Marked by Time – THE FIRST FIVE

Prologue

I stared at the wall before me and took a brief moment to catch my breath. I was drenched in sweat and my body begged me to just stop moving. I didn’t listen. I wouldn’t. I was addicted to the rush of adrenaline surging through my veins, addicted to the anticipation of the fight. I thought my daily run was energizing. This made it look like I had been lounging on my sofa eating junk food instead of exercising for the last hour.

“Let’s go, Sky!”

 

 

I smiled, keeping my expression hidden from my training partner, before having to take a quick side step.

“Getting frustrated?” I made the mistake of letting a gasp come out in my taunt.

“Getting tired? Come on, Sky, your human’s showing.”

I used the wind to leap at least ten feet into the air to avoid his next blow. I turned to face him when I landed. He had moved the targets off to the side and was slightly crouched. I smiled and got into a similar stance. My muscles ached, but my blood hummed.

 I came alive.

 

“Not even close!” I shouted back. “Bring it on,” I said to myself more than him. He smirked slightly and I shivered in anticipation of the onslaught I was about to receive. He moved forward, more fluid than water and more aggressive than fire.

The dance began.

 

CHAPTER 1

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” My books were scattered all over the floor and the front of my jacket was covered in mud. A group of nearby students laughed as I piled everything in my arms and took off, the voices shouting my name all the motivation I needed to dart back into the covered hallway and keep running.

 

 

All I wanted was to get home without having to deal with them, but the second I got out of Spanish class, they were on me like a pack of wolves. I kept running, my hair coming free from its easy ponytail and my shoes trying to find traction on the slippery tile until I made it out to the grassy patch that connected the two buildings of my high school.

After having hidden in my house for the past three weeks during winter break, actively avoiding Camille’s and Melanie’s attempts at contact, they weren’t going to make getting home easy. I started weaving between people and slipping around corners as I made my way to the second building. I skidded through the doors and was almost trampled by the eager students who were leaving, having to juggle the books in my arms so they wouldn’t fall again. Behind me, the girls were facing the same issue as they tried to catch up.

“Skyler! Sky!” The high-frequency voices rose above the chaos that was the hallway of my bleak high school. They bounced off the white walls and ricocheted off the green, metal lockers that lined the sides. I kept running in the opposite direction, hoping they would stop shouting my name for the world to hear and that I could make it to the bathroom without getting caught.

 

“Sky!” The voice was coated in sugar, disguising its malicious nature.

“Skyler!” The second was whinier, but I expected as much.

The hallway quieted just a bit, and the two voices screeched my name loud enough for the entire hallway to go silent and part so I was in the line of sight of Camille and Melanie. I tried to follow the crowd, but it was too late. They saw me. I sighed and plastered on a smile sweeter than a piña colada. My cheeks hurt and I hoped my smile didn’t look like a grimace. Please, please, please don’t bother me. I’m almost home.

 

I straightened my back and slowed to a fast walk, my squeaky shoes marking my path. Behind me, I heard two pairs of heels frantically trying to catch up as the crowd of happy teenagers collapsed into the aisle they made and continued packing up their homework. So much for being left alone. Is it bad I was hoping they would slip?

Camille reached me first. “Hey, Sky.”

 

My smile miraculously stayed intact as I sent her a nod of acknowledgment. I must have looked pretty convincing if neither one of them commented. However, I noticed Melanie was sporting her “I know something you don’t” face, but that façade swiftly cracked.

“Hey, Mel. What’s up?” I asked her.

She suddenly looked as though she ate something spicy. Her face reddened and sweat dripped down the side of her temple. She started playing with her fingers and wouldn’t make eye contact.

“Uh, n-not much.”

“You okay? You look a little flustered.”

 

In typical Melanie behavior, she rapid-fired her response, “Thanks for your concern, but I’m fine- great, actually- now that Camille is letting me help with your surprise birthday party.” I heard Camille slap her hand to her forehead. “You weren’t supposed to know that last part,” Mel added when Camille looked at her with a glare that would scare the Devil.

“I thought I told you two I didn’t want a big party- or any party.”

“And I thought I told you that having a big party would be the best way to announce to the school that you’re part of our group. It has to outdo all the others!” Camille shot back.

“Guys, I appreciate the offer, but I kind of prefer to stay out of the spotlight. I’m fine with how things are now.”

Camille flipped her hair. “Sky, look, I know you’re saying you want to be left alone, but I think you would benefit from officially joining us. And just think of the party possibilities! I know it’s over a month away, but your birthday is right around Valentine’s Day. I’m picturing red and pink decorations and a red velvet cake with white frosting.” Her eyes glazed over as she stared into her daydream.

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