The alarm woke me. Turning to look at it, I saw the accusing red numbers glowering back at me. 6:45 Am. Already. I really didn’t want to move. No, I wasn’t hung over or anything like that, after all, I was only a high school junior. In fact I had slept the sleep of the just, and I merely wanted to stay longer. Nevertheless, seeing as it was a school day, if I didn’t move myself, someone else would, and he would enjoy doing that all too much.
I got up wishing I hadn’t got so much self discipline, and hit the bathroom. By seven, I was at the breakfast table with my parents. A few minutes later my brother Ken appeared looking miffed. He was the one who hoped I would have been still abed. “Good morning,” he managed, making it sound like a grunt, as he pulled his chair up, and asked, “What’s on today?” Nobody answered as all he had to do was look at the table. “Pancakes.” He whispered, seeing them at last. A year and some older than me, he liked to pick on me. He wasn’t the only one, but more about that later.
My parents were both musicians. Neither were famous or anything, but my dad had been part of a short lived group that had produced a handful of hits before I was born. Now he was a well respected producer who worked with several big names. My mother, well, she was in the music business too, but did something quite different. She had perfect pitch, something I didn’t really understand, and worked off and on helping produce the musical scores for movies. She also had a very good rep in her circles. The fact that I had never been interested in music beyond the latest hits was a bit of a disappointment to them. Of course I had been force fed more than enough when I was younger, so I was able to play the guitar, read music and manage quite a lot of other skills, but all that had tended to put me off. Fortunately Ken was an accomplished pianist, so they had stopped pushing me a couple of years ago, as in him they had the musical heir they wanted.
“Those bloody magicians are making the headlines again.” My father slammed the newspaper down in disgust, and turned to his food. “They’re demanding special privileges, just like the other weirdo groups.”
“Come, come, Myles,” my mother replied, “I’m sure they are entitled, since all the other weirdo groups, as you put it, have them.”
“Yeah, I know, Deidre, but they’re so small, and it’s all getting so bloody complicated. Anyway, if they really can do magic, I don’t see why they need any help.” It was a long running argument. I sort of understood both points of view, as the wolves commandeered wide swaths of several of the more popular National Parks for the best part of a week every month around the full moon, and my mother was very egalitarian in her outlook.
“Don’t forget love that along with those necessary, so-called privileges, come a whole host of matching obligations, all designed to keep everyone safe and happy.” Father grunted, and I heaved myself up and went to get my school bag together.
Ken drove me to school, and the first thing I did when I got into the car was put on my headphones. He always tuned the radio to an oldies station, which didn’t interest me at all. Wanting to keep in with my peer group, I preferred to keep up with the latest stuff. I was in a sort of funny place at school. I didn’t necessarily fit in, as my main non-academic interests were athletic, and I wasn’t exactly into makeup, clothes and looking my best. None of the girls at school could take the chance to snub me, however, as Ken was their number one heartthrob, something I just couldn’t get my head around. Okay, I suppose he was rather well put together, but to me he was just an annoying boy. It was mean of me, but I fervently hoped he wouldn’t end up in a relationship that looked to last, as that would change my status as the girl who shouldn’t be pissed off.
I felt a hand pull off my headphones as we stopped at a light. “Come on, sis, you need to hear this one.”
I heard the radio deejay say “…classic, Stranger on the shore.” Looking daggers at Ken, I went to pull my headphones back on, as the first bars came in. The next thing I knew, I waking up as we drove into the school lot.
“Wow, Jani,” Ken said, smiling, “I didn’t realize that the oldies sent you to sleep.” He reached across, and ruffled my hair, something he knew I hated. “What were you doing all night if you weren’t sleeping?”
“I slept great last night, and got up before you did. It must have been that crap really did send me to sleep. I’ll admit that what I heard of it was very soothing, but snoreworthy it wasn’t.” He messed with my hair again, and got out, leaving me to make my own way. First stop was the bathroom. I may not be vain exactly, but turning up in homeroom with bedhead was guaranteed to get me teased. I wore it short for convenience, and because I was so active. It also made it easy to keep tidy.
On the way to homeroom, I ran into Abby, one of three girls I hung with. “Did you hear?” she asked me, looking all enthusiastic.
“I haven’t heard anything today except my alarm.” That was me, cryptic.
She straightened her headband, and smoothed her designer top. “There are not one, but two gorgeous guys starting today. I saw them go into the principal’s office carrying identical book bags about ten minutes ago. They looked like twins.” She waited for my reaction. When I didn’t respond with the required eagerness, she said, “We can have one each, we won’t have to fight over them.”
Of course my reaction was way different. The last thing I needed was my brother to be dethroned as the number one guy. “Thanks, but I’ll pass. If they are that good looking, there’s probably something wrong with them.” I knew. Pretty boys tended to be arrogant and overbearing, I mean, I lived with one.
‘Help me out anyway, two guys means two girls, right?”
It was much too early for this, and anyway I wasn’t exactly looking for a guy, especially one who most likely had all the character defects of my brother. “Not interested. Look, if they’re that handsome, we probably couldn’t even get close to them for the crush.”
Taking in Abby’s disappointed expression I relented. “Okay, if one of them does come onto me, I’ll do my best to get you an intro, but you know I’m not so good with boys.” It wasn’t that my hormones were asleep, or that I went for girls, it was just that the whole dance seemed so superficial, and doomed. I had yet to meet a guy who stirred anything more in me than a rather detached appreciation for the male form.
“Let’s face it, Jani,” she shot back, knowing me all too well, “you need some more experience.”
She was right, of course. Two stolen kisses, one ending with an unexpected and unwanted grope I’d had to slap away, had not given me much to go on. I gave her a sisterly hug as we entered the classroom, and told her, “Let’s see what happens.”
After that, the morning went normally, and at lunch I sat outside in our favourite spot, underneath a big oak tree, with Abby and my other close friends, Jean and Dottie. “Have you seen the new twins yet,” Jean asked me, “they’re dreamy.”
“No, not yet, and it won’t upset me if I never do. Boys like that are a pain.”
“That’s because your brother gives you a hard time, forever teasing you.” Dottie said, waving her long ponytail around and mock swatting me with it.
“Anyway, all that teasing just means he loves you.” Abby said, looking me in the face, and blowing me a kiss.
“It might,” I replied, “except he’s my brother and I certainly don’t want him loving me like that.”
Dottie, who was sitting on my right, nudged me in the ribs. “Talk of the devil, here he comes.”
Without looking back I asked her, “Please tell me he’s not about to pour a cold drink over my head.”
Jean, to my left, gave a repressed squeal, “Oh, no, it’s way more than that…”
Abby finished for her “…he’s got those twins with him.”
That was it, I quickly got up, crumpled my sandwich wrapper and empty cup in my hand, saying, “Sorry, gotta run.” And walked, almost running towards a garbage bin away from my approaching sibling and his brand new acquaintances. I so did not want to run into those guys. Having dumped my trash, I then doubled round the far side of the tree, and ran slap into twin one, who felt like a brick wall.
I managed to keep enough cool to mumble ‘sorry’ and tried to escape, but his soft voice, which breathed, “Janice?” stopped me in my tracks. Fortunately or unfortunately, I heard a lot of girls giggling, and my attention landed on them instead of the twin. I immediately noticed that my darling brother had commandeered my old spot beside Dottie, who was all smiles.
“Ken,” I growled, “I’m beginning to get a bit old for your puerile pranks.”
“It’s not a prank; I just wanted you to meet my two new friends here, Alex, and Shaun. The one you bumped into is Shaun, at least I think so.”
I turned to the six foot plus brick wall, and managed, “Charmed, but excuse me, I was on my way to the girl’s bathroom.” I almost hoped he would think I had to change my pad, and would be polite enough to let me go. My rather abrupt and sharp behavior certainly suggested that was the case.
No such luck. Shaun placed his arm around my waist, and said, “You smell so intriguing.” Whoa, what a line, I thought. Perhaps he never had to take pickup 101. Mind you, he could hardly have found much in the way of nice things to say to me at such short notice, as I must have been totally frazzled.
By then his brother arrived and also put an arm around me. “My brother is right, you are the most interesting person we’ve met so far, and Ken has offered to drive us to and from school every day as it seems we live only a few doors away from you.”
That did it, I was steaming. I was so annoyed with my brother that I couldn’t speak, which was just as well, as Abby caught my eye with intent. After a moment my anger subsided, as I put duty to my friends first. “Boys,” I announced, moving towards my brother, somehow resisting the urge to kick him in the teeth, while disentangling myself. “I want you to meet my good friends, Abby, Jean, and Dottie.”
All three leapt to their feet, and while they took the guys’ attention, I made a successful break for it, and went to spend what was left of lunch hiding in the girl’s bathroom, and wondering how I was going to handle the journey home.
I had a class with Jean later, and when we left, I asked her if any of them had got a date or made friends with either of the twins. “Not at all, once we had all met them, all they did was look around for you, and they seemed quite miffed that you had scarpered. Ken even apologized to them, but let slip that they would meet you again on the way home.” She stopped me in the corridor, and brought her face close to mine. “Okay, girl, spill. What’s with you and them?”
“Nothing at all, apparently they live close to us and Ken offered them a lift. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. If it was a gym day and I had my running shoes, I’d jog home.”
“Oh come on, they’re everything you could want in a boyfriend; handsome, polite, soft spoken and ripped.”
“No, they’re everything you want in a boyfriend, guys who look that good always have hidden flaws. You’re welcome to both.” I pushed away from her, saying, “Gotta go.”
After the last class, I rushed to Ken’s car, as I wanted to make sure I rode shotgun. The last thing I needed was to be stuck beside either of them in the back seat.
A couple of minutes later, I heard them arriving, and kept my eyes to the front while firmly holding onto the door handle to guarantee my place in front.
“We normally have a different effect on girls.” A soft voice came from behind me.
I Looked, and couldn’t tell which one it was, so I looked at a point between them, the other being on the other side of the car, and said, “Don’t worry, it’s not you. The last thing I’m looking for is a relationship, and definitely not one with an overly handsome guy,” I paused, “or two. Especially one whose opening line is about how I smell. Please just ignore me as I have plenty on my plate right now.” With that, I jumped in, and pulled on my headphones, and listened to Lady Gaga singing, “Born this way,” with my eyes firmly closed. It, at least, didn’t make me sleep.
When the car stopped, I stayed put, thinking that the twins were being dropped off, but Ken ripped off my headphones, and said, “We’re home! I invited the twins in.” Last thing I wanted to hear, I hurled myself out, intending to rush to my room, pleading weight of homework, and firmly lock the door.
Unfortunately, Ken blocked the door, waiting for the twins, and, seeing my seething anger at him, told me, “Sorry, Jani, but all they want is a quick word with you, and then they’ll go. For some reason, they think you’re something pretty special.” He opened the door, and ushered the twins in, holding me back to whisper, “You are, you know, you have a near perfect bod, and if you ever bothered with a lick of makeup, the guys would be circling you more than the girls do me.”
“God, you are a pervert, I’m your sister, and anyway I have a feeling that they are the sort of guys that looks don’t impress.”
“Right, just like you.”
“Look, boys,” I told them as I went inside, “let’s make it quick, I’ve got a mound of homework to dig through.”
They both chuckled, and Alex said, “No, you don’t. In any case, you’re a straight A student.”
“That’s because I don’t slunk when it comes to my homework.”
“Look,” Shaun told her, making sure my parents weren’t home to listen to what he was about to say. “We’re shifters, and the first thing we noticed when we were at school was that Ken here didn’t smell like most humans. You smell a lot less human, so do you know what you are?”
Well, hit me with a two by four why don’t you? I collapsed on the couch, trying to digest the double whammy they had just laid on me. I buried my head in my arms, and after a minute of blind soul searching, I looked up at them, and admitted, “I’m a Janice, and that’s all I know.”