The hallway was a mass of organised chaos. It was five minutes shy of the 9am bell and the hallway was buzzing with the sound of a hundred different conversations. Adam Park overheard various words and sentences as he picked his way through the haphazardly moving crowd, headed for his locker. He managed to find it, and quickly pulled his books out.
He shut the short metal door and turned to try and pick his way through the mob that was the hallway, when a girl caught his eye. Her hair, dark chestnut brown, fell to just below her shoulders in gentle waves, the light reflecting deep red highlights. Her eyes, blue-grey and incredibly striking, looked directly at him. A little extra weight clung to her stomach and thighs, yet she wore the cocktail-length violet sundress with an underlying confidence that the young Ranger failed to heed any more notice to her weight. He smiled softly as she passed. She returned the smile with an added blush before disappearing into the mass of students.
Adam turned in time for Rocky to clap a hand on his shoulder. "Oh hey, Rocky."
"You ready for the quiz?"
Adam shrugged. "As ready as I can be." He took one last look into the moving students, but didn't find her. So he adjusted his backpack on his shoulder and followed Rocky to class.
Skull followed Bulk through the halls as he did school day after school day. It had been that way since they were in Kindergarten. Bulk was always the bigger one, the stronger one physically, so naturally, he was the leader and Skull was the sidekick. There was no doubt Skull considered him a friend; he was the only one he had, and he had got used to his position and had learned to accept it, because that's the way it always was and always would be.
"Hey Skull," Bulk's voice slipped through his thoughts. "Fresh meat."
Skull looked up, and because he'd been in the bullying business for so long (or too long), he knew exactly what student Bulk was going to terrorize.
She was sitting alone at a table in the corner away from everyone else. Wavy chestnut brown hair partially concealed her face from view, but Skull knew this was her first day here. Her head was down, her eyes on an open page of a notebook. A pen was in her right hand.
Bulk grinned slyly; he was quick to snatch the dark green hardcover book from the table. "Ooh, a diary. I love diaries!"
"Hey!" the girl jumped up. "Give it back; it's personal!"
Bulk pulled the book out of her reach, taunting her. "I want to have a look."
"Yeah," Skull chimed in. "Just one little look."
"I told you, it's personal!" The girl reached for her book again. "Give it back to me!"
Bulk pulled it away again and Skull laughed, egging his friend on.
The girl's eyes flared as humiliation was replaced with frustration and anger.
The two bullies stopped their torment and turned around. Adam and Rocky were standing there.
"You heard her," Adam spoke up, "give it back to her."
"Oh yeah?" Bulk leaned in towards the Black Ranger. Adam stood his ground. "Why should I?"
"Yeah," Skull chimed in, "why should I?"
A pointed glare from Bulk had him rephrasing his statement. "He," he motioned to Bulk. "Why should he?"
"Because it's something that belongs to her," Rocky replied.
"And how would you feel if someone took something that was personal to you?" Adam asked.
Bulk and Skull didn't say anything.
"That's what we thought," Rocky said, while Adam retrieved the notebook from Bulk's hand.
Defeated, the two bullies left, swearing upon themselves to return.
Adam handed the notebook back to the girl. "Here you go."
She blushed. "Thanks. This was the last thing I was looking for on my first day."
"Them?" Rocky asked. The girl nodded. "They're harmless."
"For harmless, they sure know how to humiliate someone."
"They won't now that you know us," Adam smiled. "I'm Adam, and this is Rocky."
"Why don't you come have lunch with us?" Rocky offered.
Keeran shook her head. "Oh no, it's okay. I don't want to occupy you any more than I have."
"No, we want you to join us for lunch," Adam persisted. "Lunch should never be taken alone."
Keeran's blue-grey eyes looked between the two boys. The dark-haired teen had a point. And she did want to get to know some people. Why not start with these two?
She finally nodded. "Okay." She threw her bag over one shoulder and followed Adam and Rocky towards the snack bar.
"Have you tried one of Ernie's milkshakes yet?" Adam asked.
"You have to," Rocky cut in, "they are delicious."
"Oh yeah," Adam replied. "C'mon, I'll get you one."
"The chocolate ones are really good," Rocky added. "I like them."
"Rocky, you like all of Ernie's shakes," Adam quipped, leaning against the bar.
Keeran laughed quietly at the way the two boys interacted with each other. It was more than obvious they had known each other for a good long time. But more importantly, they were comfortable to be around, and being incredibly nice to her. Maybe this would be easier than she thought.
Rocky watched his friend try to get to know the new girl over milkshakes. He could tell Adam was interested in her and hoped this would pan out for the young man. He could sense a little shyness and reluctance on her end of the conversation, but figured that would pass once she got to know everyone and the city.
"Hey Rocky." Aisha's always chipper voice pulled his attention away.
"Oh hi Aisha." Rocky moved his backpack off of the stool beside him for his friend. Adam's attention never left Keeran.
"Who's this?" Aisha asked, her eyes on the distracted Black Ranger. When he didn't respond, she tapped his shoulder. "Adam."
The boy turned around startled. "Aisha, hey."
"Who's your friend?"
"Oh, I'm sorry," Adam blushed. "Aisha, this is Keeran. Keeran, Aisha. Keeran just moved here."
Aisha extended her hand to Keeran. "Nice to meet you."
Shyly, Keeran accepted the Yellow Ranger's handshake. "You too."
"Where were you before moving here?" Aisha asked.
The girl paused. Only Aisha caught it.
"Oregon, I think," Keeran replied. "I've been so many places, they've all kind of merged together."
"That's okay," Rocky said.
"Yeah," Adam added. "All that matters is you're here now."
Keeran nodded. "Right." She smiled. "You're sweet, Adam."
The teen's cheeks turned a light shade of pink and he felt his ears heat up slightly. His eyes remained locked on her.
Until Rocky called Tommy's name.
Keeran suddenly grew uncomfortable. "Hey Adam," she spoke. "I just remembered something I have to do for Science. So, I'm going to head out to get it done."
"Okay," Adam said, understandingly.
"But I'll see you after school?"
Adam's bright smile graced his face. "Yeah, of course. I'll meet you at your locker."
Keeran got up, throwing her bag over her shoulder. "Okay. See you later." She passed Rocky and Aisha quick smiles. "It was nice meeting you."
Aisha watched her leave, noting the speed and door she took to exit. To get to the Science department, she should have left through the doorway Tommy was entering from, not the one at the opposite end. The girl might have been new, but Aisha sensed something was different about Keeran. What that something was, she couldn't put her finger on, but something wasn't right.