The original crowd, p.10
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       The Original Crowd, p.10

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  wrong, sitting with students on student council and some of the cheerleaders. Jasmine sat at a different table with Amber, Grant, and Devon. Bryce and Tray were missing. And me, I sat alone like normal. Molly chose a different seat in psychology and the guy who’d spoken up for her had glared at me as I left school.

  I loved being popular—and hated.

  But I was happy. I hadn’t heard any rumors about Mandy and Devon’s break-up. I didn’t even know if it was known at school. Monday the halls had been buzzing about the cancellation, alarms, and unending music. I’d missed Tuesday, so I didn’t know what the rumors were. But Wednesday had two themes. The first was my retort to Tray in last period and the other focused on Justin Travers’ party.

  Nothing was spoken about Jasmine and Mandy. That’s all I cared about.

  Wednesday night I was packing my bag, double-checking everything for the heist tomorrow. I was planning on going after school and waiting it out until eight o’clock that evening. That was usually when the faculty and staff finally left. The students should be gone by six or so—at least. I just needed to make sure that Geezer was sober and at my side to work on the device before I handed it over to Tray.

  Hearing the doorbell, I sighed and walked from my bedroom towards the stairs. Hearing it again, I yelled, “Coming. Hold on.”

  Opening up, I saw Carter on the opposite side.

  “Hi.” He gave me a wide smile, leaning one hand against the doorframe.

  “Mandy’s not here and I don’t know where she’s at,” I clipped out, moving to shut the door.

  “Whoa, whoa.” He stopped the door, putting his foot in the doorway. “I’m Carter. We haven’t actually met.”

  “And I’m perfectly fine with that, I’m done with your crowd. I’ll stick to my sister.”

  I kicked his foot out and shut the door.

  *

  The whole school was on edge the next day. Amidst the excitement from Monday, it seemed everyone had forgotten that this was homecoming week. The cheerleaders reminded everyone on Thursday and that meant tension. Tension, chaos, and everyone suddenly acting like they’re going to get laid. They were playing Pedlam the next night.

  At my locker, I grabbed a book, my cellphone tucked between my neck and ear as I called Grayley. Hearing him answer, I said, “Make sure Geezer’s sober today. I’ll need him tonight.”

  “Sure thing,” Grayley remarked, I could hear laughter in his voice.

  “Things crazy over there?”

  “Yep.”

  What’s up with the non-answers?

  “Brian’s standing right there, isn’t he?” I asked coolly.

  “Sure is,” he said cheerfully.

  “Okay.” I hung up. No point worrying, Grayley knew what to do; he’d helped me numerous times over the years.

  “Hey.”

  Turning around, I saw my sister.

  “What’s up?”

  “Huh,” she faltered, shuffling her feet.

  “Mandy,” I said firmly.

  “What?”

  “What’s up?”

  “It’s…,” she rolled her eyes, her hands resting on her hips, “Carter said you two met and that you were—”

  “Less than friendly,” I supplied dryly, shutting my locker and moving down the hallway.

  “It’s just, why? Why do you have to be like that?” she cried out.

  “I’m not going to be nice to a guy that’s temporary.”

  “What?”

  I stopped in the hallway, facing her squarely. “He’s the rebound. I get it, I understand, but he’s not my friend. In fact, none of these people are my friends. I’m here because your family adopted me. You’re my sister, I’m starting to get that—but everything else—your friends being my friends…it’s not how it is, Mandy. It’s not how it’s going to be.”

  “It’s not like that,” she argued. I could hear the hurt in her voice.

  “He’s the rebound,” I stated.

  “Look, now’s not the place to talk about this. He’s having a party tomorrow night and he wants you to come.”

  “I’m not going.”

  “Come on, Taryn—”

  “No.” I shrugged her off, ducking into my classroom. It was fifth period and I had Spanish, but luckily for me, this course is a cakewalk. If you actually wanted to learn, those students chose French. Spanish consisted of learning donde esta el bano, hola me llamo es ____, and zacapuntas. That was about it. Our teacher was usually flying around wearing a sombrero, helping the motivated students make piñatas—no joke.

  Sliding into my chair, the only one open was in the front when I first started; therefore, my designated chair for the rest of the year. Just my luck.

  Feeling someone tap my shoulder, I turned around and was blinded by the whitest pair of teeth, surrounded by a curly mop of blonde hair, framing piercing blue eyes.

  “Hey.” When had our nation adopted this as the normal greeting? I think I’m going to start using a simple “hi” from now on.

  “Hey,” I murmured. Nope, it was already ingrained.

  “You’re Matthew’s new sister, right?”

  “Yeah.”

  “I’m Justin Travers.”

  The dude Molly liked. I gave him the once over and, yes, I was correct in my assessment. The guy had a cheerleader on his lap.

  “And apparently you know me,” I said wryly, moving to turn back around.

  “I’m having a party tomorrow night. You’re coming, right?”

  I turned back around and studied him, noting the smirk and cockiness. I looked at the platinum blonde on his lap—the Hooters poster girl from Tray’s house—watching me intently. It felt like I was being tested.

  I sighed. “Look, if you think there’s even a possibility that the rumors about me screwing Evans are true, doesn’t mean shit to you. Because one, I am not one of those girls who’s suddenly realized how fun sex is and I’m going to start sleeping with anyone remotely popular. Two, if I did screw Evans then he’s probably the only one I’d settle for in the future. And three, I don’t have low self-esteem. I am not going to turn into a groupie.”

  “Why are your panties so twisted?”

  God, I’d had enough. Okay, yes, I’d gone on the offensive and he was only shooting back, but seriously. I’m sick and goddamn tired of guys thinking they can reduce everything to sex.

  So I grinned coolly and flipped his chair backwards.

  “Fuck.”

  “Ah.”

  Someone screamed, someone gasped, and a whole lot laughed. I caught the glances of a few people, but they quickly looked the other way.

  “You bitch,” Travers shot back, slowly standing up.

  “Psycho bitch is more like it,” said Hooters girl.

  And I was hoping we’d be friends.

  “Miss Matthews!” Señora Graham, the Spanish teacher, exclaimed, her sombrero falling off in her state of shock. “Principal’s office. Now!” Shouldn’t she have said that in Espanol?

  Leaving the classroom, I realized I had left my books inside. Oh well.

  I started getting a funny feeling in my stomach and, as I continued down the hall, it exploded inside me, leaving me gasping in surprise. It took me a moment to recover. This was new. Was this guilt?

  I never cared about getting in trouble before I came to Rawley. I’ve walked down this hallway so many times before—they were all the same, with the same destination. In the old days, Brian would’ve gotten kicked out beside me, and he’d already be dragging me out to the parking lot by now. I could picture his grin and almost hear his laugh.

  But this time, I cared. I cared that Mandy was probably going to get some slack for this, because of something I’d done. And it bothered me.

  Turning the corner, walking towards the office at the end of the hall, I saw Mandy standing with six other cheerleaders in the hallway. They were coloring a poster for the game tomorrow night, or at least that was my guess since it said, “Pedlam Sucks.”

 
Mandy was nudged by a girl that was standing beside her when she saw me.

  “Taryn? What are you doing here?”

  “I’ll go to Carter’s party.”

  “You will?” I felt guiltier seeing the smile that stretched across her face.

  “Yeah.”

  “Wait. What are you doing here?”

  “I…uh…I’m sorry.”

  Mandy paled. “What did you do, Taryn?”

  “Uh—” I brushed her off, turning and walking back towards my locker.

  “Miss Matthews!” The principal had come to look for me. I stopped and looked around, seeing him just behind Mandy, frowning fiercely. His tie flung across his shoulder, as if he’d dashed out of his office.

  I didn’t say anything. What could I say? So I met Mandy’s gaze as I walked steadily past her and through the office door the principal was holding open.

  “Miss Matthews, take a seat.”

  He shut the door and walked around to sit behind his massive mahogany desk. His black leather chair creaked slightly as it tipped backwards under his weight.

  “Señora Graham tells me that you assaulted a student,” he said coldly.

  “It wasn’t assault.”

  “Mr. Travers and Miss Klinnleys have bruises proving otherwise.”

  “It happened like thirty seconds ago,” I pointed out. “The bruises aren’t from me. And it wasn’t assault, I moved a chair.”

  “Two students were harmed from your actions. Under my classification, that can be considered a form of assault.”

  “I didn’t even touch ‘em,” I said calmly.

  I sighed, settling back in my chair.

  “You have quite a history, don’t you, Miss Matthews? I think you should learn what appropriate boundaries are and how to implement them in your life.”

  I smirked, folding my arms. “You have nothing on me. I pushed a chair. That’s it.”

  “There were two students in that chair.”

  “Exactly,” I deadpanned. “Two students. In one chair. If anything, you should be hauling my teacher in here and not me. Shouldn’t she be supervising such inappropriate behavior? Since when was it school policy that we could sit on laps here? At least in our classrooms.”

  As he stuttered, I knew it was over. The breakdown was right and I did point out a much more serious issue than my supposed assault. I saw the decision made in his eyes before he even opened his mouth.

  “You may go, Miss Matthews, but if I find you sitting across from me again, you won’t like the ramifications. You can quote me on that one, Miss Matthews.”

  Mandy was waiting for me in the hallway and pounced on me as I walked by. “What did you do?!” she hissed.

  “It won’t happen again, okay?”

  Mandy latched onto my arm and pulled me into the bathroom. Checking it, making sure it was empty, she asked, “Are you doing this on purpose?”

  “What are you talking about?” I gingerly retracted her hand from my arm.

  “All of this. For like attention or something? Are you doing it on purpose? You know, taking attention away from me and Devon?”

  “This last incident? No.”

  “What about you and Tray on Tuesday?”

  “No.”

  “Oh.” She was appeased, slightly, but I saw the wheels turning in her head. She’d put two and two together eventually. I hadn’t actually answered her question, but it was an evade that I was quite proud of. And she knew it wasn’t out of my character to do something.

  “Has Jasmine left you alone?” I asked softly, stepping closer as a few girls trailed inside.

  “Yeah, but Carter said you threatened her.”

  “Oh God. Carter again.” I moaned, moving to leave.

  Mandy followed me. “Are you really coming to the party?”

  “I thought Justin Travers was having a party? Why aren’t you going to his?”

  “Because Jasmine and Devon will be there.”

  “So your crowd is just going to split, huh?” I noted, walking to my locker as more student filed out of their classes. The bell had rung when I was in the principal’s office and I hadn’t even noticed. I didn’t even think I’d been gone that long.

  Mandy trailed behind me. “Well…I guess. Until me and Devon are okay, I guess. Jasmine and I will—breathe each other’s air if we have to, eventually. Jasmine and Amber had to do it after the whole fiasco over Tray.”

  “What fiasco?”

  “He dumped Jasmine for Amber. Or…well…I think he just dumped Jasmine and Amber happened to be there, you know.”

  “So who else is going to be at this party?”

  “Pretty much everyone else. A lot will go to Justin’s party because Carter’s is more exclusive, you know. A lot of people will want to go to Carter’s and they’ll probably crash, but the only people who I know won’t come are Jas and Dev.”

  “If they do, then what?”

  She shrugged. “Then Carter’ll kick ‘em out.”

  I shook my head.

  “What?”

  “You. You’re so sneaky, I almost have to give you credit for it.”

  “What are you talking about?” Mandy asked, her eyes wide in an attempt to look innocent.

  “I threatened Jasmine and now Carter’s making sure they don’t come to his party. Your back is covered no matter where you go. How’d you work that out?”

  She grinned and bumped me with her hip. “Got myself a cool adopted sister, that’s what.”

  “And you put out for Carter.”

  Mandy stopped. “We didn’t have sex,” she said seriously. “He just stayed the night. That’s all that happened.”

  The hallways were emptying, so I said quickly, “Gotta go. See you in psych.”

  *

  I grabbed my seat like always when seventh period rolled around an hour later. A second later someone dropped into the seat next to me, and turning, I was surprised to see Molly. Microscope girl. Huh.

  “Thought you hated me,” I stated.

  “I did.” She grinned, pushing her glasses up her nose. “Until I realized you were actually being kind in a very harsh way.” Leaning closer, she asked, “Did you really shove Justin Travers and Sasha Klinnleys?”

  “No.” And I hadn’t.

  “Oh.” She sounded disappointed.

  I shrugged and then, gritting my teeth, I remembered Mandy reminding me that friends were a good thing to have.

  “I just…I kicked their chair and it fell over. That’s all. I

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