"I've had several seriously sexual day dreams about the new guy. Have you seen him?"
"Cin, I didn't need to know that." I jammed my math book into my backpack, and slammed the locker door. Cindy rested her petite frame against the locker next to mine. Her radiant baby blue's twinkled. "No, I haven't seen him. Apparently he's . . . cute?" I asked.
She snorted. "Cute? No! He isn't a kitten. He's hot, sexier than hell, and has a voice that could melt chocolate."
I had to laugh. Cindy had a way with words. It'd been like that since first grade. We met our first day of school. She'd traded me her Twinkie for my apple with the line, "I don't think you should eat the apple, Snow White." We'd been friends almost ten years.
She was different than me in every way, except our blue eyes. She was the epitome of a waif, while I towered over her at five foot eight. She had blond hair that hung long, and was always perfectly styled, mine was a boring dark brown, and came to just below my ears. Her clothes were the latest fashion, as were her nails, makeup, and jewelry, including the heart shaped stud in her belly button. Me, well let's just say I didn't own any makeup, and my clothes consisted of baggy jeans, and large old t-shirts, thanks to my seven best friends, and their hand-me-downs. My nails were stubby, and my ears weren't even pierced. Honestly, I wondered if Cin found me embarrassing sometimes, but I gave her points for sticking around.
"Melt chocolate, huh? He sounds nice."
"Snow!" She stomped her foot. "Nice isn't even a proper word. It's in the same arena as fine, good, okay, and pure." She shuddered.
"What's wrong with pure?" I asked, unable to help a laugh, and started toward the gym.
She jogged next to me. "Nothing if you're Snow White." A look of amused disgust sat on her face.
I'd reached the girl's locker room, and pulled open the door. An immediate whiff of steamed perfume smacked my nose.
Cindy followed me in, and sat on a bench while I changed into my workout clothes. "I can't believe your parents are still forcing you to participate in Track. Haven't they seen you run?"
I huffed. "Rude!" But it was the truth. I ran like a herd of super klutzy elephants, or a drunk rhino. I wasn't graceful, or fast. It was just sad. Still, my dad and stepmother had agreed to buy me a laptop if I participated. I think they hoped I'd get some rhythm or become less bumbling if the coach showed me how to run.
Both Coach Sorensen and I knew there wasn't a snowball's chance I'd be getting more agile anytime soon, but he understood why I tried so hard. "For the sake of a laptop, I'll let you stay on the team," he'd said.
So I went to every practice, and every meet. I wasn't going to stop until something broke, or I was carried off the field on a stretcher. And one or either scenario was inevitable.
Sadly, my disgraceful running behavior had made me the brunt of several jokes.
"Hide the dust bunnies, Snow's on the loose. We don't want her to fall."
"What's the difference between Snow and a tree?" they'd ask. Answer: "A tree sways, Snow falls."
"What does a leaf, and Snow have in common?" Answer: "They both fall."
"Why'd the chicken cross the road?" Answer: "Because he was afraid Snow would fall on him." The jokes weren't really funny, or that creative, but they were shared within earshot on a regular basis.
As if reading my mind, Cindy asked, "Want to hear the latest joke?"
I gave her the eye. Of course not.
"It's actually kind of fun-ny," she said in her sing-songy voice.
I plopped down next to her, and slid on my Keds. "Do I have a choice?"
"Snow? C'mon." She smacked me playfully on my extra white knee. I couldn't help but notice how sun-kissed, and perfectly shaved her legs were compared to mine. I'd missed a spot or two . . . or three, in the shower this morning.
Sighing, I nodded reluctantly, and pulled up my tube socks.
"What's the only thing that runs worse than Snow White?"
I double-knotted my shoelaces, waiting.
"Come on, ask?"
A strangled snicker escaped her glossed lips. "A snowman," she said, laughing hysterically. "Get it? Snow man."
I forced a smile. "Yeah, that's funny." Standing, I slammed my locker with a little more oomph than I'd intended. The metal noise reverberated through the locker room. I wasn't angry. No point. It was true. Running and me were like oil and water, or Nutella and battery acid, we didn't mix. Still, I didn't enjoy hearing the jokes very much.
With my back to her, I said, "I'll see you later."
"Hey, we still watching a movie tonight?" she asked, her voice pouty.
I turned back. It wasn't my intention to hurt her feelings. She hadn't come up with the joke after all. She wouldn't do that. "Of course. Want to meet at the regular spot around nine?"
A brilliant smile lit her up. "Yep, I'll see you after my shift at Bertilinis. Invite the guys if you want."
The guys she referred to were my next-door neighbors. They were also my best friends. Their given names were Bart, Sebastian, Daniel, Dorian, Gabriel, Heathcliff, and Salvatore. They lived in a mansion with an old professor by the name of Adam Henry. I called him Professor Pops because that's what the guys called him. He wasn't their real father as far as genetics went, but I'd never seen a man love his sons more than Professor Pops loved his adopted boys. Sometimes I got a little jealous since my dad and stepmother were gone a lot. Like right now. They were in St. Bart's.
"Cool. See ya." I raised a hand in farewell, and pushed open the door that led out onto the field.
"Au revoir," she returned, waving.
I smiled to myself as I went outside. It seemed French was the new language Cindy had decided to learn. She'd already tried Italian, Chinese, and Spanish.
Chewing a nail, I headed down the stairs. One of my steps was too big, and I started to fall forward. Stretching out my arms, I braced for the inevitable. Out of habit, I closed my eyes. There'd be skinned hands and knees, along with some imbedded pavement rock, in this episode.
The fall never came though. I realized someone held me. He or she smelled like sweat, and spicy cologne—oranges, and cinnamon, maybe. The chest felt taut, and the hands seemed large. I was betting a guy.
Slowly I peered through my lashes. Dazzling hazel eyes watched me. His lips turned up in a half smirk.
"You should be more careful. That fall would've hurt."
I blushed. Flopping around like a dying fish, I tried to stand, and smacked him in the mouth with my forehead. A drop of rosy red blood immediately formed on his bottom lip.
He helped me stand and let go. I was surprised he didn't bolt.
"Sorry about that," I said, studying his handsome features. His hair was a sandy blond, and he was tan. I absently noticed that he was at least six inches taller than me, which made my heart do an excited pitter, skipity-skip, pat.
"It's okay," he said, a strange look on his face. I couldn't figure it out, but I guessed it fell somewhere between abhorrence, and shock.
I touched his lip with my thumb, and wiped the blood on my shorts. Yeah, not the sexiest of moves. "No, it isn't. Really, is there anything I can do? Help you find the nurse? Get you an ice pack?" I guessed since I hadn't seen him around before that he must be the new guy all the girls had been gossiping about. Not that I could blame them. Salem High School wasn't very big, and most of the families had lived here for generations, so a new student propelled the school into a frenzy the way a drop of blood excited sharks.
"Nah, I'll be fine." I noticed his black shorts hung low on his hips, and if it weren't for the white tank, I might've seen more than I'd bargained for. As it was I was able to see a lot. Muscles rippled down his arms. He had a trim waist, and by the looks of it, great-looking legs.
I blushed brighter, guessing both cheeks were the color of radishes.
"Okay." I glanced at his running shoes. "Are you on the track team?"
"I hope so. Coach is having me try out."
Oh, no. If he didn't do well, it'd be my fault. "Good luck," I said, looking up.
"Thanks, but I don't need luck." He smiled showing two straight rows of white teeth. Reminded me of a toothpaste commercial. "You wanna watch me?"
"Yes, sure." I couldn't help but smile back. He didn't seem upset or hurt. His lip didn't even look swollen.
"I'm Chace Charming," he said as we headed toward the field.
I snickered, and he gave me a sideways look. "It's nice to meet you, Charming. My name is Snow White."
In one glance I realized he understood what I thought was funny. "What were our parents thinking? I've considered having my last name changed. But if you can deal with yours, I guess I can deal with mine."
"I know, right?"
I was glad Chace and I walked together, because I tripped two more times before he led me to a bench, where I gave the coach a thumbs up, and happily sat for the duration of practice.