“Cris, you’re going to be late for school again!” My mother’s shrill voice rang out, making its way through the wall from my little sister’s bedroom into mine.
I groaned, throwing my hairbrush down onto my unmade bed where it bounced once before finding its resting place between the crinkles of my duvet. I twirled around trying to locate my black pumps, which I had planned on wearing today, but my room was in such disarray I quickly gave up and grabbed my converse from the foot of my bed.
They needed a bit of wipe down, the once black and white ankle length shoes were covered in a thin coat of dust the colour of putty with faint traces of permanent marker across the toes. The original white shoelaces had been pulled out long ago to be discarded for black and fuchsia star patterned laces. I pushed my fingers through them so that my knuckles rubbed against the coarse canvas of the shoes tongue. The three studs placed at the base of the laces poking my finger tips and reminded me of Jezebel.
Jezebel was my other half, with her quirky no holds barred attitude and colourful persona I was drawn to her. However I hadn’t always been. I had first met Jezebel Nior on my thirteenth birthday through my then best friend Mandy. I had despised her, and then somehow along the many weeks we were forced to spend time together we became best friends. There was no explanation; it was as if our relationship suddenly clicked into place like a bone that had been dislocated. Four years later and that bond hadn’t broken. She was the one who had attached the studs to my laces while she was bored. Jezebel did things like that, she was always attempting to do something arty, whether it was accessorizing my shoes, ripping and cutting holes in her clothes or taking old converse and gluing them to canvas.
I hurried out of my room still gripping my shoes and poked my head into my little sister Mia’s bedroom. My mom was standing behind her, pulling her shiny auburn curls through what must have been a brand new bright white hair-band and scolding her about cleaning up her Hello kitty stuff. My little sister obsessed over everything Hello kitty. After watching an episode of some random reality show with a woman who collected so much Hello Kitty merchandise her house was like a memorabilia museum, I worried about my sister growing up to be that ridiculous. Looking around her room it still concerned me. The walls were painted a shocking bubble-gum pink; the bedspread had a huge portrait of the feline on it along with head shaped scatters and a throw. Pretty much anything in her room that could be Hello Kitty-fied had been.
“I’m leaving,” I said, flashing a grin at my sister who was grimacing in the mirror.
My mom turned around. “I know you haven’t eaten breakfast Cris. I keep telling you to at least eat a yogurt.” She looked down at my feet and pulled a face of pure exasperation and I knew a lecture was in the works. “You haven’t even got shoes on!” She complained.
I rolled my eyes. “I’ll put them on.” I waved them at her, feeling the laces beginning to dig into my fingers with a dull ache.
“Shouldn’t they be on already?” My sister quipped, winking at me from her seat in front of her vanity table, which had belonged to my mom and had been painted white for Mia.
“They will be in a minute,” I replied, giving her a mock stern look.
“And breakfast?” My mom asked, stepping back from Mia and inspecting her handiwork.
“I’ll grab something on my way out, why are you doing Mia’s hair? I thought she could do it herself now with her pretty kitty bobbles.” I questioned, leaning against the door frame.
Mia answered sullenly before my mom could, “I have school pictures today.” She picked up one of the bobbles I had mentioned and eyed it wistfully.
“That’s right, and unlike one of my daughters I would prefer if this one was on time for school and looking presentable.”
“Oh, mom.” I grumbled, throwing up my hands. “Fine, fine, I’m out of here, have a good day today.” I blew Mia a kiss, receiving a happy giggle in response before turning and hurrying along the plush cream carpet of my hallway, and down the hardwood stairs, my stockings slipping against them. The stairs got the better of me and on the second last step I stumbled, managing to catch my balance, I somehow landed in my old fashioned slightly country kitchen.
It didn’t smell like I knew Jezebels kitchen did in the mornings with sizzling bacon and fried eggs in the air. My dad ate oats before he left for work and Mia had cereal. I’d eaten cereal since I started grade one and was completely sick of it. Sometimes my mom bought me yogurt and I’d grab a travel size carton and a spoon and eat it on my walk to school. But today I’d probably have to run so that idea was scratched.
My dad had left the TV on before leaving for work and various sounds from the news channel echoed through the lonely kitchen. I opened the fridge and began rummaging for something to eat. My mom liked notes; she had them all over the house. The fridge was marked with our separate names on each shelf because Mia and I were always eating each other’s things and my dad was a health nut and preferred organic food to anything else. His shelf held a vast arrangement off greenery, I passed his quickly, skipped Mia’s shelf and felt disappointed as I witnessed how very empty my own was.
“Suppose this will have to do,” I murmured, grabbing a rectangular piece of Melrose cheeseand a cheerful red aluminium can of coke before slamming the fridge door and putting them both down on the wooden island in the centre of the kitchen.
The news broadcaster was saying something about a war between Israel and Iran in the wake of a tsunamion the west coast of America. The tsunami had hit at about two AM the day before, practically destroying parts of Orange Country, Los Angeles, San Diego and killing hundreds. I stood still, my eyes glued to the television screen.
From what my parents had told me and what I had learned in history, it had been years since Israel and Iran had been at arms. They had signed a peace treaty in 2015, that was five years ago. The line between peace and war had been thin and fragmented, but it had lasted, until now.
I slid onto one of the three kitchen stools surrounding the island and began tugging my shoes on while keeping my ears on the news.
I had never known a time free from natural disasters. I had grown up in a world where it was accepted as a way of life, that it represented our world changing and we could do nothing to stop it. Hurricanes, freak storms, earthquakes - theyhad occurred about once or twice a year up until last year when these disasters began plaguing the world every month.
It confused almost everyone because the effects of what seemed to be global warming were occurring less than a century before anything seriously bad was thought to happen to our planet. Leading scientists had assured the world that things like the ozone layer depleting, and the earth being too hot to be habitable would only happen in a decade where we would all be long dead.
And it was all due to human greed and over population. I guess if someone had put down the aerosol or recycled, things could have been different, but it was inevitable. The polar ice caps were rumoured to be on the verge of melting, flooding, fires and tsunamis growing worse each day. These were just a few of the things happening that we as the human racecould have prevented.
I leaned my elbow on the counter and felt it stick to a flyer that had come in the mail. It was advertising flu shots for the coming winter on special, as well as Cancer Cure, the latest and cheapest drug to stop the disease in its tracks. They had needed to beef up the search for a reasonable treatment that did not involve chemo or radiation of any kind when cancer had become as frequent as the common cold. Since they had found the cure for HIV in infants six years earlier a lot of stress was put on the topic, until they found it, and ever since it was released chemists had been launching newer and better versions.
Removing myself from the stool and the kitchen I turned off the TV and threw the flyer in the bin. My makeshift breakfast in hand I needed to grab my school bag and leave. Stopping to listen to the news had definitely made me late for school. This war and the influx of disasters had started to affect me. I might not fit in with society or get on very well with people, but I did feel for the earth and the people in it. I couldn’t help but feel despondency at what was happening and I wished I could have seen the world as my parents had orthat I had a better memory when they took me to see the rhino surrounded by its bodyguards with AK47’s, before poachers killed the last one and its armed guards for muti.
I grabbed my bag from beside the front door and walked outside. The door closing behind me with a slight bang, nudging me forward at the same time, as if to say ‘get a move on’ – I swear sometimes I wondered if my mom was one with the house.
The war and the tsunami inundated my thoughts as I walked to school, I just couldn’t get it off my mind, I felt it in my bones that the world was in the midst of change, the feeling spread to my fingertips and I rubbed them roughly on my plaid school skirt while checking the time on my phone with my free hand.
“Dammit,” I moaned, starting to run.
I rushed into school, my short dark hair flailing around me in the soft breeze of the early summer morning.
“Great,” I said, under my breath. Students were moving towards their classes as I pushed my way through them towards my locker, my lock was cold as I placed my hand on it and entered the combination. Once the rickety metal door was open I began pulling out the books I needed for first period, placing them on the cement floor at my feet in a haphazard stack, and slammed it shut. I bent down to start shoving the pile into my bag when I was snuck up on by a familiar pleasant voice.
“Cris, I thought you were going to be absent.”
I finished packing my bag and stood up, throwing it over my shoulder and standing face to face with a pretty blonde girl with twinkling brown eyes. I smiled; Jezebel Nior.
“Nope, just late, like always!” I replied, starting to walk beside her to class. The hallway was quickly emptying of chattering and laughing students.
“Good, I don’t know how I would survive one day here without you?” She put her hand against her head, re-enacting a Hollywood swoon perfectly.
I laughed. “Has anyone ever told you to take up drama?”
“Often,I’m a natural, but I have no time to hang out after school by myself.Now if a certain Miss Scarlet would join me it could be fun.” She glanced at me furtively.
“No way, Jez! I loathe the attention - I’d freeze and ruin the whole thing!”
Jezebel considered it for a moment, twirling the stud in her lip around thoughtfully. “Yeah, you’re right. You always mess up the attention-grabbing elements. Come on, we’re going to be late for history. Maybe we can hire you to do lights or something.”
“What lights?” I asked, giggling. Our school hall was actually just a large classroom with a makeshift stage. The only lights we had were the typical school ones connected to the light switch; we didn’t even own a dimmer.
Jezebel rolled her eyes and the conversation was cut short as we entered our history class. I took my seat at the very back, two desks away from the door and Jez left me to go sit right at the very front beside Mrs Briggs – our history teacher’s desk. She had been moved there because of our frequent talking.
History was my most boring subject and today was no different. Mrs Briggs droned on and on as she read out of the thick text book, identical to the heavily doodled one that sprawled on my otherwise empty desk.
I sighed, sucking on the back of my pen and gazing out the door. It was why I liked sitting at the back, when I got bored I’d stare out of the door and hope something interesting would happen.
Jesse Valentine sauntered past in his perpetual gloomy mood, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his black pants; his hair was almost the same length as mine messily tied up into a pony as the school regulations required.
I felt my eyes widen and I rocked my chair slowly back and forward, my heartbeat accelerating as I half hoped he would look my way. There was something intriguing about him, the way he kept to himself with a scowl and when he thought no one was looking he just seemed broody. I suppose it was because of the rumours about his father. I felt a sort of kinship with him, my whole life I had never fitted in, it was as if I was just passing through gazing in through glass windows. I wasn’t sporty or loud, and I wasn’t pompously intelligent, I guess you would say I was just an average girl, and a terrible social misfit. Jesse Valentine seemed like someone who would get that.
At lunch we sat down at our customary scuffed wooden table under a large oak tree. It was one of four identical tables covered in burn marks and engraved initials. Jez had taken the liberty of marking ours as her territory when she first came to the school in grade ten. I traced the outline of her initials with my fourth finger as Jez lit up a cigarette. I probably should have eaten my lunch, which consisted of a packet of salt and vinegar chips and a coke, but my mind kept wondering. I watched the students walk by in their cliques, my eyes searching them until they locked in on Jesse. He was by himself.The other kids never spoke to him and it upset me, no one should have to spend every day alone in high school.
I knew all about his dad and the accident that basically ended his career, everyone knew that. But unlike them I didn’t care, I didn’t find scandal intriguing, I wanted to be his friend and get to know who he was, not his father or their sad history.
Jez saw me staring at him and grinned; smoke billowing out of her mouth. “Fancy the new kid?”
Her voice brought me back to reality with a jolt. “Hey? Oh, no, - I was just wondering why we’ve never tried to talk to him. You know he walks home on my route every day, and we never say a word or even look at each other.” I opened my chips with a sound that only tearing foil packets could make and popped one into my mouth. The salt and vinegar was sour and salty on my tongue and stung slightly. I loved the flavour and always said to Jez “If one day you find that I can’t eat chips something must be wrong in the world or with me, be warned.”
“That’s because he’s weird,” she replied, standing up swiftly.
I shook my head at her, opening my coke and taking a refreshing sip. Jez ignored me and began patting down her skirt.
“I’m going to talk to Mac,” She stated, before walking over to him, her hips swaying. He greeted her with a large smile and an embrace.Ever since the guy had come back from Scotland Jez had been obsessed with him and his new nick name.
Getting up, I smoothed down my own pleated, blue skirt and walked over to the bin near Jesse, making sure my hips did nothing that could be confused with a sway, I wasn’t on a flirtatious mission. I threw in a crumpled paper that I had found in my bag and shimmied over to his table awkwardly.
“Nice drawing.” I said, attempting to break the ice.
He looked up, his eyes like cut agates tearing into mine. I stood hypnotized by the colours, staring straight back at him in a way that may have seemed fearless to anyone watching then realizing it was me and not anyone important he put his head down and carried on with his work.
“Thanks.” It was barely audible.
“Is it a hereditary talent?” I asked, genuinely interested.
I saw him frown. He put his pencil down. “Why? Are you here to ask about my father? How many times do I have to say it? Its none of your business!” He shot up, grabbed his things and walked swiftly away.
I stood like an ostrich with its head underground, stunned and hurt. Jez walked over to me looking irritated.
“Why did you go talk to him?” She asked. “I told you already that he’s weird.”
I was still shocked and motionless. “I just had to.”
Jez made a frustrated sound much like ‘Ugh’. “That’s ridiculous. I’ve told you not to even bother trying to talk to that a-hole. There’s no use - I’ve tried.”
That broke the spell and I moved to stare at her with my mouth open. I wasn’t surprised; I had suspected something had happened between the two of them on his first day when she had stormed past me in a tantrum complaining about how rude he was. She’d never fully explained, she’d just called him a jerk and made catty remarks. Jez was the kind of girl who enjoyed talking, whether it was to herself or strangers, it didn’t matter, she was a jabber mouth and she spoke to everyone. She spoke her mind too and that always got us into trouble.
“What did you say to him?” I asked, fearing the worst.
“Oh, nothing. I just said hey, I’m Jezebel - you know, the usual stuff,” She said, avoiding my eyes.
“You pissed him off, didn’t you?” I questioned, knowing the answer already and feeling my stomach drop as if I had just driven really fast down a hill and hadn’t expected the plummet.
“Well, you know - he was being rude, so I sort of spoke my mind.”
I let out a groan. He knew I was friends with her and now he thought I was crazy.
Students began to move away back to class, this was usually our queue to leave; the school didn’t have a bell. They said it was to teach us punctuality and we should invest in watches. Stragglers had to stay behind and pick up stompies. And that was a gross job, one I would avoid at all costs. As their voices droned away from us Mac and his friend began to move closer and I did not want to have this conversation in front of them.
Jez grabbed my shoulders and tilted her head to the side like a bird that was eyeing you up before it started pecking you. “It’s okay Crissy; there are tons of other guys. I mean, if your type’s broody and weird we can find you someone!” she said, exasperated.
“No! I don’t like him like him Jez. I just don’t think anyone should be set apart just because of something their dad did or didn’t do.” I glanced at Mac, his friend was standing beside him and they were watching us. I felt awkward. “Let’s just talk about this later, okay?”
Jez nodded. “Sure thing.”
“So how’s Mac doing?” I asked, trying to cover up my embarrassment and change the subject.
“Good. He’s having a party on Saturday; he wanted to know if we would come. Of course, I already agreed for the both of us.” She smiled mischievously, and fluffed out her hair.
“Count me in then.” I picked up my bag, the boys joining us as we fusedin with the students walking back to class. Luckily we weren’t the last people standing on the grass when MevrouVisser came down to supervise the picking up of damp and dirty cigarette nibs.
I shrugged out of my regulation black cardigan, revealing a plain white V-neck shirt underneath and chose a computer near an open window. The day had only gotten hotter as it progressed. Lazily, I began tapping my fingers on the desk, thinking about being outside with an ice cold glass of coke, and regretting that I had chosen to wear thick black stockings today.
“Everyone turn to the person next to you and start working on the group assignment.” Our IT teacher, Miss Price said over the babble of students arriving to class from second break.
I turned away from the window to see who my partner was and immediately felt the heat from the prefab classroom dampen my forehead. I closed my eyes and put my hand to my head, as if my palm could cool it, when I opened them I gave a start. It was him, his hands busy sketching in his now familiar doggy eared sketchbook.
I groaned inwardly and twisted around to see who was on my other side. Lauren Mill sat next to me on a white plastic chair. Her brown hair tied in a bun and her mouth moving as she yammered on to the blonde girl next to her, Lucy.
I turned back to my computer and accepted the print out Miss Price handed me. Lucy and Lauren would work together that was a given, so I was stuck with the moody boy next to me.
“So Jesse, you’re working with Cris,” Miss Price said her coffee coloured eyes pinned to her clipboard as she scribbled down the names of everyone’s partners. Jesse looked up; his facial expression confused as if he had just realized what was going on. He shot me a foul look and nodded at the golden blonde teacher. She returned the nod and moved to the next group.
I thought once she left we would continue working in an awkward silence but Jesse was the first to speak, surprising me. “Ok, let’s get this over with then,” he said, grabbing his printout and appraising it.
Now that I was close to him, I could see that his nails were painted black but had chipped and he wore a heavily scuffed plain silver ring on the second finger of his left hand. The ring was the only jewellery on him, he didn’t wear a necklace and his ears, which I could barely make out under the hair that had escaped from its tie, were not pierced. I wanted to ask him if he was some kind of Goth, but he scared me so I kept the question wrapped up firmly with tons of ‘never ask Jesse Valentine this’ stickers.
That didn’t mean I couldn’t ask him anything else, or attempt to explain myself. “Uh, Jesse – look, about what happened -” I began, but he cut me off.
“Don’t, I’m tired of being hounded by people who want to get all the gory details about my dad. I’m not going to discuss it, not with you or any of these imbeciles.” He began circling questions angrily, his pencil tip snapping because he was pressing so hard.
“That wasn’t what I was going to say,” I said, astounded, pushing a sharpener towards him and feeling as if he had slapped me across my face.
“Whatever. Let’s just do the work, okay? I don’t need any more friends.” He passed the sharpener back to me and we began working in silence. I felt like crying. I couldn’t understand why he was being so horrible to me.
We continued to work in silence; he never even glanced at me or checked what I was doing. The point of the exercise was to work in a team, but with Jesse, I felt suffocated and abused without him even using any words.
When the lesson finally ended I jumped up in reliefalmost knocking over my chair, grabbed my black shoulder bag that was covered in pins of various rock and punk bands and practically raced out the door. We had almost finished our joint project. We were the only ones who were even close to finishing in our class. I guess that was the benefit of working with someone who refused to speak to you.
When I reached the school gates I realized that Jez had already left. Usually she was leaning against the gate, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth while she waited for either her mom or me, whoever came first.Her mom must have been really early though because there was still a mass of students coming out of the gate. It was in times like this that I wished public school had worked out for me. At least there they had two gates and less traffic.
I looked around one last time for Jezebel and gave a shrug beginning my walk home. As soon as I turned the corner I groaned. Jesse was about a meter in front of me, it looked like he had just stood up from tying the laces of his doc martins. How had he made it ahead of me?
I stopped walking and dug in my bag for my I-pod and the ear phones I had borrowed from Mia. I popped one of the little Hello Kitty heads into my ear and began walking again. Despite myself, I watched him ambling in front of me. His head was hanging and he was dragging his feet, his hands shoved inside his pants front pockets. Every few steps, he kicked a stray 500 ML sprite bottle causing it to clatter as it bounced down the road.
I was about to press the play button on my phone when he caught my attention, my finger pausing in mid-air. He was singing in a very low key, a song I knew and loved and no one else in school other than Jez would like, seeing as most of them only listened to metal.
“Hey! Uh, Jesse,” I said, speeding up to keep pace beside him. I was going to force him to talk to me and ask him what his problem was if it was the last thing I did. I would get it out of him!
He looked up, a bit bewildered; probably surprised I was still bothering to try to talk to him.
“Well yeah, so, Jesse, you live a street up from me… um I'm not stalking you or anything I just thought I’d say hey, you know because you walk in front of me like every day and I’ve been trying to talk to you, but you know…” I blushed; I was blowing this completely and sounding like a total nut job.
“Umm.” He gave me a weird look and increased his pace.
“So I heard you singing. I love Atreyu. I didn't think anyone else had any decent music taste at school, you know, apart from Jezebel. Uh… well um yeah… it surprised me a bit to hear you singing a song from my favourite band.”
“Did it really?” He rolled his eyes.
“Uh… ” I was lost for words. It was like talking to a brick wall.
“Cris Scarlet, yeah I know who you are. Why do you insist on bothering me? Can’t you see I’m not interested?”
“I know you know who I am. I wasn’t implying-”
“Sure. I think I’d prefer taking the bus, at least no one there would consistently want to bug me.”
I skidded to a halt. “Why the hell are you being such a jerk? And you’re not interested in what exactly? I hope for your sake you didn’t think that I was interested in … in you! Because I’m not, far from it in fact! I just thought I’d be friendly.” I retorted loudly, my cheeks burning red.
Jesse stopped and stared back at me, shocked. “I’m not interested in you being my friend… or anyone else for that matter. I have enough to deal with as it is. You’re the one jumping to conclusions about who’s interested in who!” he spat back.
“Oh, my, god! You are the most annoying-”
“Good. Then leave me alone.”
“Oh! And where should I go? I have to go this way to get home, if you remember?”
“Well then, walk like you usually do.”
“Because now I have to talk to you!”
He sighed, clearly annoyed and incensed. “No you don’t!”
“But that’s the problem, I do!”
“Well I don’t know. You’ve got the wrong impression about me.”
He began walking towards me and when his face was about a centimetre from mine he stopped. His breath tickled my nose and smelt like peppermint gum. “Alright Cris, why have you been so eager to talk to me today? You’re relentless right now. Why now? What is it about today that made you decide to talk to me, even though we've been walking home the same way for over a week?”
I took a step back; I wasn’t comfortable with him invading my personal space bubble. Of course this movement caused him to smirk at me and my palm twitched, wanting nothing more than to slap the expression off his face. “Honestly? I have no idea… it just seemed right, when you were by yourself drawing and then I just had to try, even though you were being awful to me and the news about the war between Israel and Iran, it was as if something had clicked inside me, as if the world could end tomorrow and I had to talk to you before that happened.” I knew it sounded crazy and I was being crazy, but it was then I realized that what I had just told him was true. I felt helpless.
His sarcastic smile melted. He widened his eyes and looked around, as a flash of panic crossed his face. “Scarlet,” he muttered under his breath as if just realizing something.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“I'm sorry. I have to get home, my dad needs my help with - something,” he mumbled, turning quickly from me and hiding the expression on his face.
I opened my mouth to call after him and then closed it. Jesse Valentine was a strange guy. Popping the other Hello Kitty speaker into my ear I pressed play and carried on walking home. At least I had gotten him to have a conversation with me - if you could call it that.
I merged my original chapter two and three together to make this chapter. I’m hoping I can have some back-story in this chapter because it is more an explanation of things than anything else. I wanted to show how the world has changed in the future, but not by too much. I also wanted to explain the setting and setup of the school well expand on the school from what I had described of it in the first chapter. Of course Jesse and Cris need to meet for this to go anywhere, which is integral to the prophecy and that doesn’t just happen. Protagonist’s don’t just meet and become best friends and then action happens, how is that realistic in anyone’s world, this may be a fantasy but it is an urban fantasy. I want it to stay as realistic as I can make it.
So far I haven’t received any feedback on this chapter so I am hoping it works.