School itself was a drag. Seven classes of listening to teachers rant and rave about rules and expectations. Teaching could have been the easiest job in the world if only students were allowed some freedoms. All they really had to do was sit back and keep us in line. So long as the Black Hills test scores remained the best, the administration was happy.
At lunch, I scanned the Commons for some tolerable place to sit. Xander had the lunch before me, but I was pretty confident Melissa and Loren were in here. And possibly Lexi or Dakota, not that I was particularly fond of those two in the same place at the same time.
"Reina!" My name came from somewhere within the clamor, and then Melissa's smirking face appeared. She was beautiful, in her way, but I knew her well enough to know that anyone on her bad side had another thing coming to them. Like everyone in our little group, I had to wonder why Loren continued to put up with her, and why she continued to put up with him. I supposed that was the magic of their relationship. "We have a table. Come on."
I followed her through the hoards, avoiding the eyes of the golden community of Black Hills High School. Across the Commons, Mallory Burke and her skank friends were flirting it up with a couple football players. I rolled my blue eyes and kept on going.
Loren and the others greeted me with various smiles and waves as I plopped down on the bench. Cole, a good friend of Xander and I, gave me a tight squeeze. "Missed you, kiddo," he murmured into the tangles of my blonde hair. "Staying out of trouble?"
"She's best friends with Xander," Loren interjected. "What do you think?" He was right, of course. Xander was like a tornado of destruction and turmoil, a hurricane of destruction. And I was caught up in his whirlwinds, pleading silently and desperately for more.
"Reina." Melissa's soprano voice brought me from my trance. All eyes were on me, watching intently.
"Huh?" I asked casually, a feeble attempt to mask my embarrassment.
"I said, let's go get some food," Melissa repeated. "Goodness, girl. It's dangerous to spend so much time in your head, you know. You never can tell what's changing in the world around you."
The corners of my mouth curved up slightly. "Is something changing?" I asked her.
Melissa's deep navy eyes pierced me straight through. "Things are always changing."
"Dad, I'm home!" The door closed behind me with a loud bang. Kicking off my Converse, I headed into the kitchen for a massive glass of Kool-Aid.
"He's not here," came a quiet voice frm behind me. Glancing over my shoulder, I caught sight of a girl of about twelve. Her platinum blonde hair hung in tresses around her innocent face. "I dont know where he went."
Shrugging a little, I motioned to my cup. "Want one?" I asked. She came in and hoisted herself up onto the counter. I took that as a yes and reached for a second glass.
She was my smitten image, and too much like me for my own comfort. She was as pale as her name would suggest, and sometimes as cold. Wynter, my parent had named her. Cold, dark, but ohso beautiful. Peaceful in her resolute ways. The very way she moved seemed mournful. But she was my sister, and so we were connected. Even in momets of bitterness, we were as part of each other as ever.
"Well?" I asked, handing her a glass filled with the seemingly shimmering liquid. "First day of eighth grade! How was it?"
She took a lengthy sip, set her cup down, and rolled her glistening eyes. "Dont make such a big deal," she replied. "It was fine. Just like I expected." I smiled gently at her. Only Wynter ever witnessed this side of me, the maternal side that screamed protection.
"Alright," I sighed in faux efeat. "Anyway, I need to change and shit. I'm chilling with some people tonight."
Wynter gave me a knowing look. "With Xander, you mean?" Scowling at her once more I turned to walk away. Her laughter was still ringing out when I reached my room and slammed the door.
For me, life had always sort of fallen into a pattern. There was a certain rhythem to my carefully constructed universe, and as long as I could keep time, I could keep up. Xander stopped to pick me up around eight. Dressed in my typical outfit of dark skinny jeans, a tee, and my well-worn Converse, I crept through the house with ease and made a dash for the truck. In the sleepy town of Black Hills, the sun was setting and the first few specks of ethereal stars were beginning to appear. The sky really did look beautiful, in all its endless and empty spaces. Xander kicked the car into reserve, and we went on our way.
"What do you see?" I asked him, when at last the silence had grown too thick. There was no such thing as an uncomfortable moment between us, but I did so hate silence. "What do you see when you look at the stars?"
Xander creased his brow ever so slightly, stealing a glance at me. He said nothing, but continued to drive on, into the readily arriving night, into the possibility of forever.