Chapter 1

"I'm so sick, infected with

Where I live

Let me live without this

Empty bliss, selfishness

I'm so sick

I'm so sick"

Flyleaf drummed through my ears to block out the reality of the road next to me. The cars going past me at immense speed threatened, 'If you move one foot off the sidewalk, I will take you out!' I wouldn't ever admit it to anyone but roads and highways frighten me. It's just the feeling they give me. They are intimidating. I know it's just bitumen but when I was younger I witnessed an accident just as we were turning off the highway. Rob was angry with mum and he wasn't paying attention to what was going on around him, and well…. mum was trying not to cry. I was looking out the side window and there it was, a driver was going too fast had slammed right into the car in front of him, I tried to say something but couldn't seem to form words. What I saw after the car had just impacted was what could be called horrendous; the front window got covered in blood and the window looked like a spider web. When I look back on that day, all I can say is I have a fear of roads. I know! LAME!

As I reach the lights I stop, press the button and quickly check my reflection in nearest shop window.

"That's a little vain don't you think?" said a male voice behind me.

I turned around to find a man wearing a black leather jacket and a pair of tight black jeans. The stranger was on a Ducati motorcycle, staring at me through his open helmet visor. I took three steps closer to the stranger, now I was only two steps away from the road and getting a little anxious.

"Excuse me! Who are you to judge what I can do!" I retorted defensively, now upset that a stranger had called me vain. I cringed as I admitted to myself the irrational attraction I suddenly felt for this stranger with beautiful hazelnut brown eyes.

"Just making a remark," the stranger replied, he looked up once then looked at me again before he took off at the green light.

"Rude much?" I muttered under my breath.

Who was he to tell me how to act? Males! Most of them are rude. The rest are just perverts! The main light went red and the little green man sounded. I hurried across and once I had gotten to the other side I set off hurriedly for school. It's just under a mile away. I rushed down the sidewalk, turned left and spotted the school. YES! Weird reaction to school I knew, but this is the place I go so that I can escape from my parents and Michael's here. What more could a girl want?
I entered the school via the parking lot and spotted a black Ducati.

Tool! Who parks their motorcycle in a parking bay? Oh shit! Two and two had just connected. It can't be that arrogant bastard, can it? I rushed in; trying to find Michael, just as I walked through the archway my wrist was pulled to the corner and the rest of me inevitably followed.

"Morning! How goes it in the land of Neeko?" I was relieved to hear Michael's voice and quickly turned my face up a bit to see ocean blue eyes. The most gorgeous blue I have ever seen. Michael is actually very handsome, but that will never happen between us. Michael is six foot one, has a gymnast's body but a surfer's hairstyle: its golden brown and smells of salt. I have always loved his eyes.

Under his eye there was a dark bruise, it didn't belong there on his face. I lifted my right hand and touched it gently. Michael grinned and I knew that he thought it made him look tough. My anger forgotten, I turned to walk away.

"Just fine and dandy," I said, letting the sarcasm drip while fighting a smile. I tried to walk forward but Michael was still in possession of my wrist.

"Michael, what is it?" I ask, frustrated because the shoulder bag I had was heavy and I needed to offload most of the stuff into my locker.

"There is a new guy starting today. I had a look at him and well I don't want to share, you were my friend first," Michael sounded a little possessive and I can't blame him. We have always been tight; Michael had been there for me ever since we were in year five, he chased the bullies away and helped me when I had scraped my knees, he was the best friend anyone would be lucky to have, and I was that lucky one.

"Don't worry about that, the bastard called me vain," I replied.

"That's it I'm gonna go and find him now!"

"No Michael, you will not-"

"No, no I'm not going to beat him up. I want to shake the dude's hand! He already has an enemy, and you are vain," Michael said sticking out his tongue directed it at me and with a huge grin he moved me aside and walked off.

I stood there stunned for a moment, but I shook it off quickly, I took my earphones out of my ears and put my I-pod in my bag. I made a right at the nearest corridor and headed to the toilets. I was ready to walk in when Anna – Queen Bitch – walked out giving me a fake smile. I didn't even bother to smile back. I looked in the mirror and stared.

The girl staring back at me had brunette coloured hair and green eyes. She also had a lean five foot nine figure.

I looked at my hair, or at least the brown mess where it's supposed to be and quickly decided that I just wasn't worth the effort. Without looking at my make-up free face I decided that today was just another one of those head-down-eyes-on-the-floor-days. This morning I had simply left without really trying to fix anything. Now when I looked closely I could see the crinkles my uniform consisted of. The uniform I wore consisted of a black, pleated skirt, a white matronly shirt and a black tie. On cold days a blazer kept the frost out. The boys wore the same except they got the good fortune of wearing long black trousers in place of the skirt.

As I walked out of the bathroom I heard Michael's voice.

"…And here are the bathrooms. Aaah just on time Neeko,"

"Nope, not doing the whole intro thing," is all I said with my head down and I just kept walking.

I heard footsteps behind me and I tried to walk faster. Please black hole just swallow me now. The image of my disaster-called-hair came back to my eyes and I cringed even deeper. I just made it to my locker, all the while hearing footsteps following me. They are probably getting a good view of my bum; this skirt is short enough. I smiled at my petty breaking of the school rules. Rules said skirts no shorter than 30cm in length. I say 25cm should make 'em cranky and at the thought I put a smile on my face.

I spun my locker dial, 27,37,18. I grabbed all the books in my bag except Media and Physics, and stuffed them in my locker. That is so much lighter.

Without turning around, my head half in my locker, I said "You know what you are doing now is considered stalking?"

"No judge will call this stalking," I hear the new student reply. Oh my God! His voice is so… marvelous. No snap out of it! He called you vain!

I shut my locker and turned around, coming to a halt; all my exits now blocked by the two well-built males gazing over me.

"Intros now… Kay?" Michael finally said.

"Kay, intro then," I replied thinking that if I cooperated with them it will go faster.

"Kay, Neeko Johnson meet Jake Mathews… Jake Mathews meet Neeko Johnson," Michael said and finished with a quirky little smile of his.

"Hi, so sorry for calling you vain this morning. I have a habit of saying what comes to mind. Should've kept the thought in my head. We have that over and done with? Good." Jake said, holding out his hand. I made eye contact and realized pretty quickly that that was a BAD idea. They are beautiful. I'm stuck. God. How the hell is this happening?! I'm pretty sure he just insulted me again and I can feel myself melting!

I barged my way through both Jake and Michael. No, no, no. This guy is arrogant and I can tell he is going to be annoying.

I half ran all the way to my media class, soon in a state of mind where I was just floating. That is what media did to me, it makes me think of the possibilities of anything, everything happening just because you say so. I love media; it is my absolute favourite class.

Mr. Robinson walked past and I snapped out of my trance. He unlocked the door and I walked in, a smile threatening to break my usually apathetic exterior. My seat was at the back of the classroom. The class had four rows with four people to a row. The back tables houses only three people because the loner named Kevin left last week. Who comes to a brand new school and leaves two weeks later? I sat in my seat and waited for the other fourteen students to enter. And BOOM. Just like that my positive frame of mind was shattered.

Oh No! I peered up just to see Jake talking to Mr. Robinson, showing him a note. Great! Just G-R-E-A-T! There is only one other seat open in the room and it was the one next to me!

Unwillingly I studied the object of my irritation and - though I was loath to admit it- admiration, more closely. He had changed out of the tight fitting black jeans and black leather jacket into the unflattering school uniform. The uniform prevented the eye from making out a person's real figure but from what I could tell he was athletic. The uniform looked similar on Michael and Michael was very fit. His features gave his face an eastern European look that was almost majestic in its beauty but his hair countered the look. He wore the same tousled just-came-from-the-beach hair similar to most of the surfing crowd and many imitators wore these days. I recognized with certain distaste that it resembled Michael's very well. Only difference was that I didn't know what it smelt of and Michael's is a golden brown hue, instead it was dark brown with what looked to be like platinum highlights. Damn surfies, I grumbled to myself as I looked to the side, suddenly aware I was staring. I noticed I wasn't the only one ogling him.

Mr. Robinson was now nodding asking Jake an unintelligible question. He nodded at Mr. Robinson's question. The teacher then looked over to where I was sitting and gestured for Jake to move there. Jake's lips moved very stealthily so that I couldn't read his lips. Mr. Robinson gave a loud heckling laugh, but calmed down right away. Jake shot me a pointed look as if to confirm he was talking about me. I lowered my eyes to my lap, where my bag still resting. I grabbed my media workbook out, a pen and a highlighter – for later.

I heard the seat on my right being pulled out and someone settled them self onto it.

"Hey stranger, how's it going?" I heard my favorite lacrosse buddy Hayden's cool voice in my ear.

I turned to him and instantly knowing that this lesson was going to be a breeze.

"Hayden do you think I'm vain?" I asked Hayden, spotting Jake approach the desk next to me, I knew he heard the question because he raised his head a little waiting for the response.

"Oh hell yes!" Hayden replied instantly, not even thinking about the answer. "Although today your appearance leaves something to be desired. Maybe you're changing. Did you look in a mirror before you left the house?"

"What?" I asked, now severely pissed as Jake choked out a laugh, trying, but failing, to contain himself.

"Well every morning you look into at least five different reflective objects to check that your hair is alright, even though your hair looks great. Well, most of the time" Hayden replied, clearly amused at my outrage.

"But… no… he doesn't get to win," I replied now pointing at Jake.

"What does you're being vain have to do with the new guy?" Hayden asked, his eyes crinkling in confusion.

"Nothing, don't worry about it," I said, now deflated.

"I have known you for a really long time and that is just the way you are. It makes you, you," Hayden replied with a sincere tone to his voice. "Honestly, its not like it's an issue. I still don't get what he has to do with it." He mused, flicking a glance at Jake, now seated on my right.

"I called her vain at the traffic lights this morning. Hey my name is Jake and I heard you are Hayden. How do you do?" Jake butted in, extending his hand.

"Oi arsehole, this is a private con-" my words were cut off by Hayden's left hand around the back of my head, on my mouth and drawing me closer to him.

"Shut up, the old bat will put you on detention for swearing, you know that," Hayden whispered in my ear. He extended his other hand to Jake. "Good Morning. Nice to know ya. Excuse her. She just hasn't looked at herself for a few minutes."

"Can't breath," I rasped against his hand. He let go of my face but then moved his hand down to my waist.

"Don't, the old bat will put you on detention, you know that," I mimicked. Hayden let go of me and leaned back in his chair just as Mr. Robinson called the class to order.

"Today you will be choosing groups and brainstorming ideas. Also, there is a new student with us today. His name is Jake Mathews, please make him feel welcome," Mr. Robinson concluded.

"Alright, Jake can be with us," Hayden said automatically.

"Don't we get to vote?" I asked, knowing I was fighting the inevitable.

"Nope! You will say no, I say yes and Jason will say yes, so no there is no point in a vote. Welcome to the group my friend," said Hayden looking past me to Jake.

"Tool," I mutter. Hayden shot me a glance then turned away and smiled.

"The task will be to select a book that has not yet been made into a movie and shoot a movie summery for the chosen book, the maximum will be five minutes" Mr. Robinson said, now walking around with a notebook and a pen noting down groups.

When he got to our table he wrote our names down and then turned to me and said, "I'm glad to see you are continuing media this year, last year you were so good but you had trouble deciding if you should do it, isn't that right?"

"Yes sir, it was difficult to decide but I finally said 'stuff this' and choose this so now I'm happy," I replied with a smile on my face. Mr. Robinson returned the smile and went back to his desk.

"Okay so what book are we going to chose?" Jason asked nearly making me fall off my chair in fright.

"Jeez, don't do that again! Nearly scared the shit out of me," I said, my annoyance being replaced with a grin.

"Crap! We wouldn't want that would we? We like you full of shit so that you can tell us what we are doing wrong," Hayden butted in, laughing.

"Oh screw off!" I took my pen off my desk and opened my book to a blank page. I wrote down BOOKS and circled it.

"Anyone have any ideas? And don't think there has to be a female in the book, because I'm a great director, and I have done my fair share of male stints," I said, all while looking at Jake suspecting that because I'm the only female in the group, I automatically had to act. Well that is where he was mistaken.

"Why are you looking at me?" Jake demanded.

"Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I will sit back and just play along with the lines I get," I said now moving closer to him, challenging him.

"Yes, don't worry. We know that you are an absolute pain in the arse to please so can you stop challenging him and lets get back to work." Jason interrupted.

"What books then?" I asked readying my pen to write down any suggestions.

"What about… Matthew Riley's new one 'Seven Ancient Wonders'?" suggested Jason.

"Okay, lets put that on the list when you can give me the pyramids of Giza, France, an Arab, a Canadian, a little girl, a male and female Irish person… shall I go on?" I said, smiling sarcastically at him.

"No, I get the point, what about a romance?"

"If we choose the book well enough then we can pull it off really well, right?" Jake interjected.

"Maybe…" I replied, searching my mind.

"I don't know about the rest of these guys but I don't read a lot of romance," Jake said, making me emerge from my reverie.

"Right, okay I have an idea,"

"Okay, go on then," Jake urged me.

"The book is called, 'Before I Die',"

"Sounds real great, death, yay," remarked Hayden

I shot him a frosty look and continued, "It's about this sixteen year old girl, Tessa, and she is diagnosed with cancer," I pause and look around, all the attention is on me, so I continued. "Well basically she is dying and decides to start a list of things to do before she dies. The first item on the list is to have sex," I said that and immediately regretted it. I met Jake's eyes for one embarrassing second that felt like ages. What is it I feel when I look in his eyes?

"Well? Then what happens?" Hayden asks.

"Forget it. It will be uncomfortable to film, so lets scrap the idea."

"No, the book sounds good," replied Jason.

"Okay well, she gets a crap shag and is kind of disappointed. The next day her neighbor, Alex, is burning leaves and plant matter and she just gets the idea to burn some of her stuff. Next thing on her list is that in one day she has to say yes to everything. There is also magic mushrooms, a crime spree, driving, getting her parents back together, becoming famous, finding love and some other things," I finished, waiting for a response.

"Who is going to be the one night stand? And who is going to be Alex?" asked Jason.

"Well I'm going to take a wild stab and guess that no-one besides me can ride a motorbike?" Jake said.

"What? How do you know there is a motorbike in the book?" I demanded.

"Well my sister can't shut up about the book, and no-one besides me will listen to her, I got the plot from her, but you summed it up faster than her."

"Aagh, you…you …" it was all I could manage not to scream in a ramble. I couldn't work out why this bothered me so much.

"So you guys can't ride a bike?" He continued.

"No, I don't want to do this book anymore," I protested

"No choice, we've decided, it will be fun," he said, unrelenting

"Yeah me making out with almost all of you will be great fun," I replied bluntly.

"Well if Jason is the one night stand then you will have made out with all of us, remember?" Hayden replied, his eyes glazing over, probably thinking back to the old days. Jake was wearing a puzzled look, "Me and Neeko used to go out and lets just say that it didn't end well," Hayden says lifting his hand to his cheek and rubbed it like there was an old injury.

"Why didn't it end well?" Jake asked curiously.

"Well I was at a party and I didn't know she was going to be there, right? And well somehow I ended up kissing Anna, the beautiful blond of our fine school, and when I came up for air Neeko was there and well my eye didn't recover for a while. I never knew she could pack that much of a punch."

"Broke two knuckles too. Oh yeah, that's why I always give her the evils. I had forgotten the reason. It's just reflex now," I said righting on my media book, Before I Die, Jenny Downham?

I picked up my highlighter, purple, and I rolled over Hayden's arm, pulled back his sleeve and start scrawling WHORE all over his arm.

I feel everyone's eyes on me; I paused briefly and looked up innocently asking, "What?"

"Why are you letting her do that?" Jake asked with a frown and Hayden, Jason and I all started laughing. I took no further notice of the comment and kept writing on Hayden's arm.

"Well she hasn't really gotten over it, it was near the end of the year. We came back this year and only last week she started to talk to me again and we made a compromise. She can write on my arm every media lesson and I'm not allowed to wash it off during the day. And bing bang we are friends again," Hayden looked down at his arm and noticed that there was another word on his arm besides whore. There now stood the title of womanizer. "Hang on I'm not a womanizer! Don't take out your grudge against pretty boy on me!"

"Pretty boy? I'm not a womanizer!" Jake said, taken aback.

"Just joking." Hayden smiled impishly.

"TIME!" Mr. Robinson yelled over the noise of the working groups.

I dropped Hayden's arm, put my highlighter's lid on and stuffed everything in my bag. I positioned myself so I now sat facing the front of the room before Jason could get back to his desk.

Jake suddenly leant in close to my ear and whispered so only I could hear, "You smell amazing and your lips just look so… irresistible." My eyes widen, my jaw dropped and the instant Mr. Robinson dismissed the class Jake moved from his seat and disappeared into the hall. Mr. Robinson had released us a few minutes early. I wanted to go straight to the photography class. Michael's class. No, I can't keep rushing to Michael every time something happens, I thought.

Amazing smell? Irresistible lips? What was that about? I mused over those words as I made my way to the cafeteria. I bought myself a rich, warm cup of coffee and a fruit salad. A quick snack and a booster before Physics wouldn't hurt.

I walked to Physics, eating my salad, just as students were let out and started to mill around me. I arrived at my class and spotted Michael. To my dismay he was standing next to Jake. Michael spotted me and waved and Jake turned to wink at me. I rolled my eyes, and turned around. My teacher was fast approaching and I finished off the last of my salad, shooting a three pointer into the bin and throwing back the last of the coffee.

"Morning guys and gals. How about we get right down to the science?" Mr. Adams – this guy was always perky. He is worse than his students sometimes. The only thing that makes him serious is when he doesn't get attention.

Michael followed as I moved to our bench in the right corner at the back of the class. As far as science labs went, this one was Jurassic. The equipment was clearly outdated, many coated in rust. The strong scent of burnt metal, ammonia and a host of other strange things lingered in here.

"What was with the eye roll?" Michael questioned.

"It was meant for him," I replied pointing at Jake, now making his way to the open bench in front of us.

"Neeko Johnson report to Student Services, I repeat Neeko Johnson report to Student Services," a crackling voice announced over the intercom.

With a groan I stood up and moved to the door. I paused and blew Michael a mocking kiss. "Don't miss me too much now boys," I said, smirking at Jake and I continued to what was sure to be another lecture from someone who thought they knew about educating teenagers.