Don't Call Me Liz

            Elizabeth closed her locker with a yawn. She was trying everything to keep awake in school, but the current exercise, climbing stairs to get to Homeroom, was not a very good wake up call either.

            Suddenly, an eerie premonition hit her. Her sixth sense screamed, JUMP TO THE LEFT! Without hesitation, Elizabeth backed against the opposite wall in a flash; moments before a bucket of dirty soap water hit where she had just been standing. Two surprised squeaks came from the second floor.

            “How did she do that?!” a redhead gasped.

            Elizabeth gave the two a death glare. “Amy Williams and Sophia Jones; come clean this up RIGHT- NOW.”

            The two jumped; they’d never talked to Elizabeth before. Amy deliberated, thinking of escape, until she decided she wasn’t ready to get chased down and killed.

            The incident had attracted lots of unwanted attention, and a few bystanders started casting suspicious looks at the culprits.

            “S-sorry,” Sophia gushed tensely. “We accidentally dropped it and-”

            “Then you’ll clean it up,” Elizabeth glared, giving the two goosebumps.

            “Right away!” Amy quivered. Amy and Sophia ran down the stairs, got out some towels from their gym bags, and started soaking up the mess.

            Elizabeth left, and heard a frightened whisper behind her.

            “That girl isn’t human!”

 

***

 

            “What?” Vincent asked very quietly. He got up slowly and the expression in his eyes sent everyone near him a few steps back. So it finally happened, huh. Someone started bullying Liz. “How was she attacked?” he demanded without raising his voice.

            “Well,” his informant stammered, frozen like a dear in headlights. “Uh, so these two girls just threw a bucket of water down on her and-”

            Not waiting for him to finish his sentence, Vincent strided to the door. He didn’t even give a thought to all the stares that followed him. Liz got hurt, probably because of him. But no big deal. Because he’d be killing someone today. Grabbing the door, he slammed it to the wall, and saw Elizabeth with her hand where the knob used to be.

            “Liz!” Vincent blinked. His eyes scanned her figure. None of her clothes were wet. Aside from her atrociously baggy pants and worn old T-shirt, she was perfectly fine. Somewhat irritated, but fine. “What happe-”

            “DO- NOT- CALL- ME- LIZ.” Elizabeth pushed him aside and strided into the classroom.

            Vincent spun her around before she could get far. His face was inches from hers. “What happened?”

            “I’m glad to know that you’re failing to make sense as usual,” she hissed testily. “I woke up this morning very-tired- and came to school. Got a problem?”

            Vincent stared. Elizabeth waited, and then sighed. Disengaging herself from his hands, she turned and went to her seat, cool and collected as ever. Typical, she grumbled to herself. News about the water bucket managed to circulate around the school in five stinking minutes. Gossip hungry rich kids.

            And of course, Pretty Boy thought she was a weak little maiden in distress who couldn’t solve her own problems. He probably assumed that she was close to tears right now or something of the like.

            Vincent was left staring at nothing, an empty expression on his face. He turned and walked up to Elizabeth’s desk, where he calmly leaned on the edge of the polished wood.

            “What?” she scowled.

            “No, nothing,” he replied quietly. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. She pulled out her book, but couldn’t ignore his unfathomable gaze for long.

            “WHAT?” Elizabeth threw down her book and glared up at him.

            Vincent smirked. “Embarrassed?”

            “Oh I see,” she sneered, leaning back in her seat. “You think that I’m like every other fluff-brained idiot in this school. That I have some kind of secret crush on you.”

            “Yes, but what bothers me is the way you choose to show it,” he grinned. “Honestly, I can’t follow your train of thought. No matter what angle I look at it with, I can’t see what you’re doing right now as attractive. Just put some effort into your face and maybe I’ll consider you.”

            Elizabeth tilted her head to one side. There was a brief silence. “You seem to be having fun,” she said finally. Vincent tensed, but kept his face calm. Elizabeth continued. “Trying to figure out how to get me to like you, thinking of how you’ll enjoy making me cry after I confess.”

            “No, not at all,” he retorted. Vincent looked away to avoid her piercing gaze. “I was just genuinely worried about you.”

            “I’m not going to be taken down so easily by a bucket.” She paused, and smiled to herself. “But thank you for being worried. It’s somewhat uplifting.”

            Vincent felt the anger dissipate like steam. That superiority in her stride. Her expression of her honest feelings, with no politeness or masked emotions to hide it. Absolutely dazzling. Was this crude woman always this mature?

            Leaning forward, Vincent tilted his head to her face, breathing in her soft scent and-

            Nobody really knew what would have happened then; all thanks to Ms. Palena’s coming in.

            “Alright, class! Take a seat, take a seat! We’ve got a lot of surveys to take today~!” she trilled.

            Vincent jerked up, marched over to his desk, and sat down. Ignore the stares. Ignore your embarrassment. Ignore Elizabeth. Pretend like you didn’t almost do what you almost did. After all, there was no reason, and no reason whatsoever, behind it.

 

***

 

            It sucked how both of them shared almost all their classes, Elizabeth thought to herself as a daily practice during PE. What was that guy doing just now in Homeroom? Shaking her head, she went back to her golf ball.           Men. The class was playing putt-putt, a dreary and dull sport when everybody sucked; well, almost everybody, she thought with an evil grin.

            WHACK!Elizabeth hit the ball just hard enough so that it literally bounced into the sinkhole. The class groaned. They were tired of her getting the ball in on the first shot.

            Vincent came up, took his stance, and hit the ball; a little too softly. It slowed to a halt right at the hole. If the wind blew, it would probably topple in. He growled under his breath. Elizabeth this, Elizabeth that. What did she think of him now? Was she disgusted?

            Didn’t he have anything else to think about it?

            “Don’t be a sore loser,” Elizabeth called with a smirk from behind the fence. “It’s not like my being better than you is a new thing.”

            Vincent glared daggers at her as the rest of the class went to change out and go to the next period. As if he didn’t already know! The two were closely tied in school, but she always managed to get on top.

            If he got 100% on a test, she’d get the extra credit. If he ran a mile in 5 minutes, she’d run it twelve seconds faster. If he laughed with his friends during break, she’d pass by with a pitying look on her face. Why did he always lose, he thought to himself as he headed out of the locker room. As much as being around her made him uncomfortable, he kept getting sucked in by her aura.

            “Uh, Vincent,” a girl asked tentatively during passing period when he was off to science. “Biology’s the other way.” Cursing himself, he turned around and found his classroom. FOCUS, he told himself, just as he walked into the door. Right. The handle.

            A few girls behind him snickered. God save him.

 

***

 

            “Vincent, dude, you are LOSING it!” Andre Jackson, his best friend, guffawed during lunch on the rooftop. The two liked to spend their lunches where nobody else could bother them. Andre’s flashy dirty blonde hair and sky blue eyes matched up with Vincent’s reputation, and the duo were constantly attracting WAY too much attention in school. If only that was the problem today.

            Vincent groaned. In Biology, Vincent had managed to ignore Elizabeth, until they had to take each others’ pulses as lab partners. The look on her face when she measured his pulse! What was wrong with him?

            In Advanced History, the one class where SHE wasn’t in with him, Vincent had been assigned a biography project… on Queen Elizabeth the Second. In Advanced Trigonometry, Vincent accidentally wrote Elizabeth’s name on his worksheet, and when the two traded papers to grade, Elizabeth asked in an annoyed voice, “Are you making fun of me?” Wasn’t it the other way around?

            “You, my friend,” Andre chuckled as he slurped his orange juice, “are going crazy over that Elizabeth chick. Man, what is wrong with you? She’s not even hot! Jeremy told me everything that happened this morning.”

            “I’ll have to thank Jeremy for that later,” Vincent muttered.

            Andre faced him with a serious look. “Are you falling for her?”

            Vincent stared. Him? Fall for an unattractive girl like Elizabeth? Impossible.

            “It’s not like that,” he sighed. “Elizabeth’s different from everyone else. She’s…” Vincent searched for words as he took a moody bite out of his sandwich. “She’s like this bright red dot on a black piece of paper. I just can’t look away.”

            Andre looked up at the sky with a thoughtful look. “I think that you’ll stop thinking about her if you just avoid contact with her. Ask the principal for a schedule change and after the festival’s over, you’ll go back to the way you were before. Until then, act the same way you did before you met the demon.”

            Vincent smiled. “Yeah; I think I’ll do that.”

 

***

 

            Elizabeth was annoyed. That Vincent was really off today. Was he messing with her? Trying to get her to trust him? Striding down the halls, Elizabeth flew to the library at a quick pace, wanting to go over the game plan with Vincent for the festival only two days away. Tomorrow, they’d have to get the project’s final material... something she didn’t look forward to. Despite being on top of things, they had to use this Self-Study time to the fullest.

            Opening two large oak doors, Elizabeth speeded into the library, and saw Vincent at a window seat. He was staring out at the campus grounds with a nonchalant attitude that had girls squealing behind a bookshelf nearby. Walking up to him, Elizabeth got started.

            “I finished making the wheel last night and I’m going to get the eggs tonight at some supermarket nearby but-” she scowled. “Are listening?”

        Vincent, who hadn’t even turned towards her, stared from his peripheral vision and nodded once. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. What was up with him now? Is this what they called puberty?

        “Anyways,” Elizabeth continued. “We shouldn’t start setting up the stuff tomorrow like the others, since the equipment will be at the gate and I think people might ruin it on accident. However, that means we’ll have to cut it really close, so we need to have everything ready by tomorrow.”

        Silence. “Don’t you want to know what we don’t have yet?”

        Vincent shrugged.

        That was it.

        Turning, Elizabeth strode out of the library. “Come to me when you remember what it takes to be my partner,” she snarled over her shoulder. He didn’t want to work with her? Fine. She wasn’t about to force herself to cooperate with some self absorbed jerk.

        Vincent watched her leave. Dang it, that woman was too hard to figure out. Most girls would faint, but she actually got pissed off! He sat there for a few moments, but once again, Liz’s supernatural gravity dragged him out of his seat and out of the library.

        Seeing her figure round a corner, Vincent sped up and was soon on her tail.

        “Liz!” he called. Elizabeth spun around, an angry flare in her eyes.

        “DO- NOT- CALL- ME-”

        “Yeah, sorry about that,” Vincent interrupted. “Listen, I was in a bad mood earlier. Want to tell me what you were trying to say?”

        Elizabeth huffed, and then tapped her foot in exasperation. This guy and his mood swings…

        “I was trying to get you to go shopping with me tomorrow after school.”

        Elizabeth? Ask him out on a date? Andre was right. He’d finally lost it.

        “W-Why?” Vincent asked woodenly. What kind of sick and twisted world did he wake up to this morning?

        Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “God, you look like you’re going to pass out. Calm down. I’m not talking about a hand-in-hand ‘Hey there honey’ shopping date. I need a reference for what clothes to get. As you can see, I go out of my way to look hideous, and it seems I’ve long forgotten what the trends are and-”

        “Wait, you look so unappealing and disgusting on purpose?” Vincent interrupted, earning himself a punch on the head.

        “It’s so I don’t attract males during school.”

        Vincent looked at her skeptically. She was overestimating herself. Nobody needed to go to that extent in order to avoid a few guys or so.

        Elizabeth read his look. She smirked. “You think I’m ugly.”

        Silence. Elizabeth burst out laughing. “You’ll see what I’m talking about at the mall,” she chuckled.

        “IF I even accept.”

        “But you will,” Elizabeth grinned knowingly. “You won’t be able to resist seeing me in nice clothes or the chance to prove me wrong for once.”

        Vincent agreed to that. If she really looked hot under all those layers of geek, which he highly doubted, then he had to see it. If she didn’t, well… he laughed at the thought of it.

        “You got me. When do we meet up?”

        “Tomorrow, after school, at the gate.”

        “Which mall are we going to?”

        “Whichever mall you think is good yet cheap,” she shrugged. “Thanks to your asking around, we have about 170 dollars left from our budget.”

        “That’s only going to get you a single outfit if you want to look trendy in this school.”

        Elizabeth looked at him as if he was missing something very important.

        “What’s the look for?”

        “You do realize that I’m going to refund that single outfit once the festival is over, right? The outfit is strictly for the project, and once I get a refund, we’ll split the money in half or turn it into the school as part of the profit we made.”

        “You don’t want to keep it?”

        “Of course I don’t! Imagine how many guys would be hounding me if I wore it for more than a day!”

        “Yeah, right.”

        Elizabeth sighed. She saw this coming. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t believe her, though her middle school yearbook was proof enough. Well, she thought to herself, the boy would find out soon just how dangerous her looks were.

 

***

 

 

        HONK HONK!

        “Hurry up, Liz!”

        “Don’t call-”

        “Whatever, just hurry!” Vincent hollered over the dismissal bell. He was couldn’t wait to see what Elizabeth would look like in decent clothing.

        Elizabeth blew an annoyed sigh, and then trotted up to Vincent’s fancy Mercedes. Stupid rich kid, she thought to herself. How could he drive a car nicer than her mom’s!

        “Hurry.”

        “I’m hurrying, so shut up!”

        Vincent snickered, and once Elizabeth closed the passenger seat door, he screeched out of the parking lot, earning a few fingers and jealous glares.

        “Stop driving so fast!” Elizabeth shrieked. They had just gotten out of the school lot and he was hitting 50.

        “You’re not afraid of going fast, are you?”

        “The police here are strict, and I’m not soiling my perfect record!”

        Vincent rolled his eyes and slowed to a 30, ten miles above the speed limit.

        “Slower.”

        “That’s just-”

        “Vincent Richardson, you slow down right now or I’ll-”

        “Or you’ll what?” he taunted.

 

***

 

        “I’m just saying, you didn’t have to punch me like that. I almost drove into a tree!”

        “Shut up. I’m not with you, YOU’RE with ME. Now behave while I…” Elizabeth replied absent mindedly as she passed the bookstore. Vincent saw her line of vision. Grabbing her arm, he towed her away from it.

        “Let go of me! You act like I was going to go in there!”

        “You were. Now hurry up, the designer store is just across the way, and I’m not waiting any longer.”

        Charging into the store, Vincent looked around with barely concealed excitement when a store clerk swooped down on him.

        “Hi, I’m Nina” the petite strawberry blonde gushed. “Can I get you something?”

        Elizabeth smothered a laugh. Her classmate was getting picked up by a thirty year old woman trying to look ten years younger.

        “I’m getting something for my sister; she’s completely clueless when it comes to clothes,” he winked roguishly. The blonde blushed, but tried to down play it when she looked over at Elizabeth’s horrid outfit. Nina nodded sagely.

        “As if I’d be blood related to an idiot like you!” Elizabeth growled. Vincent tussled her hair in an I-love-you-little-sister manner, and she slapped his hand away. Vincent turned and smiled apologetically at Nina.

        “Sorry about that. She’s just a little embarrassed. Mind helping me out?” he murmured, leaning in closer and practically giving the poor woman a heart attack.

        “Right away!” she quivered, grabbing Elizabeth with too much enthusiasm and a few outfits before racing into the changing room. The store clerk rushed in and out of the curtain periodically, changing clothes and grabbing more.

        “Look lady, I just need one outfit for a special occasion,” Elizabeth complained testily behind the tawny curtain. Vincent chuckled. The women he manipulated bended like putty in his hands. Well, he admitted sullenly, all of them except Liz.

        Nina suddenly came out and whispered to Vincent, who was leaning against a wall.

        “Does you sister have a special condition?” she asked curiously.

        Vincent raised his eyebrows. “Uh, no, why?”

        “Well,” the clerk shifted from foot to foot. “She’s got this binding around her chest, and I’m wondering if she’s allowed to take it off.”

        A binding?

        “Yeah, it’s fine,” Elizabeth called over twenty feet away. The lady started, not knowing beforehand how good Elizabeth’s hearing was. “I’m taking it off right now. You’ll see why I have it.”

        Vincent and Nina shot curious glances to the rustling curtains, and Nina rushed over to them to see what was behind all that binding. She walked into the curtain, and a shocked gasp came out.

        “Miss, are those real?”

        “I wish they weren’t. I’ve been thinking of getting them removed, but it would be expensive.”

        Vincent stood stock still. Elizabeth had tattoos? That was ridiculous! She was a nerd and a poorly dressed geek. Why on EARTH would she get tattoos on her CHEST?

        Vincent almost made a face. Geeks with tattoos on their chest- a serious turn-off. If this was what Elizabeth had been thinking about when she talked about guys liking her… Well, she was digging herself a very deep hole that she’d never get out of.

        Nina walked out with an odd expression on her face, like she had seen a hidden third eye or something. On her arm laid a boat load of rejected outfits, with price tags that showed over 100 dollars dangling off of them. “Your sister’s coming right out,” she said in a blank voice.

        “Man, I haven’t been in skinny jeans for a long time,” Elizabeth called behind the curtains. She drew them aside and walked out into the light. Vincent stared, his crazy predictions way off. Wow, she was sexy.

            Elizabeth was clad in a dark navy pair of skinny jeans, a gray tank top under a black cardigan, silver flats, and holding an expensive looking black bag. What’s more, you could actually tell how slender Elizabeth really was. She wasn’t tall and willowy; rather, Elizabeth had a nice curvy figure, with a tiny waist right under a nice rack. A really nice rack. At least a C-Cup sized rack.

            Elizabeth lifted an eyebrow and a wicked grin played on her glasses-free face.

            “I guess I win the bet, huh?” she smirked. Vincent strode up to her and reached for the ponytail, wanting to see her long brown hair fall down in a straight waterfall.

            “Oi, back off!” Elizabeth pushed him a few feet off.

            “You’d look better without the ponytail. Loosen it up or let it down.”

            “Not until tomorrow.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because I’m changing out of it right now.”

            Without another word, she turned and marched right back behind the curtains and was out in a flash, her usual geeky and hideous self again. What’s more was that her bust was gone. Vincent sighed, paid Nina 100 dollars (she gave him a 50% discount and her number), and then treaded out the door in an overly sullen manner.

            Elizabeth followed, feeling very pleased with herself. That stupid boy had been foolish enough to doubt her! Ha! Elizabeth accidentally let an evil giggle slip through her lips. Vincent looked over his shoulder at her, who was clasping her hands to her mouth.

            “Well? Let it out.”

            Elizabeth shook her head, a wide smile forcing its way through her fingers. She quickly grabbed his hand and raced out to the parking lot. Vincent rolled his eyes and unlocked the doors to his car.

            Yanking the passenger seat open, Elizabeth jumped in and slammed it behind her.

            Then, all hell broke lose.

            “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!” she laughed, rolling around in her seat and kicking the floor of the car.

            Sighing, Vincent got in with her and simply stared at the window shield, his expression throwing Elizabeth into bigger fits of laughter.

            “What,” she eventually gasped, “is with that disappointed look of yours?”

            “You need to ask?” he muttered, leaning back.

            “You’re sad you were wrong.”

            “Yes, but that’s not what bothers me most.”

            “You’re annoyed by the fact that I’m going to outshine you in the festival.”

            “Nope. I’d be glad for you to take the spotlight for once.”

            “You…” Elizabeth thought aloud. “You can’t stand the fact that I don’t look good every day?”

            He snorted.

            “What are you so disappointed about?” Elizabeth growled impatiently. She couldn’t believe she was unable to guess his thoughts in this scenario. It should be fairly obvious, right?

            “Not telling,” Vincent grinned, though it didn’t touch his eyes.

            “TELL- ME.”

            He turned to her, deliberating if he should say what was on his thoughts. Finally, after a few moments of silence, Vincent blurted out, “I’ll tell you when we get to your house.”

            Elizabeth backpedaled. “Oh, no,” she glared firmly. “You are not finding out where I live.”

            “Fine,” Vincent muttered. “Then I guess I’ll just drop you off at school like we said and never tell you what’s on my mind.”

            Elizabeth bit her lip.

            “Oh, what a shame,” he drawled tauntingly. “It’s a secret, too…”

            “Oh, alright,” she snapped. “I’ll show you where I live.”

            “Awesome,” Vincent smirked, pulling out of the parking spot. “Where to?”

            “Take the 5 North,” Elizabeth sighed. Of all the bad luck in the world…

            “Why don’t you want to me to see your house?” Vincent asked, his eyes shifting over to Elizabeth who was pouting in her seat, slumped back and wearing that signature scowl of hers.

            “Keep your eyes on the road,” she growled. Finally, she heaved a sigh. “Well, I don’t want anybody to come and TP the house, if you know what I mean, and letting you know is dangerous. You do realize that your friends are all delinquents, right?”

            “I’ve heard something like that before, yes,” he replied wryly.

            “Also, you’ll be all surprised and never look at me the same way.”

            “…I didn’t realize you cared so much about what I thought of you,” he shot back immediately.

            “It’s different with you,” came the unexpected reply. Vincent nearly swerved off the highway.

 

***

 

            “Huh.” Vincent said blankly, keeping a nonchalant stare at the wrecked condo. Sparse vegetation hung limply on the poor excuse of a front lawn, and the bits of cement that had crumbled away from the path and walls dotted the ground like gravestones.

            “Oh please, I expected better than that,” Elizabeth teased. Vincent wasn’t fooled. She was anxious to see his reaction. Well, how was he supposed to react in this situation?

            How could he possibly point out anything good about the house? The wooden gate was broken, just like the sun bleached door that was held together with masking tape. The three windows were rain beaten, and water spots plastered little black dots to them. He had no idea what the black dots were. He didn’t want to know, either.

            How could Vincent help looking up at the poor excuse for a roof that had pieces missing and trash bags taped over holes? For a girl who went to a private school, she was pretty poor.

            “I’m confused,” he managed to say after a long silence.

            Elizabeth sighed.

            “I got in on a scholarship. As long as I ace my classes and don’t let a toe out of line, I can stay in StarLake.”

            “So… this festival is your life?”

            “Pretty much.”

            “What on earth do your parents do?”

            “Oh no,” Elizabeth shot back, sidestepping that awkward conversation. “It’s my turn to ask the questions; what were you so disappointed about?”

            “Alright,” Vincent sighed. “Get out of the car first.”

            “If you drive off I’m just going to-”

            “I know, I know!”

            Shooting him a suspicious look, Elizabeth got out of the car.

            “Walk to the door, Liz.”

            She glared, nostrils flaring, and swinging her recently acquired outfit, strode to the door. She about faced and tapped her foot expectantly.

            “You see,” Vincent called out the open passenger seat window. “I was so disappointed because I thought it was a shame such good looks were wasted on a monster like you! If you were some, no, ANY other chick, I might have actually gone out with her.”

            Snickering at her shocked expression, Vincent zipped out of the neighborhood before Elizabeth could follow and strangle him. She’d calm down by tomorrow…hopefully.

 

***

 

            It was the destined day of the festival. Pirouetting in front of her bathroom mirror, Elizabeth checked her reflection with wary eyes. She had put in her contacts and left her glasses on the desk in her room, wore socks without holes in them that matched, and let her hair down. Yet… it just wasn’t her that stared back sullenly in the reflection.

            Oh, cut the crap, she thought to herself. Who are you, Mulan? Elizabeth stopped at this, and leaned against the wall in embarrassment. Did she just make a Disney movie reference? This wasn’t happening.

            Grabbing everything she needed for the festival and double checking, Elizabeth trotted out the door, ready to start the day.

            She strode at a lively quick step, humming to herself as she took a turn out of her poor neighborhood. On the way to school, she saw a familiar looking boy in a minivan blow right past her. She stopped temporarily, but shrugged off her assumptions. Couldn't have been him. It was impossible.

 

***

 

            “WHO is THAT?!” a blonde gasped as a curvy, C-cupped beauty holding a colorful wheel with a bright red dial and a carton of eggs strode in. She took a seat at where Elizabeth usually sat, ignoring the shocked stares that were shot at her in every direction.

            Vincent was dazzled. Her hair didn’t hang in a straight waterfall; it was wavy. Its cascades of brown tumbled down to the bottom of her shoulder blades and bounced ever so slightly with volume when she turned her head to look at him. She even let her bangs part to the side instead of the usual hair clip.

            Crap. He’d forgotten about yesterday.

            “So,” she smiled. “About yesterday. I’d say I agree to your little comment. It is a waste on somebody like me; just like your brains are wasted on that pretty boy image of yours.”

            She could draw blood with that tongue of hers. Vincent opened his mouth to make a good humored retort when a group of guys marched up to her and gathered around.

            “Hey there,” one of them purred. “You’re Elizabeth, right? How about you come and hang out with us for lunch?”

            Vincent stiffened.

            Elizabeth smiled.

 

***

 

            “Miss Blackburn,” Ms. Palena sighed in exasperation. “There was no need to throw your desk at these boys.” The teacher pointed to the moaning guys with ice packs pressed to swelling arms, legs, and faces.

            “I was being sexually harassed, and according to the student handbook, page 5 section C, if I feel that my chastity is being threatened, I am allowed to go on self defense.”

            “But you didn’t even warn them beforeha-”

            “That,” Elizabeth said firmly, “is not the issue here. I am allowed to defend myself against assault.”

            Ms. Palena pressed her lips together in a thin line, and turned over to Vincent.

            “Vincent, could you please tell your partner that she didn’t need to go to such lengths?”

            Vincent glared at the guys that he had considered attacking himself.

            “I think Liz got this one, Ms. Palena,” he said coldly, not tearing his eyes off the guys. Shallow men. Just because she was prettier didn’t mean that they could treat her so differently, he thought angrily. Something in the back of his mind reminded him that he’d done the exact same thing, but Vincent shoved it away.

            “Well,” the teacher sighed, defeated by the two smartest students in class. “There’s no use crying over spilled milk. Everyone can go down and finish setting up your stations for the festival now.”

            Kids herded the doors like cattle. They wanted to either finish up or chat amongst the stalls were supervisors weren’t allowed.

            Elizabeth walked over to Vincent, who still sat in his desk. She thrust the carton of eggs to him.

            “Go take these to the fridge in the staff lounge.”

            “What about you?”

            “I’m going to go set this wheel up and get our stuff from the stalls.” She smirked. “You’re not the only one who can ask favors now.”

            Vincent frowned ever so slightly, knitting his eyebrows together. She was going to seduce the other guys.

            “Don’t get assaulted or anything,” he smiled halfheartedly as he took the bag. Elizabeth snorted.

            Setting up had been dull and monotonous, but it was worth it. Exactly at 10 AM, the doors to the festival were opened, and people began trickling in.

            “Hi,” Elizabeth smiled at some college kids passing by to get out the festival. “You guys want to get in, free of charge?”

            The couple looked at each other. “Seriously?” the guy asked.

            “Sure! All you have to do is pay an extra five dollar fee additional to the entrance cost per person. Then, you spin this wheel here,” she motioned to the wheel sitting on an art easel.

            “After spinning the wheel, you compete with me on whatever it lands on. If you can beat me, then you can enter for free, and we’ll refund everything you paid.”

            The girl tugged at her boyfriend’s arm. “Come on, it’ll be fun!”

            The couple spun the wheel together, and it landed on archery.

            “All right!” Elizabeth beamed. She got a pair of bow and arrows from Vincent and gave one to the couple. Next, Elizabeth walked over to the wall on the right of the main entrance. It had two chalk drawn targets side by side.

            “Now, you guys can either alternate or one of you can do it solo. There will be four shots allowed.”

            The couple chose the target on the right, stood on the duct tape line, and fired the arrow together. It stuck in the inner ring with a twang.

            Elizabeth walked up, stood at the duct tape line, drew her string, and shot it dead center. Vincent muffled a laugh as the couple went through the main entrance, miffed that they lost, but excited to know that there was an archery stall just past Room 505.

            By then, Elizabeth’s little competition had attracted several more people, and she took them all on a challenge. Women tittered in excitement when they heard that they could have a date with the “sexy guy leaning against the wall”. Parents nodded their heads in approval at the fact that they might save money and the festival had child friendly games to participate in.

            Of course, Elizabeth let a few pass who had wanted free admission. She wasn’t worried about losing money; the profit she’d made and the profit that was coming more than covered it.

            Food eating contests, bobbing for apples, shooting baskets, popping balloons with darts, throwing hoops around coke bottles, mini bowling; you name it. Elizabeth easily crushed those who she defeated and made it a close game for those whom she lost to.

            Soon, there was a line wrapping around the wall. Everyone wanted a shot at the superhuman girl that was almost impossible to defeat. The longer the line grew the more people it attracted. Vincent walked up and down lines, selling smoothies and snacks he’d gotten from stalls for half the price and winking at eager girls… all the while looking anxiously back at which guy challenged Elizabeth this time.

            And so, the minutes ticked by. An endless stream of visitors bombarded the school; some even left the festival to try playing with Elizabeth again. It didn’t matter if they lost. She was pleasant to talk to; not just politely, but genuinely engaged in conversation.

            All was well until around two hours before the festival closed. Elizabeth announced through a megaphone. “For the people who haven’t participated in our festival yet, we would like to suggest that you just buy a ticket right now. It is two hours before the festival ends, and we want you guys to have fun.” A miniscule amount of those in line relinquished their spot and paid to go in.

            Most of the people had already been in line three times, it seemed. Elizabeth sighed on the inside. She was physically exhausted. Looking ahead, she noticed a strange guy walk towards the wheel. He seemed vaguely familiar, like the car she saw this morning.

            The guy was pretty tall, so she assumed he was either going to college or in it. His dirty blonde hair was askew, barely covering his bright blue eyes that sparkled in the sun. His appearance was similar to Andre’s save for the faded X shaped scar on the right of his face. The boy’s smile had some girls swooning in a corner. The guy turned to look at Elizabeth.

            “If I beat you at arm wrestling, will you give me a hug?”

            Well, that was new. Elizabeth was tired, but she smirked confidently.

            “Bring it on.”

            The two took a seat at a plastic table, and practically nose to nose, they began arm wrestling. Elizabeth was taken back by his strength. However, she thought with a smile, it wasn’t enough. Inch by inch, the stranger’s hand began getting closer and closer to the table top. She was going to win!

            Suddenly, the boy leaning forward and kissed her on the cheek. What? Her hand smashed against the table. Elizabeth looked at it, stunned beyond words. Vincent jumped up from the wall he was sitting against.

            “That was dirty!”

            Elizabeth paid no attention to Vincent. She simply stared at the mysterious boy who was shaking with silent laughter.

            “Lizzy,” he chuckled. “You haven’t changed a bit.”

            “James?” she asked, bewildered and confused. It couldn’t be true.

            “It’s nice to see your face again,” he smiled.

            Leaping up from her seat, Elizabeth wrapped her arms around James and gave him a tight squeeze.

            “I missed you so much!”

            Vincent marched right up to her after a few seconds and ripped her right off of James. How dare this-

            “Dude,” James glared, getting up. “Back off.”

       “Seriously,” she scowled. “Mind your own business.”          

            Vincent was angry beyond words. What pissed him off most was that he didn’t know why. Why should he care about the two of them? Despite that, Vincent couldn’t move from where he stood.

            “Let go of her,” James growled.

            “Why don’t you make me?”

            The two of them lunged at each other.

            Vincent was no ordinary street fighter. He may have been raised in a fancy mansion where the sink was made of black marble, but his dad used to be obsessed with professional wrestling. Who knew the old man’s yammering and practice sessions would pay off someday? Vincent had pinned James on the ground when James gave a sharp jerk, rolled over, and threw Vincent back.

            Vincent landed on the concrete with a thud and James pounced, fist raised back. Vincent moved to the left just in time, rolling into an offensive position, ready to kick out.

            Pulling his unscathed fist from the cracked cement, James turned to Vincent’s ready poise when Elizabeth interfered.

            “STOP,” she hollered as she grabbed both of their heads, “MAKING A SCENE!!!” The two were thrown over her shoulder like sacks of potatoes and they flew into the table. The bystanders sighed in disappointment. There went their bets on who would’ve won the fight.

            Elizabeth grabbed the two disoriented boys by the collar and hauled them over to the cashier and the profit box.

            “STAY.”

            She marched right back to where the megaphone had been left.

            “We’re very sorry, but it seems that this station will be having a brief intermission. Do you guys mind if I yell at these two in front of you guys?”

            The crowd went wild. Guys whispered to each other while shooting Elizabeth’s figure lewd looks. She was hot, she was funny, she was friendly, and she could hurl two guys three feet at once. What was her number?

            Vincent and James cringed as Elizabeth stalked towards them, fists tight and face enraged.

            “How dare you two,” she said in a quiet whisper. “Threaten my grade for the festival? I work my butt off on this whole station and you two break into a street fight.”

            “YOU,” Elizabeth glared at Vincent, “couldn’t just mind your business OR AT LEAST,” she cut him off as he opened his mouth, “just hold it in until later!”

            Vincent stared up at her with sullen eyes. She was right.

            “AND YOU,” Elizabeth shrieked. “YOU HAVEN’T BEEN HERE FOR 4 YEARS AND YOU RUIN MY PROJECT WHEN YOU SHOW BACK UP?!”

            Grabbing the two by their hair in a hand, she dragged them into the festival, taking the money with her. She didn’t even notice the line of people following her like a tour group with eager eyes.

            Elizabeth marched up to the janitor’s shed of tool supplies and unlocked it with a key from the principal needed for getting duct tape. She wrenched open the door and ungraciously dumped the two protesting idiots in with a lawn mower and a few shovels.

            “Come on Liz, don’t be like that-”

            “Man, I just got back from-”

            “REFLECT ON YOUR MISTAKES!”

            Elizabeth slammed the door shut and locked it with the key, ignoring Vincent’s and James’s worried calls.

            Elizabeth about faced to see the frozen faces of college students, her fellow classmates, and children with their parents. Shoot.

            There was an uneasy silence when everyone broke out into hoots and hollering.

            “That was awesome!” everyone laughed. What?

            “Vincent FINALLY got what he deserved!” a guy from her PE class shouted as he punched the air in victory.

            “Oh yes,” an elderly lady nodded sagely. “Schools these days never discipline their student like they used to. I’m glad my grandson is enrolled in here.”

            “What,” Mr. Lockwood marched up to them, “is going on here?!”

            “Elizabeth just beat the crap out of these two guys!” a female college student giggled.

            “Elizabeth!” Mr. Lockwood gasped. “Physical violence is-”

            “Dude, give her a break!” a girl manning the bouncy house station hollered. “The two were having an all out street fight at the school entrance. She saved the school’s reputation!”

            “Yeah!” a little kid pouted.

            “Come on, Lockwood!”

            “Don’t be so stiff!”

            “We thought it was hilarious!”

            Mr. Lockwood sighed, and gave a weary smile at Elizabeth who was too shocked to speak. “It’s your fault if their parents complain,” the old man chuckled.

            Elizabeth blinked a few times, snapped out of it, and gave a bright smile from the bottom of her heart. “I’ll take full responsibility for it, sir.”

 

***

 

            “That was the best festival I’ve ever been to!” a middle school girl laughed with her parents.

            “That Elizabeth sure was something,” her parents agreed.

            “Can I come to this school next year?”

            “Can she?” they asked the teachers who were waving goodbye to the visitors. Ms. Palena turned and smiled. “Absolutely. Feel free to ask the office about enrollment any time.”

            “Hey, Palena!” a gothic girl from college and her guy friends smiled.

            “Gracie! I’m so happy you could make it!”

            “Me too! Elizabeth is freaking awesome! She rocks!”

            “I’d say she’s one of the best students I’ve ever had,” Ms. Palena smiled.

            “I tried to get her number, but she said she didn’t have a cell phone!” one of Gracie’s guy friends groaned. Suddenly, two very dark expressions popped up from behind Ms. Palena’s shoulder, stopping the hearts of everyone.

            “DON’T YOU DARE-” Vincent growled.

            “TOUCH LIZZY-” James finished for him, a dangerous flare sparking in his eyes. Vincent rounded on James.

            “I told you, it’s Liz!”

            “Lizzy is way cuter!”

            “It doesn’t suite her!”

            “Are you trying to say she’s not cute?!”

            “Are you trying to say she is?!”
            “I’d have to go with Vincent on this one,” Gracie butted in.

            “Nah, I think Elizabeth’s cute,” another guy smirked.

            “Shut up!” the two bickering boys glared.

            “Who let you out, anyway?” Ms. Palena panted, recovering from her shock.

            “That’d be me,” Andre snickered, strolling up to the group.

            Gracie swooned. This guy had a nice cheery aura around him, a sexy smile, looked like he lived dangerously…

            “…cie! Gracie!” on of the guys prodded her back. “Get it together,” he hissed while the others chatted freely, not noticing a thing.

            “That Elizabeth sure is vicious, locking you two and giving the key to the principal’s secretary. You do realize that the secretary was going to give it to Lockwood tomorrow?” Andre smiled.

            “Lizzy’s always been super nice,” James frowned.

            “By the way; where is she?” Vincent muttered, looking over a sea of heads.

            Elizabeth was staring at her desk in Homeroom all by herself when the voices of the guys reached her.

            “Lizzy~!”

            “It’s not Lizzy, it’s Liz! Hey, Liz! You there?”

            Elizabeth quickly grabbed the large pink card and hid in the hollow area of the teacher’s desk.

            She heard the creaking of the door and a few steps in the doorway. “Lizzy?”

            Another set of feet. “She’s not here.”

            “She might be…”

            An exasperated groan. “Fine, I search the area.”

            Retreating steps, and the closing of a door.

            Suddenly, Vincent head swung down from directly above, his black hair hanging like needles. “What’s up, Liz?”

            Elizabeth groaned. “Go away.”

            Vincent walked around the desk and sat down next to her. “Where’s the card?”

            Elizabeth started, hitting her head on the desk.

            He snickered as she rubbed her head with a red face.

            “How did you know I had a card? It’s behind my back.”

            “I helped write it. Of course, that was after Andre set me free. I was lucky that you were so busy cleaning up and talking with people; I almost didn’t have time to run up here and drop it off.”

            “What’s the card about?” Elizabeth asked, turning the pink paper back and forth. It only said, “To Elizabeth Blackburn” in curvy black letters.

            “Just open it,” he smiled.

            Taking a deep breath and shooting him a dirty look, Elizabeth opened it. Scribbled writings in different colors of all sorts covered the entire two spaces as seen in a yearbook.

            “Hey, sorry I tried to get you all dirty with that water. You’re really cool and it wasn’t your fault Vincent chose you for the project,” a message said in pink pen. It was signed by Amy.

            “Here’s my number; I know you want it, cuz I’m just THAT HOT,” Allen Fletcher signed.

            “Let’s hang out some time! –Sammy Jones”

            “That thing you did to those two made me crack up! –Jennifer Smith.”

            “You’re really creative! Be my partner next time! -Alex.”

            “This is-,” Elizabeth stammered.

            “I got everybody in class to sign it. There aren’t many kids, so we managed to squish it onto this. Check out what I wrote!” he smiled.

            “‘I had them sign this because everybody was really impressed by what you did today,” Elizabeth read out loud in an incredulous tone. “‘Keep this memory alive and tape this on your wall or something. I’m really happy that you could make so many friends!’” Elizabeth felt her throat swell up and the words became fuzzy. She could barely make it out, but she managed.

 

Oh, and be ready to be bombarded by guys tomorrow! Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

–Vincent.

 

            Elizabeth sniffled, and stubbornly rubbed her eyes with her sleeve. Vincent smiled, and put an arm around her shoulder.

            “I-I’m not crying or anything,” she croaked.       

            “I never said you were.”

            “What were you th-thinking?! T-trees are dwindling down to n-nothing every second! You guys p-probably killed a forest owl somewhere in this w-world!”

            Vincent laughed, and gave Elizabeth’s shoulder a squeeze.

             “You never change, Liz.”

            “…Don’t call me Liz.”

The End

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