A/N: First mulit-chaptered story for me! As you can tell, some of the Spanish language up ahead is not going to be flawless. I've had two meager years.
Disclaimer: I do not own Jonathan Crane (I wish...). Ames and the rest of the original characters are mine.
Rating may change later.
THIS CHAPTER HAS BEEN REVISED.
Chapter One: Wolf Closing In
Where is the edge of your darkest emotions?
Why does it all survive?
Where is the light of your deepest devotions?
I pray that it's still alive.
~Within Temptation, Where Is the Edge?
I've never seen myself as the kind of person who's easily frightened. Or maybe that's just the self-righteous view I have of my own nature. No, I'm not trying to be brave. No, I'm not trying to be a heroine. Er—I just don't get scared. I think. Last time I checked. Forget it; that's a TOTAL lie.
I lean back against my locker, letting my head fall and bang into it. Ah, high school. Everyone's personal little hell on earth. Or at least it is to me. Time could be spent better elsewhere, learning something useful, perhaps. When in my future life or career am I going to use something like algebra anyway?
I feel the gaze of a certain outcast sweep over me, as though sensing my anti-scholarly thoughts. Jonathan Crane observes me from across the hallway, a finger pushing his glasses back up his nose so they sit correctly on his brainy head. Jonathan Crane. Small, gawky, and awkward.
I shudder after he focuses his chilling eyes back onto the book he'd been reading. I've never gotten close enough to him to even know what color his eyes are. But they sure give me the skeeves. Never stopped me from wondering, though. "You are such a weirdo," I mutter under my breath. My personal space feels violated.
"That's not nice at all, Ames," a familiar, chirpy, extremely girly voice states. Hey, Summer.
I roll my eyes and nod at the mega-nerd across the hallway. "Not you. Crane's giving me the creeps." I check to see if he's heard me. He hasn't. But I lower my voice even more, just in case. "The way he just stares at people, like he's analyzing us and taking mental notes. Not cool. Everyone thinks he's a stalker."
To prove my point, I let Summer observe the mysterious Crane turning his gaze on a snuggly couple walking down the hallway, arm in arm. The two of them immediately speed up. "See?"
"We'll talk on the way to Spanish." Summer allows me to grab my hardcover book and workbook before looping her arm through mine and leading me to one of the classes I actually enjoy.
As we walk, I lose Summer's arm and let her stride on ahead of me. I'm not going to be the one to start the conversation. Not that I usually am, but I'm busy watching Summer strut to class, admiring the way she bats her eyelashes at a guy or how she smiles easily at her more popular friends. What I had done to deserve her friendship, I'll never know; I just feel lucky to have it. I'm not popular. I'm the kind of girl who's acknowledged when she's around, but never asked to go out anywhere. I'm simply there. Still, it's better than being someone like Jonathan Crane.
Speaking of which, a conversation starter. "Sooo…Jonathan Crane," I say, drawing Summer's attention away from the cute student teacher walking by. "When's he going to become normal and crawl out of his shell?"
"Probably never. I don't think he's gotten over middle school, Ames. But we were only poking a little fun at him, right?" Summer asks, twirling a blonde curl around her finger.
"Right," I agree. "But you guys poked fun at him. I never did." But I still stood by and watched the "cool" crowd knock books from his arms, push him around, and call the small kid names. Four-Eyed Freak, Rail, Johnny Rake…Scarecrow. It echoes unpleasantly in my mind. His cruel nickname based on his appearance was the one that stuck with him the longest. Always small for his age and painfully skinny with an unkept image that still exists today, Jonathan had been the quiet brainiac, generally rude to anyone who attempted to help or speak to him. An easy target. Still is, and still at the top of our class, too. Though the "Scarecrow" nickname had faded out somewhere after our freshman year. No one really brought it up anymore.
Summer snaps her fingers in front of my face, directing my attention back to her. "Well, any way you look at it, you'd think he'd be over it by now. What kind of person takes those things seriously? I mean, you got over it!"
That stings badly, but I fake a smile as I look down at my books. "Yeah, I did." Moments like these really make me want to tell Summer and our "friends" how shallow I really find them all. A lot of them won't be able to walk up during graduation and receive their diplomas. Sad. Partying gets you nowhere.
Thinking back, I guess I had been a bit of an outcast. Names such as Recluse, Cousin It, and Hermit the Frog were often thrown my way and had followed me around for two years. I used to go home crying, but what I went through is still nothing compared to Jonathan's troubles. I know more about them than I should. Not just the ones that take place in school.
He just freaks us out, I guess. I never picked on him myself because I wasn't part of a clique and didn't have the power to do it. But I never stood up for him because I was (and still am) nervous about being thrown into his league. Things need to change. I'm becoming more aware of the fact that I'm getting closer in personality to these people who will never do anything with their lives. But why am I not doing anything to help?
I hate high school.
Conversation between Summer and I stops as we pause outside the Spanish classroom. I look to my right in time to see Jonathan Crane hurry into his Advanced Psychology class. I can't be sure, but I could've sworn his eyes had been drilling holes into the back of my head a few seconds ago. I shiver as Summer and I watch him disappear into the room. He's so strange.
In the spur of the moment, I remember a question that I'd been dying to ask someone. Anyone. Me and my curiosity. The imaginary lightbulb drifting above my head flickers to life with a dying sputter. "Say, Summer?" I ask, tugging on the sleeve of her $150 midriff hoodie.
"What color are Jonathan's eyes?"
A confused look passes over Summer's perfect features; then she wrinkles her cute little ski-jump nose. "What?" Meaning, "Why do you even care?"
"You heard me. I've never gotten close enough to find out." Great. Dumb question. Kill me now.
It doesn't take someone as smart as Crane to figure out that Summer's already looking down on me for even caring about the color of Jonathan's eyes; someone like him doesn't "deserve" that sort of attention, in her opinion. But the blonde humors my foolishness with a snarky sigh. I humbly avoid her gaze.
"Really. Like mine?"
"Huh." That's all I want to know. Funny, I would've expected brown because of the way Jonathan's always darkly brooding in a corner somewhere. They'd suit his personality more. I have to see them for myself sometime, if I want to get close enough. The two of us scramble into the classroom before the three-minute-warning bell sounds.
I take my seat in my desk, smack dab front and center. I like this class. Spanish. This room, though (my only complaint), is way too cold. Freezing, actually. I shiver. Sometimes I wonder if our dear teacher is actually a yeti or the Abominable Snowman.
Forgetting the wintry room for a second, I stiffen as an unwelcomed presence slides into the desk next to me. Oh God, no. Gripping the edges of the desk with white-knuckled fingers, I glower at the battered podium placed in the center of the room, praying for the teacher to walk in before Mr. Friendly tries to strike up a conversation. Ignore him; he isn't there. Pretending he doesn't exist does not erase the feeling of two leering eyeballs branding themselves into the side of my cranium.
My prayers are answered as Mr. Benedict strides into the room and orders us to take out the worksheets that he'd assigned yesterday. There's a collected, huffy sigh and a few complaints as the class takes out either incomplete or poorly done assignments. Mine's already on my desk. It had been easy, like most of our assignments. Simply translating sentences that include things we've learned before and a few new words or phrases we learned that day. Easy.
"Pass them forward, please," Mr. Benedict commands. More groans. Not correcting in class means that your buddies can't correct your mistakes and give you a passing grade. Doesn't really make a difference to me. "I'll correct them during class and get them back to you by the bell."
A finger prods the back of my head. "Hey, Manson. Papers. My arm's falling asleep."
I hope it falls off, my mind spits back, annoyed. I turn around and snatch the papers from a very irritated Destiny Holder. Then again, she's always pissed off about something. Allowing myself a glance at her paper (which is one top of the pile), I'm able to pick out numerous mistakes in spelling and verb conjugation by quickly scanning it. It's really none of my business but still…
"And how are you today?" I look up from the worksheet and see Mr. Benedict, who has his hand out for the assignments I'm holding on to. Caught red-handed. As long as he doesn't say anything about my habit, I won't.
"Excellente, gracias. ¿Como estás?" I ask, handing him the papers. I know the other students are listening, so I can't resist showing off a little. Call me an ego-maniac.
The light shines off Mr. Benedict's bald head, matching the gleam in his warm brown eyes. "Más y menos. Quiero dormir."
I smile. Typical. Teachers and students are normally exhausted before lunch, being so hungry. We all seem to die when we get to third period. "A tu casa. No en colegio."
Mr. Benedict nods his approval. "Tu accento es muy bueno."
"Gracias," I respond. Mr. Benedict moves on with one last, toothy smile. I hope I've put the tall man in a good mood today.
Someone coughs. "Showoff," a voice mutters from behind me. Oh, Destiny. Clearly, someone is a bit disgruntled.
I still blush with embarrassment. Perhaps it had been a bit much. What was I trying to prove? Keeping my head down, I stare at the dirty, white surface of my desk, eyes trailing over scratches that have been traced over with pen and pencil, and graffiti. I make out a few sloppy phrases here and there.
…Kolby Haz Fists…T + C = BABIES…China Gurl…Those are just some of the cleaner ones.
Then, recently, in pencil. …J Crane Nomz Dickz…
My eyebrows go up of their own accord. That does it. Disgusting. People are such pigs. I lick my index finger and furiously scrub it away, not caring what people could think. It just smears, leaving a charcoal grease mark. Thank goodness it hadn't been an engraving. Referring to someone's sexuality is no one's business.
Because of my lack of a boyfriend or any crushes on me in high school, I've seen girls whispering behind manicured fingers about how they suspect I swing the other way, no wonder I'm so ugly, etc. I guess I can relate to Crane in that aspect. I'm not completely oblivious to the "queer" rumors flying around about him. So, yes, I can relate.
I'm as straight as an arrow, thanks very much. No one needs a boyfriend in high school. All they do is take up your time and stand in the way of your goals. Maybe I'll start looking for one when I'm, like, twenty-five. Romance is for the unrealistic. A man will only get in the way of any future career.
Okay, so I'll be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a feminist. In case you haven't been able to pick that out already.
"Miss Manson, I don't allow spacing out in my classroom. Even if you already know the material. Please, set a good example." Mr. Benedict interrupts my self-righteous inner monologue with his scolding tone. The class snickers. I look over to see Summer giggling at me. His good opinion of me is lost for the day. I've already put myself at the center of attention, and now, I've just made it worse.
"Sorry, sir. Please continue," I mutter sarcastically. Lucky for once in my life, he doesn't hear me. Yes, I'm prone to daydreaming. That's the price of having a creative mind. I do a helluva lot more thinking than talking. Thus, I am "socially crippled."
Mr. Benedict clears his throat. His voice is all-serious. "As I was saying, I'll get the assignments back to you today. In the mean time, turn to noventa y uno in your hardcover books and translate the paragraphs. You can divide up into groups if you wish. This is due at the end of class tomorrow. Begin." I could have it done at the end of class today. There's another swell of grumbling as the class asks each other what page they're on and divides up into groups.
I turn to page 91 in the book and promptly drag my desk back into my little corner, back by the flag of Chile hanging on the wall. I hate pairing up. It slows me down when my other peers ask me questions every thirty seconds on very simple things. Extremely irritating. I settle gingerly back down into my desk after clumsily crushing my foot under its weight.
Getting to work, I breeze through the first paragraph in ten minutes. Alone. With no interruptions. All good things must come to an end, sadly. A timid presence worms its way in front of me, and I glance up to see Kelly Webster standing by my desk, shifting her weight back and forth between her two feet. A very nice girl, but a complete ditz.
"Ames? I sorta have a question…" She trails off, pale green eyes looking at me unsurely. Her voice is one of those pretty, extremely girly voices, one of the ones I wish I had. My ears crawl.
"What, Kelly?" I ask blandly. I think I let a little bit of frustration at being bothered slip into my tone because Kelly flinches and appears even more uncomfortable than she already does, looking past my head to the wall behind me. She's about a size 13, and her form-fitting jeans accentuate her hips and thighs. At least she's pretty. And popular because she's one of those nice girls who are impossibly optimistic and impossible to hate. And she's rich, blessed with a natural fashion sense that I seem to be lacking. I'm happy with a T-shirt, sneakers, and improperly fitting jeans.
Regretting my attitude (for once), I lean forward and fix a mask of contentment on my face. Here it goes. "Erm—I mean…fire away!" My mouth gives a little spasm that I hope turns into a corny, welcoming smile. Fake cheerfulness seems to work on Kelly. She beams.
"Well," she begins, plopping her notebook down on top of my assignments. I inwardly wince at her unintelligible scribble. "Why do we change 'hablar' to 'hablas'?"
I hate this. "'Hablar' means 'to speak.' To use it in a sentence you need to change the verb form. It depends on who you're addressing. In this case, we are addressing the singular form of 'you.' So we change 'ar' to 'as' so it works. See?" I tap my pencil on the paper for good measure. Makes perfect sense.
The happy expression slides off her face, and Kelly furrows her brow, biting her lip. "But why do we add the 'as'? I don't get it." I'm filled with the dreadful urge to run over to the nearest wall and begin banging my head against it.
"Um…because…" I lose my train of thought. Because what? Because that's how you do it? Because it's how we wrote it down in our notes that are supposed to be used as a reference? I've got all that memorized, but not everyone tries as hard…how can she be so dumb? Nervous, my hands begin to shake and I quickly run them through my untamed hair. Help, please. I'm in a little bit of a tight spot here. I want to call out, but instead I look away from Kelly's expectant expression and try to catch Mr. Benedict's eye. When he finally glances at me, I send him a pained look. He understands the situation.
He strides over, yellow shirt straining at a slight muffin top. "Is there a problem?"
"No. Kelly here has a question, and I can't seem to explain it to her enough." That and the fact that I don't really want to. Tie me to train tracks, shoot me in the head, feed me to the Giant Squid and let it nom on my bones, tell Rorschach that I'm a wanted criminal…anything but have me explain something that I can't explain. I'm not a teacher nor do I ever want to become one.
"I can help. Kelly, come on over to my desk." He's in a serious mood today. Normally, he cracks jokes left and right and makes fun of a few good-natured students. Not today. In addition to all Spanish classes, Mr. Benedict also has the freshmen English class, and they are currently reading Romeo and Juliet. I wonder if he had a bunch of grief earlier.
Unable to contain myself, I make a shooing motion with my hands. "Go on, Kelly. Don't mind me."
"Oh, but…" She purses her full lips and looks more confused than ever. I feel a strong surge of pity for the brunette airhead. She could've made a great blonde. By some heaven-sent miracle, she wanders off to Mr. Benedict without any more protests.
I slump back into my seat, relieved. Free at last. I glance at the clock hanging on the wall next to the chalkboard. Black hands and numbers give me the time. I let my head fall onto my desk, rubbing my temples with strained fingers. Well, there just went ten minutes of my life…
Maybe I can get the second paragraph (which is quite a bit longer) done in twenty minutes. To leave me with about thirty for reading time, of course. Just twenty minutes alone; that's all I'm asking. I take up the pencil in my hand, ready to begin.
That freaking voice. The one that always makes me feel like someone's rubbing grains of sand into my ears. That just annoys you to death and make you want to painfully murder the owner. I had forgotten about Mr. Friendly, completely oblivious as he slid his desk next to mine. God hates me.
Surprisingly (ha), I don't respond, finding that I'm unable to. I'm frozen, my head pounding and heat creeping its way up to my face as I stare blankly down at my handwriting on the notebook paper. I still write in cursive, something we were taught in 3rd grade and something most of my classmates abandoned once they reached the freedom of high school. I'm considered weird, one of the ones that carried it with me. But it's so much faster than printing. And my printing looks like it belongs to a hyper six-year-old.
Mr. Friendly, a.k.a. Paul Rubin, isn't fazed by my lack of an answer. Instead, he draws power from it, like a leech, and leans in closer, his bleached blonde hair swept off to the side, bangs completely covering his forehead and part of one eye. "You're really pretty, Ames," he whispers creepily, leering. Bite me, buster.
"Get lost," I manage to hiss through gritted teeth. Don't look at him. He smiles triumphantly, revealing yellowing teeth in the middle of an overly cute, zitty face. I can't stand the sight of him.
"Aw, what's wrong, Ames? Don't you like me? I like you. Aren't we friends?" Hell, no. Why won't this stupid, oozing sophomore leave me alone? Yep. A sophomore. Attempting to hit on (or stalk) a junior girl. Really, for the fourth time this week, too!
"Leave me alone," I whisper, breaking and trying not to look into greedy, blue eyes, but giving him a loathing, sidelong glare that promised a painful death. Of course, he mistakes it for a flirtatious look. What have I done to offend Lady Luck lately?
"But I like you." Ugh, his voice! It's too smooth, and he has a lisp that most girls think sounds cute, but to me, just makes him sound like an idiot, like he's a stoner or he can't quite get his tongue around the words he's saying. Judging by his attitude, voice, and personality, I believe that he really does have real mental issues, like he's slow or something. He falls asleep in class, has been arrested as a runaway twice, charged with minor assault, and a few drug accounts. There also might be a restraining order in there. He's a monster, and I'm just a poor doll in his greasy, 10th grade hands.
"I'll get the teacher over here. So stop harassing me." I sound like I'm going to tattle on him. Which I might.
Paul snickers and touches my elbow with a finger. I snatch it away like he's contaminated, which he is. Dirty-minded, a total player… "I could be asking you for help. You're so smart, Ames. My girl. What would Mr. Benedict think?" He tuts coyly. Said teacher isn't paying attention.
There's no hope. I cross my arms and begin to sweat. He touched me. The damned bastard actually TOUCHED me! With one of his slimy fingers, at that. Who knows where it's been? Trembling and with my head on fire, I glance to my left, across the room. I swear this'll be the last time I ever sit in a corner by myself. Summer catches my panicked eyes. She's sitting prettily with her pretty little friends in their own pretty little bubble, the friends with pretty little names like "Katie" and "Annette" and "Naomi." They all look entertained.
Summer does nothing to help me with my situation; she just sits and watches me squirm. Some "friend." Why do I hang onto her?
My eyes brim with tears as Paul continues my torment in that taunting tone. "Hey, Ames. Why didn't we make brownies over the weekend like I said we would?"
That had been his request last Friday. I'd hoped he'd forgotten about it. But no such luck. These things always come back to haunt me. Crossing and recrossing my legs, I try to pull myself together, but fail miserably, taking in a shuddering breath.
"We're going to get together tonight and make cookies! How 'bout that? Yes, we will. M&M cookies." An intense grin. He's getting to me, closer into my personal space, and knows it, enjoys it. I'm almost over the edge, torn between bolting for the door with a vomiting excuse and spontaneous suicide. Tough call. My stomach grumbles, extra loudly, just to add to the effect. Paul smirks.
My voice shakes. "I have to work…" I sound weak, pathetic, faint. I hate it. I hate life and I hate this horrible feeling of being trapped, of feeling claustrophobic in an open room. A droplet of moisture leaks over my lower lid and slides down my burning cheek.
Paul sees that and takes advantage once again. "Aw, am I scaring you? Don't cry. Here, I'll make it all better. I like your thighs, Ames. You're so pretty. You have very nice eyes." They are taunts from his mouth, not compliments. He's too close now, his stale breath ghosting over my right ear. "Feeling better?"
I've lost all control of the situation, if I had any to begin with. Thoroughly harassed as Paul rapes my circle of grace. I don't move when he slides a rough hand up my forearm. I can't move. I'm lost. And no one will rescue me. I'm not "popular" enough or that cared about. I have the oddest sensation of sinking into a deep pit before something snaps. I feel…darker. Overwhelmed.
Not the one in control of my own body, I raise a hand and latch on to Paul's own touchy-feely appendage, biting down on my quivering lower lip. I grip it. Hard. The cocky smile fades from his face. I want to break his fingers. Smiling at him, now calm, I whisper, "You know, I really meant it when I said 'get lost'." This voice is not mine. Too intense, too heavy, too calm. Paul falters, unsure.
"Hey, Paul! Do you get this assignment? 'Cuz I sure don't!" It's Kelly, my savior. Her cheerful tone distracts the bane of my existence for an instant, giving me a few seconds to spring out of my seat and drag my desk over to Summer's group, who surprisingly make room for me. Kelly isn't as much of a ditz as I'd thought. The nice one forever, she must've seen my troubles from her place at Mr. Benedict's desk. The teacher himself didn't notice anything happening right in front of his nose. Paul's very careful.
"Are you ok, Ames?" Naomi, the nicest of Summer's pals, asks me, looking worried.
Whatever has given me the brief moments of confidence has disappeared. Now I feel the same as I did before. I bury my head into my arms. "I'm fine. Peachy. Never been better." It all comes out muffled. I sound dead.
Naomi offers a sympathetic smile. "I went through it with him, too. Don't worry about it; he'll get bored." She pats my arm. I want to argue back, like a child, but I've lost all my drive. Maybe lunch will help… I risk a shifty look over at Paul, who is still occupied with Kelly. Man, that girl can adapt and put up with anyone! She's all friendly, sweet smiles and positive attitude. Why isn't she a cheerleader?
I wince. Lord, protect her.
The round clock tells me there is ten scrawny minutes left in class. No reading today. I surge through the translation of the second paragraph, unable to focus enough to do quality work. Slamming the book shut, I decide that I'll just have homework tonight, in addition to work. A nearly sleepless night.
For the last two minutes of class, I listen (without interest) to Summer's group titter about drama and designer clothes and hunky boys, keeping my head down, resting it on my arms. Without warning, my stomach roars loudly enough for the whole room to hear. I blush. Paul looks over at me, distracted from Kelly's chattering, and winks. I shudder and nearly freak again. Crane's got nothing on this kid. His problems terrify me.
"Dismissed." Mr. Benedict's sharp voice rings through the air. It takes me eight seconds to realize the lunch bell just rang. "You'll get your assignments back tomorrow. I apologize. I was being…distracted." Kelly flushes gracefully. "Hasta luego."
I swear I see Paul take a few steps at me. Finally, I grab all my things and run away, making a mad dash for the door. No way in hell will he get me. Screw what I said way earlier; I do get frightened out of my wits and get paranoid easily. I burst into the hallway, getting swept up in the mass of rushing students. I feel like a salmon trying to swim upstream, but I'm free. I'm able to breathe properly, feeling lighter. Paul is gone (for now), and I can move on to other things. I throw my books into my locker
"Rrrorrrgh." My stomach is now eating itself. I gaze down at it mournfully, wincing at the noise. I need comfort. I need food. I need comfort food. Hell…I need chocolate milk. Lots of it.
A/N: As you may or not be able to tell, Ames has quite a bit of growing up to do in this story. And it takes a long time. A LONG TIME. But hopefully, like many others you'll come to love her a bit. Well, there's one down. Please R&R. I'm going to continue this story, regardless of reviews or not. I won't stop. Updates may be a while, for I prefer to write the stories down in a notebook first before I type it out. I like to see how much I've written and be pleasantly surprised.
Unfortunately, this story is doomed to continue at a slow-moving pace.
I will apologize if any of the views Ames has offends people. I'm sorry; it's just her nature. These are not personal views of mine. Sorry for any gramatical errors you happen to spot. I edit my own work, and I went through it three times. Believe me, this could be a tough read because there are so many Crane/OC fics out there. But give it a chance, please. I will not give up on this story!
I think that's all. Thanks to all who R&R. You are lovely, awesomesauce people! More Crane next chapter!