I - Good Girl
You know those people that never get their clothes dirty, hand in their homework in time, get called the teacher’s pet?
Yeah - one of those people is me.
“Esme! Your school bus will be leaving soon, so get moving!”
“Esme, I’m gonna be out late today, so I’ve left you some money on the table, okay?!”
That’s me, Esmerelda Taylor. The Year 11 good girl in my school, Hembrooke High.
Life’s okay, really. People might give you the occasional judgemental look or snidey comment, but I guess that’s pretty common in high schools. I frequently get teased for my good girl attitude, but I just brush it off, or ignore them - I can act stubborn when I need to, no matter what people think of me. I’ve got my friends that I hang out with, share study notes and chat with at the back of classrooms and when we’re in the library - not when the teachers are looking, of course. I’m part of Business Club, running school charities and organising the school shop and everything, and I’m also the class president - probably because no one else could be bothered to do it, and I’m good with numbers. Still, it’s okay. Apart from the slight pressure of exam studying and preparation, life is quite normal and samey for me. But I suppose I should consider myself lucky, since I still have people there for me, and my parents’ house and food.
I don’t purposely act in that ‘good girl’ way. It’s just sort of who I am - being neat and ahead of things, being safe and having fun while still staying aware - it sounds absolutely ridiculous, I know, but it’s true. I’ve observed the popular kids in my grade - hair dyed so much that the ends are like straw, make up all over the girls’ faces that make the teachers frown in disapproval, and the hitched skirts with a safety pin to keep it up, giving boys a really inappropriate advantage. I don’t want to be a follower of that at all - drinking at parties while technically I’m underage, getting involved in fights and having my v-card taken as soon as I’m sixteen. Yeah - no.
I spent a lot of time with my nan growing up - my mum was one of those girls who got pregnant young, so she struggled to manage - and with dad in his mental state, he couldn’t really help much. So I usually spent time with my mum’s mum, Patricia. She’s a lovely woman that’s actually aged really well - short dark curly hair to her shoulders and dark blue eyes, with thick black glasses she slips on when she watches television or reads something. I guess she passed on most of the good girl traits to me, not that it’s a bad thing. But because I’m different, people that aren’t really my friends at school usually don’t talk to me when we’re sat together on tables. I was never great at communicating to be honest - but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be like those girls that are always laughing, the boys letting them lean their arms on their shoulders even though they aren’t really close, becoming popular and funny and exciting instantly. I doubt I’ll ever be like that.
My friends are similar to me, though I wouldn’t call them good girls. There’s Lavinia Anderson, my best friend, who can be very loud and defiant when she feels like it. She tries bossing people around too, frequently getting into arguments with Leroy Stewarts, a geeky boy in our English and math classes. Then there’s Carmen Wells - a total tomboy, who plays for the girls’ football team at school and can make anyone laugh, even the strictest teachers. Melissa Sydney, on the other hand, is more of a girly girl, and probably the most alike to me. She loves all things fashion and carefully sews and stitches in textiles class, painting delicately and shading as immaculately as she can in art. She’s an introverted person too, but the popular girls admire her silky straight brown hair and pink clothes, trying to make her into one of them - but for all she is sweet, she is headstrong, declining politely and staying with us. We also both hate P.E, and usually tie last place in running and athletics, her rose gold headband pushing her hair back from her sweating forehead and rosy cheeks, leaning on trees and walls as she took regular breaks with me, declaring it child cruelty and reluctantly going back on course after a few moments.
We all call the popular girls ‘extros’. Extroverted, extra - extra annoying too. Semi-extros aren’t totally popular, but no one picks on them and they’re second pick for most things. Wallflowers, probably like me, don’t speak much and keep themselves to themselves.
“Esme? Did you hear me?”
I picked up my backpack and came downstairs, passing my dad lolling on the sofa and going over to mum, who was sipping a black coffee and scrolling through messages on her phone.
“Oh, there you are. Look, I’m working late at the club tonight, hun. We need the extra cash - I’m only a week away from the electricity bill and I’m a little short. Hey, when are you old enough to get an after school job, Es?”
“In four months, mum, when I turn seventeen. I can try to get myself a waitress job in Mugshotz then.”
“Yeah... yeah, you do that. Thanks, babe, you’re real supportive.”
“Yep, no problem. I should probably go, Melissa will be waiting for me at the bus stop. Is there food here for later if I need to heat something up quickly?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah, I think there are some ready meals in the fridge, or just cook some of those leftover oven chips in the freezer. I’ll be back at around eleven, okay? You can go round to your nan’s if you get really bored. I don’t know if your dad’ll be here or not.”
“Okay mum. See you later then.”
I picked up my lunch box and shoved it into my bag, passing dad on the way to the front door.
“Bye, dad. See you later.”
His eyes flicked up to mine and he nodded slightly, before going back to staring into space. I bit the inside of my lip and slipped my shoes on silently, before grabbing the keys and locking the door behind me. And sure enough, I caught sight of Melissa wandering up the road to find out where I was.
“Esme, there you are! Come on, let’s go to the bus stop. You know, my cat might be having kittens soon. You should come over - my little brother Samson is trying to make them toys in his arts and crafts club, but I don’t know how well that’s going to work out.”
“You’re lucky you have a brother. I don’t have any siblings,” I replied, as we walked side by side back down the road, making our way to the bus stop. The school bus was usually packed, but our stop was one of the first so it wasn’t that bad. We just had to choose two-seaters near the front, because the more popular, annoying classmates sit near the very back and around shout over the top of each other. See, this is why carrying earmuffs is key, even when it isn’t winter. Still, it’s January, so me and Melissa don’t look too weird wearing them peacefully, the constant talking muffled.
“Hey, did you hear?” Melissa said suddenly, nudging my side. “There’s a new boy our age and his family moving into the neighbourhood tomorrow, and he might be going to our school!”
“Great,” I said flatly, imagining some other loud jock or annoying boy who thinks too much of himself joining the many others that are just like him. “He better not flick erasers or bits of paper at me like Lee does, because it gets on my nerves.”
“No, he’s supposed to be some sort of bad boy,” she said giggling, as we made it to the stop just in time and scanned our tickets, nodding at the driver before going upstairs and taking our seats. “Some boy here called Harley is an old friend of his. Apparently, his name’s Maddox.”
I nodded, leaning back into the hard seats as the engine started again and the bus started moving at its normal pace.
“Pretty much every boy I’ve met is the same, though.”
“Some are different,” Melissa said, putting away her baby pink purse and zipping up her bag. “We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.”
A couple of girls sat behind us prodded my shoulder, and I turned around warily, met by their made-up faces and eager looks. Extro girls for sure - Evelyn and Amanda.
“Are you two talking about Maddox? Have you met him? He’s supposed to be a total bad-ass,” Evelyn said in an adoring tone, smirking.
“No, we haven’t met him,” Melissa said truthfully, smiling, “but news around here sure does spread fast.”
“Well, he’s friends with Hot Harley, so he must be worth the rumours,” Amanda said, and the two began chatting together again, turning around to Jordan and Jessica to gossip.
“If he’s a bad boy, he’s most likely popular,” I concluded, turning back to Melissa. “Popular people are usually the same inside and out. Fake and extra.”