Grace Howell is happily living her life, until Adam turns up, the new guy, a loner. When wild stories travel around about the origin of the scars he bears, will Grace treat him the same as everyone else, or step out from the crowd and treat him as a human being?
Grace ran as fast as she coud in a vain attempt to get to school before it began to rain. Sure enough, the heavens opened as soon as the building could be seen in the distance, and she was soaked through within a minute.
Normally, she liked the rain, and if she had the time and the clothes on hand, she was quite happy to walk about in it, like some kind of cleansing ritual. But today, as well as running late, Grace now realised that she had also forgotten her Biology textbook. She hated Mondays.
Mumbling a rushed apology to her teacher, she headed toward her seat, dripping a little on the linoleum floor. The squeaking of her shoes earnt her some funny looks, but she ignored them, concentrating on trying to catch up with the work that she had already missed.
"Nice of you to join us." Liza whispered in her ear. "What kept you?"
Grace had known Liza since they were eight years old. She had been sat alone at the lunch table when Liza had appeared out of nowhere, sat next to her, and started chatting as though they were already friends. They'd been practically inseperable ever since.
"Eli had a fit this morning." She muttered back, glancing at her friend, trying to guage her reaction. Liza paled slightly.
"Was it a bad one?" Grace shook her head.
"I'm here, aren't I? He was awake and aware when I left."
Eli was three when he was diagnosed with epilepsy after he tripped and fell awkwardly down the stairs. He'd been in intensive care for nearly two weeks. She had been nine at the time, and nowadays,she spent as much time with him as she could, to remind herself of the time she'd nearly lost him.
Liza was the only one who knew about his condition, and on the days Grace was late, Liza covered for her with the teachers.That was another reason why the two of them were such good friends; they looked out for one another without having to be asked.
Now, she nodded, and probed no further into whatever had happened at home that morning. She was glad Liza knew when she didn't want to talk about things.
The class looked up as there was a timid knock on the door, eager to see who else was brave enough to interrupt Mrs. Phillips for a second time in one lesson. She raised her eyebrow, and hissed quietly under her breath as she wrenched open the door.
Stood on the other side, was a boy quite unlike anything Grace had ever seen, and judging from the reaction of the rest of the people in her class, they hadn't seen anything like him either.
He had blond hair, swept in a messy disarray across his head, and his eyes were a shocking, stormy gray, in which flecks of silver danced as the light bounced against them. But this was not what surprised people about the boy.
It was the scars.
He was wearing a black t-shirt, with short sleeves, leaving them in full view for everyone to see, to stare at. Grace couldn't help but admire the courage that must take for him to do.
They ran from the tips of his fingers, angry red lines that still looked painful now, let alone what they must have felt like when he got them, trailing up his forearms, over his elbow and disappearing into the sleeve of his top. They seemed to dance, weave around his arms, twisting and turning as they crossed each other, tracing an intricate pattern across his muscles.
"Oh my God." Liza breathed, eyes wide and mouth agape.
"I know." Grace replied, assuming they were both thinking that same thing.
"They're horrific." Grace blinked at her blankly.
"I said, they're horrific, Grace. Weren't you listening?" Liza frowned at her, confused that she could possibly thinking something different.
"Oh, yeah. Thats the word." Her eyes remained transfixed on the boy, who had now entered the room, and was politely introducing himself to Mrs. Phillips, who looked a little disgruntled, but indicated an empty seat on the back row for him to sit in.
"Class, this is Adam. He's going to be joining us for the rest of the semester." She drawled, looking almost as bored as she sounded.
There was a distinct humming as everyone started to chatter all at once, Liza included. Grace felt a little bad about gossiping about someone who was sat just a few feet away, and so sat there nodding along at the appropriate points, careful not to look too disinterested. It worked well; nobody cared that she was staring at the boy, rather than eyeing him suspiciously.
And then he turned around to look at her.