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(To Be Announced)
The flashlight flew past Cole’s eyes, casting a white beam over his pasty features. His eyes flicked from left to right like a flighty rabbit. He had been hunted down since he’d left, and they’d finally backed him into a corner.
“Lance! Check the kitchen!” A gruff voice commanded, conjuring images of blood and death to mind.
Cole jerked in the pantry, desperate for a way out. This couldn’t be happening, not now, not when he was so close to escape. His panicked gaze fell on a rusty handle in the ceiling. It would make a lot of noise opening, but footsteps outside the door didn’t give him much choice. With great effort, he yanked it open and jumped up. Shouts of alarm sounded, and the pantry door was ripped off it’s old hinges just as the trapdoor closed. The shaft was small, and could barely fit Cole as he army crawled through it. He was nearing an opening as he heard the trapdoor bang open somewhere behind him. The young man swore, and scuttled towards the grate.
Prying open the rotting bars, he descended into the foggy night air, escaping certain death once again.
“Alissa! Are you coming or what?” I whipped my head around, searching for the person who’d called me. My best friend Lana was hanging out of her mom’s car, frantically waving to me. Her brown hair was flying madly around in the wind, and the sight was slightly comical.
“Yeah, hand on a minute.” I shoved my notebook into my already over-stuffed backpack and hopped off the railing. “Hey Lana, what’s up?” I asked, spitting my hair out of my mouth. She rolled her eyes at me, her slim body blocking the entrance to the car.
“Are you planning on taking all your books shopping?”
“No, are you planning on making me walk home?” I fired back. She laughed, and had a seat. “Thanks.” I clambered in after her, gagging slightly at the artificial pine smell that clung to the car. Trying not to breath, I took the seat next to her and buckled myself in. She immediately took out her iPod and handed me one of the tiny white earbuds. But the music she started playing sucked, so I shook my head and said, “No thanks.” Shrugging, she began mouthing the words to her song.
“Hi Alissa, how’s it going?” Came a voice from the front.
“Pretty good, thanks.” I replied to Lana’s mom. She turned around for a brief moment, her bubblegum pink lips stretching into a friendly smile. “
That’s great, dear.” I loved Lana’s mom, she was the sweetest thing since apple pie. There was only one real problem with her; she clung desperately onto her youth. I mean, she still shopped in the juniors section, had her hair dyed frequently and Lana told me that her mom was a hardcore advocate for plastic surgery.
“Lana sweetie, where to?” She asked loudly. Lana ignored her. “Lana? Uh, honey?” I nudged her, and with a huff she yanked out her earbuds.
“What mom?” She snapped.
“I asked where you wanted to me to take you.” Her mom repeated, her smile still as sweet as sugar. Oh, and another thing. Lana’s mom didn’t really know how to raise her daughter. It was hard to try and be a teenager while raising one, so she’d had to choose. And she chose to act more like a sister than a mom, which Lana hated with a passion. That is, when her mom was around. Her family had money coming out the wahzoo, and so her parents were away a lot on business.
“Ugh, I don’t know. I suppose we should swing by Alissa’s house so she can drop off her bag, which by the way Alissa,” She turned to me, “Is falling apart. You should really look into getting a new backpack.”
“Right, I’ll do that.” I said uncomfortably, knowing that I wouldn’t. My family didn’t have a lot of spare money lying around, due to the fact that my mom’s only profession was writing and she wasn’t very successful with that. It wasn’t her fault, she was a great writer, but no one would give her the time of day. Most of her books remained unknown, sitting pathetically on my bookshelf. I read her books repeatedly; the plots never seemed to grow old. My dad wasn’t with us anymore. He’d died a few years ago, and it was still really hard to think about. Without him to help support us, we barely scraped by.
“Then we need to go to the mall. It’s an e-mergency.” Lana continued dramatically.
“An emergency, huh? What do you need from there?”
“Like...?” Her mom prompted.
“Dresses! What’s with the third degree?” Lana exclaimed, looking put off.
“I just wanted to know what you were planning on spending my money on, sweetheart.” “Great, well now you know.” Lana settled back into her seat, ruffled. Rolling down my window, I breathed in the crisp winter air. I wanted out of this car. Luckily, we were soon pulling up next to my house.
“Come on in, Lana.” I invited her, nearly throwing myself out of the car. She eyed my little ranch house with disdain.
“Uh, no thanks. I’m just going to wait here.”
“Okay.” Sighing, I dragged my bag towards the house, alone. She never wanted to come in, and by now I should’ve accepted that fact. She was used to her mansion, and didn’t realize that size didn’t matter. I just hoped that she’d learn soon, because my house was one of my favorite places in the world. It should be, I stayed in it enough. You could say that I wasn’t very sociable, and because of that, I didn’t get out much.
“Hi mom!” I called, opening the door and depositing my backpack in the entryway.
“Hey munchkin!” She called back. I went into her room to give her a quick hug before leaving. My mom was sitting on her bed, typing furiously on her laptop. Her fiery red hair, exactly like mine except for without the curls, was messily pinned up on top of her hand. When I entered, she gave me a searching look. “Where are you running off to today?”
“How’d you know I was going somewhere?” I asked, leaning against the doorframe.
She gave a snort of laughter and turned back to her work. “It’s a mom thing. So, where are you going?”
I came in and sat on the bed next to her. “The mall. Lana wants to buy a new dress for the winter dance.”
“And you don’t?”
“Well, I wasn’t planning on going.”
My mom gave me a look. “Alissa, this is ridiculous. You need to get out more, mingle. You’ve always been a little shy, but ever since...well, it just has to stop.”
Pretending not to have noticed her slip, I gave a laugh. “You’re probably the only mom in the history of mom’s that has to force their teen get out of the house more.”
“Doubt it. Will you please go to the dance? For me?” She gave me a look that was impossible to resist.
“I-I don’t have anything to wear.” I protested weakly. In response, she leapt off the bed and grabbed for her wallet. Quickly, she counted out several bills and handed them to me.
“Mom, no, don’t...” It was too late. I looked at the bills in my hand, and my eyes nearly fell out of my head. “These are $50 bills!”
“Yeah, I don’t rightly know how much dresses can go for nowadays. I’d like the change back, though.”
“I don’t want to hear it! Go have fun with Lana and buy a dress.”
Touched, I leaned over and gave her a hug. “Thanks mom, I will.”
“No problem. I love you!”
“Love you too!” I called over my shoulder as I left the room.
“No way! Nu-uh! Next! Put it back!” Lana vetoed every dress I picked up.
“What’s wrong with this one?” I cried, thoroughly exasperated.
“Look at the plunging v-neck. You’re not that type of girl, trust me.” Thoughtfully, she fingered a green silken dress. “I like the wrap around style...what do you think? Too clingy?”
“It’s fine, they’re all fine!” I told her.
“No they’re not. Don’t you care at all what you look like?” She debated over the dress for a few more seconds before hanging it back on the rack.
“Well, I did.” I muttered. Lana went through an entire rack of clothes, criticizing each one to death. “Lana, stop.” I finally burst out, stopping her latest tirade on an innocent looking purple dress. “What’s wrong with any of these?”
“Haven’t you been listening?”
“Yes, I have. You can’t be that picky, or you won’t ever find a dress that meets your radical standards!”
“Radical standards? Really, Alissa?” Lana raised an eyebrow.
“That’s so not the point.” I reminded her.
“Okay, well, this store sucks. Let’s try another one.”
“But we’ve been in four! My feet are getting really sore, here.” I griped, refusing to move. She smiled and bounced up and down. Clearly her own feet weren’t bothering her. “You know what they say, 5th time’s the charm!”
As she left the store, I groaned and got to my feet, following her. “Who says that?”
She continued on, ignoring me, but finally picked a store and darted inside. “Yes, the dresses in here are much better than they were in the others.” Lana said, seemingly satisfied with the array of clothes.
“That’s just dandy.”
She must’ve noticed the potent amount of sarcasm in my tone, because she rounded on me. “This is a fun experience! You better lighten up and enjoy it or you’ll never have any fun.” She hissed, her face inches from mine.
“Oh yes, and having you scream at me is so very much fun.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Well it can’t be more fun than sitting here listening to you complain.”
“We haven’t sat down the entire time! You bounce around too much for that!” I retorted. Her glare was fierce, and it admittedly made me back down a little.
“You know what, maybe we should look for dresses separately.” I watched as she bit her lip.
“Fine. But don’t buy anything tragic!”
Laughing, I said, “I’ll do my best not to.” Then, finally, I made a break for the exit.
The mall was much bigger than I’d bargained for, and I’d gotten lost several times before finally finding a map.
“They need more of these.” I mumbled to myself, scanning the illuminated board. It listed a clothing store not too far from where I was, so I made that the first stop on the list. Walking in, I felt a good vibe. It was crowded, but the people seemed agreeable. At least they weren’t holding the clothes up to the light and criticizing them. I meandered over and began shuffling through a rack of dresses. Most of them were either too flashy or too frilly. But there were the rare few that once I touched, I couldn’t let go of. I had to decide on one, so I went for the one in my left hand. Dress in hand, I went over and shut myself up in the dressing room. I quickly stripped off my clothes and pulled the dress on over my head. It’ll probably look horrible on me...I don’t want to look. But I did, and-not to sound conceited-the sight in the mirror stole my breath away.
It wasn’t so much that I looked beautiful, just that it was so different from how I’m used to dressing. The dress cascaded down to my ankles, flowing with every movement I made. It was a silky silver material, like someone had captured moonlight and put it on a dress. The silver ended where a dark blue bodice laced up from the waist, making the dress strapless. My red hair, even up as it was right now, stood out in stark contrast to the dark colors, but in a good way. I could easily picture myself dancing in a garden under a full moon, skin glowing and hair floating around me. That was all it took-I had to have it. After changing back into my regular clothes, I went up to the cashier and paid for the garment. I only had $20 left over for my mom to have when all was said and done.
My bag hanging around my wrist, I left the store to find Lana. “Oh my God, sorry!” I cried as I ran into someone.
He barely took a step back when I hit him. When he looked at me, my heart skipped a few beats.
“It’s no problem, I didn’t see you.” He said. His voice was smoother than the dress I’d just purchased, and goosebumps spread up my arms.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
The boy, who looked to be my age, grinned. His entire face lit up with the one motion. It seemed impossible for his glacier blue eyes to become more gorgeous, but they did. “I think I should be the one asking you that. But, yeah, I’m fine.”
“Okay, good. Sorry, again.”
“It’s no problem.” With another smile, he continued on. I stared after him for a solid minute, slack-jawed. Whoever that boy had been, he made me feel something I hadn’t ever. I shook off my remaining shivers and strode off towards the highest retail store, where I correctly guessed Lana was.
After the day at the mall, and my mom going nuts over the dress I’d bought (she couldn’t stop gushing over it), I was pretty tired. I didn’t know how the dance tomorrow was going to go, but I felt somewhat more confident about my appearance. Butterflies dancing in my stomach, I turned off my bedside lamp and snuggled under my covers. One face haunted my thoughts though, as I drifted off to sleep. That boy. The boy with the icy eyes.
The dance was really loud. That was the first thing I noticed when Lana and I walked into the gym. The noise level was astounding-the deafening music, the pounding of dancing feet and the chatter of kids talking. It was all a little too much to take in.
“Sorry, I changed my mind. Bye!” I tried to turn around and walk back outside, but Lana tightened her grip on my arm and pulled me further into the ocean of people.
“You aren’t ditching me that easily. Hi, Ronnie, I love the outfit. Megan, you look darling in that dress! Jennifer, I love your lipstick! Katherine, what did you do to your hair? It looks fabulous!” She greeted people as we strode by.
They were all just as dressed up as we were, which made me feel slightly less awkward. But people had begun to stare, to whisper.
“Lana, what’re you doing?” I hissed, as she made her way through another wave of kids, complimenting them as we passed.
“It’s called socializing. You should try it sometime.”
“Right, I’ll do that.” I said sarcastically.
“You’re going to have to, because...well, I have some surprising news.” She pulled me off to the side, looking extremely excited.
“What is it?”
“My parents have to go to work over break, and for once their consciences got the better of them, so I get to go to Paris with them! I get to spend Christmas in Paris! Paris! Do you not hear me? I’m going to Paris! Tomorrow!” Lana exclaimed.
I felt like someone had slapped me. My whole body went kind of numb, but my brain went into overdrive.
“Alissa? That’s good news.” She continued.
I was flabbergasted-nothing was coming out of my mouth. We’d been friends since Kindergarden, and had never been apart for more than a couple days. She was like my sister. Now she was going to leave, go to Paris for Christmas and leave me behind. And she was happy about it.
“That’s...great, Lana. Wow.” I choked out.
That set her off on another happy jaunt about how beautiful everything was going to look, how great the food and shopping would be, blah, blah, blah. I was tuning her out and nodding empathetically, when my eyes fell upon a boy, standing next to the table of food. It was like my gaze was riveted on him, and I couldn’t look away. What he was doing here I had no clue, but it was him. The boy I’d ran into at the mall. The one who I couldn’t stop thinking of.
“Who are you?” I wondered out loud, drawing Lana’s attention back to me.
“Did you say something?”
“No, I just though I saw someone out their with the same dress as you.”
“What? No, impossible!” Lana cried, going off in pursuit of the dress.
Alone, I didn’t know what I was doing, only that I had to be near him again. It was crucial that I talk to him. I started marching my way over there, still without a plan, when someone called my name. I turned my head to look for the person, and walked right into someone, stepping hard on their foot.
“Crap! I’m sorry, I’ve been doing that a lot late...ly.” I stared to bluster, when I looked up, straight into the same eyes that had been haunting me since yesterday.
“We have to stop meeting like this.” He said, bending down to inspect his shoe. “I think they’re fine.”
“Oh, okay, good. Yeah, I was worried, you know, with this being a dance and those seeming to be expensive shoes and all...sorry.” I finished.
To my surprise, he laughed. “You’re cute when you get flustered.”
“Uh, thanks. I think.” I blushed and ran a hand through my hair. “So, um, what’re you doing here?”
The boy raised an eyebrow at me. “I think I go to school here.”
Duh. The fact that the thought never crossed my mind was startling. “Right, of course. It’s just that I’ve never seen you around here before.”
“Right. Well, welcome to our school.” I replied, waving my hands around half heartedly. This wasn’t going so good. Come to think of it, he might not even be new-new. But, of course, he had to be. A face like his, I would remember.
“Thanks. I’m Cole Bailey.”
“So the mystery boy has a name. I’m Alissa Harding, nice to meet you.” I shook his outstretched hand, and liked the feel of it. I went all warm and wobbly inside. I didn’t know why I’d said it, but it got him to laugh again.
“Nice to meet you, too. Officially. And thanks for the welcome, the school doesn’t seem to resemble the same kind of prison my old one did.”
“Stick around long enough and your opinion might just change. Not to scare of the new kid or anything, but they’re insanely strict here. I once wore this tank top, or as I like to think of it, slut top, to school because it was my friend’s birthday and she begged me to, and they ripped me a new ass. Not because she wanted to see me like that, or anything, but because she wanted me to wear something that ‘showed off my figure’. She seems to think I don’t wear the right clothes. Anyways, my mom had to come to school to take me home so that I could change. It was extremely embarrassing.” I bet at that moment my cheeks flamed red, because in my trying to be all cool and wing-it-ish, I’d let slip that I’d worn a slutty top and gotten caught, and then had started babbling about Lana and my clothes in general.
Great. Fabulous. He must think I’m such a moron.
But Cole seemed to have another idea. He snorted with laughter, then got all quiet, like he was listening to something he couldn’t quite hear.
“Hey, I know that this is kind of weird, but do you maybe want to dance?” He blurted, then seemed to get kind of red around the ears. “If not, it’s fine.”
“I’d love to dance.” I responded immediately.
I couldn’t dance to save my life!
But that didn’t seem to matter. I’d already accepted, a split second before my insecurities presented themselves.
We walked over to the dance floor and I realized what kind of song was playing. A slow one.
“Um, Cole? Just so you know, I’m not a good dancer. At all.”
Cole met my eyes, and suddenly I didn’t care if I couldn’t dance and was about to humiliate myself. If he wanted to dance, then by darn it, we would dance.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure you’re great.” He placed his hands gently on my waist, and I tentatively put my hands on his shoulders. The song was beautiful, a wordless ballad that seemed to seep into the farthest corners of my soul. It lifted me up, carried me gracefully along with Cole. All my usual clumsiness was gone, replaced by some sort of inner peace. My eyes were locked with Cole’s, and as the song progressed we moved closer to each other until his arms were wrapped tightly around my waist and mine were wrapped around his neck, my face was a mere inch from his. We swayed to the music, an intense passion building between us. It was escalating, climbing, reaching for the sun like nothing could stop it-when the music ended, fading away with a few wisps of melody.
“You two, break it up. Come on, you heard me, move apart.” A sharp voice clucked next to us. I released Cole and tried to spring backwards, but he didn’t let go of me. Mrs. Rosemary was glaring disapprovingly at us. “This is not the kind of behavior I’d expect from you, Alissa. And you young man, who are you?”
“I’m a new student here, ma’am.” Cole replied tactfully.
She was unimpressed. “Then I’ll let you off this time, but I expect you to learn the code of conduct. We don’t go around pressing ourselves up against each other in the middle of a school dance. Now step away from each other!”
He finally let me go, after waiting a few more seconds just to test the limit.
“That’s better. Now don’t let me see you two doing that again!” Mrs. Rosemary sniffed and walked stiffly away.
“We weren’t even doing anything!” He exclaimed after she was out of earshot.
“Told you it was strict here.” I muttered. I noticed a gleam in his eye, and that’s when I knew that no rules could stop him from doing what he wanted. I was proved right when he gathered me back up in his arms for the next song. This time, though, I pushed him away. “Don’t push it. She’ll stick to her word and give us both detention.”
“Are you afraid of a little detention?” He taunted.
I hardened my gaze. “No, but I’m not stupid, either. I have better ways to spend my time than in a stuffy room, watched by a teacher who has no life, all because a daredevil I just met wanted to feel me up during a dance. No thank you. But hey, if that’s your thing, go find another girl and have fun.” I started to walk away but he caught my hand. “Please. If I’d been feeling you up, you’d’ve known it.” Was what he finally said.
“That’s really great, Cole. Now, can I have my arm back?”
“Are you going to storm out of here all pissed?”
“Maybe.” I said tartly.
“Fine.” He let my arm go, and I started forward. “Wait, Alissa-” He grabbed my arm for the second time.
Again? What was it with him and touching me?
“Please let go of my arm!” I said, louder.
“Right, sorry. Hey, listen, I was wondering if you could maybe show me around tomorrow.” He asked.
Ha! As If I actually knew the town. But it’d be more time I could spend with Cole, and despite the attitude and arm grabbing, I was drawn to him.
I sighed. “Sure. Do you need my address, or will you sniff my arm out?”
He made a face, making me laugh. I saw his body freeze for a moment before relaxing once more. “Yes, I need your address.” He replied.
I went over and grabbed a napkin, scribbling down my address on it. “Promise you won’t use this to stalk me?” I asked, withholding it.
“I promise not to stalk you.” Cole said, rolling his eyes but grinning. I grinned in return and handed it to Cole. “Hm, thanks. I’ll pick you up around noon tomorrow.” He studied it for a second then stuffed it into his pocket. “So are you going to make your escape now? It’d be a shame to waste that beautiful dress.”
“You think my dress is beautiful?” I asked quietly.
“Yeah, I do.”
“Then I guess I don’t have to go home quite yet. Do you want to dance again?” I wouldn’t have asked, except that I wanted to.
“You don’t have to ask me twice.” He took my waist, and with a wink, we were off.