Teen Spirit

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Summary

There are two definitions for “elite” in the dictionary that I know of. A) people of the highest class and B) a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a large group. Unfortunately, this refers to almost 99% of the population of the Park Cities. Basically, if you either live in the tiny two cities within the community of downtown Dallas, or you attend school there, you’re within the school’s jurisdiction. And that, more often than not, sucks. In other words, this society is one where looks deceive, smarts count, and games are played to see who can claw their way up to the top of the social chains the fastest. Welcome to Highland Park and while we can’t promise you’ll love it here at once, but in the way we all did, you’ll either learn to adapt or get eaten alive by the competition. We’ll choose your clothing, your friends, your love interest, the class within the social hierarchy you belong in, in a nutshell, everything and anything relating to you. Just try to fit in and keep a sense of self, or else none of your college applications will make it past community colleges.

Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
25
Rating:
4.0 6 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

First Day from Hell

“Good morning, sunshine!” Mom yelled, grinning at me. I threw a pillow at her. She frowned at my pissed-off expression.

I slapped the snooze button and then peeled myself out of bed. I looked through my walk-in closet, noting the buttery yellow sunshine flooding out from my skylight and the windows. I flipped through a few summery dresses and then found a pair of black leather sneakers.

Mom had bought me a whole new wardrobe for high school this summer and I was planning on using it to the max this year. My last year of high school and the troublesome social hierarchy.

I pulled out a gray silk sleeveless top and denim short shorts, pulling them on with the shoes. I cuffed a silver bangle on my wrist and entered pearl studs into my earlobes. I slipped the silver family ring on my right ring finger, the E representing Everhart surrounded by falling stars.

I sighed and ran a brush through my straight brown hair, looking at my face and rubbed the sleep out of my clear blue-green eyes, wiggling a waterproof mascara wand through my eyelashes. I smoothed a medium-coverage foundation over my face, a creamy concealer over my dark circles and pimples, and rubbed on a light cream blush. I braided my brown hair fishtail-style, remembering what my soccer coach taught me over SMU summer camp. She had said keeping long hair out of your face when you were aiming for a ball was key to scoring a great goal and she was right—even during Off-Season Athletics.

I looked at myself one final time in the mirror, noting the sharper cheekbones, fuller lips, and the slightly bigger boobs than last year I had grown in the summer.

“This is as good as it’s going to get.” I sighed and walked down the stairs.

“Good morning, Madelaine!” Mom called. My actual mom, Nadine Moore, had moved away to New York City when I was twelve after my parent’s divorce. My stepmother, Emmy Augustine, married my dad almost eight months later, but I called her Mom anyways since I loved her as much as my own before she left.

Ryan was fiddling with another computer chip he had found lying around at Tech Wiz summer camp while stuffing his face with chocolate-blueberry waffles. He looked like a typical innocent six year old kid, with black-rimmed glasses and a smile that dimpled, the blue-green eyes that matched mine lit up with happiness from within.

I wondered if his innocence would stay that way for long.

Juniper was slumped over her Honey Nut Os, scrolling through texts on her phone. She yawned and carefully rubbed her eyes around the mascara she wore. She flicked away her blown-out honey blond hair from her face and looked up at me with hazel eyes. I hoped her freshman year wouldn’t be as hectic as mine, which is what pushed me to do MDMA in the second semester. A summer in rehab got me out of that, though.

“Hey, Madelaine. You ready for school?” Juniper smiled at me with pearly teeth.

I shrugged. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. You ready for sophomore year?”

Juniper made a face. “Don’t remind me.”

“Hi, Mom.” I said, slipping down the stairs and into a bar stool.

I bit into an apple and ate the whole thing, then filled up my S’well water bottle with ice and water from a pitcher of water.

Fifteen minutes later, I drove up to Highland Park High School in a silver Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet convertible. I floored the Gas pedal when I entered the abandoned Teacher’s Parking lot, a giant four-floor complex to was going to be torn down after our final year here. I knew this was a restricted area, but juniors and seniors parked there anyways. I’d been parking here since sophomore year though, since I held myself with the confidence of an older person and I was often mistaken as older than my actual age.

Seeing the hipster weirdo Will Chestnut trying to edge his tiny black Prius into the spot next to Aimee Schumaker’s lime green VW Beetle, I honked the horn and sped past him when he was distracted by my winking and waving.

“Sorry, didn’t see you there!” I said, my voice saccharine-sweet and entirely fake. Secretly, I thought he could be made cute, if he gained several pounds of muscle on his slender frame, got a Chris Hemsworth haircut, and replaced his beanies with Sperrys and athletic muscle shirts.

Will smiled back tentatively then drove away in defeat.

I smiled with my little victory and slid out of the car, closing the door and clicking the car keys for the car to lock, putting the keys in my bag. I walked out of the parking lot into the courtyard across the street from the high school.

“Hey!” Elle Dubois walked up to me, her long blond bob cut waifish around her femininely-chiseled face and streaked liberally with gold from excess sunshine.

She looked taller, maybe because of the intricately-strapped two-inch silver wedges she wore. Her hands glinted with silver-painted nails and a knotted ring was on her ring finger, a promise ring from her longtime boyfriend, Michael Youngblood. She wore a spaghetti-strap floral-print Stella McCartney sundress with a tight white long-sleeved cardigan over it, since the school’s dress code required that girls wore dresses with at least three-finger length straps, if the dress was sleeveless.

“I see that a whole summer in Southampton treated you well.” I said, noting her generous golden-brown tan.

“Thank you. You look even prettier than last year. Guys will be all over you this time around.” Elle promised, kissing her fingertips. She was half-French and that was how people from her region of France showed their promises.

“Hi, you two.” Irina Adams-Badeaux walked up from behind us, placing a hand on both of our shoulders.

“My God, Irina!” I yelled. She had scared me.

Irina was different from Elle, a pale marble-skinned goddess with silky jet-black hair and hazel eyes, a lithe and tall figure accentuating the style of her clothing. That day she wore a sleeveless shirt that looked like it was made of liquid silver and knee-length black shorts with white wedge heels. Like she always did, I knew that she had an extra outfit that looked even better on her than the current outfit she wore for the rest of the school day after Athletics.

“Sorry.” The way her eyes gleamed proved that she wasn’t truly sorry, but I chose to ignore that tone of hers.

“Look over there,” Elle whispered, pushing the strap of her Vera Bradley backpack higher up on her shoulder, tucking a strand of hair behind her face nervously. She looked like a ticking time bomb about to explode when she came into closer contact with her boyfriend, like a grenade that already had been thrown.

It was positively adorable how she still felt light-hearted and weak-kneed when he was within sight and in a one-mile radius of Elle. They had been together for so long and she still adored him. By our dating standards, they were practically married. He had asked her out for the Spring Fling dance. They were voted Spring Fling King and Queen together last year and they had won.

Michael Youngblood and his fraternal twin, Theron, were surrounded by their group of friends and laughing. They had another brother, since they were triplets, but Jason went to St. Jude’s, a private school in the area.

For Elle’s sake, I never told her that Michael and I had dated for a short time during the summer of eighth-going-on-ninth, but truthfully, now, he didn’t seem that attractive. Sure, he had the whole dark hair, dark eyes model-like looks thing going, but he wasn’t that great. He was fairly smart, but not as nearly as smart as his older brother.

I secretly admired Theron though, since he was so athletic and yet he kept an almost perfect GPA. Teachers often used him as an example for other school team players to look up to, since he never used sports as an excuse to skip out on doing homework.

Theron was this year’s varsity football runningback and my friends always insisted that he was into me. I couldn’t really tell if they right or they were just hallucinating when they saw us flirting. For some odd reason, after sixth grade and attending a private school when I was living with my mom’s younger sister and her husband, I had returned freshman year to find a flirty, handsome Theron that randomly called me pet names and toyed with my feelings.

Michael caught us looking over and walked over.

“Hi. I missed you over the summer.” Michael said, looping an arm around Elle’s shoulders.

“I was in Southampton with my family in New York.” Elle breathed, looking like she was about to go into cardiac arrest.

Michael nodded. “Right.”

He leaned forward and kissed her. I knew that without him holding her, Elle would have slumped into someone else’s car.

“Hello, ma amour.” Irina’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Asher Stone, kissed Irina’s cheek.

She leaned into him. Asher stood taller than Irina by a good three inches even with her heels and he was built of pure muscle, being on the wrestling and lacrosse team. He was perpetually deeply-tanned and dark blond, with dark brown eyes that girls often lost themselves in.

They were clearly on good terms right now if he had just called her his love.

I was one of the only perpetually single ones in our group of friends. While I had dated quite a few guys throughout the years, all of them didn’t go to this school because I couldn’t stand the drama that would ensue if I did. Elle had her pick of soccer players and football players, since she was on the drill team. Irina was more attracted to slighter guys, like swimmers with their spare beauty and track runners with their strong, but lean physique.

Asher was contradictory to the type of guy Irina would normally date, but she liked him enough. She said he had a heart of gold beneath the tough underground-fighter stance he had. I’d only seen Asher’s softer side a few times though.

But the one thing I did not approve of when I first realized who he was though, was the fact that Asher fought in an underground fighting club, not like UFC, completely within bounds of being arrested and illegal, and with dirtier ways to win. Asher was known in the ring as Apocalypse and Irina acknowledged that he beat the living shit out of some people for money. Irina accepted it as a part of him. I didn’t approve.

I looked past the happy couples and into the distance.

“Hi, beautiful.” Someone said from behind me, his breath tickling the nape of my neck.

I turned around, almost whacking the guy that stood behind me in the face with my fishtail braid.

Theron caught my braid with a hand and smirked. He lowered his hand and released my braid, his eyes kale smoothie green and cold.

I punched him. “Don’t touch me,”

“What the hell, Madelaine?” Theron asked, backing a healthier distance away from me and releasing my braid.

As he did, I noticed that his shoulders had grown bulkier in muscle, making him seem taller than his six foot four frame, his arms tapering out but maintaining their muscular form. He looked more mature, his forehead had sculpted out, his jet black hair had grown enough to flop over his eyes, his jawline strong enough to cut through butter.

“Like what you see?” Theron leaned against my car, crossing his arms and making his arm muscles bulge. I looked away and into his eyes.

“No comment.” I said, looking past his shoulder and into the vibrant blue sky, painted with puffy white cotton-candy clouds.

“Hey!” Theron called out when I shouldered past him and walked back to the school.

I hurried to the Girl’s Locker Room and changed out of my clothes and into my gym clothes. I pulled on black Nike Air Prestos and into a white sweat proof tee. I pulled at my black shorts to get the wrinkles out of them and snapped another hair tie around my braid.

Mia Wilson slipped by me, her shiny red high ponytail swinging and hips swaying. Irina called this method the ‘Notice my butt, notice my butt when I strut around like I own the place’ sashay.

Mia had this weird way of walking, one where she walked in a straight line but her hips moved side to side and her hands were inhumanely still at her thighs. Her butt was barely covered, her shorts tight enough to be called Spanx.

I rolled my eyes and shoved my drawstring Duke Swimming bag into my locker. Emmy, during her peak swimming years, was an NCAA varsity swimmer. Sadly, none of the genes from that side of the family came to me, but was inherited in my younger siblings, Juniper and Ryan.

Irina bounced over, her braid flipping out over her shoulder. I pulled out bobby pins from my waistband and made some quick adjustments I had seen in a hairstyling YouTube video I had watched yesterday. In no time, her hair looked like a Tribute’s from The Hunger Games, the bobby pins hidden, her hair wrapped around her head in a Dutch-braided circlet.

“Thank you.” Irina said, kissing my cheek and re-tying her shoes.

Elle skipped over to where we stood, her face wiped makeup-free and shiny from using micellar water to clean her features. She looked innately more flawed without makeup and I felt relieved to see a tiny pimple poking out of her cheek, seeing freckles on her collarbone and neck from too much sun exposure in New York.

“Look, there’s Olive and Cecil. Let’s say hi!” Elle bubbled, pointing outside the doors and speed-walking to where the Troublemaking Two stood, gossiping and laughing.

“Here we go again.” Irina took a deep breath and walked towards them. I followed, pushing past glass-paneled doors while trying to ignore Irina’s biting words about two of our best friends.

Cecilia ‘Cecil’ and Olivina ‘Olive’ Anderson were also called The Gossip Girls by everyone but the popular kids at school.

They ran a website together with a few other students from other schools, both public and private, called The True Story. It was a gossip website that looked professional, with scandalous pictures posted, rumors swapped and blogged about periodically everyday. The rumors were normally true, for the ones that they did spread.

Olive and Cecil ran the website, but other girls posted things using their usernames. The gossip magazine-style website had even synced in their website cell phone’s number to everyone’s phone including the teenagers in the nearby private schools, so someone on their website team was probably a hacker that could easily surpass the government’s Treasury firewall if they wanted to.

The girls themselves were fairly pretty, identical twins with silk-soft golden blond hair, sharp blue eyes, Roman noses, and tiny lips that were capable of ruining someone’s life. The only way to tell them apart was the way they dressed and spoke to others.

Olive wore contacts lens most of the time, dressed in more Parkie clothes, following the current fashion trends and incorporating them in her outfits casually. She preferred shirts where one couldn’t view her shorts beneath, leggings, giant hoodies, Birkenstocks, and Ugg boots. Parkie was the derogatory nickname of students of Highland Park.

Cecil had a more relaxed style, wearing clear-rimmed hipster-ish glasses instead of contact lens, often in simple but effortless outfits like a ballet leotard with jean shorts or a swishy high-waisted maxi skirt and a crop top. Sometimes, she was called a hipster while dressing unintentionally, but she did have that style.

The twins weren’t someone to mess up their names on. They knew enough about so many people that they were feared amongst the lower classmen. In the social circle of the juniors and seniors, they were put on a pedestal in the social hierarchy because no one wanted to have their dirty little secrets spilled.

“Hi, Olive. Cecil.” I nodded at Cecil, smiling at Olive.

“Hey, Madelaine. How was your summer?” Cecil said, her voice as soft and musical as I remembered. She was in Honors Choir the last time I checked, explaining the slight lilting quality in her voice.

“It was uneventful. Henley Adams-Badeaux and I broke up.” I said, kicking at the ground to avoid looking at their sympathetic expressions.

Henley was Irina’s older twin brother, in the same grade as we were, but born ten minutes ahead of Irina. She always hated whenever he teased her about who was truly older, often resenting him when he got privileges like a car and a phone before her. To be honest though, Henley loved Irina in quieter ways, like preventing her from going to a college freshman’s party that he knew would get her hammered and to do stupid things.

Olive’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry.” The way she said it, it would sound to people that didn’t know her like she was being mocking, but Olive’s voice was that way.

She was sharp, witty with a strong dose of sarcasm, her persona was that of the fashionable stand-up poet you would see in their 20s running a coffee shop and hosting little-known alternative bands during weekend gigs.

“I know you are.” I placed a hand on her shoulder. Olive always needed reassuring after apologizing or something like that because she often sounded like she wasn’t.

Olive sighed and swatted a mosquito off of her paraffin-waxed arm. “I hate the Texas summer heat.”

“I know,” Elle sighed and slumped against one of the brick walls that the Girls’ Athletic Coaches were gathered around.

“GIRLS!” Coach Niels yelled out, blowing on his giant whistle. He was twenty-something, okay-looking, but he shaved his head to make himself bald, which was weird.

Purrrrrtttt! At the sound of the second whistle, the girls in first period Athletics gathered around the Off-Season coaches, expectant and beginning to sweat from the humidity.

“Today we’ll be going easy. We know some of y’all haven’t been working out much over the summer, only eating on the couch and watching TV. That’s okay because we’ll be getting you guys toned over the course of this year in high school!” Coach Beatty yelled, pumping her fist in the air and her flat-ironed ombré hair swinging.

Another thing about living in Texas? The constant usage of the words ‘y’all,’ ‘Imma,’ and ‘whip your hide.’ Y’all in American didn’t mean anything in particular, but in Texas the phrase means ‘you all,’ the way East Coasters say ‘you guys.’ Imma was just another way to say ‘I will’ or ‘I am going to.’ To whip your hide just meant that someone was going to kick your soon-to-be sorry ass.

I sighed and pinched my four-pack, carefully honed after a six-week soup or liquid smoothie diet and hours on end of planking, crunches, and push-ups. Coach Harper noticed me poking myself and smiled lightly, pointing at my stomach and giving me a thumbs-up.

“The workout is simple. Sprint the longs, walk half of the shorts, jog the rest of the shorts until you hit the longs. Run outside of the school, through the parking lot and on the sidewalk when you can. This is a timed workout, so you guys have to run as long as you can.” Coach Harper said, taking out her Nike Pro and smiling as she started the timer.

“START!” Coach Niels hollered, his arms pointing to the right.

I pulled off the grass in a full sprint trying to get ahead of everyone, slowing slightly when all I heard were Irina’s familiar soft patter of her feet. When I run, I run with all of my might and ability, forcing my whole body into the actions I take. My feet often stomp on the ground if I don’t lighten up my pace.

“Whoa, Adeline!” Irina always called me by my middle name when we were running, when she was pissed off that I practically tore out of the crowd and away from her.

Irina sighed and kept pace with me, snorting noiselessly when she saw someone in the crowd of boys in Athletics.

“There’s someone over there you might recognize,” Irina huffed out, pointing and squinting up at the sun. She hip-checked me and almost threw me off-balance into the black chain-link fence.

I wiped away trickling sweat from the top of my hairline. “Who?”

I saw many boys I recognized and was friends with, but one of them was talking to someone and waving in my direction. Henley, Irina’s brother, was the one waving like a crazy person.

Shithead.

“Say hi when we run by,” Irina whispered.

She knew that breaking up with her older brother wasn’t easy, especially because he was the one who told me off for being standoffish and clingy. He began dating Mia Wilson a week later, dumping her before she could show her true colors and ditch him for a hotter guy.

I sighed, looking down at my rapidly-moving feet. I began breathing heavier, slowing the process of breathing through my nose as I pushed myself further into the running.

“I’d rather not,” I said, trying not to irk a reaction out of Irina.

She didn’t say anything but she looked over at Asher when we ran by where they were stretching with their arms in the air. He wiggled his eyebrows at her and nodded at me. Irina blew him a kiss and made a call me sign to him.

By the time we finished our fifth lap around the school, I was both sweaty and pissed off, a toxic combination. Normally, being sweaty would have made me hop into the permanently-foggy glass-paneled showers and get out invigorated, but I was mad at someone in particular.

“What in God’s name is wrong with you? Can’t you see that Theron is totally into you?” Olive swung by my locker from hers, which was the next one over, and took out a bag of makeup wipes, wiping off her SPF tinted moisturizer. She headed off for the showers in a cotton-silk paneled bathrobe.

Theron was the one catcalling at me while I ran by him. He had made several sharp wolf-whistles when I sprinted past him.

Of course, Irina having dated Asher, knew that Theron wouldn’t dare to catcall at her unless he wanted to get beaten up by the most muscular wrestler and lacrosse player in school.

I shrugged, peeling off my thin white tank top and shorts, shimmying into a fluffy white towel the staff left hanging around all of the mirrors. “I don’t think so. He thinks our flirtationship is hilarious and a joke.”

Olive and Cecil flanked my locker on both sides. Olive had already gone off to shower, so I turned to Cecil who had just finished showering and was struggling to pull the clasp together on a black lace bralette. I pulled it shut to the tightest clasp and Cecil sighed in relief.

“You owe me now. You know, you could guard my locker and make sure no one takes any of my stuff without your explicit permission, given to you by me. If they try to, feel free to put them down and cuss them out until they’re reduced to tears. The more fishies we scare, the better.” I said, tapping her shoulder and grabbing my waterproof makeup bag where I held my shower products. Fish or fishes was our term for freshmen and sophomores, the newbies at our school. This was why they were called shark bait, after all. Technically, this meant the sharks were seniors, juniors were pufferfish, and sophomores were mackerels. Someone in Marine Biology nailed that list out a few years back and it had stuck ever since. Nobody but the freshmen were called ocean-related nicknames, though.

The Girls’ and Boys’ Shower Centers were next door, but I made sure to enter the girls before hanging up my towel at an empty cubicle. I yanked off my sweat-soaked sports bra and underwear then cranked up the shower head to icy cold.

I shivered after letting the water wash over me for a minute, according to my Fitbit. I flicked the lever for slight heat and shampooed quickly, then conditioned after rubbing mango-scented body wash all over me.

I rinsed off and then stepped out, wrapping a smaller face towel around my hair. I picked up my undergarments and hurried to the Girls’ Locker Room.

I shut the red door behind me and scurried to my locker, where Cecil was glaring down at a sophomore while standing on the wooden bench above the glass shoe racks, her blue eyes turning icy in the fluorescent lighting. I tapped her shoulder and Cecil quarter-turn pirouetted, baring her teeth at me, probably thinking that I was a freshie.

Cecil’s expression straightened out when she saw me, naked and wrapped in an Egyptian cotton towel.

“Sorry,” Cecil said, running to her locker and fishing out a Tarte Lights, Camera, Splashes! waterproof mascara.

“Here.” Cecil tossed it to the sophomore who thanked her after promising to return it and ran off.

I snorted. “There’s a reason why we call them morons.”

“Yeah, I know she’ll never return that. It’s okay, my mom never uses hers, so I’ll steal that one.” Cecil shrugged and pulled out a Benefit They’re Real mascara from her makeup bag, opening her mouth slightly when she applied the lash-extending formula. She looked low-key and pretty, the way she always did. She was wearing SPF tinted moisturizer and concealer to cover her dark circles, a touch of cream blush, her eyes neutralized of creases with a cream-based bronze eye shadow, and her lips slightly glossy from using a nude lip gloss. I knew because I had the products I had listed.

“What do you think?” Cecil made a turn and I nodded.

“You look simple and really gorgeous.” I said, then bit my lip. “But it’s missing something.”

I looked around in the tiny wooden lockbox I kept of jewelry in my locker. I pulled out a pair of silver feather-like earrings that dangled and reached my chin. “Give them back whenever,”

“Thank you so much, Madelaine. You should really consider being a fashion stylist one day.” Cecil said over her shoulder, her soft curls bouncing when she turned and looked at me. With her back to me, in Rag & Bone’s gray Tuxedo jeans and a plain black T-shirt under a blue-and-red plaid shirt knotted on her waist and lace-up construction worker boots, she looked like an off-duty model. She had bought those now-famous Tuxedo jeans a few weeks before Cara Delevingne wore them during Paris Fashion Week between shows.

I made quick work of my towel, wringing out my hair gently to prevent frizz and then wiping my body to get rid of excess water droplets lingering on my skin. I blow-dried my hair and straightened it quickly, yanking on my top and shorts from earlier today, hoping that I didn’t look like a batch of In-N-Out fries. I glanced in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors and sighed with relief that I didn’t look oily, brushing away a bead of water from my collarbone. I got dressed quickly.

I checked my Fitbit again. 7:30 was what it read. I had about 30 minutes until my next period began. I looked through my brand-new Louis Vuitton tote and found my Bottega Veneta makeup bag.

Irina plopped down next to me, the shiny patent-leather knee-high black boots elongating her legs and making them seem endless under her flowy white sleeveless high-low silk dress. I could tell that she was wearing her older sister’s leftover Jimmy Choos from the high quality leather on her calves. Sienna was a fashion stylist for celebrities and musicians and her shoe collection at the Adams-Badeaux’s home was constantly diminishing because we always raided her shoe rack. But Sienna didn’t care, because she was getting mailed new shoes designed by the best designers in the fashion world all the time.

Irina wore her favorite blue sea glass necklace over the dress, dangling and swinging over her navel. It was on an expensive silver chain that looked delicate in comparison to her shiny boots. Her collarbone was slightly exposed, her black “Aut veniam, aum ci vaciam,” Hannibal quote tattoo showing, which meant “I’ll either find a way, or make one,” in Latin, the quote she lived by. She was already eighteen, so she was allowed that tattoo.

I leaned in close to the mirror to apply my concealer and Irina sighed, pulling it out of my hands. Irina had little to no patience for careful, calming processes, like my methodic application of makeup. When she put on makeup, it was speedy but efficient and the look was an effortless-chic thing she pulled off well.

“I’ll do the grunt work. Now, what kind of look do you want?” Irina was training with her great aunt to be a professional makeup artist, so I knew she could do anything from barely-there natural to Fashion Week-ready crazy makeup.

“Barely there makeup with one major element. Like, you can either do cat-like eyeliner or contour.” I said, sighing and closing my eyes.

Music blasted out of someone’s Bluetooth speaker and I smelled the familiar scent of Elle’s favorite perfume, Jimmy Choo’s Flash. The air around me suddenly smelled like strawberries, oranges, and jasmine rolled into one completely delicious scent.

“Hi, Elle.” I said, sucking a breath and preparing to be hit with something from Irina’s giant wheelable trunk of a makeup bag.

“Don’t move!” Irina hissed, smacking my face with a powder puff.

I sighed and held still as she stroked brushes over my eyes, lips, face, cheeks, everywhere but the rest of my body.

“Done.” Irina said, almost after an eternity later, misting my face with a dewy setting spray from her family’s makeup line, Starlight.

Elle pressed a face-size mirror into my hands. I closed my eyes and counted to ten, flipping to mirror so that I could see myself.

The makeup was subtle, so that anyone who looked closely enough or had a true artist’s eye could tell it was there. I had near-perfect skin perfected with brightening concealer and redness-zapping green correction stick and skin-colored tinted moisturizer, cheeks contoured slightly to look more hollowed, eyes with no visible eyeliner or eye shadow but I knew that there was something neutralizing on my lids, lips rosy and pinker than normal with natural-looking lip liner and lip balm under it. I appeared sharp and ready to take over the world.

“I love you, Irina. You worked some serious magic here.” I kissed her cheek and sighed in relief when nothing sticky came off on Irina’s face.

“No problem. Don’t worry, I used a waterproof Nars liner on your lips and just filled them in. You can kiss whomever you want today and not worry about rubbing it off on anyone. Like him.” Irina snickered and looked down at my phone, where several texts from Theron where making it vibrate.

Theron: Where r u? Why r u taking so long?

Theron: Why aren’t u replying?

Theron: u mad, brah? Or nah?

I sighed and looked down at my phone. “Since I have half a brain that actually functions when he’s within a ten-foot radius, unlike half of the female population, I wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to kiss him.”

“Then why else would he be constantly texting you? He’s dropping hints that he likes you…” Elle singsonged.

I yanked my tote down from my locker, ignoring my friends as they teased me about one of the most sought-after guys in the school being into me.

We walked out of the Locker Room, their subtly-heeled shoes clicking on the freshly-waxed floor. The school didn’t allow heels, only for formal dances like Homecoming, HP 104, Hilites, Valentine’s Day, Prom, or the Spring Fling. But girls found ways to wear shoes to make them taller, like wedges, wedge sneakers, and platform sandals.

Our lockers were in the same area as they were last year, as they had been since freshman year. The school never changed the location of our lockers, allowing us to choose them wherever we wanted in the school, because no one had homeroom in high school.

I knew plenty of kids had two lockers, one for school and the other for swapping drugs, filling them otherwise with bail money in case they were thrown in jail, with condoms and birth control pills besides.

When I spun the dial and yanked open my locker, everything was the way it was before I left school for the summer. Except one thing. I plucked out the single white rose from the duct tape that held it to the door.

It was a pretty rose, still blooming and trying to reach the sunshine in my lightless locker. The white color represented promises and new starts, according to my mom, who owned a florist boutique downtown. Attached to the ripe green stem was a yellow sticky note.

“Ooooh!” Irina squealed, pulling it out of my hands and wiggling her eyebrows suggestively when she read it. Elle crowded next to her and read it, giggling with their heads bent together.

I fished out the rest of my books and stacked them into my North Face backpack. I lugged them about five feet away from the girls.

“Wait! You forgot this!” Irina threw the rose and I caught it with the only thing I knew I could catch it with, my mouth.

I ended up entering my AP English IV classroom late and looking like I had just waltzed off set of a movie scene for a Spanish tango dance. Mr. Johansson looked up from his attendance sheet.

“Nice to see that you finally made your way to the class, Ms. Everhart.” Mr. Johansson said, smirking and looking at the rest of his class.

The only seat I found unoccupied was next to Theron in the back of the room. I quickly walked to the seat and slid into it, my cheeks flushed from mortification.

I yanked the rose out of my teeth and placed it in my lap underneath my desk. Theron was doodling in his composition notebook, so I prayed that he wouldn’t notice me examining the rose. The person’s writing was a sloppy slapdash, scrawled in a messy hand.

Hi beautiful. If you want to find out who I am, you’ll have to come out of your class and meet me at the football field underneath the bleachers after third period. Use the blindfold you find there and be ready for a surprise.

My cheeks turned even more red, if that was even possible. Theron leaned over and tapped my shoulder. I looked at him and almost directly into his luminous green eyes. He nodded at Mr. Johansson, who was pointing at the SMARTBoard with a laser pointer and gesturing at his students.

In the way most teachers in their early thirties, Mr. Johansson was fairly handsome, muscles straining beneath his tight-fitting polo shirts and button-downs. Many girls thought of him in their most wicked, intricate fantasies, but I didn’t see him as attractive. His blond hair was too long for my taste, always perfectly gelled into a sleek quiff on the top of his head, hazel eyes too sharp and startling, despite looking like a surfer with that body and perfectly-sunned tan. He just wasn’t the type I would go for.

“He said that the people we’re sitting with will be our partners for the rest of the year. Good thing I have you,” Theron joked, punching me lightly on the shoulder.

I glared at him and covered my shoulder with a hand to prevent him from touching me again. I wondered who the person who put the rose in my locker was.

When the class ended, we had gotten our customary giant three-inch binder and stack of homework papers. The funny thing was though, despite starting school a week earlier than the rest of the schools in Dallas, we had four days off after the first Monday to make up for the time we should have been spending on Labor Day weekend prepping for one of the biggest social scenes in the year.

Most kids wouldn’t even spend the rest of the week in Texas, though. Many people (including my family) jetted to Southampton for the last few days of freedom. Southampton was open year-round, but the estate houses there belonging to Highland Park owners were only used during the summer, over Spring Break, and certain long weekends.

Tuesday was when the girls came over to my house and we had a sleepover until Wednesday night, shopping around town until we dropped. With Wednesday came movies and dates with their boyfriends while I tagged along awkwardly occasionally with a plus-one acquaintance.

Thursdays were 18-hour charity auctions, whether for Children’s Health, St. Jude’s, or National Charity League which everyone called NCL, I didn’t really care. Women’s Promenade and Men’s Premier were the clubs that introduced us to cotillion and other mannerism lessons, not my favorite because of their auctioning of teenage members for dates, but they had the best parties.

And then Fridays swung around and they always had the best parties and the best places to be for a party. Sometimes, nightclubs were barred off to everyone but the high schoolers with the official IDs of Highland Park. Of course, some specific people from the private schools nearby were invited and put on the list for kids to come into the bar, but the kids throwing the parties hired at least six bodyguards in case of trespassers or fights.

I slipped over to my locker, almost across the hall for AP Literature and slid my backpack into the locker, locking it and then walking away.

When no one was looking, I walked briskly across the parking lot in the back of the school, walking through the dew-covered grass. I found a shimmery gray blindfold fluttering on the ground from the slight breeze. I picked it up and it had closed eyes in the front.

Use me if you dare. You know what to do when you get there.

I winced at the hidden sexual meaning of the blindfold and balled it in my fist. I walked under the bleachers and pulled it over my head, hoping that it didn’t frizz up my hair.

When I reached to touch the ceiling with my hands to make sure that I was near the exit of the football stadium, someone came from behind me, putting their warm hands on the place where my elbows met.

I let out an involuntary shiver when his nose brushed up the line of my neck, his breath blowing across my thin top-covered back. I tried to breathe and ended up inhaling the sharp smell of Dolce & Gabbana’s The One. The scent of tobacco, cedar wood, and citrus blossoms filled my nose and I sighed.

He turned me around and I almost slammed into his chest. His well-built arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me tightly to him. I coped for a feel and blindly reached up, smiling with happiness when I brought my arms around his neck. His other hand that wasn’t around my torso traced my cheek, then thumbed over my bottom lip, leaving a trail of fire in his wake.

“I’m going to kiss you and when we do, I’ll take off the blindfold. When we stop, promise me you won’t scream.” His voice was lower an octave because it was husky with desire.

I laughed out of spite. “I promise I won’t scream. Why would I need to?”

He laughed, the sound echoing slightly in the metal bleachers. “You’ll see.”

I pray to God it’s not Henley. Or an ex. Or even someone who’s a druggie, an alcoholic, or an abusive boyfriend of someone’s.

He brought me even closer to him when I didn’t know that was possible. He kept one hand around my face when he lowered himself to kiss me.

I licked my lips and then he closed the distance between us. It wasn’t very sudden, but it was unexpected nevertheless.

He brushed his lips across mine, slowly, surely, like we had all the time in the world, and then pressed a light kiss on the corner of my mouth. I hissed out a breath and cupped his neck with my hand, slamming our mouths together.

He laughed into my mouth at my urgent need to be touched and kissed me harder, his lips finding mine with an increasing passion. He tasted sweet, almost like maple syrup, with a tinge of sharpness, with the aftertaste of something strong, like toothpaste or a mint.

His hand slipped into my hair and then reached around my ears, beginning to take off my blindfold. I kept my eyes closed. When he did, I slid my hands into his hair and kept my hands there, tangled in the silky softness of his locks. He kissed me harder, his mouth becoming desperate and probing on mine.

His tongue brushed past the barrier of my lips and I smiled inwardly, noting his fast ability to adapt to French-kissing. Some guys, like Henley Adams, sucked at going to first base without oral coaxing from my end.

Both of his hands came around my waist and he nearly slammed me into the brick wall behind us. My legs came instinctively around his hips and he sighed, kissing down from my lips. His lips, hot and carving out a burning line on my skin, came down on my jaw, my neck, and then he softly bit the place where my neck met my shoulder. My eyes fluttered open and I realized I had seen his shirt before this morning.

I almost moaned out of pleasure, my legs clenching together out of instinct. Then I snapped out of my lust-induced haze, trying to see who was pleasuring me.

I looked down at the person bringing me a heady dose of indulgence. My hands slid out of his hair when I realized who had been bringing me to the point of ecstasy.

“Theron?”


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