Aislinn was extremely excited about the first day of school of her junior year. She was finally an upper class men able to go off campus to Bluebird's for lunch, her home room teacher was Mr. Everett the most sarcastic, blow off teacher in the school, and she had Algebra II with the mysterious Hunter Morris. It was going to be her year to own the school, and the small town of Thorndale, Texas.
“There's a new girl this year,” Monica Phillips said without preface. She'd run up to Aislinn from behind, notebooks in hand and her short, black hair disheveled.
“Well hello to you too, Moany.” Aislinn flipped her blonde, wavy locks over her shoulder so her joking smile would have maximum effect.
“Ah, still with the nickname? I thought that'd be over by now.” Monica seemed to nearly bounce down the hallway and Aislinn began to do the same.
“I think that nickname may stick forever,” Aislinn goaded while maneuvering her petite figure through a group of scared freshmen. “So what do you know about this chick?" she asked once her and Monica were reunited.
“Nothing much,” Monica lied, grinning to suppress all the juicy gossip she'd recovered from the front office.
“You lying cow!” Aislinn joked. Monica busted out laughing and literally pulled her friend into their homeroom. The two found a seat in the middle of the last row of desks. They were the first ones in the room, so Monica felt comfortable talking freely.
“Well, she just moved here from like, I don't know, somewhere like New York or Boston, one of those places. Single parent, though I couldn’t figure out which one. Somebody said that she went a little crazy at her last school, like she started seeing people and things that weren't there and nearly burnt the gym down. Totes cray.” Monica finished, beaming with pride.
“That's messed up! Why did they move her down here?” Aislinn replied.
“I think her parental wanted her to live somewhere quiet, like maybe she got addicted to drugs and the party scene up in the city, so small towns were the answer.”
“What are you guys talking about?” A voice jolted the girls from behind. They turned around to find that Adam Koller, captain of the football team, basketball team, baseball team, head of NHS and BADD (the stupidly named Bulldogs Against Destructive Decisions) was standing behind them all smiles. His shaggy blonde hair fell perfectly around his naturally bronzed face, and Aislinn took a moment to admire him before Monica answered.
“We're talking about the new girl.”
“Oh, yeah. Nivea, right?” He said as he slid into the desk next to Aislinn. She smiled coyly to herself, an act that went unnoticed by Adam, but not by Monica.
“It's Naveah. I'm pretty sure she has this homeroom too.” Monica replied. As she finished her statement, Naveah walked in, almost as if it'd been blocked that way.
The girl wasn't much to look at, and not in the typical way where someone describes a girl as plain but she's actually gorgeous. She was just plain. Naveah had no distinct features, dull brown hair that was only slightly brushed, and no fashion sense at all.
“Is that her?” Aislinn asked.
“I'm going to say yes,” Adam answered, his jaw nearly on the floor. Aislinn tried not to take it personally, new girls have a certain appeal whether they're pretty or not, but Aislinn couldn’t help but wonder what was attractive about her other than not knowing her since pre-K?
The entire room, which had grown in number since Monica first starting spilling her gossip, seemed to watch as Naveah found her seat near the front. She moved more clumsily than Aislinn ever felt possible, and she nearly felt sorry for the newbie.
The final bell for the period rang, and Mr. Everett came waltzing in, which is just a fancy way of saying that he commanded attention when he entered. He sat his briefcase down on his desk and pulled out the role sheet. His just-a-tad-too-long brown hair fell over his eyes which were always bloodshot and weary. He was a little too tall and a lot too skinny, and he exuded an air of “I’ve seen too many things in the last forty-one years.”
“All right, guys. I know most of you, so this is just a formality. You know the drill, when I call your name say 'present,' if you want to be called something else, speak up. And, no, I will not call you Batman, Wayne,” Mr. Everett looked directly at Wayne Miller as the class giggled.
“She prefers Moany,” Wayne interjected. Mr. Everett looked up from his sheet quizzically before responding.
“I don't even want to know. Okay, Baltsal?” The list continued until he hit a name that no one knew. “Hockley? Wait- Hockley? Who's Hockley?” He again looked up and found Naveah. She attempted to scoot down in her seat as if she'd somehow disappear. “I don't know you. Why are you in my class?” Mr. Everett continued.
“Because this is where my schedule said to be,” she all but squeaked. If there had been any sarcasm to it, Aislinn would have commended her on her wit, but she meant it wholeheartedly. She was told to be here, and she showed up.
“Okay, good enough I suppose,” Mr. Everett stated. He appreciated a smart aleck, someone who kept him on his toes, but it was apparent Miss Hockley wasn't going to. “What's your story?” he asked. Naveah hesitated, visibly upset.
“I just moved here from L.A. My mom wanted fresher air or something,” she finally replied. Aislinn looked at Monica and mouthed “New York” in a way that undermined Monica's information gatherings skills. Moany jotted down “same thing” on a piece of paper.
“Okay, then,” he looked back to his sheet.
After he'd run through all the names and given a small speech on home room procedures, expectations, and reasons to bug him (someone was bleeding, the apocalypse was happening, etc), the teens were left to their own devices. At this point, all eyes darted towards Naveah in unison, and she again tried to hide within her desk.
The room was too silent for anyone to be the first to approach the new specimen, but everyone wanted to know her elaborated story. Eventually, after no one engaged her, they all went back to talking to the people they knew. Stories of family vacations were drawn out to the last detail of vomit color after getting drunk with some other vacation kids, people gossiped about who lost whose virginity and to whom, and the party where Monica got her new nickname was rehashed in all its blurry glory. All the while, Aislinn kept one eye on Naveah.
The bell rang thirty minutes later, and the kids ran from the room. Monica said goodbye to Aislinn and Adam before heading to her physics class, and the two remaining strolled towards Mrs. B's English III with a romantic tension hanging between them.
“So, we never really finished that conversation, did we?” Adam asked, testing the waters very carefully.
“No, I guess we didn't,” Aislinn grinned slyly to herself. Before the Moany Party had reached it's...climax, for lack of a better word, the two had been toying with the idea of maybe “going steady.” This conversation was of course cut short, and the two hadn't had a chance to pick up where they left off.
“I'd kind of like to, if you don't mind. Why don't you meet me at the CefCo after school today?” Adam asked, metaphoric butterflies in his stomach.
“I'd love to, but... volleyball try-outs start promptly at 4,” she hung her head, a little defeated.
Am I really about to give my shot at love away for volleyball? She paused for a second. Wow, did I really just think of blowing off try-outs for a team that it guaranteed to go to state where college scouts will be watching me kick ass for a guy I'll be able to talk to any other time? What is wrong with me?” she thought.
“No, it's cool, I get it. Um, football two-a-days start next week, so we should work something out soon,” Adam had a way of always finding solutions.
“Yeah, I'd really like to get together,” she responded and they reached the door for their next class. They entered with eyes locked on each other, but Adam was still able to see Naveah sitting by herself in the far corner of the drab room. He took Aislinn by the hand, a move that sent goosebumps up her arms, and led her to the seats nearest the noob.
“Hi, I'm Adam, and this is Aislinn. You're Naveah, right?” he said whilst setting his books on the seat caddy cornered to her. Aislinn took the seat behind him and smiled brightly at the girl, who may have inched even further into her desk than she'd done the period before.
“Vey, actually, people call me Vey,” she replied as quietly as she possibly could. Aislinn had to stop herself from asking why. Naveah is a stupid name on its own, but to shorten it to Vey? There's something grating about that kind of thing to Aislinn.
“What's your story then? No one moves to BFN for 'fresh air.'” Aislinn asked. It may have come off as abrasive, but those who knew Aislinn knew that she always got to the point and valued the truth. Naveah obviously didn't know Aislinn, and she became hesitant.
“It's okay, Vey, we're just curious as to why anyone would move to Thornedale,” Adam diffused the situation perfectly with a small wink and a winning smile.
“My mom...she just... uh. Well L.A. is just a big city and she got transferred to Austin and wanted like this... small town kind of thing.” The way Naveah spoke with so many pauses and filler words suggested she never really knew what she was going to say, like her brain couldn't keep up with her mouth.
“I guess that makes sense,” Aislinn lied. She couldn't imagine why anyone would move here. “So what's your schedule like?” she asked. Naveah handed over a yellow paper so the other two could examine it. “It looks like the three of us also have Theater II together. You'll love it, Mrs. Craven is the best! Ummm let's see, you have Physics with Adam and, ah, we have Algebra II together. That should be fun!” Aislinn smiled widely and handed the paper back to her.
“Yeah... that should be,” Naveah said, apprehensively.
Their conversation was stopped by Mrs. B's entrance. The temperature seemed to drop twenty degrees, and all the happy conversations ceased. Aislinn leaned over to whisper an encouragement about how the teacher scared everyone and how you just have to deal with it for forty-five minutes a day, but she was stymied by the look on Naveah's face. It could easily be summed up as pure terror. Aislinn could imagine being caught off guard by a teacher like Mrs. B, what with her six foot frame and preternatural ice blue eyes that dug holes into misbehaving students, but to be that petrified by her was an over reaction.
Aislinn glanced at Mrs. B to make sure she hadn't grown another six heads only to see that the older woman was glaring, full on glaring back at the girl.
“Mrs. B? Are we going to get started by turning in our summer reading assignment? I'd really like to stop carrying around this diagram of the Scarlet Letter's gallows,” Aislinn asked, making sure to tread as lightly as possible. The woman snapped out of her state, though with extreme reluctance, to look at Aislinn. The latter gave her biggest “future prom queen” smile so as to show that she meant no harm. Mrs. B took one more glance at Naveah before beginning the lesson.
“That was weird,” Aislinn whispered in Adam's ear. He nodded in agreement.
The rest of the class went just as awkwardly as Mrs. B couldn't keep her eyes off of Naveah who looked so tense she could have shit a diamond. When the bell rang to release the class everyone was glad the tension was over, but none so much as Naveah. Aislinn didn't even have time to offer to walk her to Algebra II before she'd bolted from the room.
“She's very, very odd,” Aislinn decided aloud.
“Yeah, but she seems like good people,” Adam stated.
“Possibly. I guess I'll see you at lunch then,” Aislinn didn't want to leave him for the next two periods, but she knew she had to. He noted this and pulled her into a hug.
“I guess you will,” he said.
The two pulled away and headed to their next classes.
Aislinn found Naveah in room 2030, again sitting all alone. She went up to her despite Ciara Fontes desperately calling to Aislinn to sit with the wannabe Queen Bees. Ciara was far too fake for her own good. Whereas Aislinn ruled the school with kindness, Ciara ruled with fear. It would have been acquisition of territory if the two joined forces, but Aislinn had no interest in forming a clique with someone as two-faced as she.
“We meet again,” Aislinn said with her best impersonation of a Bond villain. Naveah smiled and Aislinn sat down. “Don't worry too much about Mrs. B. She's just in the business of scaring kids,” she continued.
“You have no idea,” Naveah said. She immediately regretted this and hoped that Aislinn wouldn't notice.
“Wait, what?” Aislinn asked.
“Nothing, don't worry about it,” Naveah shrugged her off. Aislinn was about to protest when she caught the dark silhouette of the most untouchable boy in school, the one who made mothers lecture while reliving their own experiences, the kind who wore all black but managed not to look too gothic, the kind who drove a motorcycle, the kind who would be unattractive by twenty-eight, but no one would care. His name was Hunter Morris, and if he'd give her the time of day, Aislinn would make it well worth his while. His jet black hair hung in just the right way around his milky skin. He was pale for Texas, not vampire pale, more video game addicted pale, and he had the most piercing green eyes. In a word, he was perfection.
Every girl in the room stopped what they were doing to stare at him during his entrance. He ignored them all, but something in Aislinn's direction caught his eye. Her heart stopped, her thoughts racing. She knew this would be her year. Yeah, Adam may like her, but she could have one night with Hunter first and there would be no hurt feelings. However, her fantasy was short lived. Instead of resting his eyes on her, he moved them to study Naveah.
New girl syndrome strikes again she thought. Unlike Adam who had looked, admired, and gotten over it, Hunter stood transfixed. The females in the class now turned their eyes to Naveah. If looks could kill, the scene would have been compared to a firing squad execution. Naveah gaped at him, but not in just a “wow, he's gorgeous” way. She was perplexed, perhaps like she was seeing something no one else could.
Hunter eventually sat down and the room went back to normal, though with a lot of burning questions lingering.
“Who...who is that?” Naveah asked. Aislinn rolled her eyes. She wasn't a shallow person, she also wasn't a mean person, but she'd spent most of her pubescent days dreaming of Hunter, and she'd be damned if the new girl (who was honestly a 4 to Aislinn's 7) thought she had a chance.
“That's Hunter Morris. I wouldn't bother. Plenty of better women have tried and failed to gain his attention,” Aislinn winced at her own statement. It wasn't meant to come out that harshly, she just didn't want the new girl to aim too high.
The next few periods dragged on with minimal highlights. Aislinn was happy to have Monica in her US History class and also in Newspaper. Aislinn informed her of the incident with Mrs. B, but had much more to discuss when it came to Naveah and Hunter.
“I swear, if Hunter falls for her because she's new, I'm going to die,” Monica stated quite dramatically.
“Yeah, well fresh meat is always more enticing, even if she's not the prettiest crayon in the box,” Aislinn replied. She tried not to be too bitter, if Naveah were of the male persuasion, Aislinn and Monica would probably already be fighting over him.
Nothing of significance happened for the rest of the hour, and when the bell rang for lunch, the girls were more than happy to leave. Despite having off campus, everyone stayed in the cafeteria for the first day just in case the school gave away free sodas and ice cream like they'd been known to do.
The girls walked to the cafeteria in stitches over the jokes they'd made and found a seat with Adam and Naveah.
“Hi, I'm Monica. I don't think we've officially met,” she extended her hand and Naveah took it with caution.
“I think someone was telling me about you earlier. They called you Moany?” Naveah said, innocently. Monica turned red in anger, but managed to suppress it.
“It's just Monica. Thanks,” she snapped. Naveah was taken aback, but the group ignored the exchange.“So, someone here told me that you don't like our dear Mrs. B,” she continued.
“Oh, lay off it, Monica,” Adam pleaded.
“You know she doesn't mean any harm, Adam,” Aislinn interjected.
“Still, give the girl a break on her first day,” Adam said, finality creeping into his voice. Monica and Aislinn left well enough alone, not wanting to cause any trouble though Aislinn wondered if the new girl liked being talked about as if she weren't at the table.
“I'm... uh.... I'm going to go maybe get some food,” Naveah stated with grating uncertainty. She stood, nearly falling over in the process, and walked to the food lines.
“Wow. Grade-A weirdo,” Monica said when Naveah was out of earshot.
“Give her a few weeks, this might just be too much for her,” Aislinn advised. She watched Naveah enter the line, then get yanked by an arm that looked suspiciously like the golden arm of Hunter.
“I'll be back. I require sustenance as well,” Aislinn declared. She was out of her seat and across the room in two seconds.
When she reached the spot where Naveah had been standing, she looked around. The girl, and more importantly, Hunter, were nowhere to be seen. She was about to give up and grab some chicken nuggets when she heard voices from a slightly ajar door.
No freaking way Aislinn thought. They cannot seriously be screwing right now! She inched toward the door, afraid of what she'd hear. It's not like she'd ever really talked to Hunter, but it's not like he really ever talked to other girls. If he'd have opened up just a little, he would have fallen in love with Aislinn, she was almost certain of it.
“Stop lying to me! Who are you?” Hunter's whisper was as serious and threatening as if he'd been yelling across the room.
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Naveah squeaked. Aislinn crept closer to the door, being careful not to draw attention to herself.
“You bear the mark, you've seen me for what I am, you're not of the Elocid kind,” he stated.
What the hell is 'elocid?’ Aislinn had to stop herself from asking aloud.
“Elocid? What's that?” Naveah verbalized Aislinn's thought.
“It means you're not from the human world. It's how you can see my true self. I need to know if you're one of us... or one of them,” there was danger in Hunter's voice, but all Aislinn could think about was what the fuck kind of world they're from if they're not “Elocid.”
“I just started seeing this stuff last year. Things from nightmares. No one believed me. I thought it was just L.A. I guess I was wrong,” Naveah replied.
“There you are!” Monica's voice came from behind. Aislinn nearly wet herself with surprise.
“Ah, yeah, here I am,” Aislinn looked at the door to make sure she wasn't detected.
“What're you doing?” Monica looked at the door as well, trying to figure out what may have been so interesting.
“Uh, the lunch ladies were talking about next pizza day. Spoiler alert: I wouldn't eat it,” Aislinn was a great actress because she was also a great liar.
“Ewww, okay, well let's get some chicken nuggets while they're still lukewarm,” Monica said, and she again literally pulled her friend in the direction she wanted to go.
Naveah didn't appear for the rest of the lunch period. She was not spotted again until the next period when the three found her in the black box. The three sat down in the seats surrounding her and pretty much ignored what had happened in the cafeteria. Idle chatter filled the room and rapidly dissipated when Hunter Morris entered.
“What the hell is he doing in here?” Adam asked. He'd never been a fan of Hunter's as they were rivals for most drool worthy boy.
“I don't know,” Monica said, jaw nearing the floor. “I checked the roster thrice, and he wasn't on it.” Monica was not normally one to be wrong. She typically knew everything that happened in the school and took extreme pride in that.
Hunter pulled a small blue slip of paper out of his pocket and walked over to Mrs. Craven. He handed it to her discretely and walked toward where Aislinn and the others were sitting. He stopped two rows ahead and positioned his chair to where he had one eye on the teacher and one on Naveah.
“Dafuq is this?” Aislinn asked. Monica shrugged, feeling slightly defeated.
“I can't tell what level of creepy this is,” Adam whispered in Aislinn's ear. The sensation sent involuntary shivers through her and suddenly Hunter Morris wasn't so interesting.
Hunter and Naveah rag dolled their way through the mandatory warm ups and opted out of every improve game played for the period. Aislinn kept stealing glances at the two, but she never once saw them talk. Every so often their facial expression would change like someone had communicated, but she didn't once see their mouths move. Aislinn eventually shrugged it off and thought of her next ridiculous character to play.
When the final bell rang, Naveah and Hunter shot out of sight before anyone else had time to get their backpacks. Aislinn decided that they were going off to make-out in Hunter's car (which bugged her, but not as much as it would have if Adam hadn't been there), and shrugged it off. She gave both Monica and Adam a hug and headed towards the gym for try-outs.