It happened last year. No one saw it coming, it hit our town like a meteor, something foreign, something both frightening and enticing. This scandal made everyone shake their heads, but they loved it, they love drama simply because they hardly get a taste of it. Sadly, their entertainment came with a cost, and I got shoved the bill. Really, the entire scandal was put into motion by me, but it wasn’t my fault. They say I lied. That I made it up. They pinned me with a dire need of attention. Attention was the last thing I wanted, especially from someone like him.
Don’t cause problems, my mother said to me, in this town, nothing stays a secret for long.
It’s not a secret, I told her, I want people to know what he did to me. And I’m not causing problems, it’s the truth!
I told my mother everything after the incident happened. She listened, and I thought she supported me—her nods were terribly convincing—but when I finished she told me to stop creating such stories. Attention, attention, attention, that’s all she wants, they said, after it spread around the school. I told my best friend at the time, Daphne, and Daphne decided to take on the role of head-gossiper. She started the spread, like an STD during spring break, like in the movies. Everyone at school knew. Everyone at school thought I made it up, for guess what, attention.
She made it up because her Daddy ran away with that slut, some girls said in the locker room, just a week after school started.
The incident happened at a beginning of the school year party, thrown by the bastard himself. I attended with Daphne and our mutual friend Jana. Daphne was on the dance team and needed to soar this school year, as Junior year meant rising and senior year meant thriving. She needed to set herself up for greatness. Daphne, Jana, and I were nowhere near popular, but we weren’t considered losers either, we were just there. I was okay with it, just being there. She needed more.
Once she made the dance team over the summer, Daphne knew she had a shot at actual popularity.
Jana, on the other hand, was like me, she was satisfied with her notch on the scale of social status. She was focused more on school than friends, then again, now, who knows what she’s like.
To make this all clear, after the start of the year party and after the first semester of my Junior year, I left.
After my fake incident spread, everyone turned against me. How could they turn against their leader, Harrison Keller?
Harrison Keller was the host of the party a year ago, and my leading man in the production that is the scandal. Like I said before, I did not want attention from him, unlike everyone else. Everyone else happened to love him, he was the star of our small town football team, a golden boy, wealthy, and charismatic to all hell. Girls swooned, boys were jealous, blah, blah, blah.
I know what you all are wondering, what was this incident?
A sudden bell causes me to jump, my heart skipping an extra beat. I nearly hit my car horn. I scan the cluttered parking lot around me, filled with student cars, and the last few freshman rush past the main doors.
I wish I was a child, I wish I could fall to the floor and cry, I don’t wanna!
Groaning, I grab my backpack and climb out of my car, shutting the door dramatically behind me. I swing the bag onto my back and grasp my phone tightly in my hand, ready with 911 already dialed, as if I’ll need it, and I start my death march up to the doors.
As I said, I left after the first semester of my Junior year, here at Coldgrove High School. I spent winter break packing up my things, leaving my mother, and moving to Florida with my Dad. How could I stay at a school where everyone hated me? Hell, the entire town hated me. So, I left. I started my second semester at a High School in Florida and lived with my Father and his girlfriend, yes, the one he ran away with. My parents are divorced now, but they were together at the time.
My mother was devastated.
I didn’t want to move in with him, but if I wanted to leave Coldgrove, he was my only option.
The main hallway of the building is empty, students are already shuffled into their classes, eager to discover who they’ll be sat beside. It is nice to have the hallway to myself, as no one has noticed me, meaning I will not be pummeled with paper snowballs...yet.
Part of me wants to believe that they won’t recognize me. I dyed my hair for it, and hopefully, I actually look rather different. How much can a person change in half a year?
I printed my schedule out last night, at home. I scramble for it in my backpack, unfold it, and look at the first slot, reminding myself. It reads, Economics, 1242, Freeman. Room 1242, I can barely remember where that’d be.
A year ago last week, at the party where it all happened, I had my first drink. It was a vodka sprite, and I didn’t like the taste, it reminded me of the dentist.
Don’t tell me you’re a lightweight, Daphne laughed at me.
I shot back, I’m not.
We had just arrived and we were already drinking. As soon as we walked through the door Jana went off with some guy from her Spanish class, leaving me with Daphne. Daphne wanted to impress her new teammates, so drinking professionally was a task. All of the dance team was there, including the captain at the time, Clara. Daphne was obsessed with impressing Clara.
Daphne rolled her eyes at my baby-sips and left me all alone in the kitchen, abandoning me for Clara.
I stood in Harrison Keller’s kitchen, alone, at a party full of upperclassmen, and I was scared shitless. My two best friends left me, and in the moment I hated them for it. It was then that he came in with a few football players, glanced at me, and asked me my name.
I wander the halls and count each room I pass until I reach 1242. There is a small, black plaque beside the door. The number 1242—numerals and in brail—with ‘Freeman’ underneath it. Mr. Freeman, I’ve heard about him. Eight months ago, the first semester of Junior year, the senior students would talk on and on about him, how hot he is for a teacher. It’s funny how I remember only that. I would remember that.
I take a deep breath and hesitantly reach for the handle. I hear them talking inside, probably going around the room, sharing, playing ice-breakers. I want to turn around, run, head straight for the hills, but I know I can’t.
I don’t wanna!
I roll my eyes and hype myself up as if I am about to lift three hundred pounds.
Then I do it, I grip the handle a little too hard, push the door open and step in. Everyone stops talking, the room falls silent.
I know what they’re all thinking: holy crap, Hailey Fonte is back.