Chapter 1

I looked through the dull and spit encrusted glass of the window, watching the crowd. The teacher's rambling words passed easily through my ears. I didn't worry, I would remember every thing he said later. It was a gift of mine. I tried to ignore my reflection as I focused on the handsome, dark haired figure in the middle of the crowd, I already knew what I would see.

Amaranth looked up just then, straight at me. My breath caught, startled as always by the very sight of him. His piercing dark eyes, coupled with his hair, so dark it was almost purple, should have made him seem scary and menacing, but it did just the opposite. All of the girls thought of him as a mysterious and heroic stranger, while the boys acknowledged him as one of them, tough and strong and not afraid to throw his weight around when he needed to.

Amaranth's eyes cut through me, looking past me as if I was invisible, as I knew he would. No one that unbelievably gorgeous would waste a second on me.

I already knew I was ugly, there was no doubt in my mind. The reflection in the window sneered back at me, almost mocking my shame. My hair was neither straight nor curly, just a hideous, indefinable mess that was somewhere in between. Of course, if I had had a pretty face, or if my hair had been an acceptable color, that wouldn't have been a problem. But my face was shapeless, not a blob but thin and pointed in some places and round and plump in others. And my hair... it wasn't even a color for goodness sakes. It was blond, or as close as I could guess, but it was too light to be the nice golden blond of some and too dark to be the beautiful silver of others. It would have been pure white if not for the butternut under tone that gave it an almost sickly yellow color.

My figure wasn't bad, but it wasn't startling. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't thin either. And I wasn't something that was in a perfectly balanced middle, I wasn't a model. My body curved into a slight hourglass, though subtly, so fine were the curves that you almost couldn't tell at first glance. The loose shirts that I wore didn't help either. I sighed and looked away from the window, turning my plain face to the front of the classroom, where the teacher was still rambling. I had to give it to him, he was persistent. Even though most of the class was looking away from him, some even going as far as holding conversations right in front of him, he didn't give up. He just stared stubbornly ahead, giving his lesson as if his life depended on it.

The bell rang and I sighed again, gathering up my books smoothly. Well, the good thing was that school was over, so that worked. The bad thing was that now I had no place to escape to.

"Hey, Medusa!"

I looked up sharply, causing a group of boys to laugh obnoxiously.

"It's Media," I said crossly, not really in the mood for their teasing. I wasn't too proud of my name, either. It was different enough that people made fun of me for it, but not different enough for people to think I was special, like Amaranth. I think my grandmother had been reading some of that Greek mythology that she likes so much before I was born. It would explain a lot.

For those of you not familiar with the finer points of Greek myth, Media was a witch who fell in love with the hero Jason. Later, Jason dumped her for another lady, causing Media to go insane and kill his wife. She then disappeared in a dark cloud, riding a chariot pulled by dragons. Wonderful legacy, hunh?

Anyways, most people get it mixed up with the snake-haired Medusa, which might not be on purpose if you think about it. Remember the indefinable mess that I have for hair?

"Whatever," one of the boys, probably the speaker, said impatiently. "Doesn't matter, you're still a freak."

I almost sighed for the third time that hour. Yeah, that's me. The freak.

"Would you just leave me alone?" I muttered, loud enough for them to hear.

"No, not really," the boy answered, smirking. He stepped forward and pushed me into the dirty window.

My head clunked into the glass, causing a few people below to glance up, curious. One of them was Amaranth. Some of them laughed, but he just gave me that odd look that was like being seen and yet not being seen at the same time.

I glared at the boys, my violet eyes sparking in anger. Yeah, you heard me. Violet. The only feature of my face that I actually liked. They were mysterious, different and, when I'm angry, menacing.

I was angry now.

The boy backed up, his smug smirk still plastered on his face but a little forced. The farther he got, the more confident he became. He was just coming in for another go when the teacher came up behind him.

"I think you should leave now," Mr. Cap said quietly. His real name is Capricorn, but nobody likes to say that. So, some time ago, some kid shortened it to Cap, and the tradition passed on. He was my only friend at school, the only one who understood me.

The boys laughed and walked out of the classroom. The one flashed me a look and I knew they would be waiting for me to leave, standing just outside the door like sharks. Cap knew it too.

"Maybe you should stay back with me," he said softly. "I'll drive you back home."

I nodded. He wordlessly handed me his cell phone for me to call my grandmother.

I punched in the number and waited for her to pick up.

"Hello? Hello?" an irritated voice asked on the second ring.

"Hey Sage, it's me," I said in forced calm. I never called her grandma, just Sage. She told me to, and so I did.

"Media? What are you doing? Why aren't you home yet?" the irritated voice demanded.

"I'm still at school, they just let out. Sorry Sage, I won't be home for a while. I ran into some trouble, so I've got to stay back a bit. Cap'll bring me home."

There was a slight pause. Then, Sage 's voice came again, only more gently.

"Was it the boys?"

I sighed. That was answer enough.

Sage sighed too.

"I'll see you when you get home," she murmured.

I shut the phone and handed it to Cap. He nodded and looked through the window. Cap is a tall man, slim with a mop of straw colored hair on the top of his head. He's always calm, which is saying something because nobody gives him any respect or credit. He has a nasty temper, though, if you poke him enough to awaken it. I guess we're alike in those ways.

There was a knock at the door, not obnoxious like the others, just cool and demanding.

Cap looked up and went still. His eyes flickered to me and back to the door.

"Come in," he said softly.

Amaranth walked in. Of course. This day just couldn't be complete without him walking in on my huge embarrassment. Oh no, that would be too easy for me.

His dark eyes flickered to me, but again it was like being seen without being seen. Like being acknowledged as an object instead of a person. I felt my fists clench. Cutest guy in school or not, I was sick of being treated like furniture.

"Amaranth," Cap said, just as quiet as ever but with a nervous edge to his voice. I saw his gaze flicker to me again.

"We have a meeting to day," Amaranth said, not loudly, but with and edge of authority that made argument useless. I could already see Cap deflating, like he didn't have the energy to object. That made me angrier.

"Yes, well, I can see you two are very busy," I said loudly, watching in satisfaction that soon turned to annoyance as their eyes slid to me. Amaranth still wouldn't really look at me. "So I'll just be going now," I finished through my teeth. " I'll see you tomorrow, Cap."

Then, I stalked out of the room, trying not to stomp or storm. Calm, control, anger is bad. It isn't any good right now.

But it still felt good to slam my locker door open and then bang it shut again. I couldn't hear anything from behind Cap's door, so I hoped they were listening.

Grumbling under my breath, I headed for the door.

Sage was waiting for me on the porch. Her eyebrows shot up when she saw me alone and walking.

Sage looks really old, even for a grandmother. Her hair is a pure white, whiter than my sickly yellow hair, and her skin is like a map of wrinkles all across her face. She doesn't move much, but when she does there's a power to it, like a lazy predator. Not completely active, but still lethal.

Her violet eyes, the same shade as mine looked at me questioningly.

"Where's Cap?" she asked.

"Oh, just being chummy with that darn Amaranth," I said, badly hiding my fury. "That guy just has to have his own way, it's sickening. And he doesn't even look at people like they're people, he just acts like they're furniture. And people let him!" I raged, knowing I was sounding completely stupid and not caring. "I don't care how freaking' popular or cute he is, you just don't do that!"

I flopped down on the bare brown couch just inside the doorway, my arms crossed.

Sage sat down gently beside me. Her arm touched mine gently and she smiled, amused.

"Don't worry, sweetheart," she crooned. "It'll all be alright soon. You're going to turn fifteen in just two days, you know."

"So what?" I asked, still sullen. "It's not like some magical transformation will suddenly occur and I'll magically become pretty and wanted."

Sage opened her mouth to say something, then thought better of it and shook her head.

"Just get some sleep, sweety," she said quietly. "You'll feel better in the morning."

I doubted that, but I went to bed anyways.

I hadn't realized how late it was. The sun must have gone down when I was storming down the sidewalk, too preoccupied with my anger to notice. I sighed and turned over in my bed, my eyes shutting of their own accord.