Name: Meredith Greene
Genre: Young Adult- Paranormal
Title: Order of the Griffin
My feet pounded on the soft forest ground. I kept a rhythm running in my mind one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. I drew in deep breaths, settling myself into a hypnotic trance. Greenery rushed passed my peripheral. I dared not take my eyes off my feet, roots stuck out everywhere threatening my balance. I was three miles in when calm began to set. I turned off the rolling thoughts in my mind, concentrating on the task at hand. I jumped over a fallen log, landing solidly on the other side. I made it to the concrete observation tower and checked my watch, I'd shaved a good eight minutes off yesterday's run. At this pace I was going to have to find a new, longer route. I circled the tower, it would be devoid of tourist this early in the morning, and angled back down the trail.
Going down was always harder than coming up. Gravity constantly willed me forward, my body fought to stay up right. I juggled my feet nimbly over the same rocks and trees I had on the first pass. Veering off the main trail, I turned onto a small path that led directly back to my house.
I broke into the clearing of our yard like a madman escaping from prison. I paused to rest my elbows on my knees and drew in a few deep breaths. I gazed up at the old, graying farmhouse. It was crying out for attention that neither my aunt nor I were willing, or able, to give. Paint was peeling off the old wooden siding. The roof sank ominously in the middle, begging for dry days. I walked slowly up to the house, stretching out my now tightening muscles as I went.
I could smell the bacon frying just before I opened the back door. Aunt Sheila was at the stove making her usual fare, an assortment of fried meat and eggs. I grunted a good morning to her as I grabbed a water bottle from the refrigerator.
“You want some breakfast?” She called, not turning her attention from the morning news.
“No thanks,” I muttered, hastily making my way up the wooden stairs. The last thing I needed was to reek of bacon on the first day of school. I took my time with the shower, letting the hot water pulse over my tired muscles. Once out, I dried my hair for as long as my patience would allow. Giving up, I pulled it into a pony tail still half damp. I settled myself into a pair of well worn jeans, pausing to examine the large scar on my side. Oddly, I had no recollection of how I had been injured. The result, however, was a six inch line running sideways across my abdomen with another line loosely circling down it. Repulsed, I yanked my shirt over my head and finished off the look with a pair of my favorite well-worn flip flops. Taking one more deep, sorrowful breath I picked up my backpack and went out the door.
Townsend High School was nestled at the foot of the Smokie Mountains - a stark opposite to the picturesque scenery that surrounded it. It was a travesty of old decrepit bricks, wearing sadly the colors of generations past. Why someone thought it was a fabulous idea to perch the school high a top a hill was beyond me. The locale made it nearly impossible to get up the long, winding drive in the winter. That was of no concern to me today. It was a balmy 83 on the last day of August. I didn’t dare pull the top off my jeep again. Tomorrow it could be snowing. Tennessee weather was completely unpredictable. I’d worked four tourist seasons to save up enough money to purchase my old jeep. The silver paint was peeling in places, the tires were half bald, but overall it was as sturdy as ever.
I pulled into my usual parking spot, assigned spots weren’t really necessary for a school with a total of five hundred and twenty-six students. I spotted my two closest friends, Ashley Tyler and Cooper Nicks waiting for me by his old, beat up Nissan car. His mess of black hair was a tangled nest of frizz from the late August humidity. Ashley was shorter than Cooper by at least a foot. I noticed she was wearing her hair curly today, it swirled wildly around her puffy baby face.
“Junior year,” he yelled out to me. “It's going to be epic.”
“Epically boring,” I said to myself.
“Oh come on Tess, don't be so down. This is our year,” he said excitedly.
“Our year for what exactly?” Ashley asked back.
I hunched my shoulders, obviously pouting. I hated school. I had gone to school with the same kids since I was ten years old. Coop and Ashley took pity on me in eighth grade and let me sit with them at lunch. We had been friends ever since. It was easy to feel like an outsider here. I was surrounded by the slow twang of southern drawls. People twinged when I spoke with the hard accent of a northerner, a “Yankee” they would call me.
“Did you hear the big news?" Cooper nodded toward the visitor entrance at the front of the school.
“What?” I asked feigning enthusiasm.
Cooper’s mom was the school secretary. She knew everything about everyone. In a small town, gossip was vital to one’s social survival. New kids were a rare occurrence for our school. Not many people came to Townsend with the intention of staying. Tourism fueled the local economy, outside of that there wasn’t much else to our mountain town.
“Why on earth would anyone purposely move here,” I muttered to myself.
Cooper continued, "The mom is filling in for Mrs. Anderson's English Lit class while she is on maternity leave.”
A black Land Rover powered up the hill with ease and pulled smoothly into one of only two spots designated for visitors. First to step out was whom I assumed to be the father. He was younger than what I would expect for a parent of teens to be. He flashed a bright smile, showing perfectly white teeth, towards the passenger doors. I could only surmise he was trying to put on a brave face for the nervous kids waiting in the car. A girl danced around the back of the car to join her dad. Her loosely curled auburn hair fell just below her shoulders. She seemed to be radiating with excitement. Her mother came around the front of the SUV to join the too perfect family.
The rear passenger door opened and the most beautiful creature I had ever seen stepped out. Slowly one foot, then the other. He was at least six feet tall. The sun above shone on his black hair, igniting hidden streaks of bronze. His hair was styled casually back, not like Cooper’s tangled mess. This was more, deliberate. Even from a distance I could see his brilliant green eyes. He was the epitome perfection, an image that every male model on the planet would kill for. Everything had become still around me. He scanned the lot, his gaze fell to mine. His eyes narrowed at the corners.