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Chapter 2

“So, I’ve heard you set the lab on fire,” Emmie said merrily while we were creeping down the never-ending queue that led towards the buffet.

I mostly dreaded lunches. You never knew what a nasty surprise awaited you in the Upton Hill High canteen. Overcooked sprouts, for one. Then there was also a mob of teenage students who miraculously multiplied just like loves and fish in the Bible. It made no sense. The school’s grub was barely edible. But, as it happened, most of the students actually enjoyed it.

I blamed it on calories adding up.

“If I knew the chemistry classes were so fun, I would have joined at the beginning of this year.” Emmie joked, pulling me from my ludicrous thoughts.

“Yeah, right.” I snorted. Emmie was very talented, just not in science.

“Was Mr. Beauchamp mad?” She asked curiously.

“Livid,” I admitted. “I thought for a second that the vein on his forehead was going to pop.”

“I wish I had seen it.”

“Nah, not worth it.” I waved her off. “He put Stacy and me on cleaning duty for the rest of the month.”

“Shut up!” Emmie shook her head in disbelief as we inched down a bit.

“I think Mr. Beauchamp deemed it appropriate, seeing how Stacy almost lost her face - literally. Though, I still don’t get why I got punished. I saved Stacy. Shouldn’t the school give me a medal or something?”

“Stacy surely would.” Emmie snorted. “She was recounting the event to anybody who happened to be in the line of sight. I’m pretty sure the whole school now knows that Gemma Matthews has saved her. That girl hero-worships you.” The brunette was laughing out loud now.

“Bummer,” I mumbled, cringing, just as we neared the so-called jocks’ table, which was, funnily enough, reserved only for Bennett and his goons.

Emmie caught her cousin’s gaze and waved at him. He flashed her with a heart-melting, crooked smile that turned cold once he saw me standing right next to her.

Yeah, yeah, I know...

I shrugged him off as it wasn’t something entirely unexpected, nor was it something I wasn’t quite used to after three months of cold shoulders. But, a tiny, extremely annoying part of me got upset, as usual.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Sydney Brooks (the queen B of the entire school) watching me. As soon as she got my attention, she smirked and thrust her bosom onto Bennett’s muscular arm.

I gagged internally.

Sydney was blonde, beautiful, round in all the right places, and stuck to Bennett like velcro. Nobody ever dared to question her “rightful” place as his alleged girlfriend, and he didn’t seem to care either way. It annoyed me to no end, though frankly, I couldn’t pinpoint why. Maybe because I couldn’t stand her. Maybe because, even though I couldn’t stand her, I still had to tolerate her since she was the captain of the girls’ soccer team. And I happened to be a winger. Plus, Sydney had our coach in her pocket. So planting a fist on her pretentious face like I really wanted to was probably a horrible idea. Therefore, instead of a fist, I plastered on a bright, fake smile.

I genuinely loathed school politics.

Thank heaven, the line moved again, and we could put the damn table behind.

Sensing my mood, Emmie glanced at me with a quizzical expression.

“You know there’s nothing going on between Zach and Sydney, right?” She asked, out of the blue.


“And this concerns me... how?” I replied, bewildered, tripping.

Emmie gave me a cryptic smile and opted for ignoring the question altogether, focusing instead on the food that was finally in front of her.

I loved Bennett’s cousin, but she could be really frustrating when she wanted. And enigmatic, for that matter.

I shooked my head and decided to let it slide. Once Emmie closed up, there was no way to force anything out of her.

Breaching Fort Knox was easier.

“So did you thought about the bonfire I mentioned in the morning?” She asked, piling up her tray with a heap of meat and a smidgen of green peas. I imagined the peas were only there to keep up the pretense that she actually ate something healthy. She didn’t. Emmie was a carnivore through and through.

“No, not yet,” I answered, finally deciding on a slice of gummy-looking pepperoni pizza and a bit of salad.

“You have to come. You don’t want to commit a social suicide at the very beginning of the school year.” She pressed as she joined whoever was sitting at the half-full table. The canteen was so cramped that we had to choose a place at random.

“I think I don’t mind. We only have a few months left, and then we are done here,” I declared.

But Emmie had none of that.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She scoffed, digging in her food with a commendable passion. She pointed her fork in my direction. “Quite a lot of people from here will go with you to college. Most of them will stay in Upton Hill for the rest of their lives and take over family businesses. They will be either your bosses or associates. You want to make connections.”

“Only if I wish to stay,” I countered, nipping on my pizza. It was oily and mostly gross, just like I expected.

“Right...” she mumbled as if dismissing me, giving me another one of those enigmatic, meaningful looks that I wasn’t even trying to decipher.

“Will I see you at the practice?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Yep, I’ll be there. We have a match coming up, and I want to make it to the first squad.”

I harrumphed my agreement.

“Do you think I’ll make it? I’m not entirely sure Sydney likes me,” I mused.

“She’s petty, but not like that and not when it comes to the team. I think you have a fair chance if you give your all on today’s practice.”

So I did just that. But life rarely went according to my plan, as I was soon about to learn.

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