The corners of Emberlynn’s lips curled into a soft smile as her brush danced across the canvas in front of her. Though pencil sketching was her preferred medium, being able to paint in Art class was exactly what she needed right now — this was the most relaxed she’d felt all day.
To say that her morning had gotten off to a rough start would be an understatement. Not only had she been forced to endure a Chemistry test (which she was nowhere near prepared for), but she’d also had to put up with Dominick’s death-glare whenever she walked by his seat.
She’d thought things were getting better with him. In the past week and a half, he’d at least gone from hating her to ignoring her. Which, though not ideal, was at least better, in Emberlynn’s eyes. But now suddenly his previous contempt for her seemed to be back in full-force. But why?
Though she continued on with her painting, Emberlynn allowed herself to get lost in these thoughts as the end of the period drew nearer. She hadn’t even noticed when the bell rung. The only sign that class was over was the commotion of movement all around her — and the appearance of a tall, muscular figure standing beside her easel.
“Nice painting.” Trent’s low, silky voice reached her ears.
She felt her cheeks grow warm as she she gathered up her things. “Thanks.”
“Now I get why your costume was so epic.” He continued sincerely, heading for the door with her. “You’re great at this kinda stuff.”
Emberlynn shrugged. “I guess I’m pretty good, yeah.” She admitted. “It’s kinda my thing.”
Trent appeared amused at her reply. Her heart sank at the sight of the look on his face. Oh shit, was that bad? Was I not supposed to agree?! But… I AM good! Was I supposed to lie and say I’m not though? Does he think I’m totally full of myself now?! Ahhhhhh!
“Uh, but I’m not THAT good or anything. It’s just… It’s like a hobby. But uh, thanks.” Emberlynn added awkwardly, positive that all she was doing was making it worse.
Trent chuckled softly before replying. “So I was wondering… Do you wanna sit with me and my friends at lunch today?”
“There’s extra room at our table.” He continued. “And I think it’d be cool for you to meet everybody.”
Emberlynn stared at him, wide-eyed. “Everybody? Who’s everybody?”
“Oh, you know. Jace, Natasha, and Ren.”
Trent laughed once more. “Sorry, ‘Serenity’. She hates it when I call her ‘Ren’, but old habits die hard.”
Emberlynn nodded in understanding. “So it’s like a nickname from when you were kids or something?” OMG Why the heck is everything coming out of my mouth a question?! Oh shit, that was a question too, wasn’t it?
“Yeah… Don’t tell her I told you though.” He gave her a little wink and her stomach did a somersault.
“Good.” He flashed her a smile as he spoke. “So… I’ll see you at lunch then?”
“Yeah! See you then!” Emberlynn replied a bit too enthusiastically.
With a little nod of farewell, Trent turned on his heel and was off down the hallway, leaving poor Emberlynn alone and wondering if that conversation had really just happened.
When lunchtime finally rolled around, it turned out that her conversation with Trent had, in fact, happened.
As she carried her tray of food back toward the tables, Emberlynn saw him across the cafeteria waving her over to him.
With a quick, apologetic glance toward Cleo and Athena, Emberlynn headed over to join Trent, Jace, Natasha, and Serenity at their table. She could feel her two friends’ eyes watching her the entire time. And, from the other side of the cafeteria where she sat with some of her other friends, Zelda’s gaze burned just as intensely in her direction.
“Ah, there she is… our guest of honor.” Serenity’s high-pitched voice filled the air as Emberlynn uncertainty took a seat alongside the others.
“Hi.” Emberlynn forced a smile, having absolutely no idea how else to react to that bizarre greeting.
“Emberlynn, this is Natasha, Serenity, and Jace.” Trent nodded around the table to each of the others as he spoke. “Guys, this is Emberlynn.”
It felt so odd to be introduced to people she’d gone to school with for years. But then, this was the first time she’d had any sort of meaningful interaction with any of them. So they might as well have been strangers to her.
Natasha let out a harsh sort of laugh at Trent’s words. “We already know who she is, Trent.” She assured him.
Emberlynn couldn’t help her surprise. “You do?”
“Of course we do.” Jace finally spoke for the first time, smiling kindly at her as he did so.
“Oh… I guess I just never thought you guys noticed me before.” She admitted. Emberlynn had seen them eyeing her from a distance before, but she never knew that they had any idea who she really was.
Serenity smirked at her. “Oh, we’ve noticed. I’m pretty sure half the school’s noticed, actually… Especially the half with dicks between their legs.”
The others all laughed heartily at Serenity’s joke. Was she supposed to laugh too, Emberlynn wondered? Despite her embarrassment, she forced the best laugh she could.
“And speaking of dicks… Sorry about what happened with that little boyfriend of yours.” Serenity continued, sounding anything but sorry. “Donovan, right?”
“Dominick… But he wasn’t my boyfriend.” Emberlynn corrected her. “Or a dick. It just… didn’t work out.” She explained with a small shrug.
This time, it was Natasha who replied. “Well, looks like you’ve moved on to bigger and better things anyway, judging by that Halloween party…”
“Oh… You saw that?” Emberlynn bit her lip nervously, suddenly remembering that she and the boy in the Banana costume had been making out pretty intensely in front of the other party-goers before she pulled him into the closet.
“It was quite the show.” Trent teased.
This time, it seemed that the others could sense her embarrassment.
Serenity rolled her eyes. “God, we’re not like, judging you or anything. Relax.”
“Well, I’m judging.” Jace interjected, grinning widely at Emberlynn as he spoke. “10 out of 10.” There was the rustle of movement from beneath the table, followed by a loud thud and wince of pain from Jace. “Sorry, babe. I was kidding!” He muttered.
“I know you’re not judging.” Emberlynn replied quickly, hoping to save face. “It really wasn’t a big deal or anything. Just messing around a little.” She shrugged and hoped she sounded casual.
Jace’s smile had returned. “Well, it’s nice to see somebody who just does what they want without giving a fuck about what anybody else thinks, for a change.”
Emberlynn was taken aback by his words, but tried her best to keep her expression neutral. “Thanks… I guess I usually just try and have fun without worrying about anybody else. And if people don’t like it, whatever. It’s their problem.” Emberlynn smiled, hoping that none of them realized that she DID care very much what other people thought of her… especially them.
“See? I told you guys she’d fit right in.” Trent grinned at his friends as he spoke.
Serenity was giving Emberlynn another strange, appraising sort of look. “I like your style.” She said at last, smiling. “And I don’t just mean that costume of yours.”
“That was pretty impressive though.” Natasha jumped in. “Did you seriously design it yourself?”
Emberlynn nodded proudly, finally feeling somewhat at ease for the first time in the entire conversation. “And I made it too. It took months, but it was totally worth it!”
“How’d you end up getting into all that design stuff anyway?” Trent asked, sounding genuinely curious.
She was thoughtful for a moment before replying. “Well, my Papa and Onkels are really into costumes and stuff, so that’s a big part of it. And when I was really little, I used to like looking at old pictures of my Papa’s Oma. That definitely inspired me too.”
“Your Ur-Oma made you wanna design clothes?” Serenity asked curiously.
Emberlynn nodded. “Believe it or not, she was a supermodel.”
Trent and Jace exchanged an odd look, like she’d referenced some sort of secret inside joke between them. “Oh, we believe it…” Trent muttered as Jace let out a hearty chuckle.
Serenity gave her boyfriend another kick underneath the table.
Emberlynn barely touched her food as their conversation about art and fashion took them to the end of the lunch period. She was surprised at how interested they all seemed in her pastimes. And how… not-totally-awful they all were. Even Serenity.
As the bell signaled them to return to class, Emberlynn rose from her seat, smiling at the others. “Thanks for inviting me to sit with you guys today.”
“Sure. Let’s do it again sometime.” Serenity smiled up at Emberlynn as she spoke.
“Yeah… Okay! Sounds good!” Emberlynn replied awkwardly, internally kicking herself as she did so. OMG shut up before they un-invite you!
Trent gave her a nod of farewell. “See you around, Emberlynn.”
With that, she finally turned away from them and headed back to class, feeling both more excited and more confused than she’d felt in a very long time.