Chapter 13: Curiosity killed the cat...
~“This is not the right one, either,” he said. “Don’t you have another daughter?” ~
Cindy noticed the tension between Evelyn and Peyton at lunch. She normally never paid attention to school drama, but, for obvious reasons, she was intrigued as to why Peyton was being edgy around Evelyn.
A small part of her (Very small mind you) hoped that he’d found out that Evelyn wasn’t his mystery girl. Or maybe she’d finally shown her inner demon around him.
But Cindy didn’t hope for much – she couldn’t hope for much. It was her fault that she never told him, not even that morning. Somehow, she couldn’t even build up the courage to tell him in the two months since the dance.
Even Saturday afternoon, when Evelyn was screaming at her for what happened at the diner, she did nothing.
Evelyn was right, Cindy shouldn’t even have answered his question at the coffee shop.
She looked over towards the popular kid’s table. Peyton was sitting at the middle of the table, like a king. Evelyn was sitting right next to him, her chair practically merging with his.
Peyton was subtitling ignoring Evelyn. Every time she made a pass at him, he would turn his head and pretend to be in conversation with Duncan. Duncan seemed to be noticing the tension as well, but he did nothing about it.
“Cindy! Earth to Cindy!” Fanny snapped in front of her face.
“Hmm?” Cindy recovered, trying to act like she was listening.
Fanny wasn’t convinced. “Why are you staring so intently at him? I thought that you decided that you didn’t like him and were never going to tell him the truth. Don’t go around making me hopeful that Pendy is happening if you don’t plan on it.”
“It’s your ship name.”
Cindy furrowed her brows. “You gave us a ship name?”
“That’s not the point.” Fanny brushed it off. “If you aren’t going to tell him, there’s no point in wishing for something that won’t happen.
“But, that’s the thing.” Cindy glanced over at the popular table. “I think that he’s starting to figure it out all on his own. Maybe he won’t know that it was me, but I think he suspects that it wasn’t really Evelyn.”
Fanny didn’t believe her. “Then how would he explain how she knew the charms and that owns the dress? Trust me, Cindy, there is no way that he’s smart enough to figure it out.”
Cindy pouted, but didn’t argue.
“Besides, all couple have their problems. Maybe they just had a fight that was totally unrelated to the dance.”
Sure, maybe Fanny was right. That small hope inside her shriveled up and died.
The lunch bell rang and it was time for them to part ways again. Cindy headed to theater, while Fanny headed to Home Ec.
Cindy took out their new project in theater. They had just ended the Shakespearian section of class a week ago, which Peyton and her aced by the way. The new project was to write and perform a play.
Peyton sat down across from her earlier than usual, like he had rushed especially fast today to get to theater.
“Cindy, I think I found something out.”
Now that caught her attention. “What?”
“Well, would you think I was crazy if I told you that I think Evelyn isn’t my real mystery girl? That she found out the charms from the real girl and is now blackmailing her into staying silent?”
Cindy coughed nervously. “Umm, really?” He didn’t know how right he was.
Peyton sighed and ran a hand through his black hair, making it a little crazier than usual. “I just feel like something’s off about this whole thing. Plus, I overheard her yelling at whoever she’s blackmailing near Tracy’s coffee shop.”
Cindy gulped. How much of that conversation had he heard? Was it enough to narrow down her identity?
“Yeah,” he leaned back in his chair, “and since you work there, I was thinking . . .”
Oh no, Cindy thought. Here it comes. He knew.
“. . . maybe you can help me try and figure out who she is.”
Cindy choked on air. “What?”
“I know that you still hate the idea of the contest, but I really-“
“Yes.” Cindy interrupted. “I’ll help you find her.”
“Really?” His smile brightened.
What had she done? If Evelyn found out that she was getting closer to telling him the truth, she’d no doubt tell Tracy. Cindy would never go to college, she would be held back by Tracy, forever her maid.
But Cindy had to tell him. When would she get another perfect opportunity to tell him who she was?
“Yeah, and you might want to know that she’s actually closer-“
The fire alarm rang throughout the classroom, scaring a couple students. The teacher shooed them all out of the classroom and out into the hallway, ruining Cindy’s confession.
The whole of the student body was rushed out into the courtyard. Rumors were already spreading throughout the crowd as to who pulled the fire alarm and why.
“I heard that Brian Patterson pulled it because he was being chased by the administrators for being late.”
“Apparently Andrew Todd set off a fire in the chemistry lab.”
“I saw Hazel Diaz pull it to get out of the Calculus exam.”
Cindy sighed and Peyton looked at her. “Now, what were you going to say about my mystery girl?”
Cindy nervously looked around at the crowd of teenagers around them and suddenly lost her nerve. She couldn’t tell him, not with the risk of him not believing her.
She could see it now. He would sneer her way as so many people did. He’d tell her how she wasn’t his type. He’d make fun of her and ask how she thought he would ever like someone like her. And then he would pull Evelyn in for a kiss and the whole school would point and laugh at poor little Cindy, wishing for something that could never be hers.
It was all too vivid.
“Cindy? Are you okay? You look a little pale.” Peyton said, worry crossing his face. It was all too much for her.
“I – I’ve got to run.”
And that she did.
Cindy pushed through the crowd of excited teenagers and tried not to hyperventilate. Imagining one of her worst fears about how Peyton would react had done her in. She needed to get away from him before her fears became real.
“Cindy?” Fanny caught her arm.
Cindy calmed her breathing down as much as she could and looked up at Fanny. “Hey.”
Worry immediately passed through Fanny’s features as she took Cindy’s expression in. Her wild, tear-filled eyes and disheveled hair from running clued Fanny in.
Cindy’s voice caught in her throat just as two school bells ringed, signaling that the school was safe and that there was no fire. But, in fact, there was never a real fire when a school alarm rang.
Fanny kept her grip on Cindy’s arm, dragging her inside before most of the crowd had even stepped back inside the school. She opened an abandoned janitor’s closet and closed the door in on them. “Tell me what happened.”
“Peyton knows that Evelyn isn’t who she says she is. He said that he wanted my help finding the real girl that he was with at the dance, and I was about to build up the courage to tell him that it was me when the fire alarm rang. He asked me what I was going to say before the bell rang once we were outside, but then my chest tightened and I imagined his reaction. I imagined that he would totally diss me and pull Evelyn in for a kiss while the whole school laughed at me an-” Cindy’s voice cut off with a hiccup and Fanny put both of her hands on Cindy’s shoulders with a steady stare.
“Cindy, it was just your imagination. Calm down.”
Cindy nodded her head and took in a deep breath. It wasn’t real, Peyton wouldn’t diss her like that, would he?
“I doubt Peyton would react that badly if you told him. In fact, I think you should tell him now that he knows Evelyn is lying.” Fanny reasoned.
Cindy was confused. “What would make his reaction any different now than if I told him before?”
Fanny sighed. “Look, he’s obviously in a stage of shock. He just found out that the girl he’s been dating for two months is just as much of a lying bitch as she was the last time he dated her. Chances are, if you told him the truth, and backed it up with enough evidence, he’d be more willing to let you in. I would make my move before Evelyn gets to him again. There’s no doubt that she would do anything to stay with him for the publicity.”
Cindy couldn’t ignore Fanny’s logic. She swallowed all of her doubt and nodded. She could do this. How hard could it be, anyways?
They walked out of the janitorial closet, glad to see that only a couple students still roamed the halls. Fanny gave her an encouraging smile before they both headed off to their respected classes.
She was glad to see that she wasn’t the only students who showed up a little late after the fire alarm rang. Brian was still missing, probably taking the chance to skip class.
Cindy sat back down in her seat, glad to see that Peyton was too busy on his phone to notice her return. Telling him was starting to seem monumental.
“You’re kidding me!” Peyton grunted, staring angrily at his phone.
He pocketed the device and straight-out left the class, not even bothering to ask for a pass. Mrs. Hanson, however, didn’t seem to notice his absence. She went on explaining the lesson as if he never left.
Maybe she was letting him go just because he was famous. And, picking a fight with him was like picking a fight with his father, one of the most powerful men in LA.
Cindy pouted and leaned back against her chair. It just seemed like the universe was throwing everything it had at her.
Peyton stormed out of the classroom and out of the school altogether. He stopped his rampage when he got under the school bleachers, where Evelyn was waiting for him.
“How did you find out that I knew?” He asked.
Evelyn pouted. “Oh, honey, I have connections. Besides, your father thought it was in his best interest for me to turn your head around. What would it look like if the public knew that you messed up?”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, Evelyn. When will you two realize that I don’t care what the public says about me? I met a real genuine girl that night, and I want to know who she is. She was the first girl I met in a long time who didn’t want me because of my fame. I don’t care if she’s dirt poor or swimming in money, as long as she’s mine, I’ll make sure that the public sees her like I do, perfect.”
Evelyn sneered. “If you break up with me for that idiot, I will go public with my side of the story. I’ll tell how horrible of a person you are underneath your good boy façade. And, you know what? They’ll believe me.
“I’ll tell them that you’ve verbally abused me since we first started dating. I’ll tell them that I only started dating you again because you threatened me. I’ll tell them how you’ve even hit me on occasion. I’ll spread as many lies as I need to, Peyton. Your reputation will be ruined beyond repair. Would that all be worth it? Would you commit social suicide for some random girl?”
“She’s not just a girl!” Peyton said, his voice rising in volume. “But you, on the other hand, you’re a demon. You would spread lies just to keep your own popularity growing?”
Evelyn scoffed. “Honey, I’d do whatever I needed to do to climb to the top. You’re just a stepping stone. Just know, the minute you break up with me for her, I will go public with every rumor in the book.”
Peyton was stuck. There was no way for him to get out of this toxic relationship. The press would eat Evelyn’s lies up. The media loved sob stories from women. There was no doubt that every household in America would believe her.
“You win, Evelyn.”
She smiled and was about to leave when Peyton stopped her. “Just let me know one more thing.”
Evelyn turned and her eyes warned him not to cross over the line.
“Who is she? I know that I can’t be with her, but its killing me not knowing. You must have some sympathy left for me, Evelyn. Who is she really?”
She smiled with menace in her voice, “Cindy Woods. In other words, your friend from the coffee shop. How does that make you feel, Peyton? She never told you once this whole time. I guess your feelings must be one sided.”
Peyton stood there in shock while Evelyn walked away. The school, bell rang in the distance, signaling the end of the period.
“Oh, yeah, on more thing.” Evelyn turned her head. “We have a date at that Salad Star place tomorrow. Don’t be late.”