Read The Talents Online

Authors: Inara Scott

Tags: #Fiction - Young Adult

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BOOK: The Talents
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A WEEK
later, as Grandma and I pulled into the Delcroix Academy parking lot, I was filled with confidence and optimism about the year to come. I emerged from the car ready for the first day of school, smiling at everyone I saw, knowing I would be a success at anything I tried.…

Ha! Actually, as I unbuckled my seat belt and prepared to haul myself out of our old Volvo station wagon, I decided that agreeing to go to Delcroix was the worst decision I had ever made.

Because the more I'd thought about crashing that car, the worse I felt. They used the accident on the news that night as an excuse to talk about the importance of seat belts, and to show gory pictures of what can happen if you aren't properly buckled. They showed pictures of one guy who'd hit his head on the windshield and died two days later from a brain injury. I could have done that. Killed someone.

I couldn't blend in at Delcroix. I crashed cars on a whim and dropped branches on kids' heads. Within a week of starting school I'd probably send an anvil crashing down on some Delcroix genius and end up the subject of a top-secret government investigation.

“I'm so proud of you, Dancia, for deciding to give Delcroix a try. I'm sure it seems a little intimidating now, but I know you're going to love it here.” Grandma beamed at me, happiness radiating from her watery eyes.

I mustered a half smile. “Yeah, right. Well, I guess I'll see you on Friday.” I leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek, and then jumped out of the car before she could say anything else.

I walked around to the back of the Volvo and whacked the trunk panel right next to the latch three times, hard, so the door would open. When it finally did, I scooted my hideous, second-hand silver-and-black trunk back and forth until I could haul it out and let it fall to the ground with a thud. They said we were each allowed to bring one trunkful of stuff, and that it would be collected from the parking lot and taken to our room while we were at orientation.

With my belongings settled, I took a look around. Rows of parking spaces lined the narrow lot. A lone oak tree sat at one end, about twenty feet outside the edge of the iron fence that encircled the bright green, perfectly manicured Delcroix grass. The tree had spreading, scraggly branches and an uneven crown. On one side, the dark green leaves dipped low enough to touch, while on the other, the stump of a branch fifteen feet high sprouted thick bunches of new twigs.

The uneven branches were soothing, for some reason, and the tree looked almost big enough to hide behind.

Always good to know you've got options.

I stood for a minute looking at Grandma through the window. She waved and then slipped on the enormous plastic sunglasses she wore over her regular glasses. She was ready for a morning of mall walking in matching blue-and-white velour and bright pink lipstick. Being close to the car made me feel a little better, and I thought for a minute about asking her to stay, at least until the bus pulled up.

But no one in high school waits with their grandma for the bus. I'd made a huge fuss that morning about her leaving as soon as I unloaded my trunk, and she'd agreed that she would. I guess she figured she'd already won the war by getting me to try Delcroix, so she'd let me win this one battle. Now part of me wished she'd fought a little harder.

Reluctantly, I waved back, and she slowly drove away. I didn't have any choice then, so I turned around and started checking out the kids who would be there to witness my doom.

I mean, my freshman year.

They arrived in a line off Highway 78 in big SUVs and fancy new Subarus, tires crunching on the gravel. I wondered if I would be the only kid who didn't have a trust fund. Okay, to be honest, everyone around here drives Subarus, and some of the kids looked downright normal, but I didn't waste time looking at them. I focused on the super-rich ones. Isn't that what anyone would do?

A small group began forming on one end of the parking lot: girls wearing ultralow shorts and tight T-shirts that showed off their perfect boobs and flat stomachs, and boys standing a few feet from them wearing jeans or lowrider shorts, pretending that they weren't checking out the girls. Their trunks were scattered around beside them, lots of shiny black boxes with silver rivets at the corners, and overstuffed duffle bags that looked ready to burst. Some trunks were painted bright colors, or decorated with team logos or skateboard stickers. None looked quite as old and dingy as mine.

As I looked around, I realized the crowd was different from what I used to see at my middle school. Other than the rich kids, the groups I was familiar with—the jocks, the nerds, the brains, the goths—weren't there. I mean, there were kids you could probably throw into those categories, but they were hanging out in cliques of two and three, while all these other types of kids kept arriving. There were long-haired girls in leotards, boys with dreadlocks, a girl holding a pair of drumsticks, kids with lots of piercings in unusual places, and nerdy-looking guys with button-down shirts tucked into pants that practically came to their armpits. They were all different ethnicities too, whereas Danville was mostly white.

A few guys started throwing a Frisbee back and forth, and a sporty-looking girl wearing Adidas soccer shorts and running shoes joined the game. She was the kind of girl I hate on sight—long straight brown hair in a perky ponytail, perfect body, tanned skin, and seemingly no fear of dropping the Frisbee or making a fool of herself.

“Do you play?”

I was focusing so hard on the girl I had decided to hate (her name would have to be something sweet and charming, like Beth or Sarah), the voice at my side startled me.

“Huh?” I tore my eyes from Perfect Girl to examine the much more normal specimen at my side. This girl, I was relieved to see, was short and had hair almost as curly as mine. Only she apparently hadn't learned not to comb it, so it surrounded her face like a black cloud at least two feet in diameter. She wore a white button-down shirt and jeans, despite the fact that the sun was August-hot even at nine o'clock in the morning, and they'd told us to wear comfortable clothes because we'd be doing some of our orientation activities outside.

“Frisbee. Do you play Frisbee?” She had a cheerful voice and broad smile.

I shrugged and tried to look standoffish. “Not really.”

“Me neither! I'm hopeless at Frisbee. I aim one way and it goes the other. My name is Esther, what's yours?” She seemed oblivious to my attitude, and grinned as she dropped a backpack on the ground beside us. It was made of soft brown leather and probably cost as much as my grandma's Volvo. There was a trunk a few feet from us that matched perfectly. I figured it probably cost as much as our house.

“Dancia.”

“Wow, that's a really cool name. What does it mean?”

“I dunno. I guess my mom made it up.”

Esther laughed. “Well, it sounds cool. So, are you as nervous as I am? I think I slept about thirty minutes last night.”

Unwittingly, I smiled. “I think you have me beat. I slept at least an hour.”

She sighed dramatically, her dark eyes twinkling. “I'm jealous. Will you poke me if I fall asleep during something important? With my luck, I'll end up in detention before school even starts.”

Esther, I suspected, had never spent a day of her life in detention.

We chatted for a few minutes. Esther asked all sorts of questions—where I was from, what my middle school was like, what I was looking forward to at Delcroix. It took me that long to realize that she had used my own tactic against me. It was impressive, actually, the way she drew me out. The difference was that Esther alternated between asking questions and telling me all about herself. Before I knew it, we were talking like old friends.

Except, I wasn't supposed to be making friends.

Just as I was realizing I needed to put the brakes on the conversation, a bus pulled through the huge black gates at the far end of the parking lot, and both our mouths snapped shut. The bus was shaped like the old yellow cheese that had picked me up every day for middle school, but this one had been painted steel gray. It ground to a stop by the gates, so I hitched my backpack over my shoulder, grabbed the end of my trunk, and started dragging it in that direction. Even though I should have ditched Esther then and there, I guess I was just too nervous at the thought of handling this all by myself.

I turned back around to her. “Are you coming?”

She nodded quickly and picked up her backpack. Her trunk had a handle on one end and wheels, and she started pulling it behind her. She grinned at me, and I reluctantly smiled back. Esther had an air of confidence, like she assumed we were now best friends, and it was strangely magnetic.

She started talking again right away. “Do you think we'll all fit on one bus? Or maybe they make two trips? I can't believe they don't let you drive up to the school yourself. My dad says that's a good safety precaution, but I think it's a little much, don't you?”

I gave her a nod, but didn't speak. I focused on dragging my trunk and not letting it whack me on the back of my heels with every step. She barely seemed to notice, talking about how her mother was a lawyer who worked in the district attorney's office, and how her dad had driven her to orientation, which was a really long drive because they lived outside Seattle, but he said he'd take her because it would be such an incredible experience. According to Esther, six people in the United States House of Representatives and two in the Senate had gone to Delcroix, not to mention the guy who'd just become the new Supreme Court justice. Naturally, I had known nothing about this, but Esther actually seemed to know and care about politics.

Besides that, Esther clearly liked to talk. I mean really,
really
liked to talk.

I decided that was okay, because if she kept talking, I wouldn't have to.

We joined the group of kids milling around in front of the bus. The door opened with a hiss, and two guys jumped out. I stopped and stared. It was Cam and another guy I didn't know. Just looking at Cam erased all my doubts and fears, and brought back that hopeful feeling I'd been left with at Bev's.

Cam shook his shaggy hair from his eyes and held up his arms. His biceps bulged impressively from under a dark green T-shirt. A gold dragon hovered over the word delcroix on the front, and the word
STAFF
was sprawled across the back in matching gold letters.

“Hey, everyone, could I get your attention for a minute? Trevor and I have a few things to tell you before we board the bus.”

The girls began to whisper to each other as soon as they got a look at him.

“You can have my attention any time you want, Mr. Gorgeous,” Esther said under her breath.

“I'm Cam Sanders. I'm a junior at Delcroix. I'm one of the orientation staff here on campus early to help get you settled. With me is Trevor Anderly.” He motioned toward the other boy, who also wore a
STAFF
T-shirt. Trevor was a few inches shorter than Cam, with close-cut blond hair and light blue eyes that seemed to take in every person in the crowd at once. When he locked his gaze on me, something about that stare made me shiver.

“Trevor's also part of the orientation staff and one of the team leaders. He'll be giving you a tour of the buildings and grounds. The rest of the upperclassmen arrive next week. For now, you have Delcroix all to yourselves.”

There was scattered clapping, which Cam acknowledged with a smile, even as he raised his hands for quiet. “As you probably know from the packet you received in the mail, the next couple of days will be dedicated to orienting you to Delcroix and getting you settled into the Residence Hall—or the Res, as we like to call it. Today we have some welcome activities planned, and you'll have time to get unpacked and meet your roommates. Tomorrow you'll get your class schedules, meet with your advisers, and get to know your teachers. Wednesday you'll break into your freshman teams. Your classes start on Thursday, but don't worry, we'll keep you busy until then.”

A murmur started in the crowd, and a few people raised their hands.

Cam shook his head. “I'm sure you have lots of questions, but let's save them until we're up at the school.” He turned to the bus and patted the door fondly. “This is the old Silver Bullet,” he said. “She'll take you to and from school, and today she'll be running extra trips to get your gear up to the Res as well. If you go home for the weekends, you must be back in the parking lot ready to catch the bus at seven thirty a.m. on Mondays.”

“Classes start at seven forty-five, and if you miss the seven thirty bus, you'll be late,” Trevor said. He shoved a casual hand into his pocket, but nothing about the tone of his voice matched the pose. “I wouldn't miss the bus if I were you. They don't appreciate it when you're late.”

“Yeesh,” Esther said. “Does that guy think he's the Grim Reaper or something?”

BOOK: The Talents
5.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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