Chapter Ten: Youth

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Damian Ryker awoke to the sound of a loud, eardrum-piercing buzzing. Without opening his eyes, he reached a heavy hand out and tried to suppress it.

He landed on 'snooze' on the second try.

From the other side of the room he could hear the door creak open and the click of a switch flipping. The blinding light bore through his eyelids shortly after.

"Come on, Damian. You're going to be late," the voice of Mrs. Ryker emanated from the doorway.

Damian only groaned in response. With an exaggerated gesture, he threw off his sheets and slithered out of bed.

After his usual morning shower, he examined his face closely in the mirror as he shaved. Not that shaving was a particularly intense task for him. Hell, he probably could've gone without today, or the whole week for that matter. The Damian Ryker deluxe beard was made of nothing more than patches and peach fuzz. He traced his hairline with his eyes, mapping out the line of acne like it was a military border on the front lines of a 'keep Damian from getting a girlfriend' war. He pulled the front part of his hair over it. At least that wasn't going yet. He wished he could say the same for Peter.

He finished getting ready in his room, throwing together an outfit from the clean clothes still left in his closet. Part of him wanted to make sure everything matched okay, but there wasn't a mirror in his room for him to glance at.

Damian left his room and entered the main living space. Mrs. Ryker was there. She was a woman with bouncy hair and wide hips and somehow never let the morning drag her down. Damian didn't inherit that from her.

"Hey, Mom," he started. "Can I take the car this morning?"

She didn't look up from sifting out mail on the counter. "Not today," she said. "I have to be across town this afternoon. Take the bus."

Damian dipped his head back and let out an exaggerated sigh. "Fine." Without further protest, he grabbed his things and left the house.

It was a quiet commute from the house to the bus stop and from the bus stop to the bus. The ride over was lonesome and silent, just as he preferred it on these day.

Damian stared out the window, watching the cars and other buildings pass. The trip took about thirty minutes--fifteen minutes longer than it was by car, but as long as he got there in time, Damian didn't take a huge issue with it.

The marquee from the upcoming destination scrolled by as the bus pulled in.

WELCOME TO THIS ARTHUR N. JOSEPH HIGH SCHOOL

Damian entered his school the moment the doors allowed him to. He only had two minutes before the early bell, and he was determined to beat his record. A familiar face stood waiting by his locker. He suddenly got the feeling his record would not be beaten today.

Valerie Love was the fiery type. Just her smirk alone said all you needed to know about her. She was something of a stereotype, wild red hair wrapping around her like a safety net. She had a tendency to wear scarves, and today was sporting a sheer magenta one, creating an almost mane effect when mixed in with her hair. She embraced her looks with far more confidence than any high school student should ever dare to have.

And she was Damian Ryker's best friend, for better or worse.

"Boy, do I have a story for you," she started as he approached.

He was completely unfazed by her lack of greeting. "Is this related or unrelated to the situation involving getting the lunch ladies in on the school play this year?"

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