The original crowd, p.30
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       The Original Crowd, p.30

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  hair. He was tired, he always did that when he was tired. “Look, whatever you dig up on Galverson—come to me before you do anything. Okay.”

  “Why?” I was dreading his answer, because I knew…

  “Just do it.”

  I finished dressing and moved to leave, but Tray blocked me. “Promise me,” he pressed, serious.

  “I promise,” I said in resignation.

  Tray studied my face, searching for the truth. He must not have fully believed me because he added, “It’s how Jace and I know each other, the little business deal we worked out. Galverson’s the reason my dad’s not the chief of police anymore and why he’s in South America with my mom. Why we can afford this place.”

  Fine.

  “I promise. Really,” I said lightly, genuinely.

  That he read as the truth. Tray nodded, kissing me hard and then crawled back in bed.

  He looked gorgeous, well, he looked gorgeous when he was awake, but there was an angelic perfection to him when he closed his eyes like that.

  I sighed, recognizing the forbidding feeling in my stomach. So I left. Fully content to stay in denial land.

  Parking in the lot at school, I went to the locker room and changed into some different clothes. It was just a baggy hoodie and jeans, but it worked. I was comfortable. But I’d kept the tank-top I wore last night on. It smelled of Tray—I know. I’m acting like one of those sickening girls.

  Everyone noticed the social elite was missing and that I was there. After my fourth yawn, the sound not silenced, my teacher suggested politely, “You are excused, Miss Matthews, to get some coffee.”

  I blinked, tiredly, and then left, heading straight for the coffee cart. Thank goodness our administration felt sympathetic for the young hard-working plight of the over-achieving student body—which often equated to no sleep.

  Juniors and seniors got special privileges—off campus lunches and coffee!

  I chose study hall for second period and scoured the internet, bringing up anything I could find on Jace and Galverson—which wasn’t a whole lot except arrest notifications.

  I made it till fourth period where I slumped into the seat next to Molly.

  She was still wearing the pink frames.

  “Hi!” She blinked in surprise.

  “Hey.” I yawned.

  “Where is everyone?” she asked, eager for the gossip. “Everyone’s gone. Like, they’re all skipping.”

  No, not everyone was missing—just the social elite, which apparently, are the only ones that count.

  I pointed out, “I’m not skipping.”

  “Yeah, but,” she rolled her eyes before continuing, “you’re not…you’re one of us. You know what I mean.”

  “Anyway,” I changed the subject, uncaring if it was rude, “you’re a science person.”

  “Hmm?”

  “So, are you good with computers, too?”

  “Uh—”

  “Or do you know anyone who’s good with computers? And I’m talking, like, really, really good with computers. Like a hacker?” I whispered.

  “A hacker?” Molly squeaked, flushing.

  “Yeah,” I said dryly, but my eyes were drawn to her neck. “Oh my God!”

  “What?” She looked down, flushing again when she realized what I was looking at. “Oh.”

  “That’s a hickey.” It sounded like an accusation.

  Molly didn’t answer, she was too busy blushing. Like a full-out, full-body blush.

  “Larkins called.” I smiled widely, nodding in approval. “Good for him.”

  “Please,” she mumbled, avoiding my gaze.

  It made me smile. Molly she wasn’t tainted, like myself. It was nice to have a friend like her.

  A friend...hmm…

  “It’s a good thing. Messing around is fun,” I emphasized the word ‘fun.’ I was starting to realize Molly didn’t have that much fun, and I was starting to care about her. I’ve never cared before.

  “It’s nothing,” she still blushed though, “really. It’s not like what you and Tray do.”

  Which might not always be a good thing, but I stayed quiet.

  “So, do you know any hackers?” I asked instead.

  “Why?”

  “It’s for a school project.” I refused to feel guilty that I was lying.

  “Well,” she hesitated, “there’s a group of guys that could probably help, but—”

  “But what?”

  “They’re kind of…freaky.”

  I can handle freaky. “Just tell me who.”

  The rest of fourth period consisted of lab. Which was boring. But lunch was next and I swooped into the cafeteria, scanning for the tech crowd and spotted them in a far corner, right next to the library—go figure. Molly informed me that they ate right away and then spent the rest of lunch on the computers in the back of the library, you know—where no one went because it was nerd haven.

  Molly liked going there too.

  Just as I was crossing the cafeteria, I heard the door swing open and conversations halted. Literally. It was like everyone chose that moment to take a collective breath. I turned and saw the social elite—who else could garner that kind of reaction? They must’ve decided to attend the afternoon. Even the guys had decided to show up and Carter.

  I looked back and saw that the techies were finishing up.

  Spying an empty seat, I dropped down in the middle of them and asked bluntly, unheeding their startled expressions, “Who’s Props?”

  Nothing. And because I didn’t know if they were suddenly incapable of speech or because he truly wasn’t there, I asked again, “Who is Props? My friend said I’d find him here.”

  The guy next to me cleared his throat and raised his hand cautiously. “Uh…that’s me.”

  He was short and husky, but if he’d clean up a bit he’d be a cutie.

  Molly also informed me of this. She’d had a crush on him since seventh.

  “You’re Props?”

  “Uh huh.” He gulped.

  I smiled and informed him, “We’re going to become friends.”

  The guy looked terrified.

  I waited until he finished his food and then I said, “Come with me.”

  A few moments later, after I told him what I wanted, he frowned and scratched his head, then said, “So you want me to do what?”

  “It’s a bank account. Okay,”.” I said, business-like, pacing behind him in some super-secret tech room. “I want you to get in there and trace all accounts that have tapped in. I need to know where those accounts ended up.”

  “But, that could take days, possibly weeks, for me to even get into the account.”

  “I have the account numbers,” I said quickly, dropping into the chair next to him. “So that part’s done. Now you gotta find where all other accounts go. Okay?”

  “Um…” The guy still looked horrified.

  “What?” I snapped. I was impatient and this guy was not making me calmer.

  “It’d help if I knew what exactly you’re looking for,” he scrambled.

  “Why do you need to know that?”

  “Because there could be a thousand different traces once I get in there. Anything you can give me would help cut down on some of the leg-work.”

  “Don’t go for anything that’s federal. That help?” I raised my eyebrows.

  He took a deep breath.

  “We’re skipping fifth period and you want me to do some very illegal stuff—I need to know why,” he stammered, looking like he couldn’t believe he just said that to me.

  “You’re going to be skipping more than fifth,” I stated.

  He didn’t move.

  “Because there are some people who fucked with me and I need to know why. I’m pretty sure that this is going to lead me to whatever the hell information I need to make sense of why every person in my life is lying to me,” I said forcefully.

  The guy had a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look and I was fixing to run him over.


  I tried a different tactic. “Okay,” I muttered, gentling my voice, “what do you want? I can try to get it for you.”

  He just blinked and then stared at me.

  “Really. A friend of mine wanted an invite to a party. I did that. What do you want? Like a computer? I can get that for you,” I reasoned. At this rate, I’ll try anything. I’d steal anything, if he’d just turn those goddamn fingers to that fucking keyboard.

  He still didn’t say anything.

  Plan C.

  “If you don’t get to work, I have a car and I will run it over you, then, when you’re lying on the ground, I will use my taser on you. Then I’ll back up and do it again.”

  “I want to go on a date with Aidrian Casners,” he spit out, his eyes wider than an owl’s.

  “You want a what?”

  “A date. With Aidrian Casners.” He seemed to grow more confident each time he said it.

  “Who’s Aidrian Casners? I don’t even know her.”

  “She’s easy to find. She’s always out in the parking lot. She’s usually wearing a mini-skirt and a halter-top. Yesterday she had on a purple sequined halter top and she wore these sparkling sandals. She has a tattoo on her thigh. It’s a unicorn.”

  “Okay,” I cried out, more to get him to shut up. “She sticks out. I got it.”

  “And?” He waited.

  “I’ll work on it,” I mumbled. “Now get working on my stuff!”

  *

  I stayed put until seventh period. Props lived up to his name; I had to give him props. Once he buckled down and actually got to work—he was cursing and sweating up a storm in no time. But I saw the gleam in his eyes. He liked the challenge and this was a challenge for him. I was starting to think he’d never gotten a challenge like this before, or he’d never had an excuse to go looking for this challenge.

  Whatever. I was just happy because he was working on it.

  “So…” Molly began, waiting for me.

  “What?”

  “I saw you talking to him.” She sounded accusatory.

  “Yeah. You told me where he’d be.” Did I need to add the ‘duh’?

  “And?” she asked pointedly.

  “And what?”

  “Did he ask about me?”

  I had to grin. “Who gave you that hickey? Or should I be asking who do you want to be giving you a hickey?”

  She blushed. So predictable.

  “You have to introduce us,” she whispered, hunching down over the table as our teacher entered the room.

  “You’re the one who knows him.”

  “Well, yeah. But it’s not like you’ll introduce us, like this is Molly blah blah, blah. You know, just act like we’re good friends.”

  “We are friends.”

  “We’re science lab friends and table-mate friends.”

  Who said table-mates?

  Molly continued, “We’re not friend friends.”

  “You went to a party with me,” I reasoned.

  “No. I begged you to invite me to a party and you got the hottest guy in this school to drive me there, but you and said guy left—very quickly—after you showed up at said party. You were never at the party with me.”

  “Yes, I was. I saw you drunk. That consists of me being at a party with you.” I was starting to enjoy this conversation. Molly could argue and flush at the same time.

  “Oh—” she sputtered.

  “Alright, alright.” I laughed. “Don’t worry. He’ll be mooning over you in no time.” I bit my lip.

  “What?” Molly asked, seeing it.

  “I just have to do something for him first.”

  Her eyes bugged out. Almost literally, but, hey, at least she didn’t faint. I guess Props was not faint worthy.

  “Not that!” I hissed, laughing. “But kinda yeah.”

  “Oh my—” Now she was flushing with anger. It was really entertaining.

  “He wants to go on a date with Aidrian Casners. I told him I’d try to set them up. I think he just wants to lose his virginity to her. Don’t worry.” I was starting to feel bad for Larkins.

  “Don’t worry? Do you not understand what ‘worry’ means? Having the guy of my dreams go on a date with Aidrian Casners is the definition of being worried,” she hissed, blushing when she saw Tray look our way. She looked down at the table, and continued, “I’ll have no chance after he’s gone out with her.”

  I didn’t know if I should comfort her or slap her. I didn’t know who Aidrian Casners was, but I was getting the impression that she was not a girl who’d date a computer geek. For real. Molly, on the other hand, could be his first wife.

  “Mrs. Maslow,” Sasha stuck her hand up, “can you ask Taryn and her freak friend to be quiet?” She turned her heated glare on us. “They’re distracting me.”

  Oh please. I rolled my eyes. She was working on a freaking worksheet and then I realized what she called Molly.

  “I think you’re the freak friend, Sasha,” I said coolly, smirking. I sat back, ready to do battle.

  “Miss Matthews, Miss Keeley, if you could please quiet down, it would be greatly appreciated,” Mrs. Maslow asked politely, not even looking up from her book.

  Great psych teacher. What insight.

  Sasha grinned triumphant.

  Jasmine raised her hand. “Mrs. Maslow, I was wondering if you’d ask Sasha to stop copying my answers.”

  Sasha gasped, gaping at her.

  I laughed.

  Mrs. Maslow lifted her head, more annoyed than interested.

  “Miss Klinnleys,” she spoke, “is this true?”

  Sasha paled, still gaping at Jasmine “No!” she denied heatedly. “Jasmine’s copying mine.”

  “Then why is mine done and yours is only half done?” Jasmine asked innocently. She held her paper up. “See.”

  “I’m not copying. I swear,” Sasha exclaimed emphatically. “I don’t know why she said that.”

  Mrs. Maslow took both of their worksheets and compared them.

  “Miss Klinnleys, you may go to the principal’s office.”

  “He’s going to talk to you about appropriate boundaries,” I called after her as she hurried from the room.

 
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