Death and all His Friends

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Bad hair day.

Maths was killing me, or at least my confidence.

I sat with my head on the desk, doodling pictures of Trinity with spears through her head as Mrs. Koots went through the answers to the test with us, having trouble with the pronunciation of ‘differentiate’.

I got seventy-five percent.

That was…okay…

I’d always been an average student so getting a seventy-five on my maths test wasn’t too bad. It was just disappointing that after all the hard work and effort I had put in, I still only managed to get average. I suppose I could blame it on all the mess in my life at the moment but deep down I knew it was still my fault. I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I couldn’t focus on anything lately.

I really didn’t want to do maths this year. I don’t know why I even chose to take it. I honestly don’t understand what goes on in my head sometimes. Maybe I need medication or something. Not doing maths would probably have been the best choice I’d have made all year. If I hadn’t done maths this year, Earphone Boy never would have elbowed me in the face and the whole bloody nose fiasco would never have happened. That means I would have never met Raith or Babu. I still hadn’t asked him why he’d fallen through the roof. One more thing to add to my list of questions I guess. He still hadn’t given me back my pencil case either. Maybe that’s why I got a seventy five on the test: it was tough with no calculator or Gina there helping you.

I scratched my head absentmindedly as I stared out the window. It was autumn so the leaves had turned a beautiful rich array of browns and reds. The tree outside the window looked almost magical as the branches swayed in the wind. There was a pretty cool looking bird sitting in the tree. I wonder what it’d be like to be a bird…or a tree…

Gina, who had stolen the Clicking Pen Girl’s spot behind me, kicked my chair.

“Why do you keep doing that?” she whispered to me. Mrs Koots’ inadequate hearing meant we could usually get away with talking in her class as long as we whispered.

“Doing what?” I asked, my eyes still glued to the window.

“Scratching your head. You’ve been doing it all day. It’s getting on my nerves.”

“I have not! Have I?”

“Yes you have. It’s scaring me a little. So why do you do that?”

I grimaced as I realised that even as we were talking, I was still furiously scratching my head.

“It’s itchy. Why else?”

“When did it start?”

“I don’t know. Sunday? No idea.”

“Two hundred and twenty seven.” Gina suddenly said, her hand in the air.

“Very good Gina. No wonder you were the only one who got this question right.” Our teacher said happily.

Sometimes I wished Gina could lend her genius brain to me for a few days. Maybe then I’d be able to fix all my insane problems.

The rest of maths passed in a slow, lethargic blur. To pass the time, I kept drawing different version of Trinity with sticks through her head or pins in her eyes. I still didn’t know why I hated her so much but I trusted my gut instinct.

I had started on my ninth drawing of Trinity, this one with her hair on fire, when the bell rang and we were free to go to lunch.

“What were you drawing?” Gina asked as she walked by my side to the cafeteria.

“Nothing…just the tree outside.” I lied, hoping she hadn’t been paying too much attention to the figures on my paper.

Gina didn’t say anything and I was inwardly relieved.

“Come on Gina. We gotta be quick before there’s a line. I’m starving.” I said, my mouth watering at the thought of the crummy cafeteria food.

We joined the mass of people moving though the hallway like some sluggish, many legged monster. It always made me uncomfortable being in such a big crowd packed together to tightly. Especially now when I could smell the B.O. of the sweaty fat boy in front of me.

Gina and I dragged ourselves through prong of people, hoping to get to the front of the group and maybe beating everyone to lunch. Too bad that by the time we actually got to the cafeteria, the rest of the school had beaten us to it so we ended up lining up behind about seventy other people.

We had been waiting for about ten minutes when our third counterpart arrived.

“Gina! Tegan!” Lizzy called out to us, bouncing to our side and ignoring everyone’s protest of ‘No cutting.’

“Hey Lizzy.” I said, watching as she too started scratching her head. Before I could bring it up, Lizzy’s face fell as she watched Sabrina walk back to her table carrying a massive tray of food. The girl shot us a disgusted glance before turning to her followers and whispering something. They all laughed and shot us dirty looks, making Lizzy pout and look teary.

“Just ignore them.” I told her as Gina gave them dark looks.

“I suppose.” Lizzy mumbled, her eyes downcast. Sometimes I forgot how fragile she was.

We eventually got to the front of the line and bought some dodgy looking food since everyone had taken the good stuff.

Then we took our trays back to our usual table.

“Wow. It’s really empty.” Lizzy commented as we looked around at all the free tables.

Once again, the day was peculiarly sunny and warm so everyone took advantage of this by sitting on the grass on the massive school oval.

“Do you guys want to sit outside?” I asked, looking out the window.

“Sure.” Gina said, a little too eagerly. I gave her a strange look but decided to leave it. I was just so hungry.

Gina led us out one of the doors on the side of the cafeteria and towards one of the large trees on the corner of the grassy oval.

We all sat down and I flipped by shoes off, stretching my legs in the sunshine and wiggling my stockinged toes.

“It’s such a nice day.” Lizzy mused, resting her head on the massive tree behind us. I didn’t tell her that she had been an inch away from rubbing her hair in some spider eggs.

Gina remained silent, staring off into the distance thoughtfully.

As I sat there and ate my supposed lasagne, I felt all the tension melt away. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and all was well with the world…except for the fact that Lizzy and I couldn’t stop scratching our heads.

“So you’re feeling it too?” Lizzy asked as she bit into an apple. I lay down on my back and stared at the blue sky, trying to focus on something other than how irritated my scalp felt.

“The itchiness? Yea. I didn’t even realise it until Gina pointed it out. I’ve just been scratching my head without noticing.” I said grumpily.

Gina rolled her eyes and Lizzy laughed.

“Well unlike you, I noticed it but I just thought my scalp was dry so I bought this anti-dandruff shampoo. I thought it was weird though, because I never had dandruff before.”

Both of us scratched our heads at the same time.

“So Gina, you’re the genius. What’s wrong with us?” I asked, turning my head on the side and looking at my friend’s shoes.

She didn’t answer so I sat up and frowned.

“Gina?” I repeated.

Again she didn’t say anything but instead seemed to be staring at something behind us.

“What are you looking at?” I asked, spinning around confused. There was nothing there except for a few people sitting around in groups on the grass.

“Don’t look!” Gina suddenly exclaimed, grabbing my arm hurriedly and making me face her.

“Don’t look at what?” This time Lizzy spun around and stared behind us.

“Lizzy!” Gina cried, trying to get her attention.

“Seriously, what are you looking at?” Lizzy asked. “All I see is…Oh my God!”

She suddenly threw her apple core away and grabbed Gina’s hands, squealing.

“What?” I asked eagerly, curious about the excitement on Lizzy’s face.

“Gina! Do you have a crush on one of those guys?” Lizzy gasped, her expression lit up with excitement.

Gina went red and shook her head quickly, staring hard at the ground.

“Oh my god!” I shouted. “It’s true! You’re the one who made us sit here! Who is it?” I spun around and tried to figure out which of the guys Gina had her eyes on.

“Could you stop?” Gina hissed at us angrily. “You two are so obvious!”

“Well which one is he?” Lizzy and I asked at the same time, both of us still staring.

“If I tell you, will you stop looking?”

“Sure.”

Gina sighed and went even redder.

“He’s the one sitting with his back to us with the brown hair.”

It took Lizzy and I a moment to pinpoint the right guy.

“Wait, the one with the really long hair?” I asked.

“No!” Gina cried in horror.

“Oh the really short one with the dreadlocks?” Lizzy enquired.

“No!” Gina yelled again. “The one closest to us!”

“Oh!” Both Lizzy and I said at the same time.

“You mean Jason!” Lizzy added.

“You can tell who he is?” I said in surprise. I couldn’t see his face at all.

“Yea.” Lizzy said confidently. “It has to be Jason since he’s sitting with Filmore, Roger, Steve and Skyler.”

I nodded, pretending I knew who she was talking about. To be honest, I didn’t know half the people in our grade or older.

“So you like Jason hey?” I said to Gina in a teasing voice, nudging her slyly.

“Shut up.” Gina mumbled meekly, going red again.

“That’s so cute!” Lizzy exclaimed. “You two would make the most adorable couple!”

“It’d never happen. Let’s just stop talking about this.” Gina snapped.

“No! No! Actually this is perfect!” Lizzy suddenly exclaimed. “I realised that our plan to get the weakest link drunk at the teambuilding weekend won’t work because there’ll be teachers there. However, Jason always has a party in the first term of school! We can go and initiate the plan there! It works out great!”

I groaned and picked at the grass. Not the plan again. I was seriously over the plan.

“We won’t even be invited to the party.” I reminded her. Lizzy sometimes forgot how low our social status was.

Lizzy, however, shook her head confidently and gave me a wide grin.

“It’s an open invite and I think it’s like this weekend! I’m so excited! This is the perfect opportunity for me to get Josh and for you to hook up with Jason Gina!” Lizzy squealed and clapped her hands together. Gina just bit her lip and refused to look up.

“It won’t happen so let’s just drop it.” she mumbled. “I think you two have lice.”

That certainly killed the tone of the conversation.

What?” Lizzy and I glanced at each other in disgust.

“No. Way.” I gasped, my hands flying to my hair.

“Ew! You’re not serious? I thought only dirty little children got lice!! That’s sick! That’s disgusting! I need to wash my hair! Oh God! It’s so itchy!!!”

Lizzy started rubbing her head against the bark of the tree which, though was amusing to watch, still didn’t make me feel any better.

Lizzy eventually calmed down after several people walked past her laughing. I, on the other hand, was still in a state of disbelief, shock and panic.

“I have lice? As in, those disgusting little crawling, blood sucking creatures that…oh jeez it really is itchy! How could this have happened?”

“Well,” Gina tapped her glasses with a slim finger, her expression becoming thoughtful even though her eyes kept flicking back to Jason behind us. “I’m not too sure but since both of you have it, you’ve either got it from the same source or one of you has passed it on to the other.”

“The same source…” I mumbled, looking at Lizzy who appeared to be frantic with worry. We hadn’t really hung out after school these past few weeks because we’ve all been studying. The only thing that could be related was…

“Those little bastards!” I hissed.

“What?”

“Lizzy, I think one of those kids you helped me baby sit gave us head lice.”

“Ew!!”

“But that was ages ago…like a week and a bit. Why is it only itching now?” I demanded.

“Maybe you just picked up some eggs or something…and they just hatched recently?” Gina suggested.

“Double ew!” Lizzy cried, collapsing onto the ground and whining.

I just shuddered.

The thought of having lice filled me with fear, disgust and embarrassment. I knew I wasn’t the cleanest, neatest person around but lice? Really?

As soon as school was over, Lizzy and I ran out of the building, stumbling over our feet in our haste to fix this lice problem. People stared as we sprinted down the sidewalk to the convenience store but we didn’t care. We had more important things to worry about than our reputation.

“This is too embarrassing. I don’t want to buy the lice removal stuff.” Lizzy said as we approached the place.

“Well I want to get these little critters out of my hair ASAP!” I replied, stopping outside the glass sliding doors and peering through the windows at all the people inside.

“Me too but…Tegan if people find out that we have head lice then…well…we’d be beyond losers. We’d be like diseased freaks!” Lizzy exclaimed, looking like she was about to rip her hair out.

“Ugh…they won’t care.” I said, although I faltered on the last word. I remembered that when I was younger and someone had lice, the school would send letters home warning everyone. Was it really that contagious?

“Tegan, I’m serious! I won’t be able to handle a further reduction to my social status! I’m not going in.” Lizzy cried, crossing her arms and not moving from her spot next to a row of trolleys.

We stood outside the sliding doors, watching as people walked in and out. Every time the door opened, I felt a wisp of cool air conditioning and smelt the scent of floor cleaning detergent. We waited around a little longer, stalling the inevitable.

“Fine! I’ll make a deal with you.” I said once I realised this wasn’t going anywhere and people started giving us suspicious looks. “We’ll scissor, paper rock it. Whoever loses has to go buy the stuff. Then at least only one of us will be implicated if anyone sees us.”

“Ok that sounds like fun!” Lizzy rubbed her hands together in anticipation while I wondered why we were making such a big deal about this. There was only a slim chance of us running into someone we knew that would actually recognize us.

“Lizzy? Tegan? What’s up? What are you two doing standing outside the store?”

The two of us spun in horror as we saw Paul…and Josh…and…ah crap, Sabrina, who was clinging to him like a four year old with her favourite toy. The two boys were in their red and black Sheridan Prep uniforms but Sabrina was in a tight blue dress and heels. Did she skip school or something?

Lizzy tensed up and froze as she eyed Josh and Sabrina, and I was left to try and get us out of this awkward situation

“Oh nothing much Paul. Just…you know…hanging out.” I said, mentally shouting at him to get lost.

“Huh really? That’s odd. So you’re not going in to buy anything?” He gave me a wide eyed look and I tried my best to nonverbally tell him that this wasn’t a good time.

“Nope.” GO. AWAY.

“Ah…I see.”

I noticed the way Sabrina and Lizzy were sizing each other up, both lost in a world of their own as their eyes glared and sparked.

“Your hair looks really nice Lizzy.” Josh said a little awkwardly to break the silence.

Lizzy beamed and shot Sabrina a glare.

Please, please leave! Paul, for the love of God, leave!

Paul seemed to get my telepathic message because with a confused look, he murmured ‘bye’ and walked away. I almost sighed in relief until Sabrina’s high voice caught my attention.

“Ew…What’s that in your hair?”

My eyes snapped to Lizzy, who was looking at me with equal horror.

“W-what do you mean?” I asked, turning back to Sabrina and trying not to sound as freaked out as I felt.

“Oh nothing…don’t worry about it. That’s how your hair looks everyday isn’t it?” Sabrina gave a fake smile and tittered away after Paul, dragging Josh with her.

I gritted my teeth. How on earth could I do something nice for her? Actually, how on earth could that girl be destined for greatness?

“Phew, that was a close one.” I muttered once they were out of sight.

Lizzy, on the other hand, burst into tears and flopped herself across a nearby empty shopping trolley.

“Lizzy? Lizzy, what’s wrong?”

“Oh like you don’t know.” She began wailing again and I didn’t know what to do. I was not good around crying people. I didn’t know what to say or even how to react, even if they were my best friend.

“It’s ok Lizzy.” I awkwardly patted her on the back and ignored the people who walked past staring at us.

“It’s not. Oh God, why did it have to be her of all people? I could handle it if it was just another cheap skank but Sabrina is smart. She’ll poison him against me! Oh Tegan,” the girl grabbed me by the collar, her sad eyes filled with tears, “oh Tegan what am I going to do? I love him so much!”

Whoa! Whoa! Hold up, did she just say she loved him? She couldn’t love him! Sure, she can like him a lot but the L word? I think not.

“Listen Lizzy…” I began, but seeing what a wreck she was made me reconsider talking sense into her. “Um Lizzy, you wait here. I’ll get the lice treatment.”

Lizzy nodded, still half draped on top of the trolley.

“And you might want to get off that…it doesn’t look very clean…I think someone puked on the handle.” I added.

Lizzy just looked at me with her bleary eyes and I realised that she probably wasn’t even paying attention to what I was saying.

“Please be quick.” She said as I started walking into the convenience store. “My make up is running and I look ugly.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Honestly Lizzy, I think you should be more worried about the bugs eating your scalp.”

That certainly stopped her complaining.

~

1.Divide your hair into four quarters.” I said as I read the instructions on the lice removal box.

“Done.” Lizzy replied, staring fiercely into the mirror like she was about to go into battle.

2. Make sure that you have found a louse that is alive.”

“Um…wait…yea these creepy little brown things are moving.”

“What about my hair?”

“Let me see…yep, they’re alive and well.”

“Not for long.” I growled. We had left the store approximately fifteen minutes ago and were now locked in my bathroom trying to rid ourselves of these little critters.

“Hurry up! What do we do next?” Lizzy whined.

“Be patient!” I snapped, my eyes scanning through the next sentence. “3. Thoroughly apply the solution from the bottle to each quarter and wait for ten minutes.”

“Alright, you do my hair and then I’ll do yours.”

Lizzy sat on the edge of the bathtub as I took the lice removal bottle out of its packaging. I opened the lid and crinkled my nose. The solution smelt disgusting and felt really gross too. At least it was clear.

“Ready?” I asked as Lizzy put on a brave face and turned around so I could apply the liquid.

At her nod, I squeezed some of the stuff onto Lizzy’s head and worked it into her scalp, coating her hair right down to the tips.

“Do you think we should wash all our clothes to kill any lice that could be there?” Lizzy asked as I poured out more oily stuff.

“That’s a good idea. Oh man, this is so sad. We’re almost seventeen and we have head lice.”

“I know right. Look at the packaging on the box of this treatment. It’s got cartoon pictures of fat five year olds on it! That’s almost like discrimination!”

I finished doing Lizzy’s hair and turned around so that she could do mine.

“I just hope this kills them all so that this will never happen again.” I grumbled, ignoring how greasy my hair was slowly becoming and how weird it felt having someone dig their fingers into my hair.

Both of us jumped as we heard a loud banging on the door.

“Tegan! You’ve been in there forever! What the hell? I need to use the bathroom!” Jess screamed.

“Shut up Jess! Lizzy and I are doing something in here!” I yelled back.

“Oh…ok. Hi Lizzy!”

“Hi Jess!” Lizzy cried in a cheery voice.

“I really like your new hair colour. It suits you!” Jess replied.

“Thanks Jess!”

“Could you two not have a shouting competition through the door?” I cut in. “Go away Jess. Lizzy and I are in the middle of something.”

“That sounded really dodgy you know.” Lizzy whispered to me, giggling as I slapped her on the shoulder.

I felt relieved when heard my sister’s footsteps heading back into her room. She had a strange respect for Lizzy, which was good because that meant she was on her best behaviour around my friend. She didn’t get along with Gina on the other hand, which was why my other best friend didn’t come over as much anymore.

Suddenly I heard Jess’ footsteps approach again.

“Oh, and Tegan?”

“Yea Jess?”

“Raith is here. He’s in the backyard.”

What?

I suddenly stood up and Lizzy let out a cry as my head collided with her chin.

“Ouch! What’s wrong Tegan?” Lizzy asked nervously.

Did I just hear correctly? Did Jess know Raith?

“Tegan? You’re freaking me out. What’s wrong? And is this the same Raith that you refused to introduce to me? Because then you can introduce me now after we wash out this gross crap from our hair.”

How did Jess know him? Maybe I wasn’t the only one who he talked too. And here I was thinking I’m so special. Why wouldn’t he talk to my sister? She’s pretty, bubbly, fun (when she’s not getting on your nerves), and he hanged out at my house pretty often so he was bound to run into Jess at some point.

“Tegan? Sweetie, snap out of it!”

I flinched as Lizzy sprayed me in the face with the shower head.

“Hey!” I yelped.

“Well you were ignoring me and it was annoying.”

“Let’s just rinse our hair.”

“Then can I meet Raith?”

“No. Then you can go home.”

“What? But Teeeeegan!!”

“No. Way.”

“Fine then. Keep him all to yourself.”

The girl pouted and leaned over the bathtub, pouring the water through her blonde locks. I just tried to shake out of the stunned stupor that was affecting my brain.

It took us a while to get all of the substance out of our hair and in that time, my nerves seemed to frizzle and explode. I didn’t really understand why. It was just Raith after all. I did, however, want to get to the bottom of how Jess knew him.

“Okay, I think we’ve removed most of them.” Lizzy said to me happily after we’d brushed through our hair with a metal fine toothed comb.

“Yea but how gross was it seeing all those dead things come out?” I said, making a face.

“Yea. So gross. Ugh I don’t even want to think about it!”

We packed everything up and I made sure we didn’t leave a trace of anything on the spotless white tiles. I did not want my family to find out I had head lice, especially Jess.

“Are you sure you don’t want to introduce me to your friend?” Lizzy pleaded as we shoved the two boxes of lice treatment into our school bags, then unlocked the door.

“Yes Lizzy. Really, he isn’t worth meeting.”

We headed down the stairs and I walked Lizzy to the front door, determined that she didn’t get a glimpse of the boy.

“Ok, well I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” She said to me, still trying to glance over my shoulder.

I snorted. She wouldn’t be able to see into my backyard unless she had x-ray vision or something.

“Yea Lizzy, see you then. Goodbye.” I stood on my front step to make sure she walked home and didn’t linger.

Then, once she was out of sight, I ran around the side of the house and opened the fence. I was exhausted but it seemed like my day wasn’t quite over yet.

I stepped into the backyard and locked the fence before turning around and seeing the moron leaning against a tree staring at the sky.

“Why do you always do that?” I asked

“Do what?” he didn’t miss a beat as those deep eyes flickered to me, then returned to the heavens.

“Stare at the sky.”

There was a pause as I approached him and stood a few metres away.

“Why do you want to know?” he asked.

“No reason.”

I hated how he chose to take his time getting to the point.

Again, his eyes met mine before looking away and shrugging.

“I used to do it a lot when I was alive, wondering what was up there. Now, even though I know all the mysteries of the universe, looking at the sky takes me back to a time when I was ignorant and could still be awed.”

I shifted my feet, feeling uncomfortable with the depth of his answer.

“You know all the mysteries of the universe eh?” I teased, smiling slightly at the absurdity.

“You betcha.”

A breeze blew through the garden and ruffled my hair lightly, bringing with it the scent of flowers and grass.

I took several uncertain steps towards Raith, who seemed so still he was almost like a statue.

“You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?” I asked leaning next to him against the tree. He edged away a little and I tried not to feel hurt. I knew it was only because I might touch him accidentally but I’d never realised how hard it was to avoid contact with someone who was almost like a friend.

“Well there are some things I am strictly not allowed to say, for obvious reasons.”

“And you’re actually going to play by the rules?”

“Hey, they’ll whoop my ass if I blab too much.”

We were silent as we both looked at the darkening sky. The sun was setting, painting the clouds a rich pink and orange colour. Through the haze, I could see the stars coming out and the moon hovering nearby; a huge, round, silver orb hanging above the world. It was almost romantic, if it wasn’t for the fact that I could hear Jess singing from inside the house…which reminded me…

“How do you know Jess?” I asked.

“Hmmm? Your hot sis?”

I stood up straight instantly, eyes flashing as I glared at Raith.

“Yes.” I hissed.

“None of your business.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

“Whoa, whoa, what is wrong with you now?”

“Give me a straight answer!”

“Hey! What’s the issue? It’s not as if I can touch her. And she’s a little young for me though she sure has a nice-” he stopped talking when he saw my murderous expression.

“Just. Tell. Me.” I wasn’t jealous. Not really. I had no reason to be. I had a loving, gorgeous boyfriend already. I had someone who didn’t insult me and could actually hold me and kiss me and make me feel special, unlike this asshole. I was just being overprotective for Jess’ sake. The girl was so easily misled and was a sucker for good looking guys. I could imagine her falling hard for this jerk, which would obviously end badly.

“I met her a couple of years ago.” Raith gave in, running a hand through his dark hair. My eyes were glued to the two silver rings on his left hand; one on his thumb and the other on his forefinger. They were really shiny with pretty patterns. I wondered where the other ring was.

“Wait…years ago?” I think my mouth actually fell open. What?

“I helped her through a rough time ok? But only because they made me. It was like a punishment because I did something stupid.” Raith glared at the ground, an odd expression on his face.

“What-”

“That’s none of your business. If your sister wanted to tell you, she would have. Now chill and stop interrogating me! Jesus Christ it’s like every time I talk to you, you’re always asking questions and accusing me of shit. God, you piss me off. I don’t know why I put up with this bullshit.”

Now that shut me up. I had obviously annoyed Raith which meant that he probably wouldn’t tell me anything more about him and my sister. I thought back to what he had said and it baffled me. He helped her through a rough time? A few years ago? There was only one thing I could think of that would fit the situation but it was something I didn’t want to face right now.

“You know what, you’re the one full of shit!” I suddenly screamed at the boy. His head snapped up, eyes blazing.

“What was that?” his voice was deadly and sent chills down my spine.

“You’re the one who keeps hanging around! You pop up whenever you feel like it, you insult me, you fight with me, you have all these freaking mood swings, you act all mysterious and never talk about yourself and then you wonder why I ask so many questions! You know what? I’ve had enough of this! You’re the one who pisses me off! I don’t even know why you’re still here! It’s not like you’ve done anything to help! You’ve already told me how to get rid of Babu! Do us both a favour and leave me alone!”

I was breathing hard, filled with so much rage that I couldn’t think straight. I was just so angry, so incredibly annoyed, and I couldn’t figure out why. My emotions became so intense and unstable around this moron.

Raith was still looking at me, an unreadable look on his face. He frowned, opened his mouth as if to say something, then didn’t. I’d rendered him speechless.

I heard the garage door open and turned around to see my mum’s car in the driveway. When I turned back, I wasn’t surprised to see the garden empty.

~

“This is Harry, Roger, Jason, Fred, Steve, Skyler and Filmore.”

“Hey. Nice to meet you guys.”

Cory beamed and pulled me closer against him, an arm around my waist. I tried not to let my bad mood show as my eyes scanned the stuffy cafeteria. I couldn’t believe I agreed to meet his friends today when I was feeling so lousy and anti-social.

“Here, take a seat.” The stocky guy, Roger I think, said warmly.

I gave him a fake smile and sat down, Cory sitting next to me.

“So Tegan, you coming to my party this weekend?” a tall, attractive brunette asked.

“Party?” I asked. Now why did that sound so familiar?

“Um yea. I have one every year during the first term. You’ve never been?” The guy looked both confused and annoyed at the same time.

“Oh my God you’re Jason!” I suddenly exclaimed.

“Uh, yea. Cory introduced us about two minutes ago.”

“But you’re Jason Jason!” The Jason who Gina liked and whose party Lizzy wanted us to go to! How could I have not realised this? We were only talking about it yesterday. And damn, that girl had taste. This Jason was a hottie.

“Uh…yes.” He frowned. “Why? What did you hear about me?”

“Nothing, don’t worry.”

I looked down, embarrassed, and decided my hamburger needed some attention.

Cory just chuckled and kissed the top of my head.

“Don’t mind Tegan. She’s a little strange.” He said jokingly.

The boys seemed to accept that because they went on to talk about football and soccer and some big championship game. I took this time to observe them a little.

Jason seemed to be the leader of the group, and the most dominant. To his right was Roger, the cheerful one, followed by Filmore who tried to be funny but failed miserably. Then there were the twins Steve and Skyler, who appeared to be the less intelligent of the lot. Lastly, there was Fred, who I could tell was the silent type, and Harry, who was brooding in the corner looking pissed. I didn’t exactly know where Cory fit in. He seemed like the easy going one who got along with everyone but at the same time held himself apart. All in all, it was a diverse group.

As I was finishing my Coke, I heard a loud shriek and choked as a bunch of girls appeared around the table of guys.

“Hey Filmore honey, I’m back from the field trip.” A tiny blonde said, wrapping her arms around the boy.

“Did you miss me?” A thin Asian girl giggled, leaning against Skyler.

I ignored the rest of the girls, who were all latching onto their respective boyfriends. This was weird. How come they all came at the same time? Cory must’ve read my mind, because he answered my question.

“Don’t worry. It’s always like this. Girlfriends are only allowed to sit with us during the second half of lunch. Otherwise we don’t get enough dude-bonding time. We made an exception for you today since I wanted you to meet the guys before they got distracted.”

“I see…” Oh good. At least this meant I wouldn’t have to put up with all this sickening public displays of affection for the whole of lunch.

Just half of it.

After lunch I had a free period so I went to the common room for a quick nap.

As quite an expensive school, the Kensington High common room was massive, around the size of five classrooms, and filled with the latest appliances. There were two coffee espresso machines, a flat screen TV and DVD player, a pool table, about five microwaves and ten sandwich toasters, a slushy machine and of course, three fridges.

The furniture was also top quality; leather couches, bean bags, stools and even a few massage chairs.

It was on one of the bean bags that I was sitting with my eyes closed, trying to get some sleep, when some rude person came up to me and just started talking.

“…the Kensington High School Fete.”

“Huh? What?”

“For Christ’s sake Tegan! Pay attention!”

I opened my eyes and glared at the girl in front of me. Here I was trying to get some shut eye when Katelyn the Conceited had to come along and disturb my peace.

I sat up straighter in the plush green bean bag and looked at the tall girl in front of me. Whoever voted for her to become school president ought to be shot. Ever since the year started, Katelyn had been nothing but an annoying pain in the ass.

“I said, I think you should help out at the Kensington High School Fete. As one of the students in year 11, it is your duty to be a role model to those younger than you.”

Humph, yea right.

Katelyn sat down opposite me and flipped through the papers on her clipboard.

“Ok, let’s see what we have available…”

“Oh Katelyn!” my sister suddenly appeared out of nowhere, prancing over towards us.

“Get out Jess. You’re not allowed in the common room. Only students in Years 11 and 12.” I growled as she came to a stop in front of me, almost bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Shut up Tegan. Katelyn! I heard you’re co-ordinating the fete this year and I’d like to help out!”

Katelyn gave Jess a sceptical look, raising her eyebrows.

“I’m sorry Jessica, but usually it’s only those in years 11 and 12 who help with the fete. You’re a little young to deal with the responsibility.”

“Oh please? The fete is always great every year and I really want to be a part of it!”

She was kidding me right? Jess always made me feel bad with her eagerness to participate and be a part of everything. I’d never gone to a school fete in my life, mainly because I thought they were lame.

I leaned back in my bean bag and put my notebook over my face again, trying to get back to sleep as I listened to Katelyn and Jess’ conversation.

“And a heard there’s a kissing booth! Do you think I could-”

“What?” I sat up again, staring at both of the girls before me.

“What do you mean what?” Jess sneered.

I ignored her and stared down Katelyn.

“There’s a kissing booth? Things like that actually exist?”

“We’re trying it out for this year.” Katelyn told me with a sniff, fiddling with her pen.

I made a face.

Ew. That was just gross and…ugh, it was basically promoting prostitution.

“So can I help out there?” my sis continued.

“I told you Jessica, I appreciate your help but I think we can cope without you. Tegan, on the other hand…”

“Can Jess do it instead?” I said quickly. I was just too lazy to show school pride. Besides, a lot of people had pride for Kensington. At every sporting event there were always a whole group of girls screaming ‘Go the Kensington Kingfishers!’. Yea…the kingfisher was our mascot. Pretty neat huh?

“No Tegan. You’re graduating next year and thus it is your duty to help out at the fete. Even though Jessica has a better attitude and is a real team player, you’re the one who has to do it.” Katelyn gave me a look full of contempt and Jess smirked in satisfaction. Damn that girl. Now she’d made me look like a total douche just because I didn’t want to waste my Saturday in a crowded open area full of snotty teens and kids.

“Fine. I’ll sell popcorn or something.” I muttered, glaring at the ground. Stupid guilt trip.

“Good. That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Kately scribbled my name on a piece of paper before leaving to bother the other people in the common room.

I settled back into a comfortable position, throwing my book back over my face and closing my eyes. It took me a moment to realise that Jess was still there.

“Go back to class before your teacher freaks.” I said, my eyes still closed.

“No. What did you say to Raith?”

I tensed, but on the surface kept relatively calm. I didn’t want to talk about the God damn Raith situation.

“None of your business. Get lost before a senior comes and drags you out by the hair.”

“Ha, as if. They all like me you know, unlike you. Anyway, what did you say to him?”

“Have you two been gossipping about me behind my back?”

“No, but I heard you two yelling at each other yesterday.”

“In that case, why do you need to ask me what I said?”

“Because I only heard shouting, not what was said. Jeez you’re an idiot.”

“Shut up. I’m just sick of him.”

There was a minute of silence but I knew Jess was still there. Oh man, why was everyone getting on my nerves today?

“You’re lying.” Her voice was so soft that I could barely hear it.

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“Yea, but I still don’t understand. He’s arrogant, bipolar, aggressive, probably sadistic, and never answers my questions. Why wouldn’t I be sick of him?”

Jess laughed and I pushed the book off my eyes so that I could look at her. I was met with her dark brown orbs, sparkling with humour.

“Yea, Raith’s a bastard but…” she cocked her head to one side, thinking. “Actually, don’t worry.”

I ground my teeth together.

“What, are you in love with him or something?” I snapped, clutching my book so tight that my hands started to hurt.

Jess just laughed.

“I met him when I was ten and hadn’t seen him for years until yesterday. At the time he made me believe he was my imaginary friend but now that I’ve seen him again, I know otherwise. I don’t know what he is but he’ll always be more of a brother to me than anything else.”

She gave me a sweet smile and I was left pondering over her words.

“When you were ten?” I whispered. She nodded and shrugged.

“I was having a hard time and Raith helped me through it. I don’t think you need to ask what I was having a hard time about.”

Right, well I was even more confused now.

“But…but I didn’t notice a thing…” I whispered.

“Don’t blame yourself. Everyone was cut up over what happened.”

Jess yawned and looked at her watch, scratching her head.

“Ok, well I better go back to class. I think I’ve been to the bathroom long enough. See you at home.”

“Kay, bye.”

I watched her leave, her blonde hair bouncing with every light, graceful step she took. Several people waved and called out to her as she left but she just smiled back, promising to talk to them later.

I sighed and lay back down.

There were often times when I was jealous of my sister; jealous of her good looks, her amazingly positive attitude and even her popularity and way with people. However, there was a time when I envied nothing more than her composure. I had always wondered how she had got through what had happened. The incident basically ripped me apart and I had always wished that I had had Jess’ strength. She had been the strongest one in the family throughout those hard years. I had always thought she had got through it alone but it seemed that that wasn’t the case at all. I didn’t know what to think anymore.

I spent the rest of my free period just lying there thinking and trying to find some peace of mind.

It didn’t help that my thoughts were filled with memories of trophies and ballet shoes.


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