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Little Red, Chapter Two

I didn’t sleep well, and an unseasonal rain is still pounding the house when I get up the next morning, and, as per usual, Mamaw is already up and at the bakery, leaving me to get ready for school.


I find a note on the juice carton as I’m making myself a breakfast, and I grimace.



Rowan,

Come to the restaurant right after school. We have some things to talk about.

Love, Mamaw



Great, another lecture. I eat a breakfast of cereal and juice, then change into skinny jeans, a graphic tee, and my favorite Chuck Taylors, and attempt to persuade my hair into a braid, but give up and let it fall down my back, as usual. I look at my face in the mirror, trying to decide if I want to wear make up today. My skin is dotted with freckles most people would want to cover up, but I display them proudly. They’re cute. My eyelashes are long and dark, much like my hair, so I rarely have a use for mascara. My lips are naturally a colored a soft red, so I usually avoid anything but occasionally a little clear lip gloss. My face is narrow, and cunning, just like Mamaw’s. I resemble a fox a lot of times, and even earned that nickname with some of my friends. I decide against make up and pick up my book bag. It’s a lonely drive to school, and I feel jumpy for some reason, so I call Roni and tell her I’m going to pick her up for school before heading out.




“I hate rain,” Roni complains on our way into the school building. Forest Hills Prep is situated in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains, so it always seems a little gloomy, especially in bad weather. I can almost feel a piercing gaze trained on me, and I resist the urge to run into the school. Goodness, that’s the only time you’ll hear me say that. Don’t tell anybody, or my reputation is ruined. “Do you think Mr. Jameson will assign those seating charts…”


I get a ringing in my ears, and Roni’s words fade away. I grab one ear, my eyebrows puckering. Through the buzz, I hear a wolf’s howl, forlorn and desperate. I turn to the woods to see the wolf, but instead I see the guy that had visited the diner last night, getting off a motorcycle in the senior parking lot. Ben. His emerald eyes meet mine, and a grin slides across his face, just like last night. I can’t believe he goes to my school.


“Did you hear me, Row?”


I jump. “Sorry, what?”


Her gaze follows mine, and she makes a sound of appreciation. “Looks like we have a transfer.”


“Yeah,” I say. “He came by the diner last night,” I blurt absently. He’s walking our way, and looking directly at me, though I can sense that others that were making their way to the cafeteria have stopped, and a few of them being Sloane and her crones.


“What?! And you didn’t call and dish?”


“Sorry, I had a lot going on last night,” I say.


“Okay, sure. He’s staring at you, Row…” Her last sentence is whispered.


Ben is close now, and I smell mint soap and a dash of Old Spice. He grins at me again, and says, “Looks like you’re following me, Rowan.”


I take a deep breath, the scents rushing in. He’s a few feet away. How can I smell him that good from here? “Um, do you go here?” I ask.


“I do now. I figured you had to go to school around here somewhere, and this seemed like a good possibility.”


My eyebrows shot up. “You came here because—“


“I’m sorry for my friend’s rudeness, I’m Roni,” my friend says, shooting her slim hand out at Ben. Roni normally has guys falling over her, what with her dark blonde hair, baby blue eyes, and swimsuit ready body, but Ben barely glances at her.


“Nice to meet you. What do you have first period, Rowan?” he asks me.


I clench my teeth. I doubt we have the same class. I’ve gotta go. See you around, Ben.” Creative writing, the class for the seniors crazy enough to put up with Mr. Jameson two times a day. And also an honors class. Ben doesn’t strike me as an honors kind of guy.


“I was hoping you can show me around, since I am new,” Ben says smoothly.


Someone clears their throat behind me, and I recognize it immediately. Then a sultry voice says, “I can show you all the best places here.”


I turn and see Sloane. She hasn’t had her natural hair color since eighth grade, and her she’s been pierced and tattooed too many times to count. I’m surprised she isn’t suspended from school, but then again, when your daddy pays for half the school’s yearly budget, I guess you get privileges.


Ben runs his emerald eyes down Sloane’s long body, and I feel a twinge in my chest. He says, “I appreciate the offer, but I would rather have someone who hasn’t had more piercings than Marilyn Manson.”


I laugh, amazed. No sane guy turned Sloane Haney down. It’s almost physically impossible. Even Tyler, my best guy friend, was one of her followers in middle school.


Sloane huffed. “Let’s see what you say when little miss perfect turns out to be the school freak,” she says.


I stiffen. For whatever reason, Sloane has hated me for a long time. And I’ve never done anything to her, ever.


“Is that a yes, Rowan?” Ben asks me.


I look up at him, keeping my eyes blank. “I’ll see you around, Ben.” Then I walk off, Roni following like she has something to say.




Sure enough, the minute we’re in creative writing, she grabs my arm. “Are you crazy? The hot new transfer asks you to show him around, and you say no? What’s the matter with you?”


“Obviously, Sloane already called dibs. I don’t have the time or inclination to deal with that, and a guy that seems to irritate me on contact.”


“You are insane,” she mutters. Louder, “If I were you, I wouldn’t let Sloane stand between me and him. Did you see his eyes?” Roni moans and I sigh. Some things never change.


We sit at our desks in the front of the classroom, and Tyler darts in just before the final bell, sitting on my other side. His shaggy auburn hair falls into his chocolate colored eyes as he pulls off his Tennessee Titans hoodie.


“Why are you always almost late?” Roni asks him.


“My car is a junker,” he answers. “What’s the assignment for today?”


“Don’t know, Mr. J hasn’t come in yet,” I say.


Just as I say that, Ben walks into the classroom, followed by Mr. Jameson. I groan. You’ve gotta be kidding me.


“Class,” Mr. Jameson says, his beady eyes raking the six seniors sitting spaced around the room save me and my two friends. “This is Ben Fiammetta. He’s a transfer from New Orleans, and is joining us this semester.” I was right about the Louisiana. Mr. Jameson looks right at me. “Miss Sinclair, will you please assist Ben through our class this morning? I see a desk right behind you he can have.”


I suppress a groan, and ignore Ben’s grin.


“Of course, Mr. Jameson,” I say.


“Very good.”


Ben walks to sit behind me, and I keep my eyes forward as I feel his on me. Why do I react like this to him? He’s just a guy; I’ve dealt with plenty before.


“Now, this morning, we’re going to write short stories, basing them off of an encounter you’ve actually had, but exaggerating this bad qualities to make it a farce. You can work with a partner, and I do expect you to work with Mr. Fiammetta, Miss Sinclair.”


“Yes, sir.”


“Get to work. You have the entire period.”


I turn around to face Ben, and see that he hasn’t gotten out a pencil or any paper.


“So, have anything in mind?” I ask.


Tyler moves to sit behind Roni so they can work together, and hushed conversations are starting around the classroom.


“How about the time I met this really intriguing girl in a diner and I followed her to school the next day.”


I sigh audibly. “That didn’t happen,” I say. “You didn’t follow me. Your parents, and the state, made you come to school, not me.”


“Oh, I didn’t, did I?” His emerald eyes were laughing at me.


“Seriously, I’d like to get a good grade on this, so will you please cooperate?”


“Okay. What about this girl that loves her grandmother so much, she’d go to any college she wanted her to, even if they didn’t have a creative writing program like she wants? Or the girl that wants to quit basketball, but won’t because she feels obligated to the team? Or the girl that only has a few close friends because she fears she’ll end up hurting too many people in the end?”


I feel color seep into my cheeks. “You think you’re so cocky, don’t you? I guess I’m pretty transparent, then, because there’s no way I’d share anything with you, let alone things that aren’t true.”


“Oh, they’re true, alright, and it doesn’t take arrogance to read someone. And actually, I find you hard to read. Those were guesses, but judging by your reaction, they were pretty close.” He leans toward me, the smell of mint soap and Old Spice flowing over me so I can’t concentrate on anything else. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you’re really kind and considerate.”


I feel like punching him. “Do you really need my help on this assignment? Because I’d rather work by myself, if you don’t mind.”


“I do need your help. I don’t know what he expects.” His smirk says he knows exactly what to do.


“Fine. But we’re not putting anything about me into the story,” I warn.


“Fine.” He takes my paper and starts writing.




Fifteen minutes and countless requests from me to read it later, he hands me the paper, filled front and back. “Don’t you think this is a little over-kill?” I say.


“Just read it.” He leans back and puts his hands behind his head.


I read the first line, and glare at him. “Her name is Rowan,” I say.


“It’s a lovely name.”


I feel myself blush, so I look down to read again. I finish it in a couple minutes, feeling shaky. “So, you definitely base her on me, at least, your definition of me,” I say. “And you made her have this internal…demon. Why?”


“It seemed appropriate. Add to it, I’ve actually had that encounter in the woods before, so it fulfills that requirement, and she has your characteristics, so it should be an A. Happy?”


“It’s creepy,” I say.


“Yes, and well written and error free.” He crosses his arms over his chest. “Just wait until you read the next installment.” He winks.


“I’m not sure I want to,” I breathe. I’m feeling a little lightheaded. I stand abruptly, and ask Mr. Jameson if I can go to the restroom. Once there, I lean against the sink, trying to get my breath.


In the story, he’d written about a girl that goes into the woods to think, and accidentally unleashes a monster hiding in her. The girl was thinking about her mamaw, shivering from the cold October night, and trying to avoid thinking about a boy who’d been hanging around her.


The similarities, right down to the description of the protagonist, make me have a feeling of déjà vu. Like I’ve already done this, or I know I will.




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