Authors: Miranda Kavi
Copyright © 2012 MIRANDA KAVI
Midnight Blackbird LLC
This novel is a work of fiction. Any and all names, characters, places and events are the product of the author’s imagination or are used in fictitious manner. Any resemblance to persons (alive or dead), organizations, businesses or actual events is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved by author. It is unlawful to copy and/or reproduce this novel in any way without the express written consent from the author. The author is a litigation-happy, super-ninja attorney that gets angry when people steal her book.
Table of Contents
For Ozzie and Helo, sweet little stars too bright for this world.
Teenagers streamed around Celeste, pushing past her into the crowded cafeteria.
“Um, you’re in the way.”
Celeste turned to apologize to the speaker, but her words died on lips. Great. One of them. The girl was tall, with chestnut-colored hair waving gracefully down her back. She was slim and stylish and way prettier than anyone should be.
“Hello? Did you hear me?” She waved a manicured hand with long, pink nails and snapped her gum as she stared at Celeste, waiting for a response.
“Yeah.” Celeste pushed open the swinging door and walked into the cafeteria, leaving Miss Perfect behind.
“What a fa-reek!” Miss Perfect said to her friends. They tittered in response.
But Celeste was already distracted. It was worse than she thought. Long tables filled the cafeteria. There was no solitary, small table she could sit at by herself.
She got in line for food, grabbed a burger, and perched on the end of one of the long tables. She was used to being alone. This was her fifth state in four years. Not a good way to make those life-long buddies.
A boy sauntered over and sat down a few feet away from Celeste. Unlike all the other teenagers in the room, he wasn’t flanked by any companions. Celeste watched him out of the corner of her eye. He was tall, with a shock of thick black hair. His profile revealed a defined jaw line and thick eyebrows. He stared straight forward, seemingly unaware of the crowds of people around him.
She returned her concentration to her burger until she felt a little jolt she’d only felt when someone stared at her. She glanced around the room.
It was him, watching her, and he was gorgeous. His bright green eyes stood out from his inky black hair. He didn’t smile, but he didn’t frown either, just watched her.
She returned his attention. The mutual staring contest continued until she was uncomfortable under his intensity.
Screw it. I’m going to go talk to him.
She grabbed the edge of her tray to move when a very tall boy slid in across from her. “Hi, new girl! I saw you sitting alone, and we can’t have that.” He had a big smile on his face. “What’s your name? I’m Tony, but people call me Tink around here.” He shoved his hand in her direction.
She took it and returned his smile. “Hi, Tink, I’m Celeste.”
“Oh, my God, Celeste! I love it. It matches you somehow,” Tink said.
“Oh, thanks, I think.”
“It was a compliment, don’t worry. I love the bohemian thing.” He fingered the edge of the silk scarf wrapped around her shoulders. “Love it! Very tortured-beauty.”
He was the picture of prep: neatly pressed khakis, fashionable graphic t-shirt, and simple colored bands on a few of his fingers.
He caught her looking and smiled. “So, what’s the scoop with you?”
“I’m scoopless. Sorry. My family just moved here last week, so here I am.”
“Ah! New girl is really new.”
“I’m always new, until I’m not,” she said. “Are you a junior too? I thought I saw you in my English class.”
“Yep, I’m a junior. I’m sure you did see me. I stand out like a gay kid in a small town public school.”
Celeste giggled. “Well, it was mostly your height that stuck out.” She tucked a loose curl behind her ear. “Where did your nickname come from? I’ve never met a Tink before.”
“When I came out in eighth grade, my esteemed classmates started to call me twinkle tink. I beat the crap out of them, but the name stuck. I decided to own it, so, now I’m Tink.”
“Huh, Tink. I like it,” she said.
A loud beep pulsed through the room.
“Oh, that’s the ten minute warning bell. You know, finish up and head to class soon kind of thing,” Tink said. “What do you have next?”
“Cool, I’ll walk you over. I have the same class.”
They shoved their trays into the large receptacle near the exit then left the cafeteria. The boy with the black hair crossed in front of them as they headed down the hallway.
Tink leaned closer to Celeste. “You’re not the only new person here. See that hottie? He started a couple of weeks ago. Very quiet. Hasn’t really talked to anyone.”
“Not even you?” She nudged his arm.
“Nope, and I haven’t even tried. He’s too pretty.”
“Wait a second, should I be insulted by that?” she said.
“No, cause you’re a chick, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot.” She was still laughing when they walked into the biology classroom.
It was stuffed with wooden desks that looked older than her. Every inch of wall was covered with posters of periodic tables, the scientific method, photosynthesis, mitosis, and anatomy charts.
“Is there assigned seating in this one?” she asked her new school guide.
“Nope, it’s a free for all, but watch out for seventh hour math. That’s all assigned.”
Tink selected a seat near the back, gesturing for Celeste to sit in front of him. She did then looked around at the other students in the class.
It was her first day, but she already recognized several faces from her earlier classes. The small-town, Kansas high school housed a grand total of 178 illustrious students.
She was studying the long, pretty braids of the girl seated next to her when the black-haired boy intersected her line of sight. He hesitated at the classroom door, eyes roaming the many open seats.
He walked with deliberation in her direction. He smiled before lowering himself into the desk in front of her. The back of his chair touched the front of her desk.
She glanced back at Tink, who winked at her. She straightened her shoulders so she was facing forward, pretending she hadn’t seen Tink’s obvious display.
Too late. Hot guy was watching her.
“Hi.” His voice was quiet.
“Hello,” she answered, meeting his eyes. “I’m Celeste.”
“Rylan. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
He put his hand on her desk, leaning forward so only she heard him. His smile was lopsided, one side slightly higher than the other. The unique smile was sexy, as was his unexpected proximity to her face.
“I knew it. You’re one of them, aren’t you?” he whispered.
“What? One of whom?”
“Them, you know, the…” He studied her face. “How old are you?”
“Um, what? Almost seventeen.”
He reshaped his features into distant coolness. “When?”
“When do you turn seventeen?”
“A week. Why are you asking me this again? And who is ‘them’?”
“Never mind. I thought you were someone else.” He took his hand off her desk, flashed a faint smile, and rotated his body to the front of the classroom.
Celeste glanced behind her at Tink, who was busy doodling in the margins of his notebook, the long fingers of his other hand wrapped around his chin. The students were otherwise occupied; whispering, shuffling books and notebooks, waiting for the teacher to come in.
What was that all about? Celeste stared at the back of Rylan’s head. She mulled over what he’d said.
You’re one of them.
That could mean anything, bad or good. New kid? Freak? And why did he care about her age? Weird.
She turned to ask Tink if he knew anything more about Rylan, when a short man with olive-toned skin and thinning hair walked into the classroom. “Afternoon, everyone,” he said, positioning himself behind the podium. “Let’s get started – page fifty.”
Celeste pulled out her book with another glance at the back of Rylan’s head.
“Hey, wait up!” The male voice said behind her. Tink caught up to her near the double glass doors facing the parking lot. “I wanted to give you my number in case you need anything, like gossip or homework stuff.”
“Thanks, that would be great.” She pulled out her cell phone then punched in the numbers he recited. He saved her number in his expensive-looking smart phone.
“How’d you get here? Do you have a car?” He craned his head to peep over her shoulder at the near-empty parking lot.
“No, but my house is not even a mile away. I’ll walk.”
“You sure? I’ve got a passenger seat in my car with your name on it,” he said.
“Thanks, but I probably need the exercise.”
“That sounds too far for my lazy butt, but I’ll walk you out.” He stepped around her and opened the door, holding it ajar with a wide, sweeping gesture. “Ladies first.”
She walked ahead of him out the door. She tightened her jacket around her, lifting the wild mop of auburn curls caught in her collar.
“Still adjusting to the weather?” Tink wore a short-sleeve shirt with no jacket.
“Yeah, San Diego is kind of the same all year. At least, I think it is. We were only there eight months.”
“Oh yeah? That’s okay. You don’t look like a California girl anyways.”
“Is that so? And why can’t I be SoCal?”
“You’re cute, but your way too short, way too pale, and you’re a ginge.” He bumped her lightly with his hip to show he was joking. “You look like you’re from Seattle or something. I can picture you camped out in the corner of a bookstore, judiciously reading your literary novel.”
They laughed, the noise scattering a few small birds from the trees planted in the medians of the parking lot.
“Shut up! You’re just jealous because you’re not a hot ginge.”
“Maybe so.” He paused outside an old, beat-up car. “This is me. Sure you don’t want a lift?”
“No thanks.” She waived goodbye before starting down the street that would take her home.
It was a quiet, residential street lined with tall trees on either side. Craftsman style bungalows with freshly painted exteriors, neatly groomed lawns, and late model American built cars attested to the middle class people living here.
The sun cast long shadows on the sidewalks. She stepped out of the painful rays, relishing the moment of darkness as she walked through each shadow.
The day had been pretty good, overall. Considering this was her third high school, she’d know. Tink had made it easy, walking her to shared classes and feeding her tidbits of information about the students and teachers.
She picked up her pace, eager to get out of the sun and be home. A bead of sweat slid down her forehead. She loosened the two scarves around her neck and adjusted the tunic she wore over skinny jeans and retro sneakers.
Movement caught her eye. She followed it to the black pavement of the street. She blinked in the bright light, trying to understand where she saw the motion.
The smooth pavement street had a pulsing lump in the middle of the road, as if something was trying to push out from beneath the surface. She shielded her eyes and took a step towards the street.
The lump grew until it was the size of a beach ball. She looked up and down the street for help, but there were no cars or people.
The lump wasn’t done. It stretched up into the sky, still not breaching the black pavement, until it morphed into a vaguely humanoid shape.
She stepped away from the street, backing into the lawn of a random house. A cold brush of fear touched the base of her spine.
The lump moved forward until it lined up evenly with Celeste. She took another step back, tripped over a coil of garden hose, and landed on her rump.