The New Me

After a bad experience at her old school, Hayden Flack moves to Bradley Stoke determined to change everything about herself.
She knows how act, what to wear and from past experience, what to expect.
But on her very first day, seeing a long-lost childhood friend was something she definitely didn't see coming. Hayden quickly recognises Ellis but he can't even remember her... or does he? Why is Ellis acting so strangely, and why is he so different from what he used to be?
After a few months at her new school, Hayden seems to have settled in quite well and is living what appears to be a stereotypical popular girl's life. But not everything is going as 'well' as she thinks it is. Her 'friends' are acting weirdly suspicious, and when her long-lost brother suddenly comes in contact with her, she can't help but feel like there is something going on that she doesn't know about. How long will it take before she realizes what is going on beneath the surface? (PG-13)

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15. Brave Smiles

The seconds that followed seemed to drag on forever; first for Declan to come over the shock of what he had just been asked, then for him to think up how he was to respond to this.
    I hoped to God that he wouldn’t make up some silly story like Mum or Dad usually did, and then try to divert my attention to something else. But thankfully Declan seemed to realise this. He sighed, “I’m not going to sugar coat it or make up some lies so that it doesn’t sound so bad.” He hesitated, “Clearly your dad didn’t seem to mind leaving you in the dark.”
   Your dad.
    He continued, “let’s just say that I didn’t get along very with certain family members…” he continued, “But I had no problem with Mum, it’s important you realise that.”
   “Then why did you leave her?” I interrupted.
   He seemed rather irritated at this. He paused before continuing, “you were only young at the time. But Hayden, we used to argue everyday. They didn’t understand my career choices, who I hung out with, my attitude to life. There were arguments everyday. You know that they both wanted me to go to uni whilst I had other ideas. Seeing as I was eighteen at the time, I suppose I decided it was best for me to just leave.”
    “And not bother to stay in touch?” I frowned.
    “Of course not!” He insisted. “I left my phone number and everything on my bed. Of course I wanted to stay in touch.”
    I narrowed my eyebrows. “But Mum and Dad said that you didn’t…”
    I paused for a moment. A flashback of one of their last arguments entered my vision.
    Dad slammed the door furiously, hands trembling. “I swear to God, I never want to see that sod ever again!”
    Suddenly it all made sense.
    It would have been all too easy for Dad to find the note on Declan’s bed before anyone else… and throw it away.
    “I think one of us must have thrown it away by mistake,” I said. I emphasized the word mistake.
    Declan frowned.
    “But you could have contacted me on Facebook.” I realised, then I remembered spotting that despite his timeline was already filled with lots of pictures and events, he was fairly new to Facebook.
    “My accounts fairly new,” Declan said. “Social networking sites aren’t really my thing, but since the band’s bound to take off any minute soon, it seemed only sensible to make an account. I assumed that you would have an account as well.”
   “So like you guys must have been totally surprised when you managed to find each other,” Sophie grinned. “Man, it must be awesome to have some long lost sibling. It sucks to be an only child.”
    Declan laughed politely although he seemed distracted by his thoughts; was he also wondering whether Dad was the reason none of us kept in touch for so long?
    “Anyway, I’m glad we’ve met up again at last… is there any chance Mum will be coming to visit sometime soon? I’m guessing she was busy this weekend?”
   I gulped. Knowing about Declan had always been my little secret, and as selfish as it sounded, I wasn’t too keen on spilling it.
   “I guess so,” I mumbled. Memories of brave smiles and watery eyes flashed in my mind. I was overcome with my guilt.
    Why had I never told Mum about Declan?
   Actually, I knew.
   Dad.
   But I had no choice but to tell her; he was her own son after all, even though she’s always side Dad in their arguments.
   Maybe if she didn’t he wouldn’t have ran away. Wait no, that’s silly of me to think like that.
    Declan had bigger reasons; he wanted to see the world and share his music. Right?
    Sophie interrupted the silence (she never lasted very well in those sort of situations). “So like anyway, you’re in a band aren’t you? When are you going to be performing today?”
    Declan grinned. “Well, our gig tonight starts at nine. Which reminds me, we all better start getting ready if we want to make it there on time.”
    Sophie jumped to her feet eagerly. I sat down for a few more moments grudgingly, longing to have longer conversations about the past and the family, and unanswered questions. In a way Sophie reminded me of a little child; in-depth, serious conversations were impossible for her.

For a gig, the location wasn’t exactly how I imagined. Of course I wasn’t stupid enough to think that Declan performed in concert halls and arenas, however the local pub was a bit on the downscale.
    Sophie seemed to have the same thoughts, however she wasn’t afraid to hide them when I caught her once again, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “Hmmm.” She muttered, before skipping off to buy herself a drink.
   It was almost surprising to see Declan walk proudly onto the stage as if he were about to perform to thousands; was he really happy with performing… so locally? It made me wonder why he didn’t seem to keen on having a proper band manager and potentially furthering his career. It didn’t really make sense either; although his flat was messy and very dinky, he had a lot of expensive furniture and equipment which a few local gigs clearly wouldn’t make him able to afford.
   I shrugged to myself. Perhaps he did perform to more impressive crowds from time to time.
   By this point Declan had already began strumming the first few chords, and before I knew it the band was in full performance, whilst the crowd clapped and cheered enthusiastically.
   I’m not going to lie and say that Declan and his band had amazing raw talent and that I enjoyed the performance massively. Honestly, Walking In Slow Motion were a pretty decent band, but nothing special. Yet I still clapped along and cheered along with the rest of the crowd, pretending I was enjoying myself as much as Sophie, who had now got up to dance, simply because she had the opportunity to.
   Sophie danced rather impressively – if she were in a night club. Yet she seemed to enjoy the crowd’s attention, half of which had now diverted towards her, immensely.
   I’d rather cower in my seat.
   The band performed my personal favourite – Faithless –, which I was happy to find out sounded even better than on the CD. Ellis and I had agreed that this was the song that we were going to perform and although at school our cover seemed pretty decent, it was mediocre compared to the original.
   I was suddenly aware how my thoughts had diverted to school and grades and I had to force my attention back to the band.
    “Woo!” Sophie cheered, jumping up. Her mass of curls bounced over her shoulders wildly. With a glance back, she caught me sat down, absorbed in thoughts. “Come on Hayden, have some fun!” She grinned, her brown eyes shining with excitement. She seized my hand and I got up grudgingly.
    “Dance Hayden!” She insisted.
   I eventually copied her, trying move side to side like she did, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of attention we (probably weren’t) getting. Over time, more people began to stand up, and as the gig continued, with music pumping throughout the crowded room, I was beginning to enjoy myself.
   “Wooo!” I cheered.
   Sophie grinned at me delight. “Not going to lie, this would completely suck if the music wasn’t decent,” she yelled over the noise.
 
It must have been around 1am when the gig finally finished and everything was cleared away. By this point Sophie was rather ecstatic and ran ahead of us through the streets.
    Declan and I trailed behind, showing signs of fatigue.
    “It was nice of you guys to come,” Declan said. “And seeing you… after so long.”
    “Well we could have met up earlier. You could have visited us,” I replied, frowning. I hated the fact that I was coming across as so rude, yet it bothered me a lot.
    He sighed. “Yeah, I’m not going to deny it. It was selfish of me not to see you all and just leave with just a note. But truthfully I didn’t know what sort of response I’d get if I did.”
    “Mum wouldn’t have minded. It’s not like you didn’t know where we live. You know where are new house is as well,” I added. “How come?”
   “It’s not difficult to get someone’s address after they move.”
   “Oh.”
   Sophie yelled from ahead. “Come on guys, hurry up! I’m freezing my ass over here!”
    We arrived at Declan’s flat minutes later, and after setting up mine and Sophie’s mattress in the living room we all decided to retire to bed. Even Sophie had managed to calm down a little more, and was starting to show signs of fatigue.
    This didn’t stop her from chattering when the lights were out and we heard the sounds of Declan’s snores coming from his room.
    “I can’t believe we have our performances coming up after the holidays,” Sophie realised suddenly. “Hanna has no idea what she is doing though. That nutter’s probably going to embarrass the hell out of me in front of everyone. Or maybe I could sort of joke along with the crowd so they won’t laugh at me.”
   “Hmm.” I replied. I was busy trying to work out how tomorrow was going to work and wondering whether it was humanly possible to wake up from only four hours sleep to catch the train on time.
    I was exhausted but my mind continued to tick away, and Sophie’s nattering wasn’t exactly making it easier for me. Not only was I worrying about tomorrow but I was now also worrying how the hell Ellis and my performance was going to turn out.
   I gasped, realising that I hadn’t checked my emails once for the entire holiday. I was supposed to contact him some point in the holidays, wasn’t I?
   “What’s up?” Sophie asked.
   “I haven’t contacted Ellis the whole holiday.”
   “Ellis is a creep.”
   I laughed. “He’s not a creep, just a bit full of himself.”
   “A bit?” She sniggered. “You mean, a lot. And he’s way too judgemental, like just because we’re friends with Cole and he fell out with him, doesn’t mean he gets to be horrible to us. I mean, he’s actually pretty hot when you think about it…” She trailed off.
   I sat up, hoping I could make out her expression in the dark.
   “…But the fact he’s a jerk, just changes everything.” She concluded, although she didn’t sound certain.
   I nibbled my lip; did Sophie like Ellis more than she was letting on?

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