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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13. Ronald McDonald

I had almost forgotten the experience with the strange lady at the gift shop, until a couple of days later when I received a new e-mail from Declan.

   Apparently the lady wasn’t just an ordinary strange lady, but in fact somebody interested in managing her own band – coincidence much? But weirdly, Declan didn’t seem that enthusiastic about the news which was super strange seeing as most bands want a manager so they can proceed further in their career.

   Perhaps that wasn’t Declan’s intention when he first formed a band, and that he was happy enough performing to small amounts of people at a time and managing it himself. If that was the case, I admired him even more than before. Either way, I didn’t have much time to ponder over this because by this point Mum had emerged into my room and I had to pretend I was revising for my future mocks. (Even though we already had our mocks months ago, the school felt that they should pile yet more pressure on us and give us yet more mocks to prepare for).

    Truthfully, even when I wanted to get some revision done (my usual methods were simply reading the texts books which usually worked pretty well) not a single bit of knowledge was actually going in. I wasn’t too sure whether it was because I understood everything too well or just simply didn’t know how to revise this way anymore. I decided to test this by testing myself on the answers on the back of the book.

   The fact that I constantly had to check by flicking through the textbook didn’t look to promising, but I was distracted by another text message from Declan (did I mention I had his number?)

   Didn’t you mention you’ll be off next week because of half term? Would you an a few friends like to see walking in slow motion perform in Nottingham?

I stared at the text for a few moments, rereading it several times just to check I hadn’t misunderstood it for some reason – knowing me, it wouldn’t be surprising if I did. But the text didn’t change the fifth time I had read it and I sort of just clapped my hands together like a seal and span around my chair for a few moments afterwards. For the last couple of months, Declan had just been some virtual internet brother; seeing as I struggled to remember much of the real life him, I sort of just pictured messages and photos on a computer screen whenever I thought of him. Yet now I’d be able to see him properly for the first time in years… somehow without Mum and Dad knowing.

   I decided to let Sophie in with my secret seeing as we were still talking.

   I had a habit for making pretty terrible decisions (like falling behind with Music coursework) but I wasn’t stupid enough to go see Declan alone in an unknown city. I was pretty certain he was brother, but Sophie agreed to come just in case Declan was really - you know - a serial killer.

   It would only be an over night thing because Mum and Dad thought that I was sleeping round Sophie’s, but we’d still be able to stay over at Declan’s for the night and watch one of his gigs, before returning by train back to Bristol the next day.

   In a way, I was looking forward for the rest of half term. For one thing, I could have really long lie-ins and not having to bother getting up at six to get my makeup and hair done for school. Another reason was because I wouldn’t have to bother with school in general – putting up with endless class lectures about Taking Our GCSE’s Seriously and constant bitching was enough to drive any relatively sane person crazy. But the more important reason was clearly seeing Declan for the first time, well not for the first time, but the first time in a very long time - if that makes any sense.

     Unfortunately me and Ellis had fallen behind in the Music project again and would somehow have to keep touch in the holidays just to “keep on track” with the rest of the class. Because it wasn’t like we had a massive performance in a couple of weeks or anything.

   “Of course the two of you can just keep in touch by e-mail rather than see each other in person,” Mr Williams suggested - who by now had finally realised that the pair of us clearly didn’t get along.

   Me and Ellis gave looks of dissatisfaction.

   But at least now both of us wanted to get loads done in hope that we’d spend as little time with each other as humanly possible. It wasn’t that we hated each other – it’s just that it was impossible to stay in the same room for long without one of us trying to stab each other.

     Aside from having to inevitably send the occasional awkward e-mail with Ellis, Sophie was the only person from school I was going to contact over the next week, until all the drama cooled down between Cole and Morgan.

* * *

Over the next week, I had several slightly-awkward phone calls with Sophie in our under stairs shoe cupboard. And by awkward I mean the one time Dad found me there, crouched amongst the shoes hissing, “Be quiet!” down the phone. Except it didn’t look like I was talking on the phone, as in that very moment I was examining a pair of Mum’s suede boots. Clearly he must have thought we were having a very in-depth conversation and clearly he was questioning his daughter’s sanity – after all, would a sane person have a conversation with a shoe?

    We experienced a few moments of awkward silence before I clambered out the cupboard, flushing a pretty impressive shade of red.

   Admittedly, it would have probably been more normal to say that I was just talking to Sophie, but then he’d probably ask why I was talking to her in the cupboard in the first place and the secret would be out in no time.

   In a way it sort of surprised me how Mum and Dad were even letting me sleep round Sophie; aside from them still being annoyed about the party, they began to slowly gather that Sophie wasn’t exactly setting the best example for me.

    Truthfully, they hadn’t mentioned anything bad about her once, but their expressions when Sophie often paraded into our house after school in her usual, confident manner were priceless. Sometimes Mum often raised her eyebrows at the large amount of make up on Sophie’s face, but never said anything about it. That’s because Mum was strongly against stereotypes and so tried to act as if she had no problem with me wearing an equally large amount of makeup - she was against the whole idea that wearing a large of makeup makes you “easy”.

    But on Wednesday Mum seemed slightly suspicious about how much more make up I wore than usual (by more, I mean like fake eyelashes, blusher, lipstick… the whole lot).

    “Are you sure you’re just sleeping round Sophies?” Mum frowned, “you look like you’re about to go clubbing.”

    I hesitated, then forced a nervous laugh. “Oh, we’re going for a meal first with her mum and dad.” Shit, I could be a pretty bad liar sometimes.

   Mum looked slightly less suspicious. “Oh okay, well I’ll feel horrible if Mr and Mrs Mackay were to pay for the whole meal. Do you want a twenty?”

    I took the money guiltily, but slightly pleased that me and Sophie were able to treat ourselves for the train journey.

    Mum dropped me off at Sophie’s, frowning as she spotted Sophie emerging from her house wearing an equal amount of makeup, but a pretty provocative tight, black skirt and skimpy blouse. But as I said, she’s completely against stereotypes and didn’t say anything.

   “Bye Mum,” I gabbled, blushing slightly as I grabbed my sleeping bag and jumped out the car.

   “Bye Mrs Flack!” Sophie called excitedly.

   “Bye Sophie,” Mum replied, forcing a smile that did not suit her emotionless tone.

   I exchanged a smirk with Sophie, before following her lead into her house.

   She had styled her hair into tight curls and accessorised it with a daisy-chain headband that you’d often see models wear in magazines and I couldn’t help but envy the fact that it suited her. In comparison to her, I just looked years younger and my makeup made me look more like a clown than anything. Sophie on the other hand, much to my annoyance, looked stunning.

    I decided to remove some of the makeup when I went back in, despite Sophie insisting that I looked fine. Yet I’ve always hated the word “fine”. Because if something is “fine”, it is not “fine”, but just acceptable. (Or just bad but they’re too polite to even say anything).

     So we left the house – with me looking slightly less like Ronal McDonald’s daughter – and we lied to Sophie’s mum about whose house we were staying over.

   “Whose house?” she asked.

   Sophie thought for a moment. Then giggled, “Hanna,” before letting out a shriek of laughter.

   “Hanna? I haven’t heard about her before.”

   “She’s a close friend of ours. She has a nice hair.” She let out another shriek of laughter.

   I pictured Hanna, who I often saw sitting by herself in the canteen and walking around school alone. I was almost certain that she didn’t still have nits from year seven... yet everyone was still talking about it.

   Man, sometimes secondary school was tough.

    I forced an unconvincing laugh.

    We had to walk half an hour to the train station, half of which was spent being beeped at by passing cars belonging to the occasional teenage boy, but more frequently, middle-aged men.

   At this point I was glad that I was dressed more appropriately than Sophie; I convinced myself that they were beeping at just her, just so I’d feel slightly less uncomfortable. In reality anybody with boobs and legs probably would have been beeped at anyway.

   More people stared at us at the train station as we sat (well I sat) awkwardly waiting for our delayed train. Sophie seemed to enjoy the attention immensely and walked up to the vending machine to buy countless chocolate bars just so she can strut back to our bench like a model on a catwalk.

    But the way some people were looking at us made me feel uncomfortable and I couldn’t help but wish we were the only ones to occupy that train station on that particular evening.

    I became very aware of my unsteady breathing when I checked the time on my phone, confirming that the train was now half an hour late.

     Focus on your breathing Hayden.... a distant, familiar voice said in the back of mind. A voice I didn’t want to remember.

   Don’t think about anything else. Breathe in… and out.

   In… and out.

   In-

  “Hayden, look! The train!” Sophie cheered before grabbing her bag and running towards it, her heels pattering along the pavement, her curlier hair flowing wildly behind her as usual.

     I closed my eyes for a few moments and forced myself to steady my breathing.

     Then I followed her.

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