The Gifted

What happens when an ordinary girl is cast into a world of magic and dangerous people all because of one fateful night? Ellie knows nothing of the world of The Gifted, that is, until she becomes one by pure chance. To no fault of her own, she's thrown into a world that mere moments ago she would have considered impossible to even exist, and is forced to try and find her legs in this new world, will the help of a couple of people - friends might be stretching it, though. As if this wasn't enough, there seems like there are darker things going on outside of the normal Gifted life, and it looks like Ellie might just get caught up in it...

Note: Wrote this two years ago, but I just joined here and I'm like, eh, I need to post something, right? I feel like its corny and could do with a lot of improvement, but I just want to get something out here, I suppose. Enjoy! If this gets enough love, I might just finish it :0 Have a wonderful day! <3


3. A Rocky Start

~~A Rocky Start
I didn’t sleep well on the days leading up to my start at The Academy for the Extra Gifted of The Gifted. Too much was on my mind, and I was still soaking in all the new information I had learnt so quickly – it was as if Lauren has dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over my head and she was telling me to run around in the snow and not freeze to death. I found it difficult, to say the least. Even so, Lauren was kind and supplied me with any more information she thought useful to me, and was always willing to answer my questions.
It was still overwhelming, though.
I learnt over the next for days that each Team would have a main room and one room for each person, so in a sense, their own dorms and living quarters. ‘To make it feel homier’ was one of the reasons supplied, though I couldn’t help but feel it would only make it feel anything but that. I was also informed that along with the mandatory subjects every Gifted had to learn, you could also choose some electives, which would be discussed with you between yourself and whatever Seniors you find within your team. That is, of course, after the teams are decided – apparently at first, Juniors and Seniors will be divided into two different groups while everyone has their first breakfast at the Academy, and will finally sit with their team once their team has been announced after everyone has finished eating. Oh, right, and each age group pairing things, like 15s and 21s, or 20s and 26s, will have their own dining room and oh-my-god-the-place-must-be-huge. Everything was getting to my mind, and I was beginning to worry that something had been missed, or something would go wrong, even with Lauren insisting that I’d be perfectly fine.
Strangely enough, it was relief I felt when it was finally time for Lauren and I to leave the building that Lauren had called a ‘safe-spot’. Right, I almost forgot – In the building Lauren and I had been in for the previous five days, there were only two small rooms, both furnished like the one I had woke up in, and one main rain connecting them both with a small kitchen, lounge and bathroom off to the side.
That was it.
Above all that, everything was white. Everything. Food, soap, clothes, gosh – it was all white, and quite frankly I was sick of it. The doors and windows had all been locked and closed to entire time, as a ‘safety-precaution’. It occurred to me that this was why Lauren had been so nervous upon entering my room. Apparently, I was originally seen as potentially dangerous and not to be trusted, but after Lauren had talked with me she had decided that I would be safe enough. She had insisted that everything had only been taken as a precaution, for, in her words, ‘things may have gone differently’, - and that was all she would say on the subject.
“Ready to leave?” Lauren asked patiently while I pointlessly tried to tidy up my pig-sty of a hairdo in the bathroom mirror. With a sigh, I gave up, and nodded. Together, we exited the building and found ourselves out in the Australian bush – the smell of eucalyptus trees and wildlife were familiar to me, reminding me of whenever Dad and I had gone on road trips together. Everything looked as it should - the sun was shining, and not a cloud was to be seen…
Basically, it was a perfect day.
Apart from all the mozzies, of course. Shooing them away from her face, Lauren procured a bottle of mozzie repellent and sprayed it all about the two of us, though it did barely anything to help. Realising we would not win the battle with them, we made a bee-line for Lauren’s car parked out the front alongside the dirt road.
“Do you think that someone, somewhere, has the Gift to tell mosquitos to leave them alone?” I asked Lauren as I slapped another mozzie on my arm and finally made it to the car, entering the passenger seat beside Lauren who quickly closed the doors in an effort to keep as many mozzies out as possible.
“Probably. I’m severely envying them right about now,” Lauren sighed, starting the car and pulling out of the gravel drive-way, away from the ‘safe-spot’, which, as to be expected, was also white on the outside.
We spent the next few minutes in a warzone with the mozzies that had managed to make it into the car when we had gotten in as Lauren drove out of the property we had been in and onto the main road. As a team, she would point out any mozzies she could see through the corner of her eyes, and I would murder them for her. It took a good thirty minutes before we finally killed the last one. Exhausted, I slumped back into the car seat and closed my eyes, deciding to run over everything just one last time.
“So, there’ll be several thousand students in total all attending this Academy?” I asked her.
“Yep,” Lauren confirmed, her eyes on the road.
“And the Academy Staff - they have all my stuff from my original home already packed there somewhere, which will be delivered to whatever dorm room becomes my team’s, once we are finally settled in?”
“You sure Dad wouldn’t be wondering about me right now? I mean, you guys had to literally break into his house to get his stuff…” I trailed off, repeating one of my doubts I had voiced many, many times.
“As I’ve said before – we’re sure. Your father never even knew we had been there, and for all he’s concerned your old bedroom was simply a spare room within his house,” she answered patiently for about the thousandth time.
I was aware that I missed my Dad, but knew that currently there was nothing I could do about it. I swore to myself that I’d figure something out later, though, when everything had settled down. With a sigh, I nodded, and accepted my fate.
“You look as if someone had just told you that you were about to be executed,” Lauren chuckled as she looked at my expression in the mirror above her.
“That pretty much sums it up, huh?” I groaned. Again, Lauren laughed softly, shaking her head.
“Don’t be a drama-queen – you’ll be fine, for goodness sake. Cheer up now,” she laughed, patting my knee in a comforting manner.
“Hey, Lauren, I spy with my little eye that dead tree over there on the horizon,” I said with utter boredom and lack of interest, pointing out the gnarled, rotting tree standing out in all the finer green and greyish trees.
“I don’t think that’s how the game works, honey,” Lauren smiled, supressing another laugh with a short cough.
“Lauren,” I said, my tone bored and disinterested, my head lolling back against the seat.
“Yes, Ellie?” Lauren asked politely, turning to face me for a second.
“That tree is me, Lauren. It’s my spirit animal,” I told her, my expression completely serious. Lauren snorted and laughed, unable to help herself as she shook her head at me.
“Quite the drama-queen indeed, young Ellie,” Lauren teased. In response, I lazily poked my tongue out at her, still slumped against the car-seat. Sighing, she took one hand off the wheel and fumbled around with some of the buttons between us in the middle of the car. “Surely some music will cheer you up, your sorry little thing,” she decided, pressing PLAY on whatever CD she had in the car.
I set bolt upright, my heart jumping in my throat as the lyrics played at max volume.
I glared at Lauren so darkly I swore that the sun was about to go into hiding.
She turned to face me, a pained expression on her features.

Immediately, Lauren turned the music off and sighed, closing her eyes briefly in annoyance. “Not my choice in music, believe me, Ellie,” she told me sadly.
“So what exactly was that CD doing in your car, then?” I asked accusingly, my arms crossed.
“That… would be James’ fault,” she sighed, defeated. Suddenly interested, I sat up once more and turned to face her, my curiosity getting the better of me.
“Who’s he, if I may ask?”
“One of my two sons, the other being Duke. Both are fifteen like you – in fact, you’ll probably see them at the Academy today.
“They’re attending?” I asked, sounding impressed.
“Yes, yes they are,” she sighed.
“Cool!” I said, laughing a little in my excitement. Lauren simply rolled her eyes.
“Cool? More like oh no, mind you. James is quite the handful,” she laughed heartily, shaking her head, as if she were remembering memories of her children. I laughed with her then, smiling broadly. “Although I swear that sometimes they may well be the death of me one day, I won’t deny I love them. But don’t you dare tell them that, Ellie, you hear me?” she joked and laughed, and I joined in once again.
“Alright. Got it,” I nodded, still grinning.
The rest of the car ride went by in a blur. It took about 2 hours of traveling past a landscape that barely changed as we progressed – just more gum trees, more trees, a bit of grass and OH GOD WATCH OUT FOR THAT KANGAROO- in other words, the typical Aussie outback.
No wildlife were harmed on the ride, thankfully.
The Academy of the Extra Gifted of The Gifted was easy to spot, even from a decent drive away. It towered above the trees, it’s grey walls looming high and ominous at first, then seeming more welcoming by the minute as I could see all the little touches added to it to make it looks more friendly – rainbow lights, turned off in the day, pictures painted at random along the walls surrounding the main buildings, engravings of current and previous students’ names on pillars, posters for random things all strewn up haphazardly – it was amazing, to say the least. Finally finding words to speak with as Lauren searched for a park (the place was absolutely packed), having stared, gaping, at the Academy the entire approach, I finally voiced my opinion of the place.
“It’s AMAZING!” I exclaimed ecstatically, facing Lauren with pure glee written all over my face.
“Looks a bit drab to me,” Lauren said, cocking her head to the side as if she were only now just observing it.
“It’s like a freaking MANSION CASTLE!” I squealed, bouncing up and down in the seat.
It was, admittedly, not my proudest moment – though, looking out of the car windows, it was clear that I was not the only first year to feel the same way, as ‘OOHs’ and ‘AHHs’ could be heard from many of the new students. The car had barely pulled to a stop before I was ridding myself of my seatbelt and bounding out the car to get a better look at the place.
“Still looks like a prison to me,” Lauren murmured under her breath, although she couldn’t help smiling as well as she exited the car and locked the doors after me.
“It’s so big,” I breathed as I headed towards the gates by myself, spinning around to take in the crowd, and then to once more face the Academy.
“Girls love it big,” whispered a scrawny, sandy brown haired boy with brown eyes who had appeared out of nowhere dressed in a grey hoddie and jeans. I looked at him, terribly horrified, and he immediately burst into loud laughter. “Oh my goodness, you should see your face!” he guffawed, placing a hand on his stomach as he laughed uncontrollably. Beside him, a red-haired young boy with hazel eyes closely resembling – no, identical looking to Lauren’s eyes - sighed and rolled his own.
“You wouldn’t be Duke, would you?” I asked, still a little miffed at the other boy’s filthy comment. The red-head seemed surprised, then nodded.
“Yeah, that’s me. Should I know you?” he asked me politely, offering a hand in greeting, successfully ignoring the boy beside him in the hoodie and jeans who had fallen to the ground and was now wiping tears of mirth from his eyes as he struggled to breathe.
“My name’s Ellie,” I said, shaking his hand. He smiled warmly at me, then looked down at the boy on the ground beside him, who people were trying not to trample on as they streamed through the gates and into the Academy’s grounds.
“Sorry about my brother. He’s… umm… quirky,” Duke said, gently nudging the boy on the ground with the toe of one of his worn sneakers.
“I don’t suppose that would be James?” I asked, as my eyes widened in realisation. He didn’t really resemble his mother or brother in any form, and I assumed he took more after his father.
“Yeah, that’s him,” Duke sighed apologetically, shrugging his shoulders in a ‘what-can-I-do?’ sort of manner. “I don’t recall having met you before. Is there any particular reason you know of us?” he asked, trying in vain to continue to ignore his brother lying on the ground.
“Oh, yes – I believe I have met your moth-”
A strangled cry erupted from James, who sat upright in the blink of an eye and looked around wildly, a horrified expression on his face quickly replacing the hysterical one he had one worn just seconds ago. “Oh n-”
With a loud, undignified yelp, James immediately grabbed at his cheek, where a pink mark was beginning to form. In his hands, he held a hairband, which much have been launched at him from somewhere.
“Oh god, Mum, I’m sorry, I was only messing arou-”
From the crowd emerged Lauren, and boy, did she look like she was about to murder someone. “JAMES PELITRI! You are enrolled in the best of all Academies within Australia, and with your attitude I’m afraid it will barely be for longer than a couple of minutes!” she boomed, picking him up off the ground by the hood of his shirt.
“Oh, gosh, Mum, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were here-” he sputtered, handing his mother back her hair tie.
“And I suppose it would have been okay if I wasn’t, hmm?” she asked accusingly, staring him down like a predator would its prey.
“N-no! I never said that, I mean, I just…” he trailed off, at a loss for words, and hung his head in shame. Curiously, I looked over in Duke’s direction and he seemed completely fine with the events occurring before him, as if they occurred on a regular basis. As Lauren finally tore her gaze away from James, she looked up and noticed me standing, slack-jawed, as I watched the family reunion take place.
“Oh, Ellie. You’re still here. I’m sorry for James’ rash behaviour, I’m sure he’ll act better from now on,” she said, shooting him another death glare. “Why don’t you go on ahead into the Academy, dear? I’ve a few words for my boys, then I’m sure they’ll be so kind as to join you,” she said pleasantly. Nodding meekly, I slowly turned and headed for the gates, hearing Lauren whisper something along the lines of “you’re dead to me” to James before I was finally out of earshot and could no longer hear them. Beside me, people laughed, pointed and whispered at the family – the usual gossipy stuff, I suppose.
“What on Earth is wrong with them?” one person asked in a hushed tone.
“Oh, it’s just the Pelitri Family. It’s perfectly normal,” answered another one smugly.
“It’s their first day. I’m sure they’re not the only people off to a rocky start,” I shot back at the one who had made the last comment, feeling I should defend Lauren’s family after all the help she had given me.
“And who would you be? You wouldn’t share the same blood as James, would you? Now, that would explain things,” he snorted, then stormed off through the entrance with what must’ve been some of his friends in tow, smirking and laughing as they went.
They didn’t bother me. They were not the first school-yard bullies I had met, and would not be the last. I was honestly used to being taunted by many people. Hushed whispers began to follow me as I entered the Academy grounds while I was reading the name of the Academy on the Iron Gate above the walkway, and, once finished gaping, I grabbed an information leaflet from a person standing by it as I passed, but I did not take the whispering to mind. What I was confused about, if not a little concerned about, though, was what they had meant about sharing James’ blood. I was clueless as to what it could have meant, and felt a little worried, for myself and James, for not understanding. Sighing deeply, I shrugged my shoulders and was about to open my information pamphlet when a hand suddenly grabbed at my arm.
“Huh? What now?” I exclaimed spinning around to face a bewildered Duke. “Oh, oh. It’s you. Sorry, I thought… Never mind. It’s cool,” I told him, waving the matter off. “Can I help you?” I asked him. Gently, he tugged me a little closer, then said as softly as possible to me:
“Do not worry about us. We’ll be fine.”
“Are… are you sure?” I asked him, and when he nodded, I did as well. “Well, if you insist. I suppose we should umm, head in, now?” I wondered aloud.
“Yeeeeah! They’ll probably start without us if we don’t hurry up,” said James, who had casually strolled up from behind his brother as if nothing had happened. “Oi, Duke – we should hurry up and find Devin, otherwise we might not get the same table to sit at for breakfast. Oh boy, I hope we get the same teams, imagine if we got someone else,” he worried, performing a dramatic shiver, “Heck, imagine if we were in different teams too, Duke! You and I! They wouldn’t do that, surely?” he asked, striding forward and looking over his shoulder to his brother for reassurance.
“Hopefully not,” Duke said, waving sheepishly to me as he began to follow his brother back into the crowd.
“Yeah, you’re right. Mum’d kill them if they put us on different teams. I would imagine they prefer having their heads where they belong, huh?” James laughed, jumping around as he waited for his brother, then racing up the steps and onto the path that, according to the arrows placed everywhere, would lead to where the first years would meet.
That was the last I saw of the Pelitri Brothers for the time being. I had taken out my map, and was reading of all the different places the Academy had to offer, and wow, was I impressed. There was a stable for equestrian, even, and oh my goodness – was that a KITTEN CAFÉ? Usually, I keep my excitement to myself, but if it concerns animals, I find it terribly hard to. I tapped a blonde girl on the shoulder to the left of me, and pointed to it on the map.
“Is that what I think it is?” I asked excitedly, and, after giving me a look as if I were crazy, she nodded and quickly walked as far away from me as possible. “Oh, cool, they have everything,” I said aloud to myself, and then, noticing the strange looks people were giving me when they passed, I swore that I’d be relatively normal for the rest of the morning.
Personally, I consider that a bit tricky at times.
Finally done staring at the map, I followed the crowd of first years down to our dining hall, where people were serving themselves breakfast from the wide variety of food offered on tables along the left wall as we entered. I decided to keep it simple for myself – three pancakes with maple syrup, and with that I exited the food line and tried to find myself a seat.
The dining room was huge – even though there was surely over a thousand of us here, there was still ample room to move about. It was beautifully furnished too, and had bright, comforting lighting from the chandeliers that hung from the ceiling. At the far end of the room, the Seniors could be seen – and goodness, was I reminded of my first day in Prep at Primary School when this huge Year 7 dude had stomped past me, scaring the living daylight out of me. I hadn’t felt so small in a long while, and was glad that for at least the start of the day they’d be far away from me.
Finding somewhere to sit was harder than I had imagined – already, tables were clearly being filled based on cliques and what not – ‘girly girls’ over there, ‘hard-core tomboys’ over here, ‘nerds’ there, ‘sporty hot shots’ over there too, so on, so on. I noted that the ‘girly girls’ seemed to naturally sit near the ‘sporty hot shots’, and immediately I knew that I wanted to avoid the whole lot of them. Not my type. Not at all. Seats were filling fast, and well, who would have guessed it – the only table I seemed to be allowed to sit at was the one with the Pelitri Brothers.
“Evening, m’lady,” James smirked, performing an exaggerated bow as he pulled out a chair for me to his right, Duke being at his left.
“Umm, thanks,” was all I said in response. Duke, on his part, rolled his eyes at his brother’s antics again.
“Goodness, James, we just sat down. Can’t you be normal for even a minute?” he sighed, exasperated, and sighed once again when James began introducing me to everyone, ignoring his poor brother.
“You see, that fine fellow over there,” James started, gesturing with his glass of milk which he held with his pinkie finger flexed to the raven haired boy to the left of the opposite side of the table, opposite Duke, “Is Sir Fartsalot, and he thinks you look rather fine today.”
“Dunno where you got that last part from, Sir Poopsalot, but other than that, you were spot on, my good ol’ chap!” said the raven haired boy, who in turn raised his glass of milk into the air proudly.
Sighing and shaking his head sadly, Duke murmured under his breath, “no… no, that’s Devin…”
“And THIS,” James said, gesturing to the shy blonde in the middle of the table on the opposite side, “Is Sir Hiccupsalot!” he announced, to which the blonde smiled a small smile, shaking his head incredulously.
“No… that’s Thomas…” Duke murmured, though he had given up on trying to speak over his brother.
“And finally, we have Sir Burpsalot!” James declared, gesturing to the brown-haired boy at the far right of the table, directly opposite myself, who looked quite like James himself, actually, and yet, like Duke, simply rolled his eyes.
“Nope again,” Duke sighed for the final time, “That, James, is Luke.” At this, James faced his brother with a look of pure confusion on his face, but before he could continue messing around, Sir Fartsalot – I mean, Devin, spoke up, addressing me in a mock-formal way.
“M’lady, it is an honour to meet you. If I may, what would a fine woman like yourself be named?” he said in a forced posh accent, giving me a sly wink.
“Me? Oh, I am but of course Madame Donna Givaf Uck,” I replied in an equally forced posh accent, my expression deadly serious as I pretended to fan myself.
Dead silence followed my words.
Welp, so much for being normal for the whole morning, I thought to myself.
James looked like he’d been shot, Duke looked as if he was going to choke on his milk, Thomas looked mildly surprised, Luke was gaping at me and Devin muttered the following words in the sweetest voice he could muster:
“Marry me!”
At that I sighed, smiling a little out of the pure craziness of the situation, and finally stopped with the pretence, finishing off my breakfast without any other weird comments. “I’m at the Table of Weirdos, aren’t I?” I chuckled softly, mostly to myself, after I had eaten everything I could.
“Ahem, that would be The Extra Weird Table of Weirdos to you, Madame Donna Givaf Uck,” James corrected, then laughed. It seemed contagious, for everyone at the table joined in for a little while, and I was beginning to realise that perhaps I wasn’t as out of place here as I had originally thought. Sure, people at the surrounding tables were shooting us constant weird looks as if we were insane, but we were having fun, and nobody could take that away from us.
Barely a minute had passed before a microphone was being tested, and soon one of the staff members, a black-haired adult with startling bright green eyes, dressed quite formally so with a plain, crisp white shirt and a black tie and slacks and black-rimmed glasses framing his eyes, began to speak to everyone assembled, standing in front of the food tables.
“Good-evening-ladies-and-gentlemen-wait-no-it’s-morning-I-mean-good-morning-ladies-and-gentlemen-isn’t-it-great-to-see-you-all-gathered-here-today-at-the-beginning-of-a-new-adventure-for-us-all,” he shot out at us, so quickly that the Juniors looked panicked, having missed basically every word he had said, myself included, and the Seniors simply sighed.
“Gee, he’d make a good rapper,” James muttered under his breath.
“Just kidding, just kidding! No need to fret, I was only joking,” said the staff member, who straightened his tie and took a sip from whatever was in his coffee cup – was that Sprite? – and continued on, a little slower this time. “I’ll speak slower from now on, I swear,” he grinned at everyone.
“And here we have a drug addict in his natural habitat…” Devin murmured, which earnt him a kick in his shin from under the table, via my own foot.
“He does this every year…” groaned one of the Seniors, and others agreed with him, while the rest waited patiently.
“Now, now, settle down everyone, settle down. I’m aware that you are all eager to be sorted into your teams – for this will, of course, either be the first year you are a Junior and attending an Academy, or a Senior who will be aiding three Juniors throughout the entire year, if you’re good enough to stay in, that is,” the man said, adjusting his glasses and taking another sip from his coffee cup, before he continued. “I am Professor Oliver Beck, and I may very well be your teacher, for some of you, that is, but we’ll see. Enough babbling, however, it is time for you all to be sorted into your teams-” an excited murmuring filled the entire room, and Professor Oliver had to wait at least an entire minute before he could continue, “-and, to do so, I will require you all to stand up, tuck your chairs in, and stand behind them.” Everyone began to move, to do as asked, and as I gently pushed my chair in, I realised that I was trembling a little. It’s the nerves, I told myself. “And when I say to do that, I mean to do it now,” he stated, clarifying for the rebellious looking few Juniors that remained seated, giving Professor Oliver the look that said ‘what-are-you-gonna-do-about-it?’, “-Or you will suffer the consequences,” he finished, casually taking another sip from his coffee cup.
Coincidentally, it was only the Juniors who dared to do this, and I was surprised none of the Seniors tried it to, not even one even when some looked like they really wanted to, but remained standing nevertheless. As Professor Oliver set down his coffee cup on the food table before him and raised his hand, though, I could finally understand why.
Total chaos erupted.
The chairs, tables, plates, cutlery – everything – rose to the ceiling abruptly and stayed there. The Juniors that had remained seated were lifted with everything that ascended, and were uncomfortably deposited upon the ground once their chairs had shaken them off in mid-air, giving them the fright of their life, only to quickly join the rest of the furniture on top of the ceiling once finished.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you – the Earth Elmeal of Gravity. What you have seen today was no easy feat, but here at The Academy for The Extra Gifted of the Gifted, we believe that together, you and your friends will one day be able to do such things as I have this morning, and if not, things even better,” Professor Oliver said, waggling his eyebrows, “And as for the students that fell, yes, I know, Jordan, your nose is bleeding, I can see it, I’m not blind – you will wait until you have been sorted into your groups, then, if needed, may ask one of your Seniors to escort you to the First Aid Department. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jordan Muntrud. I did warn you,” he sighed.
“With that,” he announced brightly, beaming at everyone brightly, back to his cheerful, hyper-active self, “Let’s get these teams made, shall we?” he said, and immediately, things swung into motion. Everything up on the roof was placed back on the ground, only now everything was labelled – it seemed as everyone got one chair, cutlery, plates and so on, and each team would share a table suited for six. For a moment, nobody moved, but as soon as one person began to, everyone followed suit.
It was a messy business – people moved to and fro, looking for where they would sit, for about half an hour – there were just so many people. For James, Duke, and I, however, it was fairly simple.
Our seats had not changed.
“You don’t think they made a mistake or something?” I asked Duke, but it was James who answered.
“Eh. Stuffed if I know – at least we’re on the same team, Duke. Shame we didn’t get Devin, though,” he sighed, then shrugged and faced me, “could be worse, though,” he admitted, poking out his tongue and blowing a raspberry, causing Duke to roll his eyes yet again. I’m surprised he doesn’t have an eternal headache with all that eye rolling he must perform. James kept his eyes on the rest of his friends the entire time while they searched, meanwhile Duke simply stared into the distance, apparently lost in thought. “Hey, those lucky buggers all got in a team together!” James shouted, shaking Duke’s shoulder and pointing over to their friends, who all waved back.
“And I thought that the teams were completely randomized?” I questioned, looking around as if I would find the answer floating around somewhere in the air.
“It’s mostly randomized, though the staff do try their utter best to make teams that will work, based on their knowledge of friendships, family members and connections, blah, blah, blah,” James told me, shrugging as if it were no big deal.
“That’s the first helpful thing you’ve said all day, James. I’m proud of you,” Duke grinned a little, ruffling his brother’s hair.
“Aye! Not the hair, bro, not the hair. Give it up, kay? Sheesh, just practicing teamwork, is all!” James squawked indignantly, trying to rearrange his hair, though it didn’t seem that messed up in the first place, only that some of it had no fallen into his eyes.
“I… I didn’t know that there were factors other than it being random. If I had known, I probably would have sat somewhere else, that way they wouldn’t have put me in a team with the only people I knew, you guys, and you may have gotten Devin on your team…” I sighed, feeling as if I had robbed them of a possibly better team.
“Hey, don’t sweat it, kay? Could’ve been worse. Could’ve got that Jordan Muntrud guy. Besides, you’re pretty cool as it is,” James admitted, grinning at me.
“He’s got a point, Ellie. I bet you’ll make a great team member,” Duke piped in, nodding encouragingly.
“Thanks, guys,” I said, feeling myself blush from all the compliments, “I just hope I won’t drag you down. I’ll do my best not to, I swear,” I told them with determination lacing my every word, and my expression proving the truthfulness of each one. In the brief silence that followed, I kicked my legs around impatiently and was wondering if there was something stuck in my left shoe when-
“Huh, this doesn’t seem so bad,” said an unfamiliar voice, who circled our table and sat down in the middle chair opposite James, labelled Scott Cinos. Wordlessly, all of us sized each other up – Scott had messy, spiky blonde hair and emerald green eyes. He wore beige shorts and a simple blue T-shirt, along with a blue bracelet on his right wrist. I, myself, had purposefully put on the most boring clothes I had been given out of the select few of mine that was given to me back at the ‘safe-spot’, that being an orange shirt, which thankfully was not pink, and long, light blue leggings. Duke looked a lot like his brother – casual, just a hoodie, jeans and sneakers.
It was as if we had all finished observing each other at the same time, because we all sat back in our chairs and sort of nodded, as if to think ‘yeah, I can deal with this.’ Scott was about to say something, but stopped before he could as rather abruptly, the one who must be Alex Reverne, swiftly pulled out his chair and sat down opposite me. James made a weird face, and even I, myself, struggled not to look a bit surprised.
Alex Reverne was, peculiar, to say the least. He wore a long sleeved light green and white shirt in the pattern of checkers, white gloves and long, clean white pants. I could not see his shoes, but I assumed that he was not wearing flip flops, but rather formal footwear to match his formal outfit. The white on his clothes almost exactly matched his hair which was a bright silver, and yet appeared to be completely natural, although it stood up in odd places here and there - though not in an unorderly fashion. He had intelligent, light blue, almost clear coloured eyes, and when they met mine, I knew instantly that he was judging me, and crucially so. When he had finished examining everyone, though not Scott, for whatever reason, he did not relax in the slightest bit. Instead, he remained sitting straight, hands clasped in front of him, and decided to look anywhere but at the people at his table.
“Fancy having you on our team, Alex,” Scott said casually, clearly trying to make an effort to start a friendly conversation. I, for one, was too uncomfortable to speak, and it appeared that even James was as well.
“Indeed,” was all Alex said in the form of a reply, his voice sounding clear and precise as he spoke each word. After a short pause, he turned curiously to face Scott, tilted his head ever so slightly, blinked, and then asked him a question. “You wouldn’t mind telling me of who our last team member is, would you?”
“I, uh, sure, yeah,” Scott stuttered, then turned to read the label beside him, and swallowed hard. “It’s, umm…”
“Out with it, would you?” Alex insisted impatiently, frowning at Scott’s hesitation.
“He’s, umm, one of my friends,” Scott grinned nervously.
“Please quit delaying. It will do you no favour in the end,” Alex sighed softly.
“Oh, Alex, you’re going to hate me, this is not going to work, not at all…” Scott suddenly sighed, almost whimpered, by the sounds of it.
“As long as it’s not that Jason Shaed, I’m sure we will live, Scott,” Alex simply said, not caring for Scott’s worrying.
A brief moment of silence passed.
Scott did not answer.
Alex met my gaze, his eyes questioning, searching. Ever so slowly, I dared to look at the label on the remaining chair, and surely enough, it read:
Jason Shaed
Now, I tried my very best to hide my emotions, but even so it was evident as to what I had seen. Ever so slightly, Alex’s eyes widened and I could’ve sworn he clasped his hands even harder together than before, and he cleared his throat.
“Pardon me… but I’m afraid I must… excuse myself for a moment,” he managed, his words barely a whisper, as he got up and exited the table without another word or glance.
“Great…” Scott sighed, running his fingers through his hair out of stress.
“This Jason guy, he can’t be that bad, can he?” I asked him, looking around so that I might see him approach, although quite a few people were still finding their places, I could not be sure as to who he was.
“You make it sound as if you know him somehow, Scott, and I doubt that anyone tied to you, even loosely so, could be all that bad. You seem like a good guy,” Duke said, trying to comfort him.
“Yeah, I suppose it could be worse…” Scott murmured, sighing. James shrugged.
“See? We’ll manage. I’m sure it’ll be just fine,” James agreed with his usual broad grin, then murmured quickly under his breath, “but-please-don’t-make-those-my-final-words...”
With a grimace, Scott shook his head angrily. “Oh, who am I kidding? This is going to be crap, absolute crap, I’m telling you. I don’t think Jason’s that bad of a person, sure, but that’s because I’m the only person he’s not a jerk to, which is probably why he was put in the team I’m in. He’ll hate you all instantly, and I’ll be downright amazed if you don’t hate him back just as quickly.
“Look, I’m sure we’ll manage,” I told him, wondering if I should do more to reassure him, then awkwardly decided against it. Alex returned after a few minutes, his expression grim, not meeting any of our eyes, which was probably very uncharacteristic of him. Basically everyone had found their seats now, and Jason was the last person to find his, seemingly appearing out of no-where. One second there was nobody, and the next he was in his chair, legs thrown lazily on the table as he leaned backwards, his expression sour. Many of us jumped with surprise, and in response to this he sighed loudly.
“Lucky me, stuck with you lot,” he practically spat out, his words thick with sarcasm and, you guessed it, hate. Black hair, black clothing, black eyes, and probably a cold, dark heart to match it all, too.
Alex was trying his best to keep his composure.
Scott started tugging softly at his hair as he continued to run his fingers through it.
Duke visibly bit his lip, but remained silent.
I swallowed hard, and though I did not believe in a god, found that I was basically praying that things would turn out alright in the end.
James, stunned, simply shook his head. “Oh boy…” was all he could manage to say.
We were off to a rocky start, indeed.

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