The original crowd, p.31
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       The Original Crowd, p.31

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan

  “Miss Matthews,” Mrs. Maslow said sternly, “it would be beneficial for you if you were to learn your own appropriate boundaries.”

  “I know. That’s what the principal said.” I grinned, seeing her own amusement flicker in her eyes. The psych teacher liked me.

  When she returned to her desk, I stole a glance to Jasmine and saw her grinning to Mandy—in victory. Then it hit me—Jasmine had just set Sasha up. What a manipulative bitch. I couldn’t help but appreciate it. Jasmine was one of the social elite. Sasha was getting too close to Amber. So Jasmine had to send her back down.


  Psych was psychology. The rest of class passed without event. I mean…what could really top Jasmine’s backstab? I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head.

  Molly leaned over and whispered, “Are you going to see him again?”

  Normally, you’d think she’d be talking about my crush or date or lover (whatever), but no—this was what I liked about Molly, or what I was learning to like about her—the girl’s just boy crazy.

  Justin Travers.

  Then Tray.

  Larkins got a shot—who knows…I’ve got a hunch Larkins won’t be going anywhere.

  And now Props. I could swear Molly had referred to Travers and Props as the love of her life—both of them. My guess is that it’ll be someone new in a few days.

  But anyway…no, she wasn’t talking about my guy. It was her guy. Her latest interest.

  I shrugged. “I gotta take care of something first.”

  “Call me when you go see Props. I wanna come with.”

  The girl was a social introvert. She wanted to go to a party just so her mom would have to worry about her—once. But I was learning that she was relentless when it came to boys.

  “You one of those girls who constantly has a boyfriend?” I asked, more curious than anything

  She flushed—what a shocker. “Why?”

  “Because I’m starting to think the only reason we’re friends is because I’m your pimp. I’m wondering if you’ve always been like this?”

  “Oh…well…no,” she answered self-consciously, glancing down at the table. “It’s just…you know these guys. I mean—you don’t care, you can go right up to them and talk to them. None of my other friends do that.”

  “Who are your other friends?” I suddenly realized I talk to this girl in science and psychology. I’ve yet to see her speak with another student. And somehow…I felt a little guilty at that. Well, some guilt.

  She shrugged, fiddling with her thumbs.

  “Do you have friends?” I asked bluntly, watching her intently.

  “I have two other friends and they’re…”

  “Are they real?” Excuse me for wondering, but she was being so weird right now. Not the blushing bubbly Molly I’d come to know.

  “Yes, they’re real,” she replied, giving me a small glare that seriously lacked vehemence—instead she looked constipated. “They just…they’re one of the invisibles here.”

  “Invisibles,” I repeated lamely, not comprehending what she was talking about.

  “Like me. I’m….I’m an invisible. At least I was—until I met you.”

  “You weren’t invisible to Larkins,” I pointed out. The guy went crazy on me before I became friends with her.

  She shrugged. “I know, but Garrett’s my neighbor. He doesn’t count.”

  “Oh!” I gave her a wide smile. “He’s nice and close. Getting some of that neighborly loving, huh?” I teased, nudging her shoulder.

  She blushed and ducked her head—nothing new there.

  “You’ll have to introduce me to the rest of the Invisibles,” I remarked, standing up when the bell rang.

  “Really?” Molly asked, startled.

  “Yeah. Why not.” I shrugged, heading out.

  “Um…okay,” she murmured, biting her lip self-consciously.

  We stopped at my locker. When I opened it, I asked, “What’s up with that?”

  “With what?”

  “You don’t want me to meet your friends?”

  “It’s not that…it’s…nothing. It’s nothing.” She glanced around. “I should…huh…I should get going.”

  Well that was weird.

  “Taryn!” Mandy bounced up to my locker, her blond hair literally bouncing on her shoulders.

  “Hey,” I murmured.

  “So, what’d you think about class?”

  “Which one?” I asked dryly.

  “Our last class!” She didn’t need to add the ‘duh,’ I could hear it in her voice.

  “About Jasmine?”

  “Yeah!” Mandy sent me a blinding smile, bleached teeth and all. “We did it for you.”


  “What?” I asked, turning to face my sister. “What do you mean she did it for me?”

  “Please.” Mandy rolled her eyes, clutching her books tightly. “We’ve been getting sick and tired of Sasha. She’s such a bitch to you.”

  “And I can take care of myself,” I retorted, a little irritated.

  “What’s gotten into you? I mean, we thought you’d be happy. Sasha’s been on your back since last week. Now, her and Amber have suddenly become ‘friends.’ Please,” she said in disgust, “Amber pisses me off sometimes.”

  “Amber,” I stated in disbelief, “you’re best friend Amber?”

  “You’re my sister. Amber shouldn’t bring friends in the group who are going dump all over you,” she explained matter-of-factly, unaware at how pissed I was getting.

  “Excuse me?” I drawled slowly. Mandy looked up at me and her eyes widened in surprise.

  “Uh?” She paused, uncertain which way to tread.

  “Do me a favor and stop putting me in the middle of your issues with Jasmine and Amber. You and Jasmine pulled that stunt because the two of you didn’t like Sasha. Sasha was becoming too buddy-buddy with Amber, and you and Jasmine were threatened. That’s why the two of you did what you did. Not because of me. We both know I can take care of myself,” I finished tensely.

  Fuck that.

  “But we did do it for y—”

  “No, you didn’t!” I cried out, slamming my locker shut, uncaring that we had an audience. “If you were going to do anything for me, it’d be to drop friends like Amber and Jasmine. Jasmine screwed Devon for a year,” I ignored her flinch, “a year, Mandy! And Amber knew about it—they all knew about it.”

  “What?” Mandy gasped.

  “But no, instead you’re willing to sacrifice having good friends so you can be popular.”

  “Who knew about it?”

  “Take a wild guess!” I shouted. “When you’re popular, you gotta expect you’ll be the last to know shit. Especially about your cheating boyfriend—who’s going to cheat again. And you know it. Every time you’re off at some cheerleader camp or student council conference, you’re always going to wonder.”

  “And you have such stellar friends,” Mandy retorted, wanting to hurt me.

  I fell silent. Oh yeah, I knew exactly how stellar my friends were. Friends who’d lied to me, fucked me over. Yeah, I had great friends.

  “Trust me, I am fully aware of how fucked up my friends are,” I said hoarsely, turning to storm off. I stopped short, seeing everyone—everyone—frozen in place, listening to us. Fuck, I even saw our psych teacher in the hallway, looking at us.

  “Miss Matthews,” she spoke up, coming to stand in front of us, “I think you and your sister will be meeting with me tomorrow after class.”


  Some of Mandy’s friends came up and hugged her, walking away with her, a few of them glaring at me over their shoulders.


  I was the one telling the truth. I was just calling it how it is, not putting on some show. With my newfound wisdom, I wasn’t about to let anyone get into place to stab me in the back.

  Screw that.

  Sighing, I turned back to my locker, realizing I forgot to grab my bag with
my keys. As I opened the pocket, I saw Tray’s keys were still inside. I’d forgotten to give them back. Grabbing them, I pulled my bag out and shut it. I walked down his hallway, seeing a lot of students that I could swear didn’t even go to our school; however, I was the new student—one that isolated herself at that.

  But they all seemed to know me, judging from their glares or grins.

  I saw Tray standing at his open locker, grinning at something Justin Travers and three other guys were telling him.

  There they were: the gods of the gods—the popular guys—the ones that every girl had their first crush on—the ones you’d remember after you were married and returned to your hometown…and they’d still give you the butterflies when you saw ‘em in a gas station, filling up their newest car with their little kiddies in the back.

  Devon, Bryce, and Grant were lounging against a locker a few down from Tray’s, but they were listening in on whatever Travers was saying. The other guys—they were the basketball players that had helped vandalize Pedlam—were on the opposite side of the hall, also listening to Travers.

  I hesitated, suddenly unsure what to do. I mean, Tray always found me. I’d never singled him out, but he probably needed his keys. For some reason, I was hesitant to approach.

  “If you don’t move, you’re going to get trampled,” came a voice from behind me.

  I turned and saw a girl with sleek black hair and green eyes, regarding me in annoyance. She was dressed how I used to dress. In fact, her tank top looked like… “You get that from Petros?” I asked, nodding at her top.

  Surprised, she replied, “Yeah, you shop there?”

  “I used to,” I murmured. “I went to Pedlam for a few years.”

  “Me too,” she commented, looking unsure. “I moved here three years ago, but my cousins still go there, so I visit and shop a lot out there.”

  “Senior?” I asked. We were in the senior hallway, after all. Tray was a god, which was the only reason he was allowed a locker in the senior hallway.

  “Yeah, you’re not?”

  “Junior. You must’ve moved when I was just starting high school at Pedlam.”

  “Who were your friends?” she asked, now more interested.

  “Brian Lanser. Grayley. Trent Gardner. Liza. Kerri. Geezer.”

  “Oh,” she laughed, “we were in totally different crowds.”

  “Gentley,” I pinpointed.

  “Yeah,” she chuckled, “take it you’re not a fan.”

  “Gentley and I hate each other,” I said matter-of-factly. “Still.”

  “Oh!” Understanding dawned in her eyes. “You’re Taryn Matthews.”

  “You’ve heard of me?”

  “Oh, honey, everyone in Pedlam and Rawley has heard about you.” She laughed. “My name’s Crystal Fairs.”

  “Taryn Matthews,” I greeted formally.

  We didn’t shake on it.

  She gestured over my shoulder. “So that’s why you’re down in Senior Haven. You’re Tray Evan’s latest girl. Gotta say—he’s more of a Gentley than a Brian Lanser, from what I hear about Brian Lanser.”

  He was not a Gentley. But he wasn’t a Brian Lanser either…and she’d just called me his latest girl. Tray Evan’s latest girl.

  I was a bit uncomfortable with that. Whatever.

  “Man, a lot of girls hate you, you know,” she mused, grinning at me. “Including me, you should know that.” There wasn’t much heat behind that statement though.

  “Trust me, I’m used to the feeling,” I murmured half-heartedly, glancing over to Tray’s locker again. He was still talking with the same guys and none of them looked like they were about to move anytime soon.

  “Yeah, well, you oughtta head out of here. Casners’ going to be coming back from her weekly meeting with our esteemed principal. She’s not going to be happy seeing you in her territory.”

  “Aidrian Casners?” I asked, more alert.

  “Yeah…” Crystal frowned, watching me warily. “You say that like you don’t know her.”

  “I got a favor to ask her.” I bit my lip. I knew the tight spot Props had placed me in, but…fuck—I needed what he could find for me. So…somehow…I had to befriend this Casners who evidently hated me. What a shocker.

  “Matthews, some advice: run,” Crystal said bluntly, stepping back.

  I turned and saw Aidrian Casners—or a girl who matched Props’ and everyone else’s description of her. She looked the definition of white trash, but she had attitude. I could tell that. She was grinning up at Tray, almost rubbing her chest against his.

  Well, what do you expect? At least she has taste. I wasn’t really one to hold it against her, I’d gone for more than a double-dose of seconds.

  Now…here’s the deal. She had a reputation. Amber hated her, so that made me like her. And I felt some camaraderie for her—she wanted Tray. I could relate. And I needed her to help me out with Props. But the girl was going after someone who I wasn’t done with. And I just didn’t like seeing what I was witnessing.

  Tray wasn’t exactly pushing her away, but he wasn’t encouraging her either.

  I saw her hand snake around his waist and move down. I turned to Crystal and asked, “What does she like? Like, what’s she obsessed with?”

  “What?” Crystal asked, perplexed.

  “What would she do anything for?”

  “Uh,” she thought a moment, “I don’t know. She’s pretty crazed about Third Wave. That’s a—”

  I can do that. I was already walking over when I called out, “Casners.”

  Aidrian froze. Tray froze. Hell—everyone froze at my voice.

  She turned and blinked at me, trying to figure out who I was. After a minute, I saw the recognition in her eyes.

  Tray was just watching me, he saw the determination in my eyes.

  The rest of the guys moved out of the way.

  “So, you’re the little tramp that’s been warming my spot,” she taunted, taking a step towards me.

  “Third Wave’s at Pedlam in a week.” They were playing at the Seven8…made things a bit more sticky, but I could work around it.

  She looked a little confused. Obviously, she’d been expecting a battle, but I just grinned at her, waiting for her reply.

  “So?” she demanded heatedly, but still confused.

  “You want tickets?”

  “I have tickets.”

  “You want front-row tickets?” I sweetened the pot.


  “I can get you front row seats and back-stage passes,” I delivered, waiting. It was too tempting for her not to bite.

  Which she did. I grinned, almost feeling all of the pieces slide into place. Everything was working out.

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