Chapter 2: ❝ all the why's will be crystal clear ❞
You’ll be sorry my dear
All the lies, all the why’s,
Will be crystal clear
I think I’ve finally had enough,
I think I maybe think too much.
”Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" - P!nk
“Are you always this quiet?” Jacen asked as we walked down the hall.
I glanced at him, then looked away without answering. So far, neither of us had said a word since he brought me out of my class, and while I couldn’t say I liked that, since there was nothing enjoyable about this, I definitely preferred silence instead of talking.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like talking; it was because he was Jacen Winston. Someone who had probably done enough talking to charm circles around you with his words until you were crazy confused and nodding along to everything he said. I had seen it enough.
I was more of the suffer in silence type anyway.
“Or do you hate me?” he continued. If not for the slight mocking tone behind the words, he would’ve almost sounded shy.
Again, I looked at him and looked away without responding. Part of me wanted to ask what he, or the Elite, wanted, but I held the question back. No vulnerabilities. If he was planning on doing something awful, though, I really wish he would just get it over with instead of playing this game. Talking like we were friends. Like we had actually talked before.
We hadn’t, in case that wasn’t obvious.
Jacen lead me down an unfamiliar hallway behind the cafeteria. Blaire Academy was huge, and despite the fact that I had been here for three years, I hadn’t seen all of it. This part, I think, was where the staff room, guidance counselor office, detention room and nurse’s office were, all of which I had never been to. Apparently it was also where the Elite hung out when they weren’t in class.
He stopped at an unmarked white door at the end of the hall and pushed it open to reveal the rest of his friends, minus Ashton. They were in a small lounge, sitting on couches, talking. The conversations stopped when Jacen walked in.
“Found her,” he said, as he gave me a slight push into the room and shut the door behind us.
I probably should’ve been ecstatic to be standing in front of the group of teenagers most of the world worshipped; I knew most of the school would probably sell their soul to be where I was. And maybe I would’ve, if I didn’t hate people like them. People who could look at you, guess all your secrets and ruin you without blinking an eye. Maybe it was a little hypocritical, since I was the same, minus the ruining part, but I didn’t like the feeling of all their eyes on me.
Even though they were usually on the other side of the camera, the Elite reminded me of the ruthless paparazzi that sometimes laid waiting around town.
“I don’t think if you need introductions, but I’ll do them anyway,” Jacen said. As cocky as his statement was, it was true. I didn’t need introductions since everyone knew who they were but I didn’t stop him. “That’s Skylar.”
The blonde didn’t even lift her head from the magazine she was reading at the sound of her name. Skylar Blaire, the party girl who was usually bored by everything else. She wasn’t dumb, though, or crazy, but she somehow knew everything that was going on.
She waved, and gave me a small smile. Vanessa Merrick was supposedly the most rich of the Elite, but she definitely wasn’t the leader. In fact, she was the more clueless one, the follower. This was somehow known, despite never spoken since no one wanted to be caught bad mouthing the Elite.
Ashton’s twin brother. Nathan Sinclair was apparently the nicest of the Elite. He was also pretty smart, at least according the rumors and magazines. He nodded, and like Vanessa, smiled a little.
Keira Winston was the one member of the Elite that was near impossible to figure out. Everyone in the group except her could be put in a stereotype. Skylar, the bored little rich girl. Vanessa, the naive, airhead. Nathan, the golden boy. Jacen, the troublemaker. Ashton, the brooding loner, who wasn’t really alone. But not Keira. She didn’t talk much, but she was apparently the one who pulled the strings.
“Where’s Ash?” Jacen asked, sitting down on the couch beside Vanessa.
“Dunno,” she replied with a shrug.
I watched them watch me for a moment. “Why am I here?” I asked when no one said anything.
“What do you think of games, Elena?” Keira asked, instead of answering my question.
What the hell? But I pushed down my shock, forcing myself to keep my expression calm and almost blank. Like theirs. It was best to copy the other person’s expression, that had been one of the first things Devon taught me.
“I think they depend on who plays them.” I kept my answer careful, cryptic. A skill, if you could call it that, I had learned from Kaden.
Skylar let out a short laugh. “Where’d you find her, Jace? She’s perfect for Ash.” She had looked up from her magazine, but only for a moment, to give me a somewhat critical glance. “They can spin riddled conversations around each other for hours.”
“Why am I here?” I repeated, before Jacen could respond. The question came out a little sharper than I had intended, maybe too harsh considering whom I was talking to, but I didn’t take it back.
“Why shouldn’t you be here?” Vanessa replied. I couldn’t tell whether or not she was being sarcastic. Her tone was innocent, genuine, but the question was ridiculous. People had talked about how Vanessa was the somewhat clueless member of the Elite, but I hadn’t believed someone could be so naive.
Apparently I was wrong.
“I’ve never talked to any of you before,” I said slowly, trying to soften my tone.
“What about Ash?” Nathan cut in. So was Ashton the reason I was here then? I but back a curse. I had avoided the Elite for three years, ever since it had been formed and a thirty second conversation ruined it.
It wasn’t that I hated the Elite, not really. More like I was a little scared of them, though I would never admit that out loud. Their families were very powerful and one slip up could ruin your life. I didn’t care so much about those things but I knew reputation was a large part of Raine and Kaden’s careers. They had taken care of me for over five years; I didn’t want to repay them by ruining everything they had worked so hard to get.
“So is he why I’m here?” I asked.
Keira shrugged. “In a way.”
“Do you guys want secrets or something?” Ashton had probably told them about our short conversation. I wasn’t even sure if it could be considered a conversation since Devon had interrupted before we really talked.
That had been a mistake. I noticed the slight shock on their expressions before they quickly masked it. “You think we want secrets?” Jacen said. “There’s nothing you can tell us that we don’t already know.”
I doubt that. I didn’t say it out loud though, because the secrets I knew were only really guesses. “What do you want, then?” I asked.
“A game,” he replied.
“Try ‘Toys R Us’,” I retorted before I could stop myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But I didn’t apologize, even as Jacen’s expression hardened slightly. No weaknesses.
My response drew another laugh from Skylar. “She might actually stand a chance against him.”
“You want me to do something to Ashton,” I guessed. The pieces were sort of falling into place, but it didn’t make much sense. Why they had picked me, what Ashton had done, and little things they had hinted at that didn’t quite fit.
“You’re quick,” Skylar said. It was hard to tell whether she meant that, or whether she was being sarcastic.
“I always pick the good ones for Ash. That’s not fair,” Jacen commented. He flashed me his infamous ‘panty-dropping’ grin (other people’s words, not mine) and winked. I had to admit, it was pretty good, but I didn’t blush easily.
Skylar glanced at him. “Wait, you picked ag-”
“What do you think we want you to do to Ashton?” Keira interrupted, returning to the reason why I was here before Skylar and Jacen got too off-topic. The question was directed at me, and I didn’t have an answer.
“To confuse him?” It was a stupid guess, but it was all I had. They hadn’t mentioned anything else.
“No,” she said. “We want you to make him fall in love with you.”
And it’s official.
The people ninety-nine percent of the school worshipped were a hundred percent crazy.
“Why would you want me to do that?” I asked, trying to keep my tone calm, which was the complete opposite of the emotions and thoughts raging inside of me. I had heard some pretty weird things before, but this was on a whole new level. What kind of game were they playing?
I could almost hear Devon’s voice telling me to keep calm. Half of a year after I came to live with Raine and Kaden a group of reporters trying to find out information about one of Kaden’s cases had caught me by surprise. They had shouted questions until I had panicked and revealed a couple things I shouldn’t have.
Don’t let them see you break down, Devon had said. They’ll jump on any weakness they see.
That was how it felt right now, under the cold, assessing eyes of the Elite.
Skylar chuckled. “You know, most girls would jump at this chance.”
I’m not like most girls you know. I didn’t grow up having all I ever wanted and when I was pulled into your world, I hadn’t been used all the attention. And because of that, I had seriously messed up one of Kaden’s most important cases. I almost wanted to say the words out loud. Except they were way too personal, made me way too vulnerable and were way too revealing.
“Why’d you pick me?” I asked.
Skylar shrugged. “Ask Jace,” she said. I turned to look at the guy in question, who shrugged as well.
His smile widened. “You have a pretty face, sweetheart.” Something about the way he said it told me that wasn’t the full truth, but I didn’t question it. Not now. I needed to know more of what was going on.
“You have three months to make him fall in love with you,” Keira told me. Three months. How the hell did they expect me to do that? I didn’t know Ashton. And I didn’t want to make him fall in love with me either. Just how crazy were they? Then again, like Skylar had said, any other girl would’ve loved a chance like this. Maybe they hadn’t expected that I might actually not want to be part of their game.
“But if you fuck him three times before the three months are over l, you’re also done,” Jacen said, his casual tone somehow making the crude words sound harsher. I choked. Nathan and Skylar both winced. And Vanessa reached over and slapped Jacen on the back of his head.
It was that moment that Ashton Sinclair decided to walk in. But he didn’t seem surprised at his friends’ antics or me being in the room, his expression was neutral. Like Keira’s.
I was beginning to wonder if they took some kind if class on it together.
“Nice timing, Ash,” Skylar said. “Elena, this is Ashton. Ash, that’s Elena, who’ll be... Entertaining.” I wanted to object to the description, since it made me sound like a cheap hooker but I stopped myself as Skylar’s words really sunk it. This wasn’t just a game to them, this was entertainment.
It made more sense now. How they had rules and someone picked at random. How that person was supposed to make one of the Elite fall in love with them. It wasn’t some kind of cute ‘I want them to be happy’ thing; they did it because it entertained them.
I glanced at Ashton who had taken a seat beside Skylar. I wanted to ask him if he had known about this when he had seen me at Devon’s office. If he had known I would be dragged into this twisted game. But then he gave me the tiniest shake of his head and I realized he hadn’t told his friends that we had met earlier today. Nathan had never said when I had talked to Ashton, or that I had even talked to him, I had just assumed he had meant earlier today. For all I knew, he could’ve been talking about that awkward time I had crashed into them three years ago.
I wasn’t the only one who had caught Ashton’s quick movement. “Have you two met?” Keira asked.
I shook my head. “I think everyone knows who you all are.”
“Oh, one last thing,” Keira said, turning to me. “You can’t tell anyone about this...game.”
“What if I don’t want to play?” I asked. I didn’t bother hiding my reluctance as I stared at them.
Vanessa was the only one who really looked upset, but instead of speaking up, she avoided my eyes and started playing with a strand of her red hair. Jacen sat beside her, a perfect contrast with his raised eyebrows and challenging stare. Ashton looked mildly troubled, but not concerned; more like this was some kind of pesky, inconvenient thorn in his side. Skylar seemed bored, choosing to examine her nails instead of really paying attention. Nathan, like Vanessa, wouldn’t look at me, but his expression was blank, same with Keira.
How often had they done this? Had they really done it enough times that they were already bored by it?
Jacen smiled, but it was nowhere near nice. “Trust me,” he said, “you don’t want to find out.”