Home > Infinite Risk (Immortal Game #3)

Infinite Risk (Immortal Game #3)
Author: Ann Aguirre


 

THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY

For me, the definition of insanity was not “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Instead, it was getting within a few months of graduation and then enrolling as a sophomore at a different school. I barely made it out of Blackbriar Academy alive. I hadn’t been to public school since fifth grade, and nerves clawed at my stomach lining until I tasted extra bile.

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

Bitter wind blew, cutting through my jacket. As I studied the building, the parking lot was louder and more chaotic than I’d expected, guys horsing around despite the January chill. Sock hats, rubber bracelets, plastic chokers, people with words on their butts, bright T-shirts, heavy eyeliner, skater boys, people with un-smartphones—I’d forgotten that the world had once looked this way. But when I was twelve, I didn’t exactly pay attention to the details.

The school swam in cement and pavement. There seemed to be two or three parking lots, one dedicated entirely to students. A couple of fast-food places had sprung up across the street, probably catering to people who left for lunch. As for the building, it was made of faded stone, casting the red trim along the windows and roof into sharper relief. Somehow it seemed like the whole place was dripping with blood. Damn, you’re not Carrie. Settle down. There was also a bizarre sense of déjà vu, since I’d skipped back in time; only in this timeline, I was eighteen pretending to be sixteen, and everything was impossibly screwed up. But I can fix it. That belief had propelled me to jump, and I couldn’t let doubt chew through my resolve. Considering the shit I’d seen in the last six months, I shouldn’t be fazed by a new school. But it was difficult in a different way, making myself cross the lot and climb the steps to the front office.

Inside, the place smelled of sweat and industrial cleaners. The gray-speckled tile floors were dingy and scuffed beneath fluorescent lighting, and three-fourths of the space in this entry was devoted to trophy cases. On closer scrutiny, I found the majority of them came from sports teams. Two shelves offered other victories from other clubs, but I could already see the focus.

Students hurried by, joking with and bumping one another. One group that went past definitely smelled like pot. Steeling myself, I shoved through the door marked MAIN OFFICE. There were a couple of girls in there already—one crying—and two people I took to be teachers hurried out with their arms full of papers. This place could not be more different from Blackbriar, but I liked the bustle and anonymity. It took me a minute to catch the attention of the harried secretary. I’d cobbled some transfer documents together, which I hoped would pass inspection long enough for me to do what I had to. Fortunately for me, if not the other students, Cross Point High seemed both underfunded and understaffed, so the secretary barely looked at my forms. For a minute and a half, she clicked rapidly on her keyboard.

“We can’t fit you into all your first choices since you’re starting in the middle of the year. Better luck next time.” She slid my schedule across the counter, picking up a ringing phone with her other hand.

I took it and pretended some concern over my classes. Really this was just an excuse to be here. My only interest in this school came from needing to meet Kian. If I’d planned better, I could’ve learned his schedule beforehand. Now I had to rely on luck and intuition.

Clearly, the secretary was surprised to find me still standing there when she hung up. “Something else you need? We don’t have a welcoming committee, so if you were expecting a student guide—”

“Ha, no. An old family friend goes here too. I was wondering if you could tell me what lunch period he has?”

She sighed, likely weighing whether it was faster to refuse or just tell me. “Name?”

“Kian Riley.”

After clicking a few keys on the boxy computer, she said, “Freshman? He’s on A lunch, same as you.”

“Great, thanks.” I waved and headed out before she could ask why I didn’t just text him. There was no reason to spin a story when leaving served just as well.

Thanks to the map in my class packet, I found first period while mentally shaking my head. Sophomore English. God. On the plus side, I could do the work in my sleep, so at least I wouldn’t be distracted by teachers complaining about my performance and wanting to talk to nonexistent parents. Every move in this timeline had to be cautious and well conceived; I couldn’t afford to make things worse and need to leap again, as time wasn’t on my side.

I thought I was prepared for everything high school had to offer—Blackbriar Academy had put me through the grinder—but when I stepped into my first class and everyone stopped talking, it was a fresh sort of awful. A quarter of the girls did a lip curl and then deliberately turned away while a portion of the guys sat up straighter and tried to make eye contact. And I’d come in intentional down style, no branded clothes, standard hoodie and T-shirt, cheap sneakers, no makeup, nothing that should make me stand out.

“New student?” the teacher asked, cutting into the whispers. She was a middle-aged woman with salt-and-pepper hair worn in plaits, given to hippie style, if her fringed blouse and swishy skirt offered any insight.

“Chelsea Brooks,” I said, offering my schedule.

“Ah, a transfer from Pomona, California. You’ll miss the nice weather, but we do have tornadoes.” She grinned as if that was funny somehow, and indicated a seat in the third row from the door, near the back. “That one is empty.”

“Thanks.”

“But before you sit down, introduce yourself to the class.”

Ah, Christ, this really is hell. Changing how I looked hadn’t given me any additional skill at public speaking, and I certainly couldn’t tell the truth. Best to pretend apathy, slacker magic at work. With a shrug, I mumbled, “I’m Chelsea Brooks. I used to live in Pomona; now I’m here.”

“Sucks to be you,” someone called.

I took that as my cue and went to my desk without adding anything. The teacher read the room and started the lesson, likely figuring that if she let them, the class would seize this excuse to delay cracking the books. Around me, everyone opened their copies of A Tale of Two Cities, which I read when I was nine and found incredibly boring. With the exception of Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo, the classics never interested me.

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