Aj: Yo, peoples! Why am I in such a good mood? Because my army, The Evil Army of Aj, is thriving. We are now international!
Anika: For the last time, you will never dominate the world!
Aj: Yeah, sure I won't. (Wink)
March 30th. Seattle, Washington.
My name is Maximum Ride. At least, it used to be. Four days ago that was my name, but now, as I stood in front of my mother's house, which seemed more like a mansion, I was Maya. Jeb had trained me my entire life to lie and deceive, but this was a whole other story altogether. I had never had to hide my identity before, but my secret witness protection program required the change. I had gotten myself into this mess, now I just had to use my borrowed time to my advantage. As of now, I was on my own.
I raised my fist to knock on the oak door, but left it hovering in the air as I hesitated. What happened if I couldn't do this? I didn't have time to consider the consequences if I failed because the door swung open, revealing a Hispanic girl, maybe about a year younger than me, standing there with her hand on her hip.
"What are you doing here?" She asked impatiently, her deep brown eyes narrowing. I briefly noticed how they resembled my own. Could this be Ella? I had remembered her as sweet, no matter how timid. Not like…well, like me.
"What do you mean? I live here. Don't I?" Even though the last part sounded like I was just being sarcastic, it was partly me checking to make sure I hadn't come to the wrong house.
"Cut the act, Max. I know who you are. And if you're going to fool anyone, you'll have to come up with a comeback quicker than that. I meant, what are you doing at the house? You live at Rosenberg Academy, it's a boarding school just a little further than the Queen Anne area." I blinked, trying to process this information. Jeb hadn't said anything about a boarding school, a prestigious sounding one at that. And with prestigious comes snootiness, which is a pretty big no, no for me.
"I don't exactly fit in with boarding schools." I stated, walking in and examining my surroundings. I tried not to gape as I stared at the enormity. Solid wooden floors lead to a lush carpeting in the living room that was furnished with an L-shaped couch and a flat screen as tall as me. And I'm pretty damn tall!
"It doesn't matter if you fit in there. What matters is that Maya does. So deal with it, sis." She replied as she body slammed into the leather couch. She propped her legs up and suddenly an aura of confidence surrounded her as she looked at me as she continued to stretch. There was a near empty bowl of popcorn turned over so that most of it's contents had scattered across the floor.
"Mom gets back in three hours, so we only have until then to brief you on the joys of being Maya so that you don't look like a total idiot," She seemed to scan me with her eyes, her long inky black hair falling in front of her face, "and it looks like we're going to need to use every second of that time."
She grinned as I crossed my arms in an excuse me sort of way.
"Well, Sensei, what are you going to teach me? How to sit up straight, walk right and talk like a selfish traitor?" I asked, bitterness creeping into my tone.
"Ouch sister issues. Don't worry, with Maya, you aren't the only one who hates her guts." She snickered, in a knowing way.
"Alrighty then…" I trailed off, beginning to feel uncomfortable in my new surroundings. I had only seen luxury on TV. Now that it was right in front of me, I may not have a problem staying here for a while, even if I don't technically live here. As Ella pushed herself into a sitting position using her elbows, I took a closer look at my surroundings. There were maybe three rooms on the bottom floor, surrounding a silver spiral staircase in a U-shape. The walls were a creamy white, going well together with the dark brown wood floors and matching the color of the carpet. There were windows all over, letting in natural light. The kitchen, better known as my favorite room in the house, was open to the living room. It had a large marble island with cushiony barstools that looked more comfortable than Jeb's favorite lounge chair. The cabinets were black, giving the entire house a modern feel. I was already amazed and I hadn't even seen the top floor yet. I wondered what Dr. M did for a living that could possibly give her enough money to afford this.
"Max! Earth To Max! Come on, quit spacing we have work to do." Ella huffed, a pouty expression on her face that nearly made me burst out laughing. I don't know why, but Ella was already seeming like a good sister to me and I had just met her. Too bad that no matter what, I would always just go back to my old life and most likely never see her again. It's just a dream, I reminded myself for the umpteenth time. Don't start getting used to this life.
"Sorry, I was just…"
"Whatever. Maya does the same thing, it's super annoying. Anyways, let's get to what you need to know." Ella interrupted, taking out a file and tossing it to me.
"I've always wanted to do something like this!" She squealed, as I numbly opened the folder and saw pictures and profiles of people around my age. What was this, an FBI case?
"Wanted to do something like what?" I asked absentmindedly, sitting down as my leg ached. I was still beat up from The White Coats, but I had always had abnormal healing abilities. Even with it, my body felt like it was screaming with every breath. No injuries were visible, so it was just up to my acting capabilities to keep from looking like I was in pain.
"I've always wanted to come up with a plan. Something to fool everyone and prove that I'm just as capable—that I'm not just a useless kid sister." She mumbled the last part, suddenly shrinking into herself.
"Who are these people?" I asked, gesturing to the seven pictures contained in the folder.
"The people you will interact with the most. The blonde girl," she pointed to a picture of what looked like a school picture of the most innocent looking girl I had ever seen as I laid out all seven on the steel coffee table. Her pure blonde hair was in curls that looked like a halo and complimented her ivory skin. She was smiling brightly, showing white teeth that shined almost as much as her deep blue eyes.
"That's Angel. Figures, right? Angel Fonsecca, otherwise known as your roommate. She's a freshman, so she's a year younger than you. To put it bluntly, you two hate each other." My eyes widened slightly in surprise. It was impossible to think of this girl as enemies with anyone.
Moving on, Ella pointed to the picture next to her of a boy that looked so like her that it was scary.
"This is Zephyr. As you've probably guessed, unless you're completely hopeless, he's Angel's brother. He's fifteen, like you. You two hang out everyday because of similar friends, but you can't stand each other. Maya thinks he's disgusting because he has a little…digestive issue. He's called Gazzy, or the Gasman." I processed the information, not wanting to know more about this digestive problem that Ella so kindly skimmed over. His hair was in a cowlick and his face was in a mischievous grin, but otherwise Angel and him could have looked identical.
"This is Lissa Hart. She's your best friend, although she's a bit of an airhead. She's the head cheerleader, of junior varsity and she's trying to get a spot in Varsity a year early. She can be a bit…eccentric. Albeit boy crazy, but you two have been friends since sixth grade." Ella pointed to what looked like a red haired wonder. She had tan skin and bright red hair, straightened to frame her face. Her eyes were like emerald's glistening and her teeth were almost painfully white. She looked like a picture perfect stereotype cheerleader.
"Maya, my own flesh and blood, was—is best friends with a cheerleader," I said in disgust, "She's officially disowned." My nose wrinkled in disgust at the thought and Ella laughed nervously. My head snapped up, my eyes boring holes into her head. Nervous laughs are not good.
"You kinda…see her everyday. At cheerleading practice." She mumbled. My eyes went as wide as saucers. My stomach lurched, if I hadn't had a small lunch I would have puked by then. This could not be happening. It was official, I should have just let The White Coats find me. Anything they did to me would be better than cheerleading.
"But—but it's not even a sport!" I squeaked, panic overcoming me. No, no, no , no, no, no, no, no , no, no! This could not be happening, I had too much to live for—
My head snapped to the side as Ella slapped me.
"Max, stop hyperventilating. We have to get through the rest of these. I immaturely crossed my arms and stuck out my upper lip like a child. Ella rolled her eyes and pointed to a girl with shoulder length red hair, obviously dyed, and pale skin. She had brown, almost walnuty, eyes with long eyelashes. It didn't look like she had gone a day without makeup in her life. Her lips were a rich red and she had light freckles.
"This is Brigid Connoway. She acts pretty old for her age, like twenty. She's one of your best friends too, but she's on the swim team. You have three classes with her, but she doesn't sit with you at lunch. She always jumps around from table to table. Big social butterfly.
She—she likes boys. A lot. In fact, she likes them so much she goes through one a week." I snorted at the last part, again questioning Maya's choice in friends. These were the exact type of girls that I practically declared war against at my old school. If she could hang out with shallow girls like these, what did that say about her?
"Moving on," Ella ceased her giggling and pointed to a boy with strawberry blond hair, grayish blue eyes, and a devilish smirk. He had skin so pale it was nearly Crayola white.
"This is Jeff Griffiths, better known as Iggy. He's an amazing cook. A big pyromaniac too, along with Gazzy, his partner in crime. He's a goofball who does a whole bunch of insane stunts. Though it seems like he's gotten too much brain damage from them, he always makes things interesting. Though, he's a serious pervert. You two are always arguing." My eyes had wandered from Iggy onto the next picture, of a boy who looked…to be honest, emo. His face was a blank slate, unlike all of the other pictures scattered on the table. He had ruffled jet black hair, hanging a little in front of his obsidian eyes. His skin was an even olive tone, making him look like the tall, dark, and handsome types. He annoyed me just from his picture. Probably just some shallow player. Ella looked over to see me examining the picture and pointed to it.
"That is Nick Page. He's adamant to be called Fang though. Don't ask me why, nobody knows. He's quiet most of the time, an emotionless wall. Although when you get him to actually talk, he's pretty annoying, like Iggy. Must be why they're best friends. He's really cocky…and he just so happens to be Maya's boyfriend."
"Maya?" I asked dumbly, "As in me, Maya?" Ella nodded exasperatedly, annoyed at my stupidity. I looked down at the picture again. I had only had small relationships, nothing serious enough that I could get hurt. My walls had always been up, protecting me from harm. How could I pretend to be someone's girlfriend without even knowing them aside from a picture and a report which is creepily thorough. And I had thought the cheerleader thing was bad.
The last picture was someone I recognized. Very well. Yet, the most unfamiliar of the bunch. There was me, my blonde hair in an intricate bun that had a chopstick sticking out of it. (See what I did there? Oh forget it…) My long eyelashes had mascara on it and a…smoky effect with eye shadow? What? Excuse me if I don't know what this stuff is called! My skin was slightly tanner and my teeth were whiter. It was like looking through a mirror into an alternate universe. A universe that so far, I did not like.
"I'm not wearing makeup." I automatically stated, my hands up in the universal do not come near me or I will skin you alive, gesture.
"Let me get to the rundown and then we can argue about this, kay?" She said, scarily sweet. I nodded as her intense glare matched with a smile that reminded me of Chucky.
"Maya Batchelder; dating Fang Page, the hottest guy in practically the whole school. Girly, but has a major attitude with anyone that crosses her. She's always in a big group, pretty co-dependent on her friends and people who just act like her friend. She's popular, made even more so by her boyfriend. She's selfish, choosing herself over others, like when she chose to leave her sister behind with Jeb to avoid the fate of—"
"Stop, Ella." I interrupted, trying to calm my breathing to control my emotions. She nodded and pushed the picture a little closer to me, attempting a smile.
"What happened to her?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper as I picked up the picture, fingering the glossy paper gingerly.
"What do you mean?" Ella asked, although I'm pretty sure she already knew.
"When she went missing." I answered, wondering for the first time why it was her who had been taken. If it had been for a ransom, someone would have called asking for money by now. Why of all people, was it her? And why hadn't the police been called, like in every other missing person's case. I wanted to think it was just a normal, yet tragic kidnapping that Hollywood leeches off of for ideas. But if that were true, why would Jeb be acting more secretive than ever, as if he knew something I didn't. Somehow, I knew for a fact that this wasn't normal, this was something much bigger; much worse. And I wanted to know what had happened.
"She was supposed to come home for Spring Break to watch after me. One night, she just disappeared out of thin air. Here one second, gone the next. Mom told us to look in the emergency contacts if anything went wrong. The first number I saw was Jeb's. And you know the rest." She retold, tensing as if reliving a bad dream.
"It must be hard." I said impassively. She raised her head to look at me in confusion.
"What?" She asked, confusion lacing her words.
"Having me around. Someone with your sister's face hanging around, pretending to be her. Having to wait to hear any news and lie to the people you love most."
"Dunno. Maya and I were never that close. I was always the kid little sister. A responsibility." Her eyes began to grow detached and I immediately felt a little guilty. I hadn't seen Ella since I was eight and she was a little seven year old. Now, seven years later it was like we were complete strangers. Yet, it was like she was more familiar than anyone else I had. Not that I had a million Facebook friends to compare her to.
"So about the makeup—" I began, a lightness to my tone that brought a smirk to her face.
"Maya wouldn't go a day without makeup. She's worn it to bed before."
"You can't expect me to go along with cheerleading and makeup! What's next, skirts?" I asked mockingly. She smiled evilly.
"Oh no," I realized. She only nodded, the smirk only growing bigger. I fell back onto the couch, groaning only a tad bit overdramatically.
"You're a lot different than I expected you to be. Even with the background information I got on—nevermind." I sat up straight, staring her in the face coldly.
"You had background information on me? How!" I demanded, trying my hardest not to snap. She sighed before replying,
"My friend Nudge. She works at her dad's autoshop. She's killer at computers, hacking, you get the point." My eyes widened at the name. Even with the weird names kids up here had, Nudge was pushing it.
"Tell you want, no makeup or skirts and we'll let this slide." I offered. Her eyes were conflicted.
"Fine. But you still have to wear the stuff in her closet." She consented, before muttering, "Stupid tomboy."
I only grinned in retaliation.
She opened her mouth to say something else, but was cut off by an engine pulling up in the driveway. Ella sat straight up, her eyes going wide with panic.
"Oh no. Mom's home early. Quick, go to your room. She'll get suspicious if we're spending time together!" Ella ordered, hurriedly rushing to clean up the popcorn.
"Ummm…" I trailed off awkwardly, standing up from the oh so comfortable couch.
"Sorry. Up the stairs. Second door on the right. Now hurry!" I nodded and rushed up the staircase, which was so cool. Following Ella's directions, I reached for the doorknob and quickly shut the door behind me. Turning slowly, I was a little overwhelmed to say the least. Of course, the room was huge. The walls were a soft blue, with floor to ceiling windows and a deck outside. I blinked, trying to take in the paper lanterns on the ceilings and what looked like clouds painted on the walls. This was the exact dream room I had described to Maya when we were little kids. And she had gotten it.
Walking over to the closet, I pushed the doors open and stepped back a little. No wonder Ella had agreed so easily. Even without the skirts, the wardrobe was girlier than I would ever wear. My skin was crawling as I slowly backed away, as if it would kill me. In fact, I'm fairly sure it would have killed me, if I hadn't accidentally backed up into a shelf. Before I knew it, a box was crashing down onto my already aching body. I chomped down onto my hand to keep from making a sound as the box, which was heavy for your information, landed on my ribs. Pain is just a message didn't apply right now. All I was thinking was oh god that (Insert swear word) hurt.
Angrily, I picked up the stupid box and threw it into Maya's light brown queen sized bed, only to bounce back and fall, spilling its contents all over the floor.
I huffed, blowing a stray piece of hair out of my face as I grabbed the box to put the stuff back. I know that rich kids get a lot of random junk for no apparent reason, but this was a whole new level.
There were only five things inside the box. A blank looking disc, kept safe in a cover, a locked jewelry box, with no key in sight, and a weird looking flashlight were some of the most normal things in the box. The jewelry box was probably what made it so heavy. Sucks to be her when she can't even find the key for the damn thing. Or even more suckish, going missing and having your long lost twin sister pretty much take over your entire identity. I picked up an envelope to put in the box, but just my luck, it's contents fell out. It's contents that just so happened to be torn up shreds of paper with writing on it. I shrugged, putting it into the box of mysteries before coming to the last item. Probably the most interesting out of the whole bunch. A long feather, probably from a really big bird, that was white with brown speckles. I twirled it in my fingers, studying every detail before my—Maya's door opened and a motherly looking Hispanic women stood in the doorway, smiling warmly at me.
I dropped the feather and stood up, a smile on my face. I didn't remember the last time I had seen my mother. All I know was, it had been too long.
"Hi, sweetie." She greeted, coming to give me a hug. I just about melted, despite myself. I had never experienced a just because hug from my mom. So shut up and let me enjoy it.
"Hi…mom." I replied, trying to imitate her tone. She pulled away and smiled at me.
"I've missed you so much. I wish you didn't have to go back to school tomorrow." She said lovingly. I had to admit, I was a little shocked. Was this an every day thing for normal kids?
"I've missed you too. You have no idea how much I've missed you." I replied honestly. I just wished she knew it was me talking.
"What's gotten into you, Maya?" She asked, slightly amused. I tensed, but kept on the façade. Had she already caught onto me? What would happen then?
"Nothing." I replied, playing it dumb.
"Alright then…you know what, I have an idea. Why don't you start getting your stuff ready for school and I'll bake some cookies." I smiled at her and nodded earnestly.
"That would be great." She smiled and walked out the door. Cookies? As in, chocolate chip cookies? Maya really had been living the life. I turned back to the demon closet and pulled out a red duffel bag, getting ready to start stuffing whatever I could find that wouldn't completely mortify me. That's when it hit me. Tomorrow was school. Today was a practice round, but tomorrow, the charade would really begin.
Anika: *IMPORTANT* = Thinking about changing the name because we were never really happy with it. It'll be changed by next chapter so don't be surprised. If you guys give us ideas, we'll update faster and give you virtual cookies and credit.
Aj: But even more importantly, join The Evil Army of Aj! It's lead by yours truly, so of course it's awesome, and we're a branch off the Dark Side, which I also rule, and so anyone who joins get cookies!
Anika: You also get cookies every time you review from now on 'cause we love our reviewers. So get reviewing!
Aj: And join the army for double cookies! It's a win win!-Aj.