The fluorescent light hummed a morose soundtrack–a fitting welcome for the first day of school.
Kahlan Amnell, Student Body President, stirred the burnt coffee in her styrofoam cup as she watched the meeting room fill up with fellow members of the student council. Like clockwork, they’d each march in, looking disgruntled, and make a beeline for the free coffee station.
Beggars can’t be choosers, but they could’ve at least sprung for some Starbucks for the first day back, Kahlan thought bitterly.
“Whoever invented zero period should have a special place in hell,” Leo said between loud slurps from his own styrofoam cup.
Zedd, the council’s faculty advisor, shot him a dirty look from behind his desk.
“Perhaps this will serve as a potent reminder for you–and everyone else,” Zedd raised his voice for the last bit,”that it is unwise to spend your school nights with the bottle.”
Leo scoffs. “It was a kegger,” he mumbled.
Chase, who was reclined in his chair next to Leo, chuckled at the other boy’s comment.
Dennee, who was the council’s Treasurer and Kahlan’s younger sister, rolled her eyes at the both of them. She and Kahlan shared a look of exasperation. Leo Dane was the Officer of Student Spirit, and Chase Brandstone was their Officer of Athletics. Both positions have historically been held by people that Kahlan would call ‘popular.’ Only to herself, of course. It seemed a bit juvenile to pigeonhole people with terms like ‘popular’ or ‘cool.’ This isn’t the 90s.
Nevertheless, Chase and Leo being on the student council probably had less to do with merits and more to do with muscles.
Speaking of which…
“Has anyone seen Richard?” Kahlan asked no one in particular. “the last text he sent me was ‘On my way,’ and that was twenty minutes ago.”
Just as everyone in the room shrugged or answered in the negative, the door flew open to reveal an apologetic Richard Cypher, their Vice President. His normally shaggy hair was even more unkempt than usual.
“Sorry, everyone,” he said sheepishly. HIs eyes met Kahlan’s, and she raised her eyebrow curiously.
“Cara needed a ride,” he elaborated and held the door open for someone behind him.
“Speak of the Devil,” Dennee whispered as the Devil herself strutted through the door.
Cara Mason was truly a sight to behold–her golden hair pulled back in a tight braid to add to the severity of her tight black ensemble and blood-red leather jacket. She wields that low-cut top like a weapon, Kahlan noted.
All eyes in the room followed Cara as she silently plopped down in a free seat, as far away from other people as possible. She acknowledged no one’s existence but briefly made eye contact with Kahlan before quickly looking away at nothing in particular.
Richard settled into the chair next to Kahlan. He kicked his backpack and athletic bag under the table before turning to her.
“Sorry,” he whispered, and Kahlan smiled gently in return. She always found it so difficult to be cross with Richard.
“Now that everyone on the council is present, we can begin with the first meeting of the year,” Kahlan announced in a clear, authoritative voice. “Mr. Zorander?” she turned to Zedd.
The advisor took over to begin introductions. He made everyone take turns to say they were, what office they held, and one fun fact about themselves.
When it was Cara’s turn, she let out an annoyed sigh. She only gave in–with an obligatory eyeroll–when Richard gave her his winning smile and hopeful, puppy dog eyes.
“Cara Mason. Sergeant-at-arms. I know ten different ways to kill a man.”
Leo whistled. “Hot,” he stated loudly, cocky smirk in place.
Cara pursed her lips, face scrunched into an impressive scowl. Kahlan could swear she heard a snarl from the girl.
Zed cleared his throat and attempted to move things along.
The rest of the meeting was spent reviewing the school’s annual calendar of events and brainstorming activities.
Cara said nothing else for the remainder of the time.
When the bell rang to signify the end of the period, the student council drudged out of the meeting room, stretching and yawning.
Kahlan and Richard made their way down the hallway together, as Kahlan’s AP Politics class was adjacent to Richard’s French class.
Cara brushed past them without looking back.
“Later, Cara,” Richard called after her.
“I don’t understand why you try so hard with her,” Kahlan shakes her head disapprovingly.
“She’s not that bad,” Richard defends her earnestly. “Cara’s just a little…”
“Pig-headed? Arrogant? Ornery?” Kahlan supplied.
“Reserved,” Richard answered with a pointed look. “She doesn’t trust easily, but she has a good heart. She was the only other person who witnessed what Rahl did and chose to do the right thing.”
“I do have to admit that was surprising,” Kahlan commented thoughtfully. “She and that gang she’s in are like personal cheerleaders.”
“Kahlan, they are cheerleaders. And Cara’s not exactly one of them any more.”
“Yeah, but the way they followed Rahl around,” Kahlan shrugs. “Regardless, I still have doubts about Cara being on the council. I can’t believe you nominated her for the position!”
Richard let out an indignant noise. “Everyone on council agreed with the choice. Except you and Dennee…” he added accusingly.
“That’s because they are all scared of her, Richard.”
“Well, then I guess it’s a good thing her job is to maintain order,” he quipped and gave her his best charming grin.
Kahlan shook her head but couldn’t help her lips quirking up in amusement.
The duo stopped in front of their classrooms, and Richard placed his hands gently on Kahlan’s arms.
“Please. I’m just asking that you give her a chance,” he pleaded. “I’d really appreciate it if all of my friends got along.”
“Are you guilt-tripping me, Richard Cypher?” she asked with mock indignation.
Richard smiled innocently, “Wouldn’t dream of it, Madam President.” He saluted, which earned him a smack on the shoulder.
“Insolence. But I promise I’ll be nice to your new girlfriend. Now go to class, “ she ordered.
Richard’s face flushed at an alarming rate. “We’re–she’s not–I,” he stuttered.
It was Kahlan’s turn to grin at Richard. She winked and headed directly to class without letting him finish his denial.
Sometimes, Kahlan wondered why it didn’t work out between them. Richard had been her friend since the third grade, when he jumped to her defense after some older kinds made fun of her for liking to read.
Everyone had always made comments about how close they were. Kahlan was the one to punch Darken Rahl in the face when he and his goons cornered Richard, after it was discovered that they had the same father. It caused quite the scandal and made any subsequent PTA meetings painfully awkward.
Then, during their freshman year of high school, Richard had asked her out on a date, and it all just felt so inevitable. Kahlan said yes, of course, and they dated for nearly two years.
But there was never a spark, at least not for Kahlan. When the lack of chemistry finally became too hard to ignore, she decided to have a chat with Richard. He was surprised, initially, but eventually agreed that it was best they part amicably.
After the last class of the day was done, Kahlan couldn’t believe how tired she felt. It was only the first day back, but already her homework and reading list were stacked. Aside from Politics, she also had AP Biology and Calculus. So no cruising through senior year for Kahlan Amnell.
She knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life, and that was to become a lawyer. More specifically, Kahlan wanted to become a public defender and eventually work for the ACLU. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, Kahlan could also hear whispers Supreme Court, because you gotta dream big. Shoot for the stars!
So she dragged her summer-spoiled body to the debate club meeting, despite wanting nothing more than to flop down on her bed and watch reruns of Murder, She Wrote.
Of course, most of the meeting was spent strategizing and catching up with each other on summer shenanigans. Kahlan was de facto leader of the group, simply because she had several years of student government under her belt and knew the logistics of running an organization. Her naturally commanding presence didn’t hurt either, or so she’d been told by several people–curiously, most of them teachers.
Kahlan did her best to move things along, but gave up any semblance of professionalism when her classmates were constantly distracted by their side conversations.
It was the first day back, after all. Kahlan signed and joined the others in recounting their break activities.
Kahlan quickly made her way to her car in the school’s parking lot. It had started lightly sprinkling while she was in the meeting.
Was rain normal for this time of year? Damn global warming.
Kahlan tossed her backpack onto the passenger seat of her white sedan. The car was nearly twelve years old, but Kahlan was very thankful to have it–reliable, with decent gas efficiency and roomy interior.
She especially appreciated the fact that she wouldn’t have to walk the six miles back to her house–a result of her parents deciding that it’d be nice to live up a hill away from civilization. In reality, it was a gated community. The mere thought made Kahlan uncomfortable, but she didn’t know why.
Dennee had already gotten a ride home from another kid, who lived a few houses down the street from the Amnells. She had no interest in waiting for around for Kahlan to be done with her meeting.
Kahlan shot a quick text off to Dennee to see if she wanted Kahlan to pick up dinner. She knew that their parents would most likely not be home–her mother was an attorney who worked unholy hours, and her father…
Kahlan gave up on worrying about his whereabouts a long time ago.
The light sprinkling had turned into full blown rain. Kahlan dashed to her car from the safety of the Chinese restaurant, where she’d just picked up her dinner order.
She turned on the heat immediately after staying in the sedan and hearing its engine turn over.
In the corner of her eye, Kahlan caught a figure emerging from the building next to the Chinese restaurant. The sign on top of the door was faded, but Kahlan could make out the words ‘New World Gym’ in bold letters with ‘mixed martial arts,’ ‘judo,’ and ‘self defense’ in smaller print.
The figure stood underneath the awning of the gym and stuck a hand out, as if to get a feel for the rain.
Kahlan finally notices a distinctive blonde brain poking out from under the hood of this person’s windbreaker jacket. Underneath all of the shapeless dark work out clothes, Kahlan could make out her trademark glare. It was definitely Cara Mason.
The girl walked over to the bike rack in front of the building and proceeded to unlock it.
Kahlan wasn’t quite sure why she was still sitting in her car, engine running with the headlight. off, watching a girl. Though, she was sure that this behavior was creepy and most likely inappropriate.
Some where in the back of her mind, a small voice–probably her conscience–told her to go over there and offer to drive Cara Mason home. It would be unsafe for the girl to ride her bike in the rain, and she knew Richard cared for Cara. She’d hate for him to be devastated if anything were to happen.
Before Kahlan had a chance to do anything, however, Cara hopped on her bike and tore out of there like a maniac. In the rain. Reckless, Kahlan mentally chastised.
There was nothing to be done. She was definitely not going to chase down the broody former cheerleader and insist on giving her a ride home. Kahlan finally pulled out of the parking space and headed home, hoping the food would still be warm when she arrived.
Cara was lounging in her corner of the room, chomping on an overstuffed breakfast burrito–Leo had given it to her with a flirtatious grin the moment she walked through the door. She was doing her best to ignore the rest of the student council, which was involved in a discussion of the upcoming Welcome Back BBQ.
“So it’s settled,” Kahlan stated, “I’ll drive into town after school to put in a deposit for the grill rentals.”
Everyone nodded except Richard, who seemed a bit perturbed. “I think it might be a good idea to bring someone else with you, Kahlan,” he suggested hesitantly.
“Why?” she asked with narrowed eyes.
“Well, It’s kind of a rough neighborhood. I can ask coach to give me the practice off.”
“Richard, I’ll be fine,” she said a bit curtly. He was always too protective of her, as if Kahlan was some damsel who couldn’t fend for herself.
“It’s just for precaution’s sake, Kahlan,” he insisted.
She let out a huff and was about to argue when Zedd spoke up.
“Might not be such a bad idea. Any of you available?” he asked the room. “Dennee? Can you go with your sister?”
She should have known Zedd would take Richard’s side. Kahlan glanced at her sister, who immediately grimaced.
“Sorry, sis,” she said apologetically. “There’s an audition for the fall play tonight. It’s for the role I really want.”
“Don’t worry, Dennee. Like I said,” she looked pointedly at Richard, “I’ll be fine.”
Richard slightly frowned before his eyes lit up and darted to Cara.
Oh no, Kahlan thought, this can’t be good.
“Cara,” he called to get her attention. “you’re free this evening, aren’t you?”
Cara’s burrito was half way to her mouth, and she looked over at Richard with extreme annoyance.
“And would you mind going with Kahlan?” he asked hopefully. “Since you know so many ways to kill a person.”
His comment earned a few quiet chuckles. Cara let out a long-suffering sigh before making eye contact with Kahlan.
They held each other’s gaze for a beat. Cara looked back at Richard’s pleading face, then again at Kahlan’s impassive one.
“I can,” she said, finally, with a shrug.
Kahlan watched Cara resume stuffing her face with the burrito. She was suddenly very conscious of how quiet everyone had become. All eyes were watching the two girls for some reason.
“Fine,” she said simply.” Kahlan had no desire to drag out this weirdly tense exchange any longer, and she knew Richard wouldn’t let it go if she refused Cara’s company.
Zed clapped his hands together, “Great! Now that that’s sorted out, let’s move on to the topic of entertainment. Anyone know a DJ?”
With that, everyone began chiming in with suggestions, some more outlandish than others–Kahlan’s pretty sure she heard someone say ‘Ruby Rose.’
She sneaked a peek at Cara, who was happily ignoring the others once again. This will be interesting, she mentally groaned.