Rae of Light

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Chapter One

“Rae Marie!” Grandma scolded and I grimaced. I hated when she called me my first and second names together because it meant she was angry, and Gran was never angry, not if it was a serious matter.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, going out of my room to the living room, where Gran liked spending most of her time watching cooking shows in the TV.

Gran looked at me with her vivid blue eyes which reminded me of bright beams. “I just got a call from school,” she said and stood up. “Guess what is it that I was told?”

I really, truly hated it when she asked me this kind of questions. “What is it?” I asked, biting the inside of my cheek to keep myself from snarking. It would do me no good, after all. My Gran loved getting respect for she was older and wiser, and on normal days I would’ve agreed. But right now, she was being too melodramatic.

“Mr. Collins told me you failed in the last assignment you submitted,” she folded her arms and looked accusingly at me. “It’s the fourth time this year you failed an assignment or a test. I want to know why you are neglecting your education.” Now she looked expectant, as though I had some reason for being stupid.

Okay, I’m not really stupid. Actually, I think I’m pretty smart. But when it came to studies, I just couldn’t bring myself to work hard, to study every time before tests or do my assignments thoroughly like expected. Call it laziness or whatever, but I just couldn’t do it.

Gran, though, wouldn’t respect that kind of “excuse” so I settled on sighing and promising, “I’ll try my best next time.”

“That’s what you said the last few times,” she wasn’t convinced, apparently, and now she looked worried. “Is there something going on you wish to tell me? Someone bulling you at school? Something that happened?”

Good God, now she thought I was being socially abused. “Gran, I’m fine,” I reassured her, “nothing’s wrong with me, really. I’ll really try my best now, okay?”

Apparently satisfied now, she grabbed me into a grandmotherly hug. “If there’s anything wrong, you come and tell me, understood?”

“Sure, Gran,” I promised, although I knew that even if something was wrong, she wouldn’t be the person I would go to talk to. While I loved Gran with my whole heart, there were some lines I couldn’t cross yet. Besides, I had friends for that kind of stuff.

Afterwards, Gran let me eat a cupcake she baked from a new recipe. She worked in a bakery down the road where we lived and even at seventy, she didn’t want to give it up. Gran was one of those strong-willed women who did whatever they wanted, and everyone be damned. That’s one of the reasons I loved her so much.

Later that day, I got a call from Isobel, my best friend. “There’s a party at Taryn’s tonight and you are coming.” She said, or rather ordered me.

“Um, why would I come to my nemesis’s party again?” Taryn Torres had transferred to our school last year, and the moment she saw me she decided she disliked me. I don’t know why, honestly. She had no reason to hate me; she was beautiful, with silky platinum hair and baby-blue eyes, not to mention her cherry-red full lips or long, thick, dark lashes that made her eyes very expressive. She also had a killer-body, all slender with long legs, round butt and boobs to die for. Along her ethereal-snow-white skin tone, she was gorgeous in every way, and not only everyone knew it, but she knew it, too.

I, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. My hair was flaming-red, waist-length and curly and my eyes dark brown. My height was average and I was slim, flat-chested and flat-butted. A few light freckles decorated my nose and my skin was naturally tanned, which didn’t go that well with my red hair.

But despite all that, I didn’t really have problems with how I looked. I could admit my face was cute enough and besides, I wasn’t hideous. But still, it was no reason for someone who looked like supermodel as Taryn Torres to hate me. She was way prettier than anyone else at school, so why hate me? She should hate Echo Moore, if she really wanted to get rid of all competitions – not that I wished for Echo an enemy like her, but still.

“Come on, Rae,” Isobel said exhaustingly. “I don’t want to go alone, and while Echo will be there, I still want to party with you. Besides,” her voice suddenly went wicked, “I heard Chase Montgomery goes.”

Now she wasn’t playing fair. “Really?” I asked and felt myself blushing a little. Chase Montgomery was the hottest guy at school. He was our high-school’s football team’s Captain and Quarterback. Every girl wanted him, every boy wanted to be like him, the teachers kissed the earth he walked on and he was basically the most admired and loved guy at school. Crazy-smart and crazy-strong did that to a girl.

Like every other girl, I had a crush on him, or at least I had had a crush on him, until that fateful day a month ago at the sea promenade, where I saw him. The most handsome, gorgeous, sexy, hot guy I’ve ever seen. Somehow, when I watched that guy, my crush on Chase became nonexistent. Yet Isobel didn’t know that. I didn’t want to tell anybody about that guy, because it seemed like some private moment that I preferred to keep to myself. So I kept on forcing myself to like Chase and therefore act as if I was as smitten with him as everybody else, or at least as I’d been.

“Yup,” I could hear her smirk. “I heard him telling Marcus he’s coming.” Marcus was Isobel’s boyfriend. He was a nice-enough looking guy on the football team, which automatically made him a friend of Chase. The two were probably best friends, because before Marcus got the guts to ask Isy out, every time we saw him he was with Chase.

Anyhow, that meant the source was truthful. “Cool,” I said. “Then I guess I’m coming.”

“Yay!” Isy squealed. “I’m coming over in ten to help you get ready!”

Arguing with Isy was moot, so I agreed and ten minutes later, my best friend was in my room and rummaging through my closet. “God, we need to go shopping as soon as possible,” she said after a few minutes. “You’ve got no clothes!”

I rolled my eyes. “Just pick me something, okay?”

She scowled at me, her green eyes clashing with mine. “We will go shopping, got it?”

“Whatever,” I muttered and she returned to the closet. I had to admit, I hated shopping, while Isy was crazy about it. It’s not that Gran and I didn’t have money, it’s just that I wasn’t willing to spill it on clothes when I could save it for better causes.

Isy put on my bed a pair of skinny jeans and a pretty green tank-top I hadn’t wore for ages. Then she pulled out a pair of boots to match with it and a cute jeans-jacket. “That’s good enough,” she said. “Now dress up, Rae.”

Sighing, I did as asked, or rather ordered, and when I was dressed, she made me sit down while she did my hair. She pulled it into a high ponytail, then applied some make up on my face. When she was done, she was satisfied with the end result and I felt too dolled-up. But sitting next to Isy, it was nothing compared to how she looked tonight. Her caramel-colored wavy hair was gleaming down her back, her green eyes emphasized by eyeliner and mascara, a little blush on her cheeks, her curvy figure dressed in a party-white dress and black ankle-boots and her sun-kissed skin looked even darker. She was pretty, and I had no doubt Marcus was going to love what he would see tonight.

“Let’s go,” she said when we were ready and walked out of my room. I said my goodbye to Gran and mere minutes later I was driving my old vehicle out of our building’s parking lot and toward Taryn Torres’s house.

“It’s gonna be fun!” Isy piped happily. “You’ll see!”

“It better be,” I mumbled. I wasn’t fan of parties, especially if the parties were at Taryn’s. “Are you sure she won’t kick me out the moment she sees me?”

“Don’t over-think stuff, Rae,” Isy said. “It’s a friend-inviting-friend kind of party, y’know. You are my friend, and I’m Marcus’s girlfriend, therefore both of us got invitations.”

“If you say so,” I said quietly, not buying it. If Taryn saw me... “Maybe I shouldn’t go,” I said and shivered.

“Stop worrying already,” Isy scolded. “Marcus and I will be there and so will Echo. We will protect you against big, bad Taryn, okay?”

As I said, arguing with Isobel was a moot point, so I gave up.

After I parked my car, we were both out and going into the Torres Mansion, Taryn’s house. It was a mansion like in the movies, with big yard and pool, and right now it was packed with people our age and older who drank none-stop and swam in the pool and mingled.

Isobel dragged me to the meeting point where she was supposed to meet Marcus. Fortunately, he was there, and the two were locked in a tight embrace before I could say a word and were now kissing deeply as if they hadn’t seen each other for years. That was the thing with this couple; they were so completely into each other, even before they became an item.

Marcus looked at Isobel with a lovesturck expression. “You look beautiful tonight, Isy,” he said in an appreciating voice.

Isy blushed deeply. “You, too,” she mumbled, and I couldn’t help but agree with her. Marcus’s dirty-blonde hair was actually neat tonight, his eyes big and hazel, his muscular body dressed in expensive-looking clothes, and practically he looked really good-looking. Not drop-dead gorgeous, but great looking nonetheless.

The two were lost in each other, and I decided to let them be. Besides, I now saw Echo, a friend of Isy’s and mine. She saw me too and went over with a smile. “Hey, Rae!” she said happily. “What’s up?”

I smiled instantly. “I’m great, Echo,” I said. “What about you?”

“Completely fine,” she flushed. “I saw Chase tonight and he looks delicious.”

Before my crush on him ended, Chase was Echo’s and my favorite shared-in-common subject. But now I had to fake a crush on him, and I had a feeling Echo kind-of knew I wasn’t honest with my feelings, at least to her.

“That’s awesome,” I said, feeling light-hearted. “Has Taryn made a move on him yet?”

Echo laughed. “Not yet,” she admitted. “But close. She tried to talk to him, but... he came with a girl.”

My eyes widened. That was unusual; Chase Montgomery had made it clear that he came to parties to have flings. That he brought a girl with him was something abnormal. “Really? Who is she?” I asked.

“No one knows,” Echo said in disappointment. “But mystery-girl is definitely gorgeous. You had to see Taryn’s face when she saw her. I’ve never seen her so intimidated.”

I laughed just by thinking of Taryn Torres intimidated. Definitely a good thought.

Echo and I talked a bit and then made our way to grab a drink. We left Marcus and Isobel alone, and they didn’t seem to mind, really. So we grabbed drinks – Echo took a beer and I settled on geeky apple-juice – and watched the party-guys, searching for some hot guys.

A guy came over to us and flirted with Echo, who gladly flirted back. Echo was cute, with mousy-brown hair and coppery eyes. She was short and had curves here and there and while she wasn’t a hunks-magnet, she attracted cute boys, like the one who was now flirting with her.

After a while, Echo and the guy started making out, and I cursed inwardly. Now my two friends were busy and I had nothing to do. That’s why I hated parties; whenever I came to one, I ended up lonely and gloomy. In a while I knew I was going to feel like “nobody will ever love me” and “I’m not pretty enough” or even “I wish I looked like Taryn”. But until then, I let myself out of Echo’s smooching range and went over the pool area, where I found myself a nice seat on one of the love-seats that were put in the yard. I watched everyone mingling with each other: making out, talking, flirting, disappearing into private rooms to do God knows what and such. The October’s night air was cool, and I hugged myself, sighing at my fate. Why couldn’t I be more prettier? Maybe then I would finally get a boyfriend.

Heck, I didn’t even have my first kiss, and I was freaking seventeen. Girls my age were already losing their virginity. Take Isy, for example. She lost her V card to Marcus when they both were sixteen, and Echo lost hers when she was fifteen to Jake McWilliams, her boyfriend at the time.

I was so inexperienced it was sad. That thought in mind, I saw Chase Montgomery entering the yard with his escort for tonight. People stared at the two, and I couldn’t help but doing the same.

Chase was a typical California-surfer-like guy; messy gold hair, deep-blue eyes, broad shouldered, tall, six-packed, biceps, tanned and overall muscular. Hot and sexy were part of the package, too. He was already eighteen – his birthday was last month – and he looked way older. More like a college-guy.

The girl he brought with him was a fitting rival to Taryn. Frankly, she looked like a porn-star, all with big boobs that I wondered whether they were real or not and, what the guys love to call, a “Brazilian ass”. She was sexier than any other girl in this party, and Chase knew it, seeing as he shared knowing-glances with some of his friends.

Chase and his girl took a seat among their friends at the other side of the yard and ignored everyone’s stares. I found myself envious of the girl, and not because she was with Chase specifically, but because she managed to actually catch a gorgeous guy’s attention, something I would never be able to do.

This girl, along with Taryn Torres and even Isobel, had that aura around them that just attracted guys from everywhere. They were confident and knew they looked good and guys were following them like lost puppies. Even some of the less-beautiful girls I knew had that aura. I, however, didn’t have that. Gran liked to call it “antennas”. Her theory is that girls who attract guys have their “antennas” out, while girls who don’t, their “antennas” aren’t out yet. Antennas, in Gran’s theory, referred to some kind of pheromones that girls give away to attract guys.

A bit archaic theory, if you asked me. But it made sense.

I don’t know how long I sat there near the pool, but some time, probably around midnight, Isobel, Marcus and Echo found me and urged me to go dancing with them. As I danced with Echo – Isy and Marcus were in their own world again – I saw Taryn glaring my way. Busted.

“I don’t think I should stay,” I murmured to Echo. “I was found.”

“Ignore her,” Echo said. “She wants to make an impression on Chase, so she wouldn’t be mean tonight.”

She was right, of course; Taryn was smart, and she knew Chase, who was nice to everybody, even the geeks or the loners, would appreciate his girl to be just as nice. Taryn wouldn’t pull any scene here if she wanted to impress him.

Yet I didn’t feel comfortable under her accusing glares. “I still think it’s better if I go,” I said. “Besides, I’m not feeling it tonight.”

“You don’t feel it every night,” Echo rolled her eyes. “Just try to loosen-up a bit.”

“Echo - “

“Relax, and just dance.”

But I didn’t want to dance anymore. I wanted to go home. “I’m going home,” I said and before Echo could protest I paved my way through the dancing people to the exit. And just as I arrived the door, I saw him.

It was brief, actually. He entered the room quietly and passed me hurriedly. I saw him for a mere moment, but I recognized him as the guy from the shore, from that day a month ago. Those greenish-blue eyes were impossible to miss, and that tousled jet-black hair, not to mention that sexy-as-hell body or that gorgeous looks.

He didn’t even spare me a glance. He was focused on something, that man among kids, as he passed me and disappeared into the crowd. He was out of place, seeing as the oldest boy here was probably nineteen or twenty and his age was around mid-twenties.

But he was now gone again, and I was stunned in my place. That knowingness inside me stirred again, just as it stirred a month ago, but I forced it shut. Taking a deep breath, I walked out of the door and away from the mysterious handsome guy, for the second time.

And as I drove back home in my car, I felt the disappointment, the longing in my chest, that feeling that tugged me, nudged me toward that man. And I had nothing I could do about it.

Because as much as I wanted, there probably wouldn’t be a third time. And even if there was, what good would it bring? Someone like me was under the radar of someone as good looking as him. My chances with him were just like my chances with Chase: close to zero.

So I forced this mystery man out of my mind and promised to myself to search for a normal guy so I wouldn’t lust after unapproachable men.

If only it was that simple.

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