The original crowd, p.25
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       The Original Crowd, p.25
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         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  Molly let out an exasperated breath as she turned the opposite way.

  As I walked into first period, I saw Mandy and Amber. Of course. I loved having Mandy in most of my classes, especially when she chose loser traitorous friends over godly loyal ones.

  “Morning, class,” Mrs. Tationa, our humanities teacher, spoke.

  We were reading Of Mice and Men. Which I’d already read, and watched the movie.

  I couldn’t help but glare at Mandy as we pulled our books out.

  Talk about friendship and sacrifice.

  Amber raised her hand. “Mrs. Tationa, Mandy and I were wondering if we could be excused. We’d like to finish up some posters before the pep rally this week.”

  “Oh, Amber, of course—” the teacher was about to say, but I interjected, “Are you kidding me?!”

  “Taryn,” my teacher reprimanded, startled.

  I ignored her and turned to Amber. “You’re not even on the pep rally committee—and trust me—I know. I live with the president of the pep rally committee. Two, you’re not a cheerleader. And three, if anyone should benefit from this discussion—it’s you!”

  “Taryn!” Mandy screeched, pale. “Shut. Up.”

  “No,” I cried out, pissed—beyond pissed. “I’m sick and tired of you guys running around this school like it’s your personal playground. All the teachers just let you guys get away with whatever you want. I’m so tired of it.”

  Someone snorted behind me. “Aren’t you being hypocritical?”

  I turned around and saw some guy in a polo shirt glaring at me. “What?”

  “You’re one of them,” he pointed out. “Have you ever been in trouble for anything?”

  “I got sent to the principal’s office for ‘assaulting’ Sasha Klinnleys and Justin Travers.”

  “And from what I heard, the teacher got in trouble. Not you,” he muttered, disgusted. “Aren’t you dating Tray Evans?”

  “No,” I remarked.

  Amber scoffed, “Then whose bed were you in this weekend?”

  “We’re not dating,” I said firmly. We weren’t. Hello. Screwing around and dating are totally different.

  “Whatever,” Amber shot out. “You get on your high horse about us—we don’t do half the shit that you do.”

  I went livid at that one.

  “Excuse me?” I asked softly, my eyes narrowed.

  “Like it was just ‘by chance’,” air quotes, “that the Monday after Mandy and Devon break up, our school gets canceled. Just a pure coincidence, I’m sure!” she cried out sarcastically. “And I wonder how Pedlam got broken into. Seriously. Doesn’t Pedlam have some tight security? And someone just happened to break in and mess up their stuff.”

  “Amber,” Mandy hissed.

  But Amber was pissed. “And Friday night. Where were you? Not at the game. Not with your ‘boyfriend’ who you asked to take two of your ‘charitable’ cases to Carter’s party.”

  “You got something to say?” I asked, through gritted teeth. I was so holding back. My nails were cutting into my arms, there’d be blood pretty soon.

  “We heard some evidence got destroyed. My cousin’s a cop in Pedlam,” she exclaimed.

  I laughed. And I knew it sounded awful, but I was beyond caring. I had started this, yes, but the girl had to go down.

  I stood and said tightly, “You’ve got some fucking nerve.”

  “Whatever.” Amber rolled her eyes, but she’d said her piece. She had nothing else, and we both knew it. Unless she pulled in Brian, which she knew next to nothing. But, then again, I hadn’t realized how public the other stuff had become. Tray knew. He was the only one, and if he sang—he’d be singing himself. Not just me.

  “Let’s talk about you, Amber, and how you parade yourself around this school, like it’s for you to pick and choose who to be nice to and who to torture. You sway down these hallways, acting like you’re the shit and everyone had better be nice or you’ll make their lives hell. Trust me, it’s not gonna work on me,” I promised, the teacher had lost control a long time ago. “You’re a piece of shit just for how you act in this school, but what really gets me—is how two-faced you’ve been with Mandy. Jasmine screwed Devon—for a fucking year—and you knew, the whole time.”

  It was a hunch, but I saw it was true.

  Mandy gasped. She saw it too, just as everyone else did.

  I added, seething, “And where the fuck were you when my sister needed her supposed ‘best friend’? Not being her best friend, I can assure you. No, instead you were with Jasmine, supporting her skanky-ass ways. Until Saturday, when you suddenly decided to be Mandy’s friend again. After she’d been comforted for hours by some really great people—people who, you decide to just walk all over and use then throw away and treat them like they’re garbage the next day.”

  “What Bryce did—” Amber began.

  I cut in harshly, “What Bryce did is what each and every one of you do…every goddamn day at this school!” I glanced at the class and noted a lot of affirming nods. “I bet if I asked this class how many of them had been screwed by you guys, I bet half of them would raise their hands. At least. I bet they’re all pissed as hell…and hurt. If not more.”

  Amber glanced around, fearful, seeing similar stares from others.

  “You hurt people,” I bit out. “You hurt people and you don’t care. And it’s wrong.”

  Mandy and Amber were both white, eyes fearful.

  “I hurt people,” I announced. “But I hurt people like you.”

  Amber fled the room. Mandy paused, her hand on the doorknob when she turned and took one look at me.

  I knew I’d crossed the line, but—fuck—I’d had it with people like them. Even if Mandy wasn’t going to stand up for herself, and even if I had to paint her with the same color, this school needed to change.

  One way or another.

  When they left, I stood uncertainly for a moment, before slumping back into my chair. It was at that time that I realized there were smiles on the other students. Okay, —a few of the ‘popular’ students—none of the elite—didn’t look happy, but I still saw some grudging respect and gratefulness.

  And then I remembered—Tray ran this school.

  Oh hell.

  *

  I didn’t have long before I started feeling some of the repercussions. Jasmine glared at me when I left first period. Guess Amber and Mandy had found her. Grant and Bryce were also glaring at me, but not as much as the girls. And Sasha—don’t get me started.

  When I walked up to my locker, I caught Sasha writing, ‘whore’ in permanent maker on it.

  I grabbed the pen from her hand and smirked. “Your locker’s a few down.”

  “You don’t even know what you did. You have no idea,” she taunted smugly, grabbing her pen and leaving.

  Well—yeah, I did. Because I’d done it at Pedlam too. Yeah. That was the kicker. I’d been the one to cause the two rifts in Pedlam, between Brian’s group and Crispin’s. Brian had never been the instigator. He’d been the muscle, but the brain—everything else—that was me. And most everyone knew it. Brian was just the mascot.

  But I’d been happy letting him stay that way.

  Which is probably the real reason why Crispin hates me so much. And why the ‘rift’ had coincidentally disappeared when I left for Rawley.

  The thing was…I hadn’t been sleeping with Crispin.

  Like I was sleeping with Tray.

  This might mess things up—a bit.

  “Way to go,” Larkins shouted, slapping me on the shoulder as he passed by.

  Word did get around fast. I even saw Molly grinning, before ducking behind a locker. I caught a flush in her cheeks—which never happened.

  And Honey and Bit. When I turned from my locker, there they were. Smiling. Preening.

  “Hey,” I greeted half-heartedly.

  “We heard,” Honey spoke up. “And I told her.” She nudged Bit a little. “She’s okay. Mad. But we’re good. Both of us. A
nd it’s only fair if she sleeps with Bryce next time.”

  I rolled my eyes. That wasn’t the point.

  I tried to reiterate the point to them, but it was done half-ass. I had to worry about second period and who was in that class.

  Wait. I normally went to study hall. Molly told me I actually had health.

  “Where’s health class?” I asked them.

  “Oh.” Honey brightened. “We’re in health too. Mr. Hauge always says your name in roll call. And of course, someone says you think you have study hall this period. It’s turned into this comedy bit actually.”

  Not today. I followed behind them.

  I paused in the doorway before forcing myself to move forward.

  Tray was in this class.

  And, judging by the look in his eyes, he was angry. Guess he heard about my blow up. And he wasn’t happy.

  “Miss,” Mr. Hauge directed at me, “you are?”

  “Taryn Matthews.”

  “Oh. Miss Matthews, you’ve finally decided to grace us with your presence. I see someone took it upon themselves to let you know that we are, in fact, not study hall and that you are, if fact, supposed to be here.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Good. Good. Take a seat. I see an empty one by Mr. Helms.”

  I glanced uncertainly at Helms and saw a look of disgust pass over his eyes. Abruptly he stood up and announced, “I’ll sit with Tray.”

  So I got my own table. Yay!

  Thank goodness it was behind Honey and Bit.

  But before I could sit down, Tray spoke up, “She can sit with me.”

  Helms froze, about to sit down beside him. He looked at Tray and read something on his face because he didn’t say anything when he stood back up and returned to his table.

  I met Tray’s eyes, saw the fierceness, and figured…probably not a good idea. “I’m good up here.”

  “Oh no, Taryn,” Tray said quickly, “sit with me. Really.”

  The class was watching, every fricking word, and they loved it. Honey and Bit’s eyes were as wide as saucers. Molly squeaked from her seat, which was parallel to Tray’s table.

  So I sat at Tray’s table—reluctantly. Tray flicked his gaze to Mr. Hauge, who must’ve taken it as a command to start, because he immediately started class then.

  Tray sat rigidly next to me. I could feel the tension in his body.

  I stole a few glances his way, but was met with a cold, even stare back. Tray was quite fine glaring at me during the entire class. I gave up trying to win the staring contest, mostly because I got weirded out.

  I couldn’t help but remember Jace’s words about Tray.

  “He’s not another Brian, Taryn. Remember that.”

  “Meaning that my obsessive ex is the lesser of the two evils.” I had joked at the time.

  I looked at Tray again. Nope. This was all on me. I didn’t have Brian or Jace to hide behind, to protect me. I had to fight this one all on my own.

  Mr. Hauge asked the class, “Mrs. Grantlins has asked me to send two volunteers to the counselor’s office.”

  Tray spoke up, “We’ll go.”

  And, of course, that meant me too, because no one else was standing up.

  Tray didn’t give me time to decide because he simply grabbed my arm and hauled me out of there. Once in the hallway, I wrenched my arm away and snapped, “Ouch.”

  That’s when I was met with the full force of Tray’s fury because he grabbed my arm again and yanked me into the empty gymnasium.

  “This isn’t the way to Mrs. Grantlins’ office.”

  “You don’t even know who Mrs. Grantlins’ is,” Tray snapped, hauling me into the equipment closet. The door was heavy as he slammed it shut. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?!”

  “Excuse me?” I asked stiffly. Yeah. The sex had been great, but if it was the price—I’d give it up gladly.

  “You know what!” he cut out tensely. “The entire fucking school is going off about you and Amber. You said that we hurt people, that we don’t give a shit about them.”

  “You don’t!” I cried out.

  Tray shot back, “Neither do you. You are the coldest bitch in this school and now you’ve decided to be their personal savior?!”

  “I care,” I yelled back.

  “No, you don’t. You started caring the second you saw Mandy bending under Amber’s influence.”

  Well…yeah.

  “No, I didn’t. I’m sick and tired of how—” I started to say.

  “Save it for someone who doesn’t know you,” Tray interrupted rudely, uncaring. “You’re pissed because your sister is letting Amber and Jasmine walk all over her. You’re trying to fix her problem, like you’ve always done. You set the alarms to save Mandy from gossip and now—you’re covering this by going after all of us.”

  “Not all of you.”

  “You said ‘people like you.’ That means me, my crowd, my people.”

  “I’m not going after you. This has nothing to do with you.”

  “Yes, it does,” he retorted fiercely. “This is my school, you’re messing with my friends.”

  “No—”

  “Mine,” he bit out and I remember him saying the exact same thing to Gentley. I remembered feeling the warmth that washed over me at those words. I was his. That’s what he implied.

  “Look,” I spoke a little calmer, “I’m just tired of how Amber seems to get away with everything at this school.”

  “So do I,” he stated.

  “I know, but,” I faltered, “this isn’t about you. About you and me.”

  “Oh no. You’re goddamn right about that one. This has no bearing on you and me.”

  So he liked the sex too.

  Good…I think. I refused to admit that I felt relieved.

  “Look, I was just pissed. Amber and Mandy wanted to get out of class for some fucking pep rally posters. I’m tired of how they can do whatever the hell they want. So I said something and then Amber brought my shit up. About the alarms last Monday, about how Pedlam got broken into, and she heard that some evidence got destroyed.” I bit my lip. “How’d she know all that?”

  “Not from me.” Tray sighed, raking a hand through his hair. I hated how, even now, I was feeling the warmth, remembering what it felt like—what he felt like. God, he was freaking gorgeous. And those lips…his shoulders…

  “She aired my shit so…I went after her,” I finished.

  “But—hell!—Taryn. You went after me in the same second.”

  “I went after Amber, Jasmine, Devon and Bryce. Well…more Amber, Jasmine, and Bryce—because of how they’ve treated Mandy and how Bryce played with Honey and Bit.”

  “Who the fuck are Honey and Bit?” he asked wearily.

  “I don’t know their real names. That’s what I call ‘em.”

  “You mean the chick that Bryce screwed at my party?”

  “Well…yeah, but how can you condone how they just use people?”

  “Are you kidding me?” Tray gave me an exasperated look. “You want me to start making my friends saints?”

  “No, I just…”

  “What? Only be saintly to Mandy and the people you’ve befriended?” he asked shrewdly. “Holy hell, do you realize how
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