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It was a dark and dreary Thursday, just as it had been the day before, and the day before that. Only there was more to it this time; a chill had seeped into the wind, a chill that signified that summer's end was drawing near.

Ashley drew her coat tighter around her, wishing that she had brought something more substantial than the light windbreaker she had on. She hadn't anticipated the coldness today, a cold that was accentuated by the wind and drizzle. Again she glanced down the street, wondering if the bus would ever come on time.

The stupid bus driver was a drunk or something; he was always bleary-eyed and tired looking in the mornings. Ashley hated riding the bus. It was loud and the people on there bothered her. Some of the boys tried grabbing her. The one time she told a teacher about it, the boy had been suspended. But as soon as he came back, he had threatened her, saying that 'if she knew what was good for her, she'd be quiet.' Fortunately, Ashley hadn't been touched again. She didn't know what she would do if it happened again.

She shivered again, only not from the cold. Ashley was attractive, and she knew it. She had been elected to the Homecoming Court this year by a wide margin. Boys swooned when she walked by. She never flaunted her beauty, though; in fact, to her it seemed a curse. There were times when she wished she could just be average and not so noticeable.

The headlights of the car appeared through the misty sheet of light rain. She stepped back involuntarily when she saw the lights bearing down on her, thinking she may have walked into the street. The car, however, had stopped on the road beside her. Ashley squinted into the gloom, trying to make out who it was.

"Ashley? That you, babe?"

She knew that voice. It was Eric, a friend of hers from first period. He was an older kid, a senior, in fact. But unlike most seniors, he had no disdain for the freshmen in general. In fact, he seemed to like everyone. He was a pretty nice guy.

"Eric? What are you doing out here?"

He appeared before her suddenly, blocking out the car's lights. Ashley started.

"Sorry, babe," he said, smiling his easy-going smile. He had taken off his jacket and was now attempting to cover her head from the rain with it.

"Heading to school, where else? Now don't tell me you're out here in this horrible weather waiting for the bus."

She shrugged. "It's sad but true."

Eric shook his head and tsk-tsked. "Now, that is just not right. And since your friendly neighborhood taxi driver just happens to be in town, I'm going to take you. Ok?"

Ashley considered for a second. She didn't know Eric well, but she was certain he could be trusted. He had never tried to put any moves on her. On the other hand, she knew that if she did get on the bus, there would be all the stuff with Blake and his friends to deal with.

She shouldered her backpack on. "What are we standing in the rain for?"

He laughed. "I'll take that as a yes."

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