Chapter 4

Old things new

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy;for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;

we must die to one life before we can enter another."

-Anatole France

Breakfast was awkward, to say the least. In order to avoid having my eye go into permanent apoplexy, I avoided looking at the others as much as possible. The others being Jamie, Jackie and Evans.

Today was supposed to be the first school day of the year. Which meant that I should have spent the weekend pigging out, cherishing the last few hours of my life as I knew it. Instead, it had felt to me as though I'd been playing paint ball. Destroy the enemy, no prisoners taken, and, of course, avoid being shot at all costs. Which was the hardest obstacle of all.

Bending down to take a bite out of my sandwich, I glanced at Jackie as discreetly as possible. She was still sulking. Since Friday evening, when she'd brought back my clothes, that was all she'd done. Sulk the life out of me. It was fairly obvious that she was pissed off at me. Of course she was – the look on her face when she'd left my room had made it blatantly clear. In fact, for the first time in my life, I had to admit that I was scared of her. She was like a panther getting ready to attack its prey. One guess as to who said prey was.

Leaning back, I kept on chewing the bite in my mouth. I simply couldn't understand it. Okay, so she liked Evans. A lot too, by the looks of it. She was ready to even fight her sister, if it came down to it. But that left one constant missing in my equation. Why the effin' hell did she think that I was a threat? I'd displayed countless times over the last week the fact that I couldn't stand the ass sitting currently next to me. I was certainly no competition.

"Coffee, Angel?" the aforementioned ass offered, smiling at me. He held the coffee can already poised over my mug, as if certain of my answer. I nodded, and he immediately started filling my mug.

A quiet snort made me look at Jackie. She was frowning at Evans' hand, as he put the coffee can back in its usual spot. Fine, so sue me. Maybe I had forgotten a tiny… unimportant… little fact.

Evans had been damn, fucking, unbelievably annoying over the weekend. With his behavior, he'd been the main cause for me not being able to enjoy those two days. When we'd made our bet, I'd thought that, given the circumstances, we'd be friendly to each other when we had no choice but to spend time together.

He, obviously, hadn't received the memo. Instead, he'd gone out of his way to 'get to know me' and to 'become friends'. Basically, we'd had a lot of time to ourselves since the sealing of the bet. Which went totally against my believes.

So, I'd managed to get to know him quite a bit. And I'd come to a conclusion. Jamie was right, I really was afraid of new things. Especially new commitments. Evans didn't have the same problem. He was an unbelievably good actor, actually. He was brilliant in his role as my friend. In fact, he was so good, he could have passed off as my best friend. At times, the way he carried himself around me confused me so much, I didn't know myself anymore whether we were friends or enemies.

Sure, I wanted to win the bet. Who wouldn't want to be rid of such a conniving bastard? I was almost sure that the only reason he was spending so much time with me was because he wanted to drive me to the edge of insanity. We were both well aware that, if there was enough pressure applied, I'd soon crack and do something nasty to him. He was playing his cards like a professional.

Once again bending forwards to take a bite out of my sandwich, I looked at Evans. He was now filling his own mug with coffee. I knew what he would do next. I'd seen him do it a hundred times, at least, over the weekend. As expected, he picked up the sugar, and dumped a generous pile of it into his coffee.

That was another problem. I'd come to accept that he didn't have any accent at all. It was a part of him, and after spending some time together, it was easy to forget about that little peculiarity. Now, I was much more bothered by his secretiveness. Sure, he didn't make a big deal out of avoiding questions. Nevertheless, he had a way to just talk around answering them. One second you were asking him about his family, the next, you were answering a question of his, having forgotten about your own.

I knew that he loved coffee, and he drank it black, saturated with sugar. I didn't know anything about his family, whether he had siblings or not. I knew that he liked to listen to music in general, but he appreciated rock music the most. I still didn't know in which way it impacted him. I knew that he always tilted his head to the side when he was making fun of someone or something. I didn't know what made him laugh. Not to say that he hadn't, but each time he'd laughed, it had been rather hollow and untruthful.

Once in a while, I caught myself thinking that this must be all an act to him. A tragic comedy, in which he was the main protagonist, while all the other people around him were statists. The main goal was to live with us, but at the same time, to live in his own world.

That was exactly what he was doing. He was partaking in everyday life with us, but only on a superficial level. A week had passed already, and I hadn't even found out the basics about him, like his favorite color. It was… unsettling, in a way.

"Are you guys already excited?" moms' voice suddenly penetrated my thoughts, causing me to jerk slightly. Nobody seemed to realize, except for Evans, who looked at me briefly.

"What is there to be excited about? It's school, what can you expect?" Jamie answered, looking up with a bored expression.

Because my back was turned to mom, I couldn't see her expression, but I was sure that she was smiling. "Well, for one, it's your last year, and Jacquelines' first. Also, Seth, is going to see the school for the first time now." Next to me, Jackie seemed to have gone slightly paler at the mention of it being her first day at Oakgrove High.

"So what, as if anything will be different. You always see the same old people, the same teachers, and the same washed-out looking walls." Jamie said. Looking closely at him for the first time today, I observed him. He seemed to be rather tired, what with the dark circles under his eyes. That could have also been because he had spent last night at Lances' place, only to drive over in the morning. Knowing them, they hadn't slept at all.

Come to think about it, I wasn't quite sure as to why I was pissed off at him. He hadn't done anything to antagonize me, nor was he angry at me. But he was so damned oblivious to the entire situation. It seemed that all he ever cared about was food, games, food, girls, and… food.

From behind me, moms' laugh clearly resonated. "I was just asking. For some reason, all of you are being so quiet. It's unusual. Since the day that the first one of you came screaming onto the world, I haven't had so much peace and quiet."

"Mom!" Jackie immediately screamed, her face flaming up. "Please, there's no need to mention any of that. Especially not in detail."

Laughing even louder, mom left the kitchen, leaving us to our own devices once again. The same awkward silence as before ensued. Jamie ate his breakfast in a blissfully unaware state of mind. Jackie kept on sulking next to me, a slight blush still on her face. Evans kept on behaving all friendly. And I - I couldn't take a minute of it anymore.

Getting up, I placed my dishware on the kitchen counter. "Sorry, but I won't be able to wait for you. I promised Cassie to pick her up." Before any of them had a chance to reply, I was already on my way to the garage.

Now, it wasn't that I had promised to pick Cassie up. Truth be told, she didn't even know that I was coming. So, ten minutes later, while I stood in front of her house, ringing the doorbell, I wasn't surprised that nobody was answering. It was still early, and the only reason we'd been up was because of Jackie. She had been so nervous about going to school, that she'd woken up really early this morning, then token to running through the house in a panicked state. It was enough to have us all come to attention.

Sighing, I was about to ring the bell again, when the door was opened. In front of me stood a smartly dressed woman, resembling Cassie to a tee, only that she was more petite than my childhood friend.

"Good morning, Mrs. Parry. I hope I'm not bothering, but I came to pick Cassandra up. Is she awake yet?" I asked, putting on a genuine smile. It came naturally, since Cassies' mother was practically a second mom to me.

She smiled back, ushering me in at the same time. "You're not bothering at all. In fact, I was just about to go and wake her up, but since you're here, you can take over that duty. I'm sure that you can find a much more effective way to do it than me." Then, she pushed me gently in the direction of Cassies' room, assured that I could find my own way there.

Since I'd spent a lot of time as a kid in this respective house, it was no problem at all. On the way, I contemplated the best ways to wake Cassie up. There were a lot of methods to finish the job, but in the end I settled for my favorite. It was a real classic.

Finally reaching the bedroom, I put my hand on the handle, and pushed the door open as quietly as possible. An evil grin settled on my face as I entered the room. Now, this was my favorite part of the entire business. Opening my mouth, I pulled in as much air as possible into my lungs, preparing to scream-

… only to be hit by a pillow in my face. Choking slightly from the massive amount of air in my lungs, I ripped the pillow away, then turned to look in the direction in which an incessant giggling had started. My eyes were greeted by my fully dressed friend rolling childishly on the floor.

Grimacing, I threw the pillow back at her, hitting her head. All she did was to squirm even harder on the floor. "You should've-" giggle, "should've-" giggle, "seen your-" and even more giggling. Seemingly realizing that there was no way she would be finishing that sentence anytime soon, she gave up on it. Instead, she opted to laugh some more.

Sitting down on her bed, I observed her, until I couldn't stand her laughing anymore. "If you're done now, we still have other things to do. Go to school, for example."

"Aw, is little boo-boo pissed off?" she cooed. Despite her tone, though, she got off the floor, straightening her wrinkled clothes in the process. The insane grin that was splitting her face wouldn't leave her, though.

"How did you know what I was going to do, anyway?" I asked, truly confused.

"I heard the doorbell ring," she said, shrugging. "Since you basically do this every year, I assumed that it was you, coming to uphold the tradition."

"Huh. So you decided to void my plans."

She shrugged one shoulder again. "Yeah." Turning around, she began rummaging in her closet, only to emerge seconds later with a pair of brown flat shoes. "So, how's it going on the warfront?" She leaned on the wall, in order to tie the laces. "Are you still fighting with Seth?"

I almost shivered because of her accurate guess as to what was on my mind. Then again, I'd been spending a lot of time thinking about the newcomer. "Not really."

"You sure?" She glanced up at me, before turning to look for her backpack. "Something's bothering you. Your eyes have gone all dark." Once she'd pulled her backpack out from under her desk, she sat down next to me on her bed.

"It's nothing. He's just creeping me out."

"How do you mean 'creeping'?" She settled more comfortably on her bed, turning to face me.

Sighing, I thought of what I should tell her. "Well, let's just say that he's being absurdly friendly. Oh, and Jackie is starting to hate me, because she's crushing on him," I added as an afterthought.

"Ouch," Cassie said sympathetically. "That must suck."

"You can't imagine," was my grunted reply.

In my peripheral vision, I saw her examining my features carefully. Since I wasn't in the mood to have her analyzing me all morning, I schooled my face into a blank expression. "So, what gives? Why's he being friendly, suddenly? Last thing I remember, you two were on lethally bad terms."

I considered telling her about the bet, I really did. But I could just imagine her reply. She would lecture me about how childish I was being, etc. I wasn't in the mood for one of her anti-pep talks. So, I lied. "I don't know. I think he's just going for another tactic. Maybe he wants to freak me to death now." It was just a little white lie, anyway.

Pressing her lips tightly together, Cassie merely shook her head. Then she got up. "Let's go. It can't hurt to come slightly earlier, can it now?"

Mocking her by shaking my own head, I followed her lead. Surprisingly, during the long trek out of the house – Cassies' place was fairly large – we didn't meet anybody. The drive to school passed in idle chat. We'd seen each other quite frequently in the past week, so there weren't many new topics at hand. It was the usual, just wondering if anything at all would be different at school.

Boy, was I in for a surprise.

Driving into the schools' parking lot, I was met with the usual sight. The various school cliques had already managed to form a tight net. It was like an animal farm – the sheep with the sheep, the chickens with the chickens, the cows with the… you get the

picture. And around them milled the few normal people that didn't think those groups were necessary. They were the farmers in this whole mess.

Getting out and locking my car behind me, I swung my backpack onto one shoulder. In front of me stood Oakgrove High in all its glory, peeling walls and stoners hiding in the shadows included.

It was lovely to be back.

Walking onto the school premises, I was met with the same reactions from the freshmen as usual. Most pretended to be ignoring me, but I could still see them glancing stealthily my way. The rest openly stared at me, some even pointing at my head. The standard, really. In a couple of days, most of them wouldn't look twice my way, they'd get used to my strange hair color.

Although, there were some select few that never truly got over it. Denise Moor was one of them. In my sophomore year, when she'd still been a freshman, she'd decided that she 'liked' me. Of course, a great part of that decision was influenced by her love for freaks in any shape and form.

Since that faithful day, I hadn't been able to get rid of her. I only hoped that I'd get lucky like last year. My schedule had been drastically different from hers. It had been a blessing not to have to see her most of the time.

Speaking of the devil. "Angie, it's great to have you back!" Denise shouted into my ear, pulling me into a tight hug from behind. Cassie, being the great friend she was, smiled one last time at me, then walked on into the school.

"Hey, Denise," I said tiredly, pulling her arms off of me. As I turned around, I was met by one of the most innocent looking people I knew. Too bad that she was such a nuisance.

"How has your vacation been?" she immediately jumped at her chance to ambush me. "Did you do anything exciting? Travel somewhere? Meet new people?" The list of questions she fired went on without any reprieve in sight.

Looking longingly towards the school, I tried shaking the girl off one last time. "Listen Denise, I know we've got a lot of catching up to do, but I'm supposed to kind of meet someone. So… could we move this to a later date?" She looked disappointed by my excuse, but I quickly used my proven tactic. Issuing a quick 'thanks', I slipped away.

Only to be ambushed again.

"What?" I asked in frustration at the hand gripping onto my arm. Normally, I wasn't such a popular person, but today must have been my special day. Turning towards the perpetrator – notice a pattern here? – I was met by the sight of one bastard.

Zachary Thatcher.

He looked disconcerted by my outburst, but he managed to hide it quickly. "Sorry if I caught you at a bad time. But," he seemed to be unsure as to what to say next.

"But…?" I urged him on, moving my head empathetically. I wasn't in the mood to talk to him.

"We've got to talk."

Looking at him in surprise, I managed to conjure my most acerbic voice instinctively. "What, are you going to dump me now?"

There was a ticked off look in his grey eyes. "No. Actually, I wanted to say sorry about my behavior last time we saw each other. It was… rude and immature. So, sorry."

I felt my eyebrows fly up, as I stared at him in disbelieve. He was really, truly, apologizing to me. Alright, it was a couple of months late, but he had apologized. How often did that happen?

"It's alright," I said weakly, since he seemed to be waiting for something. He nodded his head, relief visible in his eyes. Then, smiling at me, he walked off, waving once as he turned a corner.

Well, that had been a verified shocker.

Praying to any higher beings that might be listening to me, I fervently begged them to guide me safely to my locker. Any deity would do, I wasn't that picky. As long as there were no more encounters of the third kind.

Miraculously, I was spared of any more surprises. The shitstorm seemed to have ceased fire for the day. Homeroom was also lucky. I was in it with Felix. She seemed to have been in a grumpy mood, bitching even at me. I assumed that she hadn't had her coffee yet. She was a junky when it came to that particular liquid.

The next couple of periods also passed rather peacefully. Second period I had World History with Evans and Adrian. Luckily, neither were sitting anywhere in my vicinity. Adrian annoyed me with his constant joking, and Evans was plain annoying. Third period was Math with Jamie, Cassie and Felix. Felix ended up sitting beside me, but she was still acting all bitchy, so I mostly ignored her.

Lunch passed in a blur. True, Evans, Jackie and Cassie shared it with me, but it was peaceful. Let's just say that Cassie was a born mediator. Evans was an assassin. He'd managed to fraud me into letting him pay for my lunch. There'd been some excuse or other of 'friends sharing'. All bull, if you asked me. Jackie had fumed, of course.

The look that I'd caught in Evans' eyes had proven my theory, though. There had been anticipation in it. He was probably hoping that Jackies' anger would lead to my downfall. But it wouldn't be that easy.

Fourth period, Language Arts, was the most relaxing, by far. I was thankfully alone, nobody was grating on my nerves, and it was very comforting. Fifth period was shit. Science with Evans and Felix. He was decidedly in too many of my classes. Maybe I could somehow get the administration to fix the problem. But then again, they could also make it worse. And they always wanted a valid reason.

The fact that Felix's bitchiness hadn't worn off was also aggravating. At least she was still normal around Evans, if not somewhat flirty. Wasn't she supposed to be one of my best friends?

By the time sixth period rolled on, Geography, I was ready to sing hallelujah. Finally, torture was about to end. Jamie, Lance and Tyler combined couldn't get me off of my high.

Once the bell rang, that divine invention, I hightailed it to my locker. I wanted out, and I wanted it now. Screaming when I felt somebody put their hand on my shoulder was, thus, a more than warranted reaction.

"What the fuck now!" I shrieked, causing a couple of freshmen and sophomores to look at me with fear. The juniors and seniors were already more than used to my antics.

Smiling, Evans merely shrugged. "You forgot your book. I thought that you might miss it." True to his words, he was holding a copy of the science book in his hands. Checking my own belongings, I realized that mine was missing.

"Thanks," I said, blushing in embarrassment. He'd held onto my book since fifth period, and here I was, screaming at him.

He must have seen how red my face had become, but he chivalrously ignored it. Nodding in acknowledgement, he walked past me, brushing my shoulder in the process. Stunned, I kept on looking at the book, until I felt somebody's presence close by.

In front of me stood Felix, a decidedly unpleasant grin on her face. "Great work, like that you'll make lots of friends." Turning around, she walked away. With furrowed eyebrows, I watched her. What was she on about?

Sighing, I slammed my locker shut, then hurried out to the parking lot. Cassie was already leaning against my car, a pensive look on her face. Once she'd heard me approach, she looked up.

"You wouldn't believe how strange my day has been," she said, voicing my exact thoughts.

"Trust me, I'd believe just about anything now."

"I take it your day hasn't been any better?"

I looked at her stoically over the car top. "No."

"And… I think you might find this strange… but Felix. She's acting like an ice queen. Well, except for towards Seth. I'm starting to get the feeling that she likes him."

"Oh," I said, assured that my shock was showing on my face. Now that explained a lot.

A loud hoop caused me to jump. There, driving out of the parking lot, was a laughing Kyle. It was the same Kyle that had broken Zach's nose last year.

"What's up, bitch?" He threw his customary greeting at me, before driving off.

I laughed. At least one thing hadn't changed.

AN: First off, sorry for not updating in such a long time. It's just that life has caught up to me, what with college applications, and everything else. Thus, I won't be able to update that soon after this again.

Thank you to all the awesome people who took the time to review. It means a lot to me.

Now, onto the important news. This chapter is the last of this draft. I've found an amazing beta, and she's helping me work out all the flaws I have. Since I value her opinion, I've decided to scrap this and rewrite it all. This chapter has been fo a week on my PC, and I put it up as a way to say sorry to anybody who was actively reading this story.

Thus, this is officially on hiatus. Once I've written the new chapters - and I'll try my best to do it quickly, since the will and the plot, etc, are there - I will update this again regularly. Until then, these chapters will remain posted. Once again, sorry to anybody who enjoyed this story. But, in order to grow as an author, this is absolutely necessary.