CHAPTER 1 - I HATE MONDAYS
Monday. I hate Mondays. It means I have to get up and go back to that Hell. Why couldn’t I just receive my letter to Hogwarts and leave these muggles behind? Oh, maybe I’m just a too powerful witch and Dumbledore thought I could become another Tom Riddle. Yes, that must be it. Lazily, I got up and groggily opened my wardrobe. I’m not a morning person, in case you’re wondering. I’m with that one who said 8 am are the “incontrovertible evidence that devil dwells in the world”, well, in my case it’s 7 am. Even worse.
I sighed. Damn, I should definitely stop going to bed so late. Last night I remained awake till 2 am just to finish my book. That’s what books do to me, they take away my sleep and sometimes my appetite. I’m a hostage of those printed papers. A very happy hostage.
School starts at 8.30 but I live something half an hour from it and normally I walk all the way to it. I stopped taking the bike when, on my sophomore year, some idiots threw it in the dustbin. “It was just an innocent joke” they defended. “It’s just a week of detention” the principal retorted. I couldn’t hold back the evil laugh, so now those guys hate me. Like I even care.
The above mentioned idiots are some of those football jocks too stupid to reach college but that will get to it anyway because of their sportsmen scholarship. Me, I have to work my butt off to reach the adequate points for at least one decent college to even consider me. Well, maybe I don’t work that hard, I mean, it’s not that tough for me to get a good grade. Guess I’m just lucky. Or a genius. Who knows.
Anyway, there is a bus that takes kids to school, but since I’m antisocial and that bus counts many of my peers as well, I just walk. I like walking anyway. I stared into my closet for a few minutes, not like I have this huge variety to choose between, but right now I’m even without glasses and without glasses I can’t see much. Yes, reason would tell me to just wear them before getting up, but I’m used to walk blindly around my room and I don’t easily change habits. I pulled out simple dark blue loose jeans and a black sweater with Pucca on it and hurried to the bathroom to take a quick shower before having to, like always, run because I’m late.
In half an hour I was ready, had arranged my shoulder-long hair in a sloppy bun, put on a pair of white snickers. Grabbed my black shoulder bag, I hurried downstairs. Mom was in the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of orange juice as she’d just finished making breakfast.
"Making progress, uh? Five minutes early today."
She mocked me and I rolled my eyes. Annoying her, I only picked a muffin as breakfast and ran out, knowing I’d be late if I stayed any longer. I obviously put on my headphones and dipped into music while walking, so that I could tune the whole world out and ignore everything. This allowed me to lose myself in my daydreams, so I literally erased everything else, at least till I stepped into the school property, and there he was … Kyle Romano. My crush. Gorgeous as always. The hottest guy in the school. Captain of the soccer team, good student, many friends, a bit of a bad fame for hanging out with the wrong people lately, but overall a good guy. Inevitably, my heart started thumping in my chest, but I did my best not to stare at him and silently but awkwardly made my way to the entrance as he was sitting just nearby among his friends. I restarted breathing only once I was out of sight. I know, it’s such a cliché for the invisible nerdy girl to have a crush on the hottest guy of the school, but I can’t help it. Obviously Kyle doesn’t even know I exist, well, he does, just doesn’t really pay attention to me. Like pretty much everybody in this school. Not like I really care, I mean, next to the definition of introvert you’d find a picture of me.
Oh, by the way, my name’s Natalie, Natalie Watson. One would think I’ve heard the “elementary, Watson” thing a thousand times, instead no … my peers don’t even know who was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and if they know Sherlock Holmes it’s because of the TV show. I’d forgive them if it was Sherlock (BBC), but it’s most of the times Elementary, which is a lame parody of the real story if you ask me, but whatever.
I live in quite a little town, the kind where everybody knows everybody, there’s barely one school so at some point all teenagers come to meet each other, well, in theory, in reality it’s not totally like that. Me, I’m the perfect example of nobody knows her. I’ve spent a huge part of my life being invisible, mostly for my choice. You need to know that as a child I was very, very shy, I still am, but was able to shrug it off the most I could. The thing is, shyness faded but introversion remained, so yeah, I’m that quiet girl who never talks and doesn’t even try to make friends. I did have a best friend, but she moved away just last year, so here I am all alone.
Sprinting to my locker, because I had Physics in like five minutes and the teacher was a ball-breaking spinster that hated everybody and would send me to detention for being one single second late (I’m not exaggerating, she’s done that already), as I approached the above mentioned locker, I couldn’t help but gaze at the end of the corridor, where, like always, right at the end of the stairs, stood the other most attractive boy of the school, Eric Rivers.
Opposite to Kyle, Eric is the bad boy, that element fathers don’t want their daughters anywhere near, the one even some teachers fear and that is said to be not only reckless, but also cruel, evil and even a jailbird. This is Eric Rivers. Icy blue eyes, short blonde hair, broad shoulders, perfectly sculpted abs, long legs … just like opposites, Kyle is dark-haired instead, light brown eyes that always shine with cheerfulness, a smile that, my God, would make every heart tremble, well, at least it does that to mine … Kyle is as well fit as Eric, though, well, honestly I can’t be unbiased, I’d obviously choose Kyle, but yeah, they do cause many female hearts to skip a beat.
Even with, no, also thank to his bad boy reputation, Eric has plenty of girls swooning for him, but differently from Kyle, who’s friendly with everybody, Eric frightens whoever happens to cross his road. Neither Eric does really bother my existence, but I’ve known him since 4th grade, while Kyle moved in only for freshman year. Eric and I have never been friends, but I remember he was kind of … nicer back to elementary school. Oh, well, we all change and hell, did he change for the better! At least physically. As a child he was cute, yes, but growing up he’s become … wow … I didn’t know Kyle as a child, so can’t say. Anyhow, I grabbed what I needed from the locker and silently walked past Eric and his little crew, since I needed to go upstairs and they were just there. I silently thanked God once I reached my destination without embarrassing myself, more specifically without tumbling down like I do pretty often.
Physics passed by surprisingly fast, the same did French, Geography and History, so here we go, lunch break. Normally I eat alone and this time was no exception, so I just grabbed my tray, filled with several goodies, and reached the table farthest to the crowd, where I sat alone, headphones in my ear, to read while eating. In this way I could tune out all the noise people make and which really annoys me. Since I was early, I took the chance to pay Mr. Toilet a visit, but right when I was about to get out of the bathroom stall, I heard familiar voices, so I decided it was better to just stay hidden for a minute or two. The voices I heard were the ones of two cheerleaders, more specifically the Queen Bee of the school and one of her minions, respectively Dana and Chloe. Why did I stay hidden? Oh, well, because Dana isn’t exactly my number one fan since 8th grade. Why? I don’t know. She just hates me for some reason. So I remained there till the girls exited and then I had to run to my Creative Writing class, arriving obviously late. Mrs. Porter was already there, had even already started talking …
She called expectantly as I entered, I smiled innocently to her.
" I’m sorry, Mrs. Porter, I’m late, I know."
She looked at me sideways, but then nodded, so I headed to my seat, but she stopped me.
"Actually, Miss Watson, like I’ve just said to your classmates, we’ll be working on a group project today. So, please, make your way in between the two seats at the back of the class, where your teammates are waiting for you."
She told me. I blinked my eyes, not really understanding, but she smiled at me encouragingly, so I did as she said. As I walked, I could hear animated whispers, which I understood only once I found my seat … my heart jumped in my throat in a nanosecond and my eyes widened. Why? Well, the “teammates” Mrs. Porter talked about were the perfect definition of Angel and Devil, those boys one like me can only dream of being with … Kyle and Eric, no less. My God, one of them alone is too much to take for me, imagine both! Both at the same time! Mrs. Porter definitely wanted to cause me a heart attack.
"Mr. Romano and Mr. Rivers already know everything."
She said out loud.
"Please, boys, do the gentlemen and explain the project to Miss Watson."
She added, then, directed at the whole class:
"Let’s get to work, shall we?"
As I walked towards my doom I heard people starting to scribble down things, but some would still glance at the back seats. Once in front of Angel and Devil, I took a deep breath and tried to smile.
"H-hi, I’m Natalie."
I mumbled, voice shaky. There were three desks together, Eric was sitting, well, was slumped on the seat next to the window, pretty bored, scrolling through his phone, while Kyle was sitting straight on the other side, which obviously meant I’d seat in between them … great. While Eric just glanced at me for a tiny moment from the corner of his eyes, barely acknowledging my presence, I think, Kyle smiled at me, making my heart practically explode, and nodded.
"I remember you."
He told me as I sat down.
"You were in my Art class last year, right?"
He continued with a polite smile. I nodded, unable to say anything else. I have never, never talked to Kyle, well, if you don’t count a couple of “thanks” when he grabbed my pen from the ground, and now here he was, actually talking to me of his own will! I think I can die happy now.
"So, the thing is, we’re supposed to rewrite a famous fairy tale."
He told me.
"Mrs. Porter beat around the bush while explaining it, like she always does, but it’s pretty simple."
He continued, to which I just nodded, trying hard to, one, not smile like an idiot, two, not lose myself in his beautiful eyes, three, to conceal how fast my heart was beating. Luckily I was ignoring the other Greek god behind me, since I was completely turned towards Kyle. Don’t blame me, between your crush and a boy that scares the living shit out of you, you’d choose your crush too. Plus, it’s not like Eric was paying any attention to me, which is good, because put together his frightening attitude and his being hotness personified, I don’t think I could really speak any known language to him.
"D-did she say what fairy tale?"
I asked hesitantly. Kyle smiled, shaking his head.
He replied. I swear, this guy has the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard and such a lovely smile … I think I’m gonna be dead before this lessons ends.
"So what do you suggest, Nat? May I call you Nat?"
I’m pretty sure I blushed, a deep shade of red, so I just nodded and he smiled again. Kyle’s like that, always cheerful, no matter what, his smile can make everybody around him feel better.
"So? Any ideas?"
He continued, leaning his elbows on the desk.
"Uh … not really … y-you?"
I asked, unsure.
"Mrs. Porter told us to be gentlemen, so the choice is up to you, Nat."
He replied softly, leaning out towards me. At this point he probably thought deep red was my natural color.
"W-well, I … don’t know, it’s …"
"Just pick a damn tale."
I heard Eric say sternly from behind me, which startled me. God, I’m not gonna survive this lesson. Slowly, I turned to him. He was in the same position as he was when I sat down, except for his phone that was now on the desk. Those icy blues pierced through me, making me feel both naked and exposed, without protection. While Kyle’s eyes are always full of life, Eric’s seem to be always full of anger, against everybody and everything. I wonder what has happened to him, because as a child he looked somewhat happier.
"Don’t do the jerk, Rivers. Let her make up her mind freely."
Kyle injected before I could put together the courage to answer. Eric practically stabbed him repeatedly with one single look, in which he converged enough anger to blow up an entire country.
"I should pretend to be kind instead? Like you do, Romano?"
"I don’t pretend."
"No, of course not. You’re a true angel."
I looked in between them, confused, but also kind of anxious because they looked at each other like they were about to start a war and I was right in the middle. Luckily Mrs. Porter came to rescue me:
"So, where have you got to?"
She asked us.
"Uh … we haven’t decided yet …"
I mumbled in response and she shook her head, disappointed.
"You’re supposed to hand in this work in two weeks."
She told us.
"The less you do in class, the more you’ll have to do on your own at home."
I think my eyes practically bulged out at that. Home. At home. We were supposed to work outside too?? So I was supposed to see those two outside class too?? Oh, God, I wouldn’t survive to this. No, no. Especially not if they’ve declared war to each other. I might be a casualty of it. Kyle smiled politely at the teacher.
"Don’t worry, Mrs. Porter, we’ll complete our project on time."
He told her, with that angelic expression even her couldn’t resist to, so she smiled, I swear, blushing lightly, and nodded, then left us. Eric snorted.
He accused, to which Kyle’s eyes snapped to him.
"Mind your own business, Rivers."
He threatened. Eric leaned out on his, well, practically my desk.
"Watch your tongue, Romano. I’m not one of your stupid pals."
"No, of course not. They’re definitely smarter than you. Hell, even a monkey is smarter than you."
Kyle scoffed. I could see anger practically raging out of Eric.
"W-we should choose the fairy tale …"
I tried to inject, not wanting them to start a fight and actually trying to defend Kyle because yeah, he might be fit and everything, but Eric’s punches hurt a lot. A guy I knew had the misfortune of trying them once … got a week holiday at the hospital … Eric’s eyes snapped to me, like he wanted to stab me right there and then, so I swallowed and he smirked, I bet knowing he was scaring me.
He asked, leaning back on his chair.
"We all know you’re gonna do all the work, nerd."
He said. I frowned. Gaining some courage, I narrowed my eyes at him.
"First, call me nerd how much you want. I don’t care, it’s a pleasure for me."
I said sternly.
"Second, I don’t know why are you here if you’re not interested in creative writing, but since you are, you’re gonna work like all of us. I’m not gonna be your mule. We’ll all work on this project."
I added. As he glared at me, I felt all my courage suddenly leaving me and right after that, the need to crawl back into Kyle’s arms to seek protection in case Mr. Bad Boy decided to kill me. Kyle actually smirked.
"Owned by a girl, Rivers. Suck it."
He mocked, receiving a deadly glare from the other and actually my secret pleads not to rile him up more. God, I walk home all alone and it’s not like the streets are so crowded. If he decides to kill me, he’ll have all the time and privacy to do it. Ok, I’m exaggerating, Eric’s no killer, but damn, is he scary! Breathtakingly handsome and so very hot, but still, scary.
"Choose a damn fairy tale."
He barked, crossing his arms, still glaring at me. And here we go … invisible for all these years and the first time I get out of my safe spot I find myself the worst enemy possible. Great. I glanced at my watch. Wonderful, still 30 minutes of torture.
"Uh … how about … Beauty and the Beast?"
I proposed. It’s my favorite. Eric rolled his eyes while Kyle nodded.
"It’s the farthest from boring princess and prince thing I know."
I commented, I don’t know why, directed at Eric. He just shrugged.
"So we’ve decided? Beauty and the Beast?"
I asked, looking in between them. Kyle chuckled.
"Yeah, we’ve even got the perfect representation."
"Here’s the beauty. And there’s the beast."
He snickered, pointing at me first, then Eric. My heart practically stopped beating. Did he just call me beauty? Really?? He thinks I’m pretty?? Nah, he must be kidding. Yeah, he’s kidding. Definitely. Eric clutched his jaw, though. This guy’s got some serious anger issues, I think.
"One more word, Romano, just one more, and they’re gonna have to scrape you off the floor with a putty knife. I swear."
He threatened, voice dark and menacing, but surprisingly Kyle smirked.
"I’m not scared of you, Rivers."
He stated, only riling up the other even more. I looked in between them like a child caught in the middle of an argument between her parents. Looking up, I saw Mrs. Porters observing us.
"Uh … guys, the teacher looks quite … disappointed …"
I tried to say. Eric snorted.
"Like I even care."
He scoffed. I rolled my eyes, although slyly. Seriously, I’m pretty sure he’s got killer instincts and really I don’t want to be his first (or next?) victim.
"Don’t worry, Nat. We’ll make a good work even without Lurch here."
Kyle told me encouragingly. I think Eric’s jaw smashed for how much he clenched it.
"Save the threats, Rivers. Those don’t work with me."
Kyle said before the other could give his menace. Honestly, I looked at Kyle confused. How comes that everyone’s scared to death to even cross the guy’s road while Kyle mocks him so carelessly? Doesn’t he care about his life? Does he have premature death wishes? To add reason to my thoughts, before I knew it, Eric’s arm leaned out, making me back up and hit the wall, and grabbed Kyle by the collar, smashing him against my desk so forcefully that really I feared he’d broken him some bones or worse. I stood up, but remained blocked with my back pressed on the wall as the boys fought in front of me, because yes, Kyle wasn’t late to respond. Eric might have been punching him hard, but Kyle did give his share of blows. It all lasted a few minutes, till Mrs. Porter was able to stop them. Kyle’s lip was bleeding and a quite evident bruise was already forming right under his left eye, Eric instead … he also had a light bruise on his cheekbone, but other than that, nothing.
"You three, to the Principal’s! Now!"
Mrs. Porter ordered, grabbing both Kyle and Eric and dragging them to the door.
"Miss Watson, you’re included in the number."
She told me. I blinked my eyes.
"W-what? W-why? I-I did nothing …"
I mumbled, but she didn’t listen, just ordered me to follow them. In a couple of minutes Kyle, Eric and I were all sitting in front of Principal Roberts’ desk, his severe stare scrutinizing each of us. Our principal was a fiftyish man with grey hair that he kept painting black, not wanting to surrender to the idea of getting old, he was even well-built, like … not really a featherweight.
"So tell me, what exactly happened?"
He asked us. Nobody talked, so he stared down each of us, obviously focusing on me … I was the weakest link after all. Eric was sitting on my left without a care, and that didn’t surprise me, he’d probably seen this office so many times he can’t even remember. Kyle was on my right, looking flustered.
The principal called, eyes piercing through me.
"I-I don’t know …"
I replied unsurely, both because I didn’t know what to say and because I didn’t want to cause trouble to the boys, even though they were in trouble anyway. The principal looked at me disappointed and I knew what he was thinking … in all my school career I’ve never gotten in trouble and now here I am, between the bad boy and the popular guy. Surprisingly, Eric defended me:
"She’s done nothing."
He said. I blinked my eyes, turning to him confused, but he just rolled his eyes at me. Maybe he’s not that bad as he seems to be. I remember a nice Eric till elementary school, then everything changed.
"Yes, principal, Nat did nothing."
Kyle confirmed. Oh, well, they barely know me and they defend me? It’s quite due, though, I mean, if I’m in the principal’s office for the first time ever it’s their fault, not mine, actually, if I hadn’t backed up, maybe I could have even gotten a punch, as casualty of their battle. Principal Roberts nodded.
"Then what happened? Even if not responsible, you must be a witness."
Now how could I answer to that? Any reply would get the boys in trouble.
"It was all my fault."
Eric answered for me.
"I got mad and caused the brawl."
He confessed. Wow. His voice was absolutely secure, like doing things like that was normal, but the point was, why was he taking all the blame? Defending Kyle even.
"Mr. Rivers, you do realize this is the third time in a week that I see you here?"
The principal wondered. Eric just shrugged and the man sighed.
"Since they say you have nothing to do with it, you can go, Miss Watson."
I just nodded and left.
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