Chapter 1 - V
“Watch it Creepy!” A wall of walking muscle crashes into me, knocking my precariously stacked pile of books out of my arms and onto the floor with a loud bang, and knocking the wind out of me. I gasp, trying to suck air back into my poor lungs, crouching down to gather my mess up before more attention is brought upon me. “Fucking creepy-ass goth freak, Addam’s family wannabe.”
My waist-length black hair falls in front of me effectively shielding my blazing cheeks from the towering figure of Ben Chapman. This obviously pisses him off more than the fact that he’d walked into me, and he kicks away the book which I’d just put my hand upon, catching my fingers with his heavy boots. His posse of friend’s titter as he guffaws at my discomfort, and I cower on the floor until his scuffed boots walk away.
I risk a peek through the curtain of my hair and spot a new student leaning up against the row of lockers at the end of the corridor, frowning slightly in my direction as he chews on his bottom lip; a flash of silver catching the flickering neon glow of the overhead fluorescent lighting as I realise his bottom lip has piercing through it, just off centre. Casey walks up to him, throwing her arms round his neck and hugging him tightly.
With a deep sigh I stack the books back up again and continue my slow progression weaving through the other students. Of course Casey would lay claim to a new boy at our shitty little school. Of course the new student would have made more friends in his first day than I had in my four years here.
I finally make it to my little sanctuary. The art room. Miss Turner had been letting me hang out here on my lunch break and my free periods since freshman year. Her office was just off the main art room, and was huge with floor to ceiling windows, it was in this inner sanctum that I wiled away the hours turning white canvases into carnivals of colour.
“Good morning…oh, actually afternoon, Virginia.” Miss Turner flashes me a grin over the top of her large gold rimmed spectacles.
“Hey, Miss,” I return her smile with a shy one of my own, setting my books down on the cluttered desk as she looked round the room with a frown; her hands on her hips, lips pursed. “What have you lost, Miss?”
“My paintbrush! The brand new Daler-Rowney one which I only bought two days ago. Honestly these students have the stickiest fingers…” I lean over and pluck the missing brush from out of her messy bun. She blushes, an embarrassed smile flutters over her lips. “Yes. Well,” she clears her throat as she takes the offending item from my fingers. “Thank you, Virginia.”
As I retract my hand, she grabs my wrist, straightening out my fingers. She sighs as she runs her own soft digits over the red, scuffed ends of mine. “What happened here?”
I pull my hand back, tucking it up into the long sleeve of my black hoodie. “Ben.”
Miss Turner tutts with a little shake of her head. Ben Chapman had made it his personal mission to make my high school career a living nightmare. His actions the first week of freshman year were what made me seek out a place of asylum and ultimately, and somewhat sadly, my only friend at school. Miss Turner had dried many tears and listened to many stories about grievous bodily harm his little pranks had caused me. Of course, we had reported the bullying to the Principle when it first happened, but Ben had been going through a bereavement at home so was granted leniency. After that it just didn’t seem worth the bother.
Luckily for me, today she lets it go, and with her paint brush pushed back into the curly mass of hair being held up with amazingly with only one hair tie, she leaves me alone to my painting.
My lunch period on a Wednesday was followed by a free, so I had two whole hours to lose myself in my swirly oily world.
“That’s pretty good.” A husky voice behind me snaps me out of my daze, and I jump, twirling round and knocking over a pot of paint thinner.
“Shit!” I grab a handful of paper towels and squat down trying to contain the little river of chemicals from running further over the tiled floor.
“Here.” The new student squats down next to me, pushing another wad of absorbent towels on top of the spill, inadvertently covering my hand with his. I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping he didn’t notice the wave of goosebumps which ran over the exposed skin of my forearms at his touch. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you jump. I thought you heard me knock.”
He shrugs, offering me a half smile.
“It’s my fault. Don’t worry, I’m always making a mess in here.”
We stand up, plopping the sodden towels into the wastepaper bin.
“So, are you like a technician here, or…?” The boy chews his bottom lip again, pulling the silver ring between his teeth and letting it spring back over and over.
“Um, no. I’m a-a student. Miss Turner just lets me use her office.” I nervously pull my sleeves down over my hands, rubbing them together in front of me as I do so.
His eyes flick up and down me, and I feel my cheeks redden under his scrutiny. All of a sudden, he flashes me a wide grin. “Cool nickname, by the way.”