The back of Amber Leigh's head was shiny and smooth, her fine, straight, naturally blonde hair smoothed back into the perfect

The back of Amber Leigh's head was shiny and smooth, her fine, straight, naturally blonde hair drawn back into the perfect ponytail. She used little clear elastics, so no one would know that she needed anything more than the grace of God to keep her style in place. Amber Leigh would be the first to tell you that she could wish perfect style on her hair.

To almost anyone else, looking at the back of Amber's head for an entire period wouldn't be such a bad thing. Some would even consider it an occasion of extreme good luck. To me, though, it was just one more reminder that there is indeed evil in this world, and that it often does walk among us.

Evil tossed its ugly head, and glared back at me. "Tess, get your feet off my chair."

Okay, now technically, my feet were not on her chair. They were resting in the stupid little superfluous basket underneath her chair, the place for unwanted books and the spoils of covert drug deals. And since Amber Leigh neither did drugs nor read books, I considered the basket fair game for my feet. Apparently, we had two very different ideas about that.

"They're not on your chair, Amber," I sang back, slouching even further down in my feet, cementing my spot.

"Yes, they are. I don't want your freaking gross feet anywhere near me, okay, freak show?"

"Man, Amber, that was like, poetry in motion. You wanna write that stuff down. Pure gold, baby, pure gold."

"I'm serious, get your damn feet off my damn chair!" She swatted at me with her perfectly manicured hands, trying to cause me enough pain so that I'd figure on cutting my losses and vacating her personal space. Her use of an almost-vulgarity was meant to indicate the strength of her emotions, because Amber Leigh never swore, but it just made me chuckle a little on the inside. And the outside.

"Don't laugh at me, you little tramp! This is so not funny, and I am so serious!"

"Ladies!" Mr. Wayne called from the whiteboard, "what is the problem?"

"I've asked Tess politely to take her feet off my chair, and she won't do it, sir," Amber stuck her bottom lip out in a pout that made half the guys in the room swoon. Mr. Wayne seemed unmoved, for which I gave him a gold star, but he turned to me anyway. "Tess, is that true?"

"Nope." I stayed where I was, my arms folded casually across my chest, my feet in her basket, a smile on my face.

"Yes it is!"

"Well, it's true that my feet are in her basket thing, and she did tell me to take them out, but she never asked me politely. That was a huge lie, and frankly, I'm a little worried for her if she's going to make stuff up about something a simple as this, when all she needed to do was ask nicely just once." There was a general silence in the class, with about ninety-nine percent of the student body present looking at me with disgust. I'm not exactly a favorite. Roy Chun, in the front corner, was even shaking his head. But hey, I wasn't particularly worried about what Roy Chun thought since Roy Chun also thought that the only responsible way to raise children was to send them anonymously to centers to be raised by government officials.

Amber sighed, and the back of her head told me she had rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "Could you please remove your feet from my chair, Tess?"

"Gladly!" I chirped, sending my feet crashing to the floor and sitting up straight and leaning a little forward on my elbows, as if I was really interested in the lecture. Mr. Wayne sent me a warning look before turning back to the whiteboard and his explanation of SOHCAHTOA, which was taking awhile for others to get.

Amber took advantage of my new position to lean back at me, fix me with one of her two perfectly made-up devil eyes, and whisper, "You'd better watch it, trailer-park. Next time you won't be so lucky."

Like I said. Pure evil.

To call Amber Leigh a bitch-ass ho would be generous in sentiment but faulty in facts. Bitch-ass she may be, but "ho" she is not, and she makes sure everyone knows it. Amber is of the persuasion that if she has decided to remain a virgin until marriage, then everyone needs to both hear about it constantly and be converted to her way of thinking. Not that I have anything wrong with virginity as an institution—I think it's cool and can be a lot less confusing—but I don't need to hear exactly how virginal she is compared to everyone else in the school who is, and I quote, "wallowing in sin." Amber is that particular brand of convert who lets no one who disagrees with her get by without a sermon, which then tends to make everyone less than receptive about the highpoints of her new religion. The problem is, she is also one of the most adored and feared students at our school, being both a "hottie," and therefore a challenge the of stuff teenage boys imagine in their wet dreams, and exceptionally wealthy. Her father owns half of the town, that is to say my half of the town, in which there are no multi-million dollar properties for motivated families in a booming area.

In other words, Amber Leigh could buy and sell me and almost everyone I know. But while some people let that get them down, I feel it to be my duty as a citizen and a patriot to bring the tyrant down in any small way I can.

And it's a whole lot easier than it sounds. Sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it, like today with the chair thing. It didn't even cross my mind that she had such an excellent posterior sixth sense that she could just know when my feet were invading the three feet of personal space our gym teacher insists we each need. Other times, though, it is deliberate, and I take great pride in the art I have been perfecting since the sixth grade, when she called Maya Stern fat in front of our entire gym class, and I'd exacted revenge. Maya Stern was now a member of Amber's circle of friends, and I ended up with scratches across my face.

Justice is undying.

But that's really how it goes here. Belmont High, the only high school in the Four Points region, is none too fond of me, nor I of them. And I'm talking about all of them—the students (all four hundred and seventeen), and the faculty, who call my acts "shenanigans" and "antics" and hint frequently that I'd be better off letting go of my dream for college, because it simply isn't in the cards for some people.

When I told you I wasn't very well loved, that was a huge understatement. Possibly the biggest one in about a century. With the exception of Mr. Wayne, who doesn't care about much anyway, and maybe Mrs. Slothan, the school secretary, I am about as valued as a Kmart sweater is in Amber Leigh's closet. Add to that the fact that I'm in the highest levels of every class I'm taking, and work extra hard to maintain an almost perfect GPA, and they can't stop resenting me for taking away their sport.

You may tell me to disappear, to just keep my head down and get my work done—get a recommendation and get the hell out of there. Stop antagonizing Amber and her stupid friends.

But really, where's the fun in that?

"Hey slutface!" It was after class and I was fiddling with my locker, trying to get the damn thing open. Our school had yet to replace the old, tall, and helplessly skinny lockers from the 80's, and mine was a particular brand of bad, when the call caught my attention. It doesn't take a genius to figure who they were talking to.

I didn't look up as Steve Weltz slammed his considerable body against the lockers to the right of mine, grinning from ear to ear like he'd just come up with the greatest joke ever told. I should have told him "slutface" wasn't particularly new, but why crush the poor boy's dreams? He has so little else going for him.

"Hey I'm talking to you, bitch," many things could be said about Steve, but chivalrous would not be one of them.

"Hey, I heard you," I said, keeping my voice chipper and my smile bright and casual, but still focusing most of my attention on my lock. "So glad you remembered your little pet name for me. It makes everything that happens between us so much more special when you use it." I sent a blinding smile his way, then turned to pound my fist against the top leftmost corner of my locker, then rap it twice about halfway down. The door sprang open and I grabbed my Bio book, replacing it with Pre-Calc. I didn't have to look up to see that Steve's friends had all joined him around my locker—I could smell Matt Larkin's particular brand of pong about a mile away.

"Dude, what the fuck ever, man. You know I'd never hit that," there was chuckling from some of the guys, and Steve went on, "that's like, just dirty. You probably're still half full from all the other guys you've fucked in like the last ten minutes." This was followed by guffaws and high-fives all around. I smiled at him again, this time turning all the way toward him. "Don't tell me you're jealous just because you were eleven minutes ago, baby. You know how much you mean to me. And just because I apparently have more STDs than a Vietnamese brothel circa 1965 doesn't mean I don't care for you, my huggy wuggy bear." I gave him a little bop on the nose with my finger tip and broke through the circle, letting the guys think they'd won. I could hear the high-fiving down the hall.

Perhaps I should clarify, because it's easy to get a misconception about me. A lot of people say a lot of things about me and to me, and not much of it's true. The basic essentials of what you might hear in an average day in Belmont High are: that my deadbeat parents abandoned my sister and me when I was twelve; that my sister has three kids out of wedlock to three different johns and is losing all of her teeth; that I screw around unabashedly; that I'm sleeping my way to good grades; that I'm actually a crack whore like my crack whore sister; that I'm a lesbian crack whore like my lesbian crack whore sister and we perform lesbian crack whore acts on each other for money provided by people who enjoy watching incestuous lesbian crack whore acts; and that, quite simply, I am not worth the tax payers' dollars anyway.

So here's what is true: My father and mother left when I was twelve, and now I live in a trailer park with my older sister who has two kids out of wedlock to different men. My sister, also, is working on her college degree online, and wants to be in publishing, and is starting to turn her life around. And I do not screw around indiscriminately, although up until this moment, my taste has been far from that level of quality we generally entitle "good". But as I've been single and fine for about a year now, I'd like to think I'm over that stage of the game.

So now you know me. My name is Tess Oldowsky. I live in a trailer, I have almost one friend at school, and to the rest I am pariah, scapegoat, and laughing stock.

But to be honest, in a town like this, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Dot was my friend that day, sitting with me at lunch. Dot generally does her own thing, and sometimes I fit into that picture, and sometimes I don't. I don't mind it when I don't, because Dot really isn't someone I can handle all the time anyway, but she is good for a good rant every now and then, and she also hears everything. She rocks the side pony almost every single day, and has a liberal hand with electric purple eye shadow and an affinity for enormous T-shirts cut with scissors and decorated with stencils of Mao Zedong's face or Zsa Zsa Gabor's name. She started most of her sentences with "well." On this particular day, she was examining her milk carton with a sense of dissatisfaction and fiddling with the hem of her ridiculous Cosby sweater.

"Well, Amber Leigh's had a stick up her ass all day," she announced by way of greeting.

"What a departure from every other day," I deadpanned, looking at Dot curiously. Whenever Dot had a story for me, she never said it straight out, but walked around it for a bit just to see if I'd lose my patience with her.

"Yeah, well, she's been snapping at everyone. And I mean everyone," Dot said significantly, making my wonder about Amber's ongoing and slightly pathetic flirtation with Michael Branton, the captain of the football team. If Dot, who had alerted me to that development as well, was hinting that Amber had been less than charming to the object of her affections, then something big must be happening.

I continued to eat my sandwich in barely-interested silence, waiting for her to continue. Maybe that was why Dot didn't hang around me all the time: she wanted me to hang on her every word and I wouldn't do it. It wasn't really my style anyway. She got tired of the silence soon enough and said, "Well, word has it that she's not happy for a really big reason. Like, a town-changing reason."

"So the plans for the new Town Hall aren't to her liking?"

"Well," she said, throwing me a dirty look, "it seems there's going to be a new addition to the Leigh family. A couple, actually."

"She's giving birth to twins?"

"Tess. No," she looked at me, staring guilelessly into her purple-painted eyes, and broke down. "Word is her father's getting remarried. Well, there's a step-son, too. And Amber is not happy about it."

"It's about time someone taught her how to share," I said, returning my full attention back to my sandwich. "A little brother might soothe the hell fire and fill the bottomless pit of lost souls where her heart should be."

"Well, that's the thing," Dot was smirking now, as she always did when I missed an important detail. It didn't happen often, so I gave Dot the much-needed win without qualm. "The step-brother isn't a little brother. He's almost exactly the same age as her. So she's going to have to share the school with him, too. Can you imagine?"

I couldn't, really, though I imagined her face when it was twisted up into my favorite expression halfway between confusion and anger, with just a dash of self-righteousness. To be honest, Dot was way more interested in this little tidbit than I was. Of course, if it bothered Amber, then it was welcome news to me, but I wasn't really interested in getting myself wrapped up in Belmont's interpersonal dramas. And chances were that this new Leigh family member would be every bit as self-important and insufferable as his step-sister.

I stole a look at Amber across the cafeteria, who did indeed look like she'd swallowed a porcupine and was eating her celery stalks with a furious intensity that indicated she was training for it Olympically.

Watching her stew was too much fun, and I let out a chuckle, which seemed to satisfy Dot's need for response. And I kept laughing, because it was so rarely that I did not have a direct part in Amber's ire, and it was a beautiful thing to behold.

Whoever the mysterious step-brother was, and no matter how much of a useless little ponce he turned out to be, he was at least responsible for this little moment of fun.

I let out one more guffaw, turning my face and all my attention on Dot for the first time all lunch. "Oh, this is just too good," I laughed, taking a big bite of sandwich, reveling in the feeling a little more than was absolutely necessary.

This was going to be very interesting.

A/N: So yeah, I'm back. And I should be updating Pen's story soon. This is my attempt at a more cliché romance story, which I always have fun reading, so please let me know what you think! Thank you, and reviews are always appreciated.