“Ashleigh, Cassandra just called, she can’t give you a ride today,” my mom said from the kitchen.
I frowned. “Why not?”
My mom shrugged. “I don’t know. Anyway, you better hurry up if you’re going to catch the bus. I’m going to work, okay?”
“Okay.” I finished off my piece of toast and headed upstairs to grab my schoolbag.
“Make sure you don’t miss that bus! Love you!” my mom yelled before the front door slammed shut.
“Love you too,” I grumbled. Glancing at my bedside clock, I realized that I only had a few minutes left before I would have to leave the house. Swinging my bag up, I trudged downstairs. As I passed the bathroom in the hallway, I paused to glance at my reflection. A pair of dark brown eyes framed by long eyelashes stared back. My mouth was slightly ajar and my lips looked as though they had been painted with a brush dipped in blood. My thin face was too pale for my liking and my long bronze hair glinted red under the strip of sunlight that had managed to sneak in through the windows. I shivered at my reflection and pulled my hood up to cover my face. Turning away, I pulled on my favorite pair of shoes and exited the house.
The October air had a bite to it—a sign that winter was coming. The leaves of the trees swayed with the gentle wind, a few falling to the ground every so often. I kicked at a pile of red and yellow leaves and watched as some floated away with the wind while the rest fluttered to a rest on the concrete ground. I set off on the sidewalk and began the long walk to the bus stop. To be honest, it wasn’t really a long walk, but it had been a while since I took the bus to school. Not to mention, I still wouldn’t be taking the bus if my best friend Cassandra had picked me up on her way to school.
Cassandra Jordans, my best friend since freshman year, was the type of girl you would expect to see at every high school party, flirting with way too many boys for her own good. She was also on the school’s girls varsity basketball team. This combined with her good looks made her very popular at school and people often questioned why she still stuck around with someone like me.
Not that I’m hated or very ugly or something—well, at least I think I’m okay-looking. I was just your typical, sort of invisible high school girl. Everyone just expected Cassie to hang around with the popular crowd and not with my friend group.
I looked up from the pavement and with a start I realized that I had already arrived at the bus stop. I had been too busy thinking about Cassie. The school bus was already there and I hopped on.
The school bus was exactly as I remembered it. There were your loud and annoying freshmen at the front arguing heatedly over some stupid topic like where was soccer invented. There were your sophomore girls giggling about boys and makeup while the seniors and juniors lounged on the back rows.
I made my way cautiously over to a vacant seat at the very back and sat down carefully as the bus pulled out of the stop. The girl in front of me turned around and sent me a worried look then faced the front again. I blinked. Then I shifted my bottom and checked to see if this seat was splattered with a disgusting substance or something. It wasn’t. I frowned. Then I shrugged and pulled out my book excitedly from my bag and began to read.
Now you can yell “Nerd!” at me. And I am one, so I won’t bother denying it. Although if I was your stereotypical nerd, I don’t know.
The girl in front of me turned around again and tried to get my attention by coughing. I ignored her and plowed on with my book. She coughed again and I closed my book with a snap, looking up at her.
“Do you need a cough drop or something?” I asked sardonically.
“Um, no,” the girl said, looking nervously around again.
“Okay then.” I returned to my book.
“I just want to warn you,” the girl said.
I glanced up at her. “Yeah?”
“You don’t want to sit there,” she said, eyes flitting around as though someone might suddenly jump out and stab her.
At that moment, the bus jerked forward to a stop and I banged my head unceremoniously on the back of the girl’s seat.
“Ow,” I muttered, rubbing my forehead.
The doors of the bus opened and a guy stepped on board. Everyone fell silent and the girl in front of me gave a small squeak before hiding her face in her jacket so only her eyes peeked out. Even so, I could still see her blush.
I looked up to see who had entered and to my surprise a pair of dark yet still somehow stormy grey eyes met mine. I felt like I could stare into those eyes forever and not get bored. There was so much depth I was positive if they were a hole I could fall through them until my body withered. We held the gaze for what seemed like an eternity even though I knew it was only a second. Then he looked away and I kept on looking at him, wanting crazily to see those eyes again.
I knew who he was. Everyone on the bus did. Everyone at school did. Though if he knew me, I wasn’t so sure.
Navid Wayland. There was a never ending list of why all the girls of Silverlane High wanted him. He was in the popular clique. He made it clear that never had a girl broken his heart yet. He was part of the school’s boys’ varsity basketball team and swim team, making him a jock. He was hot and rich, making him a player.
That also made him very arrogant and conceited, in my opinion.
I’ve never given him and his friends, who were all like him, any thought. At least, that was until he decided to sit down next to me.
Navid strolled down the length of the bus arrogantly, as though he was the king. The sophomore girls giggled when he winked at them as he passed—I rolled my eyes. The junior and senior girls batted their eyelashes and called out greetings, no doubt flirting, much to the disappointment of the boys they were talking to. Navid stopped in front of me and I looked up at him.
He was wearing a black leather jacket complete with a light grey shirt and dark jeans. His dark brown hair that was so dark it could pass off as black looked so perfectly and sexily windblown that I wondered whether he was actually a model for hair. The dark grey eyes glinted mischievously as he flashed me a disarming smile.
Then, to my complete horror, he plopped his bag on the floor and sat down beside me. I sat frozen in my seat staring intently at the back of the seat in front of me. The girl in front of me stared at me with wide blue eyes until Navid winked charmingly at her and she turned back around with a blush, her face once again buried in her jacket.
“I believe you’re in my seat,” an amused voice said from my right, once the bus started moving again.
“I didn’t realize it was your seat,” I replied stiffly, still staring at the disgusting dark grey color of the seats. I noted dimly that the color of Navid’s eyes were almost the same color, with specks of brown in them, and yet they filled me with wonder and not disgust. Then I asked myself how come I remembered every detail of Navid’s eyes so clearly.
“You’re Ashley Rivers, aren’t you?” he asked.
Annoyance flashed through me, making me forget that I was supposed to be staring at the seat. “Actually, it’s Ash-leigh,” I said.
“Right, sorry,” Navid apologized, not sounding or looking sorry at all. Instead he looked rather amused.
“People often make that mistake,” I replied, still somewhat irked.
“Yeah, well, you’re still in my seat.”
I looked up to see girls staring jealously at me and I couldn’t help but feel a little smug. I hadn’t even tried to catch Navid’s attention and here he was, talking to me. Although it didn’t really count as friendly conversation that I would have liked to have.
I threw my hands up irritatedly. “Alright, I’ll move,” I said exasperatedly. I was about to pick up my bag when a hand placed itself on my shoulder, sending tingles through my entire body, making me freeze like a statue.
“Naw, it’s okay, I don’t mind,” Navid said, chuckling at my reaction.
I glared at him, slightly mortified about the feeling I had when he touched me.
“Relax,” Navid said, his eyes twinkling, the edges of his mouth turned upwards in an amused smile.
I sat back stiffly. “Okay, well, you can have your seat back tomorrow, I’m only taking the bus for today.”
“Why only today?” Navid asked curiously as the bus pulled into the parking lot. Everyone started filing off of the bus.
“My so-called best friend suddenly couldn’t pick me up so—” I stopped abruptly.
“What?” Navid asked, looking around.
“Nothing.” I had just seen Cassie on a bench flirting with a cute guy and I was annoyed that she had time to arrive before me when she “couldn’t pick me up”, for some reason.
I revised my sentence. “My so-called best friend decided not to give me a lift so she could come early and flirt with a bunch of guys.”
Navid laughed quietly. I found myself smiling along at the beautiful noise. Leaning forward so he could whisper in my ear, he said, “I could give you a lift to school.”
I shivered involuntarily when his breath touched my ear. Feeling a little disturbed at my reaction, I searched desperately for an excuse. I did not, under any circumstances, want to be driven by Navid Wayland. I never talked to him until today, so it would be quite awkward. Not to mention, the popular girls would probably kill me, which I wasn’t really a fan of. “Um, don’t worry about it, I have other friends that drive as well.”
Navid straightened up and looked at me. “Or maybe, you just don’t want me to drive you?”
“What?” I exclaimed in exaggerated surprise. “That’s so not true, I just…”
I trailed off when I saw that he was laughing at me.
“Don’t worry about it, Rivers. As though I care.”
Right. Well, that definitely puts me in my place.
“Anyway, see you around, Ashleigh,” Navid said, putting emphasis on the “leigh”.
“See you around,” I mumbled as he smirked at me before walking off to join his friends. As I walked past, people pointed at me and muttered for a few seconds or so before shrugging and returning to their conversations. I was confused as to why I suddenly had so much attention. Reaching Cassie and her fellow flirter, I sat down heavily and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hey,” Cassie said half-heartedly, her full attention still on the cute guy.
“Hey,” I replied, glancing at the guy. He was very tanned, not to mention ripped, with light brown hair and dark blue eyes.
The guy said something and Cassie giggled, before finally turning to me. “Leigh, this is Richard. Richard, Leigh.”
“Hi,” I said, rather rudely, might I add. I was still somewhat annoyed by the fact that Cassie ditched me to flirt with this guy.
“Nice to meet you,” Richard said politely, making me feel instantly embarrassed about my tone. He extended a hand and I shook it.
“Back at you,” I replied.
Richard returned his gaze to Cassie. “Talk to you later?”
“Sure,” Cassie replied. We both watched until Richard’s retreating figure disappeared into a mass of people.
Then Cassie turned to me and hugged me so tightly I felt like I had been squeezed to death. “Oh my god, Leigh!” she squealed. “How hot is Richard? I think I like him. Yes, I’m pretty sure I do. Do you think he likes me back?”
“Yeah, probably, I could see it in his eyes,” I said helpfully. Cassie squealed and embraced me again.
I patted her back, rolling my eyes. “Alright, calm down now,” I said.
Cassie released me and held me at arm’s length, inspecting me from top to bottom. “Your hair looks disgusting today,” she finally concluded. I rolled my eyes again.
“I didn’t have time to wash it this morning.”
“Well then, wake up earlier!”
“No way!” I exclaimed. “That would waste my precious sleep time!”
Cassie was always the type of girl that valued hair over sleep. Her own midnight locks were sleek and glossy, ending at her waist.
“Speaking of no time, why couldn’t you pick me up?” I asked.
“Oh, my brother took my car out for something. I had to get a ride from Rick. My car, can you believe it?”
Rick Gayle was part of the boys’ varsity basketball team, so he knew Cassie very well. He was also friends with Navid Wayland, and the rest of the popular kids.
“Whatever,” Cassie continued before I could respond. “Did you see Navid Wayland? He’s looking hot today, well, like usual—” I rolled my eyes as I listened to Cassie “—and you guys were talking non-stop, what’s going on there?”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, unsure of why I purposely tried to avoid the topic of Navid with my best friend.
“You and Navid! I saw you walk in the gates together.”
“It was nothing,” I said, trying to brush it off. “I just happened to sit next to him on the bus.”
“You sat next to him on the bus? Wait, did he sit with you on purpose?” Cassie’s sea green eyes widened. “Oh my god, did you sit next to him? Do you have a thing for him?”
I choked on my own breath, if that was possible. “No, of course not!” I spluttered.
Cassie just looked at me skeptically. Suddenly, there was loud shouting and in less than a second my other two friends bounded over to join us.
Thankful for the distraction, I greeted them enthusiastically. “Hey guys!”
“Sup Leigh,” Alexandra Ferruzza said. She had spiky black hair with blue highlights, a wicked nose piercing, and she was wearing her usual Death Barbie T-shirt with a black skirt and boots. Oh, and she hates it when people call her Alexandra. It’s either Alex or nothing.
Jasmine Andrews just smiled at me. Her hair was dyed platinum blonde instead of her natural strawberry blonde color. Her blue eyes twinkled kindly as she sat down lightly next to me.
“Oh my god, I loooove your dress,” Cassie gushed. Jasmine blushed a little and smoothed down her simple white dress.
“Eh, it’s not really my style,” Alex commented.
“Yes, we can all agree that you have weird taste,” Jasmine commented back, grinning widely. Alex mock-punched Jasmine on the arm who yelped in fake pain.
“I like jeans,” I quipped.
Cassie looked at me. “We all know you don’t even have a sense of fashion.”
“Hey!” I protested while Jasmine giggled and Alex guffawed loudly.
“Just kidding, Leigh.”
I crossed my arms and listened to their conversation. When it finally turned away from the topic of types of dresses and they started arguing about where ice cream was created, I turned to them and sprouted a fact about ice cream that I had read somewhere.
“Did you know that the ice cream cone was only invented in 1904, how weird is that when—”
I was interrupted by multiple groans and Cassie’s “Shut up, Leigh!”
I grinned, muttering, “Fine, just thought it was interesting.”
“Nerd!” Alex pointed at me accusingly.
I laughed, shoving her lightly in the shoulder. “Yeah, but you know you love it.”
“As if!” Alex said, laughing and shoving me back.
“Watch out, Leigh!” Jasmine suddenly shouted.
I twisted around in my seat and brought my hands up just in time to catch an orange basketball before it smashed into my face. I lowered my hands, still gripping the ball. My heartbeat had accelerated so fast in such a short amount of time that I panted.
“I’m so sorry!” came a voice. I looked up and saw the boys’ varsity basketball team heading my way, with Rick Gayle in the lead, apologizing profusely. My eyes met a pair of dark grey ones and the owner of them grinned at me. I looked away from them and focused my attention on Rick.
“Are you hurt?” Rick asked.
“No, I’m fine, it’s okay,” I said, handing him the ball.
“Alright then,” Rick said, although he still looked quite worried.
“Chill dude,” said a sandy haired guy with a good natured smile. “She’s fine.”
They all walked away except Navid, who smirked and said to me, “Nice catch, Rivers.”
I seemed to have left my voice back on the bus. “Uh, yeah,” I said stupidly, blushing, lost in his intense gaze.
“Leigh! Come on, we’re going to be late!” Cassie’s voice shattered through my daze.
I glanced back at Navid. “Bye…Navid.”
“See ya, Leigh.” He turned to leave.
“Hey! You called me Leigh.”
Navid looked over his shoulder. “Problem?”
“Oh, no, no problem,” I rushed out hurriedly. I silently cursed myself. What happened to me?
Following Cassie into the school building, I couldn’t help but feel happy that Navid Wayland had complimented me. A small blush wormed its way onto my face to accompany the smile there.