Hello there I know you might not have expected to see something else new from me, but as I was going to be unsure of when I may or may not be able to post for the next few months I wanted to dust off some of my other projects. I started this a while back and though I already have an active High School Story this one is completely different. The original plan was to write the whole thing from start to finish then split it up into chapters right before posting. That didn't quite work out as planned.
I had nearly two chapters worth, but wanted to flood the place with as much as I could get together before D-day. Even with that in mind I spread my focus a bit too thin and instead of getting several things out there including two almost but not entirely ready other chapters. Also, I've been revising my original AU Last Person on Earth the first three chapters are at Beta level. A one-shot that has been proof read and sent back with the approval to add some smut and extend it into a full story, that is Strong Memories. There is the second chapter to this and the third chapter of Bitter Medicine that are not far enough along to post. I also have two other stories Green-Eyed Girl and Blades And Bellflowers that have the first chapter started. So, if I haven't lost count myself that's six projects none of which are going up yet other then this.
The good news is I might be able to get some time to myself… late at night or something to work on stuff. I'm sure my 7 other roommates are going to love the sound of laptop keys at two in the morning. Sorry I couldn't get more done, but please give this a shot there is something special about this story that I personally enjoy.
Warning Self-edited, and roughly at that.
Not Quite Normal
Alternate Universe Short Story
Chapter One- Not a knight on a white horse.
Highschool as I remember it was the best and worst years of my life. It's were I found out that not everyone is as they appear to be, and that trust is priceless but must be given freely. My life was simple, uncomplicated, but naïve to a fault. I always felt that it was best to be right in the middle. I got good grades but nothing that placed me in a memorable class rank, where pressure to perform overtook praise. Popularity wasn't high on my priority list either, relatively well liked, though not enough to be enviable, just the way I liked it.
Really the only thing that made me stand out was when I stepped onto the track. Running was the one thing that made me special. It was then that the world would fade away and become nothing more complicated than pumping arms and pounding feet on the red paved surface. That way I could clear my head and push through anything, in those short moments of activity I could have had wings and flown. I was invincible.
Awards and praise came with 1st place, but that part of it always made me feel a little uncomfortable. I didn't need the spotlight, just the chance to be free and move with the wind fighting against me, wrapping around me like an invisible friend. It was the times I was alone on the track that I liked best.
The silent morning broken only by the sound of my rhythmic footfalls. Cool air on my activity heated skin woke me for the day like nothing else could. Not even all the coffee in the world. I cross the painted white finish line for probably about the sixth or seventh time this morning, but when I'm alone like this counting didn't matter. It never really did, at least to me.
I slowed to a walk and started my cool down lap, stretching as I went. The fast-paced dance music still playing in my ears no longer matched the beat of my heart, as it began to resume a normal cadence.
"Whoa, Baby shake that fine thing over here." The rude cat-call broke through my workout induced bliss.
I spun around ready to chew out my heckler, but ended up groaning instead. Two blond girls my age stood near the bleachers I recently passed, and I hadn't even seen them. The taller of the two had long golden hair that fell in shimmering waves and was as immaculately kept as the rest of her. Millearna who will always be everything I wasn't: beautiful, smart, and incredibly popular. In designer clothes she was the girl others wanted to be and the one all boys desired but couldn't have. Though she wasn't responsible for calling out to me like a construction worker.
No that was Celena, with short cut wavy platinum bobbed hair and clothes worn solely for comfort not style. Athletic like me but far more aggressive, as the school's top scorer on the girl's field hockey team it was to be expected. Still she was popular in her own way, though kind of the opposite. As one of the boys she joked more coarsely than any other friend I'd had, but when you needed back up no one was better to have on your side.
These have been two of my best friends since I transferred to Gaia Preparatory Academy on a track scholarship two years ago. Though not what I had expected to find here these two have helped make leaving my childhood friends behind bearable. I love them both deeply.
With a falsely exasperated sigh I walk over popping out my ear buds as I went. "Geez, Celena how many times have I told you that I refuse to bat for your team?"
"About as many times as I've reminded you that with hair shorter than mine, and no boyfriend in sight you might as well give… softball a try." Celena winked suggestively. This was par for normal between friends who held nothing back.
I couldn't help laughing but it only made Millearna rolled her expressive lavender eyes. "Oh Hitomi, don't encourage her or we'll have to get the hose."
So, the day started like any other. With a good workout, easy going teasing, and a rushed shower I was ready to really start the day. Thanks to a combination of my routine and the friends who made sure I didn't ship school just to keep running, we often needed to rush through the quad to make class on time.
The careless way my bag was slung over one shoulder. Even the remaining dampness to my pixie cut hair. Everything seemed so normal, until the moment when everything changed.
I heard the new arrival before anything else. Everyone did, the unmistakable roar of an engine with open exhaust, one that did not come from the standard issue foreign cars that frequented the student lot. Around the bend came a motorcycle that gleamed dangerously from the exposed chrome to the silvery white paint job, that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe, but not Millearna's.
Whispers bubbled up from everywhere as the solo rider neared. Not even parked and he was already being scrutinized top to bottom. From the scuffed black military style boots with faded jeans tucked into the tops, up to a grey bomber style jacket that fit tightly across his shoulders, and the full-face helmet painted to match his light-colored bike.
I felt someone tug on my arm, most likely Celena who instantly disliked all strangers. Still I remained rooted to the spot, drawn to the rider by an unmistakable force, curiosity. I had to see his face, something told me it would be important later.
It was though time had slowed down as I waited for his hands clad in riding gloves to unclasp and remove the protective covering hiding everything from chin up. First was the slightly angular yet still handsome features, naturally tanned skin, wild raven black hair that both stuck up from being trapped under the helmet and fell forward throwing his eyes into shadow.
Ignoring the staring crowd, he ran fingers through the black strands as though trying to fix the mess, but only made it worse, though somehow still attractive. Securing the bike, he then retrieved a worn messenger bag from the small cargo area at the rear and stowed the helmet in its place. Only then did the rider look around coolly, lingering on nothing and no one.
That was until his eyes met mine and something clicked. Maybe it was just my imagination, because a moment later the deep mahogany gaze moved on as though nothing happened. He walked towards the main office silently with an almost arrogant confidence in his loping stride.
It took me another minute to realize I was being borderline dragged towards class as the warning bell rang. When we arrived in the right room Millearna almost shook me as if trying to wake me from sleepwalking.
"No," She stated clearly looking into my face directly. "Don't even think about that biker boy."
"What are you talking about?" I asked confused by the sudden forcefulness in her normally mellow voice.
"I saw how you were looking at that motorcycle riding walking trouble, and I'm telling you he's not worth it." I tried to look past my normally logical friend to Celena for help, but she avoided it altogether and wordlessly went to her chair. "Hitomi, promise me that you'll treat him like the plague."
"Look I-" I started, but Millearna cut me off quickly.
"Promise me." She demanded, and the seriousness made me agree though it seemed redundant. I'll probably never even have a conversation with the boy anyways.
"Fine, I swear to not have a fictional romance with a guy who I'd have no contact with anyways." I smiled hoping she would take this all as the joke it was, but with a stiff nod the golden-haired girl left. Her class was near, but as she only took Advanced Placement courses we didn't share much other than a lunch block.
Taking a seat next to Celena I tried to ask her what was going on, even as the teacher started roll call. It was then that the door opened again and ironically the stranger entered. I didn't want to notice him, but as the only empty seat was directly behind mine it was impossible to ignore. My life it seems had suddenly become a cheesy TV drama. As he walked past slight changes caught my attention, now that his jacket was unzipped a bright red shirt peaked out like a slash a blood against the rest of his dark outfit.
"Name?" Our teacher called preparing to add the newcomer to the roster until a permeant one was issued.
"Van Fanel." I don't know what I had expected, but his voice was a smooth tenor with a slight inflection that held resignation not rudeness.
Without another word he took the seat. The rest of the day seemed to fall into that pattern. He had become part of nearly all my classes, and though I tried not to notice the silent stranger he was always somehow nearby. Still he didn't speak unless the teachers addressed him, and outright ignored the other students.
Rumors started to fly before lunch. Everything from him being a member of some dangerous biker gang, to a rebelling rich kid trying to piss off his parents. Some of the girls even whispered that he was a male escort, but as he didn't look at any of them twice it was probably a story made only from their fantasies.
Seeing as I've made zero attempts at contact with him and he was doing the same, with everyone, it seemed highly likely that Millearna's fears were completely unfounded. It's hard to think that I would fall passionately in-love with this bad boy image. He might as well be a mute. An uninterested one at that.
This new guy, Van, made it clear that he sought to keep his distance from everyone. Some people had attempted to start conversations, but all were either met with stony silence or short retorts that appeared to be neither rude or understanding. Indifferent, even to the motor-heads that wanted only to discuss his bike.
Our last class of the day was shared not with Celena, but her twin Dilandau. Similar in looks though not color, she was pale golden haired and blue eyed, he was whiter then the school walls with silver hair and blood red eyes. Where the girl was one of my best friends the brother had always been someone I was wary of. That stereotype where the female friend falls in-love with the brother was impossible. Well, my immediate crush on their oldest sibling Allen when I first transferred to this school made me more of a target for Dilandau then anything.
Celena is one of those people that brighten a room just by entering it, and she'd do just about anything for a friend. Dilandau on the other hand was a bit of a bully, his temper was as unpredictable as his good moods and neither were entirely safe for the people caught in the crossfire. In a family full of athletes, he wasn't an exception, the Basketball ace. Despite his habit of fouling opposing team members he still held the title of highest scoring player in the district and had an almost fanatical fan following.
The boy albino started out by asking if Van knew what a hair brush was, and other verbal barbs pointed at the transfer student. Juvenile chair kicking came next. Still the black-haired boy didn't raise to the bait. When class ended and he stood to leave, Dilandau shouldered past shoving him hard enough to bruise. With a clatter the faded messenger bag dropped to the floor spilling books, papers, and pens across the path between desks.
Pushed past annoyance by the outright antagonizing of my friend's stupid brother I could no longer pretend and ignore the pull towards him.
"Sorry about Dilandau." I said crouching to help pick up his scattered things. "He's just a natural jerk."
With a grunt Van thrust my helping hands out of the way. "I don't need you, any of you."
My temper flared sharply. "Really?" For the first time since this morning he looked right into my eyes. "Too good for the rest of us? I don't know who you think you are, but pushing people away only hurts you."
His face registered shock and the invisible shield he'd built between us slipped a little. He looked like I'd slapped him. Somehow younger, more vulnerable. I stood suddenly, towering over him where he knelt. "Fine you don't want a friend now, but one day you'll need one. Find me then."
With that I held out the pen I'd picked up. Slowly as if under a spell he held out one palm face up and I placed the writing utensil there. Then I turned without another word and left.
In the days that followed at first nothing seemed to change, except the transfer student seemed less icy, still aloof, but no longer outwardly hostile. At lunch he sat alone, but at the other end of my table. Sometimes, I could almost see a small smile play across his lips when conversation was particularly entertaining. Mostly my friends teasing me, but I didn't mind.
Dilandau remained a pest, but that was nothing new. The rest of the school began to settle back into a somewhat normal routine. Van became a part of it despite his initial coldness. He faded into the back ground for most people, but not for me.
I'd cheerily greet him each morning, and though he rarely said anything back, Van did warm up slightly. An acknowledging nod was better than nothing after all. A few times he was down right nice. Small things like reminding me not to forget things which happened often; take home work sheets, pencils, and even my note book. One day I had lost track of time during my morning run and dressed in a hurry, it was the biker that pulled me to the side and told me my shirt was inside out.
Celena still looked at him with distrust, but it was again my feelings that Millearna worried more about.
"Hitomi, you'd lose your head if it weren't attached." The fashionable girl moaned one time she saw Van being nice to me. I'd seen her in the hall and run out without the assignment for history class, he'd come up silently, tapped me on the shoulder, handed over the paper and left without a backward look. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were being extra forgetful just to spend a few moments with him."
"That's ridiculous!" I sputtered, though Celena merely shrugged as if it didn't sound silly to her at all. "I've always lost things, just now someone other than you two notices. Why you both think he's such a bad guy I can't understand."
"We don't know him." She stated firmly. "And neither do you."
"Come on you guys, you act as though I'm going to fall madly in love with him and get my heart broken." I shifted my bag a little higher uncomfortable.
"Well you do have terrible taste in men." Celena chirped in a better mood now that the black-haired boy was gone and teasing me became more important. "Two names come to mind, Amano and Allen."
I could feel my cheeks burn hotly. "Now that's not fair."
"You know she's got a point." Millearna said thoughtfully, her eyes uplifted as though trying to recall details. "Both guys were nice to you and the next thing we know you've gotten your heart broken because they've run off with someone else."
"Without looking at you twice." The shorter haired girl chimed in gleefully. "On the plus side this one isn't related to me."
My flush deepened just thinking about the instances in question. Amano was the boy's track captain at my last school and Celena's cousin. I'd had a crush on him for a long time, but then again so had my childhood friend Yukari and I had never noticed. It wasn't till I switched schools that the two of them got together. I'm happy for them, but it was hard to hear that he hung around me to be closer to her that whole time.
Allen on the other hand had been a senior when I transferred and looked like a more mature version of his cousin, with long shining golden hair and a chivalrous attitude. Which was at odds with the stereotypical Star Quarterback role. I realize now that I had taken my one-sided feelings for my old crush and transplanted them on to a new guy. Of course, I also didn't know until later that he was dating Millearna at the time. Funny how her realization that he was a cheater made the two of us friends.
I guess the only thing that redeemed my overly romantic heart was that I'd learned not to confuse kindness with actual affection. Well that and the fact Dilandau scared me, because if I fell for another member of their family Celena would never speak to me again.
"Just because I don't think he's a bad guy doesn't mean I'm falling in love." I mumbled trying to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach that had to be from thinking about old heartbreak. It must be right?
Why would I develop feeling for a guy who never talked? He didn't look like my type at all. With that wild dark hair, sharp features, and rich chocolate eyes. Almost exotic, but no not my preference. I like tall athletes with light hair, or I have in the past. It's not like Van isn't fit, from what I can tell he's very well-toned, leanly muscled, not like a runner but maybe a fighter or a swimmer.
Though the last thing I need to imagine is the biker in a speedo. My face heated again this time from something other than the shame of failed crushes.
Days went past, and I tried not to see him differently. The harder I tried the more difficult it became. We weren't even really friends, but now that the thoughts were in my head they were reluctant to leave. I hoped no one would notice any behavior changes. I still greeted Van each morning but my determination not to think of him in an odd way probably showed on my face just like everything else normally did.
It sucks being easy to read. A few times I swore Van's eyebrows raised questionably when he was looking at me, but I tried to ignore it. Honestly, I just tried to keep my distance, I thought at the very least it would make my friends happy. Oddly enough it didn't seem to be doing the same for me.
One morning there was a crowd around Van's locker before he'd arrived, and the reason became clear rather quickly. Someone had duct taped a hair brush to the door. Instantly I knew who the culprit was. Before I could do anything, the onlookers parted, and the heavy foot falls of military boots heralded the prank victim's arrival.
Van took one look at the brush and did something I never expected, he smiled. His eyes darted past my right shoulder and I followed his gaze, finding silver hair and crimson eyes. Dilandau smirking at his cruel and somewhat childish little joke.
Instead of getting angry the raven-haired boy turned pulling the hair brush off with the loud rip of tape. He waved it in the prankster's direction. "Thanks, been needing a new one of these." With a swift movement Van bent over running the brush bristles over the toe, and down the side of one scuffed boot then the other. "Great for getting off dried mud."
The crowd laughed and dispersed, but the look on the albino's face was downright murderous. I couldn't help myself, walking over to Van.
"He messes with you because you haven't been bothered with anything else he's done before." I stated evenly. "Dilandau wants to see how far he can push you, it a game to him."
"I know," The man shrugged standing back up. "I don't mind a little hassle, because that's all this is. Also, he bought me the wrong kind of brush for my hair. I'd break this one on the first use."
It took me a minute for that to sink in. "Was that a joke?"
"A small one." Van stated tossing the now dirty thing into the bottom of his locker. "By the way I thought you were avoiding me."
It was then that I realized something vital. He never asked for a friend, but it is what he needed. No more no less. Letting odd and completely unprovoked thoughts keep me from doing what I should have done from the start. Maybe the guy was cold at first, but he's actually been really nice to me all things considered. I think standing up to him early on earned points in my favor.
Sure, I've developed feelings in the past based entirely on kindness, but that was different. Amano and Allen both had this suave way of making people feel special even as they treated everyone the same. They said the right things all the time. I should have known they never saw me as anyone special, but the heart isn't logical. It's different this time, the little things Van has done were just for me. He never went out of his way to ensure other girls remembered their assignments, or didn't make a fool out of themselves.
"Look we share nearly all our classes. I'd like to be friends." As I said it, I could see something pass over his face I couldn't quite read but it softened his features. The words held only the truth. I wanted to be his friend, just a friend.
"You'll become a target too." His voice was soft, almost vulnerable, but I must have imagined it.
"I'm not worried." I felt myself smile at the thought. "I was the transfer student two years ago, and it makes since that we'd get along. Two outsiders stuck in the middle of grade school friendships."
He made a small sound that could have been a laugh. "Well then, we should go to class before we are late, right friend?" Van started to walk with that smooth loping stride, and after a heartbeat I jogged a few steps so that I fell in to the same rhythm walking next to him.
We spend the short trip in silence like before, but there was something different about it now. Almost as though both of us were waiting for this. It felt natural. From that point on we didn't just attend the same classes we went there together. I moved my lunch group to his side of the table, which was to Celena and Millearna's complete dismay. It didn't take long for them to warm up to the idea of our little party expanding by one.
Van wasn't exactly a conversationalist, but when he had something to say it was normally honest and thoughtful. Somewhere deep down they might still worry that I'd get my heart broken again. That fear might just be a product of my fickle past, so I was glad to see them become at least tolerance to the changes.
My new-found companionship with the biker boy did one other thing I hadn't expected. Dilandau was steering well clear, not just of him, but me as well. Not that I minded the sudden peace, it was just a little unexpected. It became easier almost effortless to seek out the wild raven hair in a crowd.
The weather turned colder, and night moved earlier each day it seemed. Two things seemed to be on everyone's mind sports activities and the upcoming homecoming dance. The track team only had a limited time until it was too cold to practice outside and each day we seemed to spend more time in the gathering darkness trying to prolong the moment where we will have to turn our actives inward. No one was looking forward to sharing the gym with the basketball team. Sprints never seemed so boring as when you were stuck looking at the same four walls.
It also didn't help that sometimes during poor weather our practices would overlap with the boys' basketball team which forced us to endure their heckling and demands that we stop trying to steal 'their space'. Sure, track is a spectator sport, but sometimes I felt watched even when I wasn't running.
One day I mentioned the strange sensation during a rant about disliking the inevitable gym time. The unexpected thing was Van's darkening expression, like thick clouds threatening rain.
"Has anyone bothered you?" His voice was low and hinted at an edge of temper I had yet to see.
"No," I responded quickly hoping to ease the worry there. "No more than the rest of the team. It's just a hassle. I wish we lived somewhere warm enough to practice outside year-round." I assured evenly, but for some reason the deflection didn't seem to work this time.
"Promise me you'll let me know the second that you don't feel safe." His dark mahogany eyes searched my face like there were words printed there that only he could read.
Under the direct gaze I felt something change. Not a flutter or skipped heartbeat, but as if my chest was filled with tiny little bubbles of air with no escape. "Van I don't-"
"Hitomi, promise me." He interrupted before the thought could fully form past the strange sensation. Taking a step back broke the charged moment, and I hadn't even realized how close we had drifted. "Even if you think it's nothing."
"Okay," It came out soft almost a whisper. "But I don't have your number."
His mouth twitched up on one side as though he was trying to hide a smile or a grimace, but it was impossible to tell which. "Actually, you do." He pulled out an older model phone with a well-used protective case, the scratches told of someone who dropped and banged the device without much thought. A moment later my phone started playing a catchy tune, the image of a tan hand covering most of the screen appeared, though just past the splayed fingers was an almost shy profile with wild black hair.
Above the image read, 'Biker Boy Calling…' it silenced and was a quickly replaced with '1 missed call'.
"How," I started to ask, but the answer was obvious the only question was who. "Which one stole my phone?"
"Millearna." He said the name as if admitting she had gotten the better of him, and it caused pain just at the thought. I should have known by the contact name. I quickly hit edit and changed it to simply just 'Van', but I left the picture.
"Did she get your phone too?" He nodded and handed it to me without another word. Under his contacts there was an image of me, lost in thought one hand playing with the pink pendant I never took off. The name read 'Saint Hitomi'. A startled laugh escaped before I knew it. "You can change it. Though I have to admit she did a better job with sneaking a photo of me then you."
"Yeah," Van didn't meet my eyes as he held one large hand out for me to return his phone. I placed it in his upturned palm and as my finger tips just grazed the calloused flesh, a zing like static electricity passed between us. He jerked away. "Sorry, did I shock you?"
"It's nothing." He muttered, and that was the last thing I got out of him for a while.
His concern for me though unfounded warmed something down to me core. I tried to tell myself it was only our growing friendship. That it was nice to have someone worried about me, for the sentiment. After that Van seemed a little more distant, but if anything, more watchful over me.
He'd walk me to practice most days, less so when our training took place outside but still it seemed like over kill. The bitter air bit into my lungs during my morning run, but it wouldn't stop me from my daily routine. The coaches on the other hand were less tolerant of the turn in weather. It was announced that all sessions would take place in the gym from them on.
Nothing else seemed to change. It had now been six weeks since the transfer student roared into our life, and it was at least to me, as though he was always meant to be there. Each day seemed the same as the last, happy and normal. The bell signaled class ending like it always did, but Van hesitated.
"What's wrong?" I asked slinging my bag over one shoulder.
"I have to leave early." His eyes didn't quite meet mine, like he was hiding something. "I can't walk you today."
"It's not a problem." I shrugged, not quite sure why this bothered me. "I'm a big girl. I can find my way to the gym without help."
"I know." His head jerked up as if he couldn't help it but hoped I hadn't noticed the extreme reaction. "Okay, then see you tomorrow."
"Yeah," I agreed quickly. "See you tomorrow." Then I quickly left not wanting this to become any stranger then it already was.
My mind was on the strange moment between us the whole of practice. It even distracted me while showering and changing to go home. Not that I wanted to think of the raven-haired boy the whole time, but he seemed so worried about something. It had to be the reason he left directly after school, right? It didn't have anything to do with me, I think.
These thoughts continued as I started the sort walk home. The brisk air forcing my coat to be zipped a bit higher, so that I could snuggle down into the collar for protection. I could have asked for a ride home from a few of my teammates, but it seemed like such a waste if it wasn't raining. It was only a half a mile after all. I could run it easily, but why bother getting worked up over nothing.
Then I heard them, footsteps taking the same path as me. It was nothing I told myself. Still I stopped to look over my shoulder. No one was there. My skin crawled and instinct screamed that just because I couldn't see them it didn't mean they weren't there, hiding just out of sight.
To be Continued…
A/N- Well I hope you liked it. The next time I have access to wifi I might have something more to show for my work. If you are a returning reader, you'll know I'm not always a big utilizer of the dreaded cliffhanger. It won't always be like that, at least from what I have planned at the moment. Sorry to leave you there, but feel free to yell at me in the reviews. I won't see them either but hope to have some interesting ones to read the next time I step onto land.
For those who asked at Bitter Medicine… Yes, I'm in the USCG. No, I've yet to be paid. No, I'm not sure when I'll be paid again. Yes, this is Bullshit, but I kind of signed up for the fact that my government has direct control of my life so I'm not mad… just a little impatient for a solution.
Hope to hear from you soon!