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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2. The Right Thing To Do

Walking through Bradley Stoke’s corridors was pretty much the same experience as Whitefield’s. If you were fortunate enough to be big, you could easily shove and push people out of the way, but if you were small, it was guaranteed you would get trampled.

  “You better not mess with us again!” An intimidating boy growled, holding a scrawny-looking kid by the scruff of the neck. I joined a small circle of half excited, half frightened spectators that surrounded them.   “I w-won’t, I p-promise!” The kid stammered, his eyes bulging with fear.

  "Oi, punch him!" somebody in the crowd yelled.

 But instead the boy's grip released, causing the kid to crash against the lockers behind him. Books were tipped into a scattered mess on the floor and his bag was thrown out of the window.

The boy flicked his blonde hair, making the girls passing by smile and giggle amongst themselves. Then he smirked, gave the kid on the floor one last kick then he blended back into the crowd of students as if nothing ever happened.

“Hayden! I’m supposed to show you round school, aren’t I?” A girl caught up with me, her long hair flowing wildly behind her.

 “You’re Sophie aren’t you?” I asked with a slightly nervous edge to it.

 But she frowned in confusion. "...Sorry, what?"

    "You're Sophie aren't you?" I repeated louder, blushing.

Shit.

  “Yeah! I’ll show you to your next lesson if you want,” she offered. I handed her my new planner and she examined my new timetable, “You have music first and you’re in my group,” she grinned, “I’ll show you the way.”

Sophie led me through a range of doors, guiding me through the crowded, vandalised corridors, full of the excited chatter of teenagers.

"You get used to this, I swear." Sophie called out over the noise. She knocked a kid out of the way with a sharp elbow. "Here it is."

 The creaking door swung open, banging against the dent in the wall.  “Hello everyone!” Sophie announced loudly as we entered.

   A variety of brass, percussion and string instrument sounds blended together giving the room and enlivening feeling; posters about famous artists and songs covered the walls, and in the very corner of the room sat a solitary grand piano with beautiful ivory keys. I found myself being drawn to it.

  I pressed a key and an echoic sound escaped from the piano. The deep, melancholy sound was so much more impressive than the modern, electric-like piano I had at home.

  “You’re the new girl, aren’t you?” A commandeering man’s voice asked, making me jump. I turned around and I had to hold back a snort.

He probably had the craziest fashion sense I have ever seen.

  “I’m your teacher, Mr Williams,” He said, “I’m guessing that you play the piano.”

  “Yeah, I don't do grades though, but I play pieces that are around grade seven." I replied, trying to keep a straight face as I looked through his neon pink glasses and into his eyes.

  He nodded his head in approval, “I can already tell you’ll do well in music, Hayden.”

I nodded back, giggling at the sight of his hairstyle that had been gelled into a crazy flick at the front and the gold hoop piercing that went through his nostrils. Then he turned around and clapped his hands together, “Okay, put your instruments down and sit in the middle guys!”

Chairs clattered noisily around the room as they were moved into the centre. I copied the others and grabbed a chair, moving it to the middle of the class.

I tripped, sending chairs flying in different directions and crashing into another boy in the process. “Whoops, sorry!” I exclaimed, blushing furiously.

  “Watch where you’re going!” He snapped, before yanking me up from the floor.

  I stared back in surprise, realising that it was him again. So I smiled uneasily. Instead of returning the smile, he raised his eyebrows and turned away again.

  “Hayden, over here!” Sophie called, waving from where she was sat. I dragged my chair next to hers.

He was sat near the front, chatting to the boy next to him and laughing. He was slumped back in his chair (he never liked sitting up straight), and he ran his hands through his hair exactly like he had always done. It was surprising how many little things I could remember about him.

...So why couldn’t he remember me?

  “Don’t bother about him,” Sophie remarked when she noticed me looking. She glared at him in disgust, “Ellis is nowhere near as nice as he looks.”

  “What do you mean?” I puzzled.

  “Long story,” she sighed, “...He used to be best mates with my friend, ages ago. But now they can’t last a minute in the same room without starting a fight. And he’s completely obsessed with football; you can’t have a proper conversation with him - not that I’d want to anyway. ”

  I raised my eyebrows; Ellis had always hated football when he was younger. He had always complained about his dad, who forced him to go to football clubs. Clearly he had changed his mind now, so perhaps his dad finally got him interested in it?

  “Quiet everyone!” Mr Williams called and there was silence - there was something about his voice that made everyone look at him in awe. He was the sort of person that always demanded attention, and his crazy appearance definitely helped him with that.

The rest of the class all seemed to pay attention to what he was saying. I on the other hand, couldn’t help but stare at his ridiculous outfit.

  He had shaved his beard into a goatee and he had crazy multi-coloured studs in his ears. His arms were covered with all sorts of bracelets which made me wonder how on earth he had the patience to put them on in the mornings (or maybe he never took them off). He wore a leather biker jacket, studded with spikes at the back and his jeans were ripped, with chains hanging from the sides.

Was this man for real?

When I had finally taken in his bizarre fashion sense I began to register what he was saying.

“I want to start off by saying how pleased I was with your practise exam results.” He grinned, “Everyone in here got at least a C which I am extremely proud about. So the music department decided to add something new to our syllabus, something that we are very excited about. This will actually count as part of your GCSE so you will need to take it seriously.”

  “What is it?” somebody called out.

  “We aren’t sure if this idea will actually be put into action. We’re contacting the educational authorities to get their approval first, so I don’t want to get your hopes up too high. We will let you all know in a couple of weeks’ time.” Mr Williams replied. “Anyway, let’s get on with the lesson now!”

 

*

My first week at Bradley Stoke seemed to drag on forever. I was unconvinced that I would ever get used to the different teachers, old classrooms with graffitti-covered tables, the mob in the canteen at lunch and all the unfamiliar faces. But slowly my first week slowly became my second, and then my third. By then, I was known my the rest of my year, and I was pleased to know that I wasn't reffered as the "quiet girl" but instead the "new girl". Or "Sophie's friend" since she seemed to have no problem with me hanging round with her.

But one thing I wasn't happy about was how Ellis hadn't spoken to me once. Obviously it had been a long time, but it seemed ridiculous that he couldn't recognise me; I hadn't changed that much. So surely he would be more pleased to see me after so long?

  “What do you have first?” I asked Sophie, one morning when we were on our way to tutor.

  “Science,” she sighed, “I’m so bad at it, and I don’t understand what Miss Morris is talking about half the time. “Hey, you might be in my group,” she said and she glanced at my timetable, “nope -I didn’t know you were that smart Hayden!”

Then before I could think I gabbled, “But I’m not!”

What!? I screamed to myself. I seriously needed to think before I opened that mouth of mine. I could already tell that her opinion of me was starting to disapprove as she raised her eyebrows at me. “But you’re in top set.”

  “Well there must be a mistake then,” I insisted, “I was bottom science group at my old school.” I shoved the timetable in my pocket so she couldn’t see my other lessons.

  “Oh poor you,” she sighed sympathetically, “you better get that sorted out with the head of year. Then you can move into bottom set with me!”

“Yeah I will,” I said, nodding uncertainly. Obviously I wasn't stupid enough to think being labelled clever would affect my popularity. But Sophie clearly wasn't the brightest bulb, and if I wanted to become friends with her we needed to be in the same lessons.

But as my very next lesson began, I realised that that was virtually impossible. As my chemistry teacher went through what was supposed to be a “difficult” lesson, I couldn’t help finding it ridiculously easy. In fact everything she said I seemed to already know.

   I sat and stared at the vandalised tables that were covered in various rude drawings and writing. How could I appear dumb enough to move down if Iessons were going to be this easy?

  “Can any of you remember from year ten how to construct a displayed formula for addition polymerisation?” Mrs Foster asked the class.

Easy, I thought.

The class of students glanced at each other uncertainly; clearly they had forgotten polymerisation completely. If I had been back at Whitefield’s my hand would have shot up. My science teacher would smile, knowing that if nobody else knew an answer to a question, I would. But I wasn’t in Whitefield’s anymore; I didn’t want to be The Pet.

  “Hayden, any idea?” Mrs Foster asked eventually, as if she knew.

 I hesitated. My mouth opened slightly, but then I shut it. “I have no idea,” I shrugged, acting as if I couldn’t care less.

Her polite smile disappeared, “Well seeing as none of you can remember a single thing from year ten, your homework is to read the whole Chemistry section from your year ten science book.”

The class groaned and gave me looks of dismay as if it was my fault. Well maybe it was.

   A boy protested, “But Miss, look!" He held his book up and fanned the pages, "It’ll take hours!”

  “Well if you guys actually took your GCSE’s seriously then you wouldn’t have to,” Mrs Foster replied, “anyways, let’s get back to the lesson!”

  I sighed; I could already tell that science was going to be hell. I had barely survived one hour, and was relieved to finally escape Mrs Foster's annoying, screechy parrot voice.

 “How was science?” Sophie asked who was waiting for me loyally outside (Miss Foster had kept us behind an extra ten minutes).

  “It was hard,” I sighed. We walked through the busy corridor to Music, which at the moment was the only lesson I looked forward to.

  “Oh well, you’ll be moving down soon.” She paused. “It does seem strange though… how you ended up in the wrong group. That hasn’t happened to anyone before.”

  “Yeah,” I said uncomfortably, “…so what are you doing after school?” I asked, desperate to change the subject.

  “Going out with a few of my mates,” she said cheerfully, “you could come if you want.”

“Y-you sure?”I stuttered. I bit my lip, furious at how pathetic I sounded.

But she laughed at me, pushing the door to the music room, “of course you can - you’re my mate.”

I smiled to myself, and we joined the rest of the class who were sat in the middle of the room just like last lesson, but for some reason they all had the same anxious expression.

  “Oh great…”Sophie muttered, she nudged me to look at the board where the word Performances! was written.

  “I completely forgot!” I groaned, “I didn’t prepare anything!”

  “Me neither,” Sophie shrugged, “but just play anything and everyone will clap anyway. I can tell we’re not the only ones, judging from the rest of the class’s expressions.”

   It was comforting having a class full of people that were as disorganised as I was. A few mumbled that they had forgotten their music, and others made a poor attempt to make up something from the spot or of what they remember. Mr Williams shook his head and frowned, reminding the class that they should have been more prepared. Ellis was the first person who could actually perform a song, but made no eyecontact. Frowning with concentration, he hammered against the drum kit, moving his hands so fast they were almost a blur.

   Then when Sophie was called up to perform she walked to the front with a surprising amount of confidence considering she hadn’t prepared anything. “I’m singing Read All About It,” she announced. Then she sang, and her captivating voice echoed around the room.

  After a while watching the performances had become incredibly tedious. Despite having no clue what to perform, I slowly began to lose attention.

 

 

“…Hayden?”

I jumped, realising that the whole class had their eyes on me.

“Yeah?” I asked.

  “You’re up,” he said, smiling at me.

Oh.

  My legs were shaking as I stood up and slowly walked to the grand piano at the front. I considered saying that I hadn’t prepared anything like countless members of the class had. But somehow I felt that that wasn’t the right thing to do; I could already see Mr William’s disappointed expression. Music was the one subject I longed to excel in, and this was one of the rare chances to prove I was good at it. So the endless songs that I had learnt in the past ran through my mind.

Of course I wasn't that good at piano; at the moment I was still stumbling through my newest pieces. And I was also annoyingly nervous; I knew that if I played a song that was too challenging I'd probably mess it up half way through.

My shaking hands continued to hover over the smooth ivory keys as the class watched me with admittedly, little interest. And finally, a suitable one came back into my memory.

Then the piano struck a chord and the enlivening sound filled the room. 

 

The music soars and dances around the room and then stops abruptly.

“That’s the beginning of the song,” I say, feeling too embarrassed from his attention to continue.

“That was amazing.” He says as he sits next to me. His green eyes shine in excitement,” I want to learn how to play like that.”

“It’s not that difficult,” I say. I move his hand onto the keys, “the left hand is very basic.”

I demonstrate what notes to play and he copies me, frowning in concentration. His hand is weak against the keys but eventually he starts to pick up. I slowly join in until we are playing the song together.

 

 

When the class clapped and cheered as the last long note came to a finish, I knew I had chosen the right song. Even Mr Williams nodded at me in approval.

  Sophie jumped up and yelled, “Woooo! Hayden!" as the class laughed.

I smirked as my eyes moved along the small group of clapping students. But they stopped on the only silent person in the room, staring at me with his vivid green eyes.

And I knew exactly what he was thinking of.

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