The next day at school Avery found Bradley waiting for her at the school gate. He was leaning against his bike, with his strong arms crossed against his chest.
Some of the girls from school were already surrounding him from a small distance gawking at him and his sick ride.
"Hey..." He greeted her once she approached him.
She checked out the ride he was leaning into and the truth is anyone could gawk and envy the stunningly attractive boy and his ride because Avery did. The whole image in front of her felt like a scene from an action movie.
She composed herself, trying hard not to make Bradley notice that she was extremely excited on the inside. "Hey." She greeted back calmly.
He leaned away from the bike, placing his hands in his front pockets and tilted his head looking at his fake girlfriend, then slowly walked closer to her. He slowly took his hands out of his pockets and warmly wrapped his arms around her and she just froze. "I think this is the part where you embrace me too because everyone is watching." He said in her ear, making her nervous and she slowly wrapped her arms around him too.
He gently pulled her back and looked at her, as if he was trying to analyze her. "You look rather cheerful today. I can tell by the way your eyes change and your complexion slightly darkens. You have a rather unique side of you Avery Montgomery and I'm beginning to get curious about it." Bradley said and she thought he was just complimenting her - Indeed he was but there was something more that he saw in her, he just couldn't be sure of his suspicions.
"You're just saying that because I'm your fake girlfriend." She said, giving out a small chuckle.
"I'm not. I'm being totally honest." He said gracing her with his smile.
She shyly looked away and tucked her beautiful red hair behind her ear. "Anyway we need to talk about our relationship. There are things that need to change." She said looking back at him.
"Sounds serious. Well let's go and talk somewhere private." He said.
She suggested the bleachers and walked there by herself while he went to park his bike inside the school yard. Bradley walked to the bleachers after parking his bike and found Avery sitting there hugging herself. She looked deep in thought.
"So what did you want to talk to me about?" He asked sitting next to her.
"Well it's about these intimate gestures. The kissing, the hugging. I think we should tone it down a bit." She said.
"I see... but why do you feel like this all of a sudden?" He asked wanting to understand if he was the problem or if she was just uncomfortable with it.
"I feel like these are things you show to someone that you're in a serious romantic relationship with. I don't want to do them with someone I'm not in love with and I think you don't want to keep doing it with someone you're not in love with too. To me, these gestures are special when you do them with someone you really care about." She explained herself and he understood where she was coming from.
"If you feel that way then I will respect that but we do have to come with ways to show that we're in a relationship." He suggested.
"Uhm... I'm not sure which ways can we come up with to convince everyone that we're together." She said thinking about it.
"How about just holding hands and kissing on the cheek, will that be okay?" He suggested.
"Yeah I think that'll be okay. Thanks for understanding." She said.
"You're welcome. By the way your painting is all dry now, it'll be delivered to your house today including the food you asked for." He reminded her.
"Oh you remembered... thank you. I feel like everyone will love the food." She smiled happily.
The school bell rang and everyone started to go to class. Bradley walked Avery to class as they held hands and everyone envied the cute couple. She walked into class and he went to class too.
Chemistry class went well but the class teacher gave them a lot of homework. He dismissed class early since their lesson was cut short because the principal wanted to see Mr Joshua, their chemistry teacher.
While everyone else was chanting, being playful and made noise, Avery saw it as an opportunity to do some of the homework her teacher gave out. She sat quietly in the back and wrote some of her homework while looking through her notes.
Three of her classmates grabbed chairs and sat around her with silly smiles on their faces interrupting her. "We know you're seeing Bradley. How does it feel dating the popular guy in school?" The first one asked.
"Ahh... uhmm... I-" Avery got tongue tied because she didn't expect this question.
"Tell us... is he romantic?" The second one asked.
"Have you gone all the way with him?" The third one asked.
"What? No, no, no... Bradley and I are taking things slow, besides, we're still young to be thinking about intimacy." She quickly answered.
"Oooh how modest... well do you want to hang out with us after school, we're going shopping." The third one said to her.
"Uhm I'm sorry but I can't... I don't have any money for shopping." She replied truthfully.
"Don't worry about it, I have my dad's credit card with me." The second one said, showing her the card.
"Ehh... okay... uhm... I guess I'll join you." She hesitantly said.
"See you later girl." The second one said and they left Avery alone.
Time for the second class came and she packed her books into her bag, heading to her second class. Bradley was waiting for her at the door to walk her to her other class.
"Did anyone give you a hard time during the first period?" He asked her.
"No, people were actually nice to me. Some of the girls in class even invited me go to with them for some shopping." She said.
"Wow this means our whole act is actually working." He replied.
"Do you really think they want to hang out with me or this is just one of their ploys to play me?" She asked.
"I'm really not sure hey, so I can't determine whether they mean well or not. Just be careful, okay?" He advised and she nodded.
They arrived in her second class and he waited for her to enter the class then left afterwards. She said in the back and just smiled thinking about these little gestures that Bradley was doing for her. They were really sweet.
She missed her bestfriend though. School wasn't the same without her. They would be sitting next to each other gossiping about celebrities and talking about the latest fashion trends. She couldn't wait for Casey to come back to school so they could pick up where they left off.
Her math class went well too. At least Mr. Krasner didn't give them homework. He just gave them an assignment that's due in two weeks. That gave everyone enough time to finish it before the due date. Mr. Krasner is very reasonable that's why he's the most liked teacher in school.
The rest of the school day went swimmingly. When Avery and her schoolmates walked out of the class they noticed a commotion at the school entrance. Everyone was rushing out to see what was happening outside. Avery curiously walked towards the commotion and finally got outside and saw what was happening.
She had that déjà vu moment. The dead body in front of their school premises made her stomach churn and palms sweat. Seeing the state of the body in front of her nauseated her as she had a flashback from her past. She rushed to the side of the school and threw up like she has never done before.
The scratches on the body, the ripped out heart felt all too familiar. That's exactly how her parents died. The state of the dead body was exactly the same as her parents bodies.
The paramedics that came had presumed the 17 year old Gordon Morello dead. He couldn't be resuscitated. Whoever killed him had made sure to do it without any mercy.
Avery thought to herself that this couldn't be a coincidence. She went back to the scene but Gordon's body was covered already. She slowly walked towards the covered body and kneeled in front of it.
"Sweetheart, you can't come here. This is a crime scene." One of the police officers said to her but she didn't move an inch.
"This was one of her classmates. Just let her say goodbye." Mr. Krasner said to the police officer.
Avery slowly unzipped the bag that Gordon was placed in and she analyzed his face and neck. This couldn't be. The marks on his neck and face were exactly the same ones from her parents bodies. Whoever killed Gordon was the very same person that murdered her parents. This scared her so much that she started shaking at that thought. Silent tears fell down her cheeks as she slowly zipped up the bag. She stood up and walked away from that scene heading towards the school gate.
"Hey, are you okay?" Bradley asked a little out of breath from running towards her. He saw how upset she was so he ignored what she said to him earlier on and just hugged her because this was the comfort he thought she needed. She sobbed even more when he hugged her, so he stayed in that position to calm her down.
Avery couldn't stop thinking about her parents. It felt like history was repeating itself and she didn't know how to stop the pain she was feeling.
Why was this happening all over again? Poor Gordon lost his life at such a young age. Now his parents have to go through the same heartache she went through when she lost her parents at only eight years old. This was so unfair.
Avery felt her knees getting weaker with every tear she shed. She collapsed in Bradley's arms but he held her tighter.
"Avery, Avery!" He exclaimed holding her intact. He was extremely worried.
By this time the paramedics had already left the crime scene. This was now police business even though they took Gordon Morello to the morgue after notifying his parents. Everyone was sent home too. The kids who were a little traumatized by this scene were placed in the guidance counselor's office so that their parents could find them there.
Today wasn't a very pleasant for any kid at Sanchez high school.
Their English teacher came to Bradley's rescue. She helped him place Avery's unconscious body in her car and they drove to the nearest hospital. She woke up after her blood pressure was checked. The doctor realized that it was a bit high but she was going to be okay. She just needed to calm down and rest her mind and body.
Mrs. Welch was notified about Avery's whereabouts since she's her guardian and she came to the hospital. Avery wished that they didn't call her because she knew that this wasn't going to end well for her. Mrs. Welch was going to see this as an inconvenience for her.
"Hey, you really got me worried there. Are you feeling any better?" Bradley asked Avery and she nodded.
"Sweetheart, your guardian will be here soon, okay?" Her English teacher said to her and she just nodded.
Mrs. Welch arrived shortly and Mrs. Grey filled her in on what happened at school. The giant woman seemed uninterested about that. All she wanted was to take Avery home so she can go on about her business.
"Come on, let's go. I don't have all day." Mrs. Welch said to Avery. She got off the bed, waving goodbye to Bradley and Mrs. Grey, her English teacher. She left the hospital with her guardian and they stepped into her old car. She drove out off heading to the orphanage while scolding Avery.
She just sat in the backseat taking it in because there was nothing she could say to calm her guardian down. She was afraid to say something that could get her into more trouble.
"For making me miss my appointments by going all the way to the hospital you're going to clean my office and organize every file in alphabetical order." She said to Avery once they arrived. Teresa was waiting outside for them because ever since the call came in she was worried about Avery. Before she could ask Avery how she's doing two presidential SUV's parked in front of them and an unfamiliar man walked out walking towards them.
"Excuse me ma'am we're looking for an Avery Montgomery." He said to Mrs. Welch.
"What is this about?" She asked curiously.
"King Howard's son sent us here to deliver the food as promised." He explained.
"Wait... The kings son? You know King Howard's son?" Mrs. Welch turned to Avery.
"I have no idea who they're talking about. The only person who promised me this was Bradley, the guy I go to school with. I don't know any prince." She replied truthfully. She looked at Teresa who seemed to know something. She wasn't surprised when the Prince was mentioned. "Wait... Teresa you knew? You knew that Bradley is King Howard's son?" She asked her and Teresa nodded.
The guy chuckled because he knew she was clueless about Bradley's status. "I'm sorry that Prince Howard hasn't told you about his current status but he is the kings son." He explained and Avery was in shock because all this time she's been hanging out with a guy that has royal blood running all over his veins. But why didn't he tell her? Why did he keep it from her? Or maybe he didn't feel the need to tell her because they weren't exclusive. She was just the fake girlfriend.
"Okay young man, I understand. Well bring the food inside. Teresa will show you the kitchen." Mrs. Welch said to him looking all happy. The food was delivered inside and the man opened the other boot of the car and took out Avery's painting.
"I believe this belongs to you." The man said handing her the painting. She looked at it in awe and slightly smiled when she saw how beautiful it was.
"Thank you. Please tell Bradley that I'm really grateful for all of this." Avery said to him and the man slightly bowed before he headed inside the SUV.
Mrs Welch stopped the young man from leaving and took Avery by her arm dragging her to the side. "I figured a way out for you, not to get punished. All you have to do is go with these people to the palace and get into Bradley's good books." She suddenly said. The was something mischievous in her tone of voice.
"What do you mean Mrs. Welch?" She asked.
"I mean ask for some money for the orphanage but give him something in return. Look how our orphanage is falling apart Avery. If you get on the Prince good side, he might donate a huge amount of money here. All you have to do is make him happy." She said to her.
"I don't understand." She was clueless.
"Stop acting all innocent. You're grown now. Please the Prince so he can be generous to us." She smiled mischievously.
Avery couldn't believe her ears. It sounded like Mrs. Welch wanted her to sleep with the Prince in order to get what she wanted. Was she really expecting a 16 year old to use her body to get what she wanted? If she didn't prove to be cruel before then today she did. Avery felt a sore throb in her throat while looking at this cruel woman.
"Mrs. Welch I can't...- she said and a tear dropped on her left cheek.
"Yes you can. If you don't then just leave my orphanage and never come back here." She threatened.
"Please don't make me do this - I don't have anywhere else to go." She plead.
"Then you know what to do." She said dragging Avery back to the SUV. "She will be leaving with you lot to thank the Prince in person." She said to them and they nodded opening the door for her.
Avery hesitated to get inside the car but eventually she did. The SUV's took off, leaving the orphanage. She didn't even get to eat the food Bradley sent. She wanted to eat with everyone and see the smiles on their faces when they had all those delicious foods. She still had the painting in her hands though, she was starring at it and tears started building up in her eyes but she blinked them away.
"Excuse me, can I get off here?" She said to the driver.
"Aren't you going to see Prince Howard?" He asked making a turn so he can come to a stop.
"I'll just see him at school. Please tell him to keep this painting safe for me. I'll come and get it when I'm alright." She said to the driver and the car stopped.
"Okay we will. We are very far from your house though. How will you get home?" He asked worriedly.
"I'll walk home, don't worry about me." She said to him then got off the SUV. The driver got off walking towards her.
"The Prince will be furious with me if he finds out that I let you walk this distance back home." He said taking out his wallet from his pocket. "Here. Take a cab home." He suggested taking out a few dollars out of his wallet.
"This is too much." She said to him hesitating to take it.
"Get yourself something to eat too. You never got a chance to eat the food we delivered." He insisted and she took the money from him.
"Thank you." She replied.
He got inside the car and drove off. Avery walked towards the payphone near the complex she got off at. Casey was the first person she thought of calling. She pocketed the money she was given and took out the coins she had in another pocket. She inserted a few of them then dialed Casey's numbers. It rang a few times then it was picked up.
Casey: Casey speaking, hello?
Avery: Hey Case... It's me Avery.
Casey: My bestie.. Do you know how great it is to hear your voice after such a long time? How are you? Where are you calling me from?" Casey asked all these questions in excitement.
Avery: From a payphone." She shortly answered. The happiness in Casey's voice made her skeptical to tell her bestfriend what her guardian wanted her to do.
Casey: OMG! You went to a payphone just to call me? You do know I'm going to love you even more after this right?" She said chuckling.
Avery: I know Casey. I feel like you are the only person that cares about me at this point." She sadly stated out.
Casey: Okay... you sound down. What's going on? Is it what happened at school today? I saw the news on our school WhatsApp group. Someone posted about it. I can't believe a tragedy like this happened in our own very school."
Avery: Case... Can I ask you something important?" Avery suddenly asked.
Casey: Yeah sure-
Avery: Did you know that Bradley is a Prince? That he's King Howard's son?"
Casey: Shit! Uhhh... Yeah I did Ave...
Avery: So everyone knew that Bradley is a Prince but no one bothered to tell me. How could you keep this from me Casey?
Casey: I wasn't supposed to tell you Ave. His dad wants his son's identity hidden for a lot of reasons.
Avery: You all let me hang out with him and now I have to pay the price for knowing him." She sadly stated and tears fell uncontrollably.
Casey: What do you mean?" She asked worriedly when she heard sniffling sounds coming from her bestfriend. "Avery what do you mean you have to pay the price? Talk to me, what's going on?" She asked getting more worried.
Avery: Mrs Welch found out that I know him and now she wants me to sleep with him so that he can donate money to the orphanage. If I don't please the Prince then I can just forget about going back to the orphanage. That was her ultimatum.
Casey: WITCH! How can she give you such a disgusting ultimatum?! Who the hell does she think she is huh?! Mrs. Welch is so diabolical! She becomes evil every time she breathes! I honestly can't believe this.
Avery: I can't do this anymore Casey. Mrs. Welch has defeated me this time. I'm thinking of leaving this place for good but I have no idea where to go at this point." She said truthfully.
Casey: Avery don't leave. Come to my house. We'll get through this together. I promise you.
Avery: I can't Casey. I don't want to be anyone's burden anymore. I know your mom will welcome me with open arms but how long will I live under someone else's shadow? I want to be independent from now on. I promise to call you whenever I can."
Casey: Avery please let me help you. You're my bestfriend. Hearing you say all this breaks my heart.
Avery: I don't mean to hurt you Casey. I just think leaving would be best for everyone, especially you. You don't have to take crap from people because of me anymore.
Casey: Please stop saying that Ave. You're my everything. You've helped me through a lot of things in my life and now I want to do the same for you. Please let me help you this time. I will never let anyone hurt you anymore, especially Mrs. Welch.
Avery: *sobbing sounds*
Casey: Please calm down and tell me where you are, I'll come and fetch you.
Avery: The Miscellaneous complex.
Casey: Okay stay put I'll be there in a few.
Casey hung up the call and Avery placed the phone back on the hook. She slowly sat down in front the payphone, hugging her legs. She waited for her bestfriend patiently. A little while later she arrived by a cab and saw her bestfriend sitting on the cold floor leaning against the payphone.
She walked towards her and kneeled in front of her. Avery looked up at her and she felt relief wash over her. She has always felt safe around Casey and today wasn't any different. "I'm so glad to see you. Thank you for letting me help you Ave." Casey said to her gently squeezing her arm in assurance.
"Thank you for coming." She replied.
"Don't sweat it. Come on, get up. I'm going to stick you up for a cup of coffee." She said to help and they both got up. They walked towards the coffee shop at the complex. They were given a table at the front booth and they sat down.
"What would you ladies like to have today?" The waiter asked politely.
"Please get us two cup of coffees and two slices of chocolate cake." Casey replied.
"Alright... coming right up." He said then left.
Casey just looked at her bestfriend wondering what was on her mind. She looked extremely sad today and that broke her heart. She wanted to cheer her up but she couldn't think of a single thing to do to cheer her up.
"You know I fainted today after seeing the dead body at school." Avery started off, looking at her hands.
"Ohh no... was it that bad?" She asked.
"It's not even about the shock I was in when I saw the body. I think the person that killed Gordon Morello is the same person that killed my parents. I noticed the same exact marks on his face and neck, they look exactly like the ones I saw on my parents dead bodies. His heart was ripped out too."
"Geez Ave... that's hectic!" She replied in shock.
"What if they're looking for me Casey, killing Gordon couldn't have been a coincidence. We go to the same school and we attend the same classes. What if they're targeting the people around me to get to me?" She asked and their order arrived.
"Okay now I think you're letting your imagination run wild. Please drink your coffee, it'll help you keep calm." Casey replied to her.
They started drinking their coffees and ate their slices of chocolate cakes.
"Hi girls, fancy meeting you here." Mrs. Grey said to them once she noticed them. "Avery, what are you doing out here sweetheart, aren't you supposed to be at home resting?" She asked her carrying her own takeaway.
"Home? It hasn't felt like home in years. It's so weird calling it home when I've been treated like a slave all these years." She blurted out thinking about Mrs. Welch and everything she put her through.
"What are you talking about sweetheart?" Mrs. Grey was confused.
"Her guardian hasn't taken care of her like she had to. Avery has been suffering alone, taking in everything that her guardian has put her through." Casey said looking at Avery while she starred into space.
"Sweetheart has she been abusing you?" Mrs. Grey asked.
"I don't want to talk about it." She quickly defended. She felt ashamed by talking about it. She was too embarrassed to tell her English teacher about the way she's been treated.
"It's okay, you don't have to talk about it if you're not ready but I want you to know that I'm here whenever you need to talk. You can always come to my house to talk when you have something on your mind. You guys won't be going to school for a few because of today's incident so don't be afraid to pop in every now and then." Mrs Grey assured them.
"Thank you Mrs Grey." Casey replied and she left.
It was getting quite late so Casey called a cab and they headed to her house. Casey took a bath and Avery took one too after her. She borrowed her besty the pyjamas she hardly wears. She wore and felt really comfortable.
Casey's mom finally came home and they filled her in about Avery coming to stay here for a little while. They didn't give her the real reason why she left her home but Casey came up with a convincing story.
The girls were up for a little while talking and catching up. Avery was telling her besty about the party she last went to and what went down. It was a cheerful conversation but before they knew it, they fell asleep. afterwards.