Thursday was an English-free day and so I spent most of it on the lookout for Buff Man and his buddies. I just hoped he hadn't told them what he suspected. Actually, I was just hoping he'd forget about the whole thing but what were the chances of that happening?
Lucky for me, it seemed that he hadn't spoken to anyone about his suspicions and so the whole school was still in an uproar about the identity of the Kensington Butt Girl.
I honestly didn't know what the big deal was. Sure, some Sheridan douche took a picture of my butt. So what? Why was everyone so interested? When did it become the whole school's business? I suppose that's what you get for living in a small town where nothing remotely exciting happens.
On Friday morning, just as I was walking to English and dreading what was to come, an announcement was broadcasted across the speaker system telling the whole school to go to the auditorium for a spontaneous assembly. The topic of conversation: my butt.
We all took our seats in the auditorium and waited for the headmaster guy to come on stage. The school had so many students that half of us had only seen the man a handful of times in our lifetime.
"So what's happening?" Lizzy asked, sitting down next to me.
"Didn't you hear the announcement?" I grumbled. "The headmaster wants to talk about rumours and cyber bullying."
"You mean that picture?"
We settled ourselves and watched as a thin balding man walked across the stage and spoke into the lone microphone.
"Now there's been a lot of rumours going around the school about a Kensington Butt Girl." Mr. Rowly said, cutting right to the chase.
"Oh man." I grumbled, sinking even more into my seat as the whole school started whispering.
"Silence!" Mr. Rowly demanded sternly, his booming voice ceasing all talk. "Now I don't know how this happened but this type of behaviour is inappropriate! I've also been informed that this picture was taken by a boy from Sheridan Preparatory and that is just disgraceful! They may be our rivals but we all live together in Fishbowl and we all need to get along. I think this rivalry has gone too far. Now I've seen this picture-"
"Oh God!" I moaned, burying my head in my hands. My principal has been my butt. My principal
"and the picture is just degrading and awful. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for spreading such an image!" Mr. Rowly continued. "Now to promote more positive relations between schools, I and the headmaster of Sheridan, have decided to make all the year eleven and twelve students take part in a teambuilding week. Kensington, Sheridan and another school from out of town will all stay at a hotel on the harbour for a week and take part in various team building activities together. You will all learn to get along and form new friendships by the end of the week."
"Why only the year elevens and twelves?" Someone yelled from the front.
"Because you are the role models of the school." Mr. Rowly replied curtly.
"So we get to stay at a hotel for a week?" Someone else asked.
"Yes. And at the end of the program, there will be a dance so that you can all socialise and really bond before coming back to school."
At the word 'dance', practically every girl my age or older started whispering to each other excitedly. Lizzy was no exception.
"Oh my God a dance! How exciting!" she said to me, clinging to my arm. "We need to go dress and shoe shopping! Oh Tegan, maybe this won't be so bad after all!"
"I suppose." I said uncertainly. It wasn't true though. If the guys from the Sheridan bus were going to the hotel too, then they'd recognize me as the real Kensington Butt Girl and tell everyone. There was no way that hotel week would be a good experience for me. Maybe I could hunt them down and eliminate them beforehand.
"We're still finalising details so we don't exactly know when this teambuilding week will take place." Mr. Rowly concluded. "But I do want you all to get into the proper mindset and get ready to cooperate and get along with Sheridan."
"Oh this is so exciting!" Lizzy exclaimed. "I just can't wait! A dance Tegan! A dance!"
I tried to smile but it came out looking forced and weird. It wasn't the dance I was worried about. It was just everything in between.
I walked home from school later that Friday, glad the week was coming to an end. The rest of the day after the disturbing school assembly had been pretty average. I had a lot of free periods which allowed me ample time to catch up on all the homework I hadn't done. All the same, I was looking forward to sitting at home and relaxing.
However, as I reached Herring Avenue, I couldn't help but feel a little uneasy. Surely Babu would have popped up by now? Raith had returned so that must mean that Babu hasn't given up his insane crusade.
I put my hands into the pockets of my navy vest and was surprised to feel a piece of paper. As I stared at the purple sticky note, it took me a moment to remember that Jess had stuck it to my back this morning to remind me that the musical showcase was tonight. It was going to be the shiz, as she put it.
To be honest, I was just a little excited to see the talent Kensignton High had racked up this year. And I would be going with Cory which made me smile.
I got home and took a nap on the couch because I like to sleep. Then Cory came over and we spent the afternoon in an uneventful bliss. We hung out on the couch in front of the TV and eventually, I managed to get the lousy Sheridan situation out of my head. Those wacky reality TV shows sure know how to distract today's generation.
I yawned and Cory put an arm around my neck, letting me rest my head on his shoulder. It had just so comfortable with him, which was weird since I had only been out with him twice. I don't know what it was but Cory just had such a calming effect about him. We didn't even need to talk.
I smiled as I watched him play with my fingers. Last year, I would never have imagined myself in this situation, ever. At times it was almost like a dream. Sometimes I felt like one of these days I'd wake up and find everything back to the way it was before Raith and Stacy's death.
"It's almost five thirty. The showcase starts at six right?"
I checked the time and suppressed a groan.
"Crap. I'll be right back. I need to change." I was absolutely not going to the performance in my school uniform, as flattering as it was.
I ran up the stairs and I stumbled into my room, throwing open the wardrobe…and finding it empty. Right, I forgot that my clothes were all over the floor.
"What to wear, what to wear."
I pushed aside random books and junk, looking at the time and cringing.
Picking up the first things I saw, I pulled on some jeans, a light blue T-shirt and a warm coat. There, I was all set. Not all girls take forever getting ready. Or maybe I was just too lazy for my own good.
"Hurry up Tegan!" Cory called as I rushed down the steps, brushing my hair at the same.
"Ok let's go." I said once I reached him. We were in my Cory's car in less than two minutes.
"Wow that was quick." Cory commented as we put on our seatbelts and he started the car.
"I know. I'm just wonderful right?"
He ruffled my hair and I pouted.
"Hey. I just brushed through all the tangles!"
"And you look amazing."
Cory and I smiled at each other, and I blushed a little.
"I hope you don't mind but while you were busily changing, I was looking through your old photo albums."
"You're not serious? Ugh that's terrible! I was such a fat kid!"
"All babies are chubby."
"I was not just chubby. I was like a huge, round balloon!"
"You didn't look that bad."
He was such a liar but I let it slide because I was nice. And I liked Cory. A lot.
"I also saw this picture of you as a ballerina. I didn't know you used to do ballet."
I tensed up. My head snapped in Cory's direction but he was too busy concentrating on the road. He couldn't have seen such a picture. We got rid of them all.
"R-really?" I choked.
"Yea. You looked so cute in a tutu with that trophy. How old were you? Twelve?"
My mouth went dry and I gripped the car seat with my finger nails. Suddenly I couldn't breathe, I felt like I was suffocating. It was worse than my dreams.
"What…" I tried to moisten my mouth, but it wasn't working. "What did the trophy look like?"
"It was pretty big and gold, with a miniature ballerina on the top….Tegan are you alright?"
Cory finally seemed to catch on that something was wrong but I quickly turned my head to the side so that I was facing the window.
"I'm fine. Don't worry about me. I'm just not feeling too well."
I bit my bottom lip hard, trying to distract myself. After what Jess said the other day in the garage and all my nightmares, I did not need Cory bringing up the past.
As we arrived at the school and Cory parked the car, I finally managed to control my emotions.
"Come on Cory. Let's go enjoy the show." I said in a false cheery voice as I successfully undid my seatbelt and got out of the car.
He still looked at me in concern but decided not to say anything. I was relieved. That was one less thing to worry about.
The Kensington Musical Showcase was held annually in the massive auditorium where we had had the announcement from the principal previously that day.
The auditorium was huge: a massive hall with 600 plush leather seats and timber walls and ceiling. Towards the front of the hall was a large raised stage where the students in the talent show would be preforming.
When we arrived, most people were already seated and the hall was pretty full. As we made our way through the mane aisle looking for free seats, people started yelling our names.
"Cory! Cory! Over here Cory!"
Cory and I stood awkwardly next to each other, me looking left at Lizzy, and him looking right at his friends.
"You know we could just ditch them all and sit together." Cory whispered in my ear. I nodded.
With a smug smiles, we both sat up the back of the hall, ignoring the people shouting our names. Well Lizzy was the only one shouting my name but you get what I mean.
We settled into our comfy chairs and waited for the lighting to dim. As a private school, Kensington High was pretty well off. I wondered when Jess would be performing.
"Eh hem, attention everyone!" speak of the devil. There was my sis now, speaking into the microphone.
Everyone quietened down as the lights dimmed and Jess stood in the middle of the stage with the spotlight on her.
She didn't look nervous at all as she stood there in her short dress and heels.
"I welcome you all to Kensington High School's Musical Showcase. My name is Jessica Michaels-" Someone whistled and a couple of people cheered. Jess giggled, her bright pink lips pulling back into a huge smile. "-and tonight I'll be performing Waking up in Vegas by Katy Perry."
With a wink, Jess did a cute shuffle backwards and turned around, facing the wall as just about the whole crowd screamed and applauded.
"I can't believe she's the opening act." I whispered to the boy beside me.
"She must be good."
I certainly hoped so. My ego didn't want to be bruised tonight.
The music started, and then Jess did a dramatic spin on those heels of hers, bringing the microphone to her lips as she pointed to the crowd.
"You gotta help me out,-"
Alright, so she wasn't that bad. At best, her singing was mediocre. What really impressed me was her dancing. All those dance classes and practicing really paid off. She was amazingly graceful.
"She's good." I heard Cory say.
"Yea…yea she is." I shouldn't have underestimated Jess, but I swear she didn't sound this good when she was practicing around me.
When Jess finished her little routine, the whole hall gave her a standing ovation, Cory and I included.
I was definitely impressed. I could never do what she did, alone and in front of so many people. I should give Jess more credit sometimes.
The rest of the contestants weren't that great. There was this one boy who was trying, but failing, to do magic tricks. He tried to pull some roses out of his top hat but instead got…actually, I didn't really know what it was, but it was black, hairy and I'm pretty sure it bit the poor kid from the way he screamed like a girl.
Then there was a tone deaf thirteen year old girl who squeaked her way through, and basically slaughtered, Drops of Jupiter, much to my, and everyone else's horror. After her, we got a boy who was meant to play the saxophone, but got stage fright and ended up peeing himself, much to the crowd's amusement.
There were a couple of good bands though, and amazing piano and violin players.
"That makes me wish I knew how to play an instrument." Cory said to me as we clapped for a solo guitarist who played Good Riddance by Green Day.
I checked the time and saw that we'd been there for two hours. I wondered if there was an interlude so we could go get food.
A second later, a ballerina walked onstage.
I tensed up. This was not good. I barely heard her introduce herself because I was having trouble breathing again. My fists clenched as the girl got into position. The ballerina raised her arms above her head, her back dead straight as she stared straight ahead, feet en pointe. Soft music began to play; music that was way too familiar.
And suddenly, it was just like five years ago.
"Go honey! You can do it!" Mrs Michaels' voice rang out loud amongst the clapping as the ballerina stepped on stage.
The hall was packed full, so many people just to see a simple ballet recital. So many parents watching, wishing for their twelve year old girl to be the one that took home the trophy.
The ballerina licked her lips nervously and raised her arms above her head, her back dead straight as she stared straight ahead, feet en pointe. Soft music began to play as she gracefully danced across the stage…
I shuddered, my body shaking and I hunched over, feeling sick.
"Tegan? Are you ok?" Cory whispered beside me.
"Stomach cramps. I'm going to the bathroom."
I stumbled out of my seat, barely making it out of the hall in one piece.
The ballerina was still dancing…graceful…beautiful…pure…
I staggered through the hallway clutching the metal lockers, breathing hard. It was dim out here. The lights weren't bright enough. My footsteps echoed.
Tap tap tap. Toes skimming across the wooden stage.
The shoes. It felt like I was wearing those damn ballet shoes again. I fell back against a wall, shoving my shoulder into the side of an adjacent cluster of metal lockers. I tugged at my sneakers, whimpering, pulling at the laces.
"What beautiful shoes!" Someone whispered to Mrs Michaels in the crowd.
I ripped my sneakers off, but my feet still felt restricted. I let out a shout, throwing them across the hallway, but I was still wearing the cursed ballet shoes, and they were still too tight.
The ballet shoes were flung across the stage by the ballerina. The recital was over. She was all alone.
I curled into a ball as I started to sob. I yanked at my hair, trying to muffle my wailing.
"Wait, I need to go get my shoes." The ballerina said to her parents in the car. She'd almost forgotten about them.
My nails dug into my palms, my teeth bit into my bottom lip until I tasted blood, my tears stained the polished floor.
The ballerina didn't really like the shoes, but since her parents paid so much for them, she couldn't just leave them behind.
I didn't know where I was. I didn't know what time it was. It was dark. It was cold. My eyes were swollen from crying. My throat hurt. My feet hurt from running from the school; running so fast that I felt as if I could leave my body behind and float up to touch to moon. My phone wouldn't stop ringing. All in all I was a mess.
"Megan..." I whispered as the tears fell again. I dragged my feet along the concrete foot path, the ground barely illuminated by the florescent street lights. My breathing was ragged. I was so confused.
"And the winner is Megan!"
The ballerina watched as the crowd burst into applause as another ballerina walked onto the stage.
It's not fair! I worked even harder than her! I practiced for twice as long! How come she wins again?
"Megan…" I tripped on some loose concrete and stumbled.
The ballerina smiled as she accepted the trophy. It was pretty big and gold, with a miniature ballerina on the top. She smiled as she saw her parents taking a picture of her. She was filled with so much pride.
Her eyes flickered to another ballerina watching from the side of the stage. She gave her a smile but the other ballerina didn't smile back
"Megan…" I sat on wooden bench and sulked, familiar feelings of regret, shame, anger and sorrow rushing upon me. My hands started to shake and I drew a deep breath, trying the calming techniques my therapist tried to teach me years ago.
I looked up, startled. I never thought I'd be glad to hear that voice.
"Raith." I mumbled, my voice quivering.
I turned my head and saw the boy sitting next to me, his elbows propped up on his knees and his chin resting in his hands.
"So who's Megan?"
I looked away. He was the last person I wanted to talk to about this. He was meant to distract me from this particular problem, not make me focus on it.
I rubbed my cheeks, stalling.
"So who's Megan?"
I frowned, hoping he'd get the message that I didn't want to talk about it. I wiped my eyes and cleared my throat.
"It wouldn't be no one if you're sitting by yourself crying in the middle of the night."
"Just…I don't want to talk about it."
"Maybe that's why you're having a mental break down right now."
"Shut up. Look, I just don't want to…I just…please drop it."
Maybe it was because my voice started shaking, but Raith seemed to stop pushing me.
We were silent, me focussing on my shaking hands which looked pale and sick in the darkness.
"Smile." Raith said unexpectedly.
"What?" I looked up and met his eyes, my breath coming out like smoke in the chilly night.
"Smile." He repeated.
For a moment I thought about the boy in my dreams but surely Raith couldn't know about him.
"You look ugly when you cry. You should smile." He muttered, looking away.
I raised my eyebrows. That was…weird.
"I still don't understand…"
"I don't like looking at you when you're crying okay? God, it's not that hard to understand." Raith snapped angrily, refusing to meet my eyes.
"You like it when I'm smiling?" I couldn't help the teasing tone that crept into my voice.
"I didn't say that. I said I don't like it when you're crying."
"But that means-"
"It doesn't mean anything!"
We sat in silence, watching the bugs fly around the light bulbs of the street lamps. A small grin had appeared on my face as I thought about what he had said. If he thought I was ugly when I cried then maybe he thought I was pretty when I smiled. Maybe. It wasn't like I cared though.
"You know you're going to tell me eventually." Raith added after a while.
"Tell you what?"
"Who Megan is."
"Don't count on it."
I wrapped my arms around myself, the cold finally getting to me. I usually liked the cold, but right now I just wanted to be home, in my bed, safe and warm. My family was probably going crazy wondering where I was.
"Hey Tee, it's almost midnight. Shouldn't you go home?"
"Only Lizzy calls me that." I mumbled.
"You called me Tee. Only Lizzy calls me that, and not very often."
"Pfft, whatever. I just found out your name two days ago. Now you going to go home or what?"
I shrugged before nodding. I guess that was a good idea.
As I stood up, I realised something.
"Where am I?"
Raith rolled his eyes.
"You're hopeless and stupid."
"But I asked 'Where am I?' not 'What am I?'"
He didn't answer but instead, started to walk off. Assuming he was going to walk me home, I followed.
"Do you even know where my house is?" I asked as we paced down the lifeless street.
"Who said that I'm going to your house? You can find your own way home sweetheart."
I stopped walking and it took him a moment to figure this out.
"What's your problem now?" he snapped, but when he saw my pale face, he smirked.
"You take everything way too seriously. Of course I'm going to your house. Retard."
I sprinted to catch up with him, and we continued to walk. I glanced at Raith every now and again. He had his hands in his pockets and walked with a confident stride. Under the stingy light of the street lamps, he looked even more mysterious and appealing.
"How many times do I have to tell you? Stop staring." Raith said, his eyes suddenly meeting mine. I blushed and look ahead.
"Sorry." I said sheepishly. "But it shouldn't annoy you too much right? I'm sure everyone stares."
"True. But it gets on my nerves. It's a little annoying when you know that whenever people see you, they instantly think of sex." He suddenly grinned wickedly. "But on the other hand…"
"Shut your mouth, you horny bastard." I barked, blushing.
"Quit telling me to shut up, you repetitive hoe."
"Go to hell."
We turned a corner and I began to recognize where we were. Wow I sure did run far. I should join the track team or something.
Even though I could probably find my way back to my house on my own, I didn't tell Raith. It was just so refreshing talking to this doofus. He didn't make me feel like he was judging everything I said or did. I could actually say anything I wanted in front of him and not care about the consequences. I didn't really mind embarrassing myself in front of him either. There was something comforting about his presence; an atmosphere that everything would work out.
I felt sad all of a sudden as I realised we were standing outside my house.
"I guess this is goodnight then." Raith told me with a crooked smile.
"I guess." Oh man, I couldn't believe it but I didn't want to say goodbye just yet. I still had heaps of questions to ask. I had barely scratched the surface of who Raith was.
"Thanks for taking me home and all." I mumbled before I could get lost in my thoughts.
"No problem. You were freezing to death after all. And lost. And crying. How could I not feel sorry for your poor ass?"
"Gee I feel so loved."
I couldn't stop myself from staring into his eyes. Even in the darkness, they were captivating.
"You know, if this was a date, this is the moment where I'd kiss you." Raith said with a chuckle, running a hand through his hair.
I rolled my eyes, trying not to blush.
"Yea, but it's not. And I already have a hot, loving boyfriend, thank you very much. Besides, you'd have to walk me to the front door before you kissed me. That's how it's like in the movies."
I clamped a hand over my mouth as my eyes widened. Did I just say that?
"And then can I rock your world?" Raith gave me a sly wink and I went even redder. I really hoped he couldn't tell in the darkness.
"Pervert. I'm going to go now." I spluttered, backing away and tripping on something.
"Yea, yea ok. Try not to have too many dirty dreams about me."
I hated him so much but, oh jeez, why couldn't I stop smiling?
"You owe me big time. I can't believe I covered for you even though you didn't sit with me." I could tell Lizzy was annoyed, even over the phone.
"I'm sorry." I stood up and paced up and down my room, kicking clothes around and scrunching up my nose. "But thank you so much for saying I was staying over at your house."
"Where were you anyway? Your mum sounded absolutely freaked out!"
"I took a walk and got lost."
I sat down and spun around on my chair wondering how I could repay Lizzy for everything she had done for me. It was thanks to her and her uncanny ventriloquist skills that I managed to stay out of trouble from my parents.
"Still, you should have sat next to me. Thanks to you, I had to sit all by myself like some loner." She mumbled from the other end of the phone.
"You should have sat with Gina." I stood up and climbed onto my bed, opening my window and sticking my head outside.
"Well we're still fighting."
"You're kidding me."
"Hey, she's the one who's all angry. It's in the past. I mean, come on!"
"Uh huh. Hey I have a lot of homework so I'll talk to you later, kay?"
"Alright. Bye Tee."
I collapsed on my bed, feeling lethargic. It was Sunday and I'd barely spoken to anyone all weekend. After my little breakdown at the showcase and my disappearance, everyone was a little annoyed with me. Well, more than a little.
"What is wrong with me?"
I counted the tiles on my roof.
Why was it that I reacted like I did? My parents were fine, even Jess was fine. Why did I have to be the one to overreact? And why now?
"I thought I was past this. I haven't even reacted this way for years." I moaned.
"It's because of me."
My eyes flickered to the door which Raith was leaning on, his dark eyes watching me with a serious expression on his face. For some reason my heart rate sped up and I was having trouble focusing.
"What?" I asked in a small voice.
"When you touched me that one time, I took some of your 'being'. Your stability about certain situations has been altered."
A second later, he was gone.
I shuddered. This was becoming creepy and for some reason, extremely uncomfortable. Ever since last night, I had been thinking more and more about Raith and that was bad. There were so many things I needed to focus on like school and getting my emotions under control. I couldn't afford to get distracted by Raith and it didn't help that Raith was popping up every five minutes. I needed to find a way to make him follow at least two of my rules: not showing up randomly and knocking on my door before coming into my room. And how did he know when to appear? Was he watching me now as we spoke? And what the flip was a 'being'?
I rolled over and hugged myself. It felt a little like my life was spiralling out of control. I really didn't know what to do anymore. It felt as though I was acting in some play but I didn't know what was going to happen next: I was just reading lines from a script while all the action happened around me.
The one thing I wanted was stability, but it seemed that Raith had taken that away from me too.
"Ok you two. Quit it."
I locked the door of the empty classroom and leaned against it, glaring at Gina and Lizzy.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Gina said lightly, pushing her glasses on her nose and pulling out her science notebook.
"Yea Tegan. Let us out." Lizzy told me, looking slightly annoyed. I began to wonder why I was doing this. I never meddled in other people's businesses, although this was honestly getting out of hand.
"Look, Gina, Lizzy, we are going to stay here all lunch until you two sort out this little problem."
"But I'm hungry."
Gina ignored us as she read over her Chemistry notes. Lizzy picked at her nail polish. This was going to be harder than I'd thought.
"Alrighty…" Ah geez, I didn't know what to say. I was just hoping that if I locked them together in the room, they'd sort it out. That was how it worked in the movies right?
We all sat in silence, and I felt like a hopeless idiot.
"Gina…" Lizzy started to say.
"I'm busy." Gina grumbled.
"Gina." I said, annoyed.
"Yes." She looked up as Lizzy glared.
"Put the book down." I said firmly.
"Because we're going to talk about this."
Sweet Jesus, please help me out here.
"Gina! I'm sorry! I said I was sorry like, a thousand times! What more do you want from me?" Lizzy cried.
"I don't want anything from you. I want nothing to do with you." Gina snapped, glaring at the floor.
"Please. I miss you! Tegan is so boring."
"Sorry hun…but you kind of are."
Bullcrap. I hated the world. Excuse me while I go slit my wrists.
"I don't care if you miss me. You made my life a living hell." Gina retorted, her face going red.
"That was in the past. Please just move on?"
"It's not that easy."
I had to agree there. Why did everyone think moving on was easy? It was hard and painful and hurt like a bitch.
We sat in silence again.
"Look Eliza, I just need some time to think things over. I'll get over it, but in the mean time, I need a while to forgive you."
I decided not to tell her that it sounded like she and Lizzy were some sort of bickering couple or something.
"Thanks Gina. I really am sorry."
Another moment of silence.
"Well I'm going to the library." Gina stood and unlocked the door.
"Well that wasn't a complete failure." I mumbled.
"Yea I guess. I can't wait until we're friends again. Then we can continue with the plan."
Oh right. That. Because it's not like my life isn't complicated enough.