Author’s Notes: So, I actually went through with this idea! Yes, it is a bit long, but honestly, it just means more content. Hmm, I also am aware that Cassiopeia (whose last name I changed from Cygnus to Range) is leaning towards the makes of a Mary Sue, but I don’t care. I can make all my characters Mary Sues if I want. It’s my story, hey? Do I have a plot idea – well, not really, just the usual (be hunted but kill the bad guys who hunt you). Send me any questions you want answered and I will answer them in the next installment.
Chapter One – Cassiopeia
Three friends sat in their usual lunch spot, under a great, leafy beech tree that cast brilliant shadows on the cool grass and provided relief from the scorching sun. From under the leaves they had a wonderful view of the entire grounds of Perdus Boarding School, plus the amazingly beautiful backdrop. They saw the school’s charming white buildings lined with flowerbeds and surrounded by rolling hills, the large playing field, the misty mountains and valleys in the distance and the sparkling Grand Lake not too far away, where several groups of giggly girls were sitting.
This first boy of this trio was named Ray Randling, and he was a handsome, dark-skinned Italian with an almost permanent smirk on his face and a pair of eyes so brown that one could not distinguish the pupils. He was tall and lean – the only thing was that he had crutches, thanks to an unfortunate car accident that occurred five years ago. He was only eleven then and missed out on many things in life because of his injury.
The second boy was called Leaven Smith, though his friends knew him simply as Leaf. Leaf was basically the complete opposite of Ray. He was rather short for his age and had pale skin with a few freckles scattered here and there, vivid orange hair that stuck up at the back and bright blue eyes. He usually wore a cap to keep his shaggy out of his face, and indeed today he wore a Manchester United cap.
The third and final boy in the small group of friends was James Chris Aims. He was a bit like a cross between the two others. James had a painfully average look about him; he had normal black hair, boring brown eyes and a slightly pale skin tone. He also wore a pair of round glasses that needed a quick wipe.
Together, Ray Randling, Leaven Smith and James Aims made one of the least popular groups in the whole school.
They had claimed the beech tree as their territory from their first year at the boarding school. They had all been ten; now they were sixteen and in their sixth year.
The trio got out their lunch from their bags and compared lunches. Some of their lunch consisted of disgusting “meals” made by the lunch ladies, while the rest had been created by the owners.
Everyone compared the food the lunch ladies had provided them with on that day.
“Er, anyone fancy tuna and mustard?” asked James, holding out a badly wrapped and slightly smelly sandwich. He pinched his nose while doing so.
Ray muttered, “Are you kidding me?” but an excited Leaf immediately requested a trade.
“Your sandwich for … my banana,” said Leaf, holding a banana out in front of James, trying to tempt him.
“Your sick liking for mustard can only go so far,” advised James, but he swapped food nevertheless. Ray snorted as he watched Leaf devour the sandwich like a hungry, savage animal and James let out a small noise of surprise when Leaf moaned with pleasure.
“How can you even keep that sandwich in your mouth?” asked Ray, his tone a mixture of both amazement and disgust.
“Why shouldn’t I be able to?” said Leaf, revealing the disgusting mixture residing in his mouth.
James cringed, turned away and began to sip his chocolate milk silently. He tuned out the bickering of Ray and Leaf and took in the magnificent view. It was a much more interesting thing to do than listen to Ray and Leaf’s pointless arguments.
When Ray and Leaf finally stopped bickering, the three lay their heads in the soft grass and gazed up at the beech tree’s leaves. The soft rustle of the leaves in the wind and the chirps of birds could be heard all around them.
That is, until Morris Blackwood had to come and disrupt their moment of peace.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the threesome of lovers,” said Blackwood maliciously.
James groaned quietly and blushed a bit. He stood up with his friends to face Blackwood and his four cronies: Melissa Rote, Christina Doyle and Thomas and Jake Harris. Blackwood was quite obviously the leader of the popular but unbelievably rude and arrogant group, with a handsome yet scowling face, superior-looking features and shiny brown hair that he purposely messed up all the time. Thomas and Jake were two very big, very muscular identical twins, and Rote and Doyle were almost as identical as the Harris brothers were to each other. The girls had (presumably dyed) blonde hair, cold grey eyes and spray-tanned skin. Each clung onto Blackwood’s arms like disgusting, cold little leeches.
“Hello, Blackwood. Fancy meeting you here,” said Ray through gritted teeth.
“Haven’t you got anything better to do than stalk us?” shot Leaf, with a mouth still full of tuna and mustard sandwich.
“And I thought your level of sophistication couldn’t go any lower, Smith,” sighed Blackwood, feigning disappointment. The freckles on Leaf’s cheeks seemed to go a bit darker as the Harris twins guffawed and Doyle and Rote snickered.
“And I thought the level of wittiness in your insults couldn’t go any lower, Blackwood,” snapped Ray, leaning on his crutches.
“Oh, that burns,” said Blackwood sarcastically.
“What do you want?” asked James, wanting to get their little meeting over with.
“Seeing as you’re so eager to start business, Aims, I suppose I should tell you our little story. We,” – Blackwood indicated himself and his sidekicks – “were sitting down by the lake, getting some extra food from a few fellow students, when this tree suddenly caught dear Christina’s eye. All five of us agreed that it was a much better lunch spot than by the lake, so we’ve decided that we’ll sit here in the future.”
Seeing James’ blank expression, Blackwood put it to him simply.
“The tree’s ours now. Go away,” he stated.
“We claimed this tree years ago,” said Ray defiantly. James was just angry that Blackwood had the nerve to waltz along and take their lunch spot, while Leaf was still looking thoroughly embarrassed. The Harris twins were cracking their knuckles menacingly.
“Well, perhaps it’s time to start learning to share,” said Blackwood, smirking and advancing.
“You know what, Blackwood? I don’t think I’ve seen you share something in the entire time I’ve known – excluding sharing your filthy lips with Rote and Doyle,” spat Ray.
If any time was a good time for Blackwood to blush, it was now, but he miraculously didn’t. His face stayed the same pale shade it always was. James wondered vaguely if he had enough blood to blush.
Rote and Doyle, however, did. James supposed their redness would have been even more visible if they stripped away the make-up caked on their ugly faces.
“That may be true,” said Blackwood indifferently, “but we’re still taking this spot. Go and trot off to the seats near the garbage bins. You’ll feel right at home.”
“Bugger off,” scowled Ray, but then the sound of the bell rang through the grounds and James, Leaf and Ray began to go down the hill. Blackwood and his gang stayed by the tree and sat, seemingly satisfied.
“It’s class, you idiot,” said James, looking back.
“Oh, we know. We’ll just relax a bit. See you in class, lovers!” laughed Blackwood, and then turned to his cronies.
James, Ray and Leaf continued their descent. Students were piling into the buildings, chatting happily. Ray, however, looked quite annoyed.
Leaf also seemed to have noticed this. “What’s up?” he said.
“What’s up? Why didn’t you guys help me when that git Blackwood came along? I was the only one who was retorting,” ranted Ray, his shoulders ascending each time he used his crutches.
“Well – we are a bit wimpy,” said Leaf shamelessly, taking off his Manchester United cap. He held his hands out in front of him to stop the doors of the Music department slamming into him.
“You handle everything fine on your own, anyway,” said James, shrugging. They continued to walk through the Music building, which was packed with students entering and exiting doors and running to and fro in the hallway.
Ray glared at him as they entered M2, their music class. Half of the students that usually joined them in Music were already there, throwing paper planes at each other and gossiping loudly. A few mischievous boys were blowing loudly into saxophones and banging on keyboards. Sadly, the teacher had not yet arrived.
Leaf and Ray went in the back room to find their trumpets and James grabbed his violin. He was the only male in the class who played an instrument that wasn’t either some sort of percussion instrument, a saxophone, a trombone or a trumpet. Apparently anything else was a “girly” instrument. James disagreed whole-heartedly, though if he had the ability to change what instrument he’d learned when was young, he would have made himself choose one of the “masculine” instruments.
The eccentric music teacher entered the room just as Leaf and Ray retreated from the back room and James got his violin out of its case.
“Welcome, children!” shouted Mrs. Rosenhood cheerfully, shutting everyone up. The middle-aged woman strolled to the front of the room, her oversized, glittery skirt trailing along on the floor behind her. Several coloured pens were stuck in her painfully tight bun.
“Today, we are proceeding with our class band as usual. Please get your instruments!”
No one moved. The instruments were already set up.
“Oh, wonderful – such an organised class I have! Okay, let us play Autumn Leaves, and if we have time we might squeeze in the school’s theme!” said Mrs. Rosenhood excitedly, clasping her hands together.
Loud groans were cast from the throats of each student. The school theme was an annoyingly catchy, high-pitched and rather difficult song. Nobody liked it. James had often suspected that even the principal, Mr. Richards, detested the song.
“Oh, very well,” Mrs. Rosenhood huffed. “We shan’t play that song today. Now, set up while I get my metronome . . . it must be here somewhere . . . dear, dear, I am getting quite old . . .” Mrs. Rosenhood swept into the back room to look for her metronome, leaving everyone to chat or abuse their instruments.
Trying to be heard amidst the loud snorts of saxophones and ugly staccato chords from pianos, Leaf shouted, “I think I put a bit of your tuna and mayo sandwich in my trumpet!”
Ray mimed the action of vomiting and James made a face.
“Thanks for the information!”
Mrs. Rosenhood danced back into the room, spinning around on her tippy-toes, metronome in hand. She hummed a little tune to herself until she reached the front of the class. Everyone watched, his or her expression amused, although this behaviour was really quite normal for Mrs. Rosenhood.
“Right – on the count of three,” – she made the metronome commence its ticking – “one . . . two . . . three!”
The noise was deafening and the metronome could not be heard. Blasts issued from trumpets, trombones and saxophones and girls played squeaky cellos and violas. Other girls blew as hard as they could into their flutes, ensuring that absolutely no sound came out. The two rather muscly girls playing piano banged their keys loudly, only just reaching the notes in time. Leaf and Ray were laughing into their trumpets, which made strange sounds, and even James laughed a little bit, though he played his violin part properly.
Mrs. Rosenhood seemed quite oblivious to the horrible state of the music and hummed along, waving her flabby arms in the air like a conductor.
Of course, it was all fake. Music was a time to mess around. Everyone could play their part properly – that is, if they wanted to, and hardly anybody did.
The song finished with an over-dramatic drum solo and the sound of a gong. The class put their instruments down.
“Oh, that was absolutely wonderful! Now, let us rest and then play again,” said Mrs. Rosenhood cheerfully, clapping her pudgy hands.
But then the door opened.
The girl in the doorway stared back.
To James, she looked absolutely magnificent, though he could not tell if anybody else saw the beauty he did. Every aspect of the girl was breathtaking and unique; her hair was shiny, slightly wavy, fell a bit above the bottom of where her ribs would be and was a stunning combination of blood reds, sunset oranges and every colour in between. Her skin was unblemished and pale, her lips soft and pink. Her eyes were – there was no other colour name James could think of – amber. She wore a black leather jacket (James vaguely wondered how she could handle wearing something like that in the hot weather) over her school uniform, which was prim, proper and had a modest skirt.
James knew at once that he had a major crush on this girl, and he didn’t even know her name.
Glancing around quickly, he saw that nobody seemed to have seen her the way he did. They regarded her as an average-looking girl and James could not believe how nobody saw her beauty.
“Erm, hello,” she said to Mrs. Rosenhood with voice that, surprisingly, lacked nervousness. It was an average voice, oh yes, but James’ insides twisted up when she spoke. “I’m new here. And it, uh, it says here on my timetable that this is where I should be.”
“Ah, of course, I was told that a new student would be arriving. Come here, beside me,” said Mrs. Rosenhood happily, beckoning the girl over. She obliged, though she looked rather uneasy.
“Now tell the class, dear: what is your name?” asked Mrs. Rosenhood kindly.
The girl faced the class and James quickly tried to neaten his hair. Her eyes swept over the expectant faces of each student, and James’ heart leapt to his to his throat as her amber found his brown ones, even though it was only for a fraction of a second. “Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia Range.”
Goodness, thought James. Even her name is amazing!
“Such a lovely name! Do you play an instrument?”
Cassiopeia cleared her throat and faced the class again. “Yes. I play the piano.”
The muscly piano girls scowled at Cassiopeia, who shot them a filthy look back. Everyone but Mrs. Rosenhood saw it. James internally applauded her.
“Super. Why don’t you take Marietta’s piano – Marietta, come and take the keyboard,” said Mrs. Rosenhood, smiling. The scowl of the burly girl called Marietta deepened as she moved towards the faulty keyboard, while Cassiopeia took the grand piano.
“Now, I am sure you’ll be able to catch on quite easily, but in the meantime, you may practice your part while we play. We are playing a song called Autumn Leaves – here is your sheet music, yes. Okay, the rest of the class may play on the count of three. One, two, three!”
James didn’t stop looking at Cassiopeia for the duration of the entire song.
Music ended after three more plays of the stupid song. Cassiopeia had managed to play her part perfectly on the second try. When Music finished, she slung her bag over her shoulder and left the room before anyone else.
“She’s too proud,” said Ray, packing up his trumpet.
“Proud?” repeated James, slightly angrily. He felt inclined to defend Cassiopeia.
“Yeah. Did you see the way she looked at those piano girls? No one does that – okay, no one.”
“She’s just confident. And fiery, and determined, and independent, and feisty, and . . .” James trailed off when Ray began to laugh with a slight triumphant expression on his face. Leaf looked up.
“What’s so funny?” inquired Leaf, closing his trumpet case.
“Oh, goodness,” said Ray between his sniggering. “It’s nothing, Leaf.”
But when the whole class had emptied except for Leaf, Ray and James, who was still packing up his things, Ray chuckled quietly again and said:
“Hurry up, lover boy.”
James blushed furiously and scoffed, while cursing how well Ray knew him.