Mika Taylor has always had it bad for Trent Hunter, but she never had the guts to talk to him. Now that her best friend has moved away, Mika dreads having to face a school year at Vernon Secondary alone. And being classed as the school freak doesn’t help matters. When Trent finally looks at her and not through her, Mika starts to think grade eleven won’t be so bad, after all. Getting to know him better, she can’t shake the feeling there is something he isn’t telling her. A chance encounter with the fabled Okanagan black cougar has her putting two and two together. When Mika sees not only the black cougar along with another cougar lurking in her backyard, she has to wonder if things can get any stranger than they already are.
Publisher's Note: This was previously published under another title.
The school loomed in front of me. My stomach felt queasy just thinking of what I’d have to endure. And oh how I dreaded having to go inside alone. All the other years, I always had my best friend, Cathy, to help brave the first day of school, but not this year. Cathy and her family had moved away from Vernon over the summer. I still felt a little lost without her. We’ve been best friends since the first grade. Now I’d have to face going through the eleventh grade alone, something I didn’t look forward to.
With a deep breath, I slowly made my way to the school’s entrance. A group of what looked like grade-eight boys jostled me out of their way as they rushed by. I shook my head at their exuberance. Vernon Secondary School, in British Columbia, teaches grades eight to twelve. It seemed to me that each year the grade eights got younger-looking. The group of boys who had just passed me sounded as if none of their voices had even started to change.
I adjusted the strap of my backpack on my shoulder and sighed before I pulled open the door to the school. The lobby was overly full as other students crowded around the class lists taped on the wall as they tried to find their homerooms. I decided to hang back until the crowd thinned a bit. Once I didn’t have to fear getting trampled by a bunch of thirteen-year-olds, I went to find my name on the list of homerooms. I found the Ts and ran my finger down the sheet of paper until I came to my name—Mika Taylor. I groaned to myself when I found it. I had math for my homeroom. I hated math, and to have it first thing in the morning didn’t help matters any.
I still had another ten minutes before the first bell rang, but I decided to go to my homeroom, anyway. It wasn’t as if I had any friends to meet up with first. Cathy had been my only friend at school. I’m not the type of girl who fits in with the popular crowd. Never an out-going person, I’ve always had trouble making friends. Not that I’d be accepted in the popular crowd, even if I could bring myself to be more out-going. I just wasn’t like them. I didn’t have the need to have a bunch of friends to hang out with. Cathy had been more than enough for me.
It didn’t take me long to find my math classroom. Since I arrived before anyone else I had my choice of seats. I picked a desk in the front row. I pulled out one of my new binders from my backpack and placed it on the center of the desk, then with pencil in hand, I waited for the bell to ring.
More kids trickled in and the other desks around me were slowly taken. Mr. Morrison, the math teacher, arrived a couple of seconds before the second bell rang. As he pushed the door closed one last kid slipped inside.
I tried not to stare as Trent Hunter walked by me as he headed for an empty desk at the back of the classroom. I’d developed a major crush on him last year, and from the way my heart pounded at seeing him again, I knew I still had one. Not that Trent had ever given me the time of day, but it still didn’t stop me from admiring him from afar. Trent was a full-blooded Okanagan Indian. I could spend hours staring at his copper-colored skin and long, black hair. What I wouldn’t give to have his brown eyes look at me with interest just once.
When Mr. Morrison addressed the class I brought my wayward thoughts back under control. I kept my eyes focused on the front of the classroom as the teacher passed out our schedules and gave us our locker numbers. Halfway through the class, I couldn’t resist taking a quick look behind me at the back of the room. My gaze unerringly latched on to Trent. He had his head down as he wrote something in his binder. I sighed to myself and focused back on the teacher.