As soon as she left her second period class, Adore flattened herself against the lockers beside her, waiting for the crowd to thin out a bit. The bustle of the hallways was always the worst on the first day of class, and Adore didn’t think it would be fun to struggle through alone.
Apprehensive, Adore peered down at the already wrinkled schedule clutched in her hand. She already knew her class for this period - Chemistry, with the Ms. Visage - but the room number had slipped her mind.
- Of course. The labs were all the way at the far end of the school, and they were gonna be a pain in the ass to get to on time. She’d had to listen to Raven bitching about it to her friends, loudly, the whole bus ride home last year.
Being late was a habit of Adore’s, but she couldn’t think of a reason to delay any longer. Sighing, Adore pushed back out into the crowd, trying to ignore the all-too-familiar feeling of isolation that grew stronger with every step.
A herd of chattering freshmen nearly knocked her over as she turned a corner, and she couldn’t help smiling wistfully. It had only been two years since she’d been one of them, but it felt like far longer. Ganja had been the loudest of all of them that first day, and Adore had felt invincible beside her.
Or, well, trailing behind her. But with Laganja, there wasn’t really another option. Adore had learned the hard way that you were either a step behind, or you were left by yourself in her dust.
After what felt like ages, Adore caught sight of the room number, and hurried towards it. The hallway wasn’t as crowded here, mostly because the classroom was practically in the north pole.
As the heavy door swung shut behind her, the noise of the hallway turned to murmurs, and the scratching of chalk on the board grew irritatingly louder, drawing Adore’s attention.
Ms. Visage’s hair was as big as a pomegranate in a bun on top of her head, her upper body framed by the chalkboard. Her lab coat was rolled up to her elbows, and paired with alarmingly high heels, creating a look that reminded Adore of a student-teacher porn intro. She grinned amusedly, half expecting the older woman to spin around and order her to change into more proper classroom attire right there in front of her.
Tearing her eyes away, Adore glanced around. The room was empty, and Adore wanted to kick herself for actually being early - as she’d learned, when you’re labelled the school dumbass, the only way to maintain any kind of coolness is to act like you don’t care about class. She headed towards a lab station at the back, trying to be quiet.
“Miss Delano,” Ms. Visage said sharply, not even bothering to turn around.
“Uh - yes?” Adore managed to stammer, almost tripping over her own feet in her surprise and confusion.
“Nobody sits until I’ve paired you up,” she continued. “Stand against the wall.”
“O-Okay,” Adore said, stumbling over to the wall. “Um, how did you…”
“If you’re going to ask me a question, I need a full sentence,” Ms. Visage said more slowly.
“It wasn’t anything,” Adore said, trying to backtrack.
Adore swallowed. The door swung open again, and Adore sighed, relieved. A few more students filtered into the room, each looking around nervously before standing near Adore.
Pulling out her phone, Adore opened her email, looking for the list of students in the class to pass the time. She recognized most of people on the list, her eye catching on Gia Gunn and Vivienne Pinay’s names. She sighed. The two were inseparable with Laganja ever since she’d joined the dance team last year, and they were nearly intolerable as a trio.
Courtney Act, at the top of the list, made Adore nervous. Courtney rarely scheduled her classes without…Adore scanned the list, and groaned. Sure enough, there she was - Bianca Del Rio. She and Courtney had been fast friends since last year, when Courtney’s family had moved to the states from Australia.
Adore sighed heavily. The last person she wanted as a potential partner - Bianca - was one step closer to sharing her lab station all semester.
“Fuck,” Adore muttered.
“Profanity,” Ms. Visage snapped instantly.
“Fuck,” Adore repeated, provoking a sigh from the teacher.
Bianca Del Rio was smart, but she was a cunt. Notoriously a cunt. Being involved in theater and getting straight As (something that she made sure everyone knew) could’ve put her at the bottom of the food chain, but her sharp, hateful tongue and her undeniable fashion sense made sure she wasn’t even close.
Everyone (except the Seniors) either idolized her or was scared of her. Obviously, Adore wasn’t scared, not really. She just absolutely hated the other girl’s arrogance.
Annoyed, Adore locked her phone and slid it back into her pocket. She crossed her arms, and glanced back at the door just in time to see it open again.
A smaller girl entered the room, her long black hair obscuring her face. Adore frowned, not recognizing her. The girl glanced around, and as her eyes met Adore’s, Adore almost gasped.
“Ben?” Adore exclaimed, forgetting to be quiet momentarily in her shock. She wasn’t surprised she hadn’t recognized her friend - the formerly chubby boy she’d sat next to in geometry was now small, slender and wearing surprisingly pretty makeup, a wig, and a green dress.
“Adore!” Ben exclaimed in a higher voice than Adore had ever heard him - her? - use before, hurrying over to stand beside her. “I didn’t know you had Ms. Visage too!”
“Yeah, I do,” Adore replied, lowering her voice to a murmur at the mention of the teacher. “What - I mean, you look good, girl, but what…”
“I finally got the nerve to start presenting female this summer,” Ben half whispered, biting her lip. “I’m - I’m trans, Adore. I’ve known for awhile -”
“Girl, that’s fucking cool! Should I call you something else?” Adore interrupted, grinning. Ben had always seemed uncomfortable in her skin before. “Female pronouns? Do you need to borrow any clothes or makeup or shit -”
“Female pronouns, and I’m okay for clothes,” Ben replied with a smile. “And I go by Dela, for now.”
“I love it,” Adore giggled. She stuck her hand out. “Nice to meet you, Dela!”
Watching the delighted smile spread across Dela’s face made Adore smile too. Dela took her hand, but instead of shaking it, she squeezed it excitedly and scooted closer to stand beside her. Adore couldn’t help but laugh. There was something about this new Ben that was just so infectiously bright and happy.
A sharp cackle from outside the classroom drew her attention away from her friend, and she glanced back at the door.
“Shut up, I did not!” exclaimed a different voice, one Adore recognized instantly as Courtney’s from the Australian accent.
“That’s what you say now . Baloney, bitch!” the loud and raspy response was just as distinctive, and Adore sighed heavily.
“Oh, gosh, is Bianca in this class?” Dela murmured in Adore’s ear.
“I know, it sucks ass.”
Courtney and Bianca looked just like they always did, half leaning against each other, a stunning grin on Courtney’s flawless face and a mischievous smirk on Bianca’s.
The two positioned themselves nearby, Courtney checking her lip gloss in her phone camera and Bianca leaning casually against one of the lab stations.
“Why does she have her fucking sunglasses on her head?” Adore muttered to nobody in particular. “We’re inside. ”
“For the aesthetic, I guess,” Dela shrugged.
“And the jacket - really? It’s like, hot in here.”
“She looks pretty, though.”
There was a pause, as Adore looked Bianca up and down, unable to disagree.
“Stop being so nice all the time,” Adore said finally, rolling her eyes.
“Sorry.” Dela shrugged helplessly.
As Adore continued to watch them, annoyed, Courtney poked Bianca in the arm, pointing at one of the other girls in the room and whispering something in her ear. Bianca cackled, a wild grin on her face, one hand on her hip as she cocked her head and commented something in return that Adore couldn’t hear. Courtney squealed with laughter.
“If she annoys you so much, why are you still staring at her?” Dela asked, her tone soft but curious.
Adore opened her mouth to respond, then quickly closed it, and shrugged, looking away pointedly. She managed to listen to Gia and Vivienne bickering for a few moments, but then Bianca laughed again, and Adore couldn’t stop her gaze from snapping right back to her.
The other girl was playing with her dark brown hair, which was usually pulled back into a twist or a bun. Today, she had left it down, and it hung in tight curls around her shoulders, her acrylic nails tangling in the strands. As Courtney asked her a question, she pursed her perfect, matte red lips and shook her head, hair bouncing as she did.
“Adore!” Dela said loudly, elbowing her.
“Wha -” Adore jumped, and tore her gaze away from Bianca to see Gia and Vivienne standing in front of her, distasteful expressions on their faces. “What happened?”
“Bitch, where did you go?” Gia asked. “We asked you a question.”
“She’s in her own little world,” Vivienne replied in a low voice before Adore could. “You know what Ganja says about her. She probably wouldn’t have even understood -”
“You can ask again,” Dela interrupted, barely disguised annoyance in her tone. Adore frowned, wondering what Vivienne had meant about Laganja.
“We were wondering who you dudes wanted to be lab partners with,” Gia explained, and Vivienne snorted.
“I said I wanted to be partners with you, Adore,” Dela said earnestly.
“Yeah, I’m down!” Adore agreed with a smile. “Honestly, just as long as I’m not with Bianca, I’m down.”
“Why, you guys got a problem?” Vivienne asked.
“Who doesn’t have a problem with Bianca?” Gia snorted. “She’s a bitchy lesbo who thinks she’s all that. And let’s be real, honey, she’s not even some of that.”
“Mmmhm,” Vivienne hummed in agreement.
“Bianca’s gay?” Dela asked, echoing the question on Adore’s mind.
“She’s definitely gay for Courtney,” Gia snickered.
“I mean, duh,” Vivienne agreed.
“It’s a rumor, but it’s totally true,” Gia added. “I mean, look at them - total lesbians. Like, you can’t tell me they don’t have their sapphic ‘sleepovers’ with the doors locked.”
Adore looked back over at them. Bianca was pointing out something on her phone screen, as Courtney looked on from over her shoulder, her hand clutching Bianca’s bicep and their cheeks brushing together.
“Whatever, I don’t care about that,” Adore said, more loudly, shrugging. “I just think Bianca’s like, super bossy and I’d hate to have to work with her.”
“Don’t fear the girl, fear the devil inside the girl,” Dela remarked.
“Like, she’s just - competition, competition, competition, all the fucking time, like, bitch, everything isn’t a goddamn audition,” Adore continued, looking up and trying to find the right words.
“What’s this?” Courtney’s voice, far closer now, startled Adore out of her rant.
“Oh,” Dela squeaked, scooting closer to Adore as Bianca walked up beside Courtney.
“So what were you cunts saying about me?” Bianca demanded casually, her eyes darting over each of the girls in the group. After a moment of hesitation, Adore decided to face her head on. What did she have to lose?
“So, Gia asked me who I wanted to be partnered with,” Adore said, crossing her arms and meeting Bianca’s gaze. “And I said I was down with anyone, as long as it wasn’t you.”
“Oh, so you wouldn’t work with me,” Bianca clarified, raising an eyebrow.
“No, I wouldn’t. The vibes that I get from you are just, not cool, full on fierce competition all the time,” Adore said, shrugging. Bianca’s attitude was infuriating, and Adore felt like the dam was finally broken, and two years worth of annoyance were spilling out. “Like you always gotta be the best, and be on top of everything all the time, and, like, fuck being nice. I don’t need to be around that, bitch, I cut that out -”
“Well, isn’t that what we’re here for?” Bianca interrupted sharply. “Being the best? It’s academics, not fucking summer camp.”
There was silence for a moment, Dela vibrating nervously beside Adore and Gia and Vivienne watching the interaction as if it was the most engaging thing since Pretty Little Liars.
“I just feel like we both have really strong personalities, and our personalities would clash,” Adore said finally. “Like, if something went wrong in an experiment, you would sell me up the river.”
“Oh, well…I…” Bianca glanced over at Courtney, then back to Adore. Her eyelashes fluttered as she tilted her head, cocky as always. “What’s your name again?”
Gia and Vivienne gasped dramatically, and Dela’s hand tightened in Adore’s as she glanced up at her.
Adore pursed her lips, furious. Her free hand curling into a fist, she looked away, trying to come up with a snappy retort.
“Quiet!” Ms. Visage shouted suddenly, clapping her hands, and the moment was gone.
Bianca snickered and looped her arm through Courtney’s, a satisfied smirk on her face, before turning her attention to the front of the class.
Adore wanted to strangle her.
“As you already know, almost all of you were late,” Ms. Visage began, her tone sharp and clearly annoyed. “I’ll forgive it today, since it’s the first class. But those who still aren’t here, even though I’ve allowed ten extra minutes, will be marked late. And in the future, I won't be so forgiving about tardiness.”
There were discontented murmurs throughout the classroom, and Ms. Visage clapped again.
“Only one student was early - shockingly, it was Miss Delano,” Ms. Visage continued. Adore flinched, hearing Gia and Vivienne snicker beside her. “As a result, Miss Delano will be given first choice of a lab station for the rest of the semester. Miss Delano, you can sit at your chosen desk now.”
“Oh, shit!” Adore exclaimed in a loud whisper, the corner of her mouth turning up in a lopsided grin. She glanced around, and picked a station in the middle of the back row, slinging her bag over her shoulder and heading over.
“I’ll announce your lab partners now,” Ms. Visage said, with a stern look at Adore. “Miss Pinay and Miss Gunn. Mr. Firkus and Mr. McCook. You two, back row, with Miss Delano.”
The two assigned pairs shuffled to their stations, Vivienne and Gia whispering to each other under their breaths.
“Both Brians, at one table?” Adore could hear Gia comment.
“Too much gay to handle,” Vivienne replied, and the two giggled.
“Miss Chachki and Mr. Dam-Mikkelsen,” Ms. Visage continued. “Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Merrell. Miss Lake and Mr. Creme. You three, next row up.”
Adore flinched at what Ms. Visage had called Dela, and was about to raise her hand and correct her.
Before she could, Dela was raising her own hand, calling out the teacher’s name in a soft voice. Adore caught her breath. Dela - or Ben, as she’d been then - had never once said a word to a teacher in any of the classes Adore had shared with her.
“Can you - it’s Miss Creme, now,” Dela said, her voice shy as she looked down at the desk. “If you don’t mind, I mean -”
“Of course, I’m sorry,” Ms. Visage replied quickly. Her expression was still neutral, but Adore swore she could see a softness in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. Maybe Ms. Visage wasn’t entirely evil after all. “Miss Creme. Is there a different first name I should note?”
“Dela, please,” Dela replied, the sweet smile Adore had seen earlier lighting up her face again. Ms. Visage nodded and made a note on her attendance sheet, the corner of her mouth turning up slightly.
“Alright, let’s continue.”
Ms. Visage continued to read off names, until finally, almost all the students were seated - aside from Courtney, Bianca, and a quieter girl, Alaska, who Adore knew from the music studios.
Adore tugged her lower lip between her teeth, her fingernails tapping against the desk in her nervousness. She really, really, didn’t want Bianca as a lab partner, particularly not after straight up picking a fight with her just a few minutes before. Alaska seemed sweet, and even Courtney was nice enough without Bianca next to her.
Not Bianca, not Bianca, not Bianca, Adore chanted internally. She closed her eyes.
“Miss Act and Miss Thunder,” Ms. Visage said finally, and Adore’s heart dropped into her stomach. “Miss Del Rio, that leaves you with Miss Delano. You can join her in the back.”
Adore buried her face in her hands.
“I can also dye my hair blonde and let the roots come in so I look like I’ve got a headband made out of horseshit,” Bianca snarked. “But that doesn’t mean I want to, or that I’m going to.”
There was a few chuckles around the classroom. Adore peered out from between her fingers, almost impressed that Bianca was talking back to the notoriously strict Ms. Visage.
Despite the fact that she was doing it by blatantly insulting Adore’s hair.
“Hey, no backtalk,” Ms. Visage retorted. “Get to your seat.”
Adore lifted her head.
“No, it’s fine, you can keep her,” Adore called. “I wouldn’t wanna make her resting bitch face even bitchier by forcing her to her smell my horseshit headband.”
“Profanity,” Ms. Visage sighed. Adore could see Bianca’s lips twitch, almost as if she was trying not to laugh. “Del Rio, I won’t ask you again.”
Rolling her eyes, Bianca walked over to Adore’s station, curls bouncing around her face, heeled boots making a noisy statement on the tile floor.
“At least I’ve got a resting bitch face instead of a resting idiot face,” Bianca added as she hopped up on the stool next to Adore’s. Lifting her sunglasses from her head, she set them down carefully, red nails clicking against the desk. “Fucking ditzy cunt.”
“Shut up, theater nerd,” Adore rolled her eyes, the corner of her mouth turning up slightly.
“Fake punk bitch.”
“That’s enough,” Ms. Visage called, glaring at them. “I’ve got a class to teach.”
As Ms. Visage started to go over the syllabus, Adore glanced at Bianca sidelong. The other girl was looking down at her notebook, full lips still twitching with amusement. Her dimples were evident in her cheeks, and Adore couldn’t stop staring at them.
“Theater nerd? Really?” Bianca whispered, shaking her head slightly.
“‘Resting idiot face’?” Adore retorted in the same whisper. Bianca met her gaze, and shrugged, her eyes sparkling.
“It was funny.”
“It was next level lame,” Adore argued, half smiling.
“Not my best,” Bianca agreed. “You are an idiot, though. Probably gonna make me fail this fucking class.”
“Oh no, not a single smear on Bianca Del Rio’s 4.0 GPA!” Adore whispered dramatically. “She’ll never get into college now!”
“I’ll just take the lead,” Bianca muttered, rolling her eyes. “Nothing I haven’t done before.”
“Oh, so you’re that bitch,” Adore said. “Figures.”
“Someone’s gotta do it,” Bianca shrugged, grinning savagely as she glanced at Adore. “And I am the bitch, after all.”
Adore groaned quietly, dropping her head dramatically into her hands. She could hear Bianca chuckle next to her, and she groaned again, louder this time.
“C’mon, it won’t be that bad,” Bianca whispered. “I do bite, but you’ll get used to it. You must have thick skin. I mean, you walk around dressed like that every day.”
“Shut up, bitch.”
“Delano! Del Rio!” Ms. Visage called, interrupting her own lecture. “What did I say? No talking during class!”
Bianca stifled what was probably another one of her cackles, and Adore hid her smile in her hands. Even though Bianca was irritating and bitchy, she had balls. Annoying teachers was probably the only thing that kept Adore awake during classes, and she was pretty sure Bianca enjoyed it even more.
“You said I had a resting bitch face?” Bianca muttered. “Look at that cunt. I’d say she’s got a stick up her ass, but honestly, I think a dick is way more on point.”
Adore’s eyes widened in shock as she stifled a laugh, looking at Bianca to see her smirking at the front of the classroom. It was going to be an interesting semester.