“And pencils down.”
Lara looked around to see if there were any invigilators around as she quickly bubbled in her last answer on the Scantron sheet. Although she wasn’t confident that finishing one extra question would help her grade in any way-- even if by some miracle it was right-- it gave her the feeling that she was at least trying.
Senioritis had hit Lara Willingferd like a truck, much like most of the students in her class at Riverview High. But everyone had gotten into their university programs of choice, and they could basically get away with not even showing up to their final exams if they really wanted to and still show up to their new schools with their full-ride scholarships still waiting for them.
Riverview was one of the most prestigious schools on the East Coast, and they worked their students to the bone to ensure that they could get into Ivy League schools that would give their parents tons of bragging rights at their respective country clubs. In return for their hard work, extracurriculars and rigorous SAT prep, the last semester was basically a joke for the senior student body.
As Lara’s former grade nine English teacher grabbed her biology exam, he whispered to her congratulations on finishing her final exam, and wished her good luck on her upcoming valedictorian speech.
Lara got up from her desk and caught up to her best friends Elle and Freya as they were walking out of the room.
“So, how did it go for you guys?” her friend Elle said, already knowing that Lara and Freya would have just as disappointing results as she did.
Lara stifled a laugh as Freya rolled her eyes.
The group of best friends would be joining Elle’s older sister at Yale in the fall, and they were all already packed as there was no possible way they would get their conditional offers revoked. It was mathematically impossible.
“Hopefully I didn’t get that -10% I’ve been dreading,” Freya said sarcastically. “In more exciting news, did you guys look at the Pinterest board I sent you with dorm room inspo?”
Partially artsy, partially obsessed with planning, Freya Gill had a Pinterest board for practically any possible scenario. She had already known what her prom dress was going to look like in October, and even had time to send Elle and Lara their own personalized boards with her suggestions for what dresses that she thought would look best on them.
Now that Freya’s prom plans were about to come into fruition any day now, she was on to the next thing.
“Unfortunately I didn’t, but I’m sure I will approve, Frey.” While exams might not have been a concern, Lara still had some things to work on.
To her surprise, her class had voted her valedictorian. While Lara was friendly with all the students in her grade, she didn’t think for a second that she would have been tasked with the responsibility of speaking on their behalf at graduation.
Despite the fact that she got along well with everyone, she wasn’t the loudest or most charismatic kid in her class. For the most part, she tended to be shy more than anything. In the final round of voting, she was up against the resident queen bee, Aubrey Hartford, and she had still won.
Aubrey was more intimidating than anything. Super wealthy, super beautiful, and super bitchy, she was your typical popular girl. Aubrey would be nice to your face, of course, but after four years of high school, people finally saw past Aubrey’s act. It still came as a shock to Lara, as she thought people would allow Aubrey to get her way until they finally left the grounds of Riverview for good.
Lara had somehow become her grade’s weapon against dethroning Aubrey at the last second, but Aubrey was taking it all out on Lara.
Lara was already not keen on speaking to begin with, and now that she had the wrath of Aubrey after her, she had spent almost every night up until three in the morning trying to make the best speech Riverview had ever heard.
For the most part, these nights ended in tears and with Lara popping two melatonin tablets so she could sleep without her anxiety keeping her up. It was not going well, and she would always silently curse Elle and Freya for even nominating her to be on the valedictorian ballet in the first place.
Needless to say, Elle and Freya felt like absolute crap for the stress that they had put on their friend. At Lara’s comment, she could see Elle’s pale face flush.
“Your mom is still okay with us staying over to help with your speech right?” Freya asked before Elle could start tearing up and she blubbered out endless apologies.
The most dramatic of the group, Elle Davies felt emotions like no one Lara had ever met. While it made her excel while she was performing on stage, it also meant that life with Elle as your best friend meant watching her emotional roller coaster everyday, and knowing how to be able to comfort her.
“She would prefer it,” Lara said. “She’s been really worried about me.” Lara thought back to a couple days ago as her mom hovered over her bed during Lara’s most recent panic attack that resulted in her throwing up the small amount of dinner that she managed to get down her throat. When she looked back at Elle’s pale face and Freya’s guilty expression, she knew she had to lighten up the mood.
“I mean, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to fit in my prom dress. I think I’m the only person in the world right now who is complaining about being too skinny,” Lara said, attempting a light laugh. While it seemed to distract her friends, Lara was still trying to find the humour in the situation.
The group of friends continued talking as they made their way to the parking lot, ready to say goodbye so they could get everything they needed to meet up at Lara’s house in a couple of hours.
As they walked to their cars, their attention was shifted to Aubrey herself and her boyfriend, Austin Evans, obnoxiously making out against Aubrey’s Porsche Cayenne.
“I don’t know why she is so upset about you taking the valedictorian spot when she has him to distract herself with,” Freya said wistfully.
She had a point. Ever since they started at Riverview, there was an unspoken rule that Austin was the golden boy. Smart, athletic, and so very handsome, every girl had a little bit of a crush on Austin.
Nobody ever got to have a chance with him, though. Once Aubrey set her sights on him, no one else was allowed to. If any girl even looked at Austin during a party, they would feel the infamous wrath of Aubrey.
“Do you think he’s just completely oblivious to how much of a bitch she is? Or is he just as bad as her?” Elle wondered out loud. It was what was on everyone’s mind when Aubrey finally got what she wanted and showed up to school earlier that year wearing Austin’s letterman jacket.
Lara scoffed. “Oh, come on. It’s not a secret that she’s the worst. There’s no way he doesn’t see it. He’s just as bad as her.”
“What a waste of a good face,” Elle said, wistfully staring in their direction.
At that moment, Aubrey decided to detach herself from Austin and saw the group of friends looking at them.
“Fuck,” Lara whispered under her breath as they all saw the wheels turning in Aubrey’s head upon seeing her.
“Oh! Hey girls,” Aubrey said, waving them over. Her voice had taken on a sickening sugary sweet tone that she usually reserved for teachers.
“Hey, Aubrey. We’re actually about to head out,” Lara said gesturing to her car, trying to get out of the conversation that was sure to have ulterior motives from the popular girl’s side.
Aubrey quickly jogged over, speaking as she made her way. “I just wanted to wish you luck on your speech. Have you finished it yet? Oh, that’s a silly question, obviously you have. There’s no way you would have left it to this late.”
How she had managed to know Lara hadn’t finished the speech was a mystery to her, but nevertheless, she still felt her palms get sweaty as her pulse quickened. “Yeah, obviously,” Lara quickly responded, hoping her face didn’t give off any of the panic she was feeling.
“I can’t wait to hear it. I’m sure it’s going to be so much better than what I had prepared, considering everyone voted for you. But, if you need to take some lines from mine, you can always ask me for some inspo. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone,” she said finishing off with a laugh.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine, thanks though.”
Aubrey stared at Lara in the eyes for a second longer than necessary before finally looking at Freya and Elle for the first time since she walked over. “Well, can’t wait to see you actually dressed up at prom. Bye!” Aubrey quickly left the conversation as the friends were left to catch Aubrey’s sly insult.
As Aubrey and Austin got into her Porsche, Lara turned back to Elle. “See? There’s no way he can ignore that. He’s just as bad as he is.”