(A/N: This is the original first chapter that I discarded halfway through. It's unfinished and strictly for your enjoyment seeing how the concept differed initially. This was before the release of Shattered Memories, and therefore there were a number of plot points that were ultimately changed, although you won't see the majority of them here. In any case, thanks for reading.)
~The Whimsical Adventures of Princess Heart!~
EPISODE ONE: Princess Heart to the Rescue!
He just could not go on. With every breath he felt his life dwindling, fading away. Placing a shaky, pale hand against the side of the dirt wall, he gulped down as much air as his lungs could handle, although it seemed he was losing more than he was gaining.
His other hand was curled around a thin, tattered book. It contrasted greatly against his dark attire with its dull, crimson hue. He tightened his grip upon it and stumbled forward into the fog of the graveyard, aware that his time was short.
Almost there, he thought. Just need to find the body…
He had been here before, quite some time ago, so although his thoughts were muddled, he knew at least where it was. Exhuming the body would prove most difficult with his decreased stamina and strength, but he was the only one left who was capable of ending this madness. Staggering through the mist, however, he was unaware that he was being followed.
The man was unhealthy, having been malnourished for the past few months. He was weak, and, running a hand over his bald head, he knew that his sight had begun to fail him. Escaping had been difficult enough, but he could not turn back now.
He passed the rusted gates that led into the graveyard, the caw of a crow searing the air. "I've made it," he breathed, but once he drew close enough, his heart sank. The grave was barren. The wooden coffin lay open in a dirt pit, and a shovel was cast to the side. Someone had already taken the body. Someone had already done it!
The man crumpled to the ground before it, the volume slipping out of his hand and spilling open as it touched down on the earth. He let out a horrible, despondent moan, and then a figure approached from behind, his image disfigured by the fog.
"Despair," he said to the mist, and the man touched his crimson tome and closed his eyes.
Golden sunlight streamed through the open blinds of the window, bathing the room in a healthy, almost divine light. It was a cluttered room, with stuffed animals and clothes strewn about, and the radio on the shelf beside the bed clicked to life while displaying 7:00.
"Good morning once again, Ashfield! We're back on, and listening to your requests! So while you're all heading for work or sipping that coffee, send in those calls! In the meantime, lend an ear to Seven Time's Wonder!"
The vague contour beneath the comforters of the bed stirred; a sandy-blonde-haired head rose out to the intelligible rock music that had begun to jam out of the radio. Casting a sheepish glance at the clock, the girl sighed and then yawned loudly, flopping up into a sitting position. Raising her hands, she began to strum at invisible guitar strings, working with the music. "Just another day," she muttered, and, yawning again, stepped off the bed and wandered into the restroom across the hall, fiddling with the shoulder strap of her I watch out for smoke alarms nightshirt.
Thirty minutes-or-so later, Heather Cheryl Mason walked into the den of the apartment and stopped to examine herself in the mirror at the end of the hall. She wore a plain, black, sleeveless shirt that allowed for the slightest of midriffs to show, and this was coupled with a pair of faded jeans. Rounding it out were her faithful black tennis, and she mindlessly adjusted her orange wrist cuffs before flashing herself a nice smile and entering the kitchen.
The television was on, and her father, Harry, was busily flipping a pancake while the anchorwoman yapped on about what a beautiful day it was going to be. "Hey, Dad," Heather greeted, and he cast her a smile as she kissed him on the cheek.
"I didn't know we had any mix left," she remarked while traveling to the dinner table and stuffing a textbook into her book bag.
"I didn't, either, until Pookie was fiddling around in the pantry and drew my attention." He removed the dishtowel from around his neck and frowned. "You're not staying to eat?"
"I can't today, sorry," she replied, and placed her book bag over her head. "Where is Pookie, by the way?" A mew was her response, and a black cat leapt onto the table beside her and received a pat on the head. "I have to go meet Eileen at the Happy Burger."
Harry sighed and turned off the television set on the counter. "Well, maybe tomorrow?"
The Happy Burger was only several blocks away from the Daisy Villa Apartments, and here was where many of the students of Ashfield High School gathered before-and-after school. Eileen Galvin idled outside among the rest of the students, scratching at her arm warmers and adjusting the butterfly clip in her hair. She rocked back-and-forth on the heels of her tennis shoes, drumming her fingers on her book bag.
Her dazzling emerald eyes darted this way and that, although her face was as blank as could be. She was humming a song that had been on the radio that very same morning, and Heather came up beside her and glanced at her watch.
"Hey, Eileen." The brunette turned, stared at Heather for a moment, then another, and finally grinned.
"Heather!" she exclaimed while clapping her hands together. "What's up?"
The other girl shrugged. "Uh, I don't know." She looked around at the block. The snow from yesterday was in the process of melting, and the sky was overcast, although rays of light peeked through here and there. She hugged herself. "I think I should've worn a jacket."
"Yeah," Eileen agreed. She picked at the small gray one she wore over her shoulders, and then sighed. "This sucks."
"I don't know. I nearly got ran over when I was leaving my house."
"Yeah, I know."
"Um, I think we should start heading off, don't you think?"
"I guess so."
And so the two girls, who had been best friends since the third grade, started off to Ashfield High School, a looming shadow on the horizon. They were unaware of the small orb of light that was trailing, them, however, even as it flew into a street light beside them.
He saw her the instant she came into view. In fact, it was impossible not to see her. Her blouse, her floral skirt, her chestnut hair clipped back—he could have pointed her out among a crowd of thousands of people. But those were just details. It was that imaginary light he had come to notice, the one that surrounded her like a nimbus. No one else had that aura, that beautiful aura. He felt a light smile touch his lips. Mary Shepherd. She was beautiful.
Then, as if she could feel his eyes on her, she looked at him. It was nothing more than a passing glance as she went on her way, cradling her books in the crook of her arm, but their eyes locked in that one moment, and she smiled as well.
"Goddamn, James, if you're so in love with the girl stop goggling and go sweep her off her feet already!" James brushed a strand of straw-colored hair out of his eyes and looked up at the other boy who was standing beside the bench, his backpack slung over his shoulder and his brunet hair combed messily at the front.
"I'm not in love with her, Henry," James replied quietly as he sat straight and adjusted his jacket.
"You could've fooled me," Henry said as he took a seat beside his friend. "You've been gawking at her like an idiot for the past few months, and I know she's been doing the same to you. Hell, do you two even talk?"
"Don't give me that romantic bullshit about how 'more than enough is said in when we look into each other's eyes'. She's obviously into you, so why not go and pick the fruit while it's still ripe?"
James smiled wanly and stood, pulling his backpack up with him. "I appreciate your help, Henry, but… it just isn't the right time."
"That's the oldest excuse in the book, and you know it," Henry said while doing the same. He peered out at the front expanse of Ashfield High School, shrugged, and turned to the main building. "Let's get going. The bell's going to ring in, like, two minutes."
As they walked on, James sparked conversation.
"So, what about that new camera?" he asked, glancing at Henry as the brunet blew out an exasperated whistle.
"Too expensive for the piss I make at Happy Burger, and, of course, good old son-of-a-bitch Will says its trash," was the bitter response. Henry choked out a broken laugh. "To be honest with you, though, I don't know if I would've had the heart to get rid of ol' Jim."
He stopped and swung his backpack down to their feet. After fishing through it, Henry produced an older camera from the depths, one that seemed to have seen better days. He frowned.
"Poor Jim. He's dying, James, but he's been faithful."
"How can you tell, exactly?"
"You just can. It's kind of like, the relationship between a mother and her child. You can just tell."
The bell rang.
In a nearby diner, not too far off from the campus, a coated man noisily smacked his lips after taking a sip of his latte. "How ridiculous," he spat while tipping off his bowler hat and revealing a mop of butterscotch hair underneath. Bangs disfigured the rimless spectacles that sat on the bridge of his nose, spectacles that he pushed up with a sneer.
"To think it would be out here, of all places, and at such a time, too…" Grimacing, he raised his emerald-hilted cane in a twirl. "Well, I suppose I shouldn't be complaining. Just a little while more of this and—"
"Sir, your bagel is here."
The man savagely glared at the waitress for her interruption of his aside, but he nevertheless put on the sweetest of smiles and accepted the glazed sweetmeat as it was placed before him. He stared daggers at the haughty waitress' back as she walked off, and then stared even sharper daggers at her rear. Smirking devilishly, he took a monstrous bite out of his bagel and then proceeded to dot the corners of his mouth with a napkin.
"Then again, maybe today will be just a bit better than what I expected…" Laughing, he placed his hat back atop his head and departed, twirling his cane illustriously with the bagel in his free hand, and leaving no money whatsoever on the tabletop.
"Hey, Claudia." The girl timidly raised her head from the book, blue-tinted, horn-rimmed glasses nearly blotting out her eyes. Eileen and Heather stood over her, the former performing a happy little wave. Around them the hustle-and-bustle of the lunch crowd played itself out, and they sat down with their respective Styrofoam trays.
"H-Hi," Claudia replied, pulling her candy-cane sweater just a little tighter around herself. She returned to her book and Heather popped open her milk carton.
"Did you guys hear about that murder a few weeks ago?" she asked after some moments.
Eileen scooped up a spoonful of imitation mashed potatoes and plopped it in her mouth. "Do you mean the guy with the numbers?" she queried after swallowing the mushy substance.
"Fourteen…" Claudia commented offhandedly, and Heather nodded.
"Yeah, I don't know why I brought it up. I guess it's just a little creepy." She blinked, scrunched up her nose, and frowned. "Um, could you two excuse me, please? I have to go tinkle."
"Okay, good luck," Eileen said cheerily, and Heather left, leaving her book bag beside her friends.
Henry and James entered the cafeteria, just barely passing Heather as she went into the restroom at the far end of the place. The cafeteria was usually very hectic at lunch, and today was no different. Each line swerved out into the open, and it didn't help that the two were twenty minutes late. "Ah, shit. Mondays suck, but this just plain sucks," Henry growled, screwing up his hair in frustration. "I'm hungry, man!"
James shrugged weakly and was about to say something when a pale, pink-nailed hand slid onto his shoulder. "Hey, James." The two spun around and were greeted by several girls, the front most of which retracted her hand and giggled. She smiled seductively and brushed her platinum hair away, the tips of which were hi-lighted pink.
"Maria," said James stoically, and the girl giggled again, signaling for her posse to do the same. Meanwhile, Henry could do nothing but roll his eyes in disgust. "Wonderful," he said, "the whore patrol."
"What was that?" snapped the girl to Maria's right. She stepped away from the group and gave Henry a look to equal his own. He knew who she was right off-the-bat—the previous year's Health class could be thanked for that.
"You heard me, Velasquez," he said, "the whore patrol. You're all whores, and you're on patrol. Not too difficult to comprehend."
"Oh, Townshend…!" Before anything rash could be done, Maria sheepishly swung an arm to bar the Hispanic girl's path.
"No reason to get riled up, Cynthia. It's pretty obvious that Townshend here is simply experiencing his very first period! How cute!" The entire "whore patrol" exploded into furious chortling. Cynthia's mouth was a grim line, and she kept her eyes on Henry, who merely waited for the laughing to subside.
"At least I don't parade the information around as if it were a national emergency," he responded coolly, silencing the girls.
Maria seethed. "What are you talking about, you—,"
"That's enough," James commanded, stepping in-between the two. "Just go, Maria, and take your gang with you." Maria fumed silently, but the sudden authority in the young man's voice was too powerful to resist, and so she backed away, her posse doing the same.
"This isn't over, Townshend," she warned before storming off and swinging her hips in dramatic fashion. The click of all their heels waned as they left the cafeteria, and Cynthia stole one last glance at the boys, especially Henry, before following.
"Oh, come on, James," Henry whined, "I had that in the bag. It's kind of hard to imagine that she and Mary are twins, though. And what's the same, James, she's after you."
The blond could only nervously scratch his head.
The restroom was thankfully empty, so Heather hurried into the nearest stall, and, after wiping the toilet seat down, undid her pants and sat down for her tinkle. It was while she did this that a strange orb of light floated upwards from her pocket. It sneezed and specks of light flew in all directions. Heather had not yet noticed the apparition.
"Hey!" it squealed in such a high pitch that it was almost inaudible. Heather did not hear, and rose from the toilet. She flushed it and was in the process of zipping her jeans when the orb once again attempted to get her attention. "Hey! Listen!" Heather hummed merrily to herself and reached for the stall door latch when the orb rushed right into her eye.
The teenager cried out and nearly tripped over the toilet, but she managed to catch herself via the stall's walls. She blinked and fixed her gaze on the huffing ball of gold that was before her. "Finally!" it exclaimed. "Are you deaf or somethin'? I've been calling you forever!"
"W-What… the hell are you…?" Heather asked while tentatively advancing upon the orb with a poking finger. The orb sighed, flew around the finger, and popped Heather in the head again.
"What was that for?"
"Just be quiet and listen!"
The door to the restroom swung open, and the patter of footsteps and random giggling alerted the two that they were no longer alone. Heather glanced at the orb warily and it responded by swerving around to hide behind the girl's head.
"So, like, me and Kelly were at the mall yesterday, and you won't believe who we saw!"
"Oh my gosh, who?"
Heather rolled her eyes when suddenly pain pierced her ear. "We don't have time to dawdle, Princess! I must speak with you!"
"What are you talking about?" Heather whispered back. "And why did you call me 'Princess'?"
"All will be explained soon enough, but we must get out of here first! What we are to discuss is not for the ears of… well, those people!"
The two girls outside the stall giggled like fools and went about babbling. "Alright, alright," Heather said. "Let me just get out of here." Composing herself, she left the stall and was out of the restroom. She returned to her table