Blood Lush

By Holly Queen Rockefeller

Chapter 1: Attack

In the dark forest near a great mountain called Grace Peek, a large group of high school teenagers partied in a ravine. A band made up of juniors played loud hard rock music with the crowd dancing and cheering for the band to play on.

"You want to party all night?!" shouted the lead guitar singer. The massive crowd shouted and screamed louder as the guitar player put his free hand to his ear. After a minute of humor, the player smiled and shouted, "Then let's rock!"

The band started up again with a song with more bass then voice as the party went on.

In the distant wood only nine or ten yards away, two seniors stood alone under a thick-branched pine tree. The girl, a pretty blonde, was leaning against a tree with her hands on her boyfriend's face has they kissed. His football jacket was only a few feet away with a pack of yodels hanging out of the pocket.

" Jack, we should go back to the party before the others think we're missing." Stated the blonde after she forced the senior's face away from her's.

Jack sighed and glanced at his watch, then up at the bright moon.

"It's only ten, Ashley, and the moon light is prefect tonight." Jack argued.

" You are such a wild animal aren't you?" asked Ashley with a huge smile. In response, Jack growled playfully and pulled her closer.

Not a second passed till deep in the shadows of the brush a twig snapped. Jack, who was to distracted, was unable to hear the sudden noise. Ashley, on the other hand, jerked back and asked shakily,

"What was that noise?" Jack growled again as he kissed Ashley harder on the lips.

"Serious, Jack, something is out there. It could be a bear."

"Or one of the others playing a joke?" Suggested Jack.

" No, really, I think it's a animal."

"I thought I was the animal tonight?"

"You know that's not what I meant--"

The couple fell suddenly silent as a growl broke the air. Jack's growl earlier was impossibly deep and dangerous-like, however it could not compare to the drumming that came from the bush across from the seniors.

With a quick flick and loud boom, Jack's jacket with the un-open yodel disappeared under a huge paw that was the size of a full-grown man's head.

Ashley, who had stepped back till her back was pushing against the tree, screamed.

Another growl followed by an ear ripping bark came again as the jacket torn and shredded flew off onto another bush. Before the jacket landed on the brush, a gigantic creature erupted from the dark. As it stepped closer into the clearing to the teenagers, the moonlight spilled across its body. All Ashley could make out was its glowing yellow eyes and the incredible height, standing a foot higher then her tall boyfriend even though it still remained on its four legs.

Once the beast sniffed the air it lunged at its closest and more challenging prey… Jack.

Jack's voice boomed out in a deep yell as the monster ran fangs first towards him. Jack turned to run, but was unable to escape. The beast shoved Jack to the dirt in the back with its massive paws. When he was shoved, Jack could hear and feel the ribs on both sides of his body break as if they were made out of thin crackers. Jack's final shout for help was cut short as the shadowy form's jaws dived to his throat.

As Jack was being pushed down, Ashley, knowing nothing but to get away, whipped around the tree, heading into the miles and miles of forest that stretched on.

It wasn't till she tripped slightly and ducked behind a thorn bush that Ashley remembered that the closest refuge was the party at the ravine. With unbearable terror, she realized that the animal stood between her and her chance of safety.

Ashley held her breath as she listened to the distant thundering of the monster's feet as it came closer and closer. With a great effort, Ashley forced herself to remain a stone, fearing the animal will here her movement as it shortened the length between her and it. Ashley strained her ear to hear the paw steps hit the ground beside her.

Silence.

The senior began to breath slowly and quietly; partly relieved the animal was no ware in sight or sound.

After a few seconds went by, Ashley discovered her rhythmic breathing was being echoed by a rougher and louder voice.

Instead of turning around to find want was making the noise behind her, Ashley jumped forward to fall from a root that stuck up in her path. As she landed on her face, she rolled over to do nothing but hold her scratched and bloody hands up in defense, letting out a blood-shrilling scream.

*

Not far from the other side of the mountain, the band and partiers partied on. It wasn't until two teenagers behind the stage scoffing down hotdogs were joking around paused to take a mouthful of food that they heard the echoing yell. The boys stood up at once and stared into the woods. As the shout was cut short, the taller of the two faced the other with a frightened and troubled look.

"Who was that?" Asked the tall boy.

"Don't know," answered the other, " but it sounded as if someone's in pain." With quick speed, the first boy ran to the front of the stage and called out to other teenagers.

"Hey! Someone is hurt in the forest!" The band stopped abruptly as a group of six of the older high scholars ran off into the dark, each with a flashlight in their hands.

As the group went deeper, one of the other guys shouted for the others to come to him. As the five stepped into the small clearing, one of the girls screamed in agony at the remains of Jack's body. As the boy who called before kneeled down to look closer, another cry of pain, more horrible then the first, split through the sky. With hard strides the rest of the search party ran down the steep hill to find a greater terror then Jack's remains. One girl broke into tears at the sight of her fallen friend while another boy turned and bent over vomiting from the unbearable scene.

The party ended as grieving friends mourned together with the sound of sirens coming up the mountain.

Chapter 2: Mawawa

I was eleven when my father died and seventeen when mom remarried. I'm eighteen and now am moving to the piney forests and high mountains of Colorado. Moving does seem to be the next logical step in my life.

Though my Mom and younger brother took on my step dad's last name Logan, I kept my old name, Carter Dardis. I cared and loved my father too much to rid him of my life, so I decided to keep his last name as a reminder.

We packed a month before we boarded the plane to the town of Mawawa, which settled near small lakes and massive mountains. While in the car to the airport, my Stepfather (who I am allowed to call Frank, his first name, since I am nearly an adult) decided to give me a late birthday gift. A small but thick maroon notepad. He said life was too important to go by without a memory to hold it all. He also told me that when he was a boy he had kept a journal and that when he looks back and reads it, he remembers the wonderful things he have done that he would not recall by memory. Though I thought it was corny at the time I accepted without complaint to Mom. She was happy and that seemed too good for me to ruin for nothing.

Out of everyone in the family, I was the only person who didn't accept Frank into the group. Of course, Mom loved him and thought he was the prefect man for her since Dad had past away. My younger brother, Jeremy, didn't really remember Dad since he was only four when he went, and looked to frank as a dad once he met him.

As we settled for take off on the plane, I took the window while Jeremy sat on the inside so he can watch the movie being played for the flight.

I smiled as he chatted with Frank who occupied the seat in front of us with Mom. Jeremy seemed to be the only one of us who looked like Dad, short brown hair that stops at the back of his upper neck and big hazel eyes with large pupils that made him even cuter. His jaw was squared and a dimple formed at the corner of his lips when he smiled. Me, on the other hand, looked like either Mom or Dad. Mom's thick blond hair waved to her shoulders and had blue eyes, and she was also short. I was average height, slender, and had long straight dark brown hair and light brown eyes. When we go to visit Grandpa at his farm, he always reminds me I look like a twin of grandma from when she was young. Sadly, I was never able to meet her since she died of lung cancer from before Mom even laid eyes on my father.

The sky was bright blue with clouds that are as white as newly fallen snow as the plane soared up at the sky at a slight angle. As we flew on into the endless horizon, I looked behind my shoulder to stare at the city. It was my home sweet home, but now that we were moving to Frank's hometown at the upper part of Colorado, The only chance I would see it again is if I took a plane back from, wherever it was I am now living.

As the buildings dissolved into the clouds, I faced forward to stare at the notebook that Frank gave me sitting on my lap. Taking a pen from my bag and opening to the first page, I began my journal of my new life.

I started it out writing about my friends, memories, and family. When I finished summarizing, I had already filled twenty or so pages back to back with as little handwriting as I could write.

I couldn't understand how I was going to fill the rest of the whole book with only three months of high school left. Once I thought about it, there was no way I was going to write anything more about my life. It was too wonderful; too magical of a place I once lived to ruin with the new world I was entering… the world of growing up.

*

"Carter, wake up. We're landing in Mawawa soon, dear."

I struggled slightly at the sound of a soft voice. I opened my eyes slowly; either because the light burned like fire or my eyelids was to heavy to lift. As I pulled myself up, I moaned and stretched my arms over my head, a thrilling feeling running up my body.

The plane bumped up and down as it landed on the runway. When we walked off, I glanced around; my eyes more alert like a deer on the highway. I followed Frank beside Mom with Jeremy trailing along behind.

Suddenly Frank boomed, "Wyatt!" loudly while waving his arm to a man that had started to walk to us. Mom greeted also and after a small conversation, turned to my brother and me.

"Wyatt, I want you to meet my step kids, Jeremy and Carter." Said Frank. The large man shook hands with us both, and I wasn't surprised that his grip was unbelievably strong. I looked him up and down as he asked Jeremy about basketball. He was short with broad shoulders and a thick beard stretched to his center chest, the color of dark wood went it is wet. There was no doubt he was Frank's age. I could only guess that they grew up together.

Wyatt and another of Frank's friends, Nate, had both brought their trucks to help bring our luggage and us to our new house. My family rode with Wyatt in his suburban while Nate followed behind in his rusty pickup with the bags. After many miles of catching up and starring out the window, we arrived at the town of Mawawa. As we passed houses and main streets, I noticed that no one under eighteen was hanging around. Then I remembered that it was noon and it was a Monday. Everyone was still in school. This caused me to have goose bumps. I never had an experience being the new kid before and now I couldn't help but wonder how everyone will treat me. Would I be greatly welcomed or hated at first sight? All I knew was that the only answer to my question was to walk through the front doors tomorrow morning at Mawawa High School.

Before I knew it, we had pulled into a driveway that reached to the side of a two floor white house. I easily recognized it from the photos Mom had shown us a few days after she told Jeremy and I the big news. The house was well spaced along with the fact that my room contained my own bathroom and a large window that cast a view of the side and some of the front of the property.

"Doesn't it look wonderful?" asked mom as we went through the front door.

"It's… roomy, I must say." I answered. Jeremy ran past me and headed for the stairs that led upstairs.

"My rooms on the right or left at the end of the hall?" called down Jeremy.

"The left is the bathroom! But hey, you can sleep there if you want!" I yelled up the staircase as I walked slowly up with a bag in each hand.

"Funny, Carter, you are such a comedian." Replied Jeremy from his bedroom.

Once I reached the top, I walked around the staircase and followed the wall till I reached the door that opened to a room. As I entered, I noticed that the room took up the corner of this side of the house. The walls were off white, and I was extremely glad. That meant I didn't have to spend days repainting. The window was larger then I thought, which now spilled bright sunlight into the room. My bed, dresser, vanity, and desk were already placed in the places I had asked. However, I am starting to rethink about moving the vanity more to the left so that it was parallel to the window across the room. It would be just divine to look in the mirror with the sun and moonlight shinning through in the back round. Like an enchanting dream from a movie or book from some time long ago.

Once I finished unpacking my clothes, the sound of tires braking and guy voices filled the room. Walking to the window, I spotted a moving van parked outside our house with a handful of men unloading the last of our furniture.

"Kids, come down here for a minute!" called Mom from the premises of downstairs. Obediently, I came down the stairs behind Jeremy to Frank and Mom who seemed to be instructing the workers where to place the furniture.

"Jeremy, can you show them where you want your desk to go in your room? And, Carter, make sure that everything wasn't left behind, will you?" asked Frank with a kind tone. Ever since Frank was Mom's boyfriend, he always made sure he talked calmly to us, never raising his tone a note higher.

As I walked across the nicely cut lawn to the truck one of the workers passing by carrying a wooden chair bumped me slightly on my left shoulder. As I turned to yell, "Hey, watch it!" the man turned to face me. Before I could speak, he spoke with a deep voice that was gentle as velvet.

"Sorry, Kid." Anger ran through my body like a strong ocean current.

"I am not a kid, for your information. I'm an adult." He looked me up and down twice with deep green eyes.

"My apologies, Lady. You look younger then I thought. What are you, sixty?"

"I'm eighteen, actually, pal. And I don't need to stand here talking to a bloke worker like yourself. I have my own work to do."

"Really? Well, would you mine if you can grab the other chair for me? I'm not joking, I mean it." I could sense the humor behind the face left to be replaced with serious tones. I sighed as I carried the other chair from the moving truck and followed the young guy into the dinning room. As I put it place, I faced the man who nodded at me once.

"Thanks, It was nice to have some help. You must be Frank's stepdaughter, am I right?" He asked. It seemed as if our conversation earlier had never taken place. " I'm Dirk Bronze. My dad is Nate, which I am sure you already met." He reached out his arm with his large hand opened in welcome.

"Carter Darbis. I didn't know you were Nate's son. I thought you are a moving worker." I simply said as a shook his hand. Once I escaped his grip, I noticed for the first time what Dirk looked like. He stood taller then me by four or five inches, his tanned face mature yet younger. His wavy short light brown hair faced every angle, a hairdo neatly cut. His body was built like a really hard working farmer. He wore a white t-shirt with worn blue jeans and dark chocolate boots. He appeared to be in his mid twenties.

"You think you will like it here? Mawawa is quite a great place. Lot of lakes, mountains… Don't forget that the high schoolers love to party. But then again, you don't look like the partying type."

"Of course I love to party! We have parties everyday back in Seattle. Most of the time for no reason."

"Really? You look more of a prissy girly-girl that can't do anything active without complaining." I starred at him shock. It seemed as if he couldn't be polite for more then a few minutes.

"And you look like the kind of guy who thinks he is hot stuff and can get any girl he wants when he can't even corner a stupid ninth grader." He laughed once without sarcasm quickly, and then became serious again, his lips forming a thin line.

"Watch it, Girly. Don't judge me that quick."

"Nor should you judge me."

"To late." Before I could shoot another insult back, Nate called from the front of the house.

"Dirk! Come on, we have to head back!" Dirk half turned till he took a step closer, his face an inch from mine. A wicked smile crossed his lips.

"This conversation will have to be continued some other time, Girly." I smiled back trying to stand my ground instead of leaning back from his massive size.

"I'll be looking forward to it." As he walked to the front door I trailed behind. As he hopped into the passenger seat of the pickup, he waved lazily at me as I leaned against the porch rail.

"Welcome to Mawawa, Kid!" Dirk called while the truck started down the road. I glared in rage until the truck had disappeared from view; only the roaring of the engine was heard.

Chapter 3: New Kid

When I woke the next morning, I almost forgot where I was. The room was unfamiliar even though all my belongings were in sight; the arrangement was nothing like I remembered. I thought I must be hallucinating or dreaming, yet the memory came back. I was in my new room, in my new house. I sighed sadly wondering if I would ever get use to waking up not thinking I was going crazy.

Once I dressed in my favorite pink tight t-shirt and light blue denim jeans, I headed out the door and down to the kitchen. Frank was already dressed pouring himself a cup of coffee as he opened the newspaper to the sports section. Jeremy sat at the kitchen table eating his cheerios cereal with his book bag set on the floor. I figured Mom was still sleeping from the day she had getting the last of the things set up in the house.

As I opened the fridge, Frank came up to me handing out a paper brown bag.

" Here is your lunch, Carter. Your Mom told me you like ham and tomato sandwiches. You can get a drink at the counter in school." He informed me. His gentle voice was casual like always.

"Thanks. Aren't you going to work?" I noticed he was wearing a flannel shirt and pants, an outfit I was sure teachers didn't wear. One of the positives of Frank being a history teacher at the high school was that if I needed advice on the teenagers and how they behaved, Frank was there to help. Yet, I couldn't help but think how silly I was talking about my classmates as if they were a science experiment.

"Nope, not till Thursday I believe. I took a few more days off to help your mom with the house. But don't you worry. I won't be like those teachers that embarrass their kids."

"That wasn't really what I was fretting about." I answered.

"Oh. Well, like I said, nothing to be worried about. The kids there are really hilarious. Just watch for the big popular boys. They are the ones that will date you till they get what they want. Trust me, gossip is really loud in the hallway if you listen."

I nodded in gratitude for his advice as I munched on my breakfast. Once everyone finished, Frank drove Jeremy and me to school. Jeremy was dropped off at the middle school, and then we turned and headed four blocks down to the Mawawa High School. While I was building up my courage, Frank instructed me where the office was so I could get my schedule.

"Behave, no fighting, and have fun. Remember, boys are going to work hard to get what they want." Ordered Frank rather seriously.

"Frank, don't you worry." I said. With one final deep breath, I opened the door and stepped out.

It wasn't like what I expected. Instead of everyone starring at me with curious eyes they simply went on with what they were doing before. Maybe this was going to be easier then I thought.

As I entered the front glass doors, I read the map in my head and walked down the hall till I reached a long rectangular window that displayed the office inside. As I entered I noticed a student sitting in one of the waiting chairs that were lined up against the right wall. Seeing the office secretary was filing some papers, I went and sat down a seat away from the girl. I tried not to stare, but I couldn't help myself from peeking at her from the corner of my eye.

She was unique in her own way, her clothes old-fashion yet stylish, wearing a white elbow length button shirt with a black vest and large necklaces. Her chestnut hair was cropped and dyed with maroon strips that blended well with her brown eyes. She was petite with thin arms that settled in her lap. After a while the girl turned to me and smiled.

"Hi, I'm Raven Crown. I haven't seen you around before. Are you new?" She asked. Her voice was high-pitched, yet strong.

"Yeah, I am new. I'm Carter Darbis."

"Carter? I don't know anyone with that 's quiet interesting. Are you a senior?" As I nodded she squealed so loudly that I had to shrink back.

"Me to! What are your classes? Do you have lunch sixth period, because that's my lunch!" her questions kept coming and coming, so fast that my head was spinning. Though she was talking at lightning speed, deep down, I knew we were going to be great friends.

After a while, the office lady finally gave me my schedule. I waited near the door for Raven, who was there in the first place to find her bracelet in the lost in found. Once she found the golden brace, we headed out to find my locker.

"You didn't tell me Mr. Logan is your stepfather! He most be an awesome dad. Not like mine. Pop just comes home and watch whatever baseball game is on." I laughed, not knowing if Raven was kidding or telling the truth.

When I found my locker at last, I placed my books inside along with my bag. As Raven was telling me about an incident in Frank's class last month, a football slammed into my shoulder. I shrieked, mostly of shock then pain. While rubbing my arm, two tall lanky boys came up to Raven and me. The taller of the two had olive skin and a buzz cut. He looked like one of those basketball stars, the fact that he not only was athletic but older looking. The other was shorter by two or three inches, with blonde short hair and a goofy smile. The way he jumped around in place reminded me of the dog in the Bacon Bits commercial.

"Hey, Raven, you should have seen your face!" shouted the taller guy. The other one tried to breathe from what I guess what happened was funny. He banged the locker beside me as he gasped to speak.

"You were all ' AHH!' when it flew by your face!"

"Yeah, would have been funnier if it hit you instead of your friend." Replied the other. It was then, when he first mentioned me that he and the blonde faced.

"Who are you hottie?" asked the shorter boy as he examined me from head to toe.

"Sorry we hit you." Apologized the tall boy. It seemed the joke was no longer funny that there was no humor hinted in their voice, but only sympathy.

"And you guys should be!" yelled Raven. While doing so, she lifted her purse using it as a bat as she whacked each boy on the head. Once the violence stopped Raven pulled me forward and gestured with her hand to the basketball star.

"Carter, this is Carnel Leonard, and this," she pointed to the blonde, "is Max Smith. Boys, this is Carter Darbis. She is a new student and is also Mr. Logan's stepdaughter." Out of the blue, Max grabbed my shoulders and started to shake me, an impossibly large grin on his childish face.

"Mr. Logan? You are sooooo lucky, Girl! He is a AWSOME teacher!"

"Hey, Bouncing ball, quit it you're going to give her a heart attack!" Shouted Carnel as Raven shoved him away. I laughed as Max fell to the floor by the sudden push by Raven. Soon, everyone laughed along with me, as Max started saying how he couldn't believe he played football for six years and was easily shoved by a girl.

*

As the day went by, I had already grown comfortable. All the fear and nervousness of being an outcast has vanished. In every class I was either with Max, Carnel, or Raven. During first period in Spanish class, Carnel introduced me to everyone. No one acted hostile or rude to me, which I was thankful of. Besides the three I met before first bell, I befriended a girl in gym. She was my height, had a pierced lower lip, and wore dark clothes including her gym outfit that was made up of black sweat pants and a dark gray shirt. She seemed like the girls back home who lived in the bad part of town, the kind of people that's life is sad and unbalanced. Yet, she was more open and great to talk to. Her name was Vikki.

When lunch came, it seemed as if Raven and I have been best friends since kindergarten. After I waited for Raven and Max to they ordered their food, I followed them to a large rectangular table. Before we sat down the table looked as if it was already full. But thankfully, people moved over for us. Max sat beside Carnel with a group other guys while Raven and I sat with four girls.

I recognized the girl with long bright blonde wavy hair from biology and gym. After a few seconds, I remembered her name was Wanda. The other three were strangers, being that none of them have been in any of my classes. Luckily, Raven introduced me to the girls once we settled in our seats. I discovered the short red head with a ponytail and freckles was Kim, the beautiful tall girl with straight fake blonde hair Jessica, and the very thin brunette Hattie.

"So, Carter, where are you from?" asked Kim. Her question startled me and when I looked up I noticed every girl's eyes were on me. It wasn't till the nervous feeling in my throat had died down was I able to answer.

"Seattle. But it's nothing like here. There was more violence and hate amongst everyone. You guys are so much nicer. And from what I've heard, great partiers." They all laughed with Wanda thanking me for the compliment. That was when I noticed Jessica didn't laugh.

"Not everyone is nice here, Carter." She said in a rather defiant tone. I stared at her, confused by what she just said. I couldn't understand why she said that. Since I've been here no one has been rude to me. But then again, I had only met half the class.

"What do you mean? Who?" I asked curiously. Hattie rolled her eyes when she glanced at Jessica who leaned forward along with a groan from Wanda.

"Come on, Jess, he was innocent." Said Raven.

"That's because he was so good at hiding the proof." Snapped Jess.

"Whom are you talking about?" I asked again, a bit louder so they could hear me.

"Alistair Greep." Answered Kim, "he's in all my classes, so I pretty sure you haven't seen him yet."

"There is something you should know about our town's history." Said Jessica. All the others went back to their food besides Kim who began to eat her bag of nuts as if she was absorbed in a movie.

"This is going to be good. Jess always is a great storyteller. There was this one time in fourth grade at my birthday party-"

"Kim!" shouted Wanda.

"What?"

"Shut up so she can tell it!"

"Oh, sorry. I blab a lot. I don't know why because-"

"Kim! You are doing it again!"

"Sorry." Whispered Kim. Once Jessica stopped looking at Kim with a questionable face, she turned back to me.

"Alistair has been an outcast since the second grade when his mother left. There were times when He would come to school with a black eye or a part of his body bruised. There were rumors he was abused by his dad, but he didn't say anything. When he was thirteen Wanda's father, who is a cop, told us that his mother and stepfather was killed in a car crash. Only his baby half-sister survived. So the little girl moved in with Alistair and his dad. Soon, everyone in his neighborhood heard shouting at the Greep's house. There were many times when Alistair told people he wished he never knew his father and that he can live in peace with his sister. A year later, Mr. Greep vanished. Weeks later, they found his body ripped to pieces like an animal attack. Quickly, fingers were pointed to Alistair, for he was the one that blessed his father dead. But there was no proof it was him. They said he was with a friend the night when the body was mauled, so he couldn't be in two places at once. He was let of the hook. Ever since Alistair was a suspect, his friends stayed away from him. He has been an outcast around here ever since.

"Well, do you think everyone is nice? I don't. Whether it was him or not, somebody in this town is a murder. How do I know? Because only a few weeks ago-"

"Stop, Jess!" The sudden out burst startled me. I was so intense in the story that I forgot where I was. I turned and faced Hattie who was looking at Raven. Hattie's face was angry as she glared at Jess, but it was Raven I couldn't take my eyes off of.

She stared at the table, her eyes wide and out of focus. Tears were streaming down her face.

"Sorry, Raven." Plead Jessica. Raven shook her head.

"No, it's alright. I sometimes forget too."

The rest of the day, when Raven talked to me, I could still see the faded sadness behind her eyes.

*

When the dismissal bell rang, everyone jumped up and ran to their lockers. I trailed behind, knowing that Frank will come by to pick me up later. As I leaned against the front school doors, a rush of sophomores ran past to catch their bus. Somewhere in the crowd, I heard a boy whistle at me. I smiled in responds, but was to busy thinking of the lunch conversation to call back a joke. Why was Raven upset? What was Jess going to say that was going to bring her to tears?

I forget sometimes too. What did she mean by that? I placed my hand on my head and looked down. The first day of school seemed more confusing then I thought.

Without realizing it I was alone in the hall till some one tapped me on the shoulder.

"Are you ok?" the question made me jump as I turned to see who was beside me.

A teenage boy stood next to the glass doors with a stack of books in his hand. He looked about my age but was taller by a few inches-did every guy here stand six feet? – And was slightly muscular under his long sleeve gray shirt. He was truly handsome with a warm face and kind deep blue eyes. His hair was black, but extremely short, almost a buzz cut.

"Are you ok?" he asked again.

"I'm fine." I stuttered. I was still shaken by his sudden appearance. Surely I would have heard him come up from behind?

"Really? Because you looked like you were ill." He said.

"Do I look sick still?" I asked.

"No, you look great," I blushed as he went on, "With all the pretty girls in this school, I am sure I never saw you. You have to be new."

"Yeah, I am. I moved from Seattle yesterday."

"Are you sure it wasn't heaven? I know only angels come from there."

"You're cute, real cute. I'm-"

"Carter?" I stared at him, astonished.

"How did you know my name?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Who doesn't? You're the newest kid our class has had since freshman year."

"So you are a senior too?"

He nodded slightly and asked, like so many others, about my old home. During the whole talk I told him about my life, yet he never seemed to tell me about his. It had only been ten minutes of chatter before Frank pulled up along the curb. Mom sat in the passenger's seat, and after rolling down the window waved from me to come. As I pushed the door open and walked for the car, the boy followed. When I was a yard away from my parents, he stopped.

"I'll see you in school I hope." He said with a shy smile.

"Yeah, see you to."

In responds, he held out his hand to shake mine. His touched sent a shiver of excitement run down my back. I finally let go and watched as he turned and walked to the parking lot. A strong wanting urged me to follow him, but I kept my ground. It was as if I had known him my whole life and was letting him walk out of it.

It happened again during the next week, though I never saw him in school. I would be waiting for Frank or mom to come by, and out of the blue, he would step out. Everyday, I would learn more about him from his favorite color to his opinion on colleges. He loved football, wanted to be involved with filming when he grew up, played the harmonica, and was the #1 fan of hard rock.

When next Wednesday came, He had to leave me early for a personal reason. While he walked across the lot to the line of cars I could do nothing but stare. It was the second time I wanted badly to walk beside him. But I had better self control.

As I lingered a bit longer a question that was forgotten since last week came racing forward from the back of my head.

"Hey, What is your name?" I called to him. He didn't stop but turned and walked backwards. He didn't look like he was surprised that I had not know his name for so long, but instead smiled his wicked smile.

"Alistair Greep. But you can call me Al."

As his beautiful eyes broke my trance when he faced forward, my heart shattered like fragile glass.

Chapter 4: Boundaries

When we arrived home, I was still in shock. My mind didn't come around till the truck rolled up to the house. As I entered through the side door I could not recognize where I was. Everything was a blur, a mix of colors. The last hour of my life seemed to crack and crumble.

Without a word spoken, I sprinted up to my door and closed the door. How could this happen? He was so nice, kind, and heart warming. It was as if he was a gift from above.

While I sat at my desk I tried to focus on my homework. But no matter what, haunting memories of today kept coming back; Jessica's words of not everyone being nice, Raven's tears, Al's midnight blue eyes, a image of a man ripped to pieces… I woke up screaming.

I hadn't realized I had dozed. My heart was racing like a timer, only slowing when I relaxed. I still couldn't believe that Al was a killer. No, he wasn't a killer. He was kind and thoughtful, unlike anyone I knew. There was something in his nature that couldn't claim he was a murderer.

However, a switch in my head clicked. What am I thinking? I hardly knew the guy! Maybe I should listen to my new friends. Stay clear of Alistair Greep.

After dinner and my shower, I slouched into bed. Like the night before, it took me forever to fall unconscious. The next thing I knew the dawn of morning came.

School went by a bit different then yesterday; I wasn't bother by others and felt more comfortable. When lunch came again, I decided to ask more about Al.

" So, Jessica, How dangerous is this Al Greep? What does he look like so I can know to stay away from him?" I waited till Raven was at the snack bar before asking questions that might upset her.

"You want to know? Well, he stays away from everyone. Not a friend in the world since that year."

As I tried to concentrate on Jessica's story, I noticed Hattie glowering at me from the corner of my eye. Her eyes were dark with rage that sent a chill running down my spine. It was hard to listen when Hattie's glare irritated me so much. However, something Jess said caught my attention.

"What?" I asked.

"I said it's to bad he is good looking. The hot ones always become unavailable. So, if you meet a tall muscular guy with dark blue eyes, you know its him."

"Doesn't he look a little like someone else? I don't what to be rude to an innocent stranger."

Wanda laughed once without humor.

"No one has blue eyes as dark as his." Informed Kim.

I nodded, secretly knowing what they meant. His face was now a common picture in my head. Yet, not all my questions were answered.

" About yesterday with Raven… what happened?" I asked.

The table grew quiet. Kim and Wanda had a sudden interest in their food and munched on their sandwiches without looking up. Hattie's face was filled with concentration, her eyes gazing into the beyond. Jess hunched over while shooting glances at her left where Raven stood talking to another girl. Before Jess could speak, Raven started to walk to us.

"I'll tell you later." She whispered. Half a second later, Jessica's expression changed from guilt to pure joy as Raven sat down. As they talked about the upcoming dance, I was unable to keep up to absorbed thinking of what terrible thing could have hurt my friend.

Once school ended, everyone left for home. I stayed behind like before, but I remained cautious. It's time I should buy a car so I wouldn't remain alone in the halls. This time, I saw him come. He was walking slowly to the doors, but once he spotted me, he smiled and changed direction.

As he came closer, I was having a mental argument inside my head. Do I face him or act casual, as if I had not heard the stories about him? The weak part of me seemed to be more determined to win the fight. Why tell? He doesn't know. Speak now, with no one around? Are you willing to take that risk?

I shook my head to clear the voice and fought to smile back as Al came closer. He's a killer. Is that what you want? To be killed?

Again I pushed the thoughts out. I have to do this.

"Hey, How's it going?" He asked. He looked so innocent, and happy. I had to know.

"Al, I've heard things about you from my friends. About your family and what happened a while ago. Is it true? I need to know." My voice inside growled in defeat. There was no going back.

Al's face changed. His warm smile was gone to be replaced with a serious mask. His midnight blue eyes went darker. I felt fear growing inside me. But I was shocked when he looked away from me.

"What have you heard?" He asked as if more to himself then to me. " Did they say I was abandon, abused? They were right about that. But what about my father? Did they tell you I tore him to bits with a dagger or knife? Well that's where they're wrong. I didn't do that. And I don't know who did either." His voice sounded hurt, torn. He faced me again, his face upset, and when he spoke he begged.

"It has been hard for me, Carter. More then you would ever know. I thought you were different. But I was wrong." He sighed and shoved the door open, marching off to the parking lot.

I couldn't help it. Al was hurt, broken by my fault. I ran after him leaving my bag behind in the hall.

"Al! Wait! I am different!" I called after him. When I just reached him, he turned. I had to pull back from colliding into him.

"I am different." I repeated. He still stared blankly at me. "You are to nice to do such a thing. It isn't your fault he died. There is no need to hide, Alistair. I'm here to help."

His eyes blurred, becoming glassy every word more I said. I thought he would cry, but he didn't. Instead, he pulled me close into a hug that was tight with trust.

"Thank you, Carter. You are a good friend" He whispered.

While I stood there being wrapped in his arms, I felt the candle inside me flick with hope, and something much stronger. A feeling that I never felt, something that was unable to be identified.

As I searched further, Al released me to soon. Though it was the middle of the day in early summer, it felt as if my coat of warmth has been taken away in the midst of a blizzard. He smiled weakly and escorted me back to the school. We didn't say anything, for neither of us had nothing to say.

Mom pulled up once I picked up my bag and honked twice. I waved to Al as I hopped into the passenger seat. As we drove off down the road, Mom kept casting me looks of curiosity.

"Who was he?" she asked at last.

"Alistair Greep." I answer with a sigh.

"He is cute. How old is he?"

"Seventeen or eighteen, I'm not sure."

"Carter, I know you have dated before, but I see the look in your eyes. Don't rush, dear. You are still young."

Her advice puzzled me.

"What do you mean rush? He's a friend." Of course, Mom didn't buy it.

"That's what they all say. You know, when I was seventeen, I feel in love with a big strong guy. We thought we were made for each other, the times we spent together and when we weren't we wished we were. We ran off to get married in Vegas, but my sister stopped us. She told me there was no point rushing though with life when you have hardly been together long enough. I promised I wouldn't marry him till after high school, but she just shook her head and kept saying things could change. It turned out she was right. He left me before the semester ended with a blonde with half a brain. If my sister didn't come after us the day we traveled to Vegas, I would have regretted the thought of being married to him. Life will do that to you. Some times it will push you down, and some times it will help you back up. Remember that, Carter. It's a hard lesson to learn." When Mom finished, she kept her eyes ahead without another word.

I couldn't face her, so I shifted so that my face was staring out the window. I understood her story and the reason behind it. But what she saw was different between Al and me. We were just friends. In more then one way, I hoped that we would be friends for as long as it needed to be.

The rest of my day went by pretty boring; Homework and dinner. I couldn't sleep till early in the morning, for what reason I didn't know why. My eyes were glued open, not a droop for the longest time. I couldn't resist the fact that my life was becoming more chaotic then my past life style back home. It never occurred to me that one of my latest friends was suspicious of murder. Yet, I knew that everyone at school was wrong. Al wasn't the kind of person to kill. There was not a deadly bone in his body. There was just no way.

*

The next day became a drag. While on the way to school I felt tired from my restless sleep, almost nodding off while dropping Jeremy off at school. Then, it started to rain once the high school came into view. As Frank parked for me to head for cover, I noticed Wanda and Kim getting out of a beautiful BMW with the color of the ocean. This didn't make me feel any better.

"What is it?" Asked Frank when I sighed in jealously.

"I HAVE to get a car soon." I moaned.

"Why? I'll be back at work next week, so you can get a ride free every day."

I moaned again. He wasn't helping lifting my mood.

"Frank, I am eighteen. The only reason I didn't need a car back home was because everything was in walking distance. Plus, Mom hardly used her car, but now that she has to use it for work, I can't barrow it."

He slouched back, pursing his lips in deep concentration. I waited for the longest minute for him to response, mostly because I was impatient about his answer rather then the fact that I was going to be late for homeroom.

Finally, he sighed in defeat.

"Do you have anything saved for one?" He asked dryly. His expression proved his unhappy mood.

" I have a little bit. I started to save when I knew we were going o move."

"How much is a little bit?" Though Frank has always been kind to Jeremy and me I knew he wouldn't like my answer.

"Six hundred? A little more?"

"Well," he grunt, " I'll see what we can do." Like any teen girl would do, I squealed with delight and gave him a tight hug.

"Thank you thank you thank you!" I squeaked even louder.

He shrinked back by my high-pitched voice.

"You're welcome. Now get to class before you get signed in late."

I squealed again as I jumped out of the car and ran for cover from the rain. What a relief that my mood was up. I thought my day was going to be boring. I couldn't wait to tell Raven.

However, my thrill ended when the lunch bell rang.

It was when I was walking out of gym with Wanda and Max came to join us on his way out of class that the husky familiar voice boomed out to me.

"Carter!"

I half turned to spot Al walking quickly through the surprised crowd. I took a step forward to greet him, but the glance at my friends brought me to a halt.

Al stopped as far away from me as I was away from Wanda and Max. His face stretched in a beautiful grin when I smiled back. Behind his twinkling eyes, I was unable to find even a hint of stress. I was sure that if he were going to talk to me in public, he would feel uncomfortable being out in the open again. However, the fact that more than a dozen people starring didn't bother him at all.

At this point, I felt utterly confused. It was as if I was a traveler coming to a split in the road. Either way was a mystery, yet if the path I chose was wrong, I was unable to run back time.

For a quiet eternal moment, I examined the faces of all three people.

Max looked horror-struck, as if the ghost of a distant past has come to haunt him; Wanda's eyes remained straight ahead at me, anger, fear, sadness, all three shot through her eyes like flashes of lights; Al, being a grand actor, behaved as if there was nothing wrong about being close to other teenagers.

With a surge of courage building inside me, I closed the distance between Al and me. With a swift flick, I took Al's hand to pull him closer to Max and Wanda.

"Guys, I want you to know that Al's my friend now. I want you both to know that Al isn't dangerous. It was never his fault. I don't want anything to change between us, but if you are not ok with this, I'll understand." I toyed with what I said, trying to make it not as difficult as it is. Unfortunately, Max took a small step back when Al glanced at him. I was sure that they would bail, not speak to me ever again and tell the others as well. Yet luck seemed to be on my side when Wanda forced a smile.

" It's ok with me, Carter. Max?" she didn't face Max but continued to look at Al sternly. When Max uttered without speaking a word, Wanda jabbed her elbow into his stomach.

"Well, I have to think about it." Without another word, he turned sharply and marched off in the direction to his locker. I felt hurt by Max's response to this. I was counting on his acceptance of Al in hopes they would become great buds. Looked as if that plan wasn't going to happen.

"Carter?" Wanda's higher voice broke me of my trance. She motioned for me behind her, obviously wanting to speak to me alone. I motioned for Al to stay as I followed her a few feet away.

"Are you sure about him, Carter? You haven't been here for a week yet. I don't know if I can trust him now." She seemed disturbed by my friendship with Al, but she was also saying she would stay friends with me. That made me feel twice as relieved.

"I doubt you or anyone else has ever truly talked to him, Wanda. Give him a try. Remember, he couldn't have killed his father. He was somewhere else that night." When Wanda didn't look convinced, I begged. "Please? If you just get to know him-"

"Alright!" she interrupted. Her arms came down in defeat as she looked over my shoulder at the waiting Al. "I'll try, but there will have to be boundaries. After all, the others don't know about you and him unless Max spilled the beans. As you have seen the other day, it is a touchy subject with Raven. Not to mention Hattie REALLY hates him. This will not be easy." She sighed on her last words, as if she were being forced to run a hundred miles straight. Still, her aggression didn't ruin my happy mood.

"Thank you!" I almost shouted as I gave her a big hug.

"So," Wanda said even louder and walking to Al, "where are you off to?"

"Gym, then lunch." A glitter of excitement crossed his midnight blue eyes when Wanda spoke directly to him.

"Will you be going to the game Friday?" She asked nicely.

"Actually, I have to go to work that afternoon. I help care for the animals at the animal shelter."

"Oh." His answer caught Wanda by surprise.

"Maybe some other time. How about the last game? I won't be working that week.

"Sure. I'll see you then." She walked back to me with open brave eyes. I guess having even a short conversation with Alistair took a toll on her.

"I'll see you at lunch." She whispered to me as she passed, then turned to face Al as she kept walking. "I'll see you around, Alistair." Once the words slipped out, she dissolved into the crowd of watching teens.

When everyone believed that the action was over, they returned to their usual routines.

As people began to fade away, I stepped closer to Al so that only he can hear me.

"You were brave to come out like that, you know."

"To bad Max wasn't as strong." He replied sarcastically.

"Why don't I talk to my other friends before they meet you face to face. It would spook them less, I'm sure."

He shrugged as if it was not a big deal, "Ok. Hey, can I see after school? Usual spot?" The invitation made goose bumps rise on my arms.

"Usual spot." I repeated.

With the speed of a hummingbird, my heart raced as he left for gym, a glowing smile glued to my mind.

Chapter 5: Stray

Thursday was probably the most difficult day of my life. Even though I was physiced that I would be car shopping this upcoming weekend, I was still anxiety about Al meeting the others. I was thankful how Wanda volunteered to help through the plan. We had talked over the phone about the right words to say. I would have laughed if I thought about this twice, but these were my friends. I could not loose them, especially hyper Raven and goofy Kim. Yet I wasn't so positive that Hattie would be accepting at all. Not since that one day that she pulled me aside with a face that could kill.

"Stay away from Al. He is not who he wants you to believe he is." What could she possible mean by that? I could tell she was the president of the I Hate Alistair Greep Club. I could only predict that it will get bumpy with whatever Hattie had to say about Al joining the rank of friends.

Like any other day, I walked to the east wing to meet up with the crew before homeroom. But today wasn't like most. Instead of walking alone, Al mimicked my steps on my right. Before I turned for the staircase, Wanda stood waiting against the wall of lockers.

As we came to a halt, she sighed.

"You ready for this?" she asked Al, yet her eyes peeked at me as well.

"Defiantly. Let the war begin." He acted so at ease with the whole situation. I just hoped I would be as courageous as him.

With the signal of my nod, the three of us marched past the corner to our waiting friends.

I took in all their faces at once, each holding a different expression: Max stepped back with fear in his eyes; Carnel's open wide in curiosity; Hattie bald her fists in rage; Kim was utterly shocked; and Raven looked like she was on the brink of tears. I couldn't tell who frightened me most, Hattie's glare or Raven's sad eyes.

As we stepped closer to close the distance between us, Carnel unexpectedly strolled forward only an inch from Al's face.

"So it is true? Your buddy buddy with Greep?" Though he was studying Al's figure like an unusual case, I knew the questions were directly for me.

"Yeah." That was all I could croak out. My throat was tight from the nervous feeling that ran through my body.

"Hello." Answered Al. His expression was unreadable as was his tone.

"How'd you meet Carter?" This time Carnel's question was for Al to answer. When Al smiled I noticed the look on Carnel's face when Al's teeth shown bright white.

"It was after school. I saw her and thought she was depressed so I thought I would see if she was ok. How'd you meet her?"

The two suddenly began to chat about me, and then about other girls I didn't know here at school. When they laughed loudly at a joke, I caught Max stepping closer to join the party.

When I glanced back at the others, I noticed Raven and Hattie had gone. The empty seat besides Kim was unnoticed by her and Jess, who were asking Al about something with joining the football team.

When a hand touched my arm I noticed that Wanda's hand was shaking.

"Raven and Hattie weren't happy." She said in a worried voice. Her eyes followed down a hall, which I could guess that they went down during Al and Carnel's conversation.

"Why is Raven so upset?" I didn't care of Hattie's anger, though it annoyed me, but Raven's depression caused my eyes to water. For days I have heard that Raven disliked Al and was upset when a murder they though he done was mentioned.

"Carter, you remember at lunch on the first day you came hear?" Her voice shook with tension that I was shocked she could have. However, I was unable to answer.

"Not really."

"Remember when Jess was saying something about Al that happened some months ago? It caused Raven to nearly cry?" Slowly the memory was starting to return. Then it clicked.

"What did Al do?" I might as well have growled with the rage that ran through me.

"Well, there was an attack back some months on a mountainside during a late night party. A senior and his girlfriend were ripped apart and found in the woods nearby. People thought it was Al, but of course what would he have against them? The guy was practically friends with Al. His only friend." She seemed to whisper the last line to herself more than to me.

"Anyway, the girl that was killed… she was Raven's cousin."

"What?!" I nearly screamed. I never knew that Raven had lost such a relative not so long ago.

"Raven's a only child, as was her cousin. They were practically sisters. But now she is gone and Raven can't stand to hear about her. It breaks her heart when she sees Al."

"But why? He didn't do it! You said so yourself! He was her boyfriend's best friend!" Though I was so upset, I didn't notice that the halls were empty till I glanced around to see if anyone heard me yelling.

Wanda's face went pale, but her voice stayed even as she spoke.

"The murderer hasn't been found, Carter. Raven wants to blame someone, anyone, for her cousin's death. She has to put the anger on someone. Or else it would tear her apart. I have to go, I'm late for class." As her blonde hair whipped as she turned, Wanda paced down the hall.

I stared at the place Wanda once stood and began to wonder if what I heard was just a nightmare.

*

As the week went by, Al began to dissolve into the group. Carnel was now Al's closest friend, hanging with him at any possible moment. Matt was edgy at first, but when he realized he was being left out of the group, he came straight forward to Al. Kimmy went with the flow like always, I could imagine. However Jess looked at Al as a strange, never being honest or trustworthy of him.

The only problem (a huge problem) was that Raven and Hattie kept their distance. They no longer sat with us at lunch nor hang with us before the morning bell. When people say looks could kill, I'm sure that Hattie's glare at me fit the description. I had hoped in the past that Hattie would start to become closer to me like Raven, but she made sure that that future was gone in the fog.

When Wanda told me about the reason for Raven's depression, I saw Raven in a totally different way. I felt a need to run over to her and comfort her, yet Hattie made it impossible by sticking to Raven's side at every waking moment. I tried one night to call Raven, but she was studying with Hattie at her house. It seemed the chance of us becoming friends had shattered like a fragile glass heart.

On Friday, I was walking to my last period class when Al came up behind me. I shrieked when he lightly squeezed the back of my neck.

"Al, you freak!" I shouted in hostility. He only laughed at my anger expression, which caused me to laugh right along with him. I could never stay mad at him.

"You doing anything tonight?" he asked.

"Why?" I replied with an eyebrow raised.

"Well, I have to work tonight at the shelter and I remembered that you mentioned something about buying a car."

"I don't remember saying anything about that." The only time I talked about getting a car was with Frank earlier in the week.

Al waved his hand like swatting a fly away.

"You probably forgot. Anyway, you want a used car?" I nodded in response, "Great! There's a mechanic shop down the road from where I worked. You want to check it out after school?"

I considered the idea of being with Al for hours on a weekend night and practically shouted for joy at the vision in my head.

"Yeah!" I yelled. He smiled when I unconsciously jumped.

"See you in an hour at the front of the school." He said as he walked off down the hall.

I sighed in utter happiness; I was going on my first date with Al. Well, not really a date. But close enough.

*

It was eight at night by the time Al and I knew what time it was. We were having such a blast that I almost forgot about my family.

Al's shift at the animal shelter was only two hours that day, mainly because the manager gave Al the rest of the night off. Even Al was surprised by the sudden generosity from the short cubby man that nearly jugged down a mug of boiling coffee. As I helped Al bring in the dogs from the outside pen I asked if he knew the reason behind it. His only response was a shrug.

When Al had finished his work, he handed me his jacket, saying the weather was cold outside. While I slipped my arms through the sleeves of his warm jacket, I sniffed the collar curiously. I discovered that it smelled of the forest, fresh grass, and dog. I wondered if he was wearing a colon that scented the outdoors.

We left early from the shelter, the sun not even close to the distant mountains. I settled myself into the passenger side of Al's car, welcoming the comforting cushion of the seat. Before he could climb into the driver's side, Al was pulled aside by his stocky boss. Though the manager whispered for me not to hear, I heard every word he spoke.

"Now, Al, I'm only doing this once. Don't expect this kind of treatment from here on. I know every guy has his needs."

"What?" asked Al, puzzled.

"You know what I'm talking about! I can tell by the way you kids look at each that you two can't wait to be alone. I won't argue, but do any sucking face when your girlfriend comes to work with you."

"Harvey, you don't understand--"

"Aw, shut up, kid. Go have fun."

Without arguing further, Al stepped into the car, roaring the engine to life. The manager waved once before heading back into the shelter as we drove away.

"He thought we were a couple." It wasn't a question, yet he answered it as if it was.

"Yeah." He grumbled. His eyes stayed focused on the road ahead.

"That's why you got off early." I stated, a smile forming upon my lips.

"Um hmm." Was all he murmured, even though a smile was playing on his face.

"He thinks we wanted to--" I giggled so hard that I couldn't finish. Al's expression stayed straight for only a fraction of a second before he laughed along with me. We continued to crow even when we stopped at the mechanic's garage.

That's where we spent the majority of our hours. Al had bought his car there two years before, being a well-known costumer. The owner assisted us in search of my dream car, giving back round and information on the automobiles we eyed. After many trips around the yard, I was stuck between a turquoise Toyota and maroon Thunderbird.

When eternity past and I still have yet picked, Al asked if I would consider talking to my parents and think it over for the night. When I agreed, Al and I started for home.

"Mind if I stop at the store? I need some food for the week." Asked Al as the General store came to view. Though it was already late, I couldn't say no to spending even a few minutes more with Al.

"Sure. Actually, I might have to get something too." I lied.

As Al walked through the aisles of the store, I stood at the counter, pretending to be interested in some magazines. Hardly anyone was around, either because the store was closing or it was to late. The only people there were an elderly man and the cashier.

I was so hooked on an article that I didn't notice someone creeping up behind me.

"What are you doing out so late, Kid? Isn't past your bedtime?" whispered a teasing voice.

I jumped, dropping the magazine. As I bent down to pick it up, I spotted a familiar, yet annoying face.

"Dirk! Don't do that!" I yelled in anger. That only made him chuckle.

"Sorry. Forgot children are afraid of every living thing."

"I wasn't scared! Just surprised." I growled. Dirk only rolled his eyes.

"Really, Kido, what are you doing out so late? Don't you have school or something?" He said it like a joke, however his eyes read concern. That puzzled me.

"It's Friday, Stupid! Not a school night." I said it idiotically as if I was copying his immaturity.

"Whatever, anyway, do you happen to know a person that has a stupid vocabulary and dry sense of humor? O yeah, that'd be you." He ended his last line with a quick loud ha.

"Really, Dirk why are you here?" I asked, now aggravated.

"Just shopping. Big race tonight, needed some soda."

"What race?" I questioned, but I was to late to realize his trap. He smiled to himself, looking at me as if I was missing something obvious.

"Motor racing at Southern Fields? The best place to be every night? Ring a bell?"

As I shook my head, his grin grew wider.

"Of course. You wouldn't know. You're to young. Only people out of school go so late."

"You mean drop outs and guys that decide not to go to college?" I stated. That made him frown.

"I am not a drop out, Kid. Infact, I was a straight A student before and in college. I graduated a year and a half ago."

I stared in shock, mostly because I was unaware that Dirk was older than I thought.

"How old are you?" I asked curious.

"Twenty-five, Duh." He responded in an exaggerated tone.

Suddenly, we weren't alone. I felt a large warm body touch my shoulder as Dirk stared forward away from my gaze. I turned slightly to see Al standing on my right, a gallon of milk and bag of chop meat in his hands, along with a friendly smile on his prefect face. I turned to smirk at Dirk for showing I had a large strong guy as a friend, yet Dirk's expression caught me.

His lips made a thin line, his jaw tight and brows down in fury. Out of all the people I expected to look like Dirk was now at Al, I sure didn't think he would make such a face of hatred.

Al acted as if he didn't notice.

"Hello, Dirk. I thought you would be at the races tonight." He said simply.

Dirk narrowed his eyes. " I was, but I believe I changed my plans. Just remembered a game will be on tonight. Can't miss it."

"Who's playing?" asked Al innocently.

"Goodbye." Confirmed Dirk. Before he turned to walk out the exit, his eyes met mine for the slightest second. I stared back with wide eyes. Why did Dirk look as if he was trying to tell me something? Why is he suddenly so angry at Al? Wasn't he away when Al's dad was murder?

"Al, why is Dirk rude to you?" I asked quietly as we drove down the road to my block. He didn't answer right away.

"The same as reason everyone else has." He stated harshly. He noticed my winch from his hard response, turning slightly to gaze at me.

"This is what it will always be like for me until I live Mawawa." He whispered softly. " I have to work so hard to show people what I am over and over and over!" His words became louder with stress as he went on. His knuckles grew white from his grip on the wheel, so angered that I felt pity for the man I was falling in love with. Slowly, I reached my left hand forward to rest on his large right one.

"You will never have to show me, Al. I believe you. I'll stick with you the whole way through." His hand began to relax, his rage slipping out from between his lips with a monstrous sigh.

"Thank you, Carter. It's funny how someone from outside of this is able to trust me. However, you must understand that It will only get worse for you if you stay near me. Sometimes people in this kind of situation get hurt. Bad."

"Don't worry for me," I said firmly, "It is you that I worry about. Recently, I find it hard to leave you alone." Once the words slipped I cursed myself. That wasn't what I wanted Al to hear.

Yet, his reaction was nothing but a booming laugh.

"Really, Carter? A big strong guy like me can't walk away without a girl like you to protect him? Ha! That's funny!" He laughed on getting louder and louder while I buried my chin into my jacket, blushing from embarrassment.

The lights in the kitchen were lit as Al pulled into the driveway of my house. As I climbed from the passenger seat, I thought I spotted a head peeking out the window upstairs.

"Mom's going to bug me." I moaned as I stopped at Al's open window. Al glanced up at the door, expecting my parents to show themselves, I guessed.

"It isn't late. Not even ten on a weekend night for crying out loud!" After making a grunt like chuckle, Al faced me with his midnight blue eyes black from the moonless night.

"When do you want to check out the cars again?" he asked eagerly. That made my stomach warm up inside.

"If I have my parents' approval, how about Sunday?"

"Great. Call me when you are ready, Kay?"

"Kay." I repeated with a smile.

"And Carter?"

I turned quickly by Al's voice.

"Yes?" I asked, a fluttering growing in my chest.

"Hanging with a stray wouldn't make you one. Not to me."

When the rhythmic sound of his engine echoed in the distance, a burst of butterflies broke through my heart.