In my years of freedom I had forgotten how much I both loved and hated this prison. Sorry, school. Really, what difference was there?
I loved this place because of the people and the simplicity and the education. I had been living in my home country off the coast of Europe, where the schooling could not compare. It was lucky I had a brain otherwise I'd be screwed coming back to year twelve here.
I hated this place because of how judgmental everyone was. I wasn’t a mind reader, I didn't know what they were thinking, but their eyes were following me everywhere.
"Jacob Beck," a voice came from behind me, one I couldn't mistake in a million years. A huge grin spread across my face as I turned to see my one and only best friend.
"The myth, the legend," he quipped, slinging me into a hug. "Although I'm pretty sure that's your title now."
"I'm not sure Mrs. Barden would agree. She's still working here, hey?"
Hayden's head tilted back as he laughed. I could see on his face that he was thinking of our brilliant prank. "It's a fucking pain, I tell you. She hates our guts."
"Do you reckon it was worth it?"
He shot me a dubious look. "Every last ball."
I dumped my books into my new locker and shut it, heading in the direction of the cafeteria. Hayden followed. He was like my twin brother from another mother. Even after all this time our friendship was still exactly the same, unlike it evidently was with Kaia. That girl hadn't changed and had changed drastically. She used to be a lanky thirteen year old with no femininity in sight. Now she was this long legged, slim-but-with-all-the-right-curves seventeen year old who was without a doubt the most stunning girl in here; even with her denim shorts, t-shirt and black converse high-tops. That wasn't the only change. I had tried to talk to her after psych but she just gave me a look as if to say I dare you, so I backed off, laughing at the thought of her wanting to talk to me. She mustn't have wanted anything to do with me.
"Hello? Anybody in there?" I snapped out of my reverie by Hayden knocking on my skull. "Damn, Jacob. You're still zoning out? I thought you'd have grown outa that habit."
"Some things don't change," I admitted. I was tempted to ask him about Kaia and what had happened with her in the past few years but restrained myself. I didn't need his teasing today.
"Clearly. Either way, it's good to have you back. It was just getting boring around here."
We pushed through the swing doors to the cafeteria where I was subject to more staring. "This is definitely not boring," I agreed.
"Don't worry about them. They're staring at my hotness, not you. Happens every day. You know, sometimes I wished girls would actually like me for my personality instead of my insane good looks."
"It's such a hard life."
"I know," he sighed, heading over to a table occupied by two guys who looked like shit. I was allowed to say that because they were my friends.
"Zavier. Landon," I greeted them. Both of the boys glanced up and made half-assed attempts to smile.
"I can hardly believe my eyes," Zavier shook his head, holding out his hand. We did the handshake we made up in year seven and I followed suit with the lankiest kid I'd seen.
"Nice to see you, man," Landon nodded, then winced and held a hand to his head.
"What the hell did you guys do last night? You both look like shit," I had to say, taking a seat on the hard metal bench opposite them.
"If it weren't your first day back I'd beat you up for saying that," Zavier muttered, flicking a French fry around on his tray. He'd easily be able to beat me up, too. He was a rugby player and probably the bulkiest guy in the school.
"You wouldn't," I informed him.
"We're hungover," Landon mumbled, putting his head on his arms. That explained it, although I couldn't imagine him getting drunk.
"No," Zavier shook his head, light hair moving in the process. "I'm hungover. Landon hasn't slept since Thursday because he's had this League Of Legends competition."
"It's a type of hungover," I defended him.
"Whatever," he repeated. I was going to quip that he had no better comebacks but figured he wasn't in the mood.
Hayden had different ideas. "'Whatever'. Great comeback, Zavier. Truly. Did you come up with that one all by yourself?"
"Fuck you," he grumbled, pushing away from the table and storming out.
"So nothing's changed?" I asked.
"Quite the contrary. It was the first time he'd gotten drunk but it was because he and his girlfriend had this massive fight. When he's not having relationship problems, he's great."
"No more anger management issues is what he means," Landon added, the words coming from under his mop of curly brown hair.
"Good for him. Who's his girlfriend?"
"Annaliese Simmons. Not that we know her. He has never introduced us to her."
"Probably worried you'd scare her away. You guys are idiots."
"Yes and now that you're here, we'll never formally meet her," he teased, shoving me. "Anyway. I'm thinking food's an idea that needs to become reality. You two coming?"
We both nodded and ended up back at the table in a few minutes where Zavier had returned with a smile and everything.
"You two made up then?" Hayden asked as we sat back down. Zavier just nodded and it was like seeing a whole different person.
"Yes, we did. Sorry about before," he said to me.
"Not a problem, man."
"But anyway. How was Celti?" He asked, making me scrunch up my face. Celti itself was amazing. I was born there and it had always been beautiful. Lush green countryside's always powdered with snow in the winter and incredible mountains with waterfalls hidden in the forests. I loved it, far more than here, but there in lies the problem. One I only found out about six years ago when I had returned.
"Do you guys remember how my grandfather died when I was ten, and then my dad virtually disappeared?"
"Yeah. He went to live with the family in Celti, didn't he?" Hayden asked. Of course he remembered; he'd been by my side through the whole thing.
"Sort of. As it turns out, my grandfather was the king of the country. My dad was named his predecessor so now, he's the king."
Everyone went silent; their mouths gaping open. I knew how they felt. When I'd arrived at our castle for the first time I looked exactly the same. I nearly passed out when my father said I was the prince of a small country. I used to have difficulty believing it but after so many royal dinners and public announcements and so on so forth you start to. You don't have much choice in the matter.
"You're messing with us." Hayden shook his head in disbelief.
"Nein, bruder. I'm not. Do you want proof?"
All three boys nodded so I sighed, digging my iPhone out of the pocket of my jeans and handing it to Landon. "You'll see pictures of the castle and if you Google King of Celti it'll come up with Nikolaus Beck, my father." Hayden tripped over his feet running around the table, standing behind Landon. Zavier leaned over so he could have full view of the phone.
It would have come out at some stage, but it was awkward as hell regardless. I sat there fidgeting with my wristband until they all simultaneously cursed.
"Tell me about it," I groaned, tucking my phone back in my pocket.
"So does that make you a prince?"
"Fucking hell, Jacob. You said Celti was interesting but you never said it was that interesting," Hayden teased. "I can't believe it."
I shrugged, not knowing what else to say until my eyes caught sight of Kaia. With her sister and Marcus Reynolds. I frowned, but the bell rang signaling the end of lunch so I didn't get to ask.
Not like I cared if she was with Marcus because I didn't.
Not in the slightest.
Lunch was a disaster for a magnitude of reasons, the main one being that Marcus was an annoying little shit of whom I had to be nice to until around four thirty when I could break up with him. I was renowned for being polite and kind but to remain that way I had to avoid the people I had no tolerance for. Meaning, there were a lot of people I didn't come into contact with.
At least it would all be over in just over an hour, but I didn't want to think about it. Not that I wanted to think about high level math either but what choice did I have? I would struggle if I didn't pay attention and right now Mr. Wright was writing notes at the speed of a formula one car racing for first place.
I rushed to scribble them down but missed the last example before he erased it.
"Get to work," he said in his smooth as silk voice no other sixty-something year old man had. I looked to my left where Jacinta was on her phone so I looked the other way, where Landon Warrick was ruling a line in his notebook. He would be reliable for the notes.
"Hey Landon," I smiled, leaning into the aisle so he could hear my whisper. "Did you get the end of those notes? Mr. Wright rubbed them out before I could get the last equation."
"Here." He handed me his notebook which had a bunch of messy scribbles that secured his spot as a doctor in the future.
"You don't mind?" I asked. He flashed a small smile my way and shook his head, so I gratefully accepted his notes, copying them down as fast as I could so I could return his book.
"Thank you so much. You're a lifesaver," I said and then, as my teacher instructed, got to work.
Being high level math I didn't come close to finishing the set questions, so I wrote a reminder on my hand to do them when I got home.
I was in the car park under the nice warm sun within ten minutes where I met up with my soon to be ex-boyfriend. I flinched when he hugged me, trying my best not to screw up my face. That's another thing that irked me, despite how artificial it was. Marcus was too short for me. I was five feet eight inches and Marcus was five foot nine. I hate myself for thinking it but I rathered guys who were much taller, so I could wear heels and not be taller.
"So you'll follow me home in your car?" He asked, pulling away. I took a further step back to put some distance in between us.
"Yep," I confirmed, leading to his masochistic smile, if you could call it that.
"Great. I can't wait."
I didn't know what he was expecting - that was a lie, I knew exactly what he was expecting - but he wouldn't be getting it. He wouldn't be getting anything from me anymore; thank the lord.
I climbed into my little silver Honda Civic and sped off, making the distance from school to Marcus's house in a few short minutes. I pulled up along the gutter and got out, only taking my keys with me. I wouldn't be long.
He got there a minute earlier and was waiting by the door, light hair gleaming in the sunlight.
I took a deep breath and stepped onto the veranda, hesitating by the door. "Aren't you going to come in?"
It occurred to me that maybe I wouldn't have to. "I want to talk. Could we sit out here?"
He didn't pick up on my reluctance and happily complied, taking a seat on the step. I sat beside him, turning cross legged so I could look at him.
"What do you want to talk about?" He asked.
"What about us?" He was just as enthusiastic.
I hadn't taken much time to think about what to say, which in hindsight would have been a good idea. Instead, I just blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"I don't have feelings for you anymore," I said, looking down at my hands. "I'm sorry but I don't, so that's why we need to talk."
It took him a minute to understand, but when it registered in his brain he frowned. "You're breaking up with me?"
"So we're over?"
Oh Jesus. "Because I don't like you anymore."
"So we're not together anymore?"
I couldn't handle this but luckily for me, I didn't have to.
"No, we're not Marcus. I've got to go." I stood up and headed to my car, opening the door with one last look at him. He'd stood up from the step, scratching his head.
"We're broken up?"
I hid my laugh and nodded, got in my car and drove home. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally move again. I can't believe I hadn't realized what a drag Marcus had been.
I pulled into my driveway ten minutes later with a smile on my face and a skip in my step, as cheesy as that sounds. I walked up smooth concrete pathway to our house. Like every other in this neighborhood, it was huge, with three stories that spanned eighty square metres. Ours was one of the colonial ones with pillars out the front that had vines twirling neatly around them. It was fancy, expensive, and a little too big for three people. We considered selling the year before but couldn't bear to give it up. It held memories that we weren't ready to give up.
My brother greeted me at the door, six foot four with a questioning look on his face. "You seem happy. What gives?"
"What do you mean? I'm always happy."
Atlas shot me a dubious look, his blue eyes disbelieving.
"Okay, you're right. I'm an effortlessly miserable human being. But right now I am happy."
"She broke up with Marcus!" Parker squealed, running down the grand marble staircase to the side of the entrance hall. I swear the chandelier nearly shattered with her pitch.
"It's about time you ditched him," Atlas laughed. "How you ever got into that will always be a mystery to me."
"Me too," Parker added, coming to a stop beside me.
"Me three," I admitted.
"Oh that reminds me," Atlas jumped topics, adjusting his glasses. "Nanna is coming for dinner on Thursday night and she is expecting a proper dinner. I'm getting Louise" - our chef - "to come in and cook and we all have to look nice."
"Not like that's hard," Parker smiled, then grabbed me by the hand and led me upstairs. "We won't make any plans for Thursday and we'll be back downstairs in half an hour. I need Kaia's help."
We ended up in her dark, messy room where she was kind enough to open the blinds so I could see. She went over to her desk and slumped in the chair, opening her textbook. "Can you please help me? Maths is hard."
I looked over her shoulder at the trigonometry exercise she was supposed to be doing. I could do trig in my sleep. "You're doing trig."
"Shut up and help me, smartie pants."
So I did.