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First pages

Chapter 1

The sprawling lawn in front of Oakshield High teemed with clusters of students, excitedly greeting each other and talking animatedly about the highlights of their summer vacation. They laughed easily with their friends. The soccer team in bright green jerseys passed around a ball amongst themselves and showed off their moves to the groups of girls watching them. Everyone seemed happy to start a new school year, and the general atmosphere was one of high excitement.

Focusing closer as the car drew near the parking area, Brooke saw that Meredith Martins had turned blonde that summer and all her friends sported the same dry spaghetti-straight hair that she had gone for. Meredith’s sleeveless blue blouse fit perfectly into the curve of her waist. Her short white skirt accentuated shapely long legs ending in a pair of high heeled blue shoes. Squinting slightly, she observed the cherry-colored lips and long mascara laden eyes as her mother parked the car.

“Brooke,” her mother said from beside her.

“Yes?”

“What are you looking at? Let’s go!” urged her mother.

Sighing deeply, she picked her backpack from the floor of the car and climbed out after her mother. Kids nearby smirked openly at her; making her feel conscious of the old faded baggy jeans and the lumpy gray sweater that she wore. Glancing back towards her mother, she realized they could have been laughing at their old Ford, which was so dented and scratched that it made the garbage cans look shinier.

“Have a good year, honey,” Mrs. Russell said with a cheerful wave.

Dipping her head, she gave a small nod and hoisted her backpack over her shoulder. Pulling the sleeves of her sweater, so it covered the tips of her fingers, she began walking towards the school’s main gate. Her tall, lanky figure stood out starkly as she made her way through the sea of chattering high school students. Girls giggled and shook their heads at the long, limp length of her dark braid that hung to her waist. The boys were worse. They did not spare her a glance, choosing to keep watch over the girls in tight tank tops and figure-hugging skinny jeans.

 

As she walked on, no one waved at her or even shouted a “Hello.” She scanned the crowd for familiar faces, but even though she spotted them, they did not seem to notice her. Even her classmates seemed oblivious to her when she tried to smile at them. A heavyweight settled over Brooke’s heart as she reached the school’s office to collect her timetable for the semester.

I should be accustomed to this by now, she thought with a twinge, but a part of her disagreed with her logic. She was not the only person who dressed in clothes from the second-hand stores or did not spend a fortune at a salon to look like models on magazine covers. Some kids looked worse than her and seemed stranger, but even they appeared to have a close friend or two.

“Which year?” asked Mrs. Taylor, a woman in her forties sitting behind her desk.

“Senior year,” Brooke replied.

As Mrs. Taylor’s gaze fell on her, she had a look of surprise. “Are you new to the school?”

Brooke bit her tongue to stop hurling out an insult. Instead, she forced a smile and said, “No. I’ve been here the last three years.”

“Right,” she said slowly as she gawked at Brooke.

Snatching the timetable from her hand, Brooke left the office. She tried to control her anger and began telling herself this was not something out of the ordinary for her. People never seemed to remember who she was. Even the homeroom teacher from last year could not remember her when they came across each other at the supermarket. Everyone always had a look of surprise when she approached them, their faces going slack momentarily as they wracked their brains to recognize her.

Even though no one seemed to remember her or take notice of her, Brooke had developed a keen sense of observation. She knew all her classmates’ names and taking notice of their hair, eyes and the kind of clothes they liked to wear. Even if she was never part of their conversations, she heard all they said to each other- in class, the cafeteria or the school grounds.

She had come to recognize one fact. No one was ever what they seemed to be. Pretty Meredith Martins was a typical girl doll who followed fashion magazines like a hawk, but she was also excellent at math, something she always seemed to keep as a secret part of herself. The geeky Jack Wilbert who seemed to be in every advanced science class had a knack of dancing to hip-hop when no one appeared to be looking

Brooke had once seen him pull out the moves when he was selected president of the school’s science magazine.

Brooke had seen the same set of kids in every school that she had attended with little variation. That was the other thing about her. She and her mother rarely stayed at one place for longer. Three years in the town of Oakshield, Pennsylvania was the longest they had ever stayed in a town. She retained no memories of her father or how her early childhood had been. From as far back as she could remember, Shelly Russell, her mother moved every two years taking with them only what could fit in their two dilapidated suitcases.

Shelly Russell was a petite woman in her forties who worked at Brooke’s school. At times she wondered if her mother’s presence had anything to do with her being friendless. Brooke guessed her tall height came from the father that Shelly never mentioned. No photograph of him existed anywhere among their scant possessions. Every question she asked mother about their past was met with a cold, impenetrable silence. Brooke had never met any grandparents, uncles or aunts. It was like her whole existence was tied to her mother.

It often surprised and sometimes, disappointed Brooke that Mother would always get a job in a school that she attended. Sometimes, Shelly would get the janitor’s job or occasionally a low-level post in the administration department. At Oakshield High, she served lunch in the school cafeteria. No matter where mother worked, she was able to keep an eye on Brooke which kept bullies away. Mother had an uncanny ability to appear every time some kid wanted to rough Brooke up.

As she got older, Brooke wondered if her mother was responsible for keeping people from being her friend. It was not due to lack of social skills or anxiety that she could not make friends. Things always started well when meeting someone new. She would get the feeling that the person really liked her, but just a few days later, they would begin to ignore her and behave like they had never met her before.

Rejections hurt Brooke, but something within kept her hopeful that someday, she would have a friend who would never leave her. A secret fantasy of coming across a soul mate kept her cheerful when loneliness threatened to crush her soul.

She never talked about her fantasies with her mother. Shelly was a caring mother, but she could never tolerate Brooke talking about having friends or relationships.

“You can’t count on anyone, Brooke. You came into this world alone, and you will leave it alone. Friends are for the weak. The beguiled. I’m all you’ll ever need.”

“What about family, mother?” Brooke would ask.

“I’m the only family you have.”

And that was all there was to it. Shelly worked low wage jobs to pay for the tiny apartments they would rent which barely left money to buy enough food for them. Brooke’s clothes and shoes came from thrift stores. They never fit her right and were always too baggy for her. It was not like the shops never had anything that looked good on her, Shelly would never approve of anything that looked remotely pretty on her. It never bothered her when she was younger, but as she began to notice the kind of clothes and accessories her peers used, she began to see that her mother never allowed her to look attractive.

That summer, Brooke decided not to let herself hope for a lasting friendship with anyone. It was to be the last year of high school and by the end of the year; she would be eighteen and free to do what she wanted with her life. Brooke loved her mother but felt like a prisoner in jail.

She started waitressing at the local diner that summer to gain some skills so that she could move to a bigger city and start living by herself. Shelly did her best to make Brooke give up on the idea, but Brooke remained adamant too. Shelly cried and tried to make her feel guilty by saying that she had failed to be a good mother, but somehow, Brooke was ready for her every argument. She threatened to run away if her mother did not give her permission to work. Her declaration had almost frozen her mother in shock momentarily, but that was the first time that Brooke tasted victory.

Having gotten hold of her timetable for the semester, Brooke checked it to see what she had for the first period. The square box indicated that she had English which meant that she needed to walk to the building on the other side of the campus where Mr. Robert held his classes. Deciding to deposit the backpack in her locker before class, she took her notebook out. When she reached the lockers, she suddenly felt a prickly sensation slide down her back, like she was being watched. The feeling persisted, but she chose to ignore it. She opened her locker, took the pen and pencil pouch out and stuffed the bag inside. Banging it shut, she looked around but again, her mother was nowhere in sight. Shrugging casually, she pulled down the sleeves of her sweater and began walking towards her first class.

There was a nip in the crisp autumn air. Brooke felt grateful for the ugly but warm gray sweater as she looked around at the girls who wore small shorts. She took a moment to feel smug about their discomfort as she climbed up the stairs of the old school building. It was dark inside with no windows. Long fluorescent lights attached to the ceiling illuminated the corridors but only sparsely. It took a while for her eyes to get adjusted after walking across the school’s sunlit grounds. She squinted back at the class schedule to check for the classroom and immediately felt the prickly feeling of being watched.

Brooke turned slowly around the spot. The corridors here were not crowded like the main school building so it would be harder for someone to hide.

“Who’s there?” she shouted, as no one came into view.

An unknown primal emotion took hold of her, and suddenly beads of cold sweat gathered on her forehead. Gulping dryly and trying to brush away the feeling of being hunted she hurried up to reach the safety of Mr. Robert’s class. Brooke got to the classroom only to find it empty. The other students dragged themselves into the classroom a few minutes later.

Feeling comparatively safer, Brooke headed towards the last row of the class. Sitting somewhere in the front would only bring annoying questions from Mr. Robert who would have forgotten her face by now. Resigning herself, she chose a desk and sat. Quickly becoming bored she started wishing for an iPod like the rest of her peers. She made a mental note to budget for one. Time sped up as she daydreamed of the things she would buy after saving up money from the diner job.

The shrill ring of the school bell echoed through the corridor outside. Brooke straightened up in her seat. Sounds of footsteps were heard coming up the hallway now and soon students wandered into the class, some greeting each other boisterously. They glanced at her but ignored her as usual.

Mr. Roberts came in a minute after the bell with a cheerful smile on his face. He was about thirty, with a soft round face and cropped brown hair. He smiled at the familiar faces of his students, but as his gaze fell on Brooke, they lingered on her longer, like he was trying to remember her from somewhere. Brooke looked down at her hands in her lap until she felt him look away from her.

“Settle down, settle down,” Mr. Roberts called to the class. After the noise had ceased, he began. “This year we will look at Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and John Green’s Fault in Our Stars.”

The announcement was met by a collective low groan. Brooke heaved a sigh. She had all three of the books and knew they were a depressing collection of stories.

“Hello?” A soft female voice came through the doors.

Everyone including Mr. Roberts turned towards the door and saw a tall girl and a boy beside her. From the first instance, it was clear that they were twins. A gasp escaped the class as they walked through the door. The girl looked like she had just walked out of a high fashion photoshoot wearing super skinny black leggings teamed with a blood red blouse and a cropped black jacket. Her long legs ended in high-heeled black boots. Her thick black tresses fell in heavy waves around her shoulders. Skillfully applied makeup made her eyes look dark and seductive while her lips were painted a demure, soft pink.

The boys watched her with hang-dog expressions and the girls with poorly hidden jealousy. The boy shifted from behind his sister and approached Mr. Roberts. Groans were heard as the girls took in his tall, broad-shouldered frame. He wore casual jeans a gray t-shirt with a black leather jacket. But he did so exuding confidence with the ease and charm of a male model. Even though his clothes looked casual, Brooke could tell that they would cost more than her apartment’s rent.

“We’re new students here,” the boy said, handing a sheet of paper to Mr. Roberts. He had a strong accent. Either Scottish or Irish decided Brooke silently.

“Uhhh- yes,” blurted Mr. Roberts evidently as surprised as his students at their sudden appearance. Clearing his throat, he read, “Miss Chelsea and Mr. Charles Langston. Welcome to Oakshield High.”

Some of the girls said “Hello” to the twins in a bid to get their attention. They looked down at them with haughty expressions as their eyes roved over each face in the class until they zeroed in on Brooke, who looked back at them with wide-eyed shock.

“I can share my books with you, Charles,” Meredith simpered, flicking her blonde locks.

Choosing to ignore her attempts, Charles walked between the desks. Everyone twisted their necks to see where he preferred to sit. Even Mr. Roberts watched as Charles stopped beside the empty desk in the last row beside Brooke.

“We’ll sit here. Come, Chelsea.”

The girl gave a mischievous smile, but while the other students craned their eyes to look at Brooke, a dark look passed between them.

Whispers of “who is that?” and “what the heck is she wearing?” floated in the classroom.

Brooke froze as Charles and Chelsea took the empty seats on either side of her. Brooke’s pale complexion burst into a dark shade of crimson as everyone continued to stare at her.

“Settle down, folks.” Mr. Robert tried in vain to get the attention of the class back towards him.

Chapter 2

Mr. Roberts pushed forward valiantly to get back the attention of his students away from the twins that had materialized earlier in his class. He read out the semester syllabus and all that would be expected of the students in terms of assignments. Generally, there would be groans and uproars about the amount of homework that they would be set but today, they did not make a single comment about that. A light buzz filled the air as the class talked amongst themselves and kept turning around to look at the pale girl in the grey sweater.

“I will not repeat any of this in the next class,” said Mr. Roberts, his voice coated with annoyance as he helplessly stared at the twins who had both shifted their desks closer to the girl. When the bell rang, signaling the end of class, Mr. Roberts finally got everyone’s attention. “I need a thousand word minimum essay on the first scene of act one of Macbeth,” said Mr. Roberts loudly.

“What?”

His announcement confused everyone. They had barely gone over the titles that they would be studying that semester.

“If you’d paid attention, you would have heard me talk about the play in general,” sneered Mr. Roberts at their startled reaction. “Hurry to your next class now.”

The throng of boys and girls grumbled as they came out of the classroom. Brooke stayed seated and waited for the others to go ahead, so that she could walk without being stared by them all.

“Aren’t you coming?” asked Chelsea.

“Yeah, in a second. You guys can go ahead,” said Brooke, forcing a smile.

“Not a chance. We’re coming with you. Besides, you know where all the classes are. It’d take us ages to find them ourselves,” said Charles.

“You may not have the same classes as me,” said Brooke.

“Of course, we do! I checked your schedule,” said Chelsea, pointing at the time table sheet that was still lying on Brooke’s desk.

“Right,” mumbled Brooke, snatching it and shoving it inside her pocket.

Chelsea wound her hands through Brooke’s arm and pulled her out of the room, Charles following behind closely. The corridors had emptied as most of the students had dispersed to other classes in the main building.

“I’ll tell you where the next class is,” said Brooke. “You don’t have to stay with me.”

Letting her arm go, Chelsea came to stand in front of Brooke. “Why not?” she asked. Her narrowed eyes glinted darkly.

“Because you will get cooler people to hang out with. You don’t have to do a stunt hanging out with someone like me. Making me look stupid in front of others won’t work for you guys. They will soon forget all about it. They always forget about me,” said Brooke, her voice fading away.

Chelsea glanced at Charles. “What makes you think we’re as shallow as the rest of them?”

“You have not even asked me my name,” said Brooke.

“We didn’t want to disturb you in class. I was just about to ask you,” said Charles, coming to stand before her. A whiff of his perfume made her feel heady. His dark eyes smoldered as he looked at her confused face. “What is your name?”

“Brooke. Brooke Russell.”

“Nice to meet you, Brooke. Will you show us to our next class before the teacher marks us down as late comers?”

Brooke nodded. Her heart was thudding loudly at the close proximity to the most handsome guy she had ever come across.

“This way,” she said, taking a step back from him, willing her mind to stay focused. This had to be the best day of high school.

Brooke led them out of the old building and took them to the wing of the main campus which housed all the school laboratories. She acutely felt everyone’s eyes on her as they crossed the lawn but was sure that it was because of the two people who were walking behind her.

“Where are you guys from?” she asked as they walked down a long corridor.

“We’re from Edinburgh,” said Chelsea.

“I guessed you were Scottish or Irish because of your accents,” replied Brooke.

“I suppose we do sound different. This is the first time we’ve travelled outside Scotland,” said Charles.

“Why’d you move to the US?” asked Brooke.

A dark look passed between Chelsea and Charles. “Work,” they said together.

“Oh! You had to move because of your parent’s jobs?”

“Yes,” said Charles.

“You must be missing your friends back home.”

“Not really. We’ve got you now,” said Chelsea.

Brooke stared at them. No one had ever spoken to her that way. Even though they were complete strangers, they seemed quite interested in her. She stopped in front of the entrance to the chemistry lab.

“I guess you don’t have lab coats and stuff with you?” asked Brooke, as she walked towards the side room that had lockers for their laboratory items.

“No, but I’m sure the teacher will let us off on our first day,” said Chelsea, smiling. Brooke stared at her perfect lips, mesmerized by her new friend’s beauty.

“Yeah. I’ll just get my stuff.”

She quickly took a coat and exercise book from the locker and asked them to follow her to the main laboratory space. Rows of apparatus and accompanying chemicals had already been placed for the students when Brooke walked in. From the set up, she knew they had started on acid base titration.

“Are you new students?” asked Mrs. Wohler.

“They are,” said Brooke, glancing at the twins.

“Don’t remember seeing you around here,” said Mrs. Wohler.

“Of course, you don’t,” mumbled Brooke.

“What’d you say?”

“Nothing. I’ve got my things. I can get started if you gave me the solution that we are doing the volumetric titration on,” said Brooke.

Mrs. Wohler’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “You’ve done your homework!” Looking at the twins, she asked, “Are you the Langstons?”

“Yes,” said Chelsea.

“Join her for today. Pick up the list of laboratory stuff that you’ll be needing at the end of class.”

Brooke chose one of the tables at the back of the class. There were only five students from her English class there but the others were also choosing to turn their heads to look at the twins from time to time. It was not as bad as before because they had to concentrate on the experiment or they would receive a zero for the exercise. Chemistry being her favorite subject, she quickly set up the apparatus and focused on getting the correct readings.

“This is boring.” Brooke heard Chelsea whisper.

“Not for long sister,” said Charles.

Brooke did not understand what he meant. Swirling the pale pink liquid in her beaker as she dripped acid from the tall burette, she wondered what Charles meant. Were they planning to shift classes? Oh well, it was a nice change to talk to someone, thought Brooke with resignation.

“Whoa! How’d you do that?” cried Chelsea suddenly, making everyone jump.

“What are you talking about?” asked Brooke, putting her beaker of now clear liquid on the table. She had almost dropped it.

“That was pink before,” said Chelsea, pointing at the beaker. “You’re doing magic in the open!”

Brooke stared at her, not knowing if she was being serious or joking. The look on Chelsea’s face was a mixture of surprise and anger.

“Uhhh- that’s what happens when you add acid to an alkali colored with phenolphthalein,” said Brooke. She saw Charles dig his elbow in his sister’s side before whispering, “This is a science class, sis.”

“Have you never taken Chemistry?” asked Brooke.

“No,” said Chelsea.

“Then why would you be in this class? This is very advanced stuff,” said Brooke, as she noted down measurements in her exercise book.

“Ignore my sister. She can be daft sometimes,” said Charles as Chelsea glowered at him. “Have you not been in this school long? The teacher thought you were new here.”

“You three in the back!” called Mrs. Wohler loudly. “No talking!”

Brooke dipped her head and took a seat on the stool. She quickly began to calculate the results of the experiment. The twins watched her tapping the keys of the calculator and writing down her results. They did not seem to be in any mood to learn or help but Brooke did not mind. Mrs. Wohler walked towards their table. Everyone turned back to watch.

“Let me see what you’ve done so far,” said Mrs. Wohler, pushing her spectacles further up her nose.

“I’m almost done,” said Brooke, showing her the readings and the calculations.

Taking it from her, Mrs. Wohler went through the page, her magnified blue orbs moving behind her glasses.

“You’ve got the correct result. This deserves an A,” said Mrs. Wohler with a look of approval. However, her tone changed quickly. “Would have been an A+ if you weren’t chattering with these two. I don’t tolerate negligence. This is a serious class. You’re handling dangerous chemicals and any inattentiveness can cause major accidents.”

“Yes, ma’am,” muttered Brooke.

“I guess you three can leave for your next class. The list is on my table. Make sure you have everything for your next class,” said Mrs. Wohler.

Collecting her things, Brooke walked out quietly. While she put her things in the locker, she heard Chelsea complaining about Mrs. Wohler.

“I absolutely want to hex her,” whispered Chelsea furiously.

“Calm down,” said Charles.

“She’s right, you know,” said Brooke. “Handling chemicals can be serious.”

“Really?”

Suddenly Brooke felt herself being pushed against the locker. “How would you like it if I hexed you?” Chelsea hissed.

Chelsea had fisted a part of her sweater, tightening it around her neck. A pang of fear crossed Brooke’s heart as she looked into those dark, feral eyes that held nothing but intense rage.

“Please, let me go.”

“Chelsea,” said an equally cold voice. Looking around Chelsea, she saw Charles gripping his sister’s shoulder.

After a moment, Chelsea stepped back, letting go of Brooke. Breathing heavily, she wondered if she should be running out of there.

“Forgive my sister,” said Charles, taking Brooke’s hand in his. Looking up at him, she saw that he did look sorry. “She can get out of control sometimes.”

He had the same dark eyes as his sister but they were looking at her in a way which made her heart race for a very different reason.

“It’s fine,” she finally managed to say.

“You go on to your next class while I take Chelsea for a walk. It is difficult for her to be in a new place.”

“I understand. I’ll see you around,” said Brooke and left them in the locker room. The bell signalling the end of lesson rang out, making her pace to reach the next class.

Breathing a sigh of relief, she walked by herself to the math class. No one glanced at her while she passed through the corridors.

She passed a restful hour at the back of the class solving the equation that the teacher had given to the class and not a single person turned in their seats to stare at her.

When lunch hour came, Brooke doubted whether the twins would look for her. By now, they must have met other people in the school who would suit to their standards of style and fashion. Even though she felt the beginnings of a crush for Charles Langston, she knew that it was better to fantasise about him in her mind rather than actually dating him. It was not only his incredibly good looks that separated them. He was definitely richer than her and to show him the crammed apartment where she lived with her mother would be nothing short of embarrassing. She did not even need to think of her mother’s reaction if she told her about Charles. It’s best this way, she decided. He should be with someone else.

The cafeteria was already crowded by the time Brooke dragged her feet there. A long winding queue had formed at the food counter. Joining the very end of it, Brooke fished in her pockets to see how much money she had. A dollar and twenty cents was all that she managed to procure and began wondering what she could buy with it to calm her gnawing stomach. The smell of pizza was strong in the air but she knew she could not afford a slice. Looking around, she saw several tables with apples on them. She caught sight of her mother too, wearing a blue apron and a hair net serving bowls of hot pasta.

“Where have you been? We’ve been looking everywhere for you?!”

Brooke turned at the sound of Chelsea’s familiar voice.

“Hey,” she said. A smile hovered on her lips in spite of her earlier decision to stay away from Charles Langton as he waved at her from behind his sister.

“I’m sorry, I thought you guys might have already come in here,” lied Brooke.

“I suppose we did,” said Chelsea and laughed.

Brooke breathed easily now that Chelsea seemed cheerful again. Their last conversation at the chemistry locker room had disturbed her but she let it go, deciding to believe Charles’s explanation.

“What’re you having, Brooke?” asked Chelsea, looking around at the people who had already sat down with their lunches. “The pizza looks good, doesn’t it? But that pasta they’re serving is steaming hot! It is hard to choose.”

Brooke nodded.

“So, what are you having?” Chelsea asked again.

“Just-just some milk and the apples look good,” said Brooke, trying not to blush at the idea of her pitiful lunch.

“No wonder you’re so skinny,” commented Chelsea. “But from how you’re dressed, I don’t think you’re maintaining a figure for fashion’s cause.”

“No; I left my wallet in my locker,” lied Brooke. “This is all I have in my pocket right now.”

“Don’t worry about it, Brooke. I’ll buy you a proper lunch,” said Charles.

“No, really, it’s fine,” said Brooke. “I am not that hungry.”

Brooke felt a hand on her shoulder. Chelsea slowly turned her around and looked deeply into her panicked grey eyes.

“You don’t have to worry about paying us back, Brooke.”

Brooke stared at her with a stricken look.

“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” said Charles, moving ahead of them to reach the food counter. “Three slices of pizzas, three salad bowls and three orange juices, please.”

Brooke felt her mother’s piercing gaze on her as she moved along with Chelsea behind Charles. Refusing to meet her accusing glance, Brooke looked ahead and spotted an empty table. “That table’s clear,” she said, pointing towards it.

“Great!” said Charles, handing her a loaded tray of food.

Feeling comparatively more cheerful at the prospect of eating a lunch of her preference, Brooke led them towards the empty place, feeling like she could have bounced. Piercing the juice box, she took a long sip while Charles sat next to her and Chelsea settled herself opposite them. At the risk of receiving a glare, Brooke glanced towards her mother. Mrs. Russell had stopped serving people and was directly glowering at her, causing the queue to extend outside the cafeteria hall.

“The food is not as bad I was expecting it to be,” said Chelsea, drawing her attention away.

“Yeah. It’s great at this school,” said Brooke, taking a bite of her pizza. “In some of the schools that I went to, students preferred to bring their own lunch instead of eating what they were served. It can be horrible in some places.”

“Are you new to Oakshield High too?” asked Charles. “Your teachers barely seem to recognise you.”

Brooke swallowed her food before answering the question that had always plagued her own mind. “I don’t know. It’s always been this way, no matter which school I attended. I guess I just have one of those faces that people just forget about.”

“I would not say so,” said Charles, fixing her with dark eyes.

Brooke’s cheeks flushed a pale pink as she looked down to take a sip of her juice.

“My brother’s not wrong, you know,” said Chelsea. “You’re not bad looking. It just gets hidden under the monstrous sweaters and pants.”

A shrill laughter broke their conversation. Looking up, Brooke saw Meredith Martins standing over their table with her gang of three girls, all holding trays of food.

“Can we help you?” asked Chelsea, raising her eyebrows.

“No; I just could not help laughing at what you said just now. Why don’t you ditch this entire monstrosity?” said Meredith waving her hands at Brooke. “We’re sitting over there. We’d love for you to join us.”

Before she knew what was happening, Brooke heard a loud crash. Chelsea had knocked Meredith’s tray from her hand. Chelsea’s blue top got splattered with red sauce as the bowl of pasta dropped its contents on her before falling to the floor. A scream of rage and shock escaped Meredith as she looked at the horrifying state of her clothes.

“Don’t dare insult my friend again,” shouted Chelsea.

Giggles of laughter erupted around the other tables as they saw Meredith’s state. Charles stood up to calm his sister but did not apologize to the girls who looked bewildered at the turn of events.

“Finish your lunch, Chelsea,” said Charles softly.

Brooke watched as they sat down and began eating their food, completely ignoring Meredith. A laugh suddenly bubbled on her lips as she watched Meredith stomping her foot and hurrying out of the cafeteria with a gale of laughter following her and her friends.

“You guys are the new heroes of this school,” laughed Brooke.

“I just can’t put with girls of her sort. They think they’re better than everyone else just because they know how to carry out fashion wear from magazines,” said Chelsea, her nose twisting like she could smell something bad.

“I don’t think lunch hour has ever been this exciting,” said Brooke.

Chelsea made a fake bow with a mischievous grin but as Brooke’s gaze shifted, she saw her mother almost foaming at the mouth with the way she was staring at her.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

My time in Scotland led me to develop a love for folklore, dark faerie tales and an interest in Celtic mythology and paganism. My stories portray this love affair with the supernatural. Although, work and tight deadlines often have me drinking coffee, I'm a tea-lover at heart and spend my free time concocting floral blends. Needless to say that I enjoy my afternoon tea with all the accompaniments of finger sandwiches, cakes and good company.

Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
I grew up reading J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series along with other fantasy books. To me, strong characters are what creates a good story. When I say strong characters, I don't mean them to be powerful alone, but how they overcome their own grief to do what's right.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
Fantasy stories draw me into a different world. It provides me an escape from my own mundane, magicless world to experience amazing adventures.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
You can always find out about what I'm up to on my blog. http://ginnyclyde.blogspot.in/

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