Morning seemed to arrive much sooner than Marie hoped. As her radio alarm went off, Ming mewed loudly in her ear, and proceeded to walk all over her back before jumping off the bed and scratching at the door in a plea to be let out.
The blonde groaned in exhaustion, but kicked her duvet off her body in order to let her persistent pet out of the room. Absent-mindedly grabbing a full body towel from her open closet, she shuffled out after Ming and headed to the bathroom. The rest of the house was quiet, and she could vaguely hear her grandfather snoring through the walls. She snickered as she shut the bathroom door and headed to the shower.
By the time she exited the steamy bathroom, Reginald was awake, and he was doing his daily stretches in the hallway.
“Morning Papa,” she greeted, brushing past him. He grunted in response and turned to grab his other foot as she closed the door of her bedroom.
The Dehaan family was a tea family through and through. Rather than a coffee dependency, family members had a tea dependency, and everyone had tea for different occasions. This was no different for Marie. When she was much younger, all she was allowed to have was hot chocolate, but she had been learning a lot about different types of teas before she fully knew long division. After the divorce and the huge custody battle that had ensued (with neither parent being deemed fit enough to care for her), Odette and Reginald had stepped in to prevent her from being sent into foster care. Under the roof of her grandparents, she got her first taste of the beverage that ran through the veins of Dehaans as much as blood did. Needless to say, she was hooked, just as everyone else before her was.
Odette, looking very angelic in a long white nightgown and with her waist-length hair flowing freely behind her, handed Marie a travelling mug full of her favorite morning tea - Earl Grey black tea tempered with creamy vanilla – and gave her a kiss on her cheek as she headed for the door.
“Are you coming straight home after school?” she asked.
“Probably,” the younger female replied, crouching down to pet Ming before she left. “But if plans change, I’ll let you know.”
“Just let your Papa know when you’re on your way home, so he can make dinner. I have a spa treatment later today,” she said, waving her granddaughter out of the house. “Love you!”
“Love you too Nana!”
Marie disliked driving and preferred to bike or walk, but was obliged to drive every day to school because she drove several of her friends to and back from school. Pulling out of the driveway, she made her way to the house at the end of the cul-de-sac. She glanced down at her wristwatch. She was five minutes late. Honking impatiently, she muttered to herself, “Hurry your butt up!”
A tall girl came running out of the home, a piece of toast hanging from her mouth and one arm in her leather jacket. She quickly jumped into the backseat of the SUV and slammed the door shut, beaming at Marie as they made eye contact in the rearview mirror.
“Morning beautiful,” the darker skinned girl said, taking a large bite of her toast as she buckled her seatbelt.
The blonde rolled her eyes, shifted her gear stick to drive, and sped out of the neighborhood. “I didn’t know you had a game today,” she said, glancing at the sports bag sitting on her friend’s lap.
“The season hasn’t even started yet,” Michelle responded between bites. “Try-outs start this week, and everyone has to be there, decked out and all.” She pouted slightly, but brightened and shook the driver’s seat slightly. “You should totally try out!”
Marie snorted. “A ball and I? Heavens no. That’s just asking for a disaster of epic proportions.”
The car stopped in front of a modest looking bungalow, and the teenager pushed on a button to open the trunk. A heavy thud indicated that her friend had successfully placed his instrument into the space. The trunk was slammed shut, and a tall attractive male slid into the passenger seat.
He turned to the backseat and shared a fist bump with Michelle before turning over Marie and ruffling her hair. She scowled at him and snapped her teeth at his hand.
“Break it up, our princess is getting antsy waiting for her carriage,” the dark skinned girl said, stubbornly glaring at her phone.
“She could just drive her rich self to school,” Alex muttered, relinquishing his hold on Marie’s head, but grabbing her hand as she once again shifted the car into drive.
“And miss out on pestering her lovely servants to death?” Marie said, smirking slightly.
“Never!” Michelle’s voice took on a higher, mocking pitch, and the three friends broke into chuckles as the car pulled into the driveway of the Holt mansion.
Haley Holt was a child of old money that had been smartly invested, rather than squandered. The Holt family was the last living founding family of Greenholt, and the people bearing the Holt last name were treated like royalty in the town.
“Took you long enough,” Haley said as she entered the car, sniffing disdainfully at them.
“Hello to you too, princess,” Alex muttered, rolling his eyes at her.
“Did you say something, Farley?” The taller blonde glared harshly at what she could make of the male, her eyes narrowed in anger.
“Children, children. Much too early to start fighting, yeah? Save it for lunch time.” Michelle flung an arm around Haley in order to placate her, smiling down at her as her glare softened to a light scowl.
Marie smiled tightly. Although she had known all three of them for a long time, Haley was technically the newest member of their Motley Crew. Before their sophomore year of high school, Haley Holt had been an unreachable figure of Greenholt High. She was always seen with her older brother Hew, or alone if he wasn’t around. Although several people had tried getting close to her, she had proved to be impossible to befriend, causing her admirers to settle for watching her from afar.
Marie couldn’t really remember what changed between the summer of freshman year and the beginning of the second, but during lunch, Haley had made her way to the trio’s table and make herself comfortable, ignoring the eyes and silence. After the first awkwardly tense week, Michelle (the most outgoing of them all) began to include Haley in conversations, and things had gone smoothly from there. Well, as smoothly as possible.
For some reason that befuddled Marie, Haley and Alex could never see eye-to-eye with each other. Alex had been the most resistant when she had first attempted to join their group, and they never seemed to agree on anything. To Michelle, it was entertainment, but it bothered Marie more than she would like to admit that two of her best friends couldn’t get along for one day.
The silver-blue SUV slid into a parking spot, and Michelle was quick to jump out and head over to greet her teammates. Haley trailed behind the taller girl at a much more serene pace. Marie keyed off the ignition and opened up the trunk once more as Alex tapped on the back window. After locking the car, the two made their way into the main building of Greenholt High.
“I have practice after school,” Alex said, scowling lightly.
Marie blinked. “Oh,” she responded. “Why?”
“Root thinks we’ve been slacking and we need to get more play time in before the Halloween Concert.” He held the door open for her, and they made their way to their lockers.
She had forgotten that Halloween was just about two weeks away. Spencer’s had the tendency to get very crowded on Halloween, especially when it fell on a weekend. Greenholt High also had a Halloween Fair (if it was a weekend), and a Halloween Concert at night.
“Maybe I’ll come watch you guys play,” she said, grinning up at him as she slammed her locker shut, her arms cradling two large textbooks. “I love watching you play your cello.”
The dark-haired teenager shrugged casually. “Sure thing,” he agreed. “Just don’t be a creep and draw us or whatever. You know it freaks some of them out.”
Disappointedly, the petite girl nodded. She loved to draw, even though she never got plenty of chances to do so, and watching the orchestra practice or perform always gave her inspiration.
Her friend noticed her disappointment, and stooped down to give her a hug. “Don’t worry,” he murmured. “I’ll make it up to you this weekend. After work.”
She beamed up at him, and tightened her hold on him. The bell rang, signaling the beginning of homeroom. The two friends shared one last hug, then parted ways, both of them disappearing in the throngs of students.
Dane approached her in the middle of the day – when she had a free period and usually made herself comfortable in the back of the library – grinning happily at the sight of her. She smiled back calmly, and cleared the desk next to her of her bag and textbooks.
He sat back with a great sigh and kicked his legs up on the table. Marie raised an eyebrow at his actions, but didn’t comment.
“You’re such a lifesaver,” he began the conversation, his grin widening. “Thanks for taking last night’s shift for me. I would have been so bummed if I missed that party – I mean, not that you should be bummed that you missed it, it wasn’t that fun. Well, yeah, it was awesome, but still –”
The blonde rolled her eyes. Dane Ansley was a party animal. There were countless stories about drunk-Dane and his shenanigans.
“It’s fine,” she cut off his ramble. “I wasn’t planning on going. Those parties aren’t exactly my scene.”
He blinked at her as if she was crazy. “Are you telling me you’ve never been to a party before?”
She shrugged uncomfortably. “I have,” she answered. “Once. I found out there that my time would have been put to use better if I had just stayed home.”
His laugh was like booming thunder; she swore she felt the entire room vibrate as he chortled. “Well that’s probably because you’ve never been to a party with me around! I’m the life of every party!” he exclaimed, placing his hands behind his head.
His laughter died down to quiet chuckles, and he looked at her with an assessing eye. “Tell you what,” he said quietly, his voice low and deep, “There’s a party this Saturday, a bonfire to be exact, down at the lake. How about I pick you up at Spencer’s, after your shift is over, you can show me where you live, and I can take you to the party?”
She gaped at him, surprised at his offer. She and Dane weren’t friends; as a matter of fact, the only thing they had in common was the fact that they both worked at Spencer’s. Dane was well known because of the fact that he was one of the star players of their football team, and he spent his time with that group, while Marie didn’t exactly have a claim to fame. People knew her by sight, and most identified her as the friend of Michelle White from the basketball team, Alexander Farley from the orchestra and Haley Holt. The harshest thing she had ever heard someone call her to her face was a “tag-along”.
She pondered his offer, her hand reaching up to fiddle with a strand of her hair as she did. Slowly, she began, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I mean,” she paused, unconsciously twirling one of her curls around her index finger, “I wouldn’t exactly know anyone there. I’ll know faces, of course, and some acquaintances, but –”
“You know me, don’t you?” He gave her what she presumed to be a reassuring grin, and she hesitantly smiled back. “Don’t worry; I’ll stick by your side the whole time. Just think of me as your tour guide/bodyguard.” He winked at her, and she responded with a light chuckle.
“Well you better do your job right,” she said teasingly. The bell rung suddenly and she glanced up at the hanging clock. Shocked, she quickly began to gather her books into her bag. Time had flown by so quickly!
Dane stood up with her, towering over her slight form. Inwardly, she scowled. She looked like a dwarf compared to his six foot plus. He looked down at her and smirked, placing a large hand on top of her head easily. Her scowled showed outwardly and she shoved his hand away. Grabbing her bag, she made her way to the exit. She heard him chuckle and follow her steps.
“Where are you headed next?” he asked.
“AP Calc with Ferrill,” she said, gesturing to her second largest textbook. “You?”
“Photography,” he replied simply.
A blonde eyebrow rose. Out of everything she had heard about Dane Ansley, a love for photography was not one of them. “Isn’t that in the Arts?” she pointed out the window to the tall, colorful building.
The muscled teen shrugged nonchalantly. “Williams doesn’t really care about tardiness. Besides, it would be really rude of me not to walk you class.” His smile was all dimples and sparkling teeth, and Marie prayed she wasn’t blushing as hard as she felt that she was.
The way his smile widened told her that her prayer wasn’t answered. “Now, now, don’t get shy on me! We were having such a good time just a couple of minutes ago.” He slung an arm over her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. As they walked, students turned to stare in amazement at the two.
Marie wished she could sink into the floor.
When they reached the door of the classroom, Dane gave her one more dimpled smile and ran a hand through his sandy blond hair. “I’ll see you around then, yeah?” He waited until she nodded in confirmation before smiling smugly, ruffling her hair a bit, and walking away, hands in his pocket. Marie stared at him as he walked away, his wide, tall shoulders standing out in the crowd.
Behind her, her teacher cleared his throat. “You wanna get in here sometime today, Dehaan?”
The girl blinked out of her daze and rushed in, taking her customary seat next to Haley. The other blonde gave her a look, obviously questioning what that was all about.
‘Later,’ she mouthed to the Holt.
Her friend scowled at her, but relented, and they both turned to their professor.
The quartet of friends was in the parking lot after school, sitting in the SUV and listening to Alex’s decked iPod. Michelle lounged in the passenger seat, her long legs sticking out the window. Marie was sitting in the back seat, with Haley’s head in her lap. The taller blonde was occasionally kicking her legs out of the car to hit Alex, who would growl and smack them away as he leaned against the car and had a cigarette.
Marie recounted her experience with Dane to the other three, with varying reactions from each.
“Maybe he wants to join us, make it a quintet of oddballs!” Michelle exclaimed, throwing her head back with laughter.
Alex exhaled a long breathe of smoke and rasped out, “It’s obvious it’s not about us. He only invited her, didn’t he? He just wants to get in her pants.” His brows furrowed with anger and protectiveness.
“I think it’s sweet! Walking her to class like that – such a boyfriend-like thing to do,” Haley cooed. “Heaven knows she needs to find someone, after the disaster of last year – ow!”
Marie sent the other girl a dirty look, tugging on her hair slightly. Junior year had been a year of awkward experiences for all four of them. Marie and Alex had been a couple for about four months, before realizing that the relationship between them was much to familial to go further in a romantic sense. Michelle had discovered that she was more attracted to girls than she was to guys, creating several awkward situations for the trio of girls. As for Haley – well, she seemed to run through boys as if they were scraps of paper.
“She is right here,” she said, “and what about what I want? I don’t even know him that well.”
To her indignation, the other three chuckled at her dilemma. “Anne-Marie Dehaan, you wouldn’t know what you wanted even if it was dangled right in front of you with your name written on it,” Alex said, chortling as he flicked the stub of his cigarette away.
Pouting, the small teenager shoved Haley off her lap and rotated to the driver’s seat. “Alright you jerks,” she said as she keyed on the ignition, “Let’s who you’re gonna get a ride from for the rest of the week.”
The protests and apologies were quick to follow that threat.