Surviving High School: Chapter One

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Calla Lilies made from paper and, in the language of flowers, mean “regal.”

Chapter One

At first, skipping a grade seemed like a reward—an honor. A part of her thought she might even be presented with a certificate of some sort. But when she walked into the classroom, she realized the award she received from the school was nothing more than fanfare to disguise the hardship she inadvertently faced.

Rayne spent the better half of her first day as a junior in flushed silences as her new classmates scrutinized her. In their eyes, she was fresh, tender meat to tear into and there would be no one to stop them from devouring her whole. She barely had enough wit to take notes from the board and Mrs. Thompson, their Literature and Arts teacher. While she had a burning interest in the classical texts such as Shakespeare and John Milton, she enjoyed reading some of the more modern texts their school had integrated with the English curriculum. Pieces of literature such as The Hunger Games, Topdog/Underdog, and The Great Gatsby to name a few.

Her mind absorbed every tangible information she could understand and if she didn’t fully comprehend what was taught, she’d research the topic on her own. She had always wanted to know more about everything and constantly asked questions for her teachers to ponder critically before they answered. Unlike other fifteen-year-olds (and she was one of the younger members of her class before skipping a grade), Rayne had a tendency to spend her hours of free time with her nose stuck in a book—be it a textbook or some novel.

And she really wanted to inquire Mrs. Thompson about the inner workings of Shakespeare’s thought process when he was writing Hamlet. How could he write such a character who pretended to devolve into an insane maniac and still keep his sanity intact throughout his entire plot to trick his uncle and step-father into admitting the truth of King Hamlet’s death. Rayne found it all so fascinating, but her voice was constricted, chained down by her nervousness and inability to accept the haunting glares and sneers. She hadn’t wanted to open her mouth to vocalize what she thought or even both to answer any of Mrs. Thompson’s questions when she paused in her lecture.

The other juniors—her new classmates—clearly didn’t approve of her skipping a grade to join them, but what did they expect her to do? She couldn’t just drop back down to the tenth grade—not after she fought so long and hard to convince Dad she would be fine skipping a grade. Was this what he was so worried about? The ridicule and disapproval of her fellow peers? But that couldn’t possibly be it. School was a place of learning and becoming more knowledgeable than when they first entered.

Rayne’s fingers tightened around her pen, the plastic pinching her skin slightly, and she wondered if it was really okay for her to think she wouldn’t get into any trouble. Her eyes, a mixture of warm golden brown and flecks of green, closed as she took a deep breath. Everything’s going to be fine. I can do this.

Mrs. Thompson announced the reading assignments and reminded her students of a quiz for the first act of Hamlet. She stepped out the classroom to greet another teacher who’d been waiting politely for Mrs. Thompson to finish. Rayne gathered her notebook and pen as the bell rang sharply around the building. Her hands quickly shoved her books into her backpack while she stood hurriedly. The brunette needed to make it to the biology labs, which were all the away on the opposite end of the building from her English class, before the tardy bell rang. She’d never been late before and she wasn’t about to start now as she swung her backpack on her shoulder. Rayne had barely taken a step before someone—a tall, thick built boy who towered over her slim frame—shoved passed her with a snigger.

Rayne stumbled into one of the desks and her left foot caught the leg of a chair, destroying her balance and sending her to a rather unfortunate crash to the floor. Tears brimmed her eyes as her books and notes fell from her unzipped backpack. She rubbed at her eyes, ignoring the growing laughter of the boys who remained to watch the result of their plan. A dull ache pulsed from her knees, elbows, and her ankle prickled in discomfort when she sat up to gather her things.

Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, she chanted desperately as her chin began to quiver. How could anyone be so cruel? What had she done to deserve such a thing? Was wanting to learn and expand her horizons such a terrible thing to imagine?

“Oh, look! She’s about to cry!” A boy with tawny brown eyes laughed outright now as he hung off one of his companions.

“What’s the matter, small fry?” Rayne flinched away from the blonde boy who had knocked her into the desk chair. His smile merely widened at her fear. “You should have stayed in your own grade, brat. We wouldn’t even have bothered messing with you if you weren’t such a geek.”

Another one of their friends piped up with a sneer, “Yeah, who cares about this English crap?”

Rayne swallowed, hiding behind the dark chocolate strands as they continued to ridicule her for being smart. If she just let them call her all the terrible names they could think of and make fun of her for being interested in learning, then maybe they’d leave her alone. The first day of high school are always the hardest, but Rayne never realized the amount of hatred and disgust she’d receive. She clutched her notes and books closer to her chest and tried to ignore what they were saying.

“What are y’all doing?”

Silence swept around the room as the speaker swaggered in with such an intensity, Rayne stiffened and tried to shift away from his feet when he came to a stop behind her. His attention wasn’t on her, fortunately, and the iciness within his pale blue eyes seemed to freeze the air. She shuddered, her shoulders threatening to snap as her blonde rescuer stared down at their three classmates with contempt and rage. Rayne dared to peek over her shoulder up at him and choked.

His eyes were two chips of glacial ice they were such a vibrant pale blue-white and his hair was two shades away from being considered silver. She gulped at the defined features of his sculpted jawline, the smooth planes of his cheeks, the strong nose, and expressive eyebrows. Curious, she noticed the faded scar on the right side of his temple, marring the lower half of his cheek and jawline. Unlike her naturally tanned skin, his was a pretty ivory that seemed to match the “winter theme” he had going on. Something else she found peculiar were the well-tailor dress pants and untucked white button-down all male students were forced to wear. His black tie was loose and appeared more like a failed attempt to straighten and tighten it only to give up in the end.

For not the first time in her life, she wished she wasn’t confined in the short navy plaid skirt. Her cheeks turned bright red as the mysterious boy caught sight of her gawking at him. His eyes softened slightly as he gazed into her face and he winked.

“I don’t think she appreciated the rough housing, boys,” he drawled out with a menacing lilt under his nonchalant words.

The leader of the three boys who’d orchestrated a beat down on Rayne’s self-esteem, rolled his eyes and took a step forward. “I ain’t afraid of you, Luce.”

Her mysterious savior, Luce, merely chuckled humorlessly. “I don’t believe the three of you quite understand your predicament.” His voice lowered into a near growl as he stepped around Rayne and crossed his arms. The temperature in the classroom seemed to drop another ten degrees, and she shivered as Luce met the taller blonde brute toe-to-toe. “If you don’t want to see just how violent I can get then you’ll leave this kid alone. I’d hate for any of you to end up in the hospital like the last brat who got on my nerves.”

He put someone in the hospital? She shrieked internally, eyes widening comically as she stared up at him. Why am I still sitting here? The tardy bell—

Just as she thought about the warning bell, it gave a piercing wail throughout the halls. All hopes of not being late to class dashed, Rayne wondered if she might be able to sneak away while these bloodthirsty guys had it.

And yet, she remained glued to her spot on the floor.

Surely, the brunette was about to witness a brawl right in front of her (and get caught in the crossfire), but there was nothing but an eerie, buzzing silence. Rayne watched Luce and the other boy glare at each other until what felt like ages, the tall blonde brute who’d knocked in to her conceded. His gaze, bright with barely controlled rage, fixated on her shocked and bewildered form. Before he could possibly say anything to her, Luce growled something unintelligibly in his direction, which sent him and his friends scurrying out the door.

The breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding this entire time left her in a whoosh. She wanted to collapse right there on the floor as her shoulders relaxed and she visibly deflated. Her notes and books fell from her suddenly weak arms to fall into her lap. Rayne could only look at the ground in front of her, the feline-like eyes slightly glazed as she focused on nothing. She didn’t even notice Luce turning to face her nor did she realize his face was suddenly way too close to her own.

His eyes were gentle as he took her things and placed them back in her backpack. Rayne simply burned a hole into the tile floor of Mrs. Thompson’s classroom and wondered where the teacher had disappeared to. “What just happened?” Her voice was distant and faraway—even to her. Was she going into shock?

Luce chuckled, a warmer and deep genuine sound, as he picked up her bag with one hand and offered her his other one. “Are you alright, kid? Never knew those guys had it in ‘em.”

Rayne shook her head wordlessly, but grasped his hand thankfully. She wobbled a little but he kept a steadied hand on her shoulder. “Why would you help me? You don’t even know who I am.”

“Rayne Lycora, the only honor student within the Bright Children Program who has skipped a grade. Both parents are alive although they’re divorced. You live with your father, Derek Lycora, who is the Academic Chair for the English Department at the local university, and your mother, Lilian Lycora, works at a publishing firm two towns over.”

She blinked, staring at him dubiously as he grinned mischievously. “H-how do you…?”

“Welcome to the eleventh grade on behalf of the headmaster’s son.” Luce dipped into an elegant bow that didn’t appear at all awkward or out of place. She didn’t know what to make of what just happened as he smirked up at her behind thick silver lashes—those icy eyes warming slightly in mirth. “I’m Lucien Callan.”

Who knew that after meeting Lucien, she would fall into a world of despair and trepidation. All she wanted was to survive high school with minimal damage to herself, both physically and mentally. Sadly, Fate has a way of bypassing over even the best laid plans.