Chapter 1: A thin line between love and hate
“Girl, this year is going to be sick! We’re seniors!” I roll my eyes as I watch my friend Juliet dance wildly around the girl’s bathroom floor. I’ve never seen her so excited. Snorting at her enthusiastic dance, I lean over the bathroom mirror, roll some lip gloss on my lips and smack my lips together. That’s when it happens. The vision.
I’m in some kind of church. I know it is a church because I look at my surroundings and see the cavernous interior, with rows of wooden benches. I lie in the center of the church’s pulpit, feelING dazed and confused as I pan to the right and catch a glimpse of a beautiful stained glass window depicting Judas hung from an olive tree with thirty pieces of gold gleaming at his swaying feet. The colors are breathtaking shades of amber, gold, and greens. I look back up with a gasp, seeing a woman standing over me with a knife in her hand. I raise my hands defensively, but she simply laughs and pulls me by my hair. Her lips curl into an evil sneer as she runs her fingers across my face. “Don’t worry, Leslie, it won’t hurt for long..”
My brow furrows with consternation at her words. Who is Leslie? However, before I can ask, she chants a few incomprehensible words and plunges a knife into my heart.
Jolted out of the vision, I flinch back and focus on a hand waving in front of me. “Hey, girl, are you okay?” I blink my eyes to clear my head and gaze back at the mirror. The only thing looking back is my reflection and my hunted emerald green eyes. Juliet stands behind me with a quirked brow, her expression set with concern. Thankfully, Juliet snapped me out of the vision before it could overtake me. Trust me when I say that my visions are the stuff of nightmares.
Trying to get control of my breathing, I place the cover on my cherry lip gloss and fluff out my long pin-straight dark hair.
“I’m fine. Sorry, I didn’t sleep much last night. My mom made me sit through practice for the Miss. Arcata High competition.”
Juliet rolls her crystal blue eyes and adjusts her long wavy hair. I’ve always admired Juliet’s hair with its gorgeous natural highlights; caramel, copper, and dark brown colors. She’s really hot.
“Seriously, your mom needs to stop trying to make you a Barbie doll copy of her.”
I sigh with resignation as I straighten out my short sleeveless jean jacket, tribal tank top, short orange flared skirt, and chunky brown belt. “Yeah, I hate it. But I have to do it, or she won’t buy me a new camera for the photography club.”
Juliet snorts but gives me a pitying look. “That sucks. Your mom is such a bitch. I don’t understand why she doesn’t like the fact that you want to be a photographer. That’s bank.” She says as she runs a mascara wand over her eyelashes.
I raise an eyebrow as she adjusts her blue halter top to show more cleavage. “Please don’t call her that. I told you how it is. She just doesn’t want me to have dreams. She wants me in front of the camera, not behind one. She wants everything perfect. She wants her perfect, beautiful daughter, with her perfect figure and her perfect face. God forbid I have dreams.” I say bitterly as I adjust my ivory thigh-high stockings and take a few deep breaths. I didn’t mean to go on such a rant about my mom. But anything having to do with my family can be such a hot button for me. Juliet places her hand on my shoulder with a concerned frown. “It’s okay, girl. It’s our Senior year. Once we’re done, we can go off to college and do whatever we want.”
I rub my temples and push away from the bathroom sink. Several girls walk in talking and laughing, unaware of our presence. I tighten my lips and move away when I see who they are. Two of them give me a dirty look as they make their way into the stalls. Their leader, Tiffany Gibbons, puckers her overly made-up face and stands alongside the vacant sink beside me. I notice again how hard she tries to emulate my style. She has the exact outfit I wore last Friday, except for the rose gold Yeezys I have. I guess those are hard to come by.
“Hey, Amara. I heard you’re going to run for Miss Arcata High this year.” She says as she runs her hands through her blond curls.
I move away from her and give her a superior smile. “Yeah. I am.” I can tell that she’s waiting for more, but instead, I pick up my Louis Vuitton messenger bag and walk towards the exit door. There’s no way that I’m going to play nice with Tiffany Gibbons. Especially since that girl has been out to get me for years.
I look back at a pissed off Juliet and nudge my chin towards the exit. “Let’s go, Juliet. We have science class right now, and you know how Mr. Shelton hates it when we’re late.”
Juliet picks up her cute Betsy Johnson cross-body bucket bag and sneers at Tiffany. “Bye, Tiffany.” She whispers sweetly as she passes by. The look on Tiffany’s face is priceless.
Without another word, Juliet and I step out the door. The hallway is packed with throngs of kids, using their four-minute window to switch classes expeditiously. As we make our way down the school hallway, our voices are drowned out by student chatter, lockers slamming shut, and cell phones chirping with the arrival of new texts and snap notifications.
Juliet glances back toward the bathroom door and whispers heatedly. “God, I hate that bitch. She acts like she’s the freaking queen of the universe. Every time I see her, I want to tear her fake extensions off.”
I shake my head at her quip, but I can’t argue because I feel the same way. “She’s not worth it, Jules,” I whisper, keeping my eyes straight ahead. Juliet snorts but does not say another word. The vision from earlier today comes back to me. This is not the first time I’ve had a vision. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I tried to tell my mom, but she simply rolled her eyes and offered me a Xanax.
What I do know is that the visions began after the “accident” sophomore year. Though, over the past weeks, they’ve become worse. It all started at the beginning of my junior year. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. It was the middle of the night when I found myself standing in front of my bedroom mirror. It was odd, though, because my reflection was talking. She─I was talking to myself, but I know I wasn’t talking. I don’t even know how I got up. It was the scariest moment of my life. Now I tell myself that it was just a dream, but I know that I was wide awake.
After that, I began to see odd things in mirrors. Sometimes it will be a person talking or a scene, like a trailer teaser for a movie. Most of the visions are fragmented, making it difficult for me to understand them.
One day I was combing my hair in front of my bedroom mirror when I saw a vision of a man striking a little boy in his car. I couldn’t see the man or the boy’s face, which was frustrating. The boy’s death was on the news the next day. I don’t know how I knew it was him, but something inside me told me that it was the boy from my vision, and it terrified me.
Still, lately, the visions are clearer and more detailed. That’s not the worst part, though. I’ve also been having bouts of cold attacks. Not cold like a chill, but a bone-chilling cold as if I’m buried in ice. It has been pretty scary having to deal with these sudden attacks. Thankfully, I’ve been able to stave them off with hot baths.
Unfortunately, now the hot baths are not working as well as they did in the past. Lately, it has been taking longer and longer to get warm. Trying to calm my mind, I shake off my thoughts and focus on the day. There’s really no point in dwelling on my visions.
The hallway is still pretty crowded at this time. Some kids are rushing by to get to their lockers, and others are simply cruising because they have lunch or study hall. I look at Juliet, who is still fuming over Tiffany. “Chill, Juliet. I don’t care about that anymore, and neither should you.”
She runs her fingers through her hair in frustration. “It’s just…I get so mad.”
I stop walking and shoot her an annoyed frown. Ignoring my glare, she crosses her arms stubbornly until eventually throws her hands up in surrender. “Alright, fine. I’ll let it go.”
I exhale a relieved sigh and continue walking down the hallway. However, I misjudge what is in front of me because instead of empty space, I run into a strong male chest.
Raising my hands up to steady myself, I can't help but note that the chest is warm and muscled. Too bad that it’s attached to the last person I want to see right now.
Scowling at the person in front of me, I pull my hands back and flinch as if they're on fire. Pretending that there's no warm tingle rushing through my body at the contact, I keep a blank face. There’s no way that I’m acknowledging those feelings in any way. Especially when it’s the man in front of me.
Kell Cross is sporting an annoyingly attractive smirk as he holds me up from my near fall. I don’t know what it is about Kell Cross that puts my nerves on end. Maybe it’s his sapphire eyes or his very existence that makes my breathing hitch as if I ran a mile. It doesn’t help that he’s extremely attractive, and he knows it.
Sometimes I think he takes pleasure in my responses. And it pisses me off even more because I fall for it. “You need to stop falling for me, beauty queen.” He utters coolly with his trademark, bad boy smolder.
I tighten my jaw and lick my lips. Kell cross is the school’s bad boy. He began school last year with his three brothers, Mikhail, Rowan, and Carrick. They were the talk of the school from then on. Four gorgeous boys who live in a home for troubled teens, they are definitely fodder for juicy speculation. It doesn’t help that they are all fine specimens of manhood.
When I first saw him walking down the school’s hallway, I was struck. He’s incredibly beautiful with his luscious lips and practiced smolder. Mikhail and Rowan graduated last year, leaving the two younger brothers, Kell and Carrick, to carry on their legacy. Kell is tall, at a little over six feet with golden-brown hair and blue eyes. His body is muscled and tanned. For the second he held me, I could feel his washboard abs and firm chest. He also has several body tattoos and a permanent smirk that makes me feel a mixture of emotions. It’s maddening and heart-poundingly sexy at the same time.
However, my slight crush didn’t last long. Or at least I’d like to think that I’m over it. He’s just too full of himself. Did I mention that he drives me crazy? Regrettably, most of the girls in school are crazy about him. I guess if you didn’t care about personality, he’d be the perfect guy. Plus, I hate it that he calls me ‘beauty queen.’ Ugh, it’s so annoying.
Adjusting my bag across my shoulder, I glower at his egotistical remark. “You wish, Cross. Now, would you please move out of my way? I have better things to do.”
His smirk turns into a seductive smile. I should have known that he'd take my words as a challenge. Instead of heeding my request, he stretches out his hand to caresses my face. His slightly rough fingers send tiny shockwaves across my skin, and my mouth dries at the sight of his tight navy blue sweater straining against his muscular chest. He’s wearing black jeans that fit snugly against his powerful thighs and a leather jacket.
“Sorry, beauty queen. I didn’t mean to get in the way.” He says with a seductive tone. I have to swallow a few times to find my voice and will my quickening heart to slow.
Thankfully Kell doesn’t notice. He simply continues to caress his tapered, masculine fingers down my jaw and whispers, “I’m sure you have to go and do something with that beautiful face.”
Feeling cornered, I slap his hand away and grit out. “Stop calling me beauty queen.”
At that moment, my eyes hone on his brother Carrick who is standing quietly behind him. “Would you please do something with your brother? Maybe put him on a leash.”
Carrick gives me a gentle smile and pulls his brother by the elbow. “Come on, Kell. We’re going to be late for class. You know you don’t want any more detention from Mr. Moody. Alex will be pissed.”
I lay a hand on my hip and raise a challenging eyebrow. “Looks like Kell is always getting in trouble. You should go before you get called into the principal's office again, Kell.” I say with a baby voice.
Kell loses his smile and grits his teeth. “Sure, no problem, beauty queen. I’ll see you around.”
He makes to move around me, but his words give me pause. Needing clarification, I reach for his elbow and ask. “What do you mean, see you around?”
He moves closer and licks his lips seductively. “I mean, see you around.” He says with a bemused shrug.
I look at Juliet, who shrugs her shoulders and raises a questioning brow. “I doubt we’ll see each other around.”
Kell smiles and looks behind me when a voice interrupts. “Come on, Amara, cut him some slack.”
I turn to my stupidly naive friend Haley and frown. Haley is one of those girls that thinks everyone is nice and has good intentions, but I know better. She gives me a warm smile and moves to stand next to Carrick and Kell. “Seriously, Amara, Kell is just being a flirt.”
I take a deep breath and somehow manage to stifle my grimace. “You’re right, Haley. I’m just having one of those days.”
Haley waves her hand and blushes. My brow quirks when I notice the wistful look in her eyes when they land on Carrick. Uh oh, it looks like Haley has a crush on Carrick.
Carrick is also very attractive. He’s tall with golden hair and amber eyes. He has the hot boy next door look down pat. Unlike Kell, he’s sweet and modest, which fits in perfectly with Haley’s skater girl looks.
Haley loves to change her hair color. This week her hair is silver, and it looks great with her beautiful honey-colored skin and deep, long-lashed, brown eyes. Haley is adorably short at about five feet, and she’s slim with a boyish frame. Today she’s wearing a black and red plaid shirt with blue jean coveralls and black leather boots. Juliet and I think she looks like a pixie with her pointed nose and wide eyes.
Just then, the first bell rings. It’s as if a bomb went off when everyone stops their chatter and scrambles around the hall to get to class.
Smirking, I gesture to the panicking students as I lead my friends down the hall. “We better go to class girls,” I utter gripping Juliet and Haley’s arm to usher them inside our next class.
“See you later!” Haley shouts to the boys from over her shoulder. I, on the other hand, refuse to look back.
The second bell rings just as we’re walking into class. Mr. Shelton gives us a reproachful look but doesn’t comment as we make our way to our seats.
Mr. Shelton looks like your typical mad scientist. He’s stick-thin with silver wire glasses, and wild, messy red hair. He always wears a rumpled brown suit and the ugliest ties in existence. Juliet and I speculate that he must do his shopping at the Salvation Army. Either that or he’s colorblind. Today he’s wearing an ugly red tie with green leaves. The poor man really needs a woman in his life.
Juliet sits in front of me with one of our other friends, Celeste, and Haley sits next to me. Juliet lays her bag on her table and turns to me, giving me an inquisitive look.
“What?” Unconvinced of my casual look. Juliet snorts and waves a hand to the door. “What was that about?”
I shake my head uncomfortably. “Nothing.”
I definitely do not plan to explain my mixed feelings for Kell to her. That's one secret I've never shared with Juliet because I know she will never let things go.
Snorting incredulously, she says, “Come on, Amara. You just totally went off on Kell Cross. What is the deal with you two?”
I shrug my shoulders and stare straight ahead as Mr. Shelton writes on the board. “There’s no deal. He just rubs me the wrong way. He’s so full of himself it’s…it’s annoying.”
Juliet takes her pencil in hand and twirls it around her fingers with a knowing grin. Ignoring her look, I pick up mine and begin to scroll down notes as Mr. Shelton begins to talk about neutrons and protons. Juliet leans closer and whispers. “Well…I mean…Kell is hot. Girls have been dying to get him into bed since junior year. Shit, he and his brothers are the school's eye candy. I’d do him.”
I roll my eyes when she releases a low groan and wiggles her brows mischievously. I want to say more, but I don’t because it would only encourage her. Instead, I look down at my notebook and ignore the pang of jealousy that I feel at her words.
“Yeah, well, make sure you wear a condom. Who knows where he’s been?” I say nonchalantly.
Juliet chuckles at my joke with a snicker, then turns back around and begins to work.
However, her words follow me throughout the day, which irks me because I know that she’s right. Kell would probably be incredible in bed.
Too bad that I will never find out.