Chapter 1 ~ River

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"You're Hannah, right? What do you want?"

I shouldn't be surprised anymore that others didn't bother to learn my name, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting. I had had at least one class every year with Josh since freshman year.

"You dropped your pencil, Josh," I said, holding it out for him to take. "And my name's Holly."

He took it, looking at me up and down. Then he turned without another word and continued walking down the hall.

It was a shame that I was too nice to yell at him because I had a few mighty fine insults to hurl his way. For now, I'd have to rely on karma to straighten him out.

It was the first day of my last year of college, and I already felt foolish. Stupid boy, I thought. Why did his actions make me feel dumb? He shouldn't have this effect on me. He was the dumb one.

I started to walk down the hall to my own class when I felt someone bump into me.

"Sorry," I said out of habit, but the person continued to grab onto my backpack, and I figured out who it was right before she burst my eardrum.


"Hi, Alice. And don't call me that," I said, facing my friend.

Her black hair with dyed red streaks was sleek and shiny. Her dark eyes glowed with the enthusiasm that she kept with her every second of every day. Seriously, I didn't think that she was ever not excited about something. Unlike me, Alice was a very talkative, enthusiastic person, although she could also be very blunt. Other people found her rather harsh and annoying, but I enjoyed her company. She filled the space that I left empty, and for some reason, she had a soft spot for me. You see, she hated everyone. Literally.

I was unpopular because everyone thought I was a loser, but she was unpopular because she couldn't stand anyone except me and our other friend James.

I wasn't a loser, by the way. Just because I wore glasses, kept my hair in a ponytail, and stayed quiet didn't mean that I was a nerd. A lot of people gotthat wrong. And actually, I struggled a lot with academic courses, which was why I chose to pursue art instead of a STEM degree. I even crammed four years of college into three. But I wasn't a nerd. Or maybe I was. Who cared?

Alice didn't care. She was one of the only people on the entire campus that didn't think I was a total dork. We met in a freshman-level art class. She was terrible at art and just wanted an easy credit, and I was the quiet kid that no one talked to. Somehow, she got me to talk. Three years later, we were still best friends, although now I was a senior and she was a junior. And she was definitely not a graphic design major like me.

"Why do you look sad, Holly Bear?" she asked, her arm still draped around my shoulders.

We started walking in the direction of my classroom. I shoved off her arm.

"Don't call me that. And I'm not sad."

"Come on, you know you like the name. Ever since you revealed your Care Bear obsession, how can I not call you that?"

"Don't talk so loud," I said, glancing around anxiously. No one was even looking in our direction.

"Loosen up a bit! It's the first day of your senior year!" Alice grinned, and I couldn't help but smile back. "I can't believe I'll be alone for an entire year after you graduate. James is a senior, so he'll be gone, too."

"I told you to take a few more classes to graduate early with me," I said with a grin.

Alice rolled her eyes. "That would mean more work, and that's a hard pass."

"School is a good thing," I said. "You'll be smarter once this is all over."

"Being smart is overrated," she said with a wave of her hand. Then she got her brightness back. "Oh, guess what!"

"...What?" I asked wearily as I saw her eyes flash with unusually strong excitement.

"Guess who was in my class this morning."

"I don't know."

"River! River Alves!"


Alice stopped in her tracks. I stared at her.

"You know I have a crush on him! This is huge. Maybe I can finally talk to him this year."

"Is he a computer science major like you?" I asked.

"No, but we're in the same business management class since I wanted to take it," explained Alice, not losing the shine in her eyes. "Isn't it great?!"

I grinned at her eagerness. "I suppose. I still don't see what you like about him, especially out of everyone here."

"You must be blind," said Alice. "He's hot, duh."

"That's it?"

"He's super popular, captain of the soccer team, good looks... What more could I ask for, right?" said Alice dreamily.

It was my turn to roll my eyes. "Well, good luck with that. I've heard he doesn't talk to just anyone."

"I'll make him realize I'm not 'just anyone,'" said Alice with an evil grin. "He'll fall for me, and we'll live happily ever after."

I wanted to tell her that this wasn't some fiction story where the unpopular girl gets the popular guy. But I just shrugged. "If you say so."

River Alves. The name that everyone on campus recognized. Our school was already famous for our extraordinarily good soccer team. Add the most handsome and talented player into the mix, and out came instant fame. He was like a celebrity on campus. His name was unusual, his looks were model-like, and his charms were infectious.

...Unless you thought like me. Then, all you could see was a self-entitled, spoiled brat who just cared about soccer and girls and popularity. I'd warned Alice about the D1 athlete guys before, but that was her type, so I let her daydream about being one of River's many girlfriends.

We arrived at my classroom and parted ways, promising each other that we'd meet up for lunch with James as always. It was good to be back on campus after being away all summer, I thought. Alice, James, and I could hang out again, classes would be more fun this year as I continued my major classes, and the end was in sight.

If only the year had gone as smoothly as I had pictured in my mind.

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