A BREATH OF FRESH AIR brushed past Kali's face as she walked through the gates of the closed campus known as Lakewood High School. She wore a long white skirt with a black tank top that revealed the mendhi on her stomach and on her arms. She wore two of them on the back of her hands as well and one at the center of her chest.
She gave a sigh of relief when she saw her three best friends waiting for her in the quad, by the gushing fountain.
Kali sauntered up to them. "Hey," she greeted them.
"Hey," Juliet returned.
Juliet was one of the most beautiful people that Kali knew. She was five feet, four inches with long, smooth legs, and pure blue eyes. She had pale pink lips and nicely tanned skin. Her short, snow-white blond hair was layered stylishly on her shoulders. She had a flawless smile and a perfect body with killer looks and high cheekbones. She had done some modeling in her day and even a little bit of acting, although she always had her heart set on painting and even singing.
Next to Juliet was Melanie. Melanie had a pale face, almost bony, and dark brown hair that didn't even touch her shoulders. She almost had the appearance of a ghost and she wore eyeglasses to give her a classier look, even though she didn't really need them.
Amanda was also rather pretty, with golden blond hair and eyes that often changed color, absorbing the hues of her environment. She had a small, cute nose to compliment her round face.
"Did you sleep all right, Kali?" Amanda asked, noticing Kali's slight fatigue.
"Yeah," Kali assured her.
With a shrug of her shoulders, Kali revealed the intricate designs of the mendhi throughout her body. Melanie was entranced. She came closer to Kali and took her hand, examining the mendhi drawn with the henna plant on the back of Kali's hand.
"Cool," Melanie praised. "How long did it take this all to dry?"
"In total, six hours," Kali said. "I wasn't allowed to move."
"Where did you have it done?" Melanie inquired.
"I had it done at an Indian beauty parlor," Kali informed her. "It was worth the money. It'll last for three weeks."
Juliet examined Kali's exposed skin and the detailed marks of the mendhi. "I like it. It looks good on you, Kali."
Kali smiled sheepishly. "Thanks."
Melanie released her hand and took a step back. Her eyes widened with amusement. "Oh, look, Juliet, it's your lover," she teased.
Juliet was afraid to turn around, but she knew very well who Melanie was talking about. Kit Remington. He was a dark-haired muscular young man, with impeccable manners. He was a little bit taller than Juliet, with dark cunning eyes and a chiseled face and rock-hard abs. He could have been a model himself, but his time was spent on the junior varsity team where he played the point guard position. He spent most of his summer in training for it.
Juliet admired that kind of dedication. It made her swoon all the more. But of course, she would never let him know how she really felt. It would just be way too embarrassing for her.
Sometimes she wished she had Kali's courage. Kali could walk up to a guy and tell him that she liked him. It might take a few minutes to get the words out, but she could do it. Juliet couldn't. She was too self-conscious around guys.
"Why don't you go say hi to him?" Amanda prodded.
Juliet vehemently shook her head. "No way am I doing that."
"Why not?" Amanda asked.
"Because then he's gonna know that I've been checking him out," Juliet explained.
"You've had a crush on him since he moved here during the seventh grade," Kali pointed out. "You're a freshman in high school and it's time to live a little. You should ask him out before someone else does."
Juliet seemed to withdraw even further. "No, I really couldn't," she admitted quietly.
Melanie sighed. "You have to grow a backbone, girl," she insisted.
"I will," Juliet swore. "Someday . . ."
Melanie shook her head disapproving and looked over Kali's shoulder. She found her attention fixed on something else. "Well, well, well. Would you look at that?"
Kali turned around and wondered where Melanie's gaze had fallen. Juliet and Amanda also looked. Kali knew immediately that Melanie was observing Gwyn Veranda. Melanie had never liked Gwyn, for whatever reason. Gwyn, according to Melanie, was just weird.
"Here comes the bookworm," Melanie added, noticing the heavy book Gwyn was carrying.
All of a sudden, Gwyn tripped on a crack she had not noticed, seeing that all her attention was buried in the book. Gwyn seemed to mutter something under her breath as she picked up her fallen book and gathered herself to her feet again.
Melanie and Amanda snickered.
Kali shook her head, but refused to say anything. She never did like how her two best friends seemed so cruel, but she was too self-conscious to admit anything out loud.
"You guys, just shut up," Juliet insisted.
Amanda shook her head. "She's a total uncoordinated airhead."
I wish they wouldn't talk about her like that, Kali said to no one but herself. She chewed her lower lip. They don't even know her. I bet she's really nice and cool, if they gave her a chance.
Upon finishing the thought, Gwyn's eyes suddenly met the stares of the group of four. It was almost as if she had heard them, but they were out of earshot range, weren't they?
Gwyn glared at them and her eyes especially met Melanie's. She shot daggers out from her eyes with exact precision at Melanie. A moment later, Gwyn returned to her book and walked away.
"That was kinda weird," Juliet voiced, shuddering.
"Tell me about it," Kali agreed.
The bell rang, signaling the beginning of school. Melanie and Amanda moaned. They all started getting their backpacks ready for their first classes.
"Wait a minute," Melanie paused.
All three looked at her, concern growing.
Melanie blinked for a few seconds, as if she was trying to remember something, but couldn't, like she was trying to squeeze the knowledge back into her mind. "I can't . . . I don't remember what my first class is," she explained.
"What do you mean?" Amanda asked.
"I don't remember my first class," Melanie snapped. "How hard is it for you to understand, Amanda?"
"Jeez, you don't have to be a bitch about it," Amanda told her.
"Well, I'm sorry but I just freakin' forgot my damn schedule," Melanie retorted.
"Where's your schedule? Didn't you bring it?" Juliet asked.
Melanie said through clenched teeth, "No. I memorized it last night. I didn't want to look like a stupid freshman, carrying around a piece of yellow paper."
"I don't know what to tell you then," Juliet said. "But I don't wanna be late for my class. Sorry, Melanie."
Juliet and Kali started walking off together. Their first classes were close together. Amanda left, still feeling the sting of Melanie's comments.
"You can try to go to the office and ask for another copy," Kali suggested before she left.
"Forget it," Melanie huffed. "I'll just figure it out myself."
Melanie stormed off in the opposite direction.