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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14. Word Vomit and Awkward Hugs

   “See ya London!” Sophie called, waving through the window towards a group of teenage boys who were still waiting for their trains. “Have fun waiting for another hour, suckers!”

    Having caught the attention of the boys, they began smirking at each other and waving back, completely oblivious to what was actually being said.

   I sniggered for a moment, but the lady sitting and tutting opposite us caught my eye and so I muttered a warning in her ear.

    “Why should I give a toss about what that snobby lady thinks?” Sophie muttered back, far too loudly to be discreet.

More tutting. So Sophie began to copy her.

    “Sophie!” I hissed, already aware that I was becoming a familiar crimson shade.

   Sophie shrugged, clearly to emphasize how she didn’t have a care in the world.

   Oh how I envied her.

   With a glance down at my phone I noticed another text from Declan.

   What time are you and your friends thinking of arriving?

   I paused for a moment, cluelessly. I wasn’t exactly the most organised person (being consistently late for school was one example) and I hadn’t really thought in depth of how exactly this trip was going to go. Usually for these sort of things (not that I have ever experienced something similar to this) I made up a rough idea of what was going to happen and sort of hoped for the best, praying that everything went to plan as soon as I got there.

   And the trip wasn’t going so bad so far, was it? Well aside from the train being half an hour late, and feeling exceptionally awkward with Sophie’s company in public.

   I replied to Declan with my estimation, catching my reflection in the phone’s screen with a cringe. Man, I seriously needed something for my spots; they had now spread to create loads of unsightly little bumps all over my jaw and were getting more and more tedious to cover with concealer in the mornings.

   “My face is messed up,” I couldn’t help but remark. This wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t added a few curse words in with my comment, which evidently lead to yet more tutting.

   Sophie sniggered. “Now you’re the one that needs to watch your effing language!”

   More tutting.

   “Excuse me? But was is your problem?” Sophie snapped, causing the tutting to immediately stop whilst we tried to conceal our laughter.

     The rest of the journey was spent wondering what the hell I was doing, meeting a brother who may as well be a stranger to me because I hadn’t seem him so long, and even worse, going along with Sophie, who just seemed to attract trouble like a magnet.

   “You look tense,” Sophie remarked, pulling my hand away to stop me nibbling away at the skin around my nails. “You’ll totally wreck your hands if you do that you know. And you bite your nails too?”

   With that, Sophie whipped out a nail file from her tiny handbag, along with other things that assumed were for your nails.

   I smiled to myself, realizing how Sophie’s bag was very much like Hermione’s bag in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – where she had enlarged the inside of the bag with an undetectable extension charm so she could carry everything she needed with her, yet it still looked like a miniature handbag.

    I reminded myself that there was no point in telling her this seeing as she wasn’t really into Harry Potter. So instead I let her file her nails, pretending to be pleased with the outcome when in all honesty I’d probably nibble them without thinking later.

     I distracted myself by staring out the window, appearing to be fascinated by the sunset, pointed out by Sophie. But the amber sunset, the fields of cows and trees formed a blur in my vision. My mind was blank and I no longer made sense of what Sophie was saying as she chatted for the rest of the journey.

* * *

 

In contrast to Sophie’s relief to be off the train (which in fact, stopped for an extra hour due to technical problems), I was disappointed that I could no longer be alone to my own thoughts. But I forced myself to make sense of directions, find a taxi, and remember Declan’s addresses which Sophie seemed to be absolutely clueless about. In a way sometimes I envied the way she could be so carefree and literally not give a shred about anything. Other times I prided the fact I was the one that was relatively smart and had a bit more common sense.

    By this point we had been dropped off by the taxi driver who had mumbled something about us being walking-distance to his house. He then mumbled the directions we had to go, which I was too exhausted to really listen to (a fatal mistake, realising half an hour later that I had no idea where I was going and that Sophie hadn’t bothered to listen either).

   As Sophie ran off to ask a rather dodgy looking group of people where we were supposed to go, I sighed heavily.

    “This was a huge mistake,” I said out loud.

    It wasn’t to anyone in particular – it was one of those things that you sort of just say to yourself when you’re so tired that your thoughts and speech sort of jumble together. But in a way I wished somebody else was here for me to say that to. Not Sophie; for a start she probably wouldn’t even hear me. I needed somebody who just noticed things and heard things that other people didn’t.   This was why it was probably a mistake I hadn’t invited the rest of the group; there’s usually at least one other person who was relatively sane. Usually Aaron. Many times when the rest of the group were completely out of their faces, or just acting insane as usual, Aaron was usually always there to have a decent conversation with.

   Yet the main reason he hung out with us was because he was best friends with Morgan and aside from the small, occasional conversations I had with him, I barely knew him at all. Seeing as Morgan and Cole weren't planning on becoming friends any time soon, it seemed like there wouldn't be a chance to get to know him in the future either.

   “Oi Hayden!” Sophie called, as she waved excitedly from the end of the road. “I think I know where we’re going. These guys just told me directions!”

    I made no response, but for once, trusted Sophie to take the lead.

     The group wolf whistled as we reached the end of the road, and Sophie grinned, before blowing a kiss.

   “Copy me Hayden.” Sophie insisted.

   So I copied her grudgingly.

   “Mate, you can see their f**cking asses in those shorts.” I could just make out from the end of the road.

   I blushed and began to pick up my pace.

   “Hey, wait for me!” Sophie called, “I’m the one that knows where we’re going!”

         Turns out Sophie did actually know what she was doing for once and fifteen minutes later we arrived outside a large block of flats. After asking for more directions and searching around, we turned up at the correct flat and spent a few moments waiting awkwardly by the speaker thing, urging each other to press the buzzer.

   “You do it!” Sophie hissed, “he’s your brother after all.”

   I hesitated, staring at Declan’s name written in block capitals.

   DECLAN FLACK

   So Declan decided to take Dad’s name? I thought to myself curiously. Eventually, I gingerly pressed the button next to it, shaking slightly.

   Sophie grinned at me excitedly and so I returned one, although forcing a smile seemed like more effort than usual - I didn’t want to admit it, but I was terrified.

   What if we had no idea what to say to each other? What if Declan was really horrible now and I no longer got along with him? What if… he wasn’t actually Declan?

    “Hello?” A low voice replied.

   I froze.

    Sophie nudged me, urging me to say something in response.

   “Uh. Hi… it’s Hayden.”

   

* * *

We all have those moments in life when the seconds just seem to drag on for minutes. In some cases, the whole world can just freeze altogether.

    Standing outside Declan’s door was just another example of this.

    Sophie and I glanced at each other, urging each other to dare knocking on the door again, until finally, I managed to build up the courage to edge closer to it.

    But in that very moment the large door opened and everything went on pause mode.

    He had a similar hair colour as mine, but actually longer and tied back in a ponytail. His facial features seemed to match the mental image I had of him; brown eyes, square jaw, a long nose with a bump in the middle – like mine.

    “Hayden, right?” He asked, looking just as uncomfortable as I did.

    He leaned in and we exchanged an awkward hug.

    “This is Sophie, by the way.” I added, gesturing in her direction.

    They shook hands.

   “Anyway, sorry it took me so long to open the door. I was trying to clear up the mess.”

     He led us into his lounge, with nice comfy-looking sofas, bookshelves, crammed with so many books that there were even piles stacked on the floor nearby.

  “It’s a bit of a mess.” He said sheepishly. “Sorry…”

  “It’s great,” I grinned, although I tried not to glance in Sophie’s direction, who was already wrinkling her nose at the littered room.

   “If I’m honest with you, I thought you’d be inviting a few more people,” Declan laughed. “Seeing as I have five free tickets.”

    I exchanged a glance with Sophie.

    “We were going to invite a few others, but I think they were too busy to come,” I explained. Yeah, busy arguing and hating each other.

    Declan nodded understandingly, before offering us a drink and sitting us down.

   At this point I was too nervous and excited to even handle one, and when we went off in the kitchen my thoughts whirled around my mind excitedly.

What is even going on? Is this even real? Am I actually at Declan’s house? What?

    Sophie nudged me. “He’s pretty good looking Hayden. Why didn’t you mention this before?”

   I laughed and shrugged to myself.

   Sophie then began to natter to me about something that was going on at school - an argument she had with one of her teachers - whilst I pretended to listen. Mentally I went through all the numerous conversations I had planned before.

    “So what made you want to live here? Aw that’s awesome. What are your hobbies? Me too. Do you still have that guitar from ages ago? Wow…”

   I have spent a large amount of the train journey here going over what I would stay in order to stay clear from what otherwise would likely be a very awkward visit – I was awkward with most of my relatives, why would Declan be any different?

   But despite the amount of times I had gone through all the conversations through my head, when Declan actually sat down, handed a coke to Sophie and a glass of water to me, a question that had whirred around my mind for years, began to attack me. And without a moment's thought, the question left my lips like vomit.

  

“...Huh?” Declan asked, raising an eyebrow.

    I closed my eyes for a moment, and slowed down my breathing, as if by doing this it would somehow bring me the strength to repeat my sentence normally.

    I needed the answer from him; it had been bothering me for years.

  

     I sighed.

    “…Why did you leave home?” I asked, finally.

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