Death and all His Friends

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Fete fatalities.

I had never been a fan of crowds. I’ve always felt that attention was more of a burden than something desirable. In my opinion, the bigger the audience, the more likely you’ll stuff and be remembered for it.

This was why I couldn’t possibly believe that I had managed to get myself into a situation where I was the very centre of attention.

Every single person at Jason’s party was staring at me, each gaze so harsh and penetrating that it felt like I would melt into a sticky pool of ickiness right there and then. It made my face heat up and my pulse quicken, each passing second seeming to go on for hours.

I felt light headed and weak. I didn’t know where to look. All the colours were blurring together and suddenly the walls seemed to be covered in mixed rainbow puke and the light had taken on a green tinge.

Then came the laughter. It started at the back and gradually spread around the whole assembly of people like some twisted Mexican wave.

Finally the whispers started; hushed voices grating against my ears from left right and centre.

I was rooted to the spot.

I couldn’t move.

They were all pointing at me and laughing.

I looked for a friendly face in the crowd and saw Jess looking at me with expression of disgust and fear. Near her was Cory who looked like he had eaten something sour. When I tried to meet his eyes, he quickly looked away and my heart sank.

This was bad.

I took several deeps breaths, praying that the tightness in my chest would disappear and I wouldn’t embarrass myself more by having an asthma attack and fainting.

Through the haze, I felt someone grab my hand and suddenly Lizzy and Gina appeared out of nowhere. Without a pause, they both dragged me out of the room and through the rabid crowd.

“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.” Lizzy kept repeating under her breath, though it seemed to be a coping mechanism for herself rather than designed to help me.

“Yea, don’t worry about it.” Gina mumbled, her eyes downcast and her face flushed.

I couldn’t speak. I was in an utter and complete state of shock.

The door had never felt so far away and I swore aeons passed as we moved through the crowd, people smirking and pointing and laughing everywhere I looked.

I wanted to throw up.

Instead I squinted until everything was nothing but a blur of colours and lights; figureless shapes in a technicolour nightmare. A small part of my mind registered how sticky the floor was, or how there was a fruity smell in the air, but the rest of my brain was frozen in a state of embarrassment.

I assumed we reached the exit because my friends halted and I opened my eyes to see Gina pull open the door with a ferocity that surprised me.

Then we were walking through the crisp night air, away from the music and talking and smoke and laughter and everything that made my stomach twist and turn.

“I’ll call Paul to pick us up. I’m sure he won’t mind. He won’t be doing anything either. He’s probably just freaking out over that cat. I quite like cats. I once saw this cat that had these really puffy diseased eyes and it was really gross because there was this weird yellow-”

I shut my eyes to block out Lizzy’s nervous ramble and focused on the way the cool air felt against my face and the fragrant smell of the wind off the water. I trusted my friends to be able to guide me down the path that led back towards the dirt road. Besides, with my eyes closed, I realised what a beautiful night it was. There air was cool around the lake and there was a strange atmosphere that made my chest tighten. The darkness of my eyelids seemed to be a gateway to another place and for an instant, it was as if all the sounds around me faded and I was transported to somewhere else.

Eventually we stopped walking and I opened my eyes to find myself standing in the dusty area where everyone had parked their cars.

Gina and Lizzy let go of my hands and stood stiffly in front of me. I could barely see them in the dark; just their silhouette against the navy star studded sky.

I swallowed nervously and wet my mouth.

“On a scale of one to ten, how bad was that?” I asked, tucking a strand of loose hair nervously behind my ear.

“Not that bad.” Lizzy said at the same time Gina said “Terrible.”

“Oh man.” I groaned, covering my face. “I still can’t believe that happened.”

“Don’t worry. They’ll forget about it soon.” Lizzy tried to comfort me. She patted me awkwardly on the back and I peered at them through my fingers.

Both my friends looked a mess. Lizzy’s hair was dishevelled and her lipstick smudged all over her face. Gina’s glasses were crooked and her clothes crumpled.

I didn’t say anything so we stood in silence, waiting for Paul to come and take us away from this disastrous night. I felt guilty for bringing them into this mess. The last thing any of us needed was more high school drama.

I was just about to doze off when we saw a pair of headlights light up the road from the left.

“Oh thank God.” Gina muttered, looking haggard, though I had no idea why. I was the one who made a complete idiot out of myself.

When Paul stopped the car, we all raced to get in. It was a nice car; red and quite low with flashy hubcaps and leather seats. I really appreciated the seats at this moment, settling myself in and preparing to have a quick nap.

I felt exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to curl up and sleep.

“So what happened?” Paul asked as he yawned. He must have just woken up because his hair was incredibly messy and he was still wearing a baggy sweatshirt and stripy pyjama pants.

“N-nothing much. Just stuff.” Lizzy mumbled.

“You called me at midnight to come get you from the middle of nowhere just because of ‘stuff’?”

I let out a deep breath and hoped that they’d stop making so much noise. I just wanted to sleep and maybe everything would be magically better by tomorrow. I pressed my cheek against the cold window and shut my eyes, listening to the two voices.

The bickering continued for another three minutes, up to the point where they were just calling each other creative and slightly disturbing names. At that moment, I decided that I was going to run away to the mountains and become a hermit so I never have to be around people ever again.

“Hey Paul?” I asked with my eyes still closed.

“Yea Tegan?” he replied, his tone changing abruptly.

I opened my eyes and sat up straighter.

“What is Sabrina like? I mean, you and Josh must hang out with her a lot. What is she really like?”

Paul seemed to be thinking quite hard because I saw him furrow his brow in the rear view mirror.

“She’s actually really nice and funny. I know she seems really snarky and shallow on the outside but once you actually talk to her, she’s quite a great girl.”

I saw Lizzy tense up with a dark look on her face.

So Sabrina is actually really nice?

I’ll believe it when I see it.

I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was Gina shaking me and pushing me out of the car.

Then, in a drowsy haze, I stumbled towards my house, got the door open and dragged myself up the stairs and into my room.

A split second later, I was asleep.

~

Morning came too soon. I must have had the same dream again because I woke up in a cold sweat with a foul taste in my mouth. I lay there, staring at the plain white ceiling in the grey light of dawn. I know Jess had a poster of her favourite actor stuck to the ceiling of her room. The thing had scared the crap out of me one morning when I had slept in her bed and woke up to see the face of a roughly shaven indie rocker staring back at me.

I sat up slowly and put my head in my hands. The floor was particularly hard this morning and once again I wished that I had never been involved in the whole Raith-Babu situation. Then I wouldn’t be traumatized and have to sleep on the floor.

I glanced at my bed and ran a hand through my greasy hair. I could still see the blood stains even though I knew it was my imagination.

Grumbling under my breath, I stood up and hobbled out of my room and into the bathroom.

It took me a moment to remember what had happened the previous night. Then my stomach dropped and I let out a wail.

“Oh my God.” I whined, sitting on the floor and curling into the foetal position. Everything suddenly came crashing back into focus with explicit detail. I had spilt Coke on Sabrina and accused Jason of spiking her drink. I had pretty much physically and verbally abused Kensington royalty. I never wanted to show my face again.

“Tegan! What happened to you?”

I looked up and saw Jess staring at me with her face scrunched up. I just stared at her, too lazy to speak and hoping that my wide-eyes look would freak her out a little.

“Tegan?” she asked again when I didn’t say anything for a full minute.

“You were there Jess. I’m pretty sure you know what happened.” I muttered, letting my head drop and staring at the tiled floor. It was an ugly pattern. Almost as ugly as the way I felt.

“No I mean your face.”

What?

I looked up again and saw Jess staring at me with that familiar look of disgust.

“What’s wrong with my face?” I cried, prodding my face with my eyes wide in shock.

“Look for yourself.”

Jess pointed at the mirror and I stood up and peered at my reflection.

“Ew!” I screamed, horrified by the beast staring back at me. “What the flip?”

My face was covered in disgusting, ugly red zits.

Jess!” I shrieked, pulling at my face and hyperventilating. “What’s wrong with me?”

Jess rolled her eyes and flipped her hair over her skinny shoulder.

“You’re just breaking out.” She said nonchalantly.

“Breaking out? Breaking out? I’ve never had a single pimple in my life!” I shouted, rubbing my face and flinching at the puffy soreness.

“You must be stressed. You did throw your drink at Sabrina.” Jess replied, not at all put off by my freak out.

“No. I thought Jason spiked her drink so I knocked it out of her hand…and all over the dress.”

Jess scoffed.

“Ugh! You thought Jason, Jason would spike her drink? Why would you think something so stupid? He wouldn’t do something like that at his own party and he’s attractive enough to get Sabrina without trying to drug her. You’re an idiot.”

I gritted my teeth and prayed that God might inflict this horrible pimple plague on my sister.

“I was trying to help.” I defended stiffly. “I didn’t mean for it to spill all over her expensive white dress. But the issue here is my face!

Jess just rolled her eyes again and scratched her head.

“Just put some toothpaste on your face. I heard from my friend that it works.”

“Have you tried it?” I snapped, glaring at her.

“I don’t get acne. Duh.”

I gritted my teeth and tried to resist the urge to drown her in the toilet.

Jess looked too pretty today anyway. I wouldn’t want to get that nice dress dirty. Sometimes I wished I was as pretty as her. Wait a sec, was she scratching her head?

Oh dear.

“J-Jess?”

“Yea?”

We both heard the sound of her ringtone and Jess perked up.

“Oh my gawd! It’s Lucas! I’ll talk to you later ok?” And with that, Jess rushed out of the room.

I was left staring at my reflection with a look of dread on my face.

Ok, calm down Tegan. It could just be a coincidence. She might have just been scratching her head because her scalp was dry. Then again I might have just given her lice and therefore ruined her whole social reputation. Either way it’s not my problem right?

With one last look at the freak in the mirror, I decided to get ready for school.

~

“You are awesome. A-W-S-O-M-

“Lizzy, I know how to spell awesome.”

“And you spelt it wrong Eliza.”

We were sitting in front of my locker as I searched for my copy of Othello. Several people had already walked past staring at me, no doubt hearing about what I did to Sabrina and ogling at my zit-tastic face.

“But…oh my God! I couldn’t see what was happening because there were too many people but I heard the shouting. Did you see the look on her face? Did you see the look on Jason’s face?” Lizzy was practically exploding with glee. Despite her freak out on the night, today she actually seemed proud of what I did.

“Eliza, Tegan accused Jason of a very serious crime. Tegan, I don’t entirely approve of what you did. It wasn’t funny.” Gina said quite seriously with a disapproving look on her face.

“I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was honestly trying to help her.” I said between clenched teeth.

I was absolutely not looking forward to school today. I didn’t really like Mondays in general, but I knew today was going to be hell on a stick.

“And how come you have so many pimples now?” Lizzy asked innocently. “There’s like a massive one right on your nose.” She pointed to my face and I wanted to bite her finger off.

“I’m not blind. I know there’s a gigantic zit on my nose plus all the others around my face.” I snapped. Why do people feel the need to point out the obvious? Another reason why I should leave society and become a crazy goat lady in the Himalayas.

Lizzy looked slightly shocked at my outburst but I couldn’t bring myself to feel sorry for her.

“Well don’t worry. Come over today. I’ve got heaps of pimple cream and cleansing stuff that works. Did you try toothpaste?” she said with a weak smile.

“Yea. I don’t think it works.” I grumbled, still unable to find my stupid English textbook.

“Hmm I though you smelt a bit minty today.” Lizzy commented.

I cracked a smile and shoved her lightly.

“It’s annoying though. I’ve always had clear skin. Why now? Seriously that only thing I liked about myself was my skin.” I complained.

“Hey we’ve all been through this. It’ll pass.”

I sighed.

“I guess I’ll just have to put up with being gross.”

Gina, who had been silent and still for almost the whole exchange, suddenly stood up.

“Tegan, the bell just rang. I think we should go to class now.” she said, picking up her books and not looking at me.

“I guess.” I mumbled, my thoughts back to Sabrina and how the rest of the students at Kensington were going to react when the story spread around.

“Hey Tee, relax. I’m sure no one cares if you split Coke all over the most popular girl in Kensington High and accused a jock of trying to drug her.” Lizzy said perkily, also standing up.

“Thanks Lizzy.” I growled sarcastically, grabbing a few pens and a torn up notebook. Then we all parted ways and went to our respective classes.

My first period class was English, which sucked because I was all by myself. As I walked through the busy hallways, I was already getting dirty looks from just about everyone.

Oh jeez.

I kept my eyes to the ground and tried not to meet the gaze of any of anyone, which was hard because I had to look up every now and again so I wouldn’t walk into a wall and stack it.

I knew people were talking about me. I had that prickling feeling on the back of my neck which made me certain people were staring at me too. I think I now have a hate of mankind.

I had counted all the coffee stains on the carpet before I finally got to my English class. Glancing at my watch, I was surprised to find that I had actually arrived 2 minutes before the lesson actually started.

This was probably the first time I wasn’t late for English. However, as soon as I stepped through the door, the entire room became silent. I glanced up and saw that everyone was staring at me. Oh God, it was just like in those lame movies.

As I sat in my designated seat next to Buff Man, everyone started whispering. It was like the Butt Girl thing all over again only worse.

“Did you hear what happened at Jason’s party?”

“It was so embarrassing! I feel sorry for her!”

“But she threw Coke all over Sabrina. Ha! What a legend!”

“Jason’s pissed though.”

“I heard Sabrina is planning on burning down her house.”

“Why don’t you all just shut up and leave me alone!” I screamed. Ok, so that’s what I wish I did. Instead, I just sank deeper into my chair. My eye began to twitch. God damn it.

Buff Man didn’t help either.

“Have you talked to Jess yet?” he asked eagerly.

“About what?” I asked darkly, hiding behind my notebook and hoping he’d leave me alone.

“You know.” He peered over my book trying to meet my eyes. I just shifted so that I couldn’t see him. “Asking Jess to go out with me.”

“No.” I snapped.

“Why not?”

“I’m a little busy okay?”

Buff Man shook his head disappointedly.

“Not good enough Tegan. Remember that I know your secret.”

“For Christ’s sake! No one cares about that anymore! The Kensignton Butt girl thing blew over weeks ago!” I cried, exasperated and slamming my book on the desk.

Buff Man looked surprised at my outburst because his meaty face went pink. Then his fat lips pulled back into a sneer.

“You wanna bet? I’ve got nothing to lose by telling everyone.” He whispered darkly.

I almost snapped my pen in half out of frustration.

“Fine. I’ll ask her tonight.” I growled.

“Good.”

“Good. Now leave me the hell alone!”

We both retreated back into our seats with our arms crossed stubbornly. What a jerk. Can’t he see that I’ve got other things to worry about apart from his stupid non-existent love life?

“By the way, you’ve got a pimple on your nose.”

I don’t think Buff Man realised how close he came to death that day. If it hadn’t been for the class full of 23 witnesses, I would have jammed my pen into his temple and beat the hell out of his ugly face.

The next period was pretty much the same as the first. It seemed like overnight I’d become a celebrity. Everyone instantly knew who I was, who I hung out with and what classes I was in. It was scary. And not all of them were haters. Several people actually came up and tried to high five me during lunch.

“This is terrible.” I growled once school has ended. Gina and Lizzy were standing with me at my locker as I dug through the dark depths trying to find my school planner.

“I don’t get why you’re so worked up. You’ve becomes famous in this place. Everyone is going to remember you for the rest of their lives as the girl who threw a Coke in Sabrina Saintly’s face!” Lizzy said happily and even doing a little hop.

“I think they might even publish an article about you in the year book.” Gina added dully, looking at me from behind the pile of junk I kept throwing into her hands.

“Hardy ha ha. Real funny guys.” I snapped, giving up on the planner. I was probably never going to see the thing again.

“The point we’re trying to make is that you better watch out.” Gina said, handing me back all the crap I had scooped out of my locker. Ew was that a rotten…? I didn’t even know.

“You think I don’t know that?” I replied. “Even though everyone probably hates that girl, her loyal band of followers are doing her justice.” I slammed the metal door shut, revealing the crude words someone had scribbled in permanent marker all over it.

“Oh my Gosh! That’s so mean!” Lizzy gasped. I shrugged. Yea it was a bit of a shock coming back from lunch and seeing how beautifully my locker had been decorated, but honestly, what did I expect? Like Lizzy said; I’m the girl who threw black soft drink all over Sabrina. However, I had bigger things to worry about; like whether or not Babu would consider this fiasco as an attack on Sabrina and hence try to chop my leg off or something.

We all started walking down the quickly emptying hallway.

“Hey how about we go see that new movie about that girl and that guy and that place.” Lizzy asked quickly, trying to change the subject.

“Great description.” Gina said sarcastically. “But I’m in the mood for a movie. What you think Tegan?”

“Honestly, an escape from reality is just what I need.”

~

The next day passed relatively incident free. My popularity sure had skyrocketed but apart from that, life carried on as usual. I woke up, wiped the toothpaste off my face, went to school, slept, ignored my classmates, came home from school, put more toothpaste on my face and went to sleep.

Soon enough it was Wednesday and all of year 11 and 12 had to stay after school to listen to Student Body President Katelyn blab on about crap that nobody cared about.

“Ok thank you, quiet down please. Quiet! I said be quiet! Thank you. Now as you know, the fete is coming up in a matter of days, and frankly, I don’t think we’re ready.” Katelyn shuffled through her papers while I yawned.

What a way to spend the last Wednesday afternoon of the term; standing on the oval with three hundred other people listening to Katelyn tattle on. To be honest, even the freshly mown grass was more interesting than this girl. At least it was a vibrant green from the gallons of water wasted on the maintenance of a 50 hectare oval that no one really uses. Kately, on the other hand, was the epitome of dull. Even her voice made me want to take a nap. What a waste a time. I could be sleeping right now. Or lazing around on the couch watching TV. Oh man, I need to get a life.

“Yes, so as I was saying, I don’t think we’re nearly as prepared as we should be. Now I did a lot of calling around and…Hey! Pay attention! Yes I’m talking to you! Ok, now I did a lot of calling around and now we’re having the fete down at the harbour side.”

“For real?” Someone yelled. There was an excited buzz around the students but to be honest, I didn’t want to go anywhere near Lake Longtom.

“Yes. There is a much more open space there, and if it’s by the water then there’s sure to be a lot more people who’d come. We’ll be sure to beat Sheridan Prep for sure this year.”

Everyone cheered except me.

Fun fact number one: Sheridan Preparatory had always been, and probably always will be Kensington High School’s rival. Yep, it was the Sheridan Shrews vs. the Kensington Kingfishers. Whoever thought up these mascots must’ve been high.

Fun fact number two: Sheridan Prep and Kensington High have always competed in everything, whether it be soccer, football, hockey, basketball and of course, school fetes.

Fun fact number three: Sheridan always wins. Always.

“Oh wow! This year we could actually beat them!” Lizzy hissed excitedly next to me.

“You sure about that?” Gina said on my other side.

“But we’ve got the carnival ground on the harbour front!”

“What do you think Tegan?”

“Don’t bring me into this. I don’t know. Sure we’ll get a lot more profit than usual but Sheridan Prep always find a way to out do us. Whose stupid idea was it to have the fete so early in the year anyway?”

“Who said that?”

Lizzy, Gina and I froze as everyone turned to stare at us. The whispering started up again and I felt deflated.

“Do you want to repeat that?” Katelyn asked, her voice deathly quiet.

“No ma’am.” I said quickly.

“Good. Because it was my idea and it’s a good one because it shows we’re confident, and when Sheridan sees how awesome we are, they’ll know they won’t be able to top it. Now it wasn’t cheap to rent out this place, so I’m going to be needing ten dollars from all of you.”

What? What? Did she just say we have to pay?

“What happened to those school fees our parents pay every semester?” I hissed to Gina.

“Those are for school equipment and maintenance.” she told me matter-of-factly.

“Oh God! Guys, you know I don’t have enough money! I let Jess borrow $10 the other day and I spend the rest of my money buying tacos and a novelty sombrero! What do I do? Katelyn is going to kill me!”

“Tegan, I’m sure that she’ll understand.” Lizzy said uncertainly.

“No way. She hates me for not being school spirited.”

“Well it wouldn’t hurt if you showed a bit more pride and enthusiasm.” Gina grumbled.

“Yeah, yeah I know. Now move it. I got to hide!”

“Tegan, just chill. We’ll lend you the money.” Lizzy said confidently. “Right Gina? Five dollars each.”

“No! I can’t let you pay for me. I might never get the money back.” I whined.

“You’re our friend and, though it goes against my conscience to agree with her, Eliza is right.” Gina said with certainty.

At that moment, Katelyn appeared and Lizzy and Gina handed her fifteen dollars each.

“Getting your friends to pay for you Tegan Michaels? You sure have reached a new low.” She said stiffly.

I just ignored her.

Blah blah blah blah there goes my Wednesday afternoon.

~

Saturday rolled around and soon enough I was getting ready to go to Lizzy’s house before the fete.

As I was forcing my legs through my skinny jeans which seemed to have shrunk in the wash, I heard the front door slam and footsteps ascending the staircase.

Remembering the promise I made to Butt Man almost four days ago, I opened to door of my room ready to embarrass myself in front of my sister.

I did not, however, expect to come face to face with Lucas, Paul’s cute friend and waiter from the mall.

At least he was wearing a shirt this time.

“Oh hello beautiful.” He said when I stood there with my mouth open. He had slicked his sandy hair back and was dressed in a white button down shirt, jeans and black converse. Even so, those vivid green eyes still made me uncomfortable.

“What are you doing in my house?” I demanded, stepping back in alarm. Oh God, he’s not robbing me is he?

“Your room smells funny.” He commented with a cheesy smile.

“Lucas baby, what are you doing talking to my lame sister? My room’s this way!” I heard Jess call out.

I put two and two together and immediately had a mental freak out.

You’re dating Jess?” I shouted. Ew! He’s like…how many years older? Three? That should be illegal! Okay it’s not that bad but…

I think my disgust showed on my face because Lucas frowned.

“What’s wrong?” he asked innocently.

Jess appeared at his side, dressed in an extremely short, summer dress and wearing what looked like fake lashes.

“Don’t worry about her.” She said sweetly and started tugging at his arm. “Tegan always has that look on her face.”

Lucas just shrugged and followed her down the hallway while I stood rooted to the spot.

Then I shook my head and ran out of my room.

“Jess! Can I talk to you for a second!” I yelled after her.

Jess shot me a glare over her shoulder and sighed.

“Wait in my room Lucas. I’ll be right there.” She said to him before coming towards me.

“Jess-” I began but she cut me off.

“What is your problem?” she hissed angrily. “Could you please not embarrass me in front of my new boyfriend?”

“New boyfriend? Are you crazy! He’s way older than you!” I cried.

“He’s not that much older and I’m very mature for my age. He said I was the prettiest girl he’s ever seen!”

I rolled my eyes.

“Seriously Jess, you can’t fall for every guy who tells you he thinks you’re pretty. Can’t you go out with someone more…safe? Like….like…” I suddenly found an opportunity to slip in a good word for my English classmate. “Like Buff Man!”

“Huh?”

Jess looked at me with wide, confused eyes and I groaned.

“I mean Hershel. You know Hershel?”

Jess burst out laughing.

“You call Hershel Buff Man? I don’t know, maybe you should date him Tegan.” She giggled again and wiped tears from her eyes, smudging a bit of her eyeliner. “Besdies, Hershel and I are just friends. He certainly doesn’t like me in that way. Lucas on the other hand…” Jess’ eyes turned dreamy and she basically drifted away from me back into her room.

Looks like Buff Man is going to be disappointed.

~

“Hey Richie baby. You miss me?” I cooed at the massive Greek Statue in the Connifers’ house.

“Christ Tegan, your love for that statue is unwholesome and weird. I think you should see a psychiatrist.” Lizzy said playfully as she watched me leaning against the railing of the staircase, staring into the stone eyes of the massive thing.

“Shut up Lizzy. Our love is as pure as snow.” I retorted. Lizzy snorted before walking over to the room next to hers and hammering on the door.

“Paul! Get your ass out here ASAP! You said you’d drive us to the fete!” she yelled.

“What am I? Your personal taxi-driver or something?” her brother demanded as he pulled open his door.

“Well if you’d give me the keys to your car-”

“Hell no.”

“Then I guess you have to drive us.”

Paul and Lizzy had a weird little stare off for about a minute until Princess Zefernini nipped him on the ankle.

“Fine. But Sheridan Prep is still going to kick Kensington’s ass.”

As Paul stomped down the stairs, Lizzy and I following, I wondered why the two siblings didn’t go to the same school. I never bothered to ask before, just in case I would be prying.

We got into the car and Paul started the engine when Lizzy screamed “Stop! I forgot my purse!”

“Idiot.” Paul murmured as she ran out of the car.

“So Paul,” I began once she was out of sight, “this has been annoying me for weeks. Tell me the truth. How did Josh get together with Sabrina? The night of the party, he thought he was making out with Lizzy.”

Paul turned around in his seat to face me looking thoughtful. For a moment I couldn’t help by notice how he and Lizzy looked nothing alike. The only similarity was their eyes which were a crystal clear blue.

“Honestly? He woke up with her, she wouldn’t leave him alone, and Josh is such a nice guy that he didn’t have to heart to deny it when Sabrina started going around declaring them an item. God he needs to grow some balls. Though she isn’t that bad. She knows how to have a good time.”

I pondered whether or not I should tell him about Sabrina and Jason. I didn’t know why I still hadn’t told anyone at all. Is it because I felt guilty? I’d been avoiding Sabrina all week and now it was the holidays. Two weeks of freedom from all the staring and the insults and the random people high fiving me. Now I just had to watch out for Babu.

Before I could decide to do anything else, Lizzy returned and we were on our way to the harbour.

Being a small town, the drive wasn’t that long and all three of us killed time by singing along rather badly to the songs on the radio. Lizzy managed to rap every verse in Super Bass, much to my surprise and Paul did a pretty good rendition of Bruno Mars.

Then we all butchered a little Calvin Harris before I saw the pretty lights and grey-blue water of the harbour side.

It had been a while since I had been to this busy area of Fishbowl and for a moment I couldn’t help but gape and press my nose against the window as Paul looked for a place to park along the busy market place.

There were people everywhere; more people than I had seen in Fishbowl for a while. There were restaurants and shops, stalls and street performers and even live music. It was everything I loved and I had no idea why I never went to the harbour side as often as I should have.

Paul finally found a place to park and after some pretty dodgy parallel parking, all three of us got out and looked for the site of the fete.

After a bit of a wander, because Kately has no sense of direction and thus it was a nightmare trying to work out which fish and chips stall she was referring to in her list of directions, we finally found the right place.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Paul gasped as he stood outside the fairgrounds of the Kensington Annual High School Fete.

I also shared his disbelief.

It was huge. Even though I had never been to a school fete before, I knew it couldn’t have been as big as this. Our school oval was tiny compared to this massive block of land filled with rides, stalls, stages and…and was that a giant slide? Everything was also in school colours: blue, black and white everywhere. I could see the silhouette of what even looked like circus tents with blue, white and black strips and even massive rides covered in flashing lights.

“Yea, you think Sheridan can top this?” Lizzy said with a grin. “And where do you think you’re going? You’re not allowed in there yet Paul. We still have to help set up things. Go away.”

“B-but-”

“Leave, you Sheridan Prep scum!”

“Hey!”

“Come on Tee! Let’s go!” Lizzy linked her arm through mine and we both approached the massive gate.

“There you two are. About time. You’re five minutes late.” Katelyn snapped, climbing out of a blue ticket booth and frowning at us. She actually didn’t look as uptight today with her bouncy brown curls hanging loose around her round face and wearing a bright blue skirt and singlet.

“Sorry.” We said in unison.

“Well no good saying sorry now. You two have the first shift at the popcorn stand.”

“How long does that go for?” Lizzy asked.

“Two hours. The fete opens at six. That gives you fifteen minutes to get the machine ready. Hurry up!”

The girl threw a map at us and pushed us in the right direction.

“Ok, ok.”

We wandered through the fair, our faces alight in awe. There was a haunted house adorned with overgrown ivy and chipped paint, countless game stands with massive plushy toys on display to tempt you into playing, a fairy floss, hot dog and even pancake stall, brightly coloured bumper cars, photobooths, a selection of rides and, under the blue, black and white topped tent, a huge stage blasting music from enormous speakers.

The air was alive with excitement and anticipation. I smiled broadly. The atmosphere was pretty much contagious.

“It’s like a real carnival!” Lizzy exclaimed.

“Katelyn sure went all out to beat Sheridan Prep. I wonder how much it cost to set up this place.”

“Who cares? It’s awesome! And…is that a kissing booth?

“No way! I thought they were just joking!” I could not believe it. Who in high heaven would…oh hey look it’s Sabrina and Co.

“It’s Sabrina.” Lizzy hissed as we watched the tall brunette girl touch up her make up as she sat in the kissing booth like a queen.

“I knew it.” I muttered, my high spirits sinking.

“Oh you’re kidding me.” Lizzy suddenly squeaked.

“What?”

“The popcorn stand is opposite this tart!”

“Serious?”

We approached the little red stand which was basically a patio tent thing with a bench in front displaying a popcorn machine and a row of drinks.

“Is it going to be just us two?” I asked Lizzy as I looked around. There was a bag of popcorn kernels, a huge cooler full of soft drink, a cash register, and several boxes.

“I think there’s one more person coming in. Too bad Gina has to perform in that orchestra all night. Otherwise she could have helped too. Damn her cello playing skills!”

I opened the top of the popcorn machine and Lizzy poured in the kernels.

“I can’t believe we have to spend two hours watching Sabrina and her friends make out with strangers.” Lizzy grumbled as we waited for the machine to do its magic, our eyes glued to the girl.

“I know right. Just thinking about the sight makes me want to bash my head in with my bare hands.”

“Who knows. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see her have to kiss a really old man!”

We were so focussed on staring at Sabrina that Lizzy that I failed to notice the petit strawberry blond coming up to us.

“Uhm…hi…” she whispered, and Lizzy and I stared at her in horror and shock.

“Tegan why is the weakest link talking to us?” Lizzy said quietly to me.

“Shut up. I’m pretty sure she can still hear you.”

The weakest link didn’t seem to be paying attention. Instead, she was biting her lip and staring at the ground.

“So what can we do for you?” I asked once I realised she wasn’t going to say anything else.

“Oh…um…” the girl’s voice sounded so wispy and insecure. “Um…I’m meant to be helping out at this stall.”

“Really?” Lizzy practically punched the air in joy, which was embarrassing.

“Yes. They only had room for three people at each stall at one interval and the kissing booth is already full.” The weakest link fell into a soft silence again.

Lizzy and I glanced up at the three skanks posing as they took pictures with their camera phones.

“I see…” I said to fill in the silence.

“Well that’s great.” Lizzy started to look creepy with her over eagerness to be nice to the girl. I hoped she still wasn’t trying to carry out the plan.

“What’s your name?” I asked, hoping to ease her nervousness.

“Uhm…Stephanie.” The girl whispered. I cringed. She was so painfully shy that it hurt.

“Great. Stephanie, can you do us a favour? We don’t have any change in this cash register so can you go to Katelyn and get some off her? Thanks hun!” As Lizzy waved the girl off, she turned to me looking devious.

“Oh no. What Lizzy?”

“She walked right into our plan!”

“Oh please not the plan.”

“Yes Tegan. Operation Cupcake! You know what this means right? We take this opportunity to become best friends with Stephanie and then she’ll realise how real friends are meant to treat her and then tell us all the goss on Smutty Sabrina over there! It’s genius!”

“Lizzy, we have two hours. I don’t think that’s enough time to-”

“Of course it’s enough time! I’m great at making friends. Don’t you worry.”

“Lizzy-”

“Shh she’s coming back. Steph! Can I call you that? Okay, welcome back! I see you’ve brought the change.”

Lizzy basically hugged the timid girl, who looked even more freaked out. This was not going to work. I almost felt sorry for poor Stephanie. Almost, but not quite.

~

“That’ll be six dollars and eighty cents. Thank you.”

I wiped my forehead with my arm. The night had slowly become unseasonably warm and plunging my hand into a popcorn machine for the past hour and a half hadn’t helped.

“So…hot…” Lizzy gasped next to me, looking like she was about to faint. I really envied how she didn’t seem to sweat as much as me. Her face and bangs still looked pristine whilst I was dripping all over the place, wisps of hair stuck to my forehead. My acne still hadn’t gone down and I’m pretty sure this sweat won’t help my face.

Ugh I must look disgusting.

Stephanie was standing a little away from us counting how much money we’d made.

Although we had had heaps of customers when the fete opened, the number of people purchasing popcorn had slowly tickled out. I wasn’t surprised. Four dollars for about three scoops of popcorn? Rip off.

“Look at that.” Lizzy said, pointing at the kissing booth. So far, we hadn’t been able to see anyone kiss Sabrina or any of her friends because the line was so long.

“Hey Eliza. Tegan.”

“Gina!”

Our friend joined us behind the counter, dressed in black since that was the orchestra dress code.

“I think I heard your cello solo. It sounded awesome.” Lizzy smiled.

“Really? I haven’t done my solo yet.”

“Lizzy, that was a flute, not a cello.” I corrected. Gina smiled as Lizzy turned red.

“There were so many people in the audience. I can’t believe the number of people who showed up to this thing. Has business been good?” Gina asked.

“Can’t complain. This popcorn is a rip off so any business is good business.” I replied.

“Well what’s everyone lining up for opposite you?” Gina pointed at the kissing booth, causing Lizzy and I to grimace.

“Sabrina and Co. are whoring out kisses for two dollars.” Lizzy snorted.

“Really? Any interesting customers?”

“Not anything…Oh look! There’s like a sixty year old man.” I exclaimed happily.

“Oh yea! Wait…I think he’s just waiting for his granddaughter to get off from the bumper cars.” Lizzy cut in.

“Damn. I wanted to see his dentures accidentally get sucked into Sabrina’s mouth when they kissed.”

“What is wrong with you all?” And angry, yet soft voice drifted towards us.

The three of us turned to see Stephanie staring at us with her hands on her hips. She hadn’t said much at all during the past hour and a half, despite Lizzy’s horrendous attempts to befriend her.

“What?” Lizzy asked, confused.

“Why are you all so mean to Sabrina?”

We continued to stare, not understanding.

“We are talking about the same Sabrina right?” Lizzy murmured.

“Yes. And…and…and you shouldn’t be so horrible to her. Yes, she can be rude and cruel sometimes, but at least she’s honest. And…and she’s loyal. And she actually has a heart of gold.” Stephanie’s confidence seemed to shrink bit by bit, yet her meaning was clear.

She was a hundred percent on Sabrina Saintly’s side.

Lizzy gaped at her speechless.

“She’s going to be harder to crack than I thought.” She eventually whispered to us.

“Oh, that’s the weakest link isn’t it?” Gina added. “Why is she here?”

“Well she…she…sh…sh…she…she uh…she…”

Gina and I frowned as Lizzy spluttered and stumbled over her words, her eyes focused on something to our right.

“What the…”

All became clear when a familiar figure approached our popcorn stand.

Raith?” I said, my eyes almost popping out of my head.

I couldn’t believe it. He was here in front of me and all my friends. What was he doing here?

Raith looked perfect as ever.

He was wearing a thin grey hoodie, white singlet, black fitted jeans and Vans. It felt like an age since I had seen him, and in that time I had forgotten how tall he was. His hair hadn’t changed. I wonder if it even grew. It was still dark brown and messy though it looked so soft.

“Hey Tegan. This is one hell of a fete. Your school must be loaded.” The boy leaned on the bench with a smug smile, winking at Gina and giving Lizzy a nod.

“Eep!”

Did Gina just ‘eep?’

I glanced at my friends and saw that they were mesmerised. Oh Lord, was that how I looked when I stared at Raith? I hoped not because then I’d have to maim myself.

“So Raith, what are you doing here?” I managed to say between clenched teeth.

Raith cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow, those dark eyes meeting my own. They were as dark and deep as ever and as I looked into them, I felt as if I was falling down down down into some secret place where all I could feel was cold.

Then he spoke and I snapped out of my daydream.

“I was walking around the harbour when I saw this mini carnival going down. It’s pretty boring actually. Come with me for a bit.”

I think I stopped breathing. Wasn’t he still mad at me for telling him to go away? Did I want him to come back?

“Um…actually I’m kinda busy…” I said softly.

“Please?” he moved even closer to me, our faces inches apart. I knew he wouldn’t touch me but I still went red as I held his gaze. “It would make my night so much more interesting.”

I felt my face heating up and I was pretty sure he could feel it too.

“Ah…uhm…ah…I actually…I really can’t…Need to work…twenty more minutes…” I got out this much before Raith shook his head, a small smile gracing his features.

“I’m sure these three wonderful ladies can handle the stall for twenty minutes.” He gestured to Stephanie, Gina and Lizzy who, when they figured out that he was talking to them, nodded enthusiastically. I wasn’t sure they even realised what they agreed to.

“But-”

“Ok let’s go.”

I looked at my friends, then Raith, then my friends again. They were still all busy staring at the boy so I gave up. He wasn’t going to leave unless I went with him it seemed.

I shouldn’t feel so flattered should I?


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