SAMPLE CHAPTER 6 of 7
“You’re wearing that on your first day?”
Aunt Mil was at the counter making Addison’s lunch, which consisted of an array of cookies and chips with a ham sandwich, when I entered the kitchen. After the great chicken fiasco a few days ago, we’d been living off of take out and deli meats. She refused to cook anything in the oven, and for some reason, the stove, until she deemed them safe to use again.
I looked down at my outfit, pulling at the fabric of my grey oversized sweater. “What’s wrong with it? It’s not like I’m going to a fashion show. I’m supposed to look like a basket-case.”
She folded the top of the paper bag over. “You don’t want to make a good impression?”
“Not really. The goal is to blend in. I don’t want to make any type of impression.” I grabbed a cookie off the table and bit into it on my way to the steaming coffee pot. I took a cup out of the dishwasher before filling it with the brew, a little coconut milk, and some sugar. “Plus, I couldn’t care less about what those people think of me. They didn’t want me while I was me, so they don’t deserve me when I’m. . . not. . . me.”
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if what I was spewing out even made sense.
“Oh, don’t be such a drama queen, Evelyn. That’s Cassidy’s job.”
“Thanks for the encouraging words, Aunt Mil.” I turned to her and brought the coffee to my lips. I lightly brushed them across the surface to see how hot it was. It was searing. I flinched. Now, of course, I had to spend the day with a burnt tongue.
“Well, what do you want me to say, Evie?” She leaned against the marble counter-top. “Something wise and inspiring? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Where there’s a will, there’s a way? Everything happens for a reason? Keep your friends close but your enemies closer?”
I knew perfectly well that she was being entirely sarcastic, but her last clichéd phrase really made me think. Here in Anadale, at Roosevelt, enemies—albeit old and minus Will and Valerie—were all I had. Get close to your enemies, then knock them down. It was something interesting to ponder.
We didn’t speak much after that. I was going to be late if I stuck around any longer. I had to use Aunt Mil’s old car, which she had insisted was named ‘Enrique’, to drive myself. I was thankful now more than ever that I’d made time to take my driver’s test in L.A.
Addison bounced down the stairs right before I left. I had to do a double-take at first, because for a split second I forgot we were doing this whole disguise thing and thought some random person had entered the house.
I wished her ‘good luck’ and gave her a hug before heading out the front door.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
As I got in the car, I chewed on my cookie and also on that stupid phrase.
Maybe that was exactly what I had to do.
It hasn’t changed at all was my first thought as I pulled into the Roosevelt parking lot and parked in one of the spots in the corner of the lot.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. It’s not like I was going to come back to find the lackluster bricks had turned to gummy bears. The building stretched far along the expansive field it had been set up on decades ago. Anadale may have been a small town, but Roosevelt held students both from here and Lauder, the next town over.
I bit the inside of my cheek. There was one major difference I could detect. When my mom used to drop me off, I would always see seniors I didn’t know milling around. Now they were replaced with people I remembered. I’d always been the girl who no one knew but who knew everyone herself. . . well, until the incident and the whole famous sister, then famous singer thing. My eyes travelled across the throng of people, meticulously picking out each of the ways they’d grown up.
Surprisingly, I was ten minutes early. Looked like I’d totally overestimated the amount of time it took to get here.
Nobody was looking at me as I got out of the car. It was nothing like grade school when everyone went out of their way to be friends with the new kid. Right now, it was like I didn’t even exist, same way it used to be, and I really liked it that way.
My ears felt hot and were ringing as I avoided looking in the direction of the courtyard and got to the third step in front of the giant double doors that made up the school’s entrance. The laughs, shouts, whistles, and hollers of everyone inside rattled me to the core, but it was too late to turn back now.
I felt like I was going to throw up. I needed to keep reminding myself that this was for my own good. That this was a break.
As I walked the thirty feet from the door to the main office, I did my best to look out for Adam and Grace so that I could avoid them.
I pushed my way to the glass door separating the secretary and other school staff from the chaos outside their office, getting some side-stares and curious glances. Now everyone was registering the new girl. I mean, I was coming into the school a couple weeks after the year started, and as a senior, my arrival probably looked fishy.
I was greeted by silence when the office door finally shut behind me. There was a thin young woman behind the desk chomping away at her gum, listening to some music with one earpiece. Her acrylic nails clicked and clacked along her computer keys as her eyes shifted between paperwork next to her and the screen.
Clutching the strap of my messenger bag tightly, I inched my way over to her. I hoped she would notice me. Even if my accent wasn’t terrible, the thought of speaking made me more nervous. Eventually, I had to clear my throat a couple times to get her attention.
“Can I help you?” Her voice was sharp and nasal, and her eyes bored into me.
“Yeah. I, uh, I just transferred here from Boston. Today’s my first day. I’m pretty sure my transcripts were sent and everything.”
She popped her gum and pushed her seat back. “Your name?”
“Brittany Ma’shall,” I cringed at how forced I sounded when pronouncing ‘Marshall’. Maybe I wasn’t as great at the accent as I thought. I wondered if this lady could hear my heart pounding louder than a bass drum in my chest.
She went to the file cabinet at the back of the room and sifted through the manila folders. Within seconds, she’d fished one out. Just before she could open it, a voice boomed from behind me. “Oh, Miss Marshall, you’re here!”
The stress I felt instantly faded, and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.
Turning around, I practically ran into the arms of the one person I’d nearly forgotten about, but suddenly felt I could trust more than anyone in the world. Principal Sanders—salt and pepper hair, 70s style clothes, and all.
Mom had let her in on my secret, and if she hadn’t known, I most likely would’ve told her anyway. Back when I was in the elementary to middle school transition, and my anxiety was at its worst, Principal Sanders (who at the time hadn’t been promoted from middle to high school principal yet) had been extremely helpful and understanding. She’d let me come sit in her office to do my work whenever I couldn’t handle sitting in class.
She took my folder from the secretary and gestured towards the office behind her. I followed her inside.
“I’m sorry about Rachel. I was supposed to handle everything for you and didn’t expect you to get here so soon. Though, I don’t know how your file got shuffled with the rest.” She closed the office door.
“It’s fine,” I said, before realizing that she was apologizing because that file probably had my real name in it. I glanced back at Rachel. She was just two seconds away from finding out what was really happening.
Once we were out of view from the students, she wrapped her arms around me in a way that wasn’t too personal, but good for a greeting. “How’ve you been, Evelyn?′
We pulled away from each other. “Good. I’ve been good.”
“I’d say more like great, Miss Triple Platinum. Who would have thought, huh? I mean, I pegged you as a future doctor, but superstar. . .”
Her words sent a shiver down my spine, and I laughed nervously. “I mean, superstar seems—it seems like a lot.”
“Nonsense. You’ve been on The Heidi Show, dear. You’ve made it. My granddaughters love you, and I can’t picture a better role model for them. They can’t believe you were my student, and that I’ve spoken to you before. And don’t get me started on Cassidy and your younger sister. Your parents must be so proud of you girls. I know the members of our community are.”
Despite the fact her calling me a ‘role model’ felt like pressing a weight on my shoulders, I smiled. Instantly I felt the need to stand up straighter, to look perfect and put together, as if everyone was watching my every move. It took me reminding myself that I was Brittany Marshall now, not Evie Chase, to relax. It seemed like every reminder that I wasn’t myself was more and more comforting.
“I’d love to meet them one day. You know, when I don’t have to deal with all of this.” I gestured to my ensemble.
“Oh, of course! They’d love that.” She went around her desk to get a folder. “Now, let’s get you all settled in to start your day up. I know you’re already aware of how things are run here—the type of schedule. I can give you a quick refresher of that, and then I have your homeroom, locker assignment, and class schedule. I can have a student show you where the classrooms are if you’d like.”
I did my best to take in everything she was saying. I didn’t really remember where the classrooms were, but the thought of having someone show me around made me nervous. Or rather, the thought that it might be one particular person.
“Can I choose who shows me around?”
Principal Sanders rose an eyebrow. “Adam Fields?”
I jumped back. It made sense that was where her mind went. Besides being the kid I was always dropped off with, Adam used to purposely get himself in trouble and sent to the office so he could be with me and make sure I was okay while I was in here.
That kid was a far-cry from the one who’d gone out of his way to hurt me. The draw of popularity, reputation, really changed people.
“No, not Adam.” I tried to mask my solemnness. “I was actually wondering if Valerie Taylor could.”
In all honesty, I hadn’t spoken to Valerie for at least two years. After the songbook incident, she was the only one whose calls I answered. She helped me through everything, gave me advice on what to do. She’d told me to wait until Adam called me, for me not to call him, because if he really didn’t mean what happened, he’d say something.
Adam never called me.
After we moved, Valerie and I tried our best to stay connected, but gradually our calls were less frequent. Oddly, we ran out of things to talk about, and eventually, we completely lost touch. I didn’t know if she even lived around here or went to Roosevelt anymore. But still, she was one of the best friends I’d had here, and the only one I could picture speaking to, besides Will, without wanting to strangle them.
Principal Sanders got on her computer, mumbling Valerie’s name under her breath. She started typing on her keyboard and scrolling through something. “Well, I’ll be. She’s in your first period History class with Mr. Pietro. I’ll have Mrs. Greshereu send her down to get you. Then you two can swing by your homeroom to introduce yourself and head to class.”
I smiled. Maybe today wouldn’t be such a terrible day after all. “Perfect.”
Valerie had changed a lot since I last saw her. So much so, I almost didn’t recognize her when she walked into the office.
Her look, her demeanor, everything about her was so different. Her once-dark, frizzy curls were now smooth as silk, long down her back and dashed with light brown highlights. She was wearing flawless makeup, and she seemed healthier, more fit. The girl who used to buy sweatshirts two sizes too big to hide her body, never wanted to go out to public places, and always needed to walk into rooms behind someone so no one would notice her. . . that girl was no more.
This Valerie was nothing like the one I’d been friends with when I was younger—and I couldn’t have been happier for her.
As the two of us walked down the hallway to our first class, she strutted with her shoulders back, exuding absolute confidence. I couldn’t get enough of listening to her talk with assurance and marvel at the number of people who greeted her happily in the hallways and at the intense looks guys shot her way.
“And that’s our classroom.” She pointed to the room a few yards ahead of us, before she opened her hand to wave. “And there are some of my friends.”
I stopped dead in my tracks. Shock gave way to confusion as I stared at two girls happily waving back at Valerie. One of them I didn’t recognize, but the other was all too familiar to me.
"Those are your friends?” It felt like my head would explode.
Valerie hadn’t noticed I stopped walking until she was a few feet away. She turned to me. “You okay?”
I shook my head to get out of my fog. “Yeah. I, uh, I thought I dropped something, but I didn’t, I’m good.” I caught up to her.
Approaching Grace and Valerie’s other friend seemed to happen in slow motion. It felt like I was a gazelle in one of those wildlife documentaries approaching a pride of hungry lionesses. Grace hadn’t changed much since I’d last seen her. Perhaps she’d gotten a little taller and as much as I hated it, prettier.
There was a look of slight distaste on her face when I reached her. Feeling self-conscious and terrified she’d recognize me, I fiddled with my sleeves, rolling them up to my elbows. Maybe I was subconsciously preparing myself for a fight.
“So who’s thi—” Grace’s eyes homed in on my arm. “Look at that!”
I followed her gaze to my wrist and caught the glimmering of my diamond-studded bracelet. I choked on spit.
“Is that a Louise Federucci?” The girl whose name I didn’t know was gaping at me. “From the Fountain Collection?”
Grace turned to her friend. “No way, Hollie. Those are, like, impossible to get. Literally impossible.”
“No, it is!” Hollie grabbed a hold of my arm and yanked it up close to her and Grace’s faces. “See, it has the teardrop and then that gold-stitched look along the side.” Hollie gawked at me. “Is this real?”
I was completely flustered. I had no idea how to explain why I had the bracelet. It was a limited edition, specially given to me, Cassidy, and Addison by Louise herself because of the great publicity she thought she’d get. On the outside, it looked like any other Fountain Collection Louise, but for ours, engraved on the inside were the letters, C. E. A.,of course, because those were our initials. We all wore it on our left wrist. Addison deemed it a symbol of our sisterhood, and I was so used to having it on every day that I didn’t realize I should’ve taken it off for school. It was too late to go back.
Now, I just needed an excuse for why I had it.
“I, um, I—”
Think, Evie, think. Come on.
That was it. I was done for.
“Are you ladies planning on coming inside?”
We all turned our heads at the voice of a man I could only assume was our teacher. Valerie, Hollie, and Grace mumbled apologies before meandering into the classroom. I took a few extra seconds to gather myself and resisted the urge to shower the teacher with thanks for getting me out of that mess.
Well, at least, for now.