My alarm rang without warning. I didn’t even realise that I had an alarm clock on the bedside table next to me. Ashton was standing over me with a glass of water in his hands.
“Ashton, what the hell it’s 7:00 in the morning and I’m buggered.” I spat the last word at him and he smiled. He took a sip of the water and then looked at me. I closed my eyes and groaned. Cold water splashed all over my face and my neck and onto my denim jacket which I had forgotten to take off last night. I gaped at him and spluttered. He grinned and stretched out his arms. “You…. You-
I couldn’t find words to explain what he was at that moment.
“You mean I am an amazing, wonderful, helpful, late-for-school, guy who moved to America to help you.” Ashton finished. He ran a hand through his sandy blonde hair and offered me a hand. I took it and he helped me up from the soaked sheets on the bed.
I nodded, defeated, and wiped some of the water from my face.
“Whatever.” I hissed. I pouted angrily at him and pushed him out of the room.
“Ok, now go have a shower and put on some dry clothes unless you want to go to a new school like that on your first day.” And then I shut the door in his face.
I struggled to get the denim jacket off and hastily put my hair into a bun before I got into the shower in the adjoining room to mine.
Back in Australia, after they got rid of school uniforms in 2014, the clothes I would usually wear would be anything I could find, of anything that Ali would lend me. Sometimes we matched, but that wasn’t something we liked to do.
Ashton had told me that if I wanted to get picked on then I could wear whatever, but I if I didn’t want to get picked on by the cheerleaders and the popular girls, then I should make a good impression. I should make sure that they don’t hate me- although, according to Ashton, going out with him would make them angry anyway.
The weather was quite warm and I had a colourful beach dress just hanging in my cupboard, waiting to be worn. I put that on and let my hair out of its bun. It was waist length and just needed a brush before it would be fine to go. My hair wasn’t curly, as such; it was wavier with a few curls at the bottom. I grabbed some plain black ballet flats and moisturised my legs before I opened the bathroom door into my room and then my bedroom door into the hallway. I then walked the length of the hallway before I found Ashton waiting at the door with a bag on his shoulders and little handbag for me.
“What’s this?” I asked. “Where’s the bag for me?”
“This is your bag.” Ashton laughed. “C’mon lets go, Caroline offered to take us.”
I smiled and opened the door or him. He went through with a thank you and then held it open as I walked out.
There was Caroline, in a red convertible car waiting for us. She grinned and waved over enthusiastically. I gave her a hug before taking the front seat ahead of Ashton. He gave a small groan as he squeezed into the back seat.
Caroline started the car. She drove off in a squeal of tyres and she let down the top. I laughed and looked back at Ashton as we rounded a corner. My hair whipped into my face and for once, I was actually excited about going to a new school and forgetting about my sister.
I frowned. I felt guilty.
I should never forget about my sister. I saw her in my mind’s eye and closed my eyes.
I sighed. I didn’t really know whether or not I could get through this.
“So, now you’ve got your timetables and your lockers and your homerooms. I have to leave you here because I have to go and tell the head cheerleader why I wasn’t at practice this morning.” Caroline told us. Ashton shook his head.
“Not much has changed here, has it?” He laughed. We stared at him. “All the pretty girls are cheerleaders, the footballers are popular. They really do capture the spirit of American high schools in all the movies.”
“Are the cheerleaders nice?” I asked Caroline.
“Yeah, I could get you on the team if you want, Vrailine; we’re always looking for another dancer.”
“Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I don’t want to get involved in that sort of thing.”
Caroline nodded and I looked at my timetable. First I had PE. I sighed. Of course this would happen.
We were taken to our lockers which were surprisingly right next to each other and deposited our bags in them. I took a deep breath and after Caroline pointed which way to the PE change rooms she ran off, turning the corner at a speed which I didn’t think was possible.
“Cheerleading huh?” I asked Ashton as we made our way to PE. He shrugged and gave me a hug. “Wait, where are you going?”
“I have History. Sorry, Ari-
I glared at him and he panicked as he realised his mistake.
“I mean, Vrailine, I’ll meet you at lunch.” I sighed because I knew that it was a lost cause. There was no way I could change it. I just had to remember that my name was Vrailine Smith and not Ari.
The door to the change rooms was unlocked, unlike the ones back home. I stood alone and waited for the bell to ring.
Running laps was not a good way to spend the morning. I thought about Ashton and how he would be in an air conditioned room lazing away in History as I ran around the track, lapping the people who were walking.
I saw some girls in matching outfits watching m and talking to each other.
I stopped running and wiped the sweat from my forehead. The three girls were joined by Caroline and I realised they were the cheerleaders. I made my way over to them slowly.
I stopped in front of them and put my hands on my hips.
“Excuse me?” I asked them.
“Excuse you?” The tallest one snapped. The others smiled.
“Yeah; I want to know why you were staring at me.” I hissed. Caroline looked uncomfortable. The taller one rolled her eyes.
“They want you to join the squad.” She told me. I nodded once. The shortest one, who was also the skinniest, put her hand out.
“Hey, I’m Ellie, I’m the captain and I think you’d be the perfect person for the team.” I shook her hand and narrowed my eyes.
“I have no idea how to do any of the stuff you guys do. I’m Vrailine by the way.” I smiled at Ellie.
“Please don’t be offended by Summer’s attitude, she’s very judgemental.” Ellie said. I nodded once again. “This is Jasmine.”
I turned and smiled at Jasmine. She smiled back warmly.
“I knew a Jasmine back home.” I said without thinking.
“Are you Australian?” Summer asked. I shook my head.
“I went on holidays there for a while and got a kind of accent.”
“Anyway, you should join us on the team.” Ellie spoke out as she grasped onto my hand. Caroline nodded enthusiastically behind her. I looked at the rest of the team hesitantly.
“Thank you for the offer, but I don’t think I will.” I made my choice. All of the smiles from Ellie, Jasmine and Caroline disappeared. Summer was the one smiling now.
“I told you she wasn’t Sunford High material.” Summer said. I winced and stared at them. “You look familiar for some reason, though.” My narrowed eyes grew large.
“Why would I look familiar, you’ve never seen me before and I have never seen you before. There’s no reason or anyone to look familiar to anyone else.” I said in a rush. “Nice meeting you though.”
I nodded at each of them and ran back to the track and continued running around the track.
After a while I realised they were all still staring at me and Summer had her phone out.
I cursed under my breath and took a break. Some girls in sporty clothes came up to me and told me their names.
“Would you like to join the marathon club?” They asked hopefully. I shook my head and could practically taste their disappointment.
“I’m sorry but I’m not really looking to join a club.” I looked over at the cheerleaders and watched as Summer held up her phone and looked at me and then her phone. Her eyes narrowed and she held up her hand in victory. She smiled gleefully at me. I got goose bumps and shivered from her cold gaze.
“Well, if you are, just come and let us know, alright Vrailine?” They asked. One clapped me on the shoulder and I smiled as they disappeared back onto the track. I looked at my watch and closed my eyes.
The bell rang.
Ashton had said that he would meet me for lunch but I had no idea where to go. Even though Caroline had shown us where to go, I had unfortunately forgotten. I decided to go left instead of right because that was where most people were going.
Summer made a beeline for me. Ellie, Jasmine and Caroline were nowhere to be seen.
“I know who you are, you lying piece of-
I clamped my hand over her mouth and pulled her into an empty classroom. I let go of her and she went to slap me or pull my hair or something but I grabbed her arm and pulled it behind her. She squealed and I told her to shut up.
“Shut up or someone will come looking.” I hissed. I let go of her. Summer rubbed her now sore arm.
“Maybe everyone should you know that you’re a liar, Ari.” She spoke my real name and I shuddered. I pulled a chair out and sat in it. I could feel the tears coming. “You were on TV’s everywhere a year ago, you and your sister, that’s where I saw you. And then I looked it up and found your sister and found out that she was dead.” She spat out the last word and I hugged my knees tight. She stood over me and put her hands on her hips.
“Please don’t tell anyone, I can’t stand it, I came here with Ashton to get away from all of that.” I confessed. She didn’t look one bit sympathetic. I sighed.
“Join our group then. Ditch your boy toy and come hang with us because Ellie, Jasmine and Caroline are dying to have you. If you do then I won’t tell anyone. You just have to keep doing what I tell you and I won’t tell on you.” Summer smiled coyly and I stared at her with my mouth wide open.
“You’re going to blackmail me?” I asked her. She frowned.
“I call it a favour to you and a favour to me, or, many favours to me in this case.” Her blue eyes flashed with warning. “And if you tell anyone about this, your secret is out Ariel.” I nodded and stood up. I pushed the chair back in and faced her.
“What do I tell Ashton though?” I asked her. She smiled sadistically.
“Tell him you need some girl time. And he should have some guy time. Tell him you think it would be better for both of you.” She left me standing there in the empty classroom and she stalked off to the cafeteria.
I began to panic.
I sat back down and observed the patterns on the carpets filling the room.
At some point the bell rang. I was expecting a class and a teacher to come in and tell me to get out but no one came. No one appeared there to help me when the next bell rang, or the next. Soon enough I heard someone out in the corridors say that they would see their friend tomorrow. I stood up and wiped away some of the tears that had come during the time that had passed.
I took my time finding my locker and getting my bag out of it and then finding the front door to the school. I walked out of the front door, not expecting to see anyone waiting for me but seeing Caroline, Ashton, Summer, Jasmine, Ellie and a heap of other girls I didn’t know but they were wearing the same uniforms as the other cheerleaders so I suspected they were also cheerleaders.
“Where the hell have you been, Vrailine?” Ashton almost screamed. He pulled me into a hug and over his shoulder I saw Summer mouthing the word ‘Vrailine’.
“I’m fine, I was um, busy at lunch- socialising with some girls and then the rest of the day I….”
Ashton let go of me and most of the crowd of cheerleaders had dispersed. Only Summer and Caroline remained to watch the exchange between Ashton and me.
“Actually, you know what? I need girl time. You need guy time. I’ve decided to start hanging out with Summer, Ellie, Jasmine and Caroline. We can still hang out because… I love you, but we can’t be spending every minute and every second together.”
Caroline looked appalled but Summer was happy. Of course Summer was happy. I rolled my eyes and gave Ashton a hug. He was unresponsive but I was sure that he would understand. He finally nodded. Caroline jumped up and down and clapped. She grabbed my arm and pulled me away.
“I’ll take her home! Don’t worry!” She yelled. I looked back to apologise and saw Ashton getting into Summer’s car. Just as she was about to get into the driver’s seat- which was on the opposite side of the car than it was in Australia- she turned and gave me a sickening smile.
I took a deep breath and turned my back to them. I let out the breath when I realised I was being stared at by seven girls and seven boys.
“Hi.” I said to the team minus Summer. I got a few responses, but mostly they were all interested in stretching.
“This is Vrailine; she’s going to be on the team now. She doesn’t necessarily know how to cheer but she can dance. Anyone can dance.” Caroline ranted. She finally let go of me and I watched as she showed me the choreography of the dance, step by step.
I knew I would never get them right and I knew I would never be a dancer or one of the movie star-model-cheerleaders. I watched as Ellie was thrown into the air and then caught as she came back down. I sighed and put my head in my hands. Jasmine saw and stopped helping the two boys holding up Ellie to come talk to me.
“Hey, Vrailine, are you ok?” She asked me as she sat next to me.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for asking though, I mean, it’s not like we’re super close. It’s my first day.” I rambled on. Jasmine shrugged and looked up at Caroline and Ellie laughing together.
“You seem like someone I could be friends with. Someone who’s head isn’t up their butt.” She sniggered. I laughed with her and sniffed. We watched as Ellie was thrown up into the air and she flipped over three times in the air before she landed in three pairs of strong arms. “Sloppy.” She remarked.
I bit my lip. I worried about what Summer was going to say to Ashton. It was ok if he knew that she knew, but if she tried to blackmail him too, I didn’t know what she would make him do or what he would do.
“What’s Summer like?” I asked hesitantly.
Jasmine’s black hair shimmered in the dwindling sunlight.
“She’s usually alright, very judgmental and her head is way too far up her butt to realise that everyone actually hates her. Have you already gotten on her bad side?” Jasmine told me. Her brown eyes narrowed and she gave me a strange look.
“No! I’m just wondering. I was talking to her, she convinced me to join you guys.” I said. Jasmine stared at me and shook her head.
“No, no, honey, she’s got something to hold against you doesn’t she?” She said softly. She touched my arm and I built a quick dam to fight the tears.
“Yes, she does, and I’m sorry I can’t tell you, but I can’t tell anyone.” I choked. Jasmine suddenly hugged me and I gave a small, sad laugh. “You’re not angry that I won’t tell you?”
“Vrailine, everyone has secrets. I like that about the world. You can look at your best friend, and think you know everything about them, but in reality, you don’t. It’s mysterious. You’re mysterious you little Aussie girl.” She ruffled my hair and I squealed and put my hands on my head to fix it up.
“How do you know?” I whispered intrigued in this strange girl who knew more about the world than she let on. “And, Jasmine… You’re deep.” She laughed.
“I just know. I’ve got to go. See ya tomorrow, Vrailine.” She smiled and collected up her duffel bag. She waved goodbye to a few fellow cheerleaders and hugged Ellie. Then she glanced my way and left.
I watched a few more tumbles through the air. Some seemed perfect but then Ellie yelled. When Ellie yelled, it seemed that things went downhill pretty quickly. Caroline spoke quietly to Ellie whenever she yelled and then things seemed back in control.
Their practice seemed about half way through. Football practice must have been over though because there was a tall, cute guy coming my way. I rolled my eyes and moved my hair out of my face. He stood right in front of me and smiled in a cheesy way. I couldn’t help but smile back.
“Hey cutie, I haven’t seen you round here before. Why’s that?” He asked me. I saw Caroline looking at me jealously. I rolled my eyes again.
“Because I’m new, that’s why.” I told him blandly. He nodded and glanced around.
“Well, well, cutie here plays hard to get. I love it. Do you want to hang out sometime? Go somewhere?” He asked hopefully. I shook my head.
“It’s nothing personal but I have a boyfriend.” I told him. He nodded and walked away quicker than I would have expected. And then another footballer came over and sat beside me.
“I’m good at wasting time, I think lyrics need to rhyme and you’re not asking, but I’m trying to grow a moustache…. I eat cheese, but only on pizza, please, and sometimes on a homemade-
“Dude, could you please stop quoting the Camp Rock Sequel?” I asked him. He nodded.
“But I really like you when the moon looks like a toenail.” He told me. I moved a slight bit away from him and flinched as he closed the distance. I could smell the sweat coming off him and it was disgusting. I don’t know if the boys in America used deodorant or if they just didn’t put it on for the football practice.
“I have a boyfriend.” I used the same excuse- but it wasn’t an excuse because it was true.
He nodded and moved away at an even faster speed than the first guy. I shook my head and laughed quietly to myself.
Someone else walked my way and I stood up before they could talk.
“Don’t even try. I have a boyfriend.” I screamed.
My shoulder was tapped and I whipped around. Summer held a manila folder and she handed it to me.
“Boys, you can all go home now. Love you all.” Summer yelled.
“Wait, you told them to do that? Even though you know I have a boyfriend who I completely love. I would never cheat on him. We never lie to each other.” I informed Summer proudly. She smirked.
“There’s something you should know about your boyfriend though. I mean, if you love him so much, and you never lie to each other then why is….. Well….. Open it up yourself and have a look.” She told me. I bit my lip and opened the folder. I pulled out a document and shook my head.
“Why should I believe this?” I asked. Summer shrugged.
“I just think that you should know the truth.” She said.
I gasped as I read the file.
“How did you get this?” I asked her. She shrugged nonchalantly. “Tell me!”
“My father is the chief of the FBI. He has connections and he knows all about the little boy who stabbed his family whilst they were sleeping.”
I shook my head roughly and glanced at the cheerleading team. No one was paying attention to us. I knew I couldn’t get Caroline to take me home anymore so I decided to try to find my own way back home by walking- or in this case, I would probably run.
“I have to go.” I spluttered. Summer’s smug smile sat arrogantly on her perfect face. She got out her car keys. “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking you home. See, when I took Ashton home, I promised to take you home too. Just a little agreement we made.” She said. She fluffed up her hair and pointed to where her car had been parked. I sighed. She was in control here, not me.