Chapter 1-P1

2488 Words
Sunday, October 16th, 2017 Standing outside in the cold, in her superwoman pyjama pants at 4 o'clock in the morning made Marley Hoover question, for the first time, why Brown University was so great in the first place. There are other schools, ones that don't require standing outside in the cold at 4 o'clock in the morning. "Well aren't you two a sight for sore eyes." Oh, and that doesn't force you to spend time with two of the most infuriating guys in the school. Dammit, Marley. Why did you have to do this to yourself? "I am really, really not a morning person, Leo. So I suggest you shove your snide comments up your arse before I strangle you after clawing your eyes out." Marley's best friend Gabby Collins is truly the epitome of a nerd if such a term could be said in the most endearing way possible. Gabby was wearing a matching sponge bob pyjama set, her blonde hair up in a messy bun on her head, black Ray Ban glasses on her freckled nose as she leaned against her dark grey suitcase. A half hour ago, Gabby's father was red-faced as he attempted to get it into the trunk of his Ford Escape because she had filled it with her textbooks. Gabby is normally quiet and timid at heart—Marley was certain that Leo Kahn had heard her voice a handful of times—but at four o'clock in the morning, Gabby wasn't anything. Marley's eyes drifted to Leo, who blinked at her best friend in total shock. She could understand the appeal of every girl (and some guys) at Kingston High. With his shaggy blonde hair, bright green eyes, straight white teeth and athletic build, he was very attractive compared to the pimply, scrawny competition. However, looks can be incredibly deceiving. Leo is about as smart as a cockroach if one was mentally impaired. "Well, that's kinky. But I prefer doing the choking myself." Leo was twirling the key to his infamous red Ferrari around on his finger, which only proved Marley's point that the boy is as dumb as the pole he was leaning on. Who leaves their car in the school parking lot for three months? "God, Marley. Why did we sign up for this again?" Gabby whined, leaning her head on Marley's shoulder and letting out a loud sigh through her thin lips. Marley didn't know how to respond, because she didn't really have an acceptable answer, so she stared down at her book again and tried to lean it into the light of the flickering lamp post to see better. Brushing her straight coffee brown hair behind her ear, her almond shaped hazel eyes scanned the words. Marley has probably read at least half a million books in her lifetime. She is on a first name basis with every librarian in town, not to mention she has three bookshelves and even that is proving to be lacking enough space for her ever-growing obsession. Books and learning are her way of escaping her home life, of being free and relaxing her anxiety. Eyes catching on a movement above her head, Marley saw Aiden Matthews trudge into their circle, dark blue hood over his head, his powerful body slumped and a loud yawn breaking the silence only filled with the humming of crickets and the wind rustling around them. "You make s**t look pretty," Leo scoffed, fumbling for something in his pocket as he addressed his best friend. Marley kept her eyes on Aiden Matthews, not really able to look away as he moved a muscled arm to lift his hood from his head. Aiden is the kind of guy you'd expect to come out of a teen fiction novel, but not the one you hope to fall in love with. She and Aiden grew up attending the same elementary school and high school — as Marley was lucky enough to live barely within the jurisdictions of the nicest schools in their area. His notorious reputation and how much attention he and Leo Kahn all the time means Marley's always been aware of Aiden Matthews, and known when they've shared classes. They've never spoken before, entirely because they couldn't be more different from each other. Also, Aiden has one purpose for girls in his life and Marley knows for certain that besides the fact that she doesn't sleep around like Aiden does, she's the last person that someone like him would give so much as a second glance. Because — as much as she hates admitting it even to herself — there's a reason Aiden Matthews is so sought after. His dark, tousled hair popped out of his hood, his prominent jawline with a bit of stubble casting a shadow on his neck. His eyes were an electric, stunning blue that Marley has never seen in anyone's eyes before. Aiden Matthews let out a breath of air through full, impossibly soft looking lips before throwing a nasty look at Leo. Marley shot her head down to her book again, a small warmth flooding her cheeks that she hoped wasn't too noticeable on her darker skin. Her grandparents had immigrated here to California from Mexico about 40 years ago, which meant she had what the girls at school would call a 'perfect tan' all year round. "Give me one," he grunted in a voice that Marley had to admit was a one she imagined all of her fictional crushes would have if they were real. Marley heard a clicking sound and looked up from her book again, accepting that she was too distracted to read right now. To her shock and horror, Leo had a pack of cigarettes in his hands and was handing one to Aiden Matthews, who was holding a black lighter and flicking it in anticipation. Marley shoved her book in her bag, oddly without gentleness, stepping backwards with her heart in her throat. Gabby grabbed her arm and Marley only winced, her eyes locked on those terrible sticks of death and pain. "I-I can't be here," she stuttered, her palms beginning to sweat as Aiden lit up, "I can't...I can't." "It's okay," Gabby spoke soothingly, understanding why her best friend was triggered by the sight of cigarettes, "I'll come with you." What is it, exactly, about the throbbing of old pains that hurts more than new ones? Is it the idea that they can never be escaped? The idea that the longer you leave something out the worse it rots? Marley had her own landfill somewhere, somewhere with all the cigarettes and jack. He left them there and she was never quite able to get rid of them. Even as Gabby was slowly managing to drag her away, Marley's eyes were wide and locked on Aiden Matthews as he slipped his cigarette between his lips and inhaled. He noticed her right then, his eyes locking on hers before his head was tilting in confusion. "Please," Marley whimpered, her head starting to spin, "I can't be here. I can't be here." Her knees shook as she tried to scramble away but ended up falling on her butt, damping her cotton pants on the concrete below them. "Relax. Deep breaths." Gabby tried to block her view but like a rabbit in front of a fox, Marley wouldn't turn her back to her predator until it killed her. "I'm right here. You're safe. Don't worry," Gabby soothed as gently as she could. The usual sentences proved to be futile when Aiden Matthews nodded his head toward her, "What's her deal?" He asked Leo, who shrugged behind a fog of smoke disappearing into the air. "Hey, what's up with you?" Aiden took a few approaching steps, causing Marley to shriek before curling herself up into a ball. Gabby stood, "Stay away from Marley! And put those out, now." Marley was gasping on air, watching Aiden glance between his cigarette with confusion and doubt. "Get my book," she whispered to her best friend, before realizing she couldn't hear her, "My book. Please," she pleaded louder, her hands shaking as anxiety wrapped tightly around her torso until she felt like she couldn't breathe. Gabby stood, jabbing a finger into a frozen Aiden Matthews' broad chest, "Put it out or I will. That, or take your little Kum Ba Yah elsewhere." Gabby wasn't normally this outspoken, but when it came to Marley's triggers, she would say and do whatever she needed to. Marley rocked back and forth, her eyes unable to tear themselves away from the icy blue of Aiden's. "Let's go, man. Let the weirdos get their s**t together," Leo Kahn strode up beside Aiden Matthews. In an instinctual reaction, Marley scrambled backwards further crab-walk style, her palms scraping on the rough concrete. When Leo grabbed Aiden's shoulder, his cigarette hanging in his lips, Aiden shrugged him off. "Just put it out," he ordered finally, before dropping the smoke to the ground and stomping on it with his black Doc Martens. Once. Twice. Marley's eyes caught on the exaggerated movements, which felt reassuring that the thing was dead and couldn't burn anything anymore. "Seriously-" "f*****g put it out," Aiden growled, before swiping the cigarette from his hands and stepping on it himself. Gabby shoved between their larger frames with Marley's tattered copy of Wuthering Heights in a white-knuckled grip. Marley, calmer now because the cigarettes were lying squashed on the asphalt, squeezed the book between her fingers like a lifeline. She opened it to a random page and started to read. Gabby sat beside her, shoulder brushing hers even though the concrete couldn't have been comfortable in this cold. Marley mouthed the words, tuning out the world around her. Relaxing at the sight of pages she knew by heart. Once she had read about a dozen pages—which really didn't take her long to do—Marley closed the book and stood on shaky legs. Aiden and Leo had returned to their places by the lamp post, but while Leo had air pods in and was typing rapidly on his phone. Aiden Matthews was watching her with his arms crossed, his expression morphing from unreadable to confused faster than she could blink. Marley felt her face heat up in shame and embarrassment at the unexpected scrutiny. When she made it to her luggage, she kept her eyes safely on her tattered converse, promising herself they'd stay there for a while. "Stop looking at her like that. Can't you go back to only caring about yourselves and leave us alone?" Gabby snapped; witnessing Aiden's inquisitive gaze on Marley was riling her up. Before anything else could transpire between the four of them, the rumbling sound of Greyhound buses' engine could be heard in the distance. When Marley glanced up at the four busses approaching the back of the school with squealing brakes, she let out a sigh of relief. Now that there would be other people around them, Aiden Matthews and Leo Kahn would forget about the invisible and uninteresting Marley Hoover and Gabby Collins. When the buses stopped, Leo laughed in joy, "Finally!" He waved at the busses even when the tinted windows gave no clues as to who he was waving at. There were responding cheers and hoots anyway. A middle-aged man stepped from an open door from the first bus in the line wearing a disinterested look. It was apparent that he had already run out of patience for the rowdy teenagers Marley could hear from the busses—even at her fair distance away. "Suitcases in the trunk, carry-ons and purses in the overhead compartments inside. Don't crowd the bus, don't stand up on the bus, and don't get rowdy or you'll be kicked off the bus. Clear?" He gave all four of the students in front of him a stern look before clicking the handles and opening two cabins under the windows full of luggage. Gabby, struggling to heft her luggage a few feet, let out a relieved sigh when the bus driver approached her and handled it himself. Marley stood patiently behind Aiden and Leo as they tossed their bags inside with the ease of their athletic builds. She put her carry on bag over her shoulder once they were done, sliding the bar of her suitcase down and reaching for the side handle. Before she could grab onto it, a warm body was near her and grabbing the handle himself. Marley, assuming it was the bus driver, stepped away before the horror and shock sunk in. Aiden Matthews carefully stowed her suitcase into the compartment on top of his, with barely any strain. Marley curled her fingers around her bag. Behind him, the bus driver managed to toss Gabby's suitcase with lots of effort and vulgar language. "Thank you," Marley acknowledged politely, as what anyone would say when someone did something for them. Even in her nervousness, she didn't want to seem ungrateful. Aiden's eyes flickered to hers for a second. He shrugged but didn't say anything else. She wasn't expecting him to. Marley shook away the odd thoughts when Gabby came up beside her, shoving a headphone into one of her ears. Sliding her iPod into her pocket, she wrapped an arm around Marley's and dragged them onto the bus. Most of the seats were full by now, the smell of coffee, BO, and sweat wrinkling their noses as the two best friends climbed the stairs ahead of Leo and Aiden. Most of the blue fabric seats were taken over by students from various other schools in the district. Some were sleeping, but most had phones out and were chatting to each other, either from across the isles to as far as across the bus. Because they were at a standstill, the isles were too crowded to be able to move. The bathroom in the back was being exited by a blonde girl with way too much makeup on for this time of the morning, or in general. Marley couldn't be the judge of makeup anyway, she hadn't worn a drop of it not once in her life. "Get to your seats!" The driver shouted behind him, causing Marley to jump in surprise. She could feel Aiden and Leo's body heat as they walked in behind them, earning a lot of 'heys' and glances of recognition. They both play football and are popular, which means they're pretty familiar with the other teams and most of the students in the area. Marley and Gabby, however, were strangers to most, earning curious glances. Marley's heart sank when she realized that there were no two seats open together. She and Gabby would have to be separated, and they both didn't take well to strangers. She curled her hands into fists and ignored Gabby's stare on the side of her head once she realized the same thing Marley had.
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