Authors: R.J. Ross
R. J. Ross
Copyright © 2014 by R. J. Ross
All Rights Reserved
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
~Other works by R.J. Ross~
Belle and the Dragon's Curse * Sundance's Syn * Missing: Witch * Destiny Thread
The Winstead Files Series
Courting the Beast * Snow White, Snow White * The Sleeper * Stiltskin
Arcadia Gamers Series
Croc Skins * Coyote Falls
Seasons of the Fae Series
Raven's Return * Death of a Dryad
Cape High Series
Super Villain Dad * America's Grandson * Hello Kitty * Don't Know Jack
* Aces Wild
"Mr. King. Mr. King. Mr. KING!"
It's the third one that actually makes me look up, then, automatically, look around for my old man. He's not here, but two dozen teenagers are, looking at me like I'm a moron.
"Mr. King, I asked you a question," the substitute teacher says as I finally look at her. Of course she's a substitute, the real teachers gave up on asking me things in my freshman year.
"You're wasting your time," Jenny says from the front row. At least I think her name is Jenny... she's a cheerleader, and honestly they all look like clones in varying colors. Black, white, Hispanic, doesn't matter, they're
a lot like photocopies. "Ace," and she drawls out my name, clearly saying she doesn't think it fits, "doesn't talk to anyone."
"I..." the teacher says, a few expressions crossing her face before she frowns. "I would appreciate you treating your fellow classmate more appropriately," she says.
"Jenna's right, though," a jock says. "Ace don't know anything."
"What idiot decided to call him 'Ace' in the first place, anyway?" Jenna asks the jock, earning snickers from the rest of the class. It's like I'm not even there, I think, so I go back to doodling in my notebook, pausing for a moment before digging through my pens for an inker. This wee
k's masterpiece is a detailed drawing of Panther. No, not a panther--Panther. He's a super villain. I've heard stories about him ripping people's heads off with a single swipe of his claw. Sure, I've never seen it on TV, but I still believe it--
"Mr. King! This is NOT art class," the sub says, making me look up. She's standing over me, her expression dark as she reaches for the notebook. "We do not doodle--" Then she stops, staring at what she's just stolen.
"What's he drawing?" Jenna asks.
"Is she naked?" the jock--Matt, or something--asks.
"It's not a naked woman," the substitute says quietly. She looks stunned, but I ignore that fact, grabbing my notebook from--trying to grab my notebook from her. Wait--what--it was there a second ago!
"Then it's a naked dude!" the jock says, laughing his head off as if he's made the best joke all year. There's mixed reactions to this, but the teacher totally ignores him as she heads to the front of the class.
"I'd like to have that back," I say quietly, unable to help myself. Look, I bet you think I'm a nerd from all that's happened so far, right? You're wrong. But we'll discuss that later. Right now this chick is standing in front of the class, turning my notebook around to show the entire class.
"I was told that you weren't good in any of your classes," the brunette says. She'd told us her name was Ms. Lotus, but she doesn't look like any Lotus I've ever seen. She looks like a retired model. Not the old retired models that are sagging or plastic everywhere, but the ones that retired because they made enough cash to never have to work ever again.
Great, now everyone's staring at my picture of Panther. I get up, crossing to the front of the room in three long strides, and grab the notebook. "I don't see how this relates to music, lady," I say lowly before turning and going back to my chair.
"You should have thought about that before drawing it in class," she says. Something's wrong here, I think as I sit down. She's not acting right. Usually I make teachers nervous. The tall, sharp looking guy in the back, the one with the hair hanging in his face. Pale white guy with dark, eerie eyes--I know they're eerie, I see them in the mirror every morning, okay? They shimmer with this strange silver line flowing through them, and you can barely tell I have a pupil. That I wear black all the time just makes me look more dangerous. You know, the kid they automatically profile as the guy that'll bring a gun to school someday.
This Lotus lady is acting all wrong. Even the rest of the class is picking up on it. There's a nervous tension in the room that wasn't there before, it's probably her fault--
Wait. They're not looking at her. They're looking at me. I look each of them directly in the eyes until they flinch and look away. The jock takes the longest to flinch, but I see a sudden sheen of sweat appear on his forehead, accompanied by a look of confusion. He thinks he could beat me, so he's wondering why he's reacting this way. Idiot. Like he's got a chance.
"Mr. King!" I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time she's said it again, so reluctantly I look up at Ms. Lotus. "See me after class, please," she says. The room goes silent and I feel everyone looking at me again. This is the first time in years that I've been the center of attention. I don't like it.
"Fine," I mutter, going back to my drawing as she starts up her little lecture again. I don't even know why she's trying, she's just a substitute. I'm really not sure why people are actually listening to her, either, I realize as I glance around discreetly. Even Matt is taking notes. Something must have happened that I didn't notice, huh? I don't think I'm going to ever find out, since nobody talks to me.
I wonder if she's got a thing for Panther. I mean, she looked really interested in the picture, even showed the class. Maybe she wants to confiscate the drawing or something. Seriously, why did she have to take it up to the front, anyway? I'm still scowling as the bell rings, but since I've been asked to stay I stay right where I am. I wonder why half the class is walking past me on their way out. Man that's annoying.
"Are you going to keep that?" one girl asks, making me look up. She's staring at my picture.
"Yeah," I say.
"You could um... put it online," the guy behind her says a bit nervously. "There's a competition on the Hall's fanpage--" He stops as I stare at him, then pushes the girl forward so they can leave.
"Panther isn't Hall, moron," I hear someone say as they leave.
It seems like forever before they're all out of the room. I spend the time finishing up the shading on my picture. "It's gorgeous." The sentence makes me jerk and look up at the woman sitting on the desk in front of me, watching. "How much do you want for it?"
"You're propositioning a teenager?"
"I'm trying to buy a picture of my favorite villain," she says. "I'm a Panther fanclub member--one of the founding members, actually," she says, pulling out her wallet and showing a card. "Fifty bucks," she says.
"You're not supposed to do this in school," I have to point out.
"Seventy five. If you sign it."
I stare at her.
"Okay, fine, but you're pushing it, mister. One hundred. If you add color."
"You do know this is a doodle, don't you?" I have to ask. "I've got a painting I need to do for art class--"
"I'll take it!" she says, her smile almost blinding. "It's going to be Panther, right? Oh, man, would that look amazing in my office," she adds, looking extremely happy. "I wonder if I could get Pan to come over and see it--wait, no, he's not allowed on school grounds..."
"Ah, just a... friend," she says. "Now, here's my email, so write me a note when you've got the painting started, would you?" she says, jotting down an email on a scrap of paper and handing it over. "I'll be here all week," she adds.
"Yeah, sure," I say, feeling a bit thrown off. I get up, packing up my things. "Can I get a note for my next class, just in case?" I ask. If I get another tardy I'll be in detention for the rest of high school.
"Oh, sure," she says, heading for the desk to write something up. She hands it to me and I head on to my next class, wondering where they hired people from. Wherever it is, they need to check their qualifications better.
You know how crowded halls are at high school? You can't walk a step without bumping into someone, right? Well, things don't exactly work that way with me. When I walk down the hall it's like that old story about a sea parting. I don't think it's even conscious on their side, they just sort of shift to one side automatically and a path appears in front of me. Most of the time that path comes with people blatantly not looking in my direction. Except for a handful.
"Hey," Matt says, stepping in front of me. We're the same height, but he's broader than I am. "What were you thinking back there, King?" he demands, getting in my face. I look him straight in the eyes, not saying anything. "You trying to speak up? Trying to be famous or something? You should just shut up and stay down, where you belong."
The entire hall goes silent, turning to see what I do. Matt's on the football team, one of those guys that actually plays, not just sits on the bench. I'm just the social outcast of the school. I'm supposed to do something at this minute in time, everyone knows it. I'm either supposed to do what he tells me or talk back and become that underdog that everyone roots for in movies. But this isn't a movie. So I just stand here, thinking of all the messed up things in my life and how insignificant this guy is in the long run.
"SAY SOMETHING!" he bellows in my face. There's spit coming from his mouth. Disgusting. "You--" he snarls when I still don't reply. His hand comes up. It looks like it's in slow motion, but I don't dodge, just take the fist to the face. It doesn't even hurt, I think, not budging with the hit. He curses, grabbing his hand and almost whimpering.
"Matt!" Jenna cries out, racing forward.
"BREAK IT UP, BREAK IT UP!" one of the larger male teachers bellows as he shoves his way through the crowd. Not that there's anything to break up, really. I'm still just standing here, staring at Matt as he fights the urge to cry like a baby. I can see it on his face. I think he broke his fist on my face. Now that's something that will be in the yearbook. "What happened?" the teacher demands, turning to glower at me. "Did you do this?"
"His face broke Matt's hand," a guy said from the crowd. Everyone starts laughing, except Matt, Jenna, and the teacher, who is rapidly turning purple with rage.
"I don't believe that," he snaps at the crowd. "You, and you, both of you are coming to my office!" he says, pointing at me, then at Matt. I didn't do anything! You saw it, right? Like it'd matter even if I said it, though. Nothing I ever say in school is listened to. You wanna know why? Because one time when I was still a freshman they had us write papers on what our parent did for work.
I wrote "My Dad is a Super Hero."
Yeah, you see where this is going, right? Now picture this, a fifteen year old kid standing in the front of the room, awkwardly reading, "My name is Ace King. I'm fifteen years old and my dad is a super hero." Don't get me wrong, I knew even back then that there weren't many cape kids out there--but it was just like having a firefighter or a cop for a dad in my eyes. Everyone in junior high had believed me. But this was high school.
At first they'd laughed, sure. The teacher started making hand motions from the back, but I didn't know what she meant, so I went on, "His super name is Blackjack. He's an illusionist, and can--"
The entire class started throwing paper balls at me, yelling for me to stop lying and get off the stage. It was when the eraser hit me in the face that the teacher stood up. "That's enough, Mr. King," she said. "Why don't you sit down now? We can talk after class."
There'd been an hour long speech about making things up to become popular after that. She'd tried to come off as compassionate, or something, but it really just came off as condescending. When I'd gone home to talk to my dad about it, I wound up having to call him on his cell. He'd been out saving the world again.
He's always out saving the world. Or he was.
Now I've got no clue what he's doing. He had this huge argument with my mom a few months ago, and moved out completely. They're getting a divorce. It's got nothing to do with me, or so Mom tells me every morning. "This isn't about you, honey, it's about me and your father." Right. It's just like the lecture on "being honest, not popular." Really, that teacher was a moron. Everyone looked at me weird after that, you know? Maybe they didn't believe it. Or maybe, just maybe, on some level they did.
"Mr. KING!" the teacher bellows. I snap back to the present and look at him, wondering how long he's been bellowing in my face. "I said follow me! We're calling your parents!"
"Call my mom," I say, following him. Matt is glaring at me like I caused all this.
"I will call whoever I want," the teacher snaps.
"Call his dad, then," someone says from behind us. I turn, looking at Ms. Lotus and wondering when she got there. "And tell him exactly what happened here." I almost hear the words, "I dare you" in that statement. I'm probably imagining it.
"Ms. Lotus, I don't see what this has to do with you," the teacher snaps. "Substitute teachers--"
"Why don't I just come with you, then," she says, walking through the crowd. "You can show me a proper teaching method for dealing with bullying."
The teacher, Henderson, grits his teeth and nods, leading us all into the teacher's area and to one of the tiny offices in back. It feels extremely crowded in here, I think as I step in. Especially when I feel a hand pat me on the back, nearly shoving me into the room face first. I look behind me, shocked.
"Well, keep moving," Ms. Lotus says, grinning slightly. "We have a meeting to attend."