PANG. PANG. PANG.
The sound was coming from Callum's pocket and Mary couldn't help but notice the way his eyes brightened. He pulled ut his phone.
"Something good?" Mary inquired. Fixated on the screen, Callum barely uttered a 'sort of'. His lips spread into a bright smile that made Mary's stomach melt. Wow, get a grip Mary.
"Um I have to go. Feel better okay," he added to Zoe. She nodded shakily and then Callum turned and disappeared around the corner.
Mary let out a long sigh She felt that had just done battle. "That guy is such a—"
"Hottie?" Zoe suggested. Mary glowered at her.
"I was going more for weird."
"Well yes he is a bit odd," Zoe agreed, "But he seems like a decent bloke. How did you two get on such good terms?" Mary thought about it for a moment, trying to pin point the moment that she'd started to tolerate Callum's presence.
"Around the same time I started imagining him as a dog," Mary said.
"A dog?" Zoe gawked. "Did you just call a member of the F4 a dog? Mary Elson!"
"Oh be quiet, I've done worse than that to Rothford and I lived." Well for now.
"But why a dog?" Zoe asked.
"You know. . . he's always so cheerful and smiling. He always reminds me of golden retriever wagging his tail."
Zoe just stared at her for long while, her expression a mix between amusement and horror. Mary tried not to laugh at the sight. "I can't believe you," Zoe sighed. "I don't even want to know what you said to Daniel Rothford."
"Why not? I gave him a good taste of his own medicine," Mary exclaimed and threw a punch into the air. Zoe looked exasperated.
"Uh huh. Did you even think what he'd do to you?" Mary frowned.
"Of course I do." Mary hesitated before continuing in a whisper. "I just tend to ignore it hehe."
Zoe made to answer but a very different, much more masculine voice came out.
"Wah!" Mary shouted in alarm. She turned to see a short boy standing behind her greeting her with a bright grin.
"Oh I'm sorry Mary! Did I scare you?" The boy said in a rushed voice.
Mary glanced back at Zoe, whose confusion seemed equal to Mary's, before staring back at the boy. Calling him a boy rather than a guy was justified. His bright red hair was in the same height as Mary's head. He spoke with an American accent and his face was covered in freckles.
"Do I know you?" Mary asked carefully. The boy's bright eyes fell at this, his smile now replaced with a babyish pout.
"Don't you remember me? It's me, Billy. Billy Hickenson."
A sudden spark ignited in Mary's brain. Of course! Little Billy Hicksenson. The little boy she'd shared recess with in elementary school. Elation filled Mary's heart.
"Billy! Little Billy! Oh my God!" Mary squealed. The bright smile returned to Billy's face and Mary noticed the dimples that appeared. He looked almost the same as he did back then, except skinnier.
"What are you doing here!?" she gasped. Billy's smile widened at her apparent excitement.
"My dad got a job here in London about a year ago and I friend of my mom's suggested this school for me."
"Amazing," Mary muttered in disbelief. "So what does your dad do now? Last I remembered he was a salesmen for some phone company."
"Oh he lost that job ages ago and that's why we moved out of town soon after. My dad started his own digital media company and we moved here to open his new branch," Billy explained.
"What company does he head?" Zoe asked politely. Billy turned to her and her eyes brightened, clearly glad to be able to share his father's success.
"Rose Digital. It hasn't really boosted here yet, but it mostly focuses on educational products and stuff like that. To be honest it doesn't interest me much," he admitted.
"I know what you mean," Zoe answered sympathetically. Mary smiled at that. When Billy didn't reply, Mary remarked, "Zoe's parents are trying to get her to switch out of her law focus. They don't think it's very stable."
"Law? Really?" Billy let out shocked. Mary laughed.
"I know. Some parents are just weird."
"Especially mine," Zoe muttered.
"What's your schedule like Billy?" Mary asked motioning her hand to the paper in his hands.
He dictated the times on the paper and discovered that he had the same math and history courses as Mary and Zoe. At this news he was delighted. Mary could understand the amount of joy coming from him. If she had had someone she knew the days she started at St. Olenna things would have been a lot easier. She sighed.
Billy looked down at his watch and she noticed his expression falter. "I have to go to the office now. Darn," he muttered.
"It's okay we'll see you in class," Mary said reassuringly. Billy smiled at them both. He said his farewells and ran to the other hallway towards the office.
"Hello Zoe darling," called out a voice.
Suddenly, Mary felt a sharp nudged. She turned to find Zoe glancing at the opposite direction, her expression horrified. Mary followed Zoe's example and found herself horrified as well. Daniel Rothford was staring at her just twenty feet away. it was Will who had yelled and he was making his way towards them. Zoe hid behind Mary.
No. No. No. This was not happening. She did not need this.
"Ah Mary is here too. How are you darling?" Will asked with a huge grin. Rothford and his friend follow suit, but Rothford was the only one not smiling. He was glaring at Mary very obviously. She turned away trying her best to ignore him.
"I was fine till a moment ago," Mary replied carefully.
"We missed at the party. Why didn't you stay a little longer?" Josh enquired, joining on the joke.
"I had stuff to do."
"What about you Zoe darling? Are you still all cheery? That was a side of you I'd like to see more often," Will chuckled poking behind Mary's shoulder to where Zoe was obviously trying to hide herself.
"I-I, well t-t-that's not really my scene—"
"You should come along more often. Isn't that right Dan," Will exclaimed. Rothford didn't speak but his eyes still were on Mary. A nerve struck in her. What the hell was he staring at? Was he still angry about their spat at the party? God he was a child.
"Come on Zo," Mary whispered, dragging her gaze away from the demon. It didnt matter how attractive he was, to her Daniel Rothford would always be a devil. A hell spawn.
"Right behind you," Zoe urged.
"Running away again," Rothford yelled out. Mary froze. He was baiting her and she knew it. Mary turned to see Rothford give her that cocky smirk. Will and Josh watched them both, their expressions a mixture of amusement and confusion.
"What?" Mary replied harshly. Zoe tugged on her arm, whispering "ignore him, ignore him," repetitively.
"You poor girls really have no shame, looking like that all the time," he said pointing at Mary's hair. Instinctively Mary reached to touch her hair. What was wrong with it? It was in it's normal braid, maybe a bit messy, but no one seemed to care.
When she didn't answer him, Rothford walked over to her to continue with his tirade. "What is this?" He touched a stray hair that came from her braid. "A new farm girl look?" Heat burned on Mary's face. This….This demon! He was chiding her into a fight.
"Hey Dan, ease up on the lady. Some women can only do so much," Will interjected, casting a sympathetic look on her. She didn't bother to look at him.
"Shut up," Rothford shot back at him. He was still touching her hair and Mary took a long breath. She slapped his hand away, and grabbed Zoe's hand.
"Let's go," Mary muttered. Her friend nodded, casting a frown in Rothford's direction.
They both rushed away. Zoe ignored the calls coming from Will and Mary suppressed the urge to throw her book bag in Rothford's face. She didn't need drama.
"Don't listen to him Mary. There isn't anything wrong with your hair," Zoe said comfortingly.
"Why should I care what he thinks?" Mary let out harshly. It was true her hair was uncontrollable and curly. It wasn't as if she didn't hope that she could get it done and calmed down. But where would she have the time? It was easier to just braid her hair and keep it level.
"You shouldn't. You look lovely," Zoe said.
Mary laughed at that. "Yeah thanks. Let's just go to class".
The next couple days had passed on like a blur that Mary had completely forgotten about Fall break. And with Fall break the optional class field trip. Every year the fourth years were awarded a field trip abroad to attend if they wished. Zoe was going since her family had already paid, but Mary opted out. This year the class was going to Rome. How glorious.
"You should really reconsider. Did you check in your savings if you had enough for the trip?" Zoe inquired three days before the long weekend. They were both seated in the music room for lunch. Zoe had decided to take a break from debate team to hide from the F4. She basically hung in Mary's shadow these days. It unsettled Mary, like she'd become a body guard for some starlight. Ha, some body guard. She didn't think any professional body guard had scrawny arms like hers.
Mary sighed, picking at her salad. "I already did like a million times. Plus there isn't just the cost of the flight Zoe,' Mary reminded her what felt like the hundredth time.
"There's the hotel, food, transportation, and extra money if I want to visit the ruins."
"Nothing to see there," Zoe remarked popping a grape in her mouth. At Mary's expression Zoe lifted her hands. "Okay okay i'm going to retract that before you give me a three hour history lecture."
"You really deserve it," Mary muttered.
"No one deserves an in depth and plagerized analysis on the 'splendid architecture and culture Roman Empire'," Zoe mimicked.
"One: Just because I agree with a book's analysis, doesn't mean I'm plagerizing. Two-"
"Yeah yeah, go back to topic at hand."
Mary let out an exasperated breath. "There isn't anything to tell. I cant afford it. And I'm not going. Plus I doubt I'll be pleased with the company."
"You know what I mean," Mary corrected.
The bell rang signaling the change of period. Zoe glared at the bell in the wall before throwing her grapes into her lunch bag.
"It's just a shame. You'd appreciate the trip more than anyone in our class."
"That's an understatement if you ever had one."
"Haha. I need to leave. See you after school?" Mary nodded and watched Zoe disappear around the corner.
Her eyes remained fixed at the point where Zoe disappeared for a long while, her thoughts wandering. To be honest Mary really did want to go one the trip. The idea of going to Roman ruins excited her beyond belief. To see them in a textbook was one thing but to watch the physical thing with her very own eyes would be something entirely different. Seeing that they actually existed. The warning bell rang, disturbing Mary's fantasies. Great, now Physics with the F4. Just what she needed.
Mary entered the classroom with the usual routine. Bury her head in a book until she reached her desk and pray to god that no one would annoy her. It worked most of the time. As she took her seat in Physics a bright red head turned to face her. She gasped. It was Billy.
"Awesome you're in my class," he exclaimed brightly.
"Wait I thought you had this at a different period?" MARY ASKED, suddenly confused. Billy brushed the question off.
"I asked for it to get changed. They had me in Chemistry. I took it last year," he explained.
"I see," she replied. Mary couldn't help but gaze at the door from time to time. In any minute the F4 would be coming in. She did not want them to see and target Billy because of her.
"Listen Billy," Mary whispered. She motioned for him to come closer. He did and she continued. "There are these groups of guys called the F4. Very flashy and very popular—"
"Oh I know. They're really famous around here," Billy interrupted. Mary stared at him, horrified,
"You've met them already?"
"No, no, I mean a lot of the girls around here talk about them. And I've heard of the Rothford family from my dad." Relief filled Mary's stomach.
"Well I have to warn you. Me and them don't get along very well. So when you see them try to stay clear ok? Promise me." Confusion covered Billy's face.
"Don't get along with you? You? Mary Elson? But you're the nicest girl I know!" Billy said. A smile curved involuntarily on Mary's face. He was sweet.
"That isn't the point Billy, though I appreciate the compliment. Just—"
Mary flinched and looked up to see Callum grinning at her. She relaxed and returned the greeting.
"Is your friend getting on alright? She looked a bit ill this morning," Callum inquired.
"That's nice of you. Yeah she's fine. Zoe's just not used to that kind of scene—"
"That's for sure," yelled Will as he threw his arm around Callum. Callum's smile faltered and Mary could feel hers disappear automatically. "But i had great fun. Would you be so kind as to give me her number Mary? I could use a good laugh."
"Sorry don't have it one me," Mary replied, turning back to her books.
"Aw don't be so harsh, love," Josh pressed on. He leaned on Mary's desk with a wide smile. "I wouldn't lay a hand on her, she isn't really my type."
"Too much information," Mary said, annoyed.
"It's true. Come on Dan back me up," Josh said. Mary stiffened at the name.
Instead of baiting her, Rothford was glaring down at Billy. Mary's stomach flipped in worry. Billy, very oblivious to the radiating hostility coming from Rothford, stood and stuck out his hand.
"Im Billy nice to meet you. I just transferred here."
Rothford didn't move to shake the hand, unsurprisingly. He just frowned at small Billy as if really confused. Mary caught him give her a sideways glance and her returned it with a glare of her own. Was he looking down her friends now? The guy really wouldn't let up until he had his fill.
Then, without another word, Rothford stuck his hands in his pockets and turned to take his seat. No one had time to react to this sudden and uncharacteristic move as the professor entered the room. All was in order unlike Mary's thoughts.