Read Alchemist Academy: Book 1 Online
Authors: Matt Ryan
Copyright © 2015 by Matt Ryan
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in
any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the
publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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Cover: Regina Wamba
Victoria Schmitz | Crimson Tide Editorial
Formatting: Inkstain Interior Book Designing
“If you weren’t so fat, we could go up this hill faster.”
I sighed. My life felt like a never-ending sigh.
They didn’t feed me enough for me to be fat. I took slow breaths, fighting down my anger. I didn’t want to get too angry; strange things happened when I did.
“Can’t you go any faster?” my little stepbrother spouted from his sidecar.
I gritted my teeth and shoved the pedal down harder, propelling the bike up the last hill on Orange Street. The gears ground with each rotation. It would have been easier if his damned sidecar weren’t dragging me down.
Spencer adjusted the backpack on his lap. A satisfied, smug smile spread across his face when I began to breathe hard from the effort. I wanted to detach the sidecar and send it sailing back down the hill. But I didn’t.
Near the top, I slowed down, longing for the reprieve of the backside of the hill.
“We’re going to be late again,” he said.
“When have we ever been late to school?”
Spencer fumbled with the question and shifted the backpack on his lap again. “We could go faster if you didn’t weigh us down so much. You’re just a fatty, Allie.” He laughed to himself. “Fatty Allie.”
I took a deep breath through my nose and frowned. I tried to be Teflon, but his words weren’t sliding off my shoulders as they should--maybe none of them did. He and his mother found sport in besting each other with spiteful comments aimed in my direction, adding a pebble to the ever-increasing pile on my shoulders.
I saw him looking at me. I steeled my face, not wanting to give him the reaction he wanted to see.
“I bet your mom was fat just like you. Your full name on the birth certificate reads ‘Fatty Allie’.”
My eyes went wide at the mention of my mom. That wasn’t a pebble, but a boulder, and it broke down the fragile barriers already shoddily constructed. He smiled as he saw me fuming. Letting him get to me sent me to another level of anger.
We crested the top of the climb. My legs burned and my hands squeezed the worn-out grips as I looked down the hill.
Spencer laughed and kept repeating, “Fatty Allie.” I glanced down at his little face. He felt so proud of the new nickname that he didn’t even seem to realize all of my teeth were showing.
The hill tilted down and the bike gathered speed. Normally, I would coast down this particular hill, giving my legs a rest. But I didn’t want to hear Spencer’s voice today, or his stupid laughter. I pedaled harder.
The bike started listing from side to side as our speed became dangerous, the sidecar bouncing and clattering noisily. The warm summer air blew my hair back and dried the sweat from my skin. I glared at the bottom of the hill, wondering how fast the bike could go.
“Slow down.” There was a hint of fear in his voice.
I didn’t plan on slowing down; I wanted to give the little punk a ride he wouldn’t forget. I gripped the handlebars hard and felt rage filling me. The handlebars shook, sending the whole bike into violent vibrations, but I paid no attention and kept pedaling … feeding my anger into each step.
Spencer gripped the front bar with a terrified look. I heard the bolts that connected his sidecar to my bike rattling loose.
Interesting. He said my name without some kind of insult attached to it.
“Please, slow down. I won’t call you Fatty Allie anymore.”
The “please” shocked me enough that I stopped pedaling and took deep breaths, releasing some of my anger. The bike slowed down as the hill leveled onto a flat street. But it was too late. The sidecar rattled harder and sent my handlebars into violent vibrations. I leaned forward, gripping them tighter, trying to stabilize them.
The sidecar detached from the bike and swerved toward the curb. Spencer screamed as it hit the cement curb and bounced over it, and he and the sidecar sailed into a hedge in someone’s front yard.
I slammed on my brakes and tossed the bike to the street as I jumped off, then rushed to the site of the accident and pulled the sidecar out of the hedge. Spencer’s pale face glared at me, but he appeared to be okay.
“You could have killed me!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know the thing would fly off.” But that wasn’t entirely true. I knew if I focused my hate on something, it tended to break.
Spencer shook his head in disbelief. He unstrapped his seatbelt and climbed from the sidecar. “I’m walking the rest of the way.” He swung his backpack over his shoulder, narrowly missing my head, and huffed off toward school.
I watched him, trying to catch my breath. Did he even know how to get to school? Eh, it was only a block away and I was sure he’d be fine without me.
I shouldn’t have gotten angry like that; it wasn’t his fault, it was his mom’s—my stepmom. She’d taught him that
I wasn’t much more than a nuisance in their lives, a terrible side effect of her marrying my dad.
The bike was lying in the street. I pulled it over to the sidecar and propped the two against each other. After searching, I found one nut and spun it back on the bolt, connecting the bike and the sidecar. Hand tight, but it should hold.
By the time I got to pedaling, I heard the faint sound of the school bell.
Making quick time without a passenger, I finally got to school. A few other late arrivals were darting into the building. I followed them, but kept to a walking pace up the stairs and into the school. I enjoyed the silent halls, devoid of the hustle and bustle of just minutes before. The smell of early-morning anxiety was still hanging in the halls as I approached my homeroom class.
I opened the door and glanced at the wall clock. I was three minutes late, but the teacher was cool. Mr. Briggs was younger than most of the other teachers, and still felt as if he could fit in with the teenage crowd. His frozen smile greeted me as I entered the classroom. I didn’t expect a chastising, but something, some words, and his silence weighed on me. He stared at me as I walked past his desk.
“Sorry,” I said, and the words seemed to snap him out of his trance.
“Allie, let’s not make this a habit.” He pointed to my seat.
My seat was all the way in the back of the room. It had the advantage of having no one at my back, but the distinct drawback of moments like this one. When I arrived late, I had to do the walk-by.
On the way to my seat, I received the standard looks of disgust from the Dolls. At least that’s what I called them. They were a group of girls who always acted as if I was vomiting on their desks when I walked by. I tried to ignore them, but they did grate on my nerves, as much as I hated to admit it.
“Nice shirt,” I heard Bridget whisper and snicker. The other two rolled their eyes and leaned away from me. Oh, Bridget, the lovely
ringleader. Everything she said gave them reasons to snort, and their favorite target seemed to be me.
Even with the awful people, I loved school. It was away from home, from Spencer and my stepmom. I sat down and slid my backpack under the chair.
“We have a guest today. Her name is Ms. Duval.” Mr. Briggs stood and gestured to a woman behind him. His tone seemed different. More monotone than his usual tired, cool-guy cadence. “She’s asked us to be part of an experiment.”
Some of the kids in the class groaned.
I hadn’t noticed Ms. Duval. She was standing in the corner of the room, dressed in a white lab coat with a sleek black skirt underneath. She pinned her blonde hair back and stood next to a large cart full of glass vials and jars, like a mad scientist’s chemistry set.
“Thank you, Mr. Briggs.” She pulled the cart closer to the teacher’s desk. Some of the glass clattered during the movement.
Ms. Duval surveyed the class and for a brief moment, her gaze held mine before moving on. She looked younger than Mr. Briggs. Her pretty face didn’t match her stern expression as she crunched up the space between her eyes. I bet
wouldn’t have let me slip in late.
“I’m here to conduct some simple experiments. If you can all line up over here.” She gestured to the side of the room lined with windows. “Now,” she snapped when no one moved.
I shot out of my chair and thought of my stepmom’s orders. I moved with the rest of the class and lined up.
“I’m going to have you come forward, one at a time, and mix together a couple of items to see what reactions we’ll get.” Her voice took on a sweeter tone and she gave a smile us that displayed too many teeth and didn’t reach her eyes.
I positioned myself near the middle of the line. I didn’t want to be first, but I didn’t want to be last, either. I was a bit curious as to what experiment this woman wanted us to do. I stood to the side of the line, trying to get a look at what she was having the other kids do.
A finger tapped me on my shoulder and I looked back.
“Those shoes match your shirt,” Bridget said, looking down.
I searched her eyes for sincerity and came up short. “Thanks.” I turned around.
“You going to march into war with those?” she continued to comment to my back.
I ignored the criticism and snuck a glance down at my shoes. Black army boots with a one-inch heel. They looked awesome to me, but they were nothing a Doll would wear. My jeans covered most of them anyway. I didn’t even need to look at Bridget’s shoes. I was sure she had on her designer ballet flats. It was Monday, so probably the pink ones with red flowers. And now I wanted to look. I resisted the urge and watched the front of the line.
Tommy walked up first. I heard a few words about mixing and in a few seconds, he’d poured a couple of vials into the bowl and mixed it with a wooden spoon. The contents of the glass bowl looked like blue Kool-Aid. After a pause, she motioned for him to move on. Tommy shrugged and walked back to his desk.
My mouth crunched to one corner as I tried to figure out the experiment. On the rare occasion we had a guest, it normally involved a lengthy lecture, or some dude trying to get the school to sell candy bars. This woman had just laid it out in a few seconds and had formed a line for us to dump some crap into a bowl. If only all guest speakers were so efficient with their time.
Tabitha stepped up and did the same thing as Tommy. Ms. Duval motioned her away and she walked back to her seat. No explanations, no words. I liked her already.
My mind raced at what could possibly be behind this activity. There must be some sort of big reveal after everyone had done their experiments. Like, she would tell us how susceptible we were to rapists and kidnappers because we had just obeyed without question some stranger wearing an official-looking jacket.
The rest of the students in front of her mixed, poured, and stirred the blue Kool-Aid. And each time, Ms. Duval hurried them away. I tugged on my shirt as the person in front of me mixed the stuff in a bowl and was sent off.
I was next.
When I stepped forward, Ms. Duval gave me a thin smile and handed me a tube of clear liquid. She slid a glass bowl toward me.
“Just mix the two chemicals together and stir. But try to put some emotion into it. Think about the thing that makes you angry.” She clinched her fist and growled as she said that.
I frowned at her and looked at the vial holding what looked like water. The bowl held a small pile of white flakes, like someone had shaved a bar of soap into it.
She wanted me to be angry? I had an ample supply of that.
I thought of going home after school and the crap I’d be dealing with when Spencer ratted me out about the sidecar. He’d probably accuse me of trying to kill him. A chant of “Fatty Allie” played in my head. I didn’t need another thing to think about.
I poured the vial of liquid onto the soap flakes. The liquid bubbled and steamed. I stared at the steam and shoved the wooden spoon around in the mist. Something solid hit the spoon and I stopped stirring. Ms. Duval leaned close to the bowl and blew. The steam dissipated and a white stone about the size of a golf ball rolled around at the bottom of the bowl. Ms. Duval picked up the bowl and swirled the stone around in it. It sounded solid as it clanked against the glass.
“Interesting,” Ms. Duval said.
I fidgeted under her gaze. “Is that supposed to happen?”