“Oh God, please don’t do it in public.” I begged as Marcus and Isobel started gazing dreamily into each other’s eyes, wetting their lips.
“I second that,” Echo said, disgusted. When the two of them ignored us, I groaned loudly and put a cookie in my mouth. It was lunch break on a dull Monday, and Marcus decided he preferred his girlfriend’s company over his best friend, Chase, who still didn’t make and appearance in the cafeteria.
As the thought crossed my mind, Chase entered the room with Taryn and two of her fellow cheerleaders (or minions), Violet and Harper, and a few guys in the football team. Chase smiled friendlily and chatted with them like the Mr. Nice-Guy he was. He searched the cafeteria, and his eyes landed on Marcus, who was now busy smooching Isy’s face off. He excused himself politely of his admirers and started walking over our table.
That was astonishing. He never came over and sat with us during lunch, even if Marcus was with us. Echo, who realized the same thing, exchanged glances with me, her coppery eyes hopeful.
Marcus and Isy jumped and both of them, along Echo and me, looked up at Chase, with his charming smile and vibes of attractiveness reeking from his body. “Hey, man,” Marcus was the first one to get a grip and he stood up and did that manly hug-and-pat-on-the-back thingy and the two of them sat, Marcus still next Isy and Chase next to him, right in front of Echo, who blushed like crazy. “What brings you here?” Marcus asked, surprised as everyone else in the cafeteria, especially Taryn who looked like she wanted to slay me, which was stupid because I had no control over Chase’s decisions.
Chase chuckled. “What, can’t I hang out with my friend and his girlfriend and her friends?” He asked innocently and smiled politely at Isy and then at Echo and me. “I’m Chase, by the way,” he told us too politely, as if we didn’t know who he was. I bet he knew we knew because really, who in St. Blacksmith High didn’t know him?
“Echo,” Echo said, her voice husky and her lips dry. She blushed again when he looked at her. “Echo Moore.”
He nodded in acknowledgement and turned to me, and I found myself completely immune to his good looks. Okay, not completely, but more than I would have a month ago. Now... now I had another crush on somebody I didn’t even know and saw only twice. So I smiled in the same polite manner at him as he did us and offered, “Rae O’Reilly.”
Some sort of recognition lit in his deep blue eyes. “O’Reilly?” He asked. “As in, O’Reilly Bakery?”
“That’s my grandmother’s bakery,” I smiled briefly and returned to my choco-chips cookies.
“Cool,” Chase said absently and turned to talk to Marcus and Isy. Echo tried to participate in the conversation, and even succeeded in earning some glances from Chase. I was glad for her, even if I knew it was all completely platonic for him.
When the bell went off, it was time to go back to classes. Echo, Isy and I said our goodbyes to Marcus and Chase and went to our Lit class. “That was so unexpected!” Echo said excitedly. “I would’ve never in a million years thought he would sit with us! Us! Did you see Taryn’s face?”
Isy laughed. “You should all thank me for going out with his best friend,” she grinned. “And yeah, I saw her face. It was hilarious.”
“Agreed,” I said.
“God, Chase is so dreamy,” Echo went on. “He actually looked at me! I can’t believe it!”
“Don’t let it get to your head, Echo,” Isy warned. “You know how he is.”
Echo pouted. “A girl can dream.”
“Not if those dreams become even more unrequited,” I added.
“Good God, you two need to loosen-up, seriously,” Echo rolled her eyes. “I’m not an idiot, you know. I may have a huge crush on him, but I will not fall any further.”
“Chase would’ve loved to hear about it, don’t you think?” said a familiar voice from behind us and we all turned around to see Taryn and her minions looking at us with smirks on their faces. Taryn, as beautiful as ever, looked arrogantly at us.
Echo flushed. “W-What?” She blurted out.
“I said,” Taryn said slowly, as if she was talking to a baby, “he would probably love to hear about your crush. I mean, every guy wants to be wanted.” She smirked, and a look of horror crossed Echo’s face. That was her mistake: Taryn was looking for exactly that look. She wanted people to be afraid of her power. She wanted them to fear her, and Echo brought that fear on a silver plate.
“P-Please don’t,” she begged, which was mistake number two.
“Oh, but he would love to hear that,” Taryn grinned. “Or maybe I should just show him that,” she pushed her iPhone in front of our faces to see a picture of Echo gazing dreamily at Chase, who passed the hallway with Marcus.
Echo’s eyes were filled with tears. “No,” she whispered. “Please - “
But Taryn had already gotten what she wanted. With another evil smirk she walked away with her minions, not before she glanced wickedly at me. I maintained a flat expression and it didn’t bode well, seeing as she got furious. Not that I cared.
“Come on,” Isy nudged Echo toward our Lit class and I followed them, feeling pity toward Echo. By the end of the day, everyone would know about Echo’s crush, including the crush himself, and it would all be because of Taryn.
As I suspected, when the day ended and we were on our way out of the school, everyone who looked at Echo’s direction laughed and pointed at her mockingly. Isy and I were by her side, but it didn’t lessen the impact and when we got outside, we saw Taryn showing off Echo’s picture to a huge crowd. The crowd looked at Echo when she arrived at laughed too hard in my opinion. It wasn’t that funny, and it’s not like Echo was the only one smitten with Chase Montgomery. Hypocrites, all of them.
But Taryn was too powerful to be stopped, and Echo too weak. Echo couldn’t handle being laughed at and before Isy or I could do anything she turned around and ran. I reined my anger and sent a glare toward Taryn, who smirked triumphantly at me. Chase appeared out of nowhere with Marcus, and the both of them looked at Isy for explanation.
“She ran away,” Isy said quietly, looking at Chase, who seemed to be seriously worried.
“I want to talk to her,” he said in the deep voice of his.
“It would probably be better if you didn’t,” I advised him.
He turned those deep-blue eyes to me. “Why?” He demanded.
“Because if you talk to her now, she’ll take that as mockery or pity,” I didn’t relent. “So leave her alone until she calms down, and talk to her in a few days.”
Finally he nodded, reluctant, and then went away with Marcus. Isy and I didn’t find Echo anywhere, and guessed she took a bus home. Afterwards we said our goodbyes and I drove to O’Reilly Bakery for my shift. I loved helping Gran with her work and I even got salary like I was a real employee girl.
When I arrived, Irie was already there, working. She was twenty but looked four years younger, with pixie-cut black hair, almond-shaped gray eyes and short and slim figure. She smiled when I entered the bakery. “Good afternoon, Rae,” she greeted.
“Hey, Irie,” I smiled back and got into my working uniform. Then I was out at the bakery, working hard with Irie. We weren’t exactly friends, more like acquaintances. We talked when necessary about our work, and when I tried to make conversations with her about other subjects, she got all shy and mumbled incoherently so I gave up on trying to befriend her, because I wanted friends who weren’t so shy and hard to talk to all the time.
But we worked well together nevertheless.
When my shift was over, I got a call from Gran who asked me to go and buy some groceries. So when I finished dressing in my own clothes again, I walked out of the bakery and toward the grocery shop two streets from there. I put on earbuds and played some songs in my mp4 device. I hummed with the songs as I arrived the grocery store and started grabbing the groceries I needed. When I finished I paid for it with my own money – Gran promised to give me back the money I now spent – and then made my way home.
But when I reached one of the streets on my way home, I realized it was the street where Echo was living, so I searched for her house and found it. I smiled a little, thinking it might be good to visit her and check up. But then I saw something that made me freeze in my place.
The front door of the Moores was wide open. But that wasn’t the only odd thing: Echo’s parents’ car wasn’t there., which meant there was no one in the house... yet the door was wide open. I knew Mrs. Moore, knew she wasn’t the kind of woman to forget her house’s door open. Which meant there were burglars in there right now... or had been for some time.
And because I couldn’t just leave the place here, I took my cellphone out and was ready to call 911. But before that, I planned on catching the burglars myself, because there was a chance that if they heard the police’s sirens they would run away, and I would not allow those criminals to get away with breaking into the Moore’s. So I gathered my courage and entered the house.
A shocked gasp escaped my mouth as I saw the situation inside. The furnitures were torn and upside-down, like someone tried to throw them at somebody. My heart like a drum in my chest, I put down my grocery-bags and grabbed Mr. Moore’s favorite baseball bat – he was a baseball freak and had many bats around the house like ornaments. Right now, it came in handy.
I cursed myself inwardly. Where was my gun when I needed it? Mental note: don’t leave home without your gun.
Taking a deep breath, I checked the living room, then the kitchen, and when I was on my way to Mr. Moore’s office, I heard a suspicious sound from the second floor. I know I probably shouldn’t have acted Nancy Drew right then, but I didn’t want to be hasty and call the police if I could catch the burglars myself. I had the necessary abilities to do it on my own. Gran didn’t waste her time on teaching me self-defense in vain.
I walked slowly toward the second floor. The stairs cracked a little under my weight, just like in those horror movies where the woman tries to catch the killer and get murdered in the process.
I really, really hoped those were burglars and not some horror-movie-killers.
When I arrived to the second floor, I heard noises again. It sounded like someone kicked something, and then there were low murmurs. I gulped, suddenly not so brave, but got a grip and started moving toward the crime scene, which seemed to be the parlor, just like the horror movies I talked about. Great. Just great.
Reaching the room, I stood out of sight to those inside of it and peeked in, trying to hide myself as best as I could. In the darkness I saw the shapes of the backs of what seemed to be two guys. Lying on the ground next to their feet was also a man, drowning in a puddle of water, I guessed. But why would there be water there?
Before any more thoughts popped into my mind, one of the guys kicked the man on the ground, and that man coughed and curled in pain. “You piece of shit,” the kick-guy spat in a low, deep voice that sent shivers through my body for some reason, which made me uncomfortable. “Tell us what we need to hear, you shit.”
The kicked man mumbled something unintelligible but it seemed the guys understood perfectly, as the second guy now kicked him in the ribs. That was when I realized the puddle beneath the man was actually his blood.
Goosebumps covered my skin and I fought the urge to shriek in dismay.
“Wanna play hard, ha?” The second kick-guy said, his voice also low but less deeper than the first one, more flat. “Just tell us and we will spare you and your family.”
When he said that, I realized with a wave of cold horror who was the man lying there on the ground, at the mercy of those two burglars, who were probably assailants instead.
It was Mr. Moore, Echo’s father.
My eyes widened up and I felt tears prickling my eyes, yet I forced myself to stay still, to listen, to know what evidences I could take to the police once I busted those guys... if I even could bust them. They looked stronger than I was even with the bat in my hand.
Mr. Moore muttered something again, and this time the guys lost their patience. The first one pulled out a gun and before I could move to do something – anything – he pulled the trigger, and Mr. Moore was dead.
That was when my frozen, shocked state shattered and I screamed in total horror, uncovering myself.
The last thing I remembered was a pair of greenish-blue eyes, vivid in the darkness, and then something hit my head hard and I fell into oblivion.