11 | New Girl
The moment I stepped off the bus at school, my mind flashed back to Virginia: the whispers, the points, the looks, the nasty comments.
Forcing it out of my head, I made my way inside the building. Wesley had seen a friend when we were still on the bus and ditched me, so I was on my own again, which was fine with me. I was less likely to be noticed that way.
I found my locker and opened it up. Mr. Wright had given me a tour of the school when we’d met, and I had paid extra attention to room numbers so I wouldn’t be completely lost. My first class was English with a Mr. Hardy in room 117.
I finished arranging my books and shut my locker up again, heading to class. I was almost to the room when I heard my name called. I turned and found Nadia, the girl I’d met at the dojo, jog up next to me.
“I was hoping I’d see you here.” She said, grinning. “I’ve been looking for you at the dojo, but you didn’t come back.”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “I guess I’m just so used to training on my own.”
She gave me a look. “I heard you kicked Russell’s ass after I left.”
I grimaced. “Is he upset?”
“No! He hasn’t stopped talking about how great you were.” We’d reached the classroom and Nadia grinned. “English is your first class?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“Mine too. I guess we are just meant to be friends.”
When everyone had filed into the classroom, the teacher leaned on the front of his desk. “As most of you know already, I’m Mr. Hardy. I teach English, so if you are not supposed to be in English class right now, you should probably leave and find the correct class.”
“Okay, since we’ve got that straight, you can all put your phones away and give your undivided attention to me.” He picked up a piece of paper off the desk. “When I call out your name, raise your hand and say here. Regina Alan.”
He went on down the list of names and I silently prayed that Mr. Wright had remembered to put my name down as Hayden Wagner. When Mr. Hardy got to the last names that started with S, and there was only one, that was not me, I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hayden Wagner.” He said, finally.
I raised my hand. “Here.”
Mr. Hardy glanced up. “I understand you moved here this summer from the East Coast, Miss Wagner.”
I froze. Where did he learn that?
“So welcome to Portland.” He finished.
I nodded. “Thanks.”
I had mostly relaxed by the time lunch came around. Everyone was either ignoring me or being nice. I got my food and looked around. Nadia had said earlier that I should sit with her, and I spotted her sitting at a table towards the other side of the cafeteria.
I was about to go join her when I noticed another table, closer than the one Nadia was at. There was a group of guys sitting at the table, most of them with girls by their side. But the reason I’d noticed them was because right in the middle, making out with a girl sitting on his lap, was the guy I’d seen training at the dojo.
I was still standing there, watching him, when a loud voice sounded behind me.
“You’re in my way.”
I turned around slowly. Several things told me that the girl standing there was the drama queen from every high school movie: the way three-fourths of the cafeteria stopped what they were doing and turned to see what would happen, the way she was dressed, with a gallon of makeup covering her face, the way she stood there staring at me expectantly, and if all those other things didn’t give it away, she had two barbie doll-looking girls standing on either side of her.
I didn’t want to get into it with someone like her on the first day, especially with everyone watching, but I knew if I didn’t stand up to her, not only would she walk all over me, but everyone else would too.
“I’m sorry.” I said, a genuine look on my face. “Could you not fit between here and there?” I gestured to the seven-plus feet of space between me and the nearest table.
She glared at me. “My food my would get contaminated if I had to walk that close to you. Your stench is awful.”
A ripple of ooh’s swept across the cafeteria.
I smirked. She’d just set me up perfectly. “Oh, you smell that too?” I leaned in a little. “I wasn’t going to say anything because I thought that was your breath.”
Everyone broke out into laughter and her face turned beet red. “I’ll have you know that I can make your life here miserable. You’d better remember that.” She said as she and her friends stalked past me.
I watched them pass, a satisfied look on my face. I knew I’d won, and everyone else knew it too.
The guy from the dojo had stopped making out with the girl on his lap and was watching me, his face once again expressionless.
The drama queen stalked over to his table and stopped by him. “Move, bitch.” She said to the girl on his lap.
The girl quickly complied, and the drama queen took her spot on his lap.
I tore my gaze away from them and made my way to Nadia’s table. She was already sitting with another girl.
“That was awesome!” Nadia said as I sat down. “Nobody stands up to Staci like that.”
I made a face. “Should I not have done that?”
The girl next to Nadia laughed. “No! It was really cool! Besides, now all the guys have noticed you.”
“And it wasn’t for something embarrassing.” Nadia added.
I glanced around. The girl was right, I was getting a lot of looks from guys. Great.
“Hayden, this is Mckenna.” Nadia said, gesturing to the girl next to her. “Mckenna, Hayden. Mckenna’s the principal’s daughter.” She told me.
“Don’t hold it against me.” Mckenna groaned. “I didn’t choose my parentage.”
I grinned. “No, it’s actually cool. I met your dad and I like him.”
“Yeah, he’s cooler than my dad.” Nadia said. She made a face. “Master of Martial Arts.” She said it in a weird voice, and we all laughed.
“Yeah, I met your dad too.” I said, grinning. “He was pretty cool.”
Mckenna nodded her head in agreement. “Your dad is so chill.”
“Whatever.” Nadia glanced at me. “What does your dad do?” She asked.
I froze. I should’ve known that was coming, but it hadn’t crossed my mind. “He’s… Gone.” I said, going back to eating and hoping they’d drop it.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Nadia bit her lip.
I realized they both thought I meant he was dead. I was about to correct them, but then I stopped. Maybe it was better that way. Hopefully, they’d be sensitive to my feelings and not ask questions.
Just then, Wesley appeared by my side, sitting next to me and draping his arm around my shoulders. “How’s it going?” He asked. “I saw your run-in with Staci. It seems you’re not completely hopeless without me.”
I made a face. “I don’t remember being the one that asked for help.”
“Ouch.” He grinned and then sobered. “Still, I didn’t mean to ditch you earlier. But I see you did okay.” He nodded to Nadia and Mckenna. “Hey.”
They both smiled at him.
“Well I gotta split. See you later, Hayden.” Wesley rose and was gone almost as quickly as he came.
The moment he was gone, Nadia and Mckenna both turned to me, stunned looks on their faces.
“Oh my gosh! How do you already know Wesley Knight?” Mckenna asked. “He’s our best tackle on the football team.”
Interesting. I guess there’s always more you can learn about people. I shrugged. “He lives in my building.”
Nadia made a pouty face. “It took me a whole semester for him to notice me last year and my locker was right next to his. How did you get him to talk to you?”
I stared at them. The Wesley I knew was chill and polite and would talk to anyone. “I don’t know. He saw me outside and just started talking to me.” I knew Nadia knew I practiced martial arts but bringing up that would just lead to more questions.
“Did he ask you out?” Mckenna asked.
“No.” I laughed. “We’re just friends.”
“He was pretty familiar with you.” Nadia said, giving me a look.
I grinned and shook my head. “Still just friends.”
Mckenna pursed her lips. “Well that’s boring.
Maybe it was boring, but at least if I didn’t let anyone in, they couldn’t break my heart.
The day finished out similarly to the way it started: uneventful.
Mckenna incited Nadia and I to her house after school, but I declined. I was supposed to train with Wesley later and I wanted to spend as much time with Gia as I could before she left.
“How did you like your first day?” Wesley asked, when I met him to train.
I shrugged. “It was fine, nothing special, but nothing too bad either.”
“Do you like Nadia and Mckenna?” He asked. “They’re super nice girls, but not the type of people I’d have thought you’d pick for friends.”
“Because I street fight?” I gave him a look. “That’s all you really know about me, isn’t it?”
Wesley shrugged. “Yeah. I mean, you don’t really talk about yourself very much.”
I knew that. It was purposeful that I steered conversations away from myself. It was another protection from letting people get too close.
“I did try to look you up on Instagram.” Wesley laughed.
I froze. I hadn’t considered that people would follow me on social medias.
“But either you’re actually a guy, you only post pictures of your cat, or you’re not on Instagram.” He finished.
I swallowed; extremely thankful I’d changed my last name. “Yeah.” I smiled. “Maybe I’ll get it, just for kicks.”
That night, I created social media accounts for myself as Hayden Wagner. It was another chance to cement in my mind that I was a completely different person than in Virginia. When filling out my bios, I said nothing about soccer, or my friends, just a quote:
“It’s not the size of the girl in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the girl.”
It might be lame, but I didn’t want to put any more information out there on myself than I had to.
When I was done creating the accounts, I texted Kevan. We’d kept in touch okay, mostly texting, but a few calls here and there.
Hayden: You have time to talk?
Moments later my phone rang with a call from him. I smiled an answered it.
“Hayyddenn.” Kevan drew out the syllables of my name. “How’s west coast life treatin’ you?”
“Fine. How’s east coast life treating you?”
“It’s busy. People started saying the S word again.”
I grinned. “School?”
“What the hell, Hayden!” Kevan moaned. “Why do you have to ruin my day?”
“I started school today.” I told him.
“Ohh.” He paused. “Well that sucks. We don’t start until next week.”
“Yeah, I know.” I’d been keeping up on my old friends’ social medias.
“So how was it?”
“Uh, it was fine, I guess. Nobody knows who I am or anything about me, so I didn’t get all the condemning looks I got back home. I go by Wagner instead of Starr now.”
“That’s a good idea if you’re looking to hide who you are.” Kevan sighed. “So did you make any friends?”
“I don’t know. There’s this one guy that lives in my building that I’ve gotten to know a little and I guess he’s one of the most popular guys at school.”
“Do you like him?” His tone was teasing.
“Oh my gosh! You’re like my mom!”
Kevan laughed. “I just want to know when you get a boyfriend.”
“Oh my gosh.” I groaned. “You know what I think about boys and relationships.”
Kevan was silent for a moment. “I know your ideas of happy relationships and perfect families were shattered, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You’re in control of your life. You can watch it go by, always being afraid of getting hurt and passing up opportunities, or you can take risks and be happy.” He paused. “You’re so fricking smart, Hayden. I know that you’ll find the right person to take a risk on, I just hope you grab on when they come along.”
His words were definitely sobering. He was so right, about everything, but mostly about me being afraid of getting hurt. I’d rather watch all my opportunities go on by if it meant not getting hurt again.
The next day, I wore mini cutoff shorts, a maroon tank top, and adidas sneakers. It was probably a mistake to wear the shorts because all throughout the morning, guys were checking me out and making dirty comments. I ignored them, but by lunch, they had ruined my appetite.
When I got to the cafeteria, I grabbed an apple and headed to sit with Nadia and Mckenna again.
On my way, I was approaching the table full of guys and one of them winked at me. “Come sit with me, beautiful.”
A few of the other guys, including the one from the dojo, looked in my direction, but I ignored them and kept walking. The day had kind of sucked so far and I wasn’t in the mood for more pointless flirting.
“Come on, baby, my lap won’t always be open.” The guy reached out and slapped my ass as I passed.
I didn’t even think before I grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.
The guy cried out in pain and his friends started a little, obviously surprised.
I lowered my head a little, closer to his ear. “Don’t call me baby, and don’t ever touch me again.” I let him go and walked away.
I didn’t regret what I’d done, I thought it was more than appropriate, but the looks people gave me as I finished making my way to Nadia and Mckenna irritated me. Some looked impressed and some looked scared. But they were all looking, just the same.
I mentally kicked myself. Why the heck couldn’t I just be normal and react like a normal girl would? That was the second time in as many days that I’d drawn attention to myself when I didn’t have to.
I plopped down at the table and sighed.
Nadia and Mckenna were both staring at me.
I grimaced. “What?”
“You know you’re totally different than every other girl here, right?” Nadia asked.
“You could’ve easily done the same thing.” I said, shrugging.
She gave me a look. “But I wouldn’t have.”
I rested my chin on my arms. “Do you think he’ll hate me for it?” I didn’t really care if he did, I was just curious.
“Nope.” Mckenna laughed. “He’s probably already mentally moved on to his next target. But don’t be surprised if he tries something again.”
I glanced back at the guys’ table. “Who are they?”
“The one that slapped you is Hunter.” Nadia said. “He’s a huge flirt and completely full of himself, but also completely harmless.”
“Across from Hunter is Cam.” Mckenna butted in. “He’s a lot like Hunter, but while Hunter usually scares the girls off, all the girls love Cam. He’s the quarterback on the football team.”
Nadia took it up again. “Next to Cam is Max. Mckenna has had a crush on him for years.”
“I do not!” Mckenna blushed. “I just think he’s hot.”
“Whatever.” Nadia grinned. “Max is also on the football team. He’s the running back.”
The guy next to Max set his pop can on the ground, stomped on it, and then cheered for himself.
Mckenna winced. “That’s Luke.” She stared at him, still wincing.
“We don’t even know why they’re friends with him.” Nadia said, also making a face. “He’s more of a loser than the losers.”
Mckenna took a deep breath, tearing her eyes away from Luke and wiping the sour expression off her face. “Across from Luke is Bryce.” She said. “He’s a forward on the soccer team. He’s the only senior in their group and also the only one with a steady girlfriend.”
“He doesn’t really fit in with them either.” Nadia said. “He’s not a flirt, and way too nice and good.”
“Yeah.” Mckenna grinned. “Last year he and Mandi sat with me at lunch one day and he actually talked to me like a normal person.”
“Mandi is his girlfriend.” Nadia clarified. “They are so cute together.”
I grinned and glanced over at their table again. There was only one guy left unnamed: the guy from the dojo.
He seemed so different than the others. I hadn’t seen him smile, or even look interested in anything. He just sat there, going along with everything, but I felt there was more to him than it appeared.
“What about him?” I asked, nodding in his direction.
Nadia and Mckenna looked at each other.
“That’s Kai Rivers.” Nadia said after a moment.
Mckenna nodded. “He’s the most popular guy in school.”
I looked at them. The moment I asked about Kai the whole dynamic of the conversation had changed. It went from casual and amusing to sober and almost a little timid, like they were afraid to say anything.
“It might not look like it, but he’s the leader in their group.” Nadia said. “And everyone knows who he is.”
“Guys worship him, and girls throw themselves at his feet.” Mckenna said, pushing her tray to the middle of the table.
“Yeah.” Nadia sighed. “He’s got problems.”
I remembered recognizing the cold anger in his eyes when I’d seen him at the dojo. He was one of the hottest guys I’d ever seen, but the way his face was always expressionless and the hardness in his eyes was a huge turn off for me. It almost even scared me a little.
“Isn’t he Staci’s boyfriend?” I asked. Staci had seemed pretty annoyed and demanding when she’d told that girl to get off Kai’s lap yesterday.
Mckenna laughed. “Uh, no.”
“Kai doesn’t date.” Nadia said. “But he has slept with half the girls in school.”
“And broken their hearts.” Mckenna added bitterly.
“Yeah.” Nadia rolled her eyes. “Staci just wants him to be her boyfriend and all the girls are afraid of her.”
“Wow.” I smiled. “They sound perfect for each other. An asshole and a bitch.”
“Which one is which?” Nadia grinned.
“Well Kai wasn’t always that way.” Mckenna glanced at Nadia. “He used to –“ The bell rang, cutting her off. “Oh crap.” She got to her feet quickly. “We have to get to classes.”
I picked up my apple core and went on my way, forgetting all about Kai Rivers. Until chemistry class.
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