Chapter 1: Just Another Day

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 666

Crescent Bay the New Atlantis?: Not on Crimson Titan’s Watch

The middle-aged reporter with an impossibly white smile and stock photo background of Crescent Bay vanished, replaced with an empty black screen.

Principal Steele, her sunny disposition in direct contrast to her name, set the remote down on her polished wooden desk. Even when handing out punishments to students, something she regularly tried to avoid with her ‘three chances’ rule, it was never more than a slap on a wrist, an hour of detention at worst.

“No need for any distractions. I want to give my full attention to both of you,” she said, sitting behind the desk. “Now, I think it is only fair to hear both sides to—”

“Mrs. Davenport, this is not proper procedure. You cannot go in there.”

A frail, frazzled elderly woman, her eyes magnified by her round glasses, stumbled through the door, nearly tripping on the teal carpet. Her feeble attempts to keep the door shut (“I’m so sorry, Principal Steele.”) were thwarted by an irate blonde in six inch heels. It was reminiscent of a chihuahua fighting a bunny.

The blonde forced her way into the office, adjusting the expensive Prada purse on her shoulder.She sneered at the secretary, who shrunk under her harsh gaze, before scurrying over to the muscular teenage boy sitting to Principal Steele’s left. Using a tissue from her purse, she wiped the dried blood caked under his nose and staining his pristine uniform.

“Oh, my poor baby. Does it hurt?”

Her voice rose several octaves, speaking to him like a child. The boy, holding an ice pack under his right eye, swatted her freshly manicured hand away, embarrassed by her doting nature.

“Who did this to you, pumpkin? Was it that awful Gardener boy?” She cupped her son’s cheek. “Oh, he will be lucky to set a foot on that field when your father and I are through with him.”

“Mrs. Davenport—”

“Why was I not contacted about this, Serena?” She did not bother giving Principal Steele a chance to defend herself. “Bianca called me in tears. I would think that the school would alert parents first, instead of leaving it to a concerned girlfriend. Who paid for all the latest renovations?”

“Your husband,” she answered, somehow maintaining a calm demeanor. “And yes, I am aware it is the Davenport name on the field and the library. We would never want to forget his generous donations. I was going to have Mrs. Potts contact you once I had the whole story.”

“The story is that my son is being bullied. Look at his face. I want to hear it from the Gardener boy himself why he attacked him like some savage animal. I will not stand for it. I want justice for Barrington.”

Her icy blue eyes bulged at the sound of stifled laughter. Rory lowered her hand from her lips, though she was not quick enough to hide her grin. Barry, or Barrington as his mother lovingly called him, glared before wincing from the pain in his eye.

“I hardly think this is funny, dear. Who are you, a witness?”

“The savage animal.”

When Mrs. Davenport was stewing in the backseat of her Rolls-Royce, too privileged to drive herself, she was likely expecting the culprit to be James ‘Jimmy’ Gardener, the 6’3” musclehead and perpetual number two to Barry Davenport, not the 5’1” (“And a half,” as she would constantly point out) Rory Reyes.

It was not just her petite stature that set her apart from her peers at Crescent Bay Academy, a school for ‘gifted individuals’ (a loose term) pricier than some college tuitions. The school board apparently classified ‘gifted’ as children with extremely wealthy parents though there was the occasional child with actual talent, like Rory who was better known for winning first place at science fairs than being a trust fund baby.

Suffice it to say, she was a brown speck in the snowy white terrain of the prestigious high school, one of very few and treated more like an exotic animal than an actual person. Her so-called exoticness is exactly what led to Barry Davenport’s black eye and broken nose.

From the first day she arrived, a naive freshman unaware of the attention she drew in the standard uniform (a white button shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a far too short blue plaid skirt), the privileged sophomore, already a star quarterback, chose her as his conquest. The hunt continued for the next three years, despite the constant rejections. In his mind, no meant playing hard to get and in some twisted way, he enjoyed the challenge.

It was a day like any other, Rory gathering her books from her locker and waiting for her older brother Rhys to leave his adoring fans. She was in a bit of a hurry, wanting to test her newest invention, and when she heard someone approach, she was greeted not by her labrador of a brother but the arrogant smirk of Barry Davenport.

Near the water fountain, his friends were huddled together, watching him try yet again to get Rory to acknowledge him for longer than thirty seconds. Predictable as ever, she had his routine down to a tee. He always started with a compliment (“Looking sexy today” was most common) then bragged about a recent football game.

When she showed no interest, pretending to search her locker for her Chemistry book, he told her about his party to celebrate the first week back at school. His parents were visiting friends for the weekend, leaving him alone with a stocked liquor cabinet and a house as big as a castle. Her excuse of her own family outing fell flat when he revealed that Rhys agreed to have his band play at the party.

Choosing to be persistent, he amped up the charm until one too many noes led him to a more aggressive approach. His hand had barely touched her backside when she kneed him in the groin and slammed his head into her locker.

One second, she was trying to break through the raucous crowd taking pictures of the fallen football star or panicking over his injuries (Bianca Coyne’s shrieking a bit of an overreaction) and the next, she was dragged to the principal’s office by Coach Carson.

The door opened and a thin man in his early forties entered the office, catching his breath. Mrs. Davenport scrunched her nose at his disheveled hair and scuffed brown oxfords.

“Elena told me what happened.” Rory gripped the edge of her chair. “Are you all right?”

“Why are you acting as if she’s the victim here, Declan? My son is the one with the broken nose. Surely you care about all of your students equally?”

“Mr. Lockwood happens to be Rory’s father,” explained Principal Steele. “Of course, he cares about every student at this school but at the moment, he is here for her just as you are here for your son.”

There it was, the familiar look of confusion followed by the repeated flicker of the eyes between Rory and her father. It was not only at school that she stood out but also in her own home. The differences between her and her family were as clear as night and day, with Rory being adopted by the Lockwoods at three years old.

She remembered bits and pieces about her birth parents but nothing of the car accident that sent them hurtling over the Crescent Bay bridge. Her sole memory was waking up on the bridge, the man she now considered her father at her side and wrapping his coat around her body. He tried to save her parents as well but by the time he pulled her to safety, it was too late.

Declan Lockwood happened to be a friend of theirs from college, giving them money to fund their research. After the accident, he took Rory into his home and a month later, he and his wife Amelia adopted her. Rory chose to keep her last name, wanting even the tiniest connection to her parents. The Lockwoods treated her like family from day one, showing her nothing but love and acceptance.

Though he understood very little about science, he enjoyed listening to her many ideas and watching them come to life. He was considered one of the more entertaining teachers at the school, with his hands-on approach to history.

“Perhaps you should’ve thought more carefully before taking in your little charity case. You certainly need to teach her better manners.”

“Now, see here, Delilah. My daughter is—”

Principal Steele cleared her throat. “This is precisely why I wish to speak with the students first. I want this situation to be handled civilly. Insults and pointing fingers will get us nowhere.”

Her warm jade green eyes fell on Rory. Though she claimed to have an open mind, she knew the truth about her students, the good and the bad. Rory had never been sent to her office before, except to receive an award or discuss club meetings. She hardly rubbed people the wrong way, at least not enough to warrant a broken nose.

“Rory, I’d like to hear your side first. Coach Carson saw you slam Barry’s head into the locker so we’re not here to discuss if you did it or not. I want to know why.”

“Because he’s a vile sleazebag who can’t take no for an answer,” she stated, bluntly. “He’s been trying to get in my pants since freshman year and instead of taking the loss, he grabbed me so I hit him. It was self defense.”

Mrs. Davenport scoffed. “My son would never act in such a manner. What obviously happened here is that she reacted angrily to his rejection. Perhaps she was unaware that he’s been dating Bianca the past two years. I hardly see how that’s possible but—”

“Objection,” said Rory, raising her hand. “Witness is clearly using her own bias to blind herself to the truth that her son is a pig. If the court will allow it, I’d like to present my evidence.”

Principal Steele was at a loss for words (“Rory, this isn’t—this is a school, not a courtroom.) and looked to her father for assistance. As Rory tapped her phone, Barry’s smug voice filled the room.

“You should be grateful, Rory.  Girls at this school beg for my attention. They’d drop to their knees if I smiled.” The arrogant jock lowered the ice pack, his face pale as a sheet. “I’m a Davenport. Whatever I want, I get so maybe I’ll just take what I want. I’ll start with—oof!”

His cries of pain faded as the recording reached its conclusion, leaving the office in a stunned silence. Rory showed the hundreds of files on her phone, gathered over the years.

“If that’s not enough, we can listen to another. Ooh, how about last year’s Halloween dance when he said he wanted to slip his tongue—”

“No!” chorused the three adults.

Principal Steele, seconds from a heart attack, ushered her students out into the hallway, to have a private discussion with their parents. The moment the door snapped shut, Rory dug through her purse and stuck a silver circle, the size of a grape, on the wooden door.

“You dink she bedeebs you?” His speech was impaired by his broken nose. “Everyboby knows you’re a dech genius. She’ll dink you faked dem.”

She pressed her thumb against one of her earrings. “That’s funny, Barrington,” she said, mockingly. “Your stepford wife of a mom said the exact same thing.”

“How—let bo!”

Not wanting to miss a word, she twisted his nose. His mother’s defense was painfully predictable. When her attempts to portray it as a misunderstanding (“My darling boy would never hurt a fly”) failed to garner any sympathy, Principal Steele and the teachers well aware of the rumors regarding Barry’s boorish behavior around girls, she settled for pinning the blame on Rory.

In her deluded mind, his flirtations could not have been one-sided if she waited until now to reveal it to the principal. The truth was that her father knew of Barry’s daily harassments but not much could be done against lewd words and gestures.

Sensing that she would not emerge victorious, she threatened to pull her husband’s funding for the arts program.

“Let bo of by nose!”

Turning to the second rate Romeo, she squeezed harder. “Take the fall, Davenport. Shatter mommy’s image of her sweet little angel and tell them the truth.”

“By would I?” He sniggered, despite the pain. “Deele won’t lose dat money. She’ll dake the deal and gib me a warning.”

“Because if you don’t, I’ll show her your private videos.”

Her phone screen showed a dozen videos, all of Barry and his friends in uncompromising positions with girls. His eyes widened as a video played of him and Alicia Danbury, his supposed girlfriend Bianca’s best friend, getting frisky in the boys’ locker room.

“You really should think of a better password,” she said, pouting. “Seriously, 1234?”

“Gib me—” She jumped out of his reach, one hand on the door handle. “Delete dem! Do it now, you little bitch, or—”

He eyed her phone, warily. “Oh no, please go on. I’m sure your mother would love to hear how you treat young ladies with such respect. Is bitch an endearing term now? I’ll delete the videos on one condition. Imagine if a college scout saw these...”

Gritting his teeth, he tugged on the handle. In an impressive switch, his angry scowl turned into a look of guilt.

About a minute later, the door swung open and Rory hastily stashed her device into her back pocket. Her father stepped out, bewildered.

“Barry confessed,” he said, as if he did not believe the words coming out of his mouth.

She feigned surprise, following him to the parking lot. “Wow. I thought he’d say I was some lovesick groupie. He really told the truth?”

“As much as he could without drawing his mother’s ire. He’s claiming to not know it upset you and from now on, he’ll be respectful of your boundaries. Serena’s hands are tied due to his family’s influence but I suspect he’ll serve a detention or two and she’ll have the other teachers and I watching his every move.”

“Guess I’ll have to take it.” It was honestly more than she expected. “Oh, the perks of being rich and good at throwing a ball.”

“I don’t want you to worry, Rory. If he lays a hand on you again—”

A red balloon struck his face, soaking him from head to toe.

“Take that, scum—oh, hey Dad.”

Rhys, his arms laden with a pile of colorful balloons, stepped out from his poor choice of hiding place: a rose bush that barely concealed his tall frame. No doubt he had heard about the latest Barry Davenport incident and, thinking the school’s golden boy would get off scot-free, planned his own punishment.

Rhys and Barry had been enemies since kindergarten, from the moment Barry stole his designated cubby to be closer to Bianca. Once best friends, it all came crashing down, turning into an intense rivalry. Think Professor X vs Magneto except instead of fighting over important social issues, it was a cute girl in pigtails.

The two boys could not be more different, one becoming a sports star with consent issues and a god complex and the other a burgeoning rocker with a penchant for pranks and surprising yet secret talent for math.

All they had in common was their love of girls and the girls who adored them. It led to many clashes over the years, from getting a girl’s number first to stealing each other’s dates to parties. That animosity grew when Barry set his sights on Rory. The fact that she was his rival’s beloved little sister was the cherry on top to his reasons for pursuing her.

Shaking his chestnut brown hair out of his eyes, he flashed his drenched father an uneasy smile.

“I thought you were Davenport. You always say I can’t punch him but you never said water balloons are off limits.”

Her father pushed back his own dark hair, water dripping down his face. “I would think that’s implied, Rhys. How many times have I said that violence solves nothing? Your mother and I have taught you both better than that. Get rid of them.”

“Aye, aye.” Rhys dropped the balloons into a red bucket behind the bush. “What? They might be useful later. You know, hot days, some fun during lunch, impromptu wet t-shirt contests…boy or girl, no sexism on my watch.”

Rory shook her head at his lame attempt at humor. If her father had not left the principal’s office, defending her from the harpy of Crescent Bay, and been the victim of his son’s prank, he would almost be impressed by his use of ‘impromptu’ and progressive mind. Too tired to even speak, he merely pointed to Rhys’s car, a 1969 mustang restored by them over the summer.

“Your mother is stuck in a business meeting so I’ll be going to the market. Can I trust you to take your sister to her tutoring session and then straight home? I don’t want to hear about any detours by the Davenport house. If I get a call about their house getting egged…”

Rhys twirled his keys. “Dad, I am Mr. Reliable. I know the drill but to uh ensure that you don’t get that call, maybe you can provide a little incentive. I happen to love chocolate chip ice cream.”

“Get in the car,” he said, torn between amusement and exasperation.

The second they were out of sight and away from the school, he wanted to hear every detail of the incident, from Barry’s broken nose to the confrontation in the principal’s office. Rory made sure to paint a vivid picture, knowing that the thought of Barry Davenport being punished was like Christmas to him.

When he asked how she managed to wrangle a confession, she showed him the listening device.

“Oh shit, you got the hearing earrings to work?” he asked, impressed.

Rhys had a tendency to give her inventions silly, rhyming names. Though she was the considerably smarter of the two, without question, the names supposedly made her ideas more marketable. She was never on board with actually selling her inventions despite their lucrative potential.

“I’m not calling them that.”

Despite his nod of agreement, she knew he would continue calling them that behind her back. He turned on the radio, switching to one of his favorite rock stations.

“You should’ve heard his mother. I almost passed out from rolling my eyes so hard.”

“Well, how could you accuse her darling pumpkin of such nasty things?” he said, dramatically. She giggled, tapping her fingers against her knee to the music. “Sure it was a good idea for his royal highness to see it? What if he tries to take them or tells Steele?”

“First, I’m insulted that you don’t think I already hacked his phone to get some dirt. Like his treasure trove of make out sessions...” Rhys, being the one to tell her about the videos, smiled. “Second, as if Mr. 1234 could get through my security system. Third, Steele would sooner believe that I’m Crusher.”

“Hey, maybe you’ve got a Jekyll and Hyde thing going, sis. Can’t rule out any suspects. You can pry my theory that she’s Phantom from my cold, dead hands.”

As Come As You Are blared through the windows, he parked in the driveway of what they considered their second home. The Lockwoods and Laurents proved two things: not all of Crescent Bay was haughty snobs and family was deeper than blood. Their friendship began when they were in elementary school and then extended to their own children years later, that bond just as strong.

Stepping into the rustic house, Rory was greeted by the familiar smell of fresh baked cookies and the sound of pattering on the hardwood floor. Cinnamon, their yorkshire terrier, bounded down the winding steps and practically launched into her arms, licking her cheek.

Her best friend Layla, dressed in her favorite Crimson Titan t-shirt, was laying on the couch, almost blending in if not for her dark, curly pixie cut. Eyes glued to the screen, she watched the same news report that had been playing in Principal Steele’s office. The day she missed any news about Crimson Titan and his heroics was the day the earth would implode on itself.

Number one fan girl and self-described ‘hero’ expert, she prided herself on knowing everything about the famed hero, as much as he allowed with his penchant for secrecy. When he first arrived in Crescent Bay, or at least revealed himself to the world, she created the Titan Society, a fan club dedicated to his greatness, with Rory begrudgingly at her side as vice president. With her influence, the Crescent Bay Sharks became the Crescent Bay Titans.

“Whizzy, did you see?” she squealed, pointing at the screen.

Whizzy was her nickname for Rory, one allowed by her and her alone. One day on the playground, Rhys proclaimed that she was a genius and tech whiz and, being three years old, Layla gave her that name. To seal their best friend bond, she gave Layla her own personal nickname: Palette, due to her artistic talent.

For the second time today, Rory saw the iconic red blur zoom back and forth as an enormous tidal wave inched dangerously close to the shore. It soon switched to the crimson-clad hero in tight spandex giving an interview to the young star-struck reporter.

Layla sighed dreamily. “He was amazing, wasn’t he? I wish I knew who he was so I could thank him in person.”

“Yeah, I bet,” said Rhys, closing his eyes and moving his hand up and down.

His teasing was met with a swift blow to the head, courtesy of a polka dot throw pillow. Rory received the same when she was unable to contain her laughter.

“Aren’t you supposed to be studying calculus, not a grown man’s abs?”

The scent from before filled her nose as another girl, her dark curly hair framing her caramel face, entered the living room, holding a tray of chocolate chip cookies. Her crimson and black cheerleading uniform, showing off her slender figure, suggested that she had just gotten home from practice.

Elena was the same age as Rhys though she carried herself with a maturity and grace beyond her years. The only way Rory could describe her was a paradox of perfection. She had the movie star beauty and charm that propelled her to instant popularity and a spot in Bianca Coyne’s exclusive clique. Somehow, she managed to be friends with people as opposite as Rhys and Barry, being both a cheerleader and the lead singer in Rhys’s band, a feat that seemed impossible.

If anyone spoke a bad word about her, Rory would gladly give them a black eye (and she had done so twice). It was comparable to kicking a kitten.

“Not for you,” said Elena, smacking Rhys’s hand from the tray. “They’re for my hero.”

The meeting in the principal’s office was far from private. Missy Clarke, a sophomore and notorious gossip, worked with Mrs. Potts to obtain dirt on both her classmates and the faculty. In the midst of sorting files in the back, she heard Mrs. Davenport’s threat to cut funding to the arts program and Rory’s subsequent threat to Barry.

The massive chain of texts reached Elena and the cheerleaders during practice. She boasted that Rory had saved the musical (Elena being the lead as always) and even increased its budget, thanks to Mrs. Davenport’s offer of an extra donation to atone for her son’s actions.

Suddenly feeling like she teleported to the middle of a volcano, Rory removed her leather jacket. The warmth spread to her cheeks when Elena flashed her a kind smile. She shyly bit into a cookie, hoping she looked somewhat normal.

“I’m making more,” assured Elena, hearing Rhys’s sad whimper. “Bianca put me on baking duty for back to school night. Weren’t you supposed to help with decorations?”

“I put up a banner in Winger’s classroom,” he said, referring to the Geometry teacher. “It says If you love taking naps, join this class. Warning: May cause first case of being bored to death.”

“You’re asking for detention, you know that?”

Rhys shrugged. “He’ll have to prove it was me first.”

To Layla’s dismay, her older sister turned off the television and nodded towards the calculus textbook on the glass coffee table. Rory joined her on the couch, opening her backpack to retrieve her own book and pencil. As expected, Layla complained that she needed time to prepare for the tutoring session (“You know, the news helps me concentrate, El.”), her usual excuse to avoid any math.

Her whining was cut short by a bag of skittles. Years of tutoring her easily distracted friend, who preferred television to homework, taught Rory a few tricks. For every problem she completed correctly, she rewarded her with a piece of candy, preferably skittles.

“I bet I’ll understand it even better if I watch you do it first,” she said, batting her eyelashes. “I saw a study on the news that—you already finished it, didn’t you?”

“Nice try, bestie.”

With a groan, she started to work on the first problem. Rory placed a sandwich bag of red skittles on the table.

“Aw, you remembered.” She bit her lower lip when Elena wrapped her arms around her from behind. “Red ones are my favorite. Thanks, Rory. First the musical, now this? You rock.”

Her eyes followed Elena into the kitchen where she continued to bake as she and Rhys discussed Barry’s party later tonight. He had been against the gig until she goaded him into it, the offer of two hundred dollars an extra bonus.

At the mention of Jimmy, who somehow convinced Elena to be his date, Rory turned back to the coffee table, gripping her pencil. Layla was still working on the problem, her eyes repeatedly darting to the television screen that was back to showing the news.

“Missy says he invited actual supers to the party. I mean, it’s probably not true and even if it is, it’s probably some lame ones. Not that any of them are lame. If I had powers, I would flip out. Even if it was something stupid like super snot.”

“Do you want to go?” She glanced up from her notebook. “Technically, we were invited and supers or not, it could be fun.”

“You want to be within ten feet of that sleazebag?” Layla asked, surprised. “If I see him, I might tear out his guts through his throat.”

“We don’t have to talk to him. Our friends will be there and we can cheer on Rhys and Ellie. Plus, there’s a 99% chance of him getting in a fight with Davenport and I should be there for backup…in case no supers are around to help.”

“Can we mess with Davenport?” Rory nodded. “Destroy that loser, make Dylan regret never texting me back after our date, and maybe meet a super? I’m in. Let’s do this math and then it’s party time.”

As she waited for Layla to finish, she listened to the Superhero Sizzle, a segment that recapped daily heroism in Crescent Bay and around the world. Crimson Titan’s daring feats were followed by footage of a hooded figure, a woman judging by their slim figure, stopping a robbery. Lightning bolts shot out of her gloved hands.

She was not as well-known as Crimson Titan, her first reported sighting in the beginning of July. The news speculated about her identity (a baggy hoodie and jeans not much to go on but enough for men to vulgarly comment on her looks) and one day, she left behind a message with a captured robber, calling herself Volt.

Another video of the fight played, the grainy footage from a phone camera. Volt nearly singed off the robber’s arm before knocking him unconscious with a single punch. The crowd cheered and as the lights dimmed, she vanished from the bank.

 


Submitted: July 07, 2018

© Copyright 2022 skv. All rights reserved.

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