Home > Falling Under (Falling #3)

Falling Under (Falling #3)
Author: Jasinda Wilder

ONE: Bluest Blue

Oz

September

I f**king hate being the new guy. It sucks. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I’m not. Mom’s always moving us—every year or so, a new city, a new school. I wish I knew what she was looking for, who she was running from. Hiding from. Herself, I think. It’s like everywhere we go, something spooks her. I’ve attended a new school every year since seventh grade. St. Louis for seventh grade, Denver for eighth, Biloxi for ninth, Atlantic City for tenth, Rochester, New York, in eleventh grade. Atlanta for my senior year.

So, yeah, I know all about being the new guy. But thankfully, college, especially community college, means everybody is new. Few people know each other, so there aren’t roving packs of kids who have all known each other since kindergarten. I can fade into the background here, which is nice. A good change. I approve.

I started taking classes at the community college in Atlanta, and managed to get in a full year and two semesters before Mom decided to uproot us again, bouncing around until we finally settled in Nashville. So I had no choice; I had to transfer. Which means retaking a few classes that didn’t transfer, play catch-up. I’m already behind. I’m twenty-one. I should be almost done with my bachelor’s, but I’m not even halfway through my associate’s. It’s bullshit. I told her no more moves until I at least finish my f**king associate’s. Give me at least that long.

You’d think I’d be out on my own, that I would’ve just stayed in Atlanta and finished there, and let Mom go wherever the hell she wanted. I thought about it, I really did. I thought about it long and hard. But in the end, I had to go with her. We’re all each other have. She struggles just to make ends meet, and that’s with me helping out, contributing whatever income I can. She needs me. So…hello, Nashville.

I slump into the back row in my first class, calculus. It’s absurdly remedial for me, but I have to take it as a prerequisite for more advanced classes. I wish this was something more advanced than what amounts to high school math. I taught myself this shit in ninth grade. Math is calming for me. It’s freakish, I know, but sitting down to work through a bunch of equations quiets the chaos in my head, helps me deal with the constant fluctuation of my moods.

All the other people in this class are the type you’d expect—buttoned-up, backs straight, notebooks out, pencils scribbling. Everything but pocket protectors, most of ’em. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Most of them are just like me, here to satisfy a prereq. Then there’s her. Holy hell. She’s in the front row, far right side of the room. Sitting facing slightly sideways, so I get a profile view of her strawberry blonde hair and the most electric pair of blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Jesus. My pulse is pounding, and she’s not even looking at me. She seems as bored as I am, too. Slumped back in her chair, twirling a lock of her long-ass hair around a fingernail, chewing gum, elbow on the desk, idly doodling on her notebook, not really paying attention. As if she knows everything Dr. Stuffypants up there is saying. I can’t take my eyes off her. I’m mesmerized.

I slide lower in my chair, embarrassed at my own crazy reaction to some girl I don’t even know. Everybody knows girls like the bad boys, and I’m thoroughly bad. So I’ve never had issues getting a girl to hang with me. But I’ve never had my pulse race and thunder in my ears, never had my palms sweat. Never wanted to stand up, cross the room, and beg for her name, her number, for five f**king minutes alone with her.

I fish my earbuds from my pocket, stick one in my ear, turning away from the room so it’s hidden from easy view. Hit “play” and crank up the volume. “Monolith” by Stone Sour fills my ear, and it tunes out the grumbling, droning voice of the teacher. I flip open a tattered Nashville Public Library copy of a book on string theory.

The class passes slowly, and I glance up at the board to keep pace with what they’re covering. Nothing I can’t do in my sleep, so far. The class ends, eventually, and the students shuffle out, chattering and laughing and glancing at me. The girl with the strawberry blonde hair pauses by my desk.

“It’s not polite to stare.” She tosses her thick mane of reddish-blonde hair over her shoulder. “What’s your name?”

I shrug. “I’m not polite. Name’s Oz.”

She frowns. “Oz? That’s what’s on your birth certificate?”

“Does it make a difference?”

“No, but—”

She’s interrupted by the professor. “Get moving, you two. I’ve got another class coming in.”

Students are filing in, finding seats early, even though the next class doesn’t start for another ten minutes. We both leave the room, and I slip away before she can pester me about my name anymore. She’s just a chick, nothing to get worked up about. I make my way to my next class, a fairly generic world history course. Not bad, but boring. As I’m about to go in, I see the girl chatting with a couple of friends. I swerve and beeline over to her. Just to prove to myself that my over-the-top reaction earlier was just a fluke.

“I never got your name.” I don’t really notice her friends, even though they’re both pretty.

Okay, so I saw them, but they’re just…there. Good-looking enough. But not even in the same galaxy of hotness as this girl. They’re eyeing me, but I ignore them completely. I’m fixated on this redhead with the hypnotic blue eyes.

“And I didn’t get yours.” She lifts an eyebrow.

I roll my eyes. “Name’s Oz. I’ve gone by Oz since the third grade. Not even my mom calls me by the name on my birth certificate.”

“Which is what?”

I shake my head in irritation and disbelief. “Why do you care?”

She shrugs. “I’m curious.”

“So what’s your name?”

She shakes her head. “I’ll tell you mine when you tell me yours.” The way her eyes light up, the brightness of her smile makes something in my chest thump a little too hard.

I walk into class, grinning at her over my shoulder. “Have it your way, then.”

I have one more class, an early American literature class. Gag me. Give me Hemingway or Faulkner or any of those guys any day, but this stuffy Puritan crap? No thanks.

On the way out of school, I see her again. She’s hugging a big, muscular guy wearing a Vanderbilt Commodores ball cap. He’s got dark-tanned skin and close-cropped black hair, and the kind of build that fairly screams “football player.” Shit. She’s hugging him like she’s known him forever, and I feel a stupid thread of jealousy ripple through me. I just met her, don’t even know her first name. So what business do I have being jealous? He’s obviously here to pick her up, judging by the fact that she’s opening the passenger door of his shiny, black, jacked-up Silverado and tossing her backpack in like it’s her own car.

 

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