Nothing but the Cold, Hard Truth—Chapter 1

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Nothing but the Cold, Hard Truth

Chapter 1


“She’s such a bitch.”

His gaze trailed in the direction of her finger, landing on a girl halfway down the hall. Clad in black skinny jeans, brown boots and a simple, white sweater, she was dressed more casually than every other girl in school so far, who were dressed like they were competing for Miss Canada. Clusters of happily chatting friends passed by her, gossiping loudly about what everyone had been up to in the summer. The entire school was a flurry of motion and noise, yet she was the only one standing still, pulling out books from her locker, as quiet as a black-and-white movie.

His gaze lingered a moment longer before shifting to the lanky girl with red hair and freckles beside him, who had taken it upon herself to become his personal guide around the school. While he hadn’t minded her so much earlier, he now took an instant distaste to the girl—what was her name? Patricia? Maybe Maurice—for her unwarranted and unsolicited opinion. It was peculiar and off-putting the way her mouth pulled into a sour peach frown as she badmouthed a girl who didn’t even look like she could hurt a fly. But, if the intent had been to pique his curiosity, consider that accomplished. “What makes you say that?”

“Well,” Maurice—that was the name he decided to go with—said, suddenly flustered. “Um, it’s complicated.” At that moment, as if on cue, the girl across the hall turned her head and looked straight at Maurice. He watched her straight, black hair flip over her shoulders and the vaguely concerned look settling on her face. It seemed like she was looking at Maurice—and yet, right through her too. Maurice didn’t notice, her eyes turned to the floor instead.

“We used to be friends,” she finally sighed, “Best friends actually. Then, out of nowhere, she just… dropped me.” Maurice played with the cuffs of her sweater, avoiding his gaze. “Like I was nothing,” she murmured, old pain making it back into her voice, “Just refused to talk to me, wouldn’t even look at me. Wouldn’t give me any answers.”

He pulled his gaze back to the girl down the hallway. She’d turned back to face her locker now and, to anyone not looking closely, it looked like she was just getting ready for class, slipping her books into her bag. Her eyes, though, gave it away; they had stilled, drilling a hole into the wall. He had the uncanny feeling that she had overheard Maurice, which seemed almost impossible. Twenty metres separated them and throngs of people streamed between them, letting out the occasional holler. A girl let out a high-pitched scream as her jock boyfriend grabbed her in a bear hug.

Maurice cleared her throat and recovered, a bright smile returning to her face and blowing the dark clouds away. “But, yeah, that’s why Rainie’s a bitch. Nobody likes her.” That, at least, seemed to give her a smug satisfaction. “All the guys think she’s uptight and she never seems to hang around anyone.”

He didn’t like the way she was looking at him. Awkwardly, he shifted to pull his collar up higher around his neck. “If you ask me,” Maurice said, moving closer to brush his arm, “Don’t waste your time on her. There are lots of other girls who’d be interested.”

The warning bell rang just then, sending students dashing into open doorways. His gaze flickered back to Rainie—an evocative name, he thought—, but she had already left, the space she had just occupied now empty with air. “Uh, thanks,” he muttered, not knowing how else to respond to that. Maurice battered her eyelashes, pleased. “So, where’s Room 201?”

“Right this way!” Maurice said, beaming, “I’ll take you there.” Wrapping her arms around his, she led him up the stairs.

~

He didn’t see her again until lunchtime. The school cafeteria was impressive—and an utter waste of money if you asked him—, with its glowing chandeliers and marble tables. It looked more like a gourmet restaurant than a lunchroom for teenagers, but no one acted like it was out of the ordinary. A quick glance at the menu confirmed his suspicions that everything would be out of his price range.

“Ridiculous,” he muttered, turning to walk back out. He’d find somewhere else to eat. A small body slammed into him just then.

“My bad,” he said, instinctively reaching out to steady her. He was surprised to find it was the girl from before. Rainie, he automatically formed with his lips. “I’m so sorry.”

Up close, she was even smaller than he’d suspected—and pretty, in a girl-next-door kind of way. Her face was clear of makeup and seemed impossibly pristine because of it. Her midnight black hair spilled over slender shoulders. His eyes followed the line of her face down to her lips. He suddenly wondered what her smile looked like. She caught her balance, tightening her grip around a stack of books to her chest and righting the strap of her backpack that threatened to slip off. There was something almost familiar about her.

Wildfire—the word mysteriously popped into his head as his gaze snapped back to her eyes. It’d come so naturally, and now it didn’t seem any other word would fit.

But she looked right past him, never once meeting his eyes. “It’s fine,” she replied brusquely before moving past him and making a bee-line for the opposite doors. She stumbled out them, into the courtyard. Unable to help himself, he followed.

Except, Maurice popped up in front of him, ever the peppy gopher. He slammed to a stop, slightly miffed.

“Nuh uh, Romeo,” she tsked, wagging her finger at him, “What did I tell you this morning? That’s just how she is. Beautiful, but a loner. She doesn’t like company.”

“That wasn’t—” he cut himself off, sighing. No use explaining something he couldn’t understand himself. “I wasn’t following her. I just want to go outside.”

Maurice raised an eyebrow at him, unconvinced. Sensing his growing irritation though, she rolled her eyes and moved to the side, waving him through. By the time he stepped out the doors, she was gone. Frowning, he was about to search the grounds when a voice came at him from his right.

“Don’t do it, man.”

He turned, and his eyes landed on a blonde guy wearing a varsity jacket. He was stubbing out a cigarette against the brick walls.

“Don’t do what?” he asked, annoyed. Why was everybody on his case today?

“Chase the girl, man,” the guy, presumably a football player at the school, said, glancing at him for a moment before reaching for another cigarette. “Specifically, that girl. Want one?” He offered the pack.

He shook his head. “Why does everyone not like that girl? Rainie, right?”

The football player let out a long, drawn-out sigh, almost for attention. “Yeah, Rainie. What a toughie. She’s the only hot Asian girl in the school. What’s up with that, right?”

He was already beginning to seriously dislike the guy, and was about to walk away but the football player continued. “She likes to play hard to get, man. You know what, actually, I think she’s a lesbian. Every time I try to ask her out, she backpedals away like that.” He snapped his fingers. “It’s like she can’t stand me. Come on, I know I’m good-looking.”

Yeah, well, I can barely stand you either, he thought. He was about to excuse himself when the football player volunteered even more information. “I don’t know. She wasn’t always like that. But then she got pretty and the moment guys started approaching her, trying to ask her out, she started acting like she was too good for that shit. She doesn’t even hang out with other girls. She’s a weird one. Dude, just don’t waste your time.”

He sighed, looking around the courtyard again, hoping to spy a lock of raven hair. It didn’t matter that people didn’t seem to like her, or that she seemed to want to be by herself. He had a growing feeling that she was just misunderstood. And greatly underestimated. If his suspicions were correct, she was the one he was looking for.

And the one others would be searching for, too.

“Don’t do it, man,” the football player repeated, watching his thoughts play across his face. “It’s not worth it.”

“It definitely is,” he shot back, thoroughly annoyed now. He turned to head back into the school.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” He heard sing-song laughter before the doors slammed behind him.


Author’s Note

Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser…

I’m still on track, so yay! Again, a reminder that this is just a working draft and the finished product may or may not look as these chapters do. Which is exactly why I would love to hear your opinion! If you have any suggestions for things I can improve, or thoughts about things you liked, let me know in the comments below! As always, if you enjoyed reading it, please like this page, share it, and even subscribe! 🙂

Cheerfully Yours,
Alaska Rue

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