Chapter 1 | Troubled Sincerity
“Are you ready for today?” Lucy asks as I glance over at her.
“You mean for the first day of college classes?” I ask.
She nods and I shake my head.
“Not even remotely ready.” I laugh.
“Same honestly. I hope college is as fun as people say. I’d be willing to kill myself if it becomes as much as a drag as high school was.” Lucy sighs just as Riley comes strolling into the kitchen.
“Who’s ready for class, bitches?” She smiles wildly.
“We were literally just discussing it.” I laugh, eating my last bite of cereal.
Suddenly, my phone rings.
“What’s up ladies? I just wanted to wish you good luck on your first day!” Callie smiles via Facetime.
“You’re such a doll, Cal!” Lucy says from the other side of the kitchen.
“How’s New York treating you?” Riley asks, peering over to see Callie on my phone.
“It’s alright. Classes start next week for me.” She smirks evilly.
“Did I mention that I hate your guts?” Lucy says as she walks over to Riley and me.
“Love you too, anyway, I gotta go. Bye!” She sings before ending the call.
“Lucky duck.” Riley pouts. “I could have used another week of no school.”
“Well, think of it this way.” I smile. “We start a week early, right? So that just means that we end a week early too.”
“Wow Naveah. If only I were as smart as thee.” Riley says sarcastically.
I roll my eyes as I get up to wash out my cereal bowl.
“Whatever. Let’s just go before we’re all late.” I say as I reach for my bag and car keys.
“I love that we can carpool every day. Makes life so much easier.” Lucy sighs as we all leave our apartment and get into my car.
“I still want to alternate cars though. Gotta keep things fair.” I smirk.
“Blah, blah. Turn up the radio and let’s cruise!” Riley says from the back seat.
I do as instructed and start driving toward UCSD.
Once we arrive, I find a parking spot, and lock my car up once the three of us are out.
“Okay, who has what?” Riley asks.
“I have Professor Brown, English LIT.” Lucy reads off her paper.
“I have Professor Robinson, Chem. 1.” I read off my paper as well.
“Chemistry? Yuck. I have Professor Clemons for math.” Riley shrugs. “Yay me.”
“Well I guess this is it. We go our separate ways now.” I frown dramatically. “How will we ever survive alone?”
Lucy and Riley both give me dramatic sobs as we group hug. We begin laughing as we pull apart, and agree to meet in the quad for lunch later in the day.
As I’m walking toward what I believe to be my classroom, I hear my name being called.
I turn and just barely catch a glimpse of dirty blonde hair.
“Turn a little more.” I hear the voice again.
I finally do a 180 and that’s when I see the smile of Connor Gaines.
“Connor!” I shout and rush over to him. I give him a hug, and we pull apart soon after.
“How have you been?” He asks. “I feel like we haven’t talked in ages.”
“That’s because we haven’t.” I smirk. “But I’m doing surprisingly well. How about you? How’s Marissa?” I ask, even if I don’t necessarily care to know.
“We’re both great. She’s here actually, trying to find her class. I think she said she has Chem. 1.” He says and I frown.
“With Professor Robinson?”
“I think so! That means you two have the same class. That could either be really good, or really bad.” He laughs lightly, and I can’t help but join him.
“You’re right about that.” I nod. “I suppose I’ll find out soon enough.”
“She’s really grown, Naveah. I’m sure she won’t be giving you any trouble this year.” Connor explains, and I nod at his explanation.
“I hope you’re right. I want to leave everything that happened last year, in the past where it belongs.” I say and notice Connor eyeing me. He must be reminiscing on everything that happened last year.
I’ve been doing that a lot lately.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. Anyway, I hope you have a good first day. I hope that we can catch up soon. I’m sure you’re really feeling the nostalgia today, especially since Mark is here.” He casually says, and my heart stops.
“What?” I ask.
Connor looks at my startled expression, and eventually derives his conclusion.
“I’m guessing you didn’t know.” He says with an awkward smile. “He got accepted soon after the car accident. I helped him and his mom send in his application just before the deadline. Apparently his grades were just barely good enough to get in, with the help of financial aid of course.”
“So Mark is here? At this school? Right now?” I ask, still not able to fully believe it.
“Yep, I just saw him right before running into you. He said he didn’t have class until this afternoon, but wanted to walk around to get to know the campus.”
“Well, that’s just perfect.” I mumble just loud enough for Connor to hear.
“Have you not talked to him since…?” Connor trails off, and I shake my head to give him his answer.
“Oh. Well, that’s gonna be awkward. Have fun!” He sheepishly smiles with a wave as he begins walking away from me.
“Thanks a lot, Connor!” I shout sarcastically. I hear him chuckle before he disappears around a corner.
As I continue walking, I finally locate my classroom and walk inside.
“Naveah Olsin!” I hear, and I immediately wish I hadn’t.
I turn to face the smile of Marissa Bradley.
“Marissa. Hey. How’s it going?” I fake a smile of my own.
“It’s great! I can’t believe we have the same class together! Listen, I hope we can put what happened last year behind us. I told Connor that I wanted to start fresh this year. No more high school drama. Please tell me you feel the same?”
I study her appearance. The same white smile. The same bleach blonde hair, though it’s shorter. I like the new haircut. Her eyes are wide and full of hope, but a small voice inside of my head tells me to keep an eye on her. It’s going to take a lot to actually put some trust into this girl.
“I do actually. Starting fresh has sort of been my motto recently.” I say with a soft chuckle. “I’m glad you’re doing so well. Hopefully this class will help us to bond.” I have to keep myself from laughing at that one.
“Oh good! I can’t wait!” She says enthusiastically. “Wanna sit with me?”
“Sure!” I fake smile again, walking over to the table and taking the seat beside hers.
Oh this is going to be so much fun.
After two more classes, I’m finally done for the day.
As my stomach growls, I search for the cafeteria. I’m wandering around aimlessly before I stumble right into a hard chest.
“About time I ran into you!”
My eyes widen at the British accent.
“Dylan!” I exclaim, bewildered. “What the hell are you doing in California?”
I immediately wrap my arms around his neck.
“I wanted to surprise you. Mum wanted me to go away for college, so I figured what better place than sunny Cali?” He smirks with a light chuckle. “So here I am.”
“A heads up would have been nice!” I scold playfully, leaning in for another hug. He kisses the side of my head and my insides melt.
“Awe, where would the fun be in that?”
I smile up at him. “Gosh, is this even real right now? I can’t believe that you’re here!” I say as we continue walking towards the cafeteria.
“Yes, it’s real love. I didn’t want you to think that I was some sort of stalker, but I just had to see you again and my mum practically pushed me to go away for college. I hope this is okay.” He sheepishly smiles.
“Of course it’s okay! I’m so happy to see you.” I smile wide. “This is amazing.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Dylan smiles. “I think we found the canteen.” He motions toward the large building ahead.
“In America we say cafeteria.” I smirk. “But I love your accent so don’t stop.”
Dylan smirks at me as we walk inside.
“Naveah, over here!” Riley shouts from across the room.
It takes her a second to recognize Dylan, and then her eyes widen.
“Is that Dylan?” She shouts, and that’s when Lucy looks up from her plate of food.
Yet another pair of eyes that widen.
Dylan and I walk over to them. Riley is first to give Dylan a hug, and then came Lucy.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” Riley smirks, purposely mocking Dylan’s accent.
Dylan laughs but is quick to recover. “I’m here for the same reason you are. College.” He shrugs.
“Well damn. Welcome to Cali.” Riley says and I can’t help but laugh at her fake smile. “The brightest shit-hole on the planet!”
Lucy rolls her eyes at Riley’s behavior, but I can see a ghost of a smirk lingering.
“Guess who I’ve got with me in Chem. 1.” I say to Riley and Lucy.
“Mark?” They both guess in unison.
I glare at them, but remain calm.
“No, Marissa.” I correct. “Marissa Bradley, to be exact.”
“You mean Satan’s child goes here?” Riley asks. “Well that’s just perfect.”
“Yep, Connor too. I ran into him this morning and he told me about Marissa. Then about five minutes later, I’m sitting with her in class.” I sigh.
“Tough break.” Lucy frowns.
“I guess it’s just Karma finally catching up to me.” I laugh.
“Karma about what?” Dylan asks, and that’s when I realize that I never told him about everything that happened last year.
“I’ll fill you in later.” I smile.
“It’s a lot to fill in.” Riley comments, and I send her a glare.
“Speak of the freaking devil and he shall appear!” Riley whisper-yells in my direction, while her eyes focus behind me.
Dear God, no. I can’t see him right now. It’s still too soon. What do I say? How do I act?
I slowly turn, and catch his backside as he walks toward the cafeteria line to get some food. He hasn’t seen me yet, and I’m trying to keep it that way for as long as humanly possible.
“Who’s the devil?” Dylan asks, and Riley points to Mark.
“Yeah, he looks the part.” Dylan nods.
Mark’s dark hair is a little longer, and falls over his face messily. I still can’t deny that it looks good. I see that he has more tattoos going down his right arm; it almost looks as if he’s going for a sleeve.
He turns around and that’s when I bring my gaze directly back to the table in front of me.
I feel his eyes on me. I could always tell whenever Mark was looking at me. I felt it in my bones, and still do. It’s both nostalgic and terrifying.
Suddenly, the feeling is gone, so I look up. He’s gone.
“Yeah, I’m going to say that he’s not happy you’re here.” Lucy comments toward me.
“Why do you say that?” I ask, though I already know the answer.
“The death glare he just sent to our table is probably the sign.” Dylan says and I turn to face him.
“There’s a lot of history there. I’ll explain everything later.” I weakly smile.
“Not to worry love, I understand.” Dylan smiles warmly, and my smile widens.
“You two make me sick, but I love it.” Riley smirks. “Now, are you gonna go grab some food or what?”
Dylan and I nod, both walking away from the table and toward the cafeteria line.
This is the first day of college, and I already wish it were over.
College was supposed to be my fresh start. Why does both Connor and Mark have to go here?
Top that off with Marissa, and it’s basically high school all over again.
The only people missing are Callie and Red.
Man, do I envy them.
They were able to get away from everything, and more importantly, everyone.
Meanwhile, I’m forced to deal with the people that I’ve tried to keep in my past. All summer, I haven’t thought about them. And now, they’re directly in my face.
Maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m thinking. Maybe I can manage to stay away from Mark, and just deal with Connor and Marissa on occasion.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be another bad year.
“Hey, are you alright love?” I hear Dylan ask from beside me.
“Yes, I’ll be alright.” I nod with a smile.
God, I hope.