RED

When sixteen year old Rowan Rose is forced to leave her beloved Ireland and move thousands of miles to America and the small town of Hobbes Well she triggers
a feud lain dormant for centuries. The Hunters are unleashed and boundaries between friends and enemies become blurred as all trust is lost.
Rowan finds herself drawn to bad boy Zayn....but is he ally or foe?

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1. Hobbes Hell

I stared miserably at the computer praying for inspiration to strike; failing that a cyclone from Oz or an army of brain sucking zombies - anything to save me from the living hell that was the new semester ice-breaker. 

    The rest of my classmates seemed to be tearing through the assignment no doubt tapping out profiles bursting with side-splitting tales culled from their own personal sit-com. My brain was blank as the screen in front of me.

    The wildest thing I could own since moving to this back water town was adding an espresso shot to my skinny latte - hardly La Vida Loca. No, that particular chapter of my life was well and truly over; Dad had made quite sure of that.

    I rummaged through my mental filing cabinet for a hilarious anecdote one guaranteed to catapult me from pond life to popular and came up with...nothing. Nothing I’d want to tell a bunch of strangers anyway. And getting kicked out of my last school? Not exactly a story to share with the whole of Hobbes Well High on my first day.  

    Miss Pike - one third Computer Science teacher two thirds Disney Villainess (helmet hair, scarlet lips locked in a permanent impression of a cat’s butt – you know the type) loomed into view. ‘Problem?’

    Heat rose to my cheeks. ‘No, Miss Pike.’

    ‘Time may move a little slower back in Ireland Miss Rose, but here,’ she rapped her pencil impatiently on top of my terminal. ‘When I say ten minutes, I mean exactly that. No more.’

    ‘Yes, Miss Pike.’ Wow. Who peed in her Cheerios?

    I logged onto SchoolBook - Hobbes Well’s social network site and as instructed (or threatened depending on how you viewed the close proximity of Pike’s tapping pencil) began creating a profile page from scratch.  Under the teacher’s sharp gaze I typed in my name - Rowan Rose. Just nine letters, two words but enough to send her onto her next ‘victim’, a blonde of the swishy ponytail variety, dressed in what can only be described as the quickest way to a detention back home.

    ‘When I said have some fun with the assignment Mallory, I meant fun with a PG rating. I think what happened in Vegas should really stay in Vegas...’

     Mallory let out a squeak of protest as the teacher highlighted a chunk of the text and hit the delete button.

    ‘What’s to know?’ some bull-necked kid at the front drawled. ‘Cher, Celine Dion and the rest of the Sunset Strip already know she went there for a boob job.’

    A cheer went up from a few of the boys.  
    Mallory glowered murderously at her tormentor. 'There’s nothing fake about this body Brock Stevens.’

    ‘Not what your last date said.’ Brock ducked as a text book was hurled in his direction. ‘Can I come on your next road trip Mal? I could help carry your luggage.

    Miss Pike whipped a small red pad from her suit pocket, ‘The only trip you’ll be taking young man is a mandatory field trip to the library.  Consider yourself red-carded.’

    She tore a sheet off the pad and thrust it at him. The boy accepted the detention slip with a grunt and a shrug.

    Mallory clapped her hands with delight. ‘The library - someone better draw him a map. You’ve heard of the library, right Brock? Where they store the books? The big kid ones with no pictures?,’ she high fived a couple of her cronies.

    Without missing a beat the teacher ripped another page from her pad and passed it to Mallory. Now it was Brock's turn to smirk.

    Pike’s beady eyes scanned the room. ‘Anyone else care to join them?’

    Everyone developed a sudden fascination with their computer screen.

    ‘Good. Once you’ve finished your bio click the ‘go live’ button and your new profile page should be available to view. Simple’

    An explosion of bleeps and buzzes filled the air as profiles pinged into life. A butterfly of panic fluttered in my chest. I’d been a student at Hobbes Well High for approximately three hours, I’d spoken to the grand total of...let’s see...no one. Revealing the most mundane detail to just one person, let alone a whole school was going to be anything but ‘simple’.

    And to be perfectly honest, based on the last thirty minutes, did I really want to share anything other than the words bite me with the likes of Pep Squad Plastic Mallory Frost (‘Ultimate Hero after Mother Teresa - Kim Kardashian’) Or Swim Team Captain Brock Stevens:(Talents: ‘collecting phone numbers/breaking hearts’ and ‘farting the American Idol theme tune’)?

    I scanned the classroom for a friendly face - failing that, normal would do. Happily, my new classmates didn’t all resemble a bad episode of Glee.  A pretty girl sitting over by the door (braces, fabulous fro) returned my hesitant smile, as did a boy further along on my row (geek glasses, Smiths band T).   After surreptitiously checking my skirt wasn’t tucked in my knickers I relaxed. Smiling was a good sign, right? And anyone who worshipped at the altar of The Smiths like me couldn’t be an agent of evil, could they?

    And then I saw him and suddenly Hobbes Well Hell didn’t seem so bad. It wasn’t just the fact the boy on the back row was beautiful – and he was beautiful. With his high cheekbones, olive skin and long soft ropes of blue black hair he reminded me of an exotic creature snatched from its natural environment and dropped into a zoo. I admired his sheer audacity. Despite Miss Pike patrolling the aisles with the stealth of a ninja ready to pounce on any slackers the boy was making no attempt to look busy; quite the opposite.  Laid back almost to the point of laid out he slouched, Doc Marten boots up on the desk in front of him writing something in a small leather folio.

    Intrigued, I scanned through the class profile photos trying to match a name to the face and came up empty handed. It made sense. I doubted he’d even bothered to switch his computer on.

    I risked another glance. Almond shaped eyes the colour of brilliant malachite found mine and held them for the briefest of moments. A jolt of recognition coursed through me. The feeling was so intense it made me gasp. I know this boy.

    Impossible of course; I’d been in America for just two days, aware of the boy’s existence for less than five minutes. Yet the thought, the knowledge we’d met before hovered tantalisingly on the edges of my memory just a whisper out of reach.

    The boy turned back to his book, the connection between us lost, leaving me feeling strangely empty.

  ‘A reminder,’ Miss Pike’s nasal monotone sliced through the classroom like a fork down a chalk board, dragging me back to reality. ‘The chat facility on SchoolBook is there for conversations relating to coursework only.  It must not be used as a tool for hooking up.’

    My stomach flipped nervously - why was Miss Pike staring at me?

    Why was everyone staring at me?

    Mallory scooted her chair my way. ‘Wow you’re fast. Don’t they have boys overseas?’

    I followed her open mouthed gaze to my computer screen where a slideshow was running: a photo slideshow of every boy in my class.

    My hands flew to the keyboard pressing every combination of keys I could think of to delete the smiling images.  Nothing worked. If anything the pictures seemed to be getting larger with each refreshed page. There was lots of sniggering and a few brave souls stood up to get a better look before Miss Pike swooped in, pressed a few buttons and the screen went blank.

    Without a word she removed the now familiar red pad from her pocket, pulled off the top sheet and handed it to me. ‘This is a classroom, not a dating agency Miss Rose. You can research all Hobbes Well High has to offer on your own dime.’

    I stared at the slip, a Friday night detention on my first day? Come on’

    I could practically hear nineteen pairs of eyes swivel in my direction. I hadn’t just said that out loud had I?

    Miss Pike pinned me to my seat with a glare so fierce it could’ve barbecued steak. 'Excuse me?'

    Yep.  Out loud.

    ‘I wasn’t...um looking for a date, I was...I mean...detention seems...’
    De-tention,' Miss Pike mused. ‘Such an unforgiving word, such negative connotations; I prefer to call of it as ‘exit delayed.’ She paused theatrically. ‘My apologies, I interrupted your excuse, please go on.’

    I could feel the weight of expectation as the class stared at me. The pretty girl with the fabulous hair was signalling wildly for me to keep quiet.  

    ‘It just seems a little...harsh...?’ I completed the sentence with a question to soften it.

    ‘Harsh?’ Miss Pike tested the word on her tongue like it was in a foreign dialect. ‘Harsh.’ She repeated thoughtfully, tearing off a second red sheet with gusto and placing it on the keyboard in front of me.
    I looked at the teacher in disbelief. ‘But...’

    The class gasped as one as Miss Pike tore yet another page from her pad and added it to the scarlet pile.

    ‘But?’ She raised a quizzical eyebrow, bony fingers poised ready to snatch a fourth sheet

    I opened my mouth - and closed it just as quickly. It seemed the wisest, no, the only thing to do at this point; though I did allow myself a brief flight of fancy where I mailed my copy of Advanced Computer Science into her mouth.  Silencing a member of the faculty with a text book would’ve have a legendary anecdote to use for next term’s icebreaker.

    She fixed me with her dead-eyed stare.  ‘You’ll find we do things very differently at Hobbes Well High Miss Rose. Insubordination will not be tolerated here,’ she returned the detention book to her suit pocket and patted it.  ‘I have plenty of pages and plenty of time.’

    A lump of dread the size of a bowling ball settled in my stomach as I realised I was now a sizeable blip on this psycho teacher’s radar plus I had absolutely no idea how I was going to explain one detention to my Dad never mind three.  I needed to get moving on the assignment ASAP. I already had visions of being grounded till I turned thirty.  An F grade and I was certain he’d pack me off to military academy or something.

    A beep announced the arrival of an instant message. I skimmed down to the bottom of the page hoping to find a friendly message of support from one of my new classmates.  Given Miss Pike’s love of red carding the students I was pretty sure she wasn’t topping any popularity polls.

    Fear tiptoed up my spine as my brain processed the two brief words.

   ‘I know’

   I gripped the desk edge, fighting the urge to flee the room, my head already on a helicopter ride of wild possibilities. How could anyone know? It was impossible.  We were thousands of miles from home. Hobbes Well was a small town in the back of beyond, Dad had chosen it for that specific reason....    

    Unless. No.  That was impossible.

    With difficulty I arranged my face into a mask of unconcern and clicked on the message properties. Predictably, the sender was listed as anonymous but clearly someone in the room - in my class. I glanced over my shoulder at my fellow students hoping to gain some clue as to the perpetrator. After the red card bonanza everyone was bent studiously over their keyboards concentrating on their assignment.  

    Everyone that is, except the boy on the back row; he was gazing intently at me; cool green eyes appraising as they searched mine, his head tilted slightly to one side like I was a puzzle he was trying to solve.

 

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