• Prologue: The Dream
    Ch1. Part 1
    Chapter 1: Part 2

    THE WALK to school was always the same. I'd stop by Miss. Clarice's house to feed her eighty cats—she paid me twenty bucks a week to risk my life. I'd swear those cats belonged to the Devil.

    Luckily for me it was a nice day. It was fall, so the temperature was very cool. The slight breeze lightly caressed my bare skin and sent chills running up and down my arms. I remembered now that I'd forgotten my jacket at home. It was still hanging over the barstool, but it wasn't too cold outside.

    “Nothing I can't handle.” I secured my arms around my chest to keep my bare skin warm. Another gust of wind blew over sending the fallen leaves whirling like a tiny tornado over the streets. Fall really was a beautiful season. Possibly my favorite. Trees of gold and red lined the streets, and it was always amusing to see all the piles of leaves people left in their yards.

    It was then that I stopped in front of a very familiar house. Jeff Stanley's. Although he was a bit clingy, I did consider him one of my best friends. They had left a huge pile of leaves right by the sidewalk, and a very sinister thought crossed my mind.

    Without much thought I found myself throwing my bag and backpack on the ground and diving into the huge heap of brown and red leaves. For a small fraction of a moment I felt a little guilty. I wondered how long it'd taken Jeff to rake these up.

    But it didn't matter. I was eighteen now. Didn't that give me the right to do whatever I wanted?
    But there wasn't much time to enjoy the moment. I suddenly felt the force of something large landing on top of me, pinning my arm against my chest. There was a jab of pain in my elbow.

    “Ow!” I screamed hitting the object with my right hand as hard as I could. But it was of no use. Whenever I opened my mouth I just got a mouth full of leaves. I was however able to grab a stick from my side and jam it into the object. I heard a loud grunt. The object cursed under its breath.

    “What'd you do that for?” I heard a familiar voice ask.
    I laughed out loud and took the hand Jeff was now offering me. “It's my birthday! Do I need a reason?” He shook his head despite himself and pulled me to my feet.

    “It's reason enough I guess.”
    There was a moment of truce where we both dusted the loose leaves out of our hair and off our clothes. “What do you mean it's reason enough!” I poked him playfully in the shoulder, forcing him to take a slight step backward. “There is no better reason than—”

    There must have still been a leaf left in my hair because Jeff quickly flicked the top of my head. I watched the red-tented leaf fall in front of my face. And apparently the leaf wasn't enough because Jeff then decided to flick me in the forehead. “Happy birthday, Kida.” A smile lit up his face. He had one of the warmest, most welcoming smiles I'd ever seen on a person. I've always secretly been a little jealous of Jeff...how he is always so happy.

    “Yeah, yeah...so where's my present?” I asked sarcastically. His smile broadened, and I felt myself smile back automatically. It was one of those effects Jeff had on me. He smiles...I smile. That's why I can always go to him whenever I'm feeling down and out.

    Grabbing both my wrists, he pulled my arms around his waist and embraced me tightly around the shoulders. Of course I had no choice but to hug back, although it wasn't something I was opposed to. I always welcome Jeff's hugs with open arms. No pun intended.

    “This good enough?”
    I smiled to myself and pulled him closer. “The best.”
    He laughed and released my arms. “Well...I hope you don't think that's all you're getting.”

    I snorted and locked my arm around his. “Of course not! I expect—”
    I must have not noticed that we'd begun walking because I felt myself trip over the sidewalk as we stepped over the edge. “Hey...watch your step.” Jeff chuckled once to himself and put his arm teasingly around my neck.

    AFTER WALKING for about fifteen minutes we ended up at our normal meeting place, Charlie's. It was the local pizza joint and an amazing one at that. Looking at my clock I noticed that we were right on time, but our ride was nowhere to be found. I looked around the corner of Charlie's to see if she was parked somewhere else. “Do you see Ju anywhere?” I looked curiously at Jeff, but he just shook his head.

    “I bet she's late.”
    “Really. You're so observant,” I said sarcastically.
    Jeff sighed as he threw his backpack on the ground, obviously aggravated, and sat on the curb. “My feet are tired,” he complained.

    I rolled my eyes and plopped myself down next to him. “You'd think you'd get used to walking two miles every day.”

    “Well, I have my Calculus and my Physics book in my bag. Give me a break. Besides, not everyone is as athletic as you.” It was true. I was probably the most athletic girl on the track team. I outran most of the guys during practice, and my times hold quite a few state records. For some reason, I just never got tired. I was a sprinter as well as a distance runner, and I held a pretty good record for the high jump and the long jump as well.

    I shrugged and leaned back against the wall coolly. “Well...what can I say?”
    Jeff laughed and ran his fingers through his golden hair, which I was also jealous of by the way. Was it weird to be envious of a guy for his looks?

    I JUST so happened to look down at my watch and notice that it had already been about ten minutes. I hated having to count on Julie for a ride.

    Jeff and I jumped as we heard the sound of wheels squealing, followed by two honks and what sounded like glass breaking.

    Jeff and I laughed to each other and ran quickly around the corner where we met up with the red corvette. “Hurry up and get in!” Julie cried in her exotic accent. “We're gonna be late!” We tossed our bags in the trunk, and I sat in my normal shot-gun seat, while Jeff placed himself in the back seat behind Julie.

    “What took you so long,” I asked tersely. Of course I knew the reason, since it was always the same.
    “Shut up, Kida. I couldn't figure out what to wear this morning. Most of my good clothes are dirty,” Julie said as she fluffed her short cropped, mahogany hair in the mirror.

    Ju, as Jeff and I called her, wasn't necessarily the most popular girl in our class, but she had that spunk about her that attracted all sorts of people. She was outgoing, more outgoing than me, and had that envious exotic look about her since she was part Columbian on her mother's side of the family. I hated going over to her house because I never knew what they were saying. Her hair was short and wild, a perfect match for her personality, and it seemed like she always had a beaming attitude about everything. Unlike me who always felt like she was missing something. Like she didn't belong.

    “You couldn't get up a little earlier?” I tried to act annoyed, but it just wasn't possible when it came to Ju. “Seriously, Julie, I'm going to find someone else to start picking me up if you can't get here on time. I can't afford too many more tardies.” I let out a sharp breath of air to exhibit exactly how frustrated I was, but of course I couldn't get anything past Julie. She always knew exactly what to say.

    Ju smiled confidently through the windshield. “Happy birthday, Kida.” I could see the triumph on her face, and I think I even heard Jeff snort in the backseat. I shot him a quick glance of annoyance, but it only made him laugh out loud. And Julie wasn't far behind him.

    Chapter 1: Final Part