Chapter 1: NC's Club
It was just as cold as the day before, but sharper in comparison to the Christmas holidays, which offered a gentlier breeze and a soothing aura. In that moment, they might've as well be cracking the air particles open with shovels. People's noses were pink and icy and matched with their blank faces, while they covered their necks and hair with thick clothes. Teeth clattered and hands brushed against the other in an attempt to keep their body temperature to themselves, in times where Eden Park seemed to be unbearable to handle, especially in such frosty dates. In between all of this silent mimicking, stood the NC club, all gathered around Kate's old purple inspection notebook laying next to a lighter, at the centre of the dull-looking mint table. The cafeteria was deliberately packed that day, probably more than ever.
"You could've just buried it next to the old Cloverdale pool, you know." Leo mumbled.
"Hush." Kate concentrated on her notebook, dead serious. "I want to do this the right way."
"Burying a stack of papers in the school's backyard, hoping for the best?" Essie snorted.
"Babe." Felix frowned. "Don't."
"Guys, I gotta put my intentions to this action. It needs to have a meaning, and I can't in between all of your bickering." She added.
"Sorry, baby." Essie added. Kate chuckled, reassuring her.
The notebook had been the first cause that had joined Leo and Kate together, yet helped the last one tell her parents about her troubled situation. It had came in handy for her, at the worst of times, but also the main reason people were going to measure 'six and a half' length with their fingers for the rest of her remaining time there. And it wasn't okay. She couldn't just put up with it and keep rummaging through its pages like nothing had ever happened, like she never had been called 'Freak Show' before, or that Zachary Olsen never had frowned to the recital of the contents of the book. It was something Kate wanted to put in the past, and she wanted to do it right. It was going to be okay.
"Don't you want to, like, write something? The last chapter?" Leo prompted.
"About what? What a hopeless loser I've been throughout my last fourteen years?" Kate asked, crossing her fingers.
"I think he was rather thinking about a love letter to yourself." Essie intruded calmly.
"A letter praising myself for being so unlucky and feeling pitiful for not having what I want. Great." She rolled her eyes.
"Hun, you're hurting our name." Felix whispered.
"Sorry about it. I just don't think writing down my feelings in this situation could really help, pretending to be happy about being "trans" when people are measuring the air the whole fucking time." Kate almost spit.
Leo's face looked somewhat hurt, so he lowered his head down.
"Haters are gonna hate. What's that to do with you?" Leo mumbled.
"What is, is that I'm stuck with "David's Freak Show starring his very own Circus" for ever.
"It's going to die down. Eventually." Essie tried to say. Leo stood silent.
"It's not. Guys, I thank you very much, but it's not." Kate whispered. Leo crossed glances with her, for a moment, during which they both shared the same light in their eyes. For a moment, she could picture them both holding hands back in Tripton, laughing and having fun like they weren't about to witness James Denton disowning his own son.
That sense of understanding Kate had lacked so much for the past years.
She then looked away, fixing her stare back towards the notebook. Leo, on the other hand, continued to watch her behavior in silence, taking his own time to break visual contact while biting his nails. Essie watched this with a worried expression.
A few tables away, Harry Beaumont was swinging his hand around look-who-we-got-here, Lexi Taylor in her usual designer clothes, loop earrings and a LV bag. His typical stare, smug and proud, was being fed by the satisfied expressions of his friends around him, telling them jokes about members of the opposite teams in their football matches. In their busy world, Essie hoped that Kate and Leo's issue was just a knotch in their belt and not a major gossip subject to be easily hating on. Her friends already had enough with putting up with therapy sessions and secondary effects of the hormones, yet having to put up with stupid names and public humiliation...
She couldn't bear it. The world was too unfair, drawing a line between cis and non-binary teens in a place where having money and contacts was everything to them. No wonder why Kate had been so depressed over the fact that she felt un-fuckable beside Zachary Fuckboy Mutt-sen. She was struggling with being different and original besides black and white themed people. Why couldn't she see that she was so special? Why couldn't Leo, for instance, see it? In Essie's opinion, Leo had been wasting too much time on that strawberry girl named Alicia while Kate was obviously thinking about him. But it was a topic off-limits to her, anyway.
"Nevermind, guys. I'll just throw it in the bin." Kate concluded, standing up and tossing the lighter over to Leo, who caught the little object in the air. She pulled a grimace and grabbed both her backpack and notebook before walking towards the exit, tossing the purple book in the trash as she avoided the smug year-ten kids that mocked towards her direction in disgust.
The whole time, Leo watched her move with a determined look. Felix exchanged looks with Essie, just as worried.
Their time was running out.
Chapter 2: New Outsiders in Town
Leo tries to make things easier for Kate when she griefs her non-existent period, while Livvy keeps growing into a happy and mature girl teenager. Essie gets to talk to Harriet, the new transferred girl in class who seems a nice candidate for the NC Club. A little LGBTIQA+ protest march causes commotion in front of the school, leaded by none other than the new boy in town, one of Harriet's closest friends, who's about to join the Eden Park gang.
"I'm so darnit tired of having annoying kids clowning in front of my school!" Mr Toolan shrieked in anger, throwing the stack of papers on top of his desk, exhaling with frustration. In the meanwhile, the guidance counselor pulled the curtains furtherly apart, observing the chaotic situation developing outside Eden Park's doors. A little but fierceful crowd marched its way across the street in between powerful shouts and chantings, holding up signs with different LGBT-friendly comments, scribbled down with colour markers and sprinkled with different glitter variety. What most caught the public eye, though, was the huge LGBT flag swimming across the street, held up by the many hands fighting for their rights. A figure with a pink megaphone was screaming different slapbacks into it, yelling "no more!" at the end of each sentence.
In the meanwhile, the upper and lower buildings of Eden Park School tried to continue their normal schedule as if nothing was happening, as if "a completely legal and rightful march", as the parade had defended themselves, wasn't disturbing their irrevocable and regular peace at all; voices from teachers echoing in the air as they reviewed the contents of their textbooks and shushed rebellious students.
"Mr Toolan, but they signed legally in the Town Hall. They aren't breaking any formal rules." The guidance counselor informed.
"They are, they're breaking mine. And my rules say no one makes disturbing parades on my street. No distracting my students and less in hands of these chaotic parrots!" He continued blurting in a burst of rage.
The woman widened her eyes, incredulously, and lowered her gaze towards the floor. Seconds after that, she bent as a sign of respect and left the room, leaving the head of the school to steam off alone.
"Hey! Call the head of department, don't you just walk out of the room in a confusion outburst!" Mr Toolan shrieked in his heavy voice. But the woman just closed the door behind her, unable to grant his last wish.
Mr Toolan observed the march from the secureness of his office, crossing his arms firmly over his chest. "Might as well call the head of department on my own. Also, I may have to have a little chat with this new student of mine, Oliver, don't I?" He mumbled mostly to himself.
Because if there was something he didn't like before witnessing physical violence in between his students, was other people touching his things.
"Or should I let my cousin, charming Harry Beaumont, to take the justice into his own hands?" He smirked. "It is well known to me that any misfits scamper off alone when they are bullied, running away to other schools and leave my clean record alone. Nature itself eliminates any weak particles, huh?"
Essie twirled the black pen between her fingers with the movement of her wrist, while she quietly observed the differing cloud shapes up in the sky. Beside her, sat a concentrated Felix who managed to copy down and squeeze different notes into the blank page in front of him. Mr Steele's explanation of the standard mathematics was nothing but agonizingly dense and Essie couldn't put up with that situation, letting her boyfriend copy down stuff for her instead.
She tried to fish out "World Domination" written by a spanish army general, out of her backpack. It basically broke down the social and economical crisis down to messed up coalitions between the world powers. Mr Steele seemed busy explaining the hard logic of the mathematics to an overall dumb class of students, which wanted nothing to do with the subject and would rather make a fool out of themselves in the drama club. After looking to either sides of her body, upfront, and making sure that her boyfriend got her covered, she opened the first page of the book and slowly drifted away.
After a couple of minutes reading about modern viruses and believing that the latest coronavirus outbreak had been nothing but a biological weapon, a girl nudged the back of someone's neck with her fingers, causing the person concerned to snap back at her with an annoyed expression, and therefore receiving Mr Steele's icy cold "shush". Harry Beaumont bent forward, tidying up his Levi's jumper before resuming listening to the teacher's explanation like nothing had happened. The girl, instead, looked down worried, towards her desk. She rummaged through her empty pencil case in search for something, but failed. She exhaled heavily.
"Harriet, will you concentrate, please." The math teacher mumbled loudly. "Stop fiddling around. Harry, same."
"Harry's Pet." A nasty voice bickered. A couple giggles formed in the back of the class.
Suddenly the girl slapped the desk with both of her palms right before standing up, an angry expression plastered across her face.
"I am no one's pet here. Nor will I. Do you think I care about this cig's life right beside me? I bet he can't even sum properly. Yet earn my respect." She barked nastily.
"Harriet, what on bloody hell is going on with you? I said enough!" He yelled a bit more loudly, pressing the chalk firmly against the other three before turning around with a hard face. "What's with your attitude?"
"This mutt right here was attempting against my feminine condition assuming I'm this type of pet of his own. Breaking down my precious existence to some type of conventional slavery which only describes what a piece of male chauvinist he really is. Or tries to prove." She blurted it all out, full of rage, but firm at the same time. Essie gawked in her direction, her eyes widening and shining with delight. Harriet was, indeed, standing up for her rights alone. She didn't mind that mostly the whole class was against her, but stood up against it indeed. Her bleachy blonde hair, styled in perfect curly waves, fell like a cascade to both of her sides, from the plaid-pattern hairband that kept her forehead exposed. Her clothes weren't the most expensive, but made up for her harmless appearance in an elegant way. She wore a green plaid skirt, along with a blank white shirt, and a sea blue tie. Her plaid-pattern jacket was only the tip of her refined sophistication. Her aqua-green eyes gave her the real charms, grasping anyone's attention. Or killing them, with kindness.
In other words, she was stunning.
Mr Steele seemed to have had enough or given up, because he exhaled nervously and looked to both his sides while Harry Beaumont and his fellow compatriots murmured annoyedly. Harriet didn't even blink, her face full of determination as she stared towards the front. Harry looked towards her with a mixture of curiosity and hate, not quite sure what to feel towards the new student. She had put him down, this time without any fists, queen-like. The most they could do to her was give her a week of detention, or less. Harry scanned her in a weird feeling of awe.
Felix just looked into Essie's happy eyes, gesturing with his own in Harriet's direction. If he was thinking the same that Essie was, he was going to cry of happiness. Maybe Kate would be. She bit her lip discerningly. Both looked into each other's eyes before witnessing how Mr Steele walked towards them both, grabbing their arms, Harriet's and the one who had pronounced that stupid name and dragging them both out of the room.
The moment they walked out and slammed the door behind them, people started talking and mimicking, a collective murmur filling the room. Essie and Felix, instead, looked at each other in the eyes.
"Harriet was pretty amazing there." Felix made an impressed-like grimace.
"Tell me about it. Couldn't take my eyes off her for one second." She told him, glitter filling her eyes. And thoughts filling her head.
"No girl could've come up with a better slapback than that one. I'm actually, genuinely, proud." He added.
"She was amazeballs. I dunno if I'd have the courage to stand up to all those losers. You know, too much work, isn't it?" She bit her nail. "There is so much work to do in this messed up place. I realize now."
"Essie wants to govern the free world now? Since when do you want to take upon Eden Park? Wasn't Cloverdale Pool enough?"
"It's bulldozen already; New Year was its last goodbye. Leo told me and Kate in the Alternative Ball." She beamed. "Besides, why keep playing the same card when you can use new ones?"
"Essie, what are you planning?" He asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Does the NC Club contract say anything about not accepting new recruits?" She asked, positive emotion coming out from every corner of her body.
"Oh, no, you didn't." Felix half-smiled.
"Like I said, anyone who has an official screw loose is more than welcome at our table." She grinned stupidly wide.
Leo was scribbling different geometric shapes on the side of his notebook, drowned in boredom as the light that filtered through the curtains kept him warm from the icy cold. For a rather freezing day, having the perk of being the only one receiving a little sunlight made him feel a slight bit better, and of course, safe from the little selfish demons of his classmates.
Nothing had improved that much, except the fact that the names had died down a bit. The hallways always carried a soft but stabbing "Megan", and Harry Beaumont had officially crowned him as a "Superfreak" (not that he cared, though, he almost preferred that name over the other), but other than that, most of the time he could enjoy it alone. His definition of "enjoy" had a slight lonely and marginal context, but still worked out for him, who now wanted to complete his mission of being invisible more than ever. Not than it would work out entirely, anyways. "Megan" was and would still be a trending topic in Eden Park, and now that Kate had come out as herself, he was just the cherry on top of it all.
The reason of his deliberate broken heart -as he had successfully predicted, months ago- was making notes in front of him, her curls falling perfectly on her shoulders. She had a recent haircut which made her hair shine even more, and was being praised by her classmates during the day. The boy, instead, couldn't even picture himself flattering her anymore. Leo could already figure out her distortioned and confused expression in his head, their little but fragile new friendship already breaking. No, he had to be careful about what he should say or not or disastrous consequences would top off a mournful, shitty year. He didn't want to find out. Heck, if he'd learned before in how much trouble he would've got since Alicia entered his life, he might as well could have known better without her. After all, he should've followed his instincts and remain invisible like he had planned from a start. How could he be so naive? What did he exactly expect from Alicia, to be accepted for what he was? Now his secret was out in both schools, almost the same nightmare repeated twice in the same year. He would've remained silent and, God knows he was better off saying "Yes, Alicia, I chopped off a teacher's index finger with a junior hacksaw" and letting her go many time ago.
Because being feared by everyone was better than fearing everyone. He should've learned by then.
Then he felt it. The nudge.
"Listen, I don't care about what you want. I just want you to leave me alone." Leo spit with a whisper. Right after turning slightly towards that direction, he came face to face with a curious, red-headed girl who wore freckles and a shy smile. Her oversized hair clip with pearls gave her the charms, matching perfectly with her beige-casual oversized dress, a formal shirt and long skirt in one, dark thighs and pretty boots. And to sum up, a cute brownish breton-hat over her head.
"I-I'm sorry." Her expression died down to a neutral one. She truly was.
"Oh, darn it." He said.
"My name's Genevieve. I'm the new kid." She informed calmly. "But you can call me Ginger. Or Nevi."
"Oh, welcome to Edemential Park." He talked sarcastically.
Her little giggle stole a smile from him, who was already breathing out, more calm. He didn't entirely trust her to get to know her, but at least she was the only one in the room showing some sincere empathy towards him. And didn't deadname him.
"You're a clown."
"They call me so." He said, lower this time. He started playing with his nails, avoiding the matter.
"Oh, fuck. I'm sorry, again."
"What for?" He asked, resting his head against the window.
"I dunno. Reminding you of your own scars." She said cautiously.
"Everyone has their own." He said, after spacing out for some seconds.
"What's your name, then?" She asked with a soft grin. "If I leave scars on you, at least I want to know. Basic respect." She shrugs. Leo immediately earned respect.
"Her name's Megan." Becky's mean voice replied for Leo. The class suddenly fell silent, the juicy gossip rising again. "And chances are, she's a liar. Never to trust anything she ever says."
"Aren't you ever tired of being so uninitiated?" Alicia said with an obvious spit. Leo turned in her direction, and to his surprise, she had turned around from her seat towards her brand new enemy. She looked amazing, pretty, with fierceful eyes and standing up for him like she said she would back in their last gathering. And the best part of it all, was that no one had really expected in that moment that Alicia Baker would stand up for her ex-boyfriend. Or like everyone stated, "ex-girlfriend".
"I'm not saying any lies, Ally. Her name's Megan." She said with obvious haughtiness.
"His name's Leo." She replied, somewhat hurt. She quickly looked into his eyes before turning back to the smug girl. Leo almost shaked during their short glance. "And mine's Alicia." She finished, anger spilling through her voice.
"Beck Highmore. You better have a good excuse for the principle. You're expected to leave the class immediately." The teacher nagged with a higher voice than Leo had expected.
Then Alicia turned around, her heart possibly pounding inside her chest because of the way it inflated and deflated like mad. She was totally scared, having to put up with sacrificing her awesome image to do justice. Not that he blamed her, though. All of this ignorance revolving around the transgender matter was causing an inner conflict in people, including her. Leo could tell because now that he couldn't take his eyes off her, he distinguished her harsh breathing. He slowly moved away from Genevieve, the shy red-headed girl who'd chosen him to maintain his first proper conversation in the classroom ever since the Megan drama happened, or maybe a possible new friend, and assimilated the fact that it was probably better that way. It wasn't like he wanted to create new painful memories, after all.
"You better enjoy it while it lasts, Megan. Or are you going to flirt with her again? That'd surely scare her off entirely." Becky snapped, obviously towards him, before leaving. The teacher flicked his tongue with disgust, but it didn't do any good at all.
Then he felt the nudge from earlier again. But this time, in his heart. The following seconds were worse, when the murmur spread all over the room, whispering his old name everywhere, creeping into his ears and making him feel a concrete dizziness taking over his mind. And suddenly he didn't feel well, Jenny's promises that "everything would be okay" starting to feel like just a mere assurance in order to be professional about his pain and her job, in general.
Lastly, he felt the desire to get up from the chair, avoid everything and everyone else and just get the hell out of Eden Park, in between hurried and heavy steps. Leo clenched his fists, his pulse already fast due to the anxiety. He felt the sudden black cloud shape over him, bringing back his terrible February memories and making him realize that things weren't going to be any better at the new darnit school. They were going to be worse.
The bell suddenly rang, and the prolonged silence turned into an explosion of packing up and chatting. The teacher still had his face buried inside his hands, massaging his features when he thought no one was looking. Leo kept suffering alone in his own seat, unable to move.
"Nice to meet you, Leo." Said Genevieve in a sweet voice, behind him. She then stood up and walked past him, shooting him a curious glance before disappearing through the door.
Leo's eyes darted in her direction almost in time for their glances to meet. But she was already long gone when his eyes took the chance.
-Also, do exercises five and six for homework. Don't forget your presentations, they're due for Friday! -Mr Steele exclaimed, closing the textbook laying on top of his desk. People were already standing and packing up, though. He didn't even have a chance to wish them good luck when the bell rang, lowering the population of the classroom considerably. Many pupils left the room in a rush, packing the entrance and making it impossible to get outside, while others chatted with their friends on their tables, swinging their bags over their shoulders calmly.
Essie and Felix looked through the window, in direction of the colourful march that had taken place outside Eden Park's doors almost all day long. The flag didn't weave anymore, instead, it had been rolled up and a pack of youngsters were holding it up as they made their way outside the street.
-It's been almost the whole working day. I wish I could be like them, standing up in the sun for hours, screaming and chanting for such a great cause. -Essie said dreamingly- They're so awesome, like Harriet...
-Someone's Harriet-struck. -Felix replied, rolling his eyes- Anyway, she's probably facing detention with Tom for what she said earlier.
-I'd love to get to talk to her. -Essie said, looking at the now emptier street, sprinkled with confetti and glitter. She made a grimace before talking- If I could only convince her about the NC Club...
-Why do I get the feeling that she's going to be picky on this? -Felix asked, walking away from his desk, and past the now empty door, his girlfriend following from behind.
-Why would she? -Essie widened her eyes, incredulous- Don't tell me that Harriet Stallion wouldn't be tempted by taking part in our big circus. -she said, talking fast in the last sentence- And not the one Harry describes.
-No, I don't think having Harriet Stallion "Atypical Idol"-ising everything haters say in order to establish a kind of unspoken war between cool and loser, that will make lunch the only relaxing time we have in between these already terrible hours, go to trash, make things any better. Imagine that happening for the rest of the year. -he said, terrified by the idea.
But Essie just seemed to love it. As they made their way down the stairs, she put a pleading voice and massaged his shoulders.
-Imagine having Harriet Stallion smacking haters away with the tip of her finger, and getting better at it everytime, for the sake of a peaceful time at lunch without people flipping Kate's ears or annoying us all. She seems so intimidating, yet so amazing. People could associate us with her love-hate effect, and leave us alone. It's perfect! -she said, squeaking in delight.
-Do you want to recruit someone for a good reason or hire a bodyguard? We could check craigslist, you know... -he said with a funny tone- And by the way, we rescue lost puppies, not wolf leaders. You're bossy enough for a lifetime.
Essie widened her mouth with incredulity. She grabbed his shoulder to face him, at the bottom of the stairs. Students walked from left to right, carrying their files and books around, chatting with their friends like Essie and Felix weren't about to have an argument.
-Aha! -she pointed at his chest with her finger- So that was the true reason you didn't want Harriet Stallion! You have a problem with me!
-Honey, I can understand that you have leader needs to fulfill. But two..?
-Felix, for god's sake! Kate would benefit from this! -she said with a rather desperate voice. Her green eyes exposed glitter as she did so.
Felix closed his eyes while rushing his hand through his hair, thinking of a good reason to contradict her. He exhaled.
-I can't imagine putting another student through this whole elitist crap again. It's Beaumont and his creepy gang over us, picking on us non-stop. Do you want for her to start a non-verbal war in between us that would do no good to our already humiliating reputation? Never being able to sit and have lunch in peace because Harriet is going to anti-stereotype anything Beaumont's gang says? Needn't to say that Leo is still on probation for punching Harry's face for Kate.
Essie exhaled too, grabbing Felix's waist and walking outside, in direction to Livvy's building where Kate would pick her up before too long.
-No one ever said she has to be that intense every time. She just saves our hopeless asses with one of her epic phrases and in exchange, we get a relaxing and carefree day to do what we want without having the Beaumonts creeping behind our backs or some shit.
Felix played with his nosepiece, thinking deliberately in his girlfriend's words. Maybe she had a point, after all. What good could it do to the group if they rejected help by all means? Maybe Harriet knew karate or something, something big and cool that would make them stop look like legitimate losers. All they had to do was keep her at the NC table for lunch and educate her the Essie way. Which meant, turning her into a better bodyguard than Jay Z's.
-I didn't intend to invalidate your opinion, honey. I just don't want things to get worse. -Felix said, while putting a protective arm around Essie's shoulders. She beamed in response, snuggling in closer to him.
-I know. I just want our only spare time with Kate to be worthy. It's been a while since we were just the NC's, you know?
-And now we're the two Superfreaks, the mutant and the geek.
-Exactly. -she said, worry reflected in her green eyes.
Felix stared at her, his eyes melting into acceptance. Maybe if they seeked out for help, Harriet's or anyone's, they could make things easier for the NC's, especially Kate. She was by far most the one suffering the consequences over anyone else, even more than Leo, who could put up with Alicia's heartbreak and the Megan-drama at once. In other words, he had to team up with Essie to take care of her; Kate needed them both, more than ever.
When they entered the lower building, they encountered with the normal Tuesday situation: Livvy coming out of Biology and into the traffic of students who walked in both directions, and Kate waiting for her, fiddling around on her phone and glancing around for her sister. When their eyes finally met, they both melted into recognition and paired up together. As they walked towards the exit now, they spotted the pair waiting at the entrance for them.
-Ayo! Guys! -Kate grinned, waving her fingers at her friends. She beamed softly.
-Whazzup, Livs. -Essie uncrossed her arms slowly, flattening her gothic dress fabric over her belly. She had recently painted streaks of pink hair in between her jet black mane, which only made her more intimidating. Livvy acted like she was debating whether to run away or not- Ey! I'm seeing ya!
-I told you to smile more around my sister. She's still getting... Used to you. -Kate finished with a whisper.
-Is that a 90 out of a 100 what I see from here? -Felix asked nicely, pointing towards the exam paper that sticked out from the stack that Livvy was holding. She grinned satisfied in response- Smart girl!
-You can tell mom now. Maybe she'll take you out for ice-cream... -Kate smiled as she escorted her sister out of the building. Essie and Felix followed from behind, all smily-like- What are you guys going to do today? Or is it girlfriend-boyfriend time?
Essie and Felix looked into each other's eyes, and soon started to talk at the same time.
-No, we don't want to upset you...
-We had something nice planned. -he said.
-But forgot to talk about it. -Essie talked fast.
-Yeah, almost dropped it.
-Guys, guys. It's okay. -Kate chuckled.- You don't have to give explanations. You go and have fun, I'll take Livvy to our car. -she put her hair behind her ear, readjusting her pale-pink bag on her shoulder. The beanie covered her forehead as the little snowflakes fell on the hat fabric. Her oversized grey cardigan and platform Adidas matched, the new white denim trousers making her seem less serious. Essie found herself feeling happy for her.
And the way they had crossed paths with Kate, they separated again. Both of them held hands while going back to the walk, in direction to the main entrance. Essie looked downwards at the same time that Felix whistled, arm around her neck and pulling her closer, thinking about her own problems. Would she have the courage to talk about what was bothering her? Maybe after they fooled around in their bed. Or maybe before school tomorrow. A speck of luck would make the trick, or maybe she should wait.
-Honey, you alright? -Felix asked with a warm voice, pulling the bangs from her eyes apart.
-Yeah. -she lied, smiling brightly.
On their right, Harriet Stallion went down the stairs in direction to the main entrance, a flyer in her hand and an annoyed expression all over her face. Essie gasped with awe, making Felix flinch.
-Harriet Stallion... -Mr Toolan said in a dull voice, taking off his glasses. The afternoon was a bit cold, making everyone shiver in their seats, except Stallion's daughter.
Harriet remained cross-armed, looking proud on one of the chairs and Tom, who looked intimidated by the girl, sat in a weird position that Mr Toolan found hard not to feel uncomfortable in, raising an eyebrow as he watched. The guidance counselor stood on her feet, cross-armed, guarding the door.
-So, who's doing the talking? -Mr Toolan asked with a tired voice. All he was thinking about in that moment was how much he hated to be there, and how much he would love to be back in Hawaii with his wife. Diana's fault, he guessed, for not wanting to go on further trips until her stupid indoor gym was complete. And he blamed the kids for being so wild and peace-disturbing.
The minute the words left his mouth, he witnessed both Harriet and Tom starting to talk at the same time, tripping over the contrary's words and getting annoyed at each other. Or fighting, in this occasion.
-Okay, okay! I said, shush! -Mr Toolan yelled, shutting them both up. The guidance counselor looked through the window's door, wishing she wasn't there. He cleared his throat- Okay, let me rephrase. Where the hell did "Harry's Pet" come from? -he asked, drawing marks with his fingers.
-It was our idea. -Tom confessed, rolling his eyes- I was just making it public.
-Harry's. -he said with disgust, looking to the side. Loser, Harriet thought.
-And his, too. I heard him whisper ideas before the definite one came out. Hmph. -she said with a superior voice.
-I didn't. -he said, smugly.
-Awnh, don't worry, Tommy. Do you want to check the cameras and find out? -she said in a false caring voice, pointing towards a concrete camera filming from the corner of the room. While Mr Toolan turned towards his own device, Harriet took advantage and changed quickly from the first finger to the middle one, mocking her classmate. Tom raised an eyebrow, somewhat offended.
When the director looked back to the front, Harriet was already back to sitting properly with both of her hands on her thighs. Still, the annoyed expression on her face irritated Mr Toolan. He didn't know what he hated about the new student, he just did. Maybe it was the fact that it was her word against Beaumont's. Or her word against his.
-Okay. So this pet name of her's, it was Harry's idea, but you said it for him. Who's someone's pet now? -he guidance counselor intruded. Harriet turned to Tom and let out a triumphant "Aha!". Tom rolled his eyes.
-I was just following instructions. Am I going to be grounded for having friends?
-For having shitty friends. -Harriet mocked, looking at her nails.
-Harriet Stallion. You're grounded for a week.
-For saying universal truths?! -she exclaimed, wide-mouthed.
-For mocking me. -Tom said beside her, flipping his fingers in her direction, triumphant.
-Both. Now go.
-Both what? -Tom asked, annoyed.
-Bye, loser. -Harriet said before yawning falsely. She picked up her pink Prada bucket bag and swung it over her shoulder before leaving the room, high-fiving the guidance counselor without her noticing, leaving her dumbfounded.
-But, Mr Toolan...
-Please, Tom. Just go. -he said, the annoyed expression on his face starting to form wrinkles on it. Tom huffed.
Harriet pushed the main building doors apart, and let the cold air welcome rather than annoy her. Her hair waves flipped to the sides, the scarf around her neck protecting her from any harm. Harriet's eyes hopefully searched around for someone she yearned to see, but was yet nowhere to be found.
Suddenly, she bumped into a couple that was walking by. She held onto her bag and huffed, a bit desperate. Harriet became glad that she hadn't carried any homework along, or the floor would be plenty of sheets. The girl and the boy, who she hardly recognised from Math period, were staring at her with an expression she couldn't decipher.
-I'm sorry, guys. -she apologised, swinging the pink bag around her shoulder again and putting a hand up in an apologetic way.
-My name's Essie. -said the girl wearing a tight black gothic dress and pink hair highlights, with her hand ready for her to shake- Loved what you did back there.
-I actually didn't...
-She's talking about Tom Kerry. You know, idiot face, idiot manners. -her boyfriend finished for her.
-Oh, that. -Harriet bit her lip. She clutched to her bag, staying silent for a bit- Maybe I was too much?
Essie and the boy looked at each other before exploding into No's and Don't Worry's. Also, they stated how much they had wanted for someone to give Harry his own medicine. They also mentioned a punch. A punch?
-Wait, wait. A punch?
-Oh my god. Did I say too much? -Essie whispered to his boyfriend.
-We might not want to scare her... It's just her first day. -the boy whispered back.
-You know what? Nevermind about that. Your indirect punch was way better and effective. I prefer yours, in my opinion. -Essie said, correcting herself.
-And you are..?
-Felix. -he pointed towards himself, a shy smile coming out of his lips. Harriet nodded, more calm.
-Okay, so, Essie and Felix. My new acquaintances at Eden Park. -she finally managed to smile- And the only ones who don't stare at me like I'm repellent or mean. -she said, finishing with an honest giggle.
Essie stared towards her boyfriend for a second, a happy expression all over her face. Then she turned towards her.
-The only ones? -she asked, emphasizing on "only".
Harriet nodded carefully. In case that they turned out to be mean or picky, she was ready to hurry to the main entrance which was only a couple of steps away. She could recognize the male figure sitting on the floor, checking social media on his phone. He had come. She smiled.
-You can call us your friends. -Essie said, a special glimmer in her eyes making her look graceful.
-You're really making room in your gang for someone you barely know? -Harriet said, clutching to her bag furtherly.
-We saw you on math period. That's all we need to know. Welcome to the NC Club! -he exclaimed, turning towards Essie- You happy now, love?
Essie bit her lip before turning towards the girl.
-You want to?
-Let's try and have lunch together. If I like it, I'm in! -Harriet promised, more relaxed now.
-Then yes! -Essie exclaimed in delight, towards her boyfriend.
Those two really needed help, Harriet thought, in a fun way. She bowed with a legit smile, and waved them goodbye as she trotted towards the exit. She turned around to check them, but they were already walking away, a weird happiness vibe floating around them. Were they so thrilled to have her around? They looked so cool yet so clingy. Did they have a hidden reason?
When she arrived at the fence, she pressed the electric button. While she waited for a reply, she tapped her nails on the fence material, grasping Oliver's attention like a cat. She beamed ever so sincerely. His eyes shined back.
Then the lady was on the phone.
-Identify yourself, please.
-Harriet Stallion, year nine. Class A.
-Have a nice evening. Don't forget to recycle any garbage you could be carrying in our special containers, right next to the parking lots. See you the next day.
-Have a nice day, Whiskers. -Harriet mocked as she heard the beep, opening the door now.
-M-My name's not Whiskers...
-You are now. Later, Whiskers! -said Harriet with a mild voice.
Oliver chuckled in his seat, finally standing up. He swung his worn-out backpack over his shoulder (he had previously tied a little LGBT flag on it as an accessory, a little scarf-like), scratched his cheeks full of glitter, and stared down to his colorful and unpaired socks. Then he smiled towards Harriet.
-Been a long day there, wasn't it? -Harriet said in a purposeful American accent. She winked towards him, grabbing his arm and linking it to hers.
-Long day. Short glory. -he rolled his eyes, fanning himself with his own shirt. The rainbow closed fist on his shirt was already fading out, chunks of the shape torn out or missing. The shirt itself was old, as Oliver had bought it ages ago in a gay pride celebration in London. Still worked for his special appearances in parades, though. His YouTube channel had been asking for that one in particular, lately, but Oliver preferred to feature himself in the videos with newer clothes. Fans never failed to drop their wish every now and then.
-Have you crossed the whole town?
-A couple of blocks. Never got called out, which I guess is a good thing. I also got featured on a very popular Youtube channel. -he enumerated with a bored voice. He then smiled in her direction, proud- But yes, our goal was by far accomplished. Some people joined us from their balconies, waving little flags and throwing us flowers.
-That's great. I guess that completed a quite productive day for you, Olly.
Oliver grimaced, still happy about it. He then relaxed, linking their arms a bit tighter.
-So a popular YouTube channel, huh? Does your channel need that much help?
He fidgeted with the choker over his neck while thinking about his answer. They both introduced themselves in the student traffic outside the school gates, making their way towards the closest Starbucks coffee with all of the time in the world. To their inconvenience, they were still situated in Eden Park's outskirts, but with a speck of luck, they'd be sipping on a caramel macchiato and iced latte in ten minute's time.
-Not really. I was just flattered that AstroWorld chose me to feature in their special LGBT episode. Also, fans will love it. They have been asking me to do collabs with different sorts of channels but didn´t spare any time for it, so anything is better than nothing.
Harriet frowned, dodging a girl who was about to jump into the arms of her boyfriend a couple of feet away.
-But you´re not the type to go along with anything. You matter about your channel´s quality. -Oliver avoided her eyes, playing with his choker instead of answering- Is everything okay?
Harriet stopped walking, and positioned herself in front of Oliver instead. She looked into his eyes and refused to move, as the boy fidgeted with his ear now. People whispered Oliver's name in awe, amazed, as they recognized him.
-I just... -he rolled his eyes, thinking- A channel copied some of my content, and turned it into something better. Her name was Becky-Beauty, you know, fashion channel. Then she started mocking me through social media, spamming her video instead, and my fans and hers started a stupid war regarding the originality of their content, antagonizing each other's channels.
-Oh, no... -Harriet melted into sadness.
-So my channel lost popularity, and you know, her channel is very popular, so she got a lot of other channels hating me now. No one is interested in doing a collab, and AstroWorld is all I got today.
Harriet put her silky hair behind her ear, and rearranged her favourite pink Prada bag. She ignored in how much trouble her friend had been in, but she never wanted to annoy him, especially with the YouTube channel topic. It was something off-limits to her. Hearing from the boy that he had copyright issues, was certainly frustrating, and the girl was even more bothered by the fact that she was never included in the drama. To help him through it.
-Why come you've never talked to me about it? -Harriet asked, worried.
-I didn't want you to have a friend with copyright issues. -he mocked.
-You don't have copyright issues. A meaner got away with her plan, that's all. We should find evidence that you're innocent, and prove their fans wrong.
-It could be worse. Their fans could have been responsible.
-That is, in the worst of cases. -she elevated an eyebrow.
-This is the worst of cases.
-Oliver, come on. You're better than this. Why do you let this put you down, anyways? You're awesome.
Oliver looked in her direction, breathing out deeply at last. His body stiffened at Harriet's touch, but finally let her take his hand when she pulled him beside her.
-Where are we going? Starbuck's that way. -Oliver asked, confused, as he pointed towards the opposite direction.
But Harriet just walked against the wind, letting it flip her hair and the corners of her skirt. Her energy succeeded to pass on to him, making him feel a slight bit nicer.
And suddenly, under the sunset sun that bathed their features and gave them a rear lit vibe, a bright smile crept up Oliver's face.
-A Penguin Candy Bar always makes things better... -he said, reminiscing about something that used to improve their moods years ago, back when they were just kids.
Kate scolted her little sister through the parking lot towards Mom's car, thinking the whole time about the three different ways she could skip tea time with the aunt and avoid getting in the car with her family. The first one would be running away with no reason and let her mother guess that she was just going through a difficult age, but it wasn't her style. The second one involved using Livvy as a distraction and putting a note in her usual copilot seat before disappearing, but before she could get away she would be asked about her day. And the third, was all about simply asking to skip tea time with the most adorable family member who lived next town and was only able to see them once in three months due to her busy schedule. But then, it would give place to a million questions she didn't want to answer and less about that person in particular.
-You're so eager about leaving us soon that it's making me anxious. -complained Livvy, who was looking at her older sister with an elevated eyebrow.
-No, I don't. -she said, acting like it wasn't typical from her to be such a liar. She arranged her bag, pretending not to hear.
-Is it your boyfriend again? -she asked with a smirk.
-He's not my boyfriend, Liv. -she rolled her eyes, curling a strand of hair between her finger- I have told you tons of times. He has had a crush on Alicia Baker for so long and-
-Yeah, right. And now pigs fly from the sky. -Livvy mocked with a proud expression- I've seen you at the Christmas Ball. I wasn't born yesterday, you know that?
When they arrived at the car, Mom was unloading the trunk of the car, making space for their bags as she huffed, cleaning away invisible sweat from her forehead. Kate watched as Livvy, with a superior look on her face, marched triumphant towards the car, flashing her 90/100 in their parent's face.
-How can you be so nosy in my business all of a sudden? -Kate gawked- Since when do you care?
-I never said his name. Yet you just chanted a summary of his whole drama at school. -she replied, proudly. Kate gulped as her sister ended the conversation, walking towards the back seat.