Elizabeth Blackburn is the perfect young girl...for an action movie. Don't let her pointy spectacles and mismatched socks fool you. This scholarship student will strangle you to death if it means keeping her place at Star Lake Private High. It's a mystery as to why the popular Vincent Richardson ends up giving a public confession to her. It's an even greater mystery as to why he continues to chase her after she immediately refuses him. But one thing's for sure. There's no way that either of them
“He’s here, he’s here!”
“Go get him!”
Two pairs of hands shoved timid little Amy from behind a red brick wall and in front of a gorgeous third-year boy. He stopped and stared down at the trembling brunette in front of him.
Yeah, she was pretty cute. Her hair was long and straight, her caramel eyes were said to be the most adorable in her grade, and the girl wasn’t fat or skinny. She dressed properly, and wore close to no cosmetics. Technically, she was his type.
“U-um,” the girl shyly blinked. The hottest boy in Star Lake Private High was a head taller than her. “I’m Amy.”
“Yeah?” the boy drawled, tousling his messy black hair and trying not to yawn. He was going to be late for the orientation. Leave it for women to swarm him on the first day of school.
She was starting to blush. Scratch that, she was red as a tomato.
“Could you go out with-”
And with that, Vincent Richardson broke yet another damsel’s throbbing heart. Shocking.
He strolled past the girl and into the school, joining the masses of students pouring into the center yard.
Everyone sat down on cushioned seats in the midst of floating autumn leaves, preparing for a neither short nor sweet intro to high school. Orientation speeches, no matter how highly promoted in the school’s fancy brochures, were utter torture. The reason why speeches were so unpopular was because the best scoring 3rd year in school got to say the speech. Which usually meant “blah blah stutter blah multi-syllable words blah blah”. And, since the one giving the speech was most likely a nerd, that poor soul would have no supporters.
But Vincent Richardson was different. Excelling in art, music, sports, and academics, he had no doubt that he’d be giving the speech this year. Of course, he couldn’t be certain, since the yearly entrance exam results weren’t released until after orientation. Ah, another problem with the orientation speech; it was practically a surprise for whomever got the role, so most people would just redundantly go on and on until students in the crowd could be caught snoring.
“See, see? I told you he was hot!” two girls sitting a row behind him gushed.
“I know,” their friend replied. She was obviously new. “I think I’m drooling…”
“They say he’s giving the speech this year.”
“Woah, he’s smart, too?”
“Yeah, though he skips most of his classes.”
“Wait, are you serious?! That’s so cool!”
“I heard that every single girl in his grade asked him out last year. I know we did.”
“So who’s his girlfriend?” the new student asked.
“NO ONE!” her two companions squealed in unison. “A model asked him out last year and he just walked right past her.”
“Oh- my- gawd- I’m so glad I came here…”
Vincent ignored the swooning girls behind him. Girls were all the same. They tittered, claimed they were fat, and expected him to drop to his knees whenever they flashed their underwear at him. Every girl in his grade (and more) fantasized of being his girlfriend, probably the highest status any female could get in the county.
He sighed. Another tedious year… It was the same every time. His cold personality would be taken as “sexy” and his ditching streak as “the mark of a bad boy”. Then, sometime around Valentine’s Day, the girls would start going absolutely insane and someone would get in a car crash.
“Ahem.” The old, hawkish looking principal walked up to the gold engraved podium began saying some cheesy words of reminiscing about the past, and hoping better for the future. The usual. Then,
“And now, for the Honor Speech. This year, something very interesting happened with the entrance exam results. We seem to have talent in this school.” Solemn Mr. Lockwood smiled briefly, and somewhere in the gasping crowd, a camera flashed.
Huh? Vincent frowned. The entrance exam was an elite test pulled from past SATs, said to be one of the toughest tests in Northern California. Nobody had gotten a full score before. He smirked. Seems like he did it. The girls behind him clearly thought so too as they whispered in hushed, excited voices.
“We had two people with FULL SCORES!”
The crowd exploded into conversation. They looked around for the two geniuses. Vincent froze. Two? How could anyone have possibly matched him? He was Vincent Richardson, for God’s sake!
“That is correct. Therefore, the staff and I have decided that both of our prodigies could do the speech.” Barely concealed groans rose from the crowd. Two speeches. Great. Just great.
“So let’s welcome your third year representatives, Vincent Richar-” The air was filled with earsplitting shrieks.
“WE LOVE YOU VINCENT!”
“GIVE ME MY GIRLFRIEND BACK!”
“I’LL LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!”
“-and Elizabeth Blackburn! Our number one transfer student to StarLake!”
Everyone was shocked to see the difference in the two.
One was male, incredibly good looking, with calm green eyes and straight black hair. He was tall, clearly athletic, and looked like he belonged on the shopping bag of some brand name clothing store. He certainly had the fashion sense to pull it off.
The other was… unattractive. A plain girl who had worn a baggy old T-shirt to her first day at school, had her long brown hair tied up in a ponytail, with whatever bangs she might have had clipped to the side by a rigid bobby pin.
The girl moved like a mechanical doll and gave the impression that she was ready to stab someone with her pointy spectacles. Her eyes, which no one dared to meet, were an even sharper hazel.
The strange duo walked up the stage, and Vincent was handed the microphone first.
“Well,” he started with his bored voice. “I’d say half the crowd loves me and the other wants me dead.” At this, laughter and a bunch of “duh”s exploded.
“But,” Vincent continued. “I’m glad I got the score I got and I just want to get school started, so… nice to meet ya.” At that, he lobbed the microphone to the girl. The girl reached up and swiped it from the air.
“I, for one,” she growled, tapping her foot with irritation, “am not happy with my current score in the least. It strikes me as none other than stupid that the famed StarLake could possibly have two people get full marks on their entrance exam. The writers of the test clearly have no consideration for those who try hard. Imagine; me, put in the same category as Pretty Boy here!” She jabbed an indignant finger at a too-shocked-to-be-offended Vincent.
Then, the girl’s scowl melted away with a tired sigh. “However, I have to agree that I too just want school to start, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to class.”
Without another word, Miss Elizabeth Blackburn exited the stage, leaving a flabbergasted audience behind her.
Three weeks later, things had taken a turn for the worse.
Elizabeth closed her locker and climbed up some freshly waxed stairs to her first class, her nose buried in the battered pages of Red Sorghum. Some girls walked by and gave her funny looks, whispering some poorly thought up rumors about her.
“Sold marijuana in-”
“Eats ketchup with-”
“Got suspended for-”
Elizabeth smirked and, straightening her back, walked briskly off to the classroom. When she opened the door, mild chatter turned into dark looks and suspicious whispering.
“Well, like, it’s not like I don’t, you know, like her,” a girl with curly golden locks told the guys she was talking to. “But I just wish she wasn’t so mean to everyone. Like, even if you’re smart, you shouldn’t brag about it so much, right? What she did at orientation was not cool. It was just, like, mean.”
“I do apologize for speaking my mind,” Elizabeth dramatically replied as she dropped her ragged gray backpack next to her desk. “Maybe if I was, like, as nice as you, then, like, maybe I’d have a herd of male sheep following me everywhere as well.” She fell into her seat with a dark laugh. “Like, what a shame.”
A few girls started to laugh, but quickly shut up.
“Hey, that was really mean!” they loudly protested as Vincent walked through the door, the teacher trailing behind him with a look of awe.
Ms. Cherry Palena was a young woman, only twenty-seven, who dreamed of gorgeous men by the boatload, and although Vincent wasn’t exactly her type, he was definitely in the running.
He smoothly got into the desk next to Elizabeth’s. It was school tradition for the students to be assigned to classes and then seated by what kind of grades they got. An idiotic tradition, Elizabeth thought to herself as Vincent greeted her with the usual smirk.
“Please,” Elizabeth turned, smiling falsely while venom oozed out from each clipped word. “Call me Elizabeth.”
Vincent grinned. He liked this girl. Of course, she was far too hideous to even be considered as his equal, but her air and smarts weren’t lost in those baggy socks and high ponytails.
“Alrighty class, let’s get started,” Ms. Palena trilled. “Now, as you know, the Autumn Festival is coming up, and I need you guys to get in pairs of two; one boy, one girl. You get 5 minutes to find a partner. Knock over anything and I’ll pair you up with someone you don’t like.”
The whole class silently stared at Elizabeth, even the teacher herself.
“Ms. Palena!” someone giggled. “Can the girls pick the guys?” “Nope, it’s girl’s choice is next year. Now remember; girls that are asked can’t say no!” Half of the class exploded with joy while the other gave disappointed sighs.
Vincent’s hand darted over and yanked Elizabeth up by the arm.
Everyone turned rigid.
“Good. Bye!” Elizabeth snarled, stomping out of school as the final dismissal bell rang, not caring if she got soaked in the rain. God forbid she spend another moment with that #@^&*$@^#&*^%@$&*#!!!!
“Hey, wait up, Liz!” Vincent teasingly called after her, propping up a large black umbrella and following her out into the rain.
Elizabeth whirled around so fast that she would have knocked him into a puddle if he hadn’t stepped back in time.
She’d spent her entire morning arguing with her partner about what part of the festival they wanted to work on. Vincent had deliberately disagreed with every one of her proposals out of mere fun, and when the teacher came back from lunch break, the duo got landed with advertising in front of the school for passerby to come and visit.
They were going to fail. She knew it.
Advertising was the most simple and difficult job of the entire festival. The idea of just standing at the school entrance passing out flyers was too boring, so the staff decided that you had to add “zest” to the presentation, or a letter grade would be lost. A LETTER GRADE. A WHOLE LETTER GRADE. Getting anything less than 100% in everything she did meant losing her exceptionally generous scholarship. Without the high end private school to back her up for college applications, Elizabeth and her mother would be… She couldn’t even think about it. Unacceptable.
With this dire threat looming overhead, Elizabeth nearly got a question wrong on the pop quiz, didn’t know where the class was in Hamlet when called on, and started running in the opposite direction during the race (not that that stopped her from finishing first). The rest of her day had been mistake after mistake after mistake. It was by sheer luck that her grades hadn’t dropped.
“Do- not- call- me- Liz!” she hissed. Vincent just laughed.
“Calm down. It’s not like I won’t be able to carry my own weight.”
She raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
“What? I do great in school-”
“When you’re not cutting class or hanging in-”
“Out,” he interrupted with a patronizing grin.
“Out,” Elizabeth fumed, “with some group of delinquents!”
Vincent rolled his eyes. “The guys aren’t that bad.”
“One of them has taken the virginity of six girls!”
“Ugh!” She rolled her eyes to the rapidly darkening sky and began to leave.
“Hey wait,” Vincent laughed, playfully yanking her back by the ponytail. “You’re walking home, right? I’ll drive you.”
She smacked his hand away, but he simply moved it to her waist and dragged her under the protection of his umbrella.
“Come on,” Vincent gently smiled. He took her hand and brought it up to his cheek, where he leaned his angelic face into the hollow of her palm. “You’re a very special girl, Liz. I would do anything for you.”
She narrowed her eyes. “The heck? Are you trying to seduce me or something?”
The edge of Vincent’s mouth twitched. He quickly recovered, however, and let his warm smile slip into a seductive grin. “Maybe I am,” Vincent murmured, his voice low with smoldering intensity.
Elizabeth didn’t even blink. “Uh huh,” she snorted. “Well maybe I’m actually a guy.”
The two of them stood there in the rain, with only the pattering of water around them to fill the silence. They solemnly stared at each other with unfathomable eyes, until finally, Vincent couldn’t take it anymore.
Elizabeth stepped away with a bored sigh as her partner nearly collapsed with laughter.
“You’re pretty good at reading people,” he snickered as he picked up his dropped umbrella.
“Right,” she snorted, wiping her palm against her scratchy pants. “Because I have reason to believe that the school’s favorite male has begun to court me simply because I’m different than the rest. What do you take me for, an idiot?”
“You could’ve at least blushed,” he smirked. “For a second there, I really did think that you might be a guy.”
“Why thank you,” she said.
“Hold a second,” Elizabeth heard Vincent say as she had just started to walk away again. She clicked her tongue in annoyance and whirled around to snap at him.
Vincent’s closed umbrella went sailing into her face. Elizabeth barely caught it before it hit her nose.
“Take it,” he grinned before she could demand for an explanation. “If you won’t let me drive, then at least take this.”
“I can’t hear you!” Vincent declared as he strode off to his car.
“Well too bad, because I’m not taking it!” Elizabeth shouted through the rain. She threw the umbrella down with a splash.
Vincent didn’t bother turning around. He raised his arm and gave a silent thumbs-up.
Elizabeth jerked her head away and stubbornly sloshed off. “Look at him, acting all high and mighty just because he’s got enough umbrellas to be an English gentleman!” she laughed as she left through the open gates. “I bet it was expensive, too. What a spoiled brat.”
Soon, the heavy rain began to ebb. When she had gotten half a mile away, the clouds were already parting to reveal a bright blue sky. But the girl herself was walking slower than ever. Her own words rang in her ears.
I bet it was expensive, too.
When she had gotten a mile away, she was glancing behind her.
I bet it was expensive, too.
When she had gotten two miles away, she was gnawing at her lip.
I bet it was expensive, too.
When she had gotten to her neighborhood, she finally caved.
“Oh, dang it!” Elizabeth shouted in frustration.
She dashed back up the sidewalk, round the corner, across several streets intersections, through the gates, and up to the spot where she had left the umbrella.
It was in the exact same spot that she had left it.
With an angry sigh, Elizabeth reached down and grabbed the stupid thing. She shook the wet umbrella a few times before tossing it into her backpack (which, like the rest of her, had been completely soaked through), and looked around to make sure that no one had seen her. Then, with a defeated shake of her head, unattractive Elizabeth Blackburn turned and jogged the rest of the way home.
The next morning, Vincent was at his seat, surrounded by the usual throng of people, when a black umbrella landed on his desk with a loud clatter. His friends jumped back as they saw who had thrown the object.
“Nice day, isn’t it,” Vincent said as Elizabeth walked in. “The weatherman said we’d have a high of 90 today.” She pointedly ignored him and sat down without so much as a word.
“Vincent,” a few of the girls crooned as they pulled on his sleeve. “Why did she have your umbrella?”
“I gave it to her when it started raining.”
Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed, but she continued to unpack her schoolwork like she’d heard nothing. Meanwhile, Vincent’s friends cast her looks of undisguised bewilderment.
“Why?” one of them dared to ask.
“‘Why’, you ask,” Vincent smirked. “Because she’s a lady.”
The classroom fell silent. Elizabeth determinedly kept her gaze down at the textbook in her hands. She refused to move an inch even as everyone burst out laughing.
“Geez, Vincent, you’re so mean!”
“Eliza- Eliza- BAHAHAHA-”
The bell could just barely be heard over the uproar, and Vincent’s friends stumbled back to their seats with silly grins. The boy himself turned back to Elizabeth and propped him chin onto an open hand.
“Aw, did I make you mad?”
“Not at all,” she calmly retorted with a flip of the page.
“I don’t know why they laughed. You are a lady. Otherwise…” Vincent waved the umbrella near her face with a grin. “You wouldn’t have used this.”
Elizabeth’s hand sharply flew up and knocked the umbrella into the air. He smoothly reached out and caught it with his other hand in quick motion that could only be described as “athletic”.
“I wouldn’t use it even if I was dying of pneumonia!” she snapped.
“Oh, I know.”
“Nice day, isn’t it? It’s so much more fun when you reply to my comments.”
Elizabeth, realizing his true motive, moodily turned back to her textbook. “You’re so stupid. If I hadn’t returned it, or even picked it up, you would’ve lost at least thirty dollars.”
“A hundred forty-two, actually,” Vincent corrected as he dropped the umbrella into his bag. “This one’s a collector’s item.”
“I wasn’t worried about it getting damaged or anything,” he murmured as he leaned towards her. “I trust you, Liz.”
“Try seducing me again and I’ll file a report to the office for sexual harassment,” she retorted, picking up the textbook and using it as a barrier between her and the overbearingly confident flirt.
Vincent opened his mouth to give a teasing reply when-
The door swung into the wall as Ms. Palena burst onto the scene, huffing and puffing with a frazzled look that didn’t suite her soft features in the least.
“Hey,” she wheezed in a reedy voice. “I got a call from Queen’s University, our sister school about 10 minutes from here.”
She stopped to catch her breath. The whole class was silent. Ms. Palena continued in a rush. “They said that their students have a Staff-Only day for their upcoming sports seasons.
“And most of the students have decided to come and check out our school. The problem is that they’re not sure if a high school is exactly worth their time, since it’s a school with younger kids there. Where is the Advertising team?”
Vincent and Elizabeth raised their hands. Ms. Palena choked when she saw Elizabeth’s hand go up. “Now, Elizabeth,” she squeaked. “You must be very careful not to offend our visitors, okay? They could bring a lot of credit to our school. If you guys can’t get at least 50 college students from Queen’s to enter, and give good reviews, you’ll fail the assignment.”
Elizabeth’s textbook slipped out of her fingers and fell to the ground with a thud.
“You want me to what?” Vincent asked, completely baffled. Elizabeth had personally asked him to talk out on the rooftop during lunch break. It was an emergency with the festival just three days away, she had reminded him.
“Just this once,” she stared, gauging his reaction.
“Whoa there,” he growled. “I know I’m attractive, but college girls-”
“Are completely wild due to lack of parent supervision,” Elizabeth interrupted.
“I can’t date all of them at once!”
“You don’t have to. You probably won’t have to go on any dates anyway.”
“I don’t get what you’re trying to say,” he sighed. “You call me up here, you tell me to take older women on dates during the festival for advertisement. And then, you go and say I don’t have to date them!”
“I mean, the girls must first win a contest against me in order to get a date with you,” she explained slowly. “The contest fee is 5 dollars more than the administration fee to get into the festival.
“We will have a myriad of competitions based on events inside the festival, and there are three different prizes to choose from; one,” Elizabeth said as she held up her index finger, “a full refund of the fee paid and therefore free admission.
“Two,” she smiled, lifting up her middle finger to join the other. “A half hour date/tour with you as their escort in the festival.
“And finally,” Elizabeth frowned, raising her ring finger. “getting to egg me.”
“Wait a second,” Vincent growled. “You may not care if you’re pelted with food, but I’m not about to become fed to a flock of attention starved harpies!”
“Like I said,” Elizabeth drawled. “You won’t have to worry. Sure, girls will try to get you, but I won’t let that happen. You think I’ve got a lack of pride; that I’m the type who doesn’t mind wasting perfectly good food? I’m not willing to chance a humiliating defeat like that.”
Vincent took a deep breath, held it in for a second, and then let it out with a whoosh. She had him there. Elizabeth wouldn’t subject herself to pity or disgrace without dying first.
“What are the contests like?” he muttered in defeat.
Elizabeth grinned. He was going to cooperate. “It’s all up to you. Get teams to give you some extra stuff, like bows and arrows from the archery team or water pistols from the stuffed animal stall. They’re bound to agree if you use a little persuasion,” she laughed.
The rest of Vincent’s day had been spent on asking around for support and donations, which most teams were all too happy to give. After all, they were boy-girl pairs. Emphasis on “girl”.
Everything went along smoothly, and a list of possible contests was compiled. Vincent took great care when writing all the data down. He went out of his way to record who the supplies came from, what extra equipment would be necessary to pull the contests off, how much the sponsors gave, etc.
Elizabeth had been more than pleasantly surprised when he thrust a neatly written notebook into her hands at the end of school. That night, Elizabeth went home and worked on gaps that needed to be filled, such as a wheel to determine what contest the challenger would have to participate in, a suitable outfit for her that wouldn’t destroy their efforts to be appealing, and research on where to get extremely cheap eggs… just in case.
Ms. Blackburn poked her head into her daughter’s room every hour, and at 12 in the morning, she brought Elizabeth some coffee.
“You seem to be very busy. Is it the festival you were talking about?” Ms. Blackburn asked softly, sipping her coffee on a rickety old chair.
“Yup,” Elizabeth replied. She took a swig from her own cup and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Sorry I had to stay up so late; I had to finish my homework before working on the festival.”
“Oh, it’s alright,” Ms. Blackburn smiled serenely.
Elizabeth’s rapidly moving pencil hovered above the paper. “I thought you’d be angry at me for staying up past 11. Don’t you always say that-”
“Well,” her mother laughed, “You look like you’re really enjoying yourself. I’ve only seen you get so worked up when there’s something that’s very interesting going on. Don’t tell me,” she grinned, “that it’s that partner you told me about?”
“Mom,” Elizabeth groaned. “I promise you, that guy is not my type.”
“Oh, and what’s you’re type?” Ms. Blackburn asked, her gentle eyes sparkling and craving some harmless gossip. “Tall? Buff? Tan? Smart? Oh, or is it-” She suddenly broke off into a coughing fit. Her daughter got up with a worried look.
“You’ve had that cough for a while now. We should get you to the doctor and-”
“NO,” her mom croaked. She cleared her throat before going on. “That money is for your college tuition, and I’m not touching it.”
“We are low on money,” Ms. Blackburn said firmly. “And I’m not sure if the savings we have will even cover future educational expenses. I’m fine. Nobody’s ever died of a cough before.”
Elizabeth frowned. Her mom was just like a child. Fun, smiling, easily pleased… and fragile. Elizabeth couldn’t remember the last time her mom had a break from work. The next day, Ms. Blackburn would be off and slaving away in the market first thing in the morning, all the way until six o’clock. It was ridiculous! For those stingy bosses of hers to hire her for such a long time and not give her a good salary was-
Ms. Blackburn touched her daughter’s brow with a slim finger. “If you keep on frowning like that, a wrinkle’s going to stay there forever,” she grinned. “Don’t worry about me. Go to school, have fun, and-”
“Get good grades,” Elizabeth finished for her.
Ms. Blackburn grimaced. “Study hard,” she corrected.
Her daughter was too competitive. Ms. Blackburn was always fretting if her kid would ever have a true friend and be able to laugh freely every day.
It used to be like that, she thought, as she left the room and descended the age worn stairs. Ms. Blackburn walked into the kitchen and looked at the shabby furniture, the peeling wallpaper, the frayed carpet… Elizabeth deserved better than this, she thought unhappily.
The worried mother had always wanted a small but brightly lit house, a vegetable garden, and maybe a little brother for Elizabeth, too. It WAS an awful lot to ask for, Ms. Blackburn admitted, but it was honestly what she wanted most. Well, it was no use thinking about it now. Those dreams already had drifted far, far away. The same way Kevin did.