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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3. Loud, Confident, Popular

A cold gale of wind blew  into my face  like shards of ice. I shuddered, pulled my hood over my frozen ears, and wondered why Sophie actually wanted to go out in this weather.

 I had a clear idea of where I was going from Mum’s directions, so I guessed that the gift shop was only about five minutes away. And the sooner I got inside, away from the cold and preferably with a job offer, the better.

I rubbed my frozen hands together and replayed my second day at the new school.

This whole new level of confidence seemed to just come to me naturally (excluding the occassional  embarrassing moment).

Sophie had definitely warmed to me a bit more and more people were talking to me. And the performance in front of the class was just amazing. When I started to play, I was calm and because I had learnt the song enough, I didn’t really have to think. So when I had finished the song and had come back into reality, the response from the class afterwards just topped it all.

I continued to walk along the same path and passed a large field, covered in a blanket of frost.

Football players were dotted across the pitch, obviously fully immersed in their game.

"Ellis over here!"

I stopped abruptly, and spotted Ellis, staring at the ball as if his life depended on it. There were indignant shouts from the players - clearly taking the game far too seriously than they should.

  I suddenly realised that if Ellis had spotted me he would probably mistake me as a stalker. He could scarcely remember me, and seeing me watch him would just creep him out. The last thing I wanted was to be labelled a stalker kid.

...But if he barely remembered me, why did he stare at me like that after I had played the song today? Did he remember when I had played the song to him the first time?

   A familiar chime of bells twinkled as I entered the beautiful gift shop, filled with elegant gifts and ornaments. Glass figures glistened in the light, their shapes ranging from Disney characters to angels and hearts. Precious objects stood dangerously close to the edge of the shelf, just waiting to be knocked over by careless children.

  “You must be Jennifer’s daughter,” A large middle aged lady said as she came behind the counter.

  “I’m Hayden,” I replied, “My mum said I might be allowed a job here.” I smiled at her politely although I wanted to scowl. I hated the way she seemed to look down at me; I could hardly see how a snobby lady, with pig-like features could think so highly of herself.

  “My name’s Myra. I was a little worried at first; I was scared that you wouldn’t be sensible enough to work here. But you seem like a careful girl. Of course I would prefer, if you stay away from our most treasured antiques,” she added primly. “Anyway, we’re very short staffed on Saturday mornings; will you be able to work then?”

  I nodded, “yeah. Would you like my CV?”

She nodded. I handed her a crumpled up envelope and she raised an eyebrow.

THUMP.

Our heads turned to the shop window.

A boy I recognised from school collided against the it so aggressively, I was surprised that it hadn’t cracked. But the boy let a hyena-like laugh, and a few of his friends came into view, sniggering. They glanced at Myra in surprise and ran off as quickly as they came.

  Myra shook her head, “there are some kids these days that are just so reckless and ignorant. Heavens knows what their parents are like.”

  I nodded in agreement. But stopped abruptly when a girl with a mass of long curly hair ran past the window, giggling uncontrollably.

 ***

 

“HAYDEN!” Sophie squealed, running towards me with open arms. I hugged her and tried not to laugh.

 “Hi!” I grinned, “What have you been up to?”

  “Nothing much. We were kicked out of McDonalds for chucking chips and Morgan almost broke a shop window when he crashed into it, but that’s about it.”

 I laughed, “not a lot then.”

Two boys caught up with her. “This is Morgan and this is Aaron,” she introduced, giving each of them a shove as she said their name.

 “Alright Hayden? You’re in my tutor,” Morgan said.

I smirked; his hair has been so spiked up, I was almost afraid to touch it; his child-like face was dotted with hundreds of freckles, and despite his amount of confidence, his lack of growth reminded me of a school boy.

Aaron gave me nod. He looked much taller and more mature and seemed to be quieter – a complete opposite to Morgan.

 “Oh and that’s Cole.” Sophie added, pointing to somebody behind me.

My throat tightened.

The boy from the corridors approached us. His sly smirk made him appear like he had done something very bad and had gotten away with it. He was the sort of boy mothers told their kids to stay clear of, and worst of all, an exact replica of the boys who'd laugh at me at my old school.

 Surely Sophie couldn’t be friends with him?

“This is Hayden,” Sophie said as he approached us.

I couldn't help but stare at him in awe, examining his pretty respectable abs, his flawless features, and tousled hair - an exact stereotype of the painfully attractive, school jerk.

He ran a hand through his tousled blond hair, “Hey, I've seen you around school a few times."

I squeaked.

“We aren’t allowed anywhere near the shopping centre anymore, or McDonalds. So where do you want to go?” Sophie asked me.

At first I worried that I wouldn’t be able to speak, just stare speechlessly at Cole (for all I knew, creepy, stalker girl had made a return). But thankfully I managed to stutter, “U-um, the park?”

The others seemed pretty pleased with my suggestion, so with Sophie running excitably in front, me and the others followed, trying to keep the conversation as less awkward as possible.

There were about twenty people there already, separated into smaller huddles and scattered around in the dark. But Cole, Sophie, Aaron and Morgan seemed to already know them and made a pretty poor attempt at introducing them to me.

I was much more concerned about the cloud of cigarette smoke and weed that hung in the air, which made it even more difficult to see anyone anyway. Occasionally, I glanced towards the exit of the park that was worryingly close to a neighbourhood of houses.

“Here,” a girl said, handing me a joint. “You need to relax a bit.”

 I hesitated, staring at the small little tube of paper. I wasn’t stupid, I knew about the risks – Mum had drilled the facts into my head for long enough. But I held it uneasily in front of my lips, and before I could stop myself I drew in the smoke.

The heat burned my throat and I choked violently in surprise.

Sophie snorted and let out a high-pitched, hysterical laugh. She held onto me while she giggled uncontrollably, forgetting that she was holding a can of cider.

I shrieked as the liquid tipped down my back, "Sophie you tipped it all over me!”

 “She’s drunk,” A somebody nearby said, “don’t be too annoyed with her.”

"I don't blame her, Sophie's crazy when she's drunk," Cole remarked as he joined our small huddle. "You okay Hayden?" He asked.

"Y-yeah," I mumbled, staring down at my hand regretfully.

"Look," Cole said, taking it out of my hand which tingled from his touch. He held it up to his lips and inhaled in demonstration, before handing it back to me. "Now you try," he grinned.

Afterwards, I didn't really notice too much of an effect, aside the fact that I was giggling a bit more and the worry about the weed smell had escaped my mind. But I couldn't ignore the voice in the back in the back of my head, reminding me of what I had done, something which I promised I'd never to do.

  “Hayden.” Cole snapped.

  “What?” I asked dreamily. I stared at the ridges of his six pack underneath his tight shirt and wanting more than anything to run my hands over him.

  “Sophie’s completely out of her head, she keeps crying that if her parents find out she won’t be allowed out again. Can she sleep round yours?” He asked with an anxious expression.

  I rubbed my eyes and smudged my mascara; I wouldn’t have been surprised if I resembled more like a panda.  Then I grabbed my phone from my pocket and checked the time. “Oh,” I muttered, “I should have been home ages ago.” I snorted and let out a high-pitched giggle. "I'm late and I stink of weed. I'm screwed!"

  He tossed me a can of Lynx. “You’re better off smelling like a boy then of weed, your parents would smell you out straight away."

  I covered myself in the overpowering smell then handed it back to him. “Thanks, see ya Cole!” I called, then headed towards the gates to the park.

  “Hayden wait! Can Sophie stay round yours?”

  I paused and glanced towards Sophie who was sobbing on a park bench, surrounded by a few sympathetic girls. I frowned. If I brought her round to mine my parents would go mental, I could already picture Dad’s furious expression when he opened the door and saw Sophie hanging onto me and puking all over the pavement. “I can't. My parents would flip."

 

***

  “Hello Hayden!” A chirpy, excitable voice exclaimed, causing me to jerk the phone away from my ear in surprise.

 "Did I wake you up?” Sophie sang.

I pulled myself out of bed slowly. “Don’t worry, I overslept,” I paused. My eyes widened when last night came flooding back into my memory, “Oh Sophie! I’m so sorry you couldn’t sleep round mine, my parents’ wouldn…”

  “It’s fine, I don’t mind!” Sophie said cheerily.

  “Oh. Well whose house did you sleep round then?” I wondered.

  “Cole’s.”

I tensed. “Y-you slept round Cole’s?”

  She laughed, “It’s not what you think Hayden! We’re just good friends, I’ve known him for years,” she paused. “…what do you like him or something?"

I hesitated, wondering if I knew her well enough to tell her about my small crush. “Well…” I started.

  “Oh my gosh! You have a crush on him don’t you?” she squealed excitedly.

  “Sort of,” I admitted shyly.

  “I knew it!”

  “But it’s just a small one,” I gabbled.

  She snorted, “Anyway, are you coming out again today?”

  “What? Again?” I asked in surprise, “and I swear you were really drunk last night, how come you aren’t hung over?”

“Um,” she let out a small giggle, “I tend to fake it a little bit, it’s more fun.”

I raised my eyebrows, “Wait, so you were pretending to cry when you were on the bench last night?”

  “No, I was worried about getting in trouble with my parents. The last time I got caught they grounded me for over a month. It was horrible, they were even angrier then the time I lost my V with Jordan McKenzie…”

  “Look, I’m sorry,” I interrupted, “but I have way too much homework to do for Monday, so I probably can’t come out again.”

  “Aw no! Hayden please come out, it was really fun last night!” Sophie whined.

  “I’m sorry, I can’t,” I sighed, glancing at the large pile of science homework, resting on my desk.

  “You can do your homework tomorrow, you’ll have enough time. Please Hayden!” She said earnestly, “Cole will be out as well and there will only be a few of us.”

The corner of my mouth lifted into a small smirk. I replayed his small smile he had given me last night, over and over in my head. My smile drooped when I realised what I would be missing. “I really want to, but I have hours and hours of science homework to do, I’ll get an after school detention if I don’t do it.”

She groaned in disbelief. “Who cares about homework? I thought you’re going to be moving down anyway?

  “I guess.” I said uncertainly. I did want to move down after all, so I suppose whether I did the homework or not it didn’t really matter. “Okay I’ll come out then.” I grinned.

“Yay!” Sophie cheered, "Morgan was saying that there’s weed left over from last night, surprisingly, and Cole's got some Vodka."

“Oh right,” I muttered, “well I’ll see you later.”

When I hung up I dropped the phone and fell back on my bed.

What had I gotten myself into?

I was sure if I was in the right state of mind I would have stopped myself from going out with Sophie and Cole, I would have stopped myself from drinking, I would have stopped myself from smoking the weed. And every sensible part of me urged me not to go out again with them. But I loved the feeling of being considered cool.

 At Whitefield there was a similar group of teenagers, but they would shout and laugh at me instead, and I hated that they had never even given me a chance.

 But this time things were different. And this was the new me.

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