Blue Crow Rising ~ Chapter 1 Part 4

The wind whipped at me and I suddenly seemed to realize just how far I’d climbed. High, in short. Nauseatingly high. And this balcony? Not quite a balcony. More like a thin walkway that you could see through. Very thin.

I mean, it certainly was, what, five crows wide, but to me right then it was like a tightrope. I squished myself up against the wall and felt my heart pound in my throat.

Then I heard laughter. “Very well!” a man cheered.

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Whoa? Someone was here? Where? I looked all around before I realized that the voices were coming from within the building.

Help! I thought. Someone help me!

Feeling like every step was a gargantuan task, I began creeping forward, digging my fingers/claws in through the holes of the grid. Looking up, I crept my way around the corner. There, I poked my head around and up – and saw in through a large window.

Inside, from my bizarrely low angle, I saw Mister Macmillan and several other men I didn’t recognize. They looked like parents. Filthy rich too. They were pale like glass, wearing crisp white clothes like you saw in the magazines, and were lounging on a sofa. They were all in a sloppy ring, and at the center was someone, who was bowing to each person in turn.

“Thank you for summoning me,” the person said in a feminine voice. As they straightened, shudders slid down my spine and all my feathers poked up.

The woman had slick black hair that fell into her face. Her eyes were a brilliant orange. Her features were strange. I couldn’t place her lineage by sight, which was strange. For though she had pale skin paler than I had ever seen, her features weren’t wealthy. There was something familiar to her, like she could have come from my own family. Her suit was an impeccable black and tailored to flatter her in every aspect, but it shimmered and sparkled with sequins like an evening dress. Oh, and she was wearing a little black bowtie.

“We expect you to do exactly as we say,” one blonde man was saying.

The woman laughed, a strange and high-pitched cackle. She flipped a hand up and rolled her eyes to the sky. “Of cou-urse!” she laughed. “I just can’t tell you all how excited I am to be here! It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for-“

The men interrupted her. Typical. “We have arranged everything. You will be set to work straightaways. And,” this man, whom I could not see, added emphasis to his words. “We expect results.”

Again, that twittering laugh. She planted a hand on her hip and swung a hip out, looking down to her left at where the man must have been seated. “Don’t worry about that! I am the ah, result-maker?” She laughed at her own bad pun.

The men were not amused. Sure, they were smiling, but it was as if they weren’t seeing her. They were seeing beyond, imagining the results they so spoke of.

“So!” the lady clapped her hands together twice and up high with a flourish. “Let’s do this!”

There was scuffles of chairs being scraped back. The woman began, in quiet tones that were still so nasally high-pitched, speaking to one member. I saw her place her hand on his shoulder as they walked away.

A door creaked open, and footsteps led away. I held my breath and counted to four. The business meeting was over – and now I just had to go through the window and follow them. Well! With a flap and a hop I propelled myself up to the window.

I smashed unceremoniously into the glass. Green shimmers marked it as being marked with a barrier. No souls could pass through.

With a flop I landed on the grid-like landing. My mind careened, not just in pain. This room was magically locked? How was anyone supposed to get out in case of an emergency? I thought all buildings, per protocol, had to be magically transparent to allow safe evacuations. Maybe that’s why no one came up to this tower. It wasn’t safe!

Curious and just wanting to get a look at what was surely a forbidden area, I hopped up onto the ledge. Inside, there was a dusty room, a dusty coffee table, and a few leather chairs from a few decades ago. I blinked, not even seeing a file folder or trace of the meeting.

Then, fleetingly, it struck me that this was a strange place to hold a parent-teacher meeting, or whatever kind of meeting it was. In an unsafe room, at the top of an unused tower, and in uncomfortable chairs.

Weird, but I had a bigger predicament facing me.

Turning around on the ledge, I looked into the void.

Behold, a poet would have said, the void looked back.

Well if the void looking back was a thing, it went ‘Boo!’ at me. Because right then, as I was turning around, the wind buffeted me and I saw, far far beneath me, my Aaliyah whacking away at three sprites that were surrounding her. Worse! There was a ring of spirit creatures, our classmates, around her and watching.

My blood boiled. How dare they make fun of Aaliyah! How dare they leave her helpless against three sprites!

I lunged from my perch, my thoughts full of rage and no such thing as common sense. Careening, I sped on recklessly as fast as I could.

It was about halfway there that I realized they were cheering her on. Aaliyah whacked out one sprite, then another, and the third cowered in fear. More cheers. Aaliyah was flush with victory, and our classmates were pounding the earth in support of her.

It was her glorious moment and I, shooting through the sky like a fluffball of idiocy, realized I was about to make a joke out of it by ‘rushing to her rescue’.

Cursing loudly in my head I tried to slow down. It was the worst pilates class ever. Clench those buttcheeks! Flap the wings – oh not that way!

I found myself cartwheeling, flapping, and, I’ll admit it, shrieking my lungs out as the world spun and the earth came closer.

For a horrid blink all I saw was Aaliyah zooming up to me, spinning with the earth – and then something green flashed over me.

Snap! Giant teeth caught me and I was squished by a soft tongue – then unceremoniously spat on the ground. A giant set of claws pinned me to the earth and a snarling jade snout shoved into my face, complete with golden mane and horns.

I froze. My heart pounded in my chest. Jade. Jade dragon, my classmate. Oh, how embarrassing.

Looking left, I saw a horde of creatures staring me down in dismay. Looking right I saw more classmates – and Aaliyah’s shoes.

Blue Crow Rising; Chapter 1 part 3

In a catastrophic rush we ran through the building. She didn’t need to pull me anymore but she had a firm grip on me. But I wasn’t going to run away. I was by her side and was going to protect her from the sprites! Somehow, in the chaotic rush of the moment, I thought that I was going to prove that I could take care of her by… whacking sprites over the head? Yeah. Brilliant.

We crashed out the double front doors into the yard. It was full chaos. There was students in all shapes, everywhere, grabbing at sprites and battling them in the most (to my unmagical lens) epic of ways. Sparks were flying! Magic simmered through the air like ribbons!

Aaliyah let go of me, running towards the debris around the trees. “Grab a stick!” she called to me, doing so herself. Then, seeing as I wasn’t getting there fast enough she threw a stick at me, snapped one off a branch for herself, and whirled around to face…everything.

Because the grounds were huge. The grounds sprawled in all directions with preened green slopes, a little stream gurgling down among them, and trimmed trees here and there dotting the landscape. But the battle was all concentrated here, where the sprites were trying to destroy our sacred trees. We were smack in the thick of it.

“Get as many as you can!” ordered Aaliyah before sprinting into the chaos. I wanted to yell at her to wait for me- but that would have sounded wimpy. I was brave! Rawwwr!

So I stood there and tried not to quiver with my stupid stick in hand. Damnit! Why?!

As they say, spirits and the bloomed ones that are so inclined can smell fear. Within seconds a sprite was flashing towards me, elements in hand and teeth gnashing.

If you’ve never seen a sprite up close, their sparkling cloud doesn’t hide their shape very well. Beneath it, they sort of look like floating ghosts with evil hands and onion-shaped heads. This one had green lights sparkling around its hands and the nastiest pointy teeth I’d ever seen.

“Snack- snack,” it seemed to say, clacking its teeth together as it floated before me.

I gripped my stick with both hands. Think of Aaliyah, I told myself. Think of school. You’re never going anywhere unless you bash this thing’s brains in-

Aaaand, just as I was thinking that, it zoomed in on me. I swung the stick with a yell, a sound that was mercifully drowned away by all the sounds of a battlefield around us. My stick whizzed above the sprite’s head and I lost my balance. The sprite leaped forward. Its fangs buried into my right forearm, its elemental spell sending electric shocks into me.

Okay, now I yelled.

And then something happened.

I felt a change come over me. Something rushed through my system like hot soda bubbling in my veins. I thrashed, the electric sparks suddenly seeming faint.

I’m fucking dying, I remember thinking. Good lords, this was stupid!

As the rush continued I found myself moving – and suddenly came to with my hand closed over the sprite. Both hands.

Beneath my skin I felt the sprite pulsing. I felt the three parts of its soul throbbing with life. I heard it hissing and scrawling in a language I suddenly understood.

“Let me go!” it shrieked in that tiny, hissing, voice. “You’re not one of them! Let me go! What are you? Let me go!”

Shocked, I moved my hands. Tentatively, I pulled on what I felt and the three soul parts began coming apart. The sprite shrieked – and burst one of its own parts. It killed itself.

I gaped as the body went limp in my hands. The two other parts throbbed with life still – and it smelt. It smelt delicious, a strange aroma of death and untimely consumption and decay that called to me like a corrupt song. Suddenly I knew what an addiction must feel like. What it must be like to crave the casinos, the drugs, the things you knew you shouldn’t do.

Because I knew I shouldn’t eat the sprite.

I mean, yes, everyone eats sprites. But I wanted the soul.

Hesitant, I looked around. Maybe I was searching for a reality check. But the world felt woozy. It didn’t seem real. And somehow I just knew that no one was paying me a shred of attention, too busy searching out their own glory strikes.

So I gave in. I was lifting the sprite’s remaining two souls to my lips. Somewhere within me my rational self was wondering what was happening. I mean, can stomachs even digest souls?

But it never reached my lips. Instead, the two sprite souls sort of infused up my arms, dissolving into me, merging up through my skin.

I gasped, dropping the now thoroughly dead body. I wanted to scream as I realized that the souls were now in me. Did I digest them through my hands? Was the sprite now part of me? Did I now have five soul-parts? What was going on?

Completely freaking I fell backwards onto my ass. With a scramble I tried to get away from the inanimate body. Impulsively I wanted to flee.

That must have been the trick because suddenly I was scrambling, launching myself up, up, and flapping into the sky. It was when I was about five to six feet up, pumping my wing/arms like mad that I realized – wait a minute.

I looked down at the chaotic battlefield. I looked downer and saw my legs- now two stubby black bird legs. With a hoarse shriek I realized that I wasn’t me any longer.

With a jolt I realized I’d bloomed. Somehow. With another jolt I realized I was about to fall straight down if I didn’t do something about it.

I cawed for help. I shrieked. I flapped and flapped and wiggled my butt in the hopes of getting those feathers to do their job. Ingloriously, it made me think of pilates. Clench the buttcheeks! Wave the arms! Automatically, my legs paddled the air as well, and I must have looked like an idiot trying to run through the air.

Careening through the air, climbing up with no hopes of getting down, I found myself looping towards a tower.

Now, I want to take a minute to say that this tower wasn’t painted in brilliant orange with ‘forbidden fucking tower’ scrawled over it. It just – no one went there is all.

It also just so happened to have a gridded balcony, sort of like a safety ramp, all around the top. I aimed for that, figuring I could sit up here until I got help.

With a zoom I careened towards the tower. A side draft of wind nearly bashed me into the tower, and I didn’t so much land as I flew to the floor and stuck my legs out and began to walk and folded my arms. Skittering to a stop, I slammed sideways against the tower’s wall.

Okay, I told myself. Okay. Fuck.

10 Juicy Details About ‘Blue Crow Rising’!

While filming (and editing!) my next YouTube video, I thought, hey, I could make this into a blog post for all those folks who don’t like watching YouTube! So here it is… 10 Juicy Details about my novel!

  1. It all started with a dream… of someone shouting a name as a woke up. And something about a school. And maybe someone transforming into a crow. And maybe a weird principal. That was it though! Not a whole lot to base a novel off of, but I was possessed! I wanted to know who the name belonged to, and why they were being called! And so I began writing…
  2. How did I name my Main Character? Well, they were the one whose name was being called, so this should have been simple but it wasn’t? I thought their name might have been ‘Kuryo’, but as that was the place name for Korea (probably not a bright idea to leave it at that) I changed it to Kyrie, from the Christian prayer ‘Kyrie Eleison’.
  3. Was Kyrie based off anyone in particular. Yes! Me! I based Kyrie off of my own goofiness, but that was about it. I wanted to have a nice, sweet, and kind main character for once. I wanted a happy ending for a nice person.
  4. Worldbuilding? I didn’t do any ahead of time! I just slammed myself into the keyboard and let it develop from there! It was quite an interesting process, seeing how the world developed around the events.
  5. I had no idea what was the solution to the mystery for most of the novel. I knew I was building up to something, but what? I was quite confused most of the story about how it was going to end!
  6. The first book (Blue Crow Rising) was written after the second book, which (3/4 of it anyways) was written a year before. Then poof! The two magically worked out together! I was quite impressed.
  7. Kyrie was not always my favorite character while writing this series. There’s another character whom I shall refer to as ‘an older/different version of Kyrie’ who was way more compelling when they stepped into the story. I thought they were way niftier then, but now I’m back to liking Kyrie more.
  8. Almost all plot twists or events in the book came to me from dreams. I’d write until I had no idea what was happening next, then go to sleep wondering what I’d do. The next morning, I’d have had a dream about what to do. Really useful!
  9. People’s reaction to this story have been precious. One person was just like ‘What were you ON?!’ as in, the concept of the book was so… weird for them that they thought I was on drugs. I wasn’t, but hey! I guess that means it’s an interesting concept?
  10. My reaction to the story… I kept wondering where the fuck this story was going while writing it! I was like ‘this is going nowhere!’ or ‘it’s never going to end!’. To be honest, it was quite frustrating, not knowing at all where the story’s going, but I managed. It was fun, despite it all.

I hope this was entertaining, and that it makes you a tad bit curious about Kyrie’s story! Read along on my blog HERE, or buy it HERE.

Wishing you all a great day ❤

Chapter 1 Part 2

I had this theory, I read about it online and in a magazine once, that not being able to bloom was due to a nutritional deficiency. I’d believe it, because all five of us were dirt poor except Magdalene. And Magdalene was, well, really special. She had a hard time talking. Her eyes were lined with black, her clothes were black, and spikes jutted from her at every possible corner. But she just couldn’t really talk. Or do math. Or really, sit still for that long. She liked shouting too.

But she was an unbloomed, so she was my friend. We, the useless ones, we stuck together.

Also, we waited our turn. As the teacher, Mister Macmillan, passed by to unlock the door the five of us drew back to get out of everyone else’s way. We knew our place in society. I gritted my teeth at it, but that was what it was. It just wasn’t safe to get in anyone else’s way. People who had bloomed just had so much power!

“Studying still? It’s a bit late for that?” Professor joked as he held the door open. I realized he was talking to me. Sheepishly, I grinned and shrugged. Someone walked past me and slammed their backpack into my shoulder.

“Sorry!” they said, obviously not at all. I returned to the page. The ink had bled a little from the rain. I tried to focus, to memorize all the formulas-

“Come on,” Aaliyah patted me on the shoulder, steering me into the classroom. I protested but let her, enjoying the attention. In a last minute ditch attempt I flipped the page – and saw more formulas! CRAP!

Sniggers rose from the back of the class as Aaliyah steered me to my seat. We sat, all five of us, smack in the front. It was the safest spot to be and even the teachers encouraged it. They didn’t want us to get picked on.

“Notebooks away,” Macmillan said, mainly to me. I pressed my lips together and handed Aaliyah back her notebook. More sniggers, about what I couldn’t guess but I wanted to punch someone for it. Rich kids.

Then, the test began. Mister Macmillan handed out the leaflets to each row and they were passed down. The instant I got mine I flipped it open and began skimming the questions. Yes, yes, yes, I knew most of these! Okay!

Thanking Aaliyah with all my might, I flipped to the back section – the ‘superior’ section. It was really only for the ‘superior’ students who showed promise and who had exceptional marks – a category Aaliyah and me had exceptionally managed to nose our way into. It was quite remarkable for us unbloomed ones to have managed to enter the category, a feat that amazed our principal and even earned us both an embarrassing article in the school’s newspaper once.

And YES! I knew how to do those too!

Furiously, I began scribbling away. Time seemed to slow as I focused upon one question then another, scribbling and calculating and jotting numbers here and there.

Halfway through, I lifted my head up. Professor Macmillan was pacing the rows, scolding students and reminding everyone to keep their eyes on their papers.

I, however, was suddenly unsure of what I was doing. Something was wrong. Something tingled at the back of my neck. Something that had happened when – I looked out the window and caught my breath. Beyond the preened soccer fields, the sacred trees were on fire. Strange figures ran about, shadowy and furtive.

I lifted my hand. “Professor.”

“Don’t speak out of turn,” Macmillan said as he walked over.

“But,” I protested.

“What?” he asked as he walked to my side. I pointed to the window.

“We’re being attacked,” I said, stating the obvious.

“Oh,” he said.

There was the universal rustle of everyone looking. Of necks craning as everyone tried to see what I was pointing at. Which, for your information, was a sprite attack. It had happened once in my mother’s time at this school. It had already happened once in my time, and now I was unlucky enough to witness it again.

The alarm, a little late in my opinion, wailed out over the microphone. “Attention, students and staff,” our principal said primly. “We are enduring a sprite attack! Senior students are encouraged to use this as an opportunity to hone their fighting skills and gain hunting points – which I remind you are required for graduation!”

There was a cheer. Because, yeah, sprite attacks weren’t a catastrophe. In suburbs, where people were caught unawares watching their TV’s and where the populace wasn’t crawling with students yearning to ‘get out and FIIIIGHT!’, as some teachers were now shouting in the hallways, it could be dangerous. It was just especially dangerous if you were magically crippled, like, you know, us unbloomed were.

I was hunkering down in my chair, heart already hammering in my throat. Professor Macmillan was already at the front of the class, huge grin plastered on his face. “Alright students!” he called out like this was the best ball game of the world. “Get out there! Get some points!”

I slunk farther down in my chair, exchanging a horrified look with Aaliyah – who somehow didn’t look as terrified as I felt.

There was a roaring cheer of students jumping up, throwing pencils down and rushing for the windows. “Go, go, go!” Macmillan cheered, clapping his hands.

Students, the fastest first, began blooming right as they threw themselves at the windows. It was normally a sight I both loved to watch and hated. I was jealous, I hated them for being able to do something so magnificent. To shed their human skin and bloom into fully spiritual form.

There was Zalf, the gryffon who passed through the glass just in the nick of time. Gertrude, the graceful swan. But I was waiting with bated breath for the one. The one.

She was filthy rich. She was long-legged, blonde, pale of skin and always impeccably dressed. Her hair was short and choppily pulled back, with two long tendrils hanging down beside her face. Confident as could be, she and her small cluster of elite friends waited until everyone else was on their way to being moving. Because they never needed to rush. They were dragons.

Ever seen a dragon? Me neither until last year when our classes merged. Since then, I waited with bated breath for the crystal ice white dragon to materialize – but most of all for the jade green one. Her.

She, leaping for the window, was graceful and lithe. Stunning and magnificent as her green scales shimmered to reality around her and her shocking blonde mane rippled out.

Then, justlike that, she was gone. With an exhale I relaxed and looked back to the front of the class where Macmillan was. He was looking at me expectantly.

I pointed to the test. “Can I finish?”

Proffessor cringed. “You do know that you need hunting points to get into any high-ranked school, right?”

My jaw fell. But we were un-bloomed! We couldn’t hunt! It was too dangerous for us to even join organized hunting parties! Nevermind throwing ourselves into a melee!

“I mean,” Macmillan continued. “For the other schools, you can get in without it. But I know you two were hoping to get into McVaster so-“

Aaliyah scraped back her chair and jumped to her feet. Determination was scrawled all over her face. Holy shit- she really was going to do this!

I clutched at my chair. “Aaliyah! There’s sprites! We’re unbloomed-“

“Get up!” she ordered. “We’re going!”

“You can hit them over the head with sticks!” professor was cheering. Aaliyah grabbed me by the arm and yanked me to my feet.

I protested, but my wife-to-be was having none of it. With a yank and more determination than she needed, she rushed us out the door.

And that, really, was how it all began.

Character Reveal!

More like a pre-veal? Like, pre-taste of a character reveal?

Basically, as I post book one of Kyrie’s series, I’m editing book 2. At least I’m trying to do so.

Anyways! Book 2 and 3 is FULL of this character. She even replaces Kyrie as the main character for most of book 2. She’s the center of it all for a bit, and she kind of saves Kyrie’s ass a few times. Needless to say, I like her! She’s fun to write, complex, and I find, well, fun!

I did this image in ink, for no particular reason than her hair is black, and she mainly wears black – and the next thing I knew I’d forgotten about color and had just done the whole thing in black and white. And wow! I really like the result! Like, I LOVE it! I feel like I’ve captured the serious essence of Charr, and her willpower.

Anyways, if you haven’t already started reading this book, do so NOW! It picks up fast, and gets complex… not too soon. But it’s a fun read I’ve been told! The first bit of chapter 1 is available HERE on my blog.

Wishing you all the very best of days ❤

Kyrie Update on Amazon and Smashwords!

Hey everyone! I’m happy to announce that ‘Blue Crow Rising’ is back up on Amazon and Smashwords (Available HERE on Smashwords, soon to be availableon Amazon), updated with the new character name!

For anyone wondering, Kyrie’s previous name was Kuryo, which is the ancient Korean place-name for Korea. It was the closest written version to the name I’d heard in my dream, but it wasn’t pronounced the same way, so I’ve changed their name to be ‘Kyrie’. Hopefully it will stick!

As for any general news, I woke up this morning with another dream idea for Kyrie’s story! Excited, I sat my bum down and began typing – and it seems that there’s a follow up story to Kyrie’s saga, but before the Chaos series? Hmm.. I’m curious to see where this one will take me!

I’m also hopefully going to do another author video in the next day or so, hopefully today actually, and so we shall see how that goes!

Do stay tuned for weekly updates on Kyrie’s story!

Wishing you all the best ❤

Chapter 1 Part 1

“Kyrie! Kyrie!”

I ducked and ran. No, that wasn’t me! Totally not my name!

“I saw you!” the vendor shouted, who also happened to be my neighbor, so even if I got away now I wasn’t really getting away.

“Late for school!” I shouted over my shoulder in guise of a terrible excuse. It was true though, I was almost late for school. I was sixteen at the time and gangly tall for my age. As always, I wore my dilapidated shoes, some sort of jeans, and a blue hoodie over a t-shirt that I’d dragged from some rich person’s dumpster. It was big for me, but I liked that. It hid my breasts, which made me more comfortable. The only really recognizable thing about me, despite the aura of poverty, was the darkish blue of my hair. A touch of magic!, everyone used to crow about me. Yeah, used to.

Behind me, the dirty street was nearly empty. It was too early for the druggies to be out of bed and most of the drunks were home sleeping their hangover off. A thin, cold, mist hung over the earth, soaking through my pant legs and making my boots skid over the damp sidewalk.

“Thief!” the shitty neighbor shouted after me, as loud as he could. I didn’t care. Everyone knew I was a thief. Everyone, even my mother. She hung her head and nodded whenever someone came and yelled to her about it. She’d order me to give back whatever I stole- but I’d usually already eaten it. She’d get a good talking to from whomever it was (usually our crappy neighbor) and then she’d apologetically close the door. After that, I would get the silent treatment for a day or so. Then, the cycle might just repeat itself right away.

It wasn’t that Mom hadn’t educated me well, as everyone told her. It was that I saw the struggle in her eyes when I reached for a second helping of food. Once, there was no food for lunch. Then, I realized that yeah, I couldn’t eat twice at one meal – but oh look! A vendor!

Now, I never ate twice and mom knew why. It was a tacit agreement that neither of us spoke about the dire finances of our household – and she would keep nodding at the intruders shaking their fists at me.

As I rounded the corner towards school, I slowed to a walk. I pulled the warm pizza pocket out of my mouth where I’d been holding it. I took a smaller bite than the whole thing. It was steaming in the cold air, delicious, and with just a hint of spices that didn’t wholly belong on the pizza. Hey, no one said the vendor paid for these in the first place. I’d caught him garbage diving too one day. We’d fought over a whole box of old bread – and yeah, I just ran away with them.

But now, I happily munched on my breakfast. Yep, life was good right then. I strolled slowly now, knowing full well that I was early to meet my friend, Aaliyah. But I couldn’t wait to meet her. These quiet walks in the morning were usually the highlight of my day. They were also the reason I held an extra pizza pocket in each hand. Another for me, and one for her. This one I would eat with her and we would happily walk together, enjoying our short walk to school before the day really began.

Ours was a quiet existence. I already knew that someday, our friendship would hopefully breach the lines of friendship and we, the pariahs already of our ‘slumbug’ existence, would break into a whole new level of pariah – that of two female bodies in love.

Finishing my first pizza pocket I tried not to dwell on this. But of course I did. I tried to visualize how Aalliyah’s mother (another single mother, just like mine!) would accept this. Would she? I knew Madame Akizah as a generous and kind shop owner. But what did she think of women in love?

We could marry if we moved north, I told myself. There, there was jobs in factories for us ‘unbloomed’ ones. I would work hard to protect Aaliyah and provide for her! I would –

“Already eating?” a laughing voice jerked me from my thoughts. And there she was. The highlight of my life. The shining ray in all this misery.

Aaliyah had gleaming black hair that she kept simply long and plain. Her smile was brilliant, her skin just a tad darker than mine. She was shorter than me by half an inch (which I constantly rubbed in her face) and had the largest and sweetest eyes possible. Today, she was wearing her loose red sweatshirt and gray track pants with sneakers.

Still chewing my last mouthful I made sure not to speak so I wouldn’t spit all over. I’d done that before. She’d laughed at me so hard she’d turned redder than her sweatshirt.

“Thanks,” she said as she accepted it. Then, pressing it between her two hands, she said “Ooh, it’s still warm.”

I nodded and smiled, then finished my mouthful with a gulp. Akwardly, I tried to think of something to say. As usual in these strange silences that would so often fill the air between us, I wished to tell her how I felt.

If only I was big and strong, I thought. If only I was stunningly beautiful like she. If only, if only… and my thoughts would spiral down and down as we walked together. I hunched my shoulders like an unhappy bird and ate ravenously at my last pizza bit.

A fine drizzle began to descend. A car whipped past us, full of jeering idiots. Protectively, I slipped an arm around Aaliyah’s shoulders. She stepped closer to me. It was our safety mechanism. It worked well on strangers because they all assumed I was a guy – even Aaliyah’s mother sometimes called me ‘mister’ if she was scolding me (like the third time I’d tried to steal from her).

But right now it wasn’t wholly necessary. The car was gone, after all, and the walk to school was short. But… I jostled Aaliyah playfully just as an excuse to keep my arm around her. If it was a joke it didn’t matter, so I got to hold her a little longer. “You ready for today?” I asked cheerfully.

She looked up at me with those big doe-like eyes. She smiled, and it was filling me with sparkles. “I think so,” she said “I studied all night. I think I’m ready.”

“Great,” I said whistfully, wondering what it would be like to kiss her – and then my brain registered what she’d said. “Wait- ready for what? Is there a test?”

She gave me ‘that look’. “Physics! Today! First period! Did you forget?”

I whimpered, drawing my arm from around her to play with my hair. “Yes?” Oh crap! And I was trying to get good marks in that!

In a jerk she pulled her bag over her shoulder and whipped a light blue notebook out. First she smacked me on the shoulder with it. I yelped, then she handed it to me. “Cram!” she ordered.

“Yes, ma’am,” I muttered as I took the notebook and flipped it open. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think she’d be the perfect wife. Strict but caring, disciplined and studious – I could get a job for the two of us and she could keep studying…

Shaking my head I tried to focus upon the notes before me, even as small droplets began cascading down harder and harder.

We, and the notebook, were thoroughly soaked by the time we stood in the corridor before the classroom. Funnily enough, only about half the students were soaked. There were those who had the good sense to own a coat and who were only damp. Then, there was the rich kids.

Oh, it wasn’t hard to tell them apart. They were dazzling and beautiful no matter what happened, and they were just – whatever. I didn’t even look at them.

I just stood in a corner with Aaliyah and our three friends – the total of us being five. ‘The’ five that teachers always talked about. We were the ‘special education’ ones. The unbloomed.