A/N: This story has been a long time going. It was subject to a less-than-vigorous edit a little while ago and I hope I've been able to take out anything particularly offensive. Now, I hope you'll enjoy!
Chapter 1 – Just another prep
I closed my locker loudly before ripping out the key and slinging my bag over my shoulder. A long day of school stretched out ahead of me, and I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to it.
"You're looking very happy today," Edith observed. I looked over my shoulder to where she stood leaning against another row of lockers, hands hooked casually in her jeans. She had on her bright red 'It wasn't me' T-shirt, with white letters spelling out the denial on her chest.
I tugged at my blouse to straighten it while I turned. "I am quite happy today, thank –" my mouth fell open before I could finish the sentence. "Your hair!"
Edith ran a hand through her light brown locks, now shot through with hot pink highlights that hadn't been there the last time I saw her. She grinned like a maniac while she twirled a strand between her fingers. "Do you like it?"
The effect was dramatic and made her look almost – but not quite – more punk than prep. If her eyebrows hadn't been plucked to perfection and her face hadn't born the signs of carefully applied, expensive make-up, she could have been taken for a wannabe punk at least. Nonetheless, it suited her wacky attitude and I loved it.
"I do. It suits you." I knew it wouldn't go unnoticed by our rather preppy friends when we joined them later. "I wonder what Del will think."
Edith laughed. "Despite the continuous stream of airheads trailing behind her, I think she likes people having a personality."
Silently, I agreed. Delilah, Del, was one of the school's most popular girls. She was also a friend of ours. Though a lot of females who weren't the brightest in the flock followed her around all the time, each trying to be more like Del than the other, Delilah was a nice, usually sensible girl. Sometimes I wondered why she was so popular. Besides being beautiful and kind, she had none of the callous, bitchy qualities that often went paired with high social standing.
One of the reasons I was considered part of the popular crowd was because she appreciated my honesty. When pampered with compliments by her admirers, she would often cast a glance at me to check my reaction about whatever she had done. Naturally, I was flattered and impressed that she wanted more than just a load of fan-girling. In the years since I met her, we'd grown close.
I hung my light blue bag more securely over both shoulders and walked with Edith towards Delilah's overpopulated locker. The school was built in a massive box-shape, with row after row of lockers on the first floor, along with teacher's offices, the school nurse, a few classrooms and a huge cafeteria. There were boards with school announcements hanging on the walls opposite the lockers, but there were very few things that needed to be announced this early in the new school year. It had only started a week ago.
"God," Edith swore softly when we rounded the corner. I saw what she was swearing at a second later.
Del's locker wasn't just surrounded by girls: it was swarming. People were pushing each other out of the way and I could see a fight had started somewhere in the middle. People not already involved were running over to see, and just the sight of the crowd made me groan.
Last year I had tried to break up a similar fight single-handedly. My eye still twitched at the memory of a fist connecting with it a touch too firmly. Edith and I glanced at each other. "D'you want to try and break it up?" I asked.
She cracked a smile. "After what happened to you the last time?"
It was enough of an answer. We rushed over to find out what it was about, but didn't interfere. I shoved a few people out of the way to get a good look. Two girls were rolling on the floor and trying to scratch each other's eyes out. I could identify them once one stood up, the other springing to her feet a second later. Alyssa and Peony, two Delilah-clones who loved attention.
The unoriginal cause of the fight was clear a moment later.
"You bitch!" Peony shouted, holding her hand to a scratch at the corner of her almond eye. "I loved him, and you fucking betrayed me! I thought we were friends!"
It was time to groan. Nothing was less interesting than a catfight about an incident as mundane as cheating; especially when the two involved didn't have a very extensive vocabulary.
I saw a friend of mine standing near the front with a half-shocked and half-excited expression on her face. The girl, Sally, would probably know more. I tugged her arm and made her face me.
"Who are they talking about?" I asked. I felt Edith look over my shoulder at the two screaming girls.
Sally started talking fast. "Well, you know how Peony's had the hots for Chad for like, ever? Well, Alyssa and Chad went out over the weekend! Oh my God, can you believe it? Alyssa never said she liked Chad! And Peony thought that Chad liked her back after he helped her with math last week. This is so not fair for her."
It was definitely another day in prep-ville. But I wasn't surprised. Things like this could happen every day. Luckily, I never seemed to be a part of the situation unless I decided to butt in.
Alyssa and Peony had started circling each other, calling insults and messing up their pretty faces with scowls. "Geez Peony, you're so immature! Can't you just get over yourself? He's not yours!"
Peony sneered. "Just like that nose isn't yours." A collective gasp came from the crowd, and Alyssa turned red.
With that, Alyssa sprang forward and pulled Peony's dark hair, dragging the other girl onto the ground. "That isn't true!" Alyssa yelled from atop the other girl while Peony clawed at her face. I was about to move away from the crowd when things looked like they were getting too dangerous. Memory and gut-instinct warred for less than a second while I decided whether or not to help.
I dropped my backpack onto the ground and waded through the line of people in front of me. Alyssa was still pulling at Peony's hair while Peony's hands were clasped around her neck. I shoved Alyssa off bodily, throwing my scant weight and muscle into the fray. "Self-control is –"
My sentence was cut short when Peony's hand, not clutching her friend's neck anymore, bumped into my nose with more force than either of us had expected. I felt wetness start to stream in my nose just before a drop of blood stained Peony's pink T-shirt.
"Eww!" she screamed, fight forgotten. "You like, bled on my T-shirt!"
"Say it isn't so," I mumbled while I caught the rest of the blood with the sleeve of my blouse, vaguely embarrassed about getting myself into another stupid situation like last time. I stood up straight to see where Alyssa was and found her in the middle of a crowd being questioned about her nose.
Her nose. Who cared about my poor nose? Only because it hadn't endured plastic surgery wasn't a reason to ignore it when it was the only nose around that was bleeding.
I shoved my way out of the crowd and headed for the girl's bathroom. Once there, I headed for the closest cubicle, sat on the toilet seat, held a ball of toilet paper under my nose and leaned forward.
Ah well. At least it wasn't my eye this time.
After two minutes, the bleeding had stopped. I stood up and reviewed myself in the mirror.
The sleeve I'd previously been bleeding on came up to wipe away the red marks under my nose. It was ruined anyway. My blonde hair was sagging in the loose ponytail I had put it in. I fixed it in a manner that would have it sagging again within minutes. My eyes had watered when Peony hit my nose, and the rims were slightly red. It ruined the innocent impression my blue eyes granted me, but there was nothing I could do about it. Besides, a bloody splotch on one's otherwise impeccable white blouse had a habit of ruining an image no matter how blue their eyes.
Shrugging to myself, I trudged back to Del's locker. "I look like a psycho," I told Edith and another friend, Naomi, when they opened their mouths. "You don't have to tell me."
Naomi giggled. "You look like a fallen heroine from a pub fight!"
"Or maybe someone who's been taking heroin for a little too long," Edith commented.
I shoved both of them and retrieved my bag from Naomi. Del's attention was on me when I joined her circle of admirers. "Lynn!" she shouted. Her face was concerned and beautiful as ever. "Are you OK? Oh my God, you're bleeding!"
Her clones joined in a collective gasp while I held my bloodied sleeve closer to my body self-consciously, trying to smile in a way that didn't look like I had a tooth ache. "I'm fine. It was just a nosebleed." Del had the grace to look embarrassed. She even forgot to scold me for ruining my blouse.
The conversation went back to normal. Alyssa and Peony had been taken to the principle's office and Chad was being screamed at by one of Peony's henchwomen. When I glanced at Chad and his attacker seconds later I nearly smirked. She wasn't screaming anymore. She was flirting.
I turned back to the other girls and caught a petite brunette pouting at me. "Why did you interrupt them?" she asked.
Smoothing down my skirt, I answered, "Because I don't like violence and I don't like seeing girls fighting over a guy."
A silky, masculine voice came from almost directly by my ear. "You may not, but I sure do." Blonde hair came into view when I looked sideways. "Hey Lynn."
I shook off the arm the guy in question had looped around my waist. "Go away, Martin." His lame response was cut off when the school bell rang. My day brightened when I remembered my first period was art and not math like last year's Monday morning.
x x x
"No way. Pink totally clashes with red," Brigit said. We were all sitting in the cafeteria after a morning of hard work. I stabbed a fork into my plate of spaghetti.
Lia shook her head, making her short brown curls tremble. "No. The pink is definitely a nice touch. And it doesn't clash with her shirt, it looks… hot?"
A few girls sitting around her snickered. Lia had a real problem describing things. I chewed down a forkful of spaghetti. Why the cafeteria actually served a meal like it on Monday was beyond me, but it was almost more effort to eat than it was worth.
Just as I was about to stuff myself with more of it, the local jocks came in to sit at our table. Edith edged towards me to make room for her boyfriend Dag. I sighed when Martin sat down on my other side.
Martin was like my freak stalker. Except that he was good looking and didn't study me from afar. All right, he was nothing like a stalker, but he annoyed me. He always pretended to be infatuated with me, to the point where he convinced himself and the rest of the world that he was. I didn't know why he chose me, but I guessed it was because he liked the hard to get type. I had given up on relationships half a year ago when I realized no man would ever appeal to me for more than a week. I'd firmly convinced myself I was sick of trying anyway. Still, high school wasn't the place to uphold such a vow and the world seemed hell-bent on having me break it. To tell the truth, I was willing to be proved wrong – but not by Martin.
He stole some of my spaghetti. "So, what are you thinking about?" he asked disinterestedly.
I smiled. "Theft. That's my spaghetti." It wasn't good anyway.
"Aw, babe, we could eat it like they do in that dog film." He smirked at me.
"My nose isn't wet," I replied tartly. I had no interest in flirting with him and it would take a miracle for anything to happen between the two of us. He knew, but some people like to believe in miracles.
My attention left him. The cafeteria was full to bursting. My ears ached with all the noise around me as I scanned the room. Some freshmen were having a food fight in the middle, and I almost wished I could take part in it. My blouse was ruined anyway, and a black skirt would hide the worst food stains. Besides, being a prep since stereotyping became an issue had meant that I never really experienced a food fight.
My eye was drawn to the corner of the room by someone with bright red hair. At least, I thought it was bright red when I saw it from my peripheral vision. When I looked closer I could see it was a mixture of red and black in the guy's hair, a strange combination if I'd ever seen one. He was standing with his shoulder against a wall, looking out a window. I would have recognized him by his casual pose if the hair hadn't done the job for me.
I didn't remember his name, but I could remember several of my friends talking about him. He had been a thorn in my stereotyping associates' feet since he transferred to our school last year. His hair had caught people's attention. At that time, he hadn't joined any of the cliques he could have, staying alone, talking to a few other guys at a minimum level. Soon after a few of my friends labeled him a 'punk-loner' and he overheard, he came to school wearing a Hawaiian shirt as if he wanted to prove them wrong. I had laughed at my friends' expressions for so long my stomach ached by the end of it.
His hair was nice once you got used to it, I noted just as Martin realized where I was looking.
"You're not checking out that freak, are you?" he asked.
I turned back to the table. "No. Of course not." And if I was, it was none of Martin's business.