C A L E B
“Uh, Tyra Woods.”
“No, dude, why would you even say that?”
Luke snickered, flicking a chip at me. “She isn’t that bad, Caleb. Give the girl some credit.”
I grimaced. “She went out with Jackson Smith. That, in itself, makes her bad.”
He just grinned at me from the other side of the lunch table. I sighed; it was hopeless. Every time we tried to guess who our Mates might look like, Luke just reverted back to the most unattractive girls for me. Which, in all honesty, I found extremely unfair considering Luke had a nose which closely resembled a squashed orange. If anyone should be getting a Mate like Abbie Reid, it should be Smoothie Snout over there.
Alternating between picking at my lunch and flipping the pages of my biology book, I tried to focus on the words in front of my face. But, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t. There was an itch niggling at the back of my mind—something I couldn’t get rid of. It had been there for weeks, pestering me again and again.
Now, I sighed, scratching at the back of my neck. My mother had said it was a normal symptom of the fact that the Claim was drawing closer.
My stomach flipped.
The event each of us had been told about since we were young. That one day, that one hour, where the silver band embedded in our wrists is removed forever.
I absent-mindedly stroked my finger over the band digging into my skin. The cool of the metal singed my fingertip. It was a reminder for each of us that we are merely cattle. The means to solving a problem. We were labelled from the minute we were born, branded to another human being before we had even taken our first breath.
The fact that the number leading me to my Mate was imprinted onto my skin, just underneath the slip of metal, killed me. The band could be plugged into any computer. Everyone was two clicks away from finding out who they were going to devote their lives to.
And yet no one could get the damn band off.
Oh, people had tried. Of course people had tried. People are still found trying all of the time. The band is clamped so hard onto the skin that it becomes impossible to shift after about a year of wearing it. By the time you reach your eighteenth birthday, it has almost become part of your bone structure.
Kids had tried everything; tools, kitchen appliances, drills...it had even been rumoured once that someone had chopped their lower arm off in an attempt to pry the band off.
“Woah, woah, woah,” Luke hissed, his voice dragging me from my thoughts. “Check her out.”
I lifted my head, pushing my dorky black glasses back up the bridge of my nose.
The girl walked into the canteen—and by walked, I mean strode, like she owned the entire room. Her hair was dark and glossy, brown enough to be black. Her legs near enough ended at her armpits. Even from where I sat, I could see that her skin was the colour of milky coffee.
She was undeniably gorgeous.
Slim, tall and completely furious.
Luke was beside himself. He slapped the table, barely refraining from hooting across the canteen at her.
“She’s so hot,” he hissed cheerfully.
I wasn’t gonna deny it; the girl was beautiful. But the anger that vibrated through her body almost consumed me. I could almost feel it burning in my own veins.
“I’m looking for the ass who owns the white Vauxhall that’s parked outside?” Despite not shouting, her voice was loud enough to silence the entire canteen.
Luke gulped and shot me a panicked glance. I just rolled my eyes, shutting my book.
“I guess I would be the ass you’re looking for then,” I said, calmly, taking my glasses off and slipping them into my bag. All the while, I didn’t take one look at her. I was scared she might frazzle me with laser beams or something.
In a waft of vanilla and cinnamon, the girl was standing beside our table. Luke looked like he was away to pass out.
She glared at me, crossing her arms across her tight, black top. “You blocked me in. Move your car.”
I tried not to get distracted by the fact she was close enough for me to see her eyes were a heavy golden brown, and replied, “Fine, I’ll move it straight after last period.”
“No, move it now.”
Okay, hot or not, this girl was a complete drama queen. And not to mention a total bitch.
“And just what are you gonna do if I don’t?”
Luke kicked me hard under the table. You’re blowing it, man, I could hear him thinking.
The girl gritted her teeth—the muscles in her jaw flexed once, twice.
“Move it,” she snapped. “I can’t do anything to you if you don’t, but I’ll make you sorry for it, kid.”
I almost spat. Kid? Kid?
“Excuse me, but—“
“He’ll do it,” Luke interrupted, almost tripping over himself as he hurriedly stood up. The girl glanced at him warily. “Sorry,” he carried on. “My friend seems to have suffered a bout of amnesia and has forgotten his manners. He’ll move the car right now.”
Luke shot me a dark look. It was a losing battle.
I held my hands up in surrender. “Fine. I’ll move the stupid car.”
Grabbing my bag, I slung it over one shoulder and stormed out of the canteen.
The whispers started before I’d even left the room.
Did a girl seriously just get Caleb Dwight to do something?
He’s never even looked at a girl before—and yet after a few sharp slaps, he’s falling at this new one’s feet?
Pathetic, man. He can’t even stand up to a girl.
I strode into the car park, my Vans angrily slapping the concrete. Who the hell did she think she was? Marching in there on her first day and ordering me around? What a total nutcase.
Muttering darkly to myself, I chucked my bag into the foot well of my car and slipped the key into the ignition. As I started to reverse, a bang made my head snap back to face the windscreen.
The girl stood, palms slammed against the hood of my car, eyes blazing.
I swung my door open, getting out and slamming it shut.
“What is your god damn problem?!”
“You dented my car!” She screamed, stabbing her finger in the direction of the beaten blue Laguna sitting behind my car.
“No I didn’t, I’d barely started moving the car before you stormed out here and started shouting at me!”
The girl suddenly raced around to the back of my car. I followed, the anger slowly draining from me.
“And what,” she snapped, pointing to a cobalt blue scrape on the back of the Vauxhall. “Is that?”
My mouth struggled to close. My beautiful, two-month old baby girl...scraped. Ruined.
Fury flashed across my face. “You did this, didn’t you? To frame me!”
The girl stared at me, disbelief clouding her features. Then, she started screaming again.
“How the hell would I manage to scrape your car like—“
“What have I ever done to you? I barely know y—“
“You’ve bashed my car and acted like a total—“
“Will you two stop this incessant shouting?”
We both broke off, panting, to turn and look at the headmaster.
The old man glared at the two of us. He was about one hundred and sixty, yet still stood tall and had a great body. His weathered face glowered darkly at me.
“Caleb Dwight, please refrain from yelling at and scaring off our new pupils please.” He turned his frown to the girl. “And, you, Megan Carter, can stop accusing my student body and storming around like a loose hurricane. The two of you will move pass this disagreement and start acting your age please.”
I scowled, chewing my lip. The band burned against my wrist.
The girl—Megan—deflated. Her eyes lost their fire, and the anger dripped out of her limbs. Her shoulders dropped.
“Sorry, Mr Williams,” she mumbled, hiking her bag higher up on her shoulder. Her silver bracelet winked at me from underneath her sleeve. “It won’t happen again.”
He nodded. “Good. Now, go to your classes.”
Shooting her one last dirty look, I locked my car and marched back to school.
Despite not getting to move my car or give that girl a piece of my mind, I knew one thing for certain.
I hated Megan Carter.