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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6. Paperclips

The familiar surroundings of the deserted school grounds emerged into my vision. Trapped, surrounded by the ring of spectators, giving me the same look of disgust.

Suffocating…

Her scream vibrated violently in my eardrums.

“I’m sorry!” I cried desperately, although I know “sorry” can’t to take back what I have done.

She glared at me, almost inhuman from her anger and pure hatred. “I’ll KILL you!” She roared.

Her hand hit my face with a sharp crack.

“NO!” I shrieked in horror, trapped and struggling under my overwhelming bed cover. My bedding rolled onto the carpet, leaving me trembling from the same distant memory, repeating itself over and over again.

 “I’m sorry.” I croaked in the darkness of my unsettling room.

"I'm sorry.” I repeated, hands shaking, heart racing.

Silence.

 “I'm sorry…I'm sorry…I'm sorry…I'M SORRY! I’M SORRY!”

“You BITCH…” The sinister voice yelled continuously in my mind, reminding me, taunting me. Before I could think, I was stumbling over my feet in my rush to the toilet.

I jumped at the gentle knocking on the bathroom. My weak arms shook as they lifted me off the cold, bathroom tiles. “Go away,” I groaned drowsily, with one glance towards noise.

  “Hayden, do you want me to come in?” Mum’s comforting voice whispered, the bathroom door opening an inch.

“No,” I snapped, slamming the door in a haste. Glancing at the bathroom mirror, a monster with wild, untamed hair and bloodshot eyes stared back, causing me to recoil in shock.

Shuddering at myself, I walked back into my bedroom, dodging Mum who was waiting for me in the landing.

“What’s wrong with you Hayden?!” Mum demanded exasperatedly, “why are you behaving like this?”

My door slammed in response.

*

A few heads turned towards me as I walked in late for my music lesson the next morning.

Sophie smiled at me earnestly, and nodded towards my saved seat which I warily took. I found it difficult looking at her, partially because I didn’t want her to see all the spots on my face, which had appeared from sleeping on the bathroom floor last night. But mainly because I was still humiliated from the party, and I felt slightly guilty from ignoring all her texts.

“Don’t worry about what happened,” she muttered, as if she could read my mind, “it happens to everyone at some point.”

“Does anyone know?” I asked, trying not to highlight the worry in my voice.

“Just Cole and me.”

I relaxed; realising Sophie and Cole were more understanding than I originally thought. The horrible situation in the streets didn’t seem to be that bad at all, and my awkward day back was improving rapidly… especially when I had to fight back a giggle at the sight of my music teacher.

Today he was sporting a pair of bright orange trousers, and from the looks of it they were held up with paperclip suspenders. He exclaimed to the class excitedly, “This year we’re going to have a completely new take to your exams - the exam board have given us the permission!” He smiled.“ As you are all aware, your performance and composition skills contribute quite significantly to your final grade. But instead of recording your performances in the classroom, they will be recorded… in a concert hall.”

Immediately, excited chatter began to fill the room.

Sophie called out over the noise, “Sir, I don’t get it. Are we going to be preforming our pieces in front of the whole school, or an actual audience?”

“A proper audience!” Mr Williams grinned, “The PTA will be selling tickets and refreshments, as they’re raising money for the new school toilets.”

“Some of us should get some of the money, since we’re the ones who’ll be performing,” Sophie remarked.

 "Also, for part of the performance syllabus you have perform with a group or a partner. So you’re going to be split into groups of two or three and you will perform together. Although obviously you need to play instruments that sound good together. For example people who play brass instruments should go together and perhaps a singer should go with a pianist.”

I nodded towards Sophie and she grinned. Being the only pianist in the class, it was clear we were going to work together.

Mr Williams clapped his hands together, “so now, you’ll find out your groups!”

“Sir, me and Hayden have already decided to work together,” Sophie called out.

“No need to bother doing that,” Mr Williams replied, with eyes shining, “we’ve already decided your groups.”

Sophie frowned, “But sir, I swear you said that a singing voice and a piano would sound good together.”

“Yes but your voice gives more of a country vibe, “he replied. Sophie gave a small snort and he continued, sounding slightly irritated, “therefore you’ll sound better with a guitar or a Ukulele. I think you should pair up with Hanna.”

Sophie glanced at Hanna in disgust. “You’re having a laugh!”

“But I play the guitar as well!” I said, “Wouldn’t it be easier if me and Sophie just went together? I’m still quite new and I don’t really know anyone here.” I added.
 

“Well this is an excellent opportunity for you to get to know other members of the class.” He shrugged, “Sophie stop acting like such a sulk – you’re worse than my five-year-old.”

He held a sheet out to the class, “anyway, here’s the list with all the groups.”

Immediately the class clambered to their feet and rushed towards it, apart from Sophie who was still sat with her arms crossed. “I’m not doing it if I have to be with her. I refuse.” Sophie sneered, and nodded towards Hanna who was half-way through cleaning out her ear.

“You know what?” Ellis snapped, snatching the sheet out of my hand.  “Not all the attention has to be on you Sophie. Some of us actually want to take part in this…”

His voice trailed off.

 “Oi, Ellis who are you with?” His friend called, but he was ignored.

The two of us stared at the sheet.

Group 7:

Ellis Bailey

Hayden Flack

It just didn’t make sense.

We were the only girl and boy to be put together, the only pair (excluding Sophie and Hanna) and the piano didn’t even sound good with the drums – what was Mr Williams thinking?

I glanced up at Ellis who was practically snarling at me. His friend nudged him and sniggered, “you can't seem to get away from her mate."

*

The front door slammed shut with a rather impressive bang. I marched into the hallway and kicked off my shoes. My bag slid along coffee table before falling off the other side. I threw my coat in the same direction and it landed in a crumpled heat beside the door.

 I hated him.

When we were younger Ellis had hated football more than anything, now he seemed to have nothing else to talk about. He used to stutter and stumble when he spoke, now he back-chatted the teacher with all the confidence in the world. He was once a target for bullies on the school playground, now it was like he had become a bully himself.

What had happened to my old best friend?

 At first, he had refused to do anything. He just slumped on his seat, smirking cruelly at my exasperated expression. Instead of co-operating he rolled his eyes, “No offence, but I really don’t care about this lame project. So don’t expect me to contribute.”

I sneered, “Have I done anything to hurt you? Or are you just a prick to everyone?”

“I think you already know the answer to that,” he retorted, glaring back at me.

“Well I wouldn’t be asking if I already knew, genius-”

“…So, Group seven!” Mr Williams said, emerging out of nowhere and causing us both to jump.  “Have you two come up with any ideas for your project?”

“Well umm…” I hesitated, “Ellis is going to be playing the drums, and I’ll be playing the guitar, I think.” I glanced towards Ellis for his opinion but he seemed to be staring into space.

“Oh okay...” Mr Williams nodded, “So are the both are you going to have a rock theme?”

“I guess so,” I shrugged, although I privately hated the idea. I longed for something more classical – another reason why I should have been put with a singer.

“Brilliant,” Mr Williams grinned, before leaving the two of us alone again.

“So are you actually going to bother helping me now?” I then asked him.

But Ellis sneered. “Like I said before, I couldn’t care less.”

I couldn’t stand two lessons with him, so how was I supposed to work with him for the next couple of months? I had spent the whole time walking home complaining about him to Sophie, but somehow it just seemed to make me angrier.

“Well I’m not too happy with the groups either!” Sophie complained, “I’m with Hanna for goodness sake, at least Ellis doesn’t have nits!”

“But it’s like he’s got it in for me!” I insisted, “Before I even got a chance to speak to him he hates me. You know what, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if it was Ellis who spiked my drink at the party. He obviously wants to humiliate me.”

Sophie paused, “…do you remember anything from that night?”

“Apart from how crowded it was and throwing up in the streets, no.”

“Oh.”

I frowned, “why?”

“Don’t worry,” she shrugged.

“…You know who it was, don’t you?”

“It’s only a suspicion, but I spotted Mellissa several times at the party, and she’s still bitter about Cole splitting up with her.”

“She’s mental!” I exclaimed, “what’s wrong with her?!”

“It’s only a suspicion though! It could be somebody else,” Sophie said in a secretive way, which made me wonder whether she actually knew who this “somebody else” might have been. But she changed the subject before I could ask her, “Anyway, seeing as you’re close with Cole, Ellis isn’t exactly going to be nice to you is he?”

Fair point, Sophie.

I stared at the ceiling in my bedroom, examining the small swirls of paint. The swirls reminded me of the gentle waves in the sea and just the thought of being there calmed me down.

I had always loved the seaside, although we don’t go as often as we did before. When we were younger, Declan had always persuaded us to go there because he loved to sit by himself at a deserted part of the beach and play the guitar. Sometimes he would let me listen, and those times were magical.

But we don’t go to the beach very often anymore, Mum says it’s because we live too far away. But I know that’s not the reason. The sea reminds her too much of him.

I felt bad about not telling her about Declan. But I knew that if she found out she would surely tell Dad, and there was no way I would want him to know. He would demand to see the emails and start to interfere. He would probably want to know everything about where Declan lives and about his job. Then he would lecture him and ask where the hell he had been for the last ten years, and before I knew it Declan would give up replying and we would lose contact with him. Again.

Even when I was little, I knew that there had always been tension between Declan and Dad. It started with Dad always taking my side whenever I got into a fight with Declan and to be honest I quite liked that. Then gradually his remarks towards him became more critical and spiteful. He especially enjoyed reminding him about his dad because he knew how much it got to him. Of course Declan wasn’t a bit like his dad though; he swore he had nothing to do with him and refused to visit him in prison.

There seemed to be arguments every day, sometimes they dragged on well into the night. Most days Declan refused to go to college and would lock himself in his room and just play the guitar, completely oblivious to Dad’s yells.

Then one day Declan left, and he never came back.

Mum and I missed him horribly, and only Dad seemed pleased, if not a little bit guilty that he had gone. I missed all the imaginary games we used to play. I missed the sounds of the guitar coming from his room and I missed his laid-back, unusual personality. The house was too quiet, too empty and too boring. And although Mum tried to join in with Dad and play “happy families” and act like nothing ever happened, her sadness and loss were still shown through in eyes.

I used to imagine opening the door and seeing him back home, promising that he would never leave again. But in reality, I knew was never going to come back.

I sat up straight and blinked repetitively to bring back the tears. I was determined not cry and wreck my makeup - I didn’t want to do it again before I went out with Sophie. I forced a smile, reminding myself that I still had Declan’s email to answer and at least now I had some sort of contact with him.

Hi :)

No I can’t sing, unfortunately. If I’m completely honest I sound more like a dying cat than somebody who can sing. Although I am quite good at the piano and guitar :P

I can’t believe you’re in a band! What is your band called? What type of music do you play?

Hayden xxx

*

When I met Sophie, Aaron, Morgan and Cole outside of Charlie’s Chips (the new fast food restaurant) I could sense something was going on. They gave each other private glances when they saw me approaching. I forced a smile, although inside I was thinking the worst.

Were they talking about the other night?

Had they finally become fed up of me?

Had they realised that I was not really the “cool” girl I pretended to be?

“Hey Hayden,” Sophie said, her lips stretched into a forced smile. She exchanged an awkward smile with Cole.

Cole coughed, “Hayden, uh-err… there’s something we’d like to ask you.”

I bit my lip, thinking that they were going to talk about last Friday, seeing as they didn’t hadn’t actually talked about it much, but Sophie gave him a sharp jab in the ribs.

He yelped, “ouch! I mean I have something to ask you? …Can I speak to you in private?”

“Sure,” I replied, uncertainly.

I followed him as he led us to somewhere a bit quieter (away from Sophie and Morgan who were already starting to bicker) and we walked into a deserted alleyway next to Charlie’s Chips. The smell of fast-food that wafted from the vents and the stench of waste from the wheelie bins mixed into a smell that made me feel queasy.

After examining his half awkward, half anxious looks and his fidgeting I began to suss what he was going to ask. But I still managed to keep a rather relaxed expression.

“So, what were you going to ask me?” I questioned.

“Well…” Cole hesitated, “we’ve been getting pretty close recently. So I was wondering… Will you go out with me?”

I thought for a moment, wondering what on earth it would be like to finally get a boyfriend – and more importantly a popular boyfriend… even if he was a bit of a jerk.

Was this actually happening? Half of me wondered whether this was just all a trick and they were all humouring me. The thought of them all laughing behind my back made my stomach churn.

After a while I could see he was beginning to become impatient. And of course he wanted my opinion, but he wasn’t going to wait for an answer all day was he?

So eventually I replied with a smirk.

“Well… why not?”

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