The original crowd, p.52
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       The Original Crowd, p.52

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  responsibility to explain. When her parents finally show up, it’s their job.”

  Principal Marshalls had been watching the exchange. He said, “I agree—”

  With who?

  “I agree with Miss Matthews that her sister’s absence should be explained by her parents and not her sister. But I agree with Ms. Hailey that your attitude does need dealing with, Taryn.” Oh, like the use of my first name is going to scare me. Bite my ass.

  He continued his blah, blah, blahing, “I think some consequences should be handed out for your attitude.”

  “Like I’m the only one with an attitude in this school!” I cried out. “That is so unfair.”

  “When you transferred here, we were given specific instructions and warnings on your behaviors. You have one of the largest files in school and this is not the first time you’ve been sent to my office.”

  Please, that chair was begging to be tipped over.

  “And you have an impressive record of skipping classes.”

  “Like I’m the only one,” I retorted.

  “Which is why you’re primarily here for the prevention of further behaviors,” he explained in a tone that was supposed to sound kind, but he sounded like a pompous ass in my opinion.

  “She’s not even taking you seriously,” Coach Hailey remarked, shaking her head. “Boot camp, Peter. It’s the only thing that’ll get through to her.”

  And fuck you too.

  “Can she not be here?” I asked, glaring. “She’s made it abundantly clear what her opinion is. Is there any other reason for her presence?”

  Principal Marshalls frowned, but replied, “I agree, Miss Matthews. Ms. Hailey, we’ve already taken up enough of your time. I’ll keep your recommendations in mind and if you could have them typed in a report, it’d be most appreciated.”

  She was going to argue, but she smiled instead. Like she’d been given a compliment or something. I made a vow, then and there, that I’d find whatever report she was going to type up and I’d shred it. Then I’d find her backups on her computer and trash those. Maybe a bat to her computer would work.

  When she left, Principal Marshalls leaned back, considering me. He sighed. “Taryn, you are a mystery to me. Most of these students that walk these hallways make perfect sense to me. I know exactly what’s troubling them, how to help them, or how to change them. But you…you were excelling in your classes. Now you’re dating Tray Evans, skipping classes, pissing off teachers, and breaking into my office via the venting shaft.”

  What? I looked up, surprised to see him grinning knowingly at me. He pointed upwards. “Don’t think we didn’t know who was behind that little prank the other week.”

  I feigned innocence.

  “We just couldn’t prove it,” he remarked, “But we knew. Principal Corey is a very good friend of mine. I’ve gotten more than an earful about your juvenile pranks.”

  They weren’t juvenile. And they weren’t pranks.

  “But that’s in the past and now we’re dealing with the present.”

  I readied myself, ready to handle whatever he threw out.

  “I’ve heard rumors that you’re a swimmer. Quite good, in fact.”

  What the hell?

  “I think your consequence will be to join the swim team,” he announced. “I’ve already talked to Coach Greenly. He’s watched you swim and dive, he said you’re given an automatic spot on the varsity team, which is highly unusual here at Rawley, let me tell you. Girls have to compete against each other for varsity spots.”

  I waited. There had to be a catch.

  “My only stipulation is that you do not kicked off the team.”

  Meaning no skipping practices, no attitude, and no drama with team-members.

  “And you can start today,” he finished, looking proud.

  “What? No! I have something I need to take care of after school,” I protested, jumping out of my chair.

  “Whatever it is, it can wait. You don’t want to get kicked off the team before you even start, do you?”

  Oh…fuck!

  “Good. Now that that’s settled, you can leave, Miss Matthews.”

  I shut the door behind me. When I got to the hallway, my mind was reeling as I walked to my locker.

  Most of the hallway was empty. A few lingered, talking, whatnot, but as I opened my locker, I found myself reaching for my purse. In my wallet, I found the picture I was looking for: me and Brian. We’d gone to the beach that day and we were just being stupid. He was carrying me on his back, my legs were wrapped around his waist and he had turned his head, trying to lick my neck.

  I took a deep breath and clipped the picture on my door.

  “That your ex?” Tristan asked behind me.

  “Yeah,” I murmured, my voice lacking heat.

  “Look, I’m sorry. I heard about it in fourth period about him. Why you and Tray took off this weekend.”

  “So what?” I laughed. “Now you’re going to be nice to me? Please.”

  “I’m trying to apologize here. You can cut me some slack.”

  “Why the fuck would I want to do that?” I asked, more curious than anything else. “You haven’t exactly been gracious to me at all.”

  “I have done nothing but be nice to you,” Tristan cried out. “But you’ve judged me based on one time when I was messing with Mandy. You’re constantly going after me. If you’re not siccing Casners on me, then it’s Amber. I can’t get a break!”

  “And you deserve a break?” I asked in disbelief.

  “Yeah. I think I do. I’ve tried.”

  “What have you done? If anything, I just don’t put up with your passive aggressive shit.”

  “Look, I’m on the swim team, so I’m just saying we should try to get along.”

  I didn’t even ask how she knew I was joining. The school had a better P.A. system than our actual P.A.

  “What do you want from me, Tristan?” I finally asked, resignation settling in my bones.

  “I don’t know. You’re Mandy’s sister. I thought it’d be nice if we could be friends, but apparently that’s not possible.”

  “Look.” I was really trying here, like—patience of a god trying here, “Maybe…we got off on a wrong foot. And Amber didn’t exactly sell you either.”

  “I can imagine.” Tristan rolled her eyes, shifting on her feet. “Look…truce? Start over?’

  “Whatever,” I mumbled, but it was enough for Tristan.

  The rest of the day passed like the morning. People steered clear of me, for the most part.

  In seventh period, Molly was almost sullen in psych.

  “You can say something. I’m not going to break,” I finally said, exasperated.

  She blushed. “I’m just…I’m so sorry, Taryn.”

  “So, who’d you hear it from?”

  “Kayden overheard some sophomore talking about it. At first everyone was really mad at you because they all blamed you for not letting Tray go to the play-offs, but then someone said you went to a funeral. And then a freshman heard you and Tray talking in the gymnasium.”

  I just groaned. The freshman had had front row seats to some inappropriate boundaries. Thank God the teacher had interrupted us. I never thought I’d think that.

  Fuck.

  I glanced over to Tray and saw him grinning at Carter—he was like a puppy at Petco. Carter was his best friend and I hadn’t realized how much till recently. Tray was ecstatic that Carter was at our school again.

  No one could tell, but I saw it. There was a little look, a note of excitement on his poker face. His hazel eyes, those…seriously hot hazel-eyes that turned amber when he was…probably shouldn’t go there.

  “So—” Molly was chewing her lip, looking terrified.

  “What? Spit it out.”

  “Okay? I mean…are you like…I don’t know, depressed?”

  I rolled my eyes, but answered truthfully, “I handle shit like this by getting angry and getting even.”

  “Huh?
She was confused. “I thought it was a…it was a car accident, right?”

  “Doesn’t mean I can’t get revenge,” I said sweetly, leaning back in my chair.

  “You’re nice. You wouldn’t understand,” I said bluntly.

  “Yeah, but—” The girl was seriously perplexed.

  Enough was enough. I wasn’t about to explain myself to an Invisible who recently discovered the fun of making out.

  “So you and Larkins, huh?” I mentioned casually, sitting back, and waiting for her to blush. One…two…there is was. I couldn’t contain a chuckle.

  “Shut up. We’re not like that…well—”

  “You are. You both had to have the ‘sex’ talk with me. You are like that.”

  “We did not.” She sighed, blushing at the same time. “Okay—”

  “You did. The two of you are a couple. So just fucking admit it.”

  “Oh my God,” she moaned, burrowing her head in her hands. Sorry girl, you can’t disappear in the middle of class.

  “Did you guys have the ‘sex’ talk with each other?”

  “Shut up. Please,” she moaned, her voice muffled by her hands.

  I laughed at that, but I pressed on, “Come on. Seriously. Larkins was on strict instructions to have the talk. Did he? He better have.”

  “Do you and Tray have the talk?” she asked, her voice still muffled.

  “Yeah,” I smiled fondly, images of naked Tray in mind, “it usually consists of ‘bend over’ or ‘do you want to screw?’.”

  “Oh my God,” she squeaked, trying to burrow through the desk this time. The Invisible wasn’t much of an Invisible right now.

  “What’s with the act? You were fine asking me questions on Thursday.”

  “That wasn’t about sex,” she hissed. “That was about…other stuff.”

  “That other stuff is just another form of sex.”

  She squeaked again which I found damn funny.

  “Matthews!” Carter called across the room. “What the hell’s so funny?”

  Molly groaned loudly and pulled her head from the desk to her lap. Almost—literally—underneath the table.

  This made me laugh even more.

  “It’s annoying,” Sasha griped, but it lacked heat.

  I gritted my teeth, really, really, really hating that everyone was treating me differently today.

  I snapped, the humor vanishing like the slam of a door. “I’m not some fucking fragile china doll. You don’t have to treat me like I’m going to break.”

  Sasha’s eyes widened to saucers. She choked back whatever she had been thinking—imagine that, a Hooters platinum blonde not having a blonde moment—and sputtered, “Excuse me?”

  “Oh, please, Sasha. Since when have you ever sugar-coated your insults?”

  “Oh my God. I cannot believe you, Taryn! Excuse me for not going for the jugular—”

  “That’d be assuming you’ve gone there in the past. Trust me, your aims—not even close,” I said smoothly. “You’re like a guy who can’t find the hole.”

  “Oh!” “Damn!” “Fuck!”

  The guys instantly knew what I meant, most of ‘em unable to contain their reactions of shock. The girls took a little longer—most of them anyway.

  “You’re such a bitch!” It’s no wonder that Sasha knew the meaning immediately.

  I laughed. “And you say that like it’s a bad thing.”

  “Miss Matthews, Miss Klinnleys,” the teacher spoke, returning from her errand, “quiet down or you’ll both be taking a trip to the principal’s office. And, Taryn,” her gaze settled on me, “you don’t need another trip to the principal today.”

  “How many times you been there today?” Carter asked, leaning forward eagerly.

  I didn’t answer, but Sasha answered instead, “It’d be her third time. Isn’t that, like, a record?”

  The teacher must’ve seen my reaction, because she spoke quickly, loudly, “That’s enough. We’ll be having quiet time for the rest of the period. You can finish filling out your worksheets.”

  I threw my books in my locker the second after class. Two students near me jumped in the air, quickly scattering when they saw me scowl.

  It didn’t help that I saw Tray glance at me in disappointment, and then turn towards his locker. Fucker.

  CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

  As I stood, looking down below, my reflection looked different. Off.

  I wasn’t the same—I didn’t look the same, I didn’t feel the same.

  “Miss Matthews!” Coach Greenly called out, making his way across the pool area to me. “I see that you made it to your first practice.”

  “Uh…yeah.”

  What I hadn’t made it to was letting Tray know that Props would be showing up at his place, ready to start working. He’d pissed me off, and I knew it was irrational, but I hadn’t told him to get even. It was pathetic and childish, but it made me feel a little better.

  “Good,” he clapped me on the shoulder, “swimsuit.”

  “Not here.”

  “That’s alright, I’m sure one of the girls will let you borrow one.”

  Great.

  Tristan came out of the locker room with a group of five in tow. All of them lined up at one end of the pool and one by one dove in to start warm-up laps.

  “You’re Taryn, right?” A girl came up beside me. I was guessing she was on the team, since she wore a silver one-piece with her hair pulled into a swim cap.

  “Yeah.”

  “Brady Winters, teammate, or future teammate I guess.” She rolled her startling green eyes. “Coach told us this morning you were joining the team.”

  “That’s funny,” I remarked dryly, “because I was just told at lunch.”

  “You need a suit? I have, like, twenty in my locker. Number 812.”

  “Thanks.” I frowned. “I don’t know if I’ve met you before. Senior?”

  “Nope, junior. I just don’t run in the Holier than Thou Jasmine and Mandy Matthews circle. No offense.”

  “None taken. Not a big fan of Tristan’s myself.”

  “Believe me, we all know who you get along with and who you don’t. You’re the biggest thing to come to the school in a long time.”

  “Winters! Laps!” Coach yelled out.

  I read amusement in her green eyes as she turned and called back, “I’m giving them a head-start.” She jumped in before he could send a retort back. She had perfect form, and I was surprised to find myself a bit envious.

  “Matthews, you joining this team or not?!” Apparently, I wasn’t immune to the coach’s irritation.

  When I came back, swimsuit on, the team had finished their laps
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