Melissa Starr looked out the window of her stepfather’s Cadillac and sighed as the Nevada landscape passed in a blur. The moving van full of her things followed behind them, almost like how a hearse follows a police escort. She didn’t want to move from the fair city of Reno, Nevada, but after her mother’s murder her stepfather decided it was best that he took her to where he lived.
Her stepfather was a doctor at the hospital in a small town called Ely, Nevada, the capitol of White Pine County, and she didn’t like that she had to move there with him. She had always loved the city life and now it was gone. She had never gone to visit her stepfather in Ely, before and now she was going to live with him. It was going to be hell on Earth.
“You’ll love this place, Mel Bell.” Her stepfather said. “I grew up here, the people are very friendly.”
Melissa looked at her stepfather and noticed for the first time that week how sad he was looking. His short black hair was unkempt and looked oily and unwashed, his brown eyes reflected a deep sadness that Melissa felt that he shouldn’t feel. He was the one who left them. Melissa felt anger towards him because he thought he had a right to be sad over her mother’s death.
“Glen, will you please not call me that?” Melissa said, rolling her eyes as she put on her headphones.
“Oh, I forgot you’re what, sixteen now?”
“Seventeen.” Melissa grumbled. “Just because you forgot my birthday doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
“Mel, I am sorry.”
“Glen, I’m only here because Mom was killed by a bunch of gang members.” Melissa said. “I would have preferred to stay with Grandma in Reno, but you had to come waltzing back into my life and whisk me away to this small little town in the middle of no where.”
“Just don’t talk to me till I graduate.”
“If that is what you want…”
“Yes, it is what I want.” Melissa whispered, as she continued to stare out of the car window.
“Alright then…” Glen said. “But can I ask you one thing, though?”
“You’re going to ask it anyways, so I guess you better go ahead.” Melissa said, as she looked at the desert landscape outside the car.
“Why didn’t you tell the cops about what happened to your mother?”
“What do you mean?” Melissa said. “Like I told the cop that found Alicia and I. We found her like that on our way home.” Melissa said. “Alicia just told the cop the hair brained story she came up with cause she is an attention hog.”
“You’re sticking to that then?”
“What is there to stick to?” Melissa asked. “It’s the truth.”
“Just don’t talk to me alright?”
“Alright...” Glen replied, with a frown as he drove the car.
Melissa rolled her eyes as she stared out at the Nevada desert landscape as it passed by the car. As the sagebrush and rocky desert landscape passed by the car, Melissa couldn’t help but feel as if her whole life was ending. How could her mother leave her when she needed her the most? Things were changing in Melissa, she had a secret and now no one would understand what was going on with her.
The rest of the ride to Ely was quiet; neither said a word to the other. When Glen pulled the car up in front of the big grey house on the corner of Park Avenue and 10th Street, Melissa couldn’t believe her eyes. It was the most beautiful house she had ever seen, with two stories and an attic. It was certainly an older house. It was an old Victorian house with white trim and a back balcony coming up off the second floor. It reminded Melissa of something out of a fairy tale, there were trees all around the edge of the property which made it look like it was in the middle of a forest.
“Like it?” Glen finally asked, after they had stood there for a few minutes.
“Can I have the attic?”
“If you want it?” Glen said, with a soft smile as he opened the door to the house.
Melissa almost recoiled at the ugly orange-red shag carpeting on the first floor and up the stairs.
“It’s hideous.” Melissa said, with disgust in her voice.
“Don’t worry; it’s going to be removed.” Glen smiled. “There are lovely hardwood floors underneath.”
Melissa just nodded and found her way to the stairs and up to the attic. There were two rooms in the attic, one had a nook in the wall for a desk and on a dresser on the other wall, the other already had a bed in it and a vanity with a mirror on the other side of the room. It was almost as if the place was built for her.
“Like it?” Glen asked, from behind her. “I’ve been renovating it especially for you.”
“You almost sound like you knew mom was going to be killed and you would get me.” Melissa barked, as she turned around and narrowed her eyes at him.
“With your mother’s line of work there was always a possibility.” Glen shrugged. “Plus there was a possibility that you would come visit.”
“Mom was a great cop.”
“Maybe but she didn’t know when to call for back up.” Glen said, as he walked over to the window. “In the end it was her undoing.”
Melissa turned away and fought back tears. “Is there internet?” She managed to get out without crying.
“There is a CAT five jack by your desk.” Glen said. “I wouldn’t want to deprive you of Alicia and the others. You need a cord?”
“Got one.” Melissa whispered, as she set her laptop bag down on the desk.
“Cheer up, Mel you’ll start making new friends tomorrow when you start school.”
“In this little, Podunk town, I doubt it.” Melissa growled, before going over to the bed and lying down.
“Whatever.” Melissa said before going to her desk and setting up her computer. It took her a few minutes to set up the network on her laptop before she could access the internet. In her email she had about ten messages from her best friend, Alicia, wondering where she was. Glen hadn’t even given Melissa a chance to say goodbye to her friends when they left Reno.
Melissa opened a new message and sent Alicia a quick email.
Glen came and got me this morning before school and moved me to the middle of nowhere. Apparently mom granted him custody in the event of her death. I’ll email you tomorrow when I am less tired and done packing.
Don’t worry about me, I am fine… for now.
Melissa shut down her computer and went to the part of the attic that held the bed, wishing that graduation would come early so that she could hurry up and get out of this small little Podunk town.
The next morning Melissa woke up with a start, like from a bad dream, but she couldn’t quite remember it.
“Mel!” Glen called up the stairs. “You’re going to be late for your first day of school!”
Melissa groaned and pulled the covers off and turned on her light. Her eyes focused and she saw a small blue box laying next to her bed which she reached out, but caught sight of the clock first and cursed. She was going to be late like Glen said.
She got out of bed, pulled on her favorite jeans and shirt, and ran a comb through her naturally black and purple hair and before bolting downstairs.
When she reached the kitchen she was amazed at how great it looked. I had all black marble counter tops and polished cheery wood cabinets and marble black and white floors. She didn’t have time to take it in because as Glen had said, she was running late.
“You’re not that late, the high school is just down the street.” Glen said, with a soft smile. “Breakfast?”
“No time.” Melissa said, as she dug through one of the boxes.
“What are you looking for?”
“The note from Doctor Calvin explaining my hair and ears.” Melissa said, as she pushed a strand of purple behind one of her pointed ears.
“It’s already in your backpack.” Glen said. “Now eat.”
Melissa took one look at the table and her stomach turned. “Meat?”
“Oh, I forgot the doctors in Reno say you can’t have it.” Glen said, as he pulled out his wallet, “Get something at the McDonald’s next to the school.”
“I have money.” Melissa said, as she waved the money off, grabbed her keys and left the house.
As Melissa walked up to the school with her black messenger bag she thought it was the oddest looking school she had ever seen. The schools in Reno had basically looked like prisons for kids, some had even had barbed wire fences and metal detectors. This school was open and bright. The lockers were placed outside and the hallways were open to the elements. The doors to the classrooms were on the outside of the building and it looked like the eating area was outside as well. Melissa felt that she would be a perfect fit in this school as she made her way up to the school with a smile on her face.
A pair of brown gold eyes watched Melissa as she walked alone towards the school. They watched her cross the parking lot and their owner couldn’t believe that he had finally found her and she was exactly as he remembered. He wondered why the ionization of the mother world did not age her like it did most of his kind when they traveled here. He decided it didn’t matter, she was safe and that was all that mattered. Now his mission could be completed.
Jason Marks waited until Melissa was inside the school before following her.
When she got to school the hallways were already a buzz with her arrival.
News travels fast in small towns… She thought bitterly, as she headed to the front office.
She gave the excuse for her hair and ears to the school nurse, and like her other schools before this one, the nurse had to call Doctor Calvin to confirm her disorder. She rolled her eyes, and made her way down the hall once the office released her schedule to her.
Melissa looked around her and she loved that all the hallways and lockers were mostly outside. Reno schools were all inside with the exception of Hug High. She loved that she could get fresh air anytime of the day in this school. She took a minute to take it all in before looking at her schedule so she could find her locker and get to her first class.
Walking down the hallway, she was so engrossed in her classes that she didn’t even see the locker door open until right before she collided into it.
She looked up from the ground and saw the most amazing sight she had ever seen in her entire life. Brown hair was tussled in front of his eyes, peeking out from under a green winter hat, just barely letting the yellow-brown sparkles of his eyes shine through from behind the strands of his hair. Around his eyes there was just the faintest hint of scars, as if he had come from a rough childhood.
Melissa could have died right then, and not only from his gorgeous looks, but also from the fact that it was his locker she had just gone face first into, dropping all of her books on top of his feet and possibly breaking a toe or two.
“I am so sorry” She whispered, backing up a bit before she bent down and started to pick up her books.
She imagined him bending down right in front of her to help her finish picking up the remainder of the mess she had created, but he never did.
“You might want to watch where you’re going.” He smiled “My name is Jason. What’s yours?”
“M-Melissa…” She whispered, as another girl walked up to them and placed a hand on Jason’s shoulder, causing Melissa’s heart to plummet into the bottom of her chest. She was so focused on the girl that she didn’t even notice the change in Jason’s face when she said her name.
The girl had obviously died bright red hair with blond undergrowth at her roots. She placed her hand possessively on Jason’s shoulder and had a look on her face that clearly said, Don’t even try it.
Great… Of all the boys in this small town I had to find the hot one with a girlfriend… She growled to herself. Why do I always have such rotten luck?
“What have you done to another poor girl, Jason? She looks like she’s run into a locker.”
Melissa had an feeling of forboding as she looked at the girl. She wasn’t the prettiest girl Melissa had seen but she wasn’t the ugliest. However, there was something in the girl’s grey eyes that told Melissa that the way she was being nice to Melissa was just an act.
“She…did.” He smiled, “She ran right into my locker.”
“And why aren’t you helping her with her things?” She smiled, as she bent down and helped Melissa pick up the last few scattered books and papers
“I didn’t want to risk bumping heads.” Jason smiled, “More of a headache for her in the end after all. Why do you care, Dawn?”
“Well, I don’t want to see this poor girl getting her butt kicked by a dork like you.” Dawn laughed, as she pushed her hair back a bit further and she handed the last few books to Melissa and she stood up once more, “Now, be nice to the poor girl, Jason. I need to get to biology class.”
“Well…have fun with that.” Jason smiled softly, “And…” He added, as he turned to face Melissa and she crawled back to her feet, “What class do you have next, Melissa?”
“I have…History next.” She whispered, trying to hide her face when she felt her cheeks turning a bright red. Hell, he’s way hotter then any of the guys at Sparks High, Especially the guys I used to date.
“Cool, I can lead you there. It’s right beside my English class.” Jason smiled, as he held out a hand in front of Melissa for her to take.
She took hold of it after a moment’s hesitation and he began to lead her down the hallways towards their classes. At that point she knew there was something special. Her heart had started to race when he touched her skin, and her face flushed as he led her towards her class, and he had not once said anything about her hair or her ears unlike the other jerk guys in Reno she had called her boyfriends.
“So how long have you lived in Ely?” Melissa asked hesitantly.
“About a year now, my parents got jobs at the school here so we packed up and moved.” Jason said, but he didn’t seem to smile as he said it, as if he was hiding something.
“Where did you live before moving here?”
“Somewhere very far away.”
“And does that far away place have a name?”
Jason chuckled softly. “Full of questions are we?”
“You didn’t answer my question.” Melissa frowned at him.
“Give me a few days… Then maybe I’ll tell you.”
“You’re very cryptic, you know that?”
“Tell me, do you like cryptic?”
“Depends on if it is worth it when I find out what you are being cryptic about.” Melissa blushed.
Melissa looked into Jason’s eyes and there was no way she would ever understand how she had gone through life without a guy like him around. Melissa didn’t know what it was but she felt instantly safe with this guy and he seemed like he was somehow familiar. She couldn’t place from where or for what reason he was familiar to her, but he was definitely familiar.
“Here we are, Room 132, right?” Jason’s voice interrupted Melissa’s thoughts and Melissa felt the blood rushing to her face.
“Yeah…” Melissa smiled weakly, thinking about how her vocabulary must seem very limited to him.
One of Jason’s hands brushed the hair out of her face and behind her ears.
“You shouldn’t hide those.” He smiled softly. “I like them, makes you look like an enchanting elf.” He added, smiling like he was keeping some sort of wonderful secret.
Melissa felt herself blush and she looked down and started to head into her classroom.
“Hmmm?” Melissa asked, as she turned around.
“What are you doing Saturday?”
“In this small town, nothing.” Melissa shrugged.
Oh crap! What if he likes living in small towns. She mentally kicked herself, but Jason just chuckled.
“There isn’t much to do in this small town I will admit, but come with me on Saturday and I will show you something amazing.” He smiled, before he leaned down and kissed her cheek.
“What about that girl in the hallway?” Melissa asked. “Isn’t she your girlfriend?”
“Who? Dawn? No…” Jason laughed. “She’s just my best friend… We hang out, but we bump heads too often to even be close to each other’s type.”
“I’ll have to ask Glen… But I say yes.”
“What happened to your real parents?”
“I never knew my biological father…” Melissa whispered. “My mother never really talked about him when I was growing up.”
“And your mother?”
Melissa froze and almost broke down in tears when she thought about it. “She was killed a week ago…” She whispered finally, after a few moments of silence.
“I’m so sorry…” Jason whispered. “What was she like?”
“She was… amazing, she was the best cop on the Sparks Police force… But she was stubborn; she always wanted to handle things herself. In the end it was what killed her.”
“I’m sorry, I know what it is like to lose a loved one.” Jason said softly as he touched her face. “You are very brave to come to school so soon after that tragedy.”
“My mom taught me to be brave.” Melissa smiled up at him. “The only reason I am here is to honor her memory.”
The bell rang and Melissa looked up at Jason and his eyes only showed sympathy, kindness, and something else she couldn’t place, like he himself was saddened by her mother’s death.
“See you later?”
Melissa walked into the classroom, there were a lot of glass windows around the room and bookshelves full of books, some that looked very old. She gave the teacher the note about her hair and ears, before she sat down in the back of the class, unable to think of anything but Jason.
After class Melissa sat outside the school during lunch not really interested in the meat filled food they were serving.
“Want some company?” Jason asked, behind her as he handed her some fruit salad.
“How’d you know I needed this?” Melissa asked, as she took the salad and scooted over on the rock she was sitting on.
“A fellow vegetarian knows when another is in need.” Jason smiled softly, as he opened his own salad.
“Thanks… I was just going to walk down to the McDonald’s and get a side salad.” Melissa smiled softly.
“Why didn’t you?”
“I got out here and I started enjoying the fresh air… We don’t have much of it in the city.” Melissa laughed. “Too much smog for anything to be remotely fresh, least of all air.”
“City girl, how fun.” Jason laughed.
“Guilty as charged… The one thing I will miss most is the malls and hanging out with my friends.”
“I am sure you will make new friends.”
“Haven’t you already made one?”
“I guess I have.” Melissa smiled at him as she popped a piece of apple into her mouth.
“Jason!” Dawn called from the bottom of the hill. “Are you being a loner up here again?”
Melissa turned her head, looked at Dawn, and felt a wave of jealousy come over her.
“Ahhh… I see,” Dawn laughed. “Preying on the new girl already.”
“I don’t prey on girls, Dawn.” Jason defended himself.
“Oh really, and how is it that I am the only teenage girl in this small town that you haven’t taken out on a date?”
“I just haven’t found the right one.” Jason shrugged, as he put a piece of banana into his mouth.
Melissa sighed and grabbed her bag.
“Just forget it…” She whispered, as she made her way back to the school.
“Thanks a lot, Dawn…”
“She’s the right one.” He growled, before going after Melissa.
“And how in the hell would you know that?” Dawn called after him.
Dawn watched as Jason ran after Melissa and she felt an intense wave of jealousy come over her. She stormed off towards the other side of the campus, trying to get Jason out of her head.