Fledgling, p.1
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       Fledgling, p.1
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           Tabatha Palomo
Fledgling


  Fledgling

  By Tabatha P. Palomo

  Copyright © 2013 Tabatha Palomo

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN: 1494772744

  ISBN-13: 978-1494772741

  Cover photo: © Photointrigue | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One…………………………page 5

  Chapter Two………………………...page 13

  Chapter Three……………………….page 20

  Chapter Four………………………...page 29

  Chapter Five…………………………page 42

  Chapter Six..................................…...page 51

  Chapter Seven….................................page 57

  Chapter Eight...............................…...page 64

  Chapter Nine…...................................page 72

  Chapter Ten………………………….page 79

  Chapter Eleven……………………….page 81

  Chapter Twelve………………………page 89

  Chapter Thirteen……………………..page 101

  Chapter Fourteen…………………….page 108

  Chapter Fifteen………………………page 113

  Chapter Sixteen………………………page 116

  Chapter Seventeen……………………page 128

  Chapter Eighteen……………………..page 133

  Chapter Nineteen……………………..page 139

  Chapter Twenty……………………….page 145

  Chapter Twenty One………………….page 150

  Chapter Twenty Two…………………page 159

  Chapter Twenty Three………………..page 167

  Chapter Twenty Four…………………page 170

  Chapter Twenty Five………………….page 174

  Chapter Twenty Six…………………..page 177

  Chapter Twenty Seven………………..page 181

  Chapter Twenty Eight…………………page186

  Chapter Twenty Nine………………….page 187

  Chapter Thirty…………………………page 192

  Chapter Thirty One…………………….page 196

  Chapter Thirty Two……………………page 203

  Chapter Thirty Three…………………..page 209

  Chapter Thirty Four……………………page 215

  Chapter Thirty Five…………………….page 218

  Chapter Thirty Six……………………..page 223

  Chapter Thirty Seven…………………..page 228

  Chapter Thirty Eight……………………page 231

  Chapter Thirty Nine…………………….page 237

  Chapter Forty……………………………page 241

  Chapter Forty One……………….………page 242

  Chapter Forty Two……………………….page 246

  Chapter Forty Three………...…………...page 252

  Chapter Forty Four…………...………….page 254

  Chapter Forty Five……………………….page 256

  Chapter Forty Six………………………...page 260

  Chapter Forty Seven………………..……page 264

  Chapter Forty Eight……………………...page 269

  Chapter Forty Nine………………..……..page 270

  Chapter Fifty……………………………...page 275

  Acknowledgments………………………..page 278

  Chapter One

  His eyes weren’t human. They were waves and sparks of all shades of blue, and they were ancient and new and everything that a high school boy had no right being.

  She shouldn’t have been able to see his eyes from where she was standing, especially not in such detail.

  Was he new? Even if they didn’t have any classes together, even if he was in a different grade, she would have noticed him. She found herself walking closer to the boy. He was taller than her, not something easily managed: another thing that made him stand out.

  “Nice hat,” Riley, a boy who sat beside Austin barely knew, snickered. Her eyes flickered up to look at the accessory in question. It was a pink knit hat with pom pom hanging from each end. Austin could have sworn that she had one just like it when she was a kid.

  The new kid looked away from her, and she swallowed as the link broke. All silly thoughts she had of him disappeared, just as silly thoughts often do. She watched with rapt attention as the two boys faced each other.

  “I like my hat,” the new kid said, glaring at Riley. The kids around them, mostly sophomores and freshmen, separated to give them space. They wanted a fight, and from what she had seen, Riley always loved to give one.

  The new kid looked around at the expectant faces, and smiled in a way that sent chills down Austin’s spine. He looked back at Austin, just for a second. In that brief moment, the hat was snatched from his head. It fell and they all watched as it hit the ground.

  Austin held her breath as she watched the events that followed. She found herself rooted to the spot, not participating but not helping either.

  Violence always fascinated her.

  The boy came at Riley, and Riley stumbled back, obviously not expecting the new kid to actually fight. The kids around her roared, some trying to get the best view and some struggling to get away from the scene.

  Riley’s punches were slow compared to how fast the new kid was moving. Austin didn’t see him hit the kid even once.

  She checked to make sure that her flip phone was safe in her pocket –it was- and sighed. She would tell her best friend about this later, but right now, she was going to do something about this.

  Why did Aiden have to be absent today? If he were here, well, she could hear his voice in her head right now. He would stop her from walking into the middle of the fight. He’d tell her to leave it be, to get to class.

  Except Aiden wasn’t here to actually tell her that, so Austin pushed that little voice away.

  Austin sighed, heavily stomping her way through the crowd, eventually coming to stand between the new kid and the rest. She barely paid attention to Riley, who was just now getting to his feet.

  “You okay?” she demanded. The new kid’s mouth twitched into a smile, just as he grabbed her arm and yanked her behind him.

  When the events caught up to her, all she could really make out was that suddenly the kid was in between her and Riley to protect her from a hit.

  A hit that never came. As Austin watched Riley lunge forward, with the new kid’s eyes still focused on her, a new body joined the mix.

  A pale, thinly muscled boy in a light blue button down was suddenly restraining Riley. Kai Davis, “Riley, we can’t have you getting suspended from the team for violence. We need you this year.”

  Kai looked from Riley to the new kid, giving him an oddly intense look, “Don’t waste our championship over this kid.”

  Kai had moved here at the beginning of sophomore year, just two years ago, and somehow he ended up being one of the most popular people in the school. He didn’t play sports and he rarely reached out to talk to anyone, but Kai was just the kind of person that people respected. He gave her a quick once over, making sure that she wasn’t damaged, and nodded to her as he walked away..

  His girlfriend and her lab partner, a girl named Chelsea, gave her a smile, “You okay?”

  She nodded and Chelsea walked away, quickly so that she could catch up with Kai. They looked alike in all ways but one—Chelsea was always smiling. She was good at pretending like everything was okay.

  Austin turned to the boy behind her, “I apologize for you having to go through that your first day. S
ome of the people here are…”

  She trailed off, gesturing around them. The boy got what she was trying to say, and said, “It’s okay. They’re only human.”

  “Aren’t we all?” she rolled her eyes at his flimsy excuse for them, “How badly did you get beat up? I only saw the last bits of it.”

  “Not badly at all, actually,” he shrugged, “You shouldn’t have put yourself in front of me. I can handle stuff like that.”

  “You seemed too busy defending that ‘cute girl’ to defend yourself,” Austin pointed out, raising her eyebrows.

  The boy chuckled, messing with the hat, “She’s only six. Or, she was six the last time I saw her. It’s been a few years.”

  "Is that right?” she asked, because that seemed like the right response, “Well, I have to get to class, so-“

  “What’s your name?” the boy asked. He took off his hat and stuffed it into his backpack, “Mine’s Dustin.

  “Austin,” she said, waiting for the response that she always received (isn’t that a boy’s name?).

  “Austin,” Dustin nodded, “It suits you.”

  That surprised her, and Austin turned away so that he wouldn’t see the blush that spread across her face. From his snicker, she could tell that she failed in that. She hurried away, heading towards her foreign language class.

  Austin, by nature, didn't like talking to the people around her. She didn't like exchanging words with the barristas at Starbucks and didn't like interacting with people her age―especially boys. Aiden had so far been the only exception.

  It wasn’t that she didn’t like people. She honestly did, but she preferred liking them from afar. Talking to new people was...well, it was scary. Or uncomfortable. Or boring.

  So far, Dustin didn’t seem scary or boring.

  That was her number one rule. Nothing was allowed to be boring. She wasn't sure when this rule came into effect, but as far as she was concerned, it was a good one to live by.

  Austin suffered through her first two periods (both taught by nasally voiced women who thought that their students enjoyed hearing about their personal lives), but visibly brightened as she stepped into her third period. She loved history.

  She dug out her notebook and started to copy down the bell ringer in neat, boxy letters. A loud noise to her left startled her, making her careful script turn into something that a third grader would write. She furiously erased it and rewrote the offending letters before turning her glare on the source of the noise.

  "Civil War history," Dustin grinned at her, "Fascinating.”

  When she saw who it was, the intensity of her glare lessened, “Dustin. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

  Not that she had expected to see him in any of her classes. She hadn’t really thought of the possibility.

  “You think I don’t like history?” he placed a hand over his heart, feigning hurt at what she had suggested, “I’m wounded.”

  “You like history?” she asked, getting the tiniest bit excited. She wouldn’t expect him to be like Aiden, who knew each and everything there was to know about the civil war, but she would take what she could get.

  “Actually no, you were right,” he shrugged, “History doesn’t excite me. I just had a hole in my schedule, and this was open.”

  "I like history," Austin said, her face flushing when she realized how defensive she sounded, "And Mr. Smith is the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

  "So the class is easy?” he grinned.

  "If you pay attention. He’s a great teacher," she informed him, just as Mr. Smith waltzed into the classroom.

  “It looks like we have a new student—oh, stop looking back at him. You’ll have plenty of time to look and gossip later,” he picked up a piece of chalk and underlined a section of the notes that Austin had already copied down, “This is going to be on the quiz.”

  He didn’t usually treat new students with such familiarity, but Austin didn’t think anything of it. While Mr. Smith dove straight into describing the specific weaponry used in the war, Dustin leaned closer to Austin, majorly invading her personal space.

  Austin whispered, leaning away, “Mr. Smith’s tests are insanely hard. You’re going to want to write this down.”

  “I’ll get it later,” he assured her. Austin frowned at him, “Okay, so this girl invited me to some party.”

  “Who did?” she asked. She didn’t like gossip, but she felt that was the appropriate response

  “I have no idea, but the party sounds sick. I haven’t been to one in forever,” he beamed. Austin decided not to comment on his choice of words, even though she firmly believed that the word ‘sick’ belonged back in the 90’s, “Come with me.”

  She knew which party he was talking about, of course. Chelsea invited her to her and Kai’s parties every time they had one.

  According to the girl, she and Kai were in the same boat when it came to parties, except Kai had always had to go. Chelsea was forever talking about how she was always roping him into social events.

  Dustin continued before she could give him an answer, "I dunno if it’s that kind of party, but I wouldn’t get drunk with you. Sorry.

  "I don't drink," she sniffed, putting the notes back into her orange folder. Dustin chuckled under his breath, like he had expected that answer. Good for him.

  "Okay, so you won't drink and I won't drink. I'll see you there," he said, running a hand through his messy hair like that settled it. Austin glared at him.

  "I'm not going," she crossed her arms over her chest. Parties weren't her scene.

  “Dustin Knight,” Mr. Smith placed a hand on the new student’s desk, making them both jump, “I’d like to see you after class. And Austin,” he raised his eyebrows, “You’re my best student. Try not to fall behind.”

  “Don’t worry. I won’t,” Austin nodded, her cheeks hot and uncomfortable at being caught slacking off. Once the bell had run, she gave Dustin a quick goodbye.

  “See you tonight,” he gave her a small salute, his tone thick with fake implications. She wondered who the bigger idiot was in this friendship (were they friends?): him, or her?

  “No, you won’t,” she promised him. She should have known that he would say something like that. Not bothering to watch for his reaction, she walked out of the classroom.

  “What was that about?” Kai’s girlfriend, Chelsea, attached herself to Austin’s side as soon as they were both out of the classroom. She sat near to Austin’s seat, at the second row from the back, so she would have noticed Mr. Smith come over to talk to the two of them.

  Austin shrugged.

  "He doesn't seem like he's your type," Chelsea said to her as soon as she had exited the classroom. They sat next to each other in science, and Chelsea always helped her with the things she didn't understand, "And I thought you liked Aiden."

  "We're all just friends," Austin assured her quickly. At the beginning of the year, some girls had gotten the wrong message, and things had gotten pretty bad for her. Everyone seemed to get the wrong message, and Austin didn’t want the rumor starting up again.

  "You sure?" she raised her eyebrows, and giggled. A shadow of something flickered across her face (worry?), but disappeared so fast that Austin wasn't sure she'd even seen it, "Well okay."

  Austin took a deep breath and asked a dangerous, dangerous question, "Hey, when is your party?"

  "You want go to our party?" Chelsea asked, her mouth hanging open just the tiniest bit. Austin almost smiled at that reaction, "Okay, yeah. The party starts as soon as it gets dark."

  "Thanks," Austin nodded, trying to ignore the way her stomach was twisting, "But I might not be able to come.”

  She wanted Chelsea to know that this wasn’t a sure thing. She could easily, at any time, back out. She probably wouldn’t come.

  "Right," Chelsea laughed and turned to go into her classroom, "I'll see you in sixth period. And then at our party.”

  "Yeah," Austin nodded. She felt like
she always did after reading a thick, well-written book—she never knew what she should do. She could easily pick up another book and carry on with what she’d been doing previously, or she could do something different. Until now, she had always stuck to what she’d always done.

  But should she? Was that really the right thing to do?

  Suddenly, she wasn’t very sure.

 
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