Chapter 1 - Oliver
It was closer to the end of the school day than the start, but I had just woken up.
I sighed. I did have school today, but there was no point in going, so I didn’t. I hadn’t gone the past few days, either. Partly because school was pointless and I hated it, but mostly because I was suffering from influenza.
Yep. The cursed flu.
I was just trying to be polite, offering to share my textbook with the forgetful-ass dumbass that sat beside me in chemistry, and it was just my luck that she spent the whole class sneezing and coughing on me like she was being paid to do so.
That’s what I get for being nice? The flu? God, I hate high school.
A resurgence of the painful throbbing in my skull made me groan into my pillow. I rolled over on my tiny bed, teetering on the edge, curling into myself. For Christ’s sake. Since when was the flu supposed to hurt so damn much?!
I just wanted to graduate so that I could live a mediocre life in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere, with a mediocre job and salary, surrounded by shitty anime figurines and takeout.
Clearly, ladies and gentlemen, I had high ambitions with my life. But this flu was gonna take me out before I could even reach attain the glory of being a NEET that I aspired.
I flopped over again, this time smacking my face into the crappy romance novel I thought it would be fun to read to make fun of.
It wasn’t even good for that. The fruitless pursuit of the glorified, idealized ‘happy ending’ got on my nerves about 25 pages in. I didn’t even get to the actual shitty romance part of it yet.
Having dreams wouldn’t get you anywhere, and the main character pissed me off. I would have thrown the book had I the energy to. And why was she so sad that nobody attended her grandfather’s funeral? The less people affected by someone’s death, the better, right?
Or perhaps not, I mused. Misery loves company.
The doorbell rang, startling me off the edge of the bed. Cursing, I lifted myself off the floor.
Misery may love company, but I certainly did not. Not when I was sick and cranky.
Halfheartedly, I trudged down the stairs to the front door and grimaced at the sickly reflection in the mirror by the door. Yikes. I’d give myself a seven-point-five on a good day, but today I was a solid two.
But I didn’t need to clean up for a deliveryman. God knows why Mother was constantly ordering crap from the shopping channel.
It wasn’t like she had any friends or a husband to show off those trashy diamond earrings to.
Another ring of the doorbell reminded me that the world wouldn’t wait for me to feel better.
Pushing through a slight bout of nausea, I opened the door, the fake polite expression freezing on my face as I saw A... Ashley? Was that her name?
“Hey Oliver!” greeted the girl. I smoothed out my facial expression, subtly wiping away the drool on the side of my face. Softening my smile, I leaned against the door-frame.
“Hey Ash, what’s up?” I replied, my voice nasally from the congested nose I sported. Ashley—Zhang? Yeah, it was Ashley Zhang, I think— was nice enough.
She probably considered me a friend—though I obviously didn’t reciprocate that sentiment—but we still weren’t close enough for her to just appear on my doorstep without warning. What did she want?
“I had a spare, and I thought I’d bring you your homework. I don’t know your entire schedule, but we have Physics, Chemistry, Math and French together, so I brought those notes. Do you mind if I come in? We got this big project in Chemistry and it’ll take me a while to explain it,” she asked, gesturing to the books she carried.
My smile dropped for a second, but it was back before she could notice.
I hated this type of thing the most. Why did she go out of her way to be pointlessly nice? I couldn’t stand that. What did she want from me? I’d have to buy her lunch a few times to pay her back, wouldn’t I? I held back a sigh.
“Of course! Here, let me take that,” I took her I took a couple books from her arms and walked her to the living room.
I cringed a little. Crap, I should have cleaned up. God knows Mother wasn’t going to. “Sorry, I wasn’t expecting guests,” I said a little sheepishly, grabbing an armful of takeout containers off the coffee table and throwing them out.
Ashley laughed, politely removing Mother’s socks off the sofa. “It’s okay, I don’t mind. I have three little sisters so our house constantly looks like a war-zone.”
I grabbed some glasses and brought some juice out. “I’ve got apple, orange, and milk tea,” I offered, wanting to be a good host. “Or would you prefer water? I’ve also got some Coke sitting in the basement,” I suggested through grit teeth with a smile on my face. The cold air from outside made my head hurt even more. I felt like I was swaying, so I held onto the back of the sofa to keep me upright.
Ashley smiled, looking pleased. “Water is fine, thank you.”
Back in the kitchen, I poured some tap water into a glass, taking a moment to rest my forehead against the cold refrigerator. Then I grimaced. That was a bad idea, cold made it hurt more.
When I returned, Ashley launched into her explanation of what I had missed the past few days. Slouching into the couch helped helped with the dizzy feeling, but I forced myself to sit upright.
“Wait a second,” I spoke up, not sure if I was hearing things correctly; my right ear felt fuzzy. “Did you say the chem project had to be done with a partner?”
“Oh yeah! I forgot to mention, we chose partners today. You’re partnered with Axel Reaper,” she said laughed sheepishly. “Sorry, that’s kind of an important detail. ”
“Oh, no worries,” I said with a smile to ease her, even though I did not feel like smiling. “But did you say Axel? As in, Reaper?”
Ashley nodded. “Yeah, you know, big, tall, hot,” she waved her hands around for emphasis.
I struggled to keep the smile on my face from turning into a grimace. “Oh really?” I asked lightly, my chest feeling heavy. “Why him?”
She shrugged, uncaring. Of course she was, she wasn’t the one partnered with the over-hyped meathead. “Well, he was missing today too—actually he’s been missing the past couple days as well. So you two were paired together.”
I hummed casually as she went on about the project details, but my head was pounding.
Great. I got the school asshole-slash-heartthrob as my chemistry project partner.
I bit back a sigh. If it wasn’t one headache after the other.