A breeze across her neck was the first thing Sam noticed. With the cover her long brown locks had always provided, that was something she wasn’t accustomed to.
She reached up her back to feel them, only to find bare skin all the way up to her ears.
Her hands were the second thing to stand out. They were large and bony, nothing fitting the rather petite frame she’d had to grow up with.
Her shoes, she then noted, and her attire – her entire being – was hers, but it wasn’t.
In a blindingly bright room with no dimensions, she saw an unfamiliar man with ragged cherry hair and a fierce sneer on his face.
Offering no reason as to why, her mind insisted that she was looking at a reflection.
“Follow the wind,” he spoke, she spoke. “It will lead you to the others.”
A jingle – wind chimes. And the sound was getting closer and closer.
Sam woke up to the feeling of her mother’s warm palm against her forehead, and with an immediate need for air.
“Honey, are you all right?” her mother questioned, her eyes wide with concern.
An incoherent groan was all Sam could offer in return, earning a sigh from the older woman.
“Honestly, I thought the wind chimes would bring a more soothing start to your day, but you’re just as disheveled as ever.” She then followed up with basically the same thing in Japanese.
A thud interrupted her mother’s objections as her feet met the wooden floor.
“It’s not really the best replacement for an alarm clock,” Sam replied before starting towards the bathroom.
Needless to say, Sam was not a morning person, and the repeated bouts of insomnia lately had only aggravated her a.m. angst.
She squinted at her reflection in the mirror, and then at the fresh queue of make-up her mother had undoubtedly snuck in again.
Exhaling at her stubbornness, which she’d definitely inherited too, Sam opened the tap and splashed some cold water on her face.
A rinse with soap was the best her mother would get today.
“Good morning, Samantha,” sang Seth, the younger of her twin brothers as she took her place on the table for breakfast, his devilish grin set in place as usual.
Sam glared at him.
If there was one thing she hated more than waking up early, it was being called by her actual name, but her brothers knew that, of course. And they knew why. This was just one of their many ways to get on her nerves, which was one of their favorite pastimes as she had discovered at an early age.
Her chance at a comeback was ruined when their mother spotted her jeans – specifically the half-torn jeans she’d been instructed to throw out twice now.
“Sam, I particularly laid out some new clothes on your bed today,” she said, the irritation obvious in her tone.
“Mom, I hate stuff like that and you know it.”
“Oh yes, heavens forbid you actually look like a girl on some days.”
“I do look like a girl – not all of us wear those preppy plaid skirts, you know.”
“She’s right though,” said Kevin, her other brother, a little laugh playing at his lips. “I hear she even has a bunch of boys gunning for her. Like that guy from the soccer team.”
“Shut up.” Sam’s fists met the table as she stood up with a jolt. “And stop spying on me – who even told you that?”
“We have our sources,” said Seth, his brows rising slyly.
“Boys,” their mother warned as she tried to coerce Sam back into her chair, but Sam was having none of it now.
“No, I’m leaving,” she said, frown set. “I’m late anyway.”
She picked up her backpack and started smoothing the tangles out of her hair as she walked up to the front door.
She’d just about turned the handle when, “Oh, Sam, don’t forget to stop by the office after school,” her mother managed to slip in. “Your father has asked for you.”
“I don’t want to go to the office!” Sam finally snapped, her face burning with fury. “I’ve already gone three times this week.”
“But, honey, you have to run this company in the future. You know that,” was her mother’s reply, followed by a gasp at her unchanging scowl and a few snickers, courtesy of her brothers.
It was obvious why they had passed down the right to her – they were adventurous souls and they wanted their freedom, to do more with their lives.
No one considered that she might have wanted the same.
“I’m sixteen, Mom,” she said, holding back a few stray tears. “There’s still… plenty of time to learn that stuff. And I have a match today after school, I told you.”
“I’m running late,” Sam interrupted, exhaling. “Bye, mom. I love you.”
She pulled the door shut.
They’d never understand. With classes, the soccer team and a social life to manage, Sam had just as much on her plate as every other teen. And more…
A stack of pancakes stood before Eddy like a magnificent tower waiting to be conquered, and his plan was set. He shoved his fork into the first layer.
Picking it up carefully, he placed it at the corner of his plate.
Repeat. And again, and again.
Once they were all separated, it was time to arm himself. A bottle of chocolate sauce in his right hand, caramel in his left – he was ready.
Ready to create his masterpieces.
“Eddy, stop playing with your food,” his mother reprimanded and he paused, marveling at her ability to see through the back of her head. “Hurry up and eat or you’re going to get late for school.”
Eddy chuckled. “Wouldn’t want that now, would we?”
His intentions were plain as day now and his mother let out a sigh. Turning the tap off, she dried her hands with her apron and sat across from him.
“I’ve talked to your dad. He said he’d definitely make sure we don’t move again till you’re done with high school.” She ruffled his bright golden hair. “So, put on a brave face and do your best like you always do, alright?”
Eddy nodded, flashing her the smile he knew always put her at ease.
“Hey, this is pretty good,” she laughed, admiring the unfinished work on his pancakes. “The art society must be really happy to have you on board, huh?”
He shrugged. “They’re all pretty good.”
“Well, I’m sure my son’s the best,” she insisted, getting back to her feet. “Come on now, eat up.”
Eddy exhaled, then started stuffing the cakes into his mouth.
Every year, ever since he could remember, Eddy had started the term at a new school. His dad was in the military, so moving around a lot was something he’d learned to accept early on.
The fact that he’d always just be ‘the new guy’, the new guy that everybody picked on simple because – he’d also learned to accept, albeit a little later.
Kids tended to get nastier with age, he supposed.
“How’s Rebecca?” his mom questioned, setting his bag in front of him.
Rebecca was an exception, Eddy thought. She was one of the very few things that made his high school here, at Oakhill, marginally better than his previous two.
“As nice as ever,” Eddy replied, swallowing the last of his cakes. “She’s always telling me to come to her if I need any help.”
And there was another thing, about her, that he didn’t quite know how to explain to his mom. A kind of familiarity he felt… a bond, of sorts.
“Well, I’m glad,” his mom said. “I’m sure you’ll find more friends like her in time.”
“Maybe,” Eddy mused.
The number of friends didn’t matter so much to him. All Eddy really wanted, all he’d really wanted for quite some time now was… someone he could finally show his real self to.
Rebecca studied the two cardigans she was holding in the full-length mirror before her. She tilted her head as she attempted to imagine herself in them.
They were both shades of blue. She’d picked them on the basis of blue complementing her pale hair as well as the increasingly grey sky outside, but she knew just as well as the other girl that the slight shift between sapphire and azure really could make all the difference.
“Becca,” her mother’s voice called, snapping her out of her thoughts. “If you need a ride to school, you better hurry up. I’m leaving in five minutes.”
Quickly slipping into the azure one after all, Rebecca grabbed her books off the side-table and paced down the stairs.
Her father had the front door held open and despite the five minute warning, her mother was already making her way outside.
“Have a nice day, sweetie,” her father bade as Rebecca raced past him.
“Thanks, Dad, you too,” she called back.
The car’s engine roared as Rebecca secured herself inside and reached for the seatbelt.
“Oh, my planner,” she remembered, pausing in her endeavor to exchange her books for the thick, black folder in her bag.
The car started moving and the resting smile on Rebecca’s face dimmed as she went over her schedule for the day.
Her mother took notice. “Busy day?” she questioned and Rebecca nodded in affirmative.
“Book club in free period and cheering for the girls’ soccer game after school.”
“I told you it’d be tough to handle two clubs at once.”
“I know,” Rebecca replied, “but you also told me to exercise my freedom of choice, Miss Human Rights Lawyer, and this was what it led to.”
Her mother chuckled. “Using my legal jargon for things like school clubs, huh?”
“And why not?” said Rebecca, shooting her a grin.
Everstone High School was famous for its cliques – what better place to fight discrimination?
“Poles apart, I’d say. Your clubs, Rebecca. But as long as they make you happy.”
“They do. Both of them.”
But Rebecca, too, sometimes wondered what she’d choose if ever given the ultimatum.
Book club, her mind reiterated almost guiltily – but she had a good reason.
Her cheerleading squad was always gushing over Dylan de Ferrante a.k.a. basketball captain, and Rebecca, herself, was not too fond of the ‘Italian heartthrob’.
“Ugh, think of the devil…”
As her mother parked the car outside the school, Rebecca saw Dylan walking towards the entrance, a basketball spinning on his finger, as casual as ever.
What was so great about him? He was tardy more often than not, seemed too laid-back for his or anyone else’s good and, judging by what her friends had said, was a total flirt. He picked up dropped stationary, handed out free candy and all those never ending compliments… it made Rebecca sick.
Sick enough for her to always ignore him and sick enough for her to even ignore… the strange force she felt around him sometimes.
“178… 179… 180…”
‘Just a few more seconds,’ Dylan thought.
His past record for longest ball spin time had been static for a while now, but soon he’d reset it. This time, he’d do it. He was sure of it.
But his ringing phone begged to differ.
“Why?” he cried theatrically as he let the ball drop to his feet.
He groaned as he pulled his phone out, but his frustration dulled in an instant when he saw the word ‘Mamma’ flash on his screen.
“Yo,” he answered. “Yes, I just walked through the school gates.”
A frown started making its way to his face as his mother voiced her concerns. A meeting had come up for her and since his father wouldn’t be back till later that evening…
“I have to babysit May, don’t I?”
On any other day, Dylan would’ve agreed in a heartbeat. He knew how important his parents’ work was to them. And he knew it was ultimately for his and his sister’s sake. But… he had a few responsibilities of his own too.
“I can’t, Sam has a match today,” he said, just before feeling a tap on his shoulder.
He turned to find that it was Sam herself, mouthing consolations to him.
“Hold on a sec,” he said, before lowering his phone and addressing the girl standing before him. “When did you get here?”
“Just now.” She grinned. “And you can totally miss the match today, it’s cool.”
“It’s the first game of the season,” he began. “Both as your friend and president of the sports society, I should-”
“Oh, whatever, Mr. President,” she interrupted, grabbing his phone and earning a loud protest from him. “Hey, Mrs. Ferrante,” she greeted cheerfully. “Dylan will definitely babysit May after school today, I’ll make sure he does. Don’t worry about a thing, alright? Yes.” She laughed. “Yes. Thank you. Alright, bye.”
He glared as she nonchalantly handed his phone back to him. He could never understand how someone so much smaller than him could overpower him sometimes.
Sam shrugged, as if having read his thoughts. “Come on,” she then said, cocking her head towards the classrooms. “We’re late.”
“Relax,” he told her, leaning back against the lockers. “Look over there.”
He pointed at the mob of girls huddled around the main entrance. He didn’t even have to have seen the guitar case sticking out to identify the cause.
Zac Hayden had entered the building.
And he was nothing too great, Dylan could almost swear on it. But being the lead singer and guitarist for a local band had landed him some benefits – namely, the position of president of the music society and half his popularity. The other half was courtesy of his ‘wild, black hair’ and ‘ice-blue eyes’ and ‘have you ever seen him smirk?’ – in Sam’s words, of course.
Dylan shook his head at her disapprovingly. “You’re doing it again,” he said.
“Doing what?” she questioned, trying to hide her smile.
“Making that disgustingly obvious love-struck face you make whenever he’s around,” he stated, folding his arms. “I told you, Sam. That guy’s a total jerk.”
Dylan had had the pleasure of interacting with Zac during every student council meeting, cultural event, even some sports rallies and though he wasn’t big on judging people, Zac had never proven himself to be anything more than a cocky, brooding, spoilt brat.
But, as much as he hated to admit it, Dylan could feel that there was something they had in common… a connection.
“He is not,” Sam insisted. “Look, he’s even signing autographs for all those girls despite being late for class.”
Dylan rolled his eyes. “That’s just because he doesn’t want to go to class and is well aware of the fact that Mrs. Nielson loves him and won’t start without him. And don’t pretend you don’t know it’s thanks to his grandfather that almost a quarter of the sports society’s funds were transferred to the music society this year.”
Sam raised her arms melodramatically. “So what? We already had twice as many funds as the other societies, it’s only fair.”
“Oh please, you know just as well as I do that you’d be biting his head off if it wasn’t pretty.”
Sam glared at him. “If you don’t shut up now, I’ll bite your head off instead.”
This wasn’t the first time Zac had heard this girl say something so unrefined. It was… amusing. He found her antics entertaining – that was what he had attributed the strange magnetism he felt around her to.
He chuckled as he walked by her, making his presence known to her.
She turned, clearly surprised to see him in her vicinity.
“That’d be a sight to see,” he muttered in response to her earlier comment, shooting the ever so kind and lovable basketball captain a once-over too.
He then strolled towards his classroom, leisurely slow to let the others get in before he did.
The class always began with his arrival after all. He had both his natural charm and his grandfather’s influence over the school to thank for that.
When he was starting high school, his grandfather had insisted he transfer back to the unbearable prep school he’d attended as a child – Zac had just bluntly refused, saying that he wouldn’t have left had he intended on going back one day.
His grandfather had bought the majority of this school’s shares in retaliation. To ‘ensure you receive only the best,’ he had said.
It hadn’t mattered to him. Then again, nothing had in a really long time.
As far as Zac was concerned, he and his music were all that existed in the world. Everything else was just scenery, to enjoy or alter temporarily.
He took his usual seat in the classroom, the seat that no one else dared touch.
He had heard, or rather overheard because nobody had the guts to say it to his face, that he was… intimidating. It was a trait he didn’t mind having. The less people came up to him, the better. If it wasn’t for the fact that they helped his music and his band thrive, he’d have found a way to shut all the ‘fan-girls’ down for good too.
He stared idly at the information the teacher was writing on the board, then around the rest of the classroom.
A bead of sweat trickled down his neck. It was getting stuffy.
Oh, there was one more thing that mattered…
He lifted his hand an inch and a jet of wind swished in through the window.