allowed to keep their phones and use them after school hours.”

And with that, his dad just left, taking his mom and sister with him. Oliver wanted to shout, to scream for them not to leave him here. For all his bravado, he was afraid of being here alone.

The assistant who had shown Oliver and Thea around earlier, led him back to the dorms and handed him his school schedule. It was early October, so school had started weeks ago. He really hated new schools. He usually walked in like he owned the place, which would set his reputation for the rest of the year. Mostly, people let him do whatever, since his family was one of the richest in the country. Next to the Wayne kid in Gotham, he was the richest kid his age in the US.

He sighed as he entered his new room. Well… calling it a room was really not doing it justice. It was basically like a large hotel room. It had its own bathroom, and a spacious living room. The beds were queen sized four poster beds on either side of the room.

When he’d first seen it with Thea, the room had been empty, but now a boy was lounging on the other bed. He had straight dark hair that reached just short of his shoulders and hid his eyes. He was wearing a jersey in the school colors – green and silver – and loose-fitting jeans.

When Oliver closed the door, the guy looked up. “You must be the new kid who’s intruding on my space…” he said, looking Oliver up and down with narrowed eyes.

“I’m Oliver Queen,” Oliver said with a confident smile, walking over to his bed slowly. He knew this dance inside and out. He and Tommy had perfected it over the years of getting kicked out of schools.

The guy laughed. “No kidding, Oliver Queen?” he said, his entire demeanor changing. He got up from his bed and ambled over. “My name’s Dean Brightley.”

Oliver frowned as he set his backpack down. “Brightley? Like Melinda Brightley? You her kid?” he asked curiously.

Dean made a face. “Eew, no, she’s my aunt.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and bouncing on his toes.

Oliver decided to screw with his new roommate. “She’s kinda hot,” he commented, turning back to his stuff. She had been beautiful, he supposed, but she was old, and he so didn’t do cougars.

Dean gagged. “Gross, dude, she’s like thirty! And she’s my aunt!”

Oliver laughed, relief filling him. At least he wouldn’t have to share a room with a douche. “Just kidding, dude.”

“Besides,” Dean went on, “there’s plenty of hot chicks on campus.” He was wearing a confident grin that reminded Oliver just enough of Tommy’s that he felt a small pang in his chest.

“Really?” he said, interested. Technically, he was dating Laurel, but… what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her, would it?

Dean slung an arm around Oliver’s shoulders. “I think you and I are going to get along just fine, my friend.”

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