Kris didn’t mean to be a troublemaker, but that’s what he was. He was king of Sweet Mercy High, and everyone knew it, and loved him for it.
He received all the privileges a golden-boy might - the teachers doted on him, letting him come in late, even flirting with him (irrespective of gender), giving him extra time on tests, not that he needed it. The lunch lady saved him the biggest slices of pizza and the last chocolate milk. He knew everyone’s first name and used it with impunity.
The other boys looked up to him like a god. He got blue tips in his hair, which set off his glowing blue eyes and contrasted with his luminous dark skin. He magnanimously said nothing as every other male student colored his tips, too, as long as they weren’t blue. He played enthusiastically for the Sweet Mercy Bulls - basketball and soccer and football, and could run and swim with equal ease. His posse consisted of every guy at school, and he made sure to split whatever he received - treats or praise or privileges - with each one. Some of them were in love with him, and he returned their affections the way he did with everyone else - with full attention and total disregard at once.
He walked with a swagger, and wore outrageously fashionable clothes, thanks to his mother, who was not only head of the PTA, but also a designer. His father was a trusted and venerable member of their community, a doctor, whom everyone came to for advice, and so all the kids came to Kris for advice, too.
Everyone knew Kris had been adopted, and though he never knew his birth parents, they were all sure he must have been a royal. It was in the way he behaved, the way he carried himself, as if he were from another, better world, where you could be unequivocally great at everything and still adorably down to earth.
But it was only the girls who hated him, as much as they loved him. He’d be found leaning against the girls’ bathroom, twirling his keychain, eyeing each of them as they went in and came out. Occasionally one would peck him on the cheek. He’d whisper into the ear of another. They all practically swooned when he looked their way - and he did not ignore anyone, no matter what they looked like, or who they were. He could say and act in the perfectly appropriate way that cut right to their hearts. To the ones interested in fashion, he’d say something complementary about their clothes. To the academic ones, he’d ask a complex math question that would make their eyes sparkle at his brilliance. With the dreamy ones, he’d ponder a philosophical thought that would make their eyes fill with sentimental tears. He knew each girl and what she liked, and so they, too, were devoted to him.
They also hated him, though. He could be found with an arm against anyone’s locker at any moment. He’d take the brownies that Sharie baked and split them with Melissa. He’d drape his coat on Jadzea’s shoulder, and put his hand around Dore’s hips. He’d sashay down the hall with Rashida, and leave her at her locker to waltz with Mrs. Morrell.
So when the first dance of senior year came around, everyone was watching to see whom he’d ask. But they all knew. It would inevitably be the unreachable Raina, easily the most beautiful girl at school, the most accomplished at dance, singing, and sports. Like Kris, she was good at everything, and kind to everyone.
It wasn’t love at first sight, but close enough, and then it was as if she became more beautiful than ever. The story was legend at school. Like Kris, Raina was adopted, too. She wore bottle-thick glasses and could barely see without them. It was her fifth birthday, and her family had invited what seemed like the whole school. They invited Kris and his family, too, because his father was head doctor at the eye hospital and had been treating Raina since she was five.
That’s when it happened. Kris was sitting on his mother’s lap, and they were just about to sing happy birthday. She was glowing as her mom brought the cake lit, brightly with candles, five and one for good luck. Kris climbed down off his mother’s legs, and walked over calmly. He looked into the birthday girl’s eyes and smiled a sparkling smile with his deep blue eyes. Then he took her glasses off, and easily broke them in half. For a moment, everyone sat, stunned. Raina blinked and stared into the candles. Everyone knew she could barely see her hand in front of her face without her glasses. Kris’s mom, Yvonne, grabbed him harshly back on her lap, ready to yell at him, preparing to apologize and offer to replace the glasses.
But Raina only smiled. She blinked a few more times, looked around at each of her friends as if she could see them clearly, grinned from ear to ear, and blew out her candles. From then on, she never needed glasses again, and she and Kris were inseparable.
The legends grew. When their rival team, the College Hill Snakes, came to play, ten of their best players suddenly grew weak and could barely dribble the ball. Kris easily led them to victory. When the season’s hurricane hit in the middle of class one day, Kris had walked straight into it, seeming taller and taller as he walked, and it faded away as he walked back, calling his classmates out from under their desks. When the next storm threatened to shut down homecoming, he’d managed to make the football stadium close its cover and raise the seats up several inches to prevent flooding, keeping everyone’s beautiful party clothes dry.
So it was that at the dance, Kris seemed to have only eyes for Raina. But somehow, every girl there got a dance with him, in four short hours. He handed off his partners so that every student at school got a turn to dance with someone. He whirled and moved, so smooth, his eyes dancing with mischief, his whispered words a melody.
When the dance was over, he swaggered up onto the stage with his iconic blue and green guitar. He pursed his ruby-red lips and began to strum. Everyone swayed to the music, mesmerized. They gazed up at him reverently, their blue-headed god.