“Look Claire,Fresh meat.” My best friend, Jupiter, squealed excitedly, nudging me to tear my attention away from my phone. Jupiter loved nothing more than the first day of school, simply because it usually meant we’d get new students who had transferred from Claremont High to our tiny private school, Brixton Campus.
Public school transfers fascinated Jupiter but I couldn’t see their appeal really. Most were like outlaws, coming into our school without any care for the strict structure we’d been forced to follow since day one of year 7. They were disruptive and rude in class, often stealing the focus and making it harder for those of us who actually care about our education.
Our Principal, Mrs Baxtor, liked to individually introduce the new offerings at morning assembly. I guess she might have thought it would help the wayward kids settle into their new environment if we knew their names or maybe it was just about showing the newcomers what was expected of them, when they’d look out into the audience and the Brixton student code of conduct is on full display, knee length skirts and shorts, black, polished shoes, neatly pressed shirts, no make up and definitely no facial piercings, the only flare of individuality Brixton would tolerate was coloured hair.
This was the last year I’d ever have to go through this and I couldn’t imagine year 12 would have any new transfers because who changes schools in their last year? I scanned the new faces and was pleased to find I was right, they all looked to be in the lower grades, which meant they wouldn’t be my problem this year but that joy was quickly shattered when my eyes landed on the boy sitting at the end, he has dirty blonde hair which he kept trying to sweep out of his eyes and scuffed shoes that had most likely never been near boot polish in the entire time he’d owned them. I knew who he was straight away, what I couldn’t figure out is why he was at Brixton when I know for a fact that he was in year 12 at Claremont last year.
“Oh, he’s so hot.” Jupiter purrs beside me when she catches sight of who I’m locked upon.
“His looks are about all he has going for him Jup.” I tell her. “Don’t be sucked in by his pretty boy face, that creature is the living embodiment of a walking piece of shit.”
“You know him?” She turns to me, eyes wide, to Jupiter, knowing one of the newcomers was everything.
“That’s Andy Stephenson.” His name bitter on my tongue. “His parents are friends with my parents so we kinda grew up together.”
Being just over a year apart made Andy and I almost inseparable as kids but once he hit high school everything changed, suddenly I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with anymore, well not compared to the new friends he made at Claremont and over the years I watched the sweet, caring boy disappear, leaving a rude, arrogant , cruel monster to take over. I gave up trying to be civil with him a long time ago, now when our families catch up I’m grateful I have his amazing sisters to hang out with while he sits, alone, brooding and making snarky remarks towards his dad.
“I think I vaguely remember him from your 16th birthday party, he asked me I’d grant him the gift of my virginity in exchange for bragging rights, like he was God’s gift.” She chuckles to herself.
“Yep, that’s Andy alright, he’s disgusting and you should hear the way he talks to his dad, he’s so rude and disrespectful.” Andy’s dad Lucas is so nice and patient, he’s a youth councillor at Claremont High, helping teenagers who are struggling work through their issues to achieve positive outcomes and yet his own son is just an arsehole who needs to be taken down a peg or two. “If I was that disrespectful to my dad then I wouldn’t live to see Sunday.”
As parents go, my younger brother, Heath and I pretty much hit the jackpot. We can talk about almost everything with them without judgement or fear that we’d get into trouble, unlike Jupiter who gets grounded for talking about subjects her mum considers taboo.
“In my fantasies I’m disrespectful to your dad and he takes me over his knee and spanks me until I’m a good girl.” Jupiter giggles and I roll my eyes.
“Jupiter Clementine Lindon, how many times do I have to say that I really don’t want to hear about the sexual fantasies you have about my dad.” I sneer at her, making her laugh harder.
“I can’t help it Claire, your dad is not like a regular dad, he’s hot and you need to accept it.” She says, as if that makes it alright.
“He’s my Dad.” I exclaim, completely grossed out.
“I’d call him daddy any day.” Her says to stir me.
“Eww, stop.” I gag, sticking my finger in my mouth and making a barfing sound.
“You know I’m only joking.” She giggles, twirling her bright purple hair between her fingers. “I’d never cheat on Sebastian.”
Jupiter’s boyfriend Sebastian was our class prefect this year, which meant it was his job to introduce the newbies. He was tall, dark hair, handsome, athletic and my biggest completion for getting top marks this year and taking out dux of the school. He’s the all round nice guy, friends with everyone and Jupiter’s mother’s dream come true for her ‘out of control’ teenage daughter.
They hooked up at Mindy Janton’s 17th last year, the most mismatched coupling you could ever come across but I guess it’s true when they say opposites attract. What started out as casual dating quickly erupted into a fiery, passionate relationship that they took to the next level over the Summer holidays.
“Has your relationship changed since you lost your virginity to Seb?” I whisper to her, not wanting my classmates surrounding us to hear about the new development in the Jupiter and Sebastian saga, the rumour mill was already running wild with exploits that took place over Summer holidays, my best friend didn’t need to be added to the list.
Jupiter focuses on Sebastian, standing up on the stage, introducing the fresh meat to the hungry crowd. A gentle, loving smile spreads across her face, one she always has whenever she’s looking at her boyfriend.
“It brought us closer.” She swoons. “Like, I knew he loved me before we decided to have sex but now I feel him express that love to me, if that makes sense.”
“Kind of but I’ve never been in love before so I don’t really know what that would feel like.” There was no one at this school that I found remotely appealing enough to even consider dating.
“You just need to broaden your horizons and open yourself up, you never know, one of these losers could be mr right.” She says, looking around at our fellow classmates, majority of which I witnessed go through puberty and it wasn’t pretty.
Mrs Baxtor concluded the assembly and we slowly file out of the hall. I flip open my binder to check my class schedule and am happy to see that I have chemistry first period, my favourite subject and one that Jupiter, Sebastian and I share.
We wait for Sebastian outside the hall so the three of us can walk to class together, he holds Jupiter’s hand as we make the short journey down to the science block. Jupiter informs her boyfriend that I know Andy Stephenson and then we both try to grill him for intel but Seb says he knows nothing. What’s the point of being class prefect if you’re not going to score all the gossip on the new kid and share it with your girlfriend and her best friend?
We enter the classroom and I’m surprised when I see Andy sitting at one of the desks. He spots me and quickly looks away as if he’s ashamed to be seen by me. He knows I go to this school and he’s just been sitting up on stage, in front of the whole student body, does he really think he could just go unnoticed by me?
We find a row of seats just behind Andy and get settled in while we wait for wait for Mr Eckles, our chemistry teacher to arrive.
“You should say hello.” Jupiter whispers to me, pointing her pen in the direction of Andy’s back.
“Why?” Was I not clear on how much I despise the guy at assembly?
“Because he has no friends and it would be polite.” She pushes.
“So? How is he suddenly my problem?” I ask her.
“You have an in with him and I want to know why he’s here.” She whispers back as she leans forward and taps Andy on the shoulder before either Sebastian or I can stop her. Andy’s head spins around and he gives me a cold, mean stare.
“What?” He asks me, his voice carrying an intimidating tone.
“Ah, hi.” I stutter, trying to think of what to say, inside my head I’m cursing Jupiter and hoping karma pays her a visit for this.
“Hi.” Andy replies, his tone a bit more friendlier but still with an edge.
“So...you’re at Brixton now?” I ask him, trying to sound as natural as I can without tipping him off that I’m desperate to know why he’s here.
“Looks like it.” He smirks and I almost lose my train of thought, his good looks are a major distraction, I feel Jupiter poke me in the ribs to keep my focus on the mission at hand.
“But didn’t you graduate from Claremont last year?” I question him and watch the smirk fall fast, I’ve hit a nerve obviously.
“That’s none of your business, Claire.” He spits out at me like venom, the cold, hard stare returns, cutting right through me and leaving me a little shaken.
“I’m Jupiter by the way and this is my boyfriend Sebastian.” Jup jumps right in when she sees I failed the mission, it would take a lot more to rattle Jupiter. Andy’s focus shifts to Jupiter and he gives he gives her a once over before deciding she earned a smile from him.
“Did your parents really name you Jupiter?” He asks her, holding her gaze.
“And you’re still going with that?” He laughs at his own attempt to make Jup feel insecure but he has no idea who he’s dealing with.
“That’s rich coming from you.” She says with a smirk.
“What’s that supposed to mean exactly?” He asks, getting defensive.
“Nobody over the age of six still goes by the name Andy.” She fires back at him and I try to hide my laughter behind my hand. “I guess the name matches your maturity level, Andy.”
“Fuck you.” Andy retorts, looking wounded.
“You wish.” Jup giggles and Andy turns back around in a huff just as Mr Eckles walks in.
“Welcome back year 12.” He greets us warmly, walking around the room. “I have decided to reassign lab partners for this year.”
“Why?” Sebastian questions our teacher, echoing my same thoughts. Jupiter had been my lab partner since year 9, we work well together and I know she’s not going to slack off when it comes to the assignments, which keeps both our grades up. Reassigning lab partners meant I could get stuck with someone who has no clue what the periodic table even is.
“To give everyone in this class an even, fair advantage.” Mr Eckles explains.
“You mean so the top students in the class can help those at the bottom raise their grade.” Jupiter simplifies, looking as pissed as I am.
“We succeed as a class Miss Lindon.” Mr Eckles tells her firmly, to indicate that the discussion is over. “When I call your name I want you to go find a bench at the back of the room, this will be your bench for the rest of the year.”
Mr Eckles began call out students names, some were pleased with their new arrangement but for Seb, who was paired with Ben and Jupiter who got paired with Val, there was no happiness in their new pairings. I looked around the room at the students left, none of which I’d want to work with, especially Andy.
“Claire Lions, you are now partners with Andrew Stephenson.” Mr Eckles announces, setting my schooling year off to a disastrous start.