The original crowd, p.51
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       The Original Crowd, p.51

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  “You can’t afford any breaks, not now.” He cursed and drew me with him, down the hallway and into the empty gymnasium.

  He sat on a bleacher and murmured, “You took off early.”

  I didn’t respond, but hugged myself. Trying to hold in the blistering rage.

  “Taryn,” he began, softening his voice slightly, “you have to shut it off. You just have to. Being emotional will end up getting us killed. This isn’t some fucking high school prank—this is you and me playing a game that could get us killed. You’re right, you do need me on this and this is how it has to be.”

  “But I can’t—”

  He stood up and said sternly, “You have to or I walk. That’s the deal. There’s no other way.”

  I glared at him, hating him in that moment.

  Tray grinned at me and pulled me against him. Encircling an arm around my waist, he bent and whispered against my lips, “Why don’t we skip and go screw each other’s brains out?”

  It had some appeal.

  “We skipped almost all of last week. I don’t think I can afford it.”

  Tray shrugged. “It’s not like you’ll get into trouble.”

  There was that again—the elite—they could fucking get away with whatever the fuck they wanted to. But I’d been included recently, so I could get away with it too. I was such a hypocrite.

  Brian’s dead. The reminder popped in my head—bringing me back to reality. I’d forgotten, for a few minutes, but I had. I clamped down on the guilt that speared my body.

  “I gotta talk to the counselor about Mandy, too,” I murmured.

  “Fuck that. Your folks should have to do it.”

  “Yeah,” I bit out, “because they’re always around, aren’t they?”

  “Come on. Let’s go to my place and spend the rest of the day in bed. It’d be good for you.”

  “So I can enjoy sex when Brian’s dead.”

  Tray pulled away, but not completely. It had worked, partially, but Tray watched me. And I knew he figured it out when the corner of his mouth curved upwards, “Not going to work, baby. I’m not going to ‘rescue’ you and tell you it’s alright and you don’t have to feel guilty that you’re still living. You know that shit and besides, the guy seemed to love you. He wouldn’t want you to go down that route, Taryn.”

  I knew he was right, but—fuck, fuck, fuck.

  “I’m sorry,” I slipped out, my hands twisting in my hair. “I’m just…I can’t handle this, I can’t not do anything, I can’t just sit in class, I can’t jus—”

  Tray slammed his mouth against mine and an explosion erupted inside me. It was what I needed and I met him full-force, drowning in him. My hands wrapped around his neck as I hoisted myself up, my legs wrapped around him and he walked us against the wall. Pressing against me, he licked, sucked, kissed, and caressed my mouth.

  “God—” I moaned, raking my hands through his hair, holding him tightly against me.

  “Okay, laps around—”

  Of course, there had to be a gym class first period. The teacher stopped in shock, students milling around him, trying to see what stopped him.

  “Mr. Evans and Miss Matthews!” he reprimanded.

  Tray held me in place as he lifted his head lazily and grinned at the teacher. “Hey, Mr. Martson.”

  “This is not appropriate behavior and the two of you are missing your classes.”

  I grinned, leaning my forehead into Tray’s neck.

  “Well, you see, Mr. Martson,” Tray began, flashing a charming smile, “this isn’t what it looks like.”

  “It isn’t? he asked skeptically.

  “No, you see Taryn thought it’d be a good idea to practice her climbing skills.”

  “On you?” Mr. Martson supplied dryly.

  “Yeah, exactly, because you know, I wouldn’t let her fall.”

  “Mr. Evans.”

  “Yeah?”

  “She can un-climb off of you now. Then make sure to take a trip to the principal’s office. You can resume your ‘climbing’ there.”

  “I don’t think he’d appreciate that, Mr. Martson,” Tray said seriously.

  “Out. Now.”

  Tray let me down and I saw more than a few grins behind the teacher’s back.

  When we got to the office, Tristan was sitting in the waiting room, looking irritated.

  “Hey, guys!” She brightened up, seeing us. “Tray, how are you? I can’t believe you guys missed the entire play-offs. Seriously.”

  He shrugged.

  I was bored, pissed, and restless.

  “Can it, Tristan,” I snapped, pacing.

  “You are such a bitch!”

  “Please. I’m just callin’ it like I see it.”

  “Right…you know what? I am sick and tired of you. I come back from Spain and all I hear about is how great Mandy’s new sister is. She’s so fun and free-spirited. She puts Amber and Jasmine in her place—they’re right, but what they failed to mention was how you couldn’t care one iota about decency. It’s called class and you’ve got none.”

  I laughed. “What makes you think I care?”

  It pissed her off even more. This was putting me in a much better mood.

  “Oh my God…I cannot believe your nerve. You treat Mandy like shit—”

  Oh no, bitch.

  “No, you treat Mandy like she’s your bitch. Like some little lapdog for you to play with and screw with her mind. You think she’s yours, like you have claim over people—which is why you and Amber don’t like each other. You’re the same, you’re both psychotic narcissists.” I got in her face.

  “If anyone’s the—”

  “It’s you. Trust me,” I clipped out, staring her down.

  “You waltz into town and think it’s yours, but I’ll tell you one thing…I’ve been here a lot longer than you. My family founded this fucking town—”

  “Ooh, look at that class. I didn’t know blue-bloods knew what swear words were,” I taunted, sitting back, watching her stumble over her words.

  “Oh my God!” Tristan shrieked. “Can you get over yourself?” She turned to Tray and pleaded, “Tray—”

  Tray stood up lazily, and remarked, “Why do you think I’m sleeping with her? Couldn’t beat her, so I joined her.” He sent me a private grin, his eyes lustful.

  “Holy hell! If I knew this school was this entertaining, I’d have been here a long time ago!” Carter exclaimed, standing in the open-doorway. There were more than a few students behind him, shamelessly listening to the entire exchange.

  “We’re not selling tickets. Shoo, fuckers,” I barked.

  “I’d pay.” Carter held out his wallet.

  “Carter, what the hell are you doing here?” Tray asked, moving towards him to punch him in the shoulder.

  “Orientation, baby. Orientation.” He gestured to Tristan. “Guess that’s why she’s here too. I’m transferring.”

  “Let me guess, your files were destroyed in a freak accident.” Tray said wryly.

  “Something like that.” Carter sent me a grin. “Thanks for the idea.”

  “I’m leaving,” I announced, and walked out. This was pointless. If Tristan, her royal fucking highness, hadn’t been helped, yet Tray and I shouldn’t have to stick around when all we were doing was making out. The principal will probably just throw out some bullshit about appropriate boundaries, and I’d tell him that Tray and I knew exactly how appropriate our boundaries were. Then we’ll get detention. Or I’d get detention. This was not what I needed right now. Not when I planned on using every free minute either hunting down Props or threatening Props.

  At my locker, Molly proclaimed, “Is it true? Is it true? Is Carter Sethlers going to school here now? I’ve, like, heard it from eight people.”

  Who does she talk to? Is there a secret underground of Invisibles that just see and hear everything? Seriously.

  “Yes,” I bit out, grabbing my second period book now. Tray still had my first period book.

 
Oh my God! This is great!”

  I said, “You have a boyfriend. Sethlers is off limits.”

  “Oh.” She blushed, how unusual. “Well…yeah, I mean…I spent the weekend with Garrett and it was…”

  I couldn’t handle another full-body blush, so I asked, impatiently, “Did ya have sex or not?”

  I literally thought, for an actual second, that her eyes would pop out of her head.

  “Taryn,” she whispered, horrified she glanced around, “I…oh gosh…no. We didn’t have sex.”

  “Did you want to?”

  “Taryn!”

  “Come on. That was the whole reason you were apprehensive about going to the cities for the weekend, right?”

  “Yeah, but you don’t have to announce it.”

  “I asked a question. Announcing would be different. I’d use the PA system if I wanted to announce something.”

  “Hey, bitch!”

  I looked up—that is my name after all.

  Aidrian Casners was pushing her way through the crowd, wearing a frilly pink halter-top over a black leather miniskirt. She had white hoop earrings dangling to her shoulders, which looked like they were about to rip her ears off from the speed she was zooming my way.

  I grinned at that thought.

  Molly shrieked and melted away. Literally. She had mad Invisible skill.

  Crystal was following Aidrian, but I saw the grin she was biting back. She was only there for entertainment. Hell, Aidrian entertained me too.

  “What up?” I asked easily, standing to face the firing squad.

  “You sent that freak nerd to my house Friday night. I had to baby-sit his ass at Third Wave,” she hissed.

  I rolled my eyes, then said smoothly, “That freak nerd is going to bank-roll you in one year. Trust me. He could own Third Wave in another ten, max.”

  That drew her up.

  “Really?” Aidrian asked, perplexed. “He’s a nerd.”

  “He’s a computer nerd who’s going to save my life. So no, he’s not a nerd.”

  “Oh.” She was at a loss for words. “I thought…I mean…he’s a nerd!”

  “He’s going to be one of those hot nerds. Hot and rich. Mark my words,” I remarked, walking away.

  Crystal burst out laughing as I passed her. She fell in line, “I’m in awe of you. I mean, really, truly, madly, deeply. Just awe. Almost idol worship awe.”

  “She’s entertaining,” I remarked dryly.

  “Hey,” she stopped me.

  I heard her tone and I knew what was coming.

  “No,” I spoke first, “it’s great that you know what hell my weekend was. It’s great that you think I shouldn’t be here. But really—I’m fine.”

  She looked taken aback. “Okay, fine. I just…I just wanted to say that if you ever want to get stark raving drunk, look me up.”

  I relaxed slightly. “Thanks. I might take you up on that,” I said, gentling my tone, but I couldn’t erase the impatience I was feeling.

  The rest of the morning passed and everyone knew to stay away from me. It might’ve been announced over the P.A. system. Swear. I’d walk down the hallways and people would scatter, making a path for me.

  It might’ve been the scowl on my face.

  “Miss Matthews, you are wanted in the principal’s office.” Of course, my teacher had to tell me this at the end of class.

  “Now? At lunch?”

  “It’s important.”

  So off I went. As I traipsed through the hallway, I saw Amber and Jasmine giggling over something. Sasha stood just to the side, glaring at Jasmine’s back. Tristan was at her own locker, with her own following already malingering around her. The girl worked fast—she’d be ready to usurp Amber’s power in a week.

  “Miss Matthews,” the receptionist greeted me.

  “I got a note.”

  “Yes, Principal Marshalls is waiting for you in his office right now.”

  He wasn’t alone. I saw Coach Hailey with one empty chair beside her. Guess that had my name on it.

  “Miss Matthews, take a seat,” Principal Marshalls offered, gesturing to the chair.

  As we both sat, he started, “Ms. Hailey tells me that you had a less than professional attitude with her Friday morning.”

  “Well, yeah. Mandy couldn’t go to the game and so I tried telling her that, but she told me I was full of it.”

  “I did not!” Coach Hailey gasped.

  “Yes, you did. You told me you wouldn’t accept that Mandy couldn’t be there and you’d expect her at the Dome when you arrived. Your exact words. So yeah, I had an attitude because you had one first,” I stated matter-of-factly.

  Principal Marshalls cleared his throat, sending a beseeching look Hailey’s way. “I think the more important matter is your sister. Where is she, Taryn?”

  I shrugged.

  “I realize you may be scared about ‘narcing’ on your sister, but this meeting is more about our concern for Mandy. She’s been struggling lately, we’ve all noticed.”

  “And here she thought she was hiding it so well,” I remarked, rolling my eyes.

  “Miss Matthews, I don’t think you realize how serious this is.”

  “I do. But it’s not my place to send memos for my sister.”

  I was right and Principal Marshalls knew it. I saw a flash of guilt in his eyes.

  “This girl is awful. She has an attitude with everyone. I can’t believe you let her stay in our school,” Coach Hailey cried out.

  “I thought you were a counselor,” I shot her way.

  “I am.” She blinked, the evil robot was reconfiguring what the definition of a counselor was.

  “You’re not even nice,” I pointed out. “Are you sure?”

  “Taryn,” the principal barked, “you will learn to mind your mouthyou’re your manners.”

  Sounded like the name of a rock band.

  I rolled my eyes, but shut up.

  “We have two items on the agenda here. One, your sister’s disappearance and two, your attitude.”

  “Ask all my teachers. I don’t have an attitude with them.”

  “Yes, this is why Mr. Martson found you and Tray Evans in an inappropriate position this morning.”

  See—inappropriate position, inappropriate boundaries—same thing.

  I grinned. “It didn’t feel inappropriate.”

  “See! Mr. Marshalls, she should be in a boot camp somewhere. There are places that do outdoor therapy, I think Miss Matthews would benefit most from that type of environment.”

  “Oh come on!” I cried out. “You just don’t like me because I didn’t take your crap. And Mandy being gone is not my
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