The Most Popular Girl [Anna Jones]

"Give the people what they want, right? Right. I know what people want, and it's me. They want something to look up to, to aspire after. I say everyone should have a goal, and I give them that. See? I do so much, and all I ask is a little bit in return. " - Anna Jones, The Most Popular Girl

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2. Chapter 1

They should all be grateful. It's not easy being their perfect leader, but I do it all with a smile on my face anyway. Give the people what they want, right? Right. I know what people want, and it's me. They want something to look up to, to aspire after. I say everyone should have a goal, and I give them that. See? I do so much, and all I ask is a little bit in return. 

But now, look at Kimi, ruining that agreement, flirting with What's-His-Face Wyatt outside the greyish glass doors to the school office. She knows that he's how I keep my grades up and if she gets a relationship all ready to sail I'll have to go downgrade (haha, relationship, downgrade I'm literally hilarious) to Smelly Stanley and I don't think he could handle that. Look at me, looking out for others. Kimi doesn't really want Wyatt, anyway. I'll show her.

"Hey, Kimi!" I say, sidling up to her with a brilliant smile. She looks at me, then at Wyatt, panic dancing in her almondy eyes. Is that just one color of matte eye shadow? Honey, no. Someone could see her with me. Sigh.

"What'cha doing?"

"Nothing," she says. "Wyatt was just, uh-"

"Giving her the History assignment," he cuts in, handing her an index card out of his shirt pocket. Nerds. The only thing they're good for is gleaning information, I swear. 

"Well, good, because Wyatt and I have a little...ahem, business to attend to," I wink at Wyatt and move to his side, clinging to his arm. "You understand, of course." I run a finger down his chest. Mine.

He looks back and forth from Kimi to I and shrugs, but Kimi doesn't move. She's busy staring at the index card, blush tinting her cheeks. Sigh, she never was one to pick up on subtlety. "Come on, Kimi, you have your precious assignment now go and let me talk to Wyatt, okay?"

She looks up, and hurt flickers across her eyes. Finally, she gets it. She starts to back away. "Bye!" I sing. 
Wyatt looks sideways and down at me. "What do you want, Anna?" 

"Just wanted to say hi," I say, twisting my fingers up through the brown curls at the back of his head. "So, y'know, hi."

"Okay? Is that all, because I kind of have class."

I hesitate. Well, not really, but I look it. "It's just..."

"Yeah?" He checks his watch. How dare he look disinterested! I swing around so I'm facing him full on and my arms are around his neck. I force him to look at me. Soak it in, loser, I'm the prettiest thing you'll see all day. 

I flicker my eyes down, then back up. "It's just...I don't know if you know this, but Kimi is a little...sensitive, and once she likes a guy she gets super clingy. Like, stalkerishly clingy."

"Kimi? Really?" Oh, so now he's interested. Inside, I roll my eyes. God, boys.

"Yes, Kimi." I sigh. "Just..be careful, okay? I don't want either of you getting hurt."

"Thanks for the tip," he says. "Did you do okay on that last Biology test?"

"Not really," I pout. "I think I still need my tutor."

"After school today?" His eyes hold mine for just a second. Mmhmm, yeah, that's what I thought. Mine.

I disentangle myself from him. "Perfect. Text me!"

And before he knows it, I'm walking away, perfect blonde hair swinging around my back to the rhythm of my footsteps. Hehe, I feel his eyes on me. Fun fun fun. 

 

-[-~-]-

 

Kimi corners me later, after English, standing next to my desk and twiddling her fingers as I touch up my lip gloss.

"Hi, Kimi! What's up?" 

She looks down. "I don't know. What did you and Wyatt talk about?"

"Oh, nothing," I say, a small smile at my freshly pink lips.

"Really?" She inches closer to me. "What kind of nothing?" I stand up. In these shoes, I tower over her. 

I cap my gloss. "Just this party tonight. We're going together."

Her little tiny eyebrows fall down over her hooded eyes, like her face is crumpling in on itself. "Why?" she says softly.

"You should go with Chad or someone, like last time, or we could go as us girls again."

I laugh. "Sorry, but it's kind of exclusive." I start heading towards the door. She scrambles to follow me. 

"Can I come?" 

I stop and do my best flash of sympathy. "Listen, I'm sorry, but he asked me to go with him and seemed into me. So don't ruin this for me, okay?" 

"He did?" She looks doubtful.

I sigh. "Kimi, you were there. I came up, and he started hitting on me, don't you remember? Then you left, and he asked me to the party. He said it was invite only. I agreed, I'm not rude. I mean, if you don't want me to go, I won't, but I don't want to hurt his feelings, y'know?" 

She looks confused, but convinced. "Okay, I guess. I hope you two have fun," she says, looking down.

"You're a good friend," I say. Ha. "Now go to class, the bell is going to ring!" 

She glances at the clock and scurries off. Works like a charm every time.

 

- [-~-]-

 

The house is empty when I get home, as always. Excellent. The furniture sits quietly, like it's scared that if it moves it'll disturb the silence. Everything is perfectly aligned, perfectly spotless, perfectly untouched, perfectly perfect. Just the way I like it.

I toss my schoolbag into my closet, brimming with the hottest clothes, and I step in after it. Tiny skirt, loose top, no shoes, perfect. And, right on time, the doorbell rings. I go and open the door, slipping one sleeve off my tanned shoulder. Sunlight streams in, lighting up the dark wood flooring in streaks and making my hair look even more like a sheet of pure, solid gold than usual. Wyatt stands on my porch, backpack on his back and books in his arms as usual. I don't know why he even brings them anymore. We all know why he's really here. 

"Well, come in," I say, opening the door. He steps inside, and I close the door with a soft click, waiting for his body against mine. Something is different. His book are still in his hands. I'm impatient. "Okay, what's up?" I ask, sticking out my hip.

He puts his free hand in the pocket of his jeans. "I want to end our agreement," he says. 

"Really," I say, stepping closer. "Why would you want that?"

He takes a step back. Don't step away from me. "I don't need you anymore." He thinks he has the nerve to reject me? Please. This can't last ten minutes.

"Wyatt...of course you need me. Without me, you're a virgin wimp and my grades are lower than I deserve." I pout, stepping closer again. "Besides, I look forward to 'studying biology' with you."

He shakes his head and steps back, yet again. "You can find some other office assistant to do your bidding, and you could 'study' with anyone you wanted."

I smile. His back is against the ornate banister of the stairs and I press up against him, pushing his books to the floor. They tumble down the bottom few stairs and clatter across the wood floors. He's trapped. I'm the predator, he's my prey, and temptation is my weapon. "I don't want some other office assistant, though." He tries to get away from me but I block his way, pressing myself into him. He thinks he can escape. Adorable. I play with his ears. "What's the real reason, Wyatt?"

He flushes. "I want Ki- someone else instead. C'mon, Anna, just let me go." 

I step back, and he starts gathering his books off the floor. He was going to say Kimi. I know he was going to say Kimi. How dare they interfere with my life! I'm going to kill them both, I swear. I could rip his ears off, put them down her throat... "Don't," I say. I stand in front of the door, blocking his path. He looks at me warily. "You can't just abandon me like this! I'm counting on you to be a friend. You're taking all this way too seriously, anyway. It's just a deal, it's not like there's strings. It's just...food for reputation, bragging rights, practically free-"

"-Anna!" He's yelling. "I don't need anything else from you. Find someone else to do your dirty work and let me leave!" He tries to push past me, but I don't move. 

"Wyatt-"

He reaches behind me, finds the doorknob and opens the door. I fall, nails scraping the moving door, and slide across the floor. The door slams, and above me, the crystal chandelier quivers in fear. Wyatt's car drives away and I rise slowly, inspecting myself for damage. 

That son of a bitch broke my nail.

 

- [-~-]-

 

"Kimi," I say, doing my best to mimic a tear choked voice into the phone. "I'm so, so sorry. Oh my god." I faked a sob.

"Anna? What's going on?" In the background, I hear kids yelling. 

"I-it's W-Wyatt he...he...he..." I smirk. This is fun. I roll over on the plush pillows of my bed. In distress, of course.

"What about Wyatt?" She sounds confused.

"He...he...he hurt me."

"He what?!" Alarmed. Good, good.

"He p-pushed me to the ground. Th-the doctors s-s-say I'm going to b-be okay."

"Oh my god," she says. Panic. Even better. Then, with more conviction, "Oh my god! What happened?"

"H-he came over to p-pick me up for the p-party and I didn't even w-want to go. A-and then I almost tripped and grabbed onto his s-shoulder for balance, heels y'know, and h-he just flung me off, onto the ground, and he towered over me and was like, 'Don't you ever touch me' and then he s-stormed out of my house and s-slammed the door so hard the chandelier shook. The freaking chandelier shook."

"Wow," Kimi says. "Wyatt?"

"I know, it was just...s-so unxpected," I say, hugging a pillow. "Does he d-do this to other g-girls?"

"I don't know," Kimi says. Her voice sounds flat, like somebody ripped out her intestines and is wearing her as a necklace. I feel great.

"We should warn p-people," I suggest, trying so hard not to smile big enough enough for her to hear. The temptation almost gets me, but I'm in control.

"Yeah," Kimi says. I hear more yelling in the background. "Yeah. I have to go, dinner. Thanks for telling me."

"Yeah," I say, and click the phone off. 

 

- [-~-] -

 

"Yes, I look this good when I wake up," I say to my mirror, eyeing the frizzy nest of hair and under-eye circles any raccoon would be so jealous of. Thank god for makeup.

I get ready exactly like I always do, a complicated regimen that leads from a tousled, blotchy Anna to a smooth, silky, flawless queen bee.  It's an art form, really. The sleek lines of hair, the perfect contour and highlight. Just the right lips with just the right eyes, tweaked and adjusted until I look like the glowing, airbrushed goddess I am. 

Yesterday is in the past. Wyatt and Kimi will never work now, with him thinking Kimi is clingy and her thinking he's abusive. Then she'll get over it and he'll come crawling back to me, and it'll all be fun and games again. Crisis effectively averted. 

When I come downstairs, dressed in ripped skinny jeans and a lacy white tank, the cook has exactly one cup of fresh fruit, no sugar, one diet pill, and a glass of water waiting for me in the sleek, sunny dining room. At the other head of the table sits my father, eggs dripping off his fork as he holds a page from his leather portfolio with the other, ready to turn to another page of tiny black font. I pause for a second to plaster a smile on before I go in. 

"Hi Daddy," I say, my voice sweet. 

He looks up from his papers. "Good morning, Anna! How are you today?"

"I'm great," I say, inching down into my chair. "You're here later than usual."

He looks back down at his work and mmhmms."The trial I was needed in this morning was cancelled, so I figured a nice breakfast with my beautiful daughter would do me some good," he says, flipping a page and finally eating the eggs off his slimy fork. 

Because that page is more important to him than I am. 

"Oh yeah?" I force a grateful smile. Not that he sees. "Why was it cancelled?" 

"My client committed suicide," he said offhandedly. "He didn't seem convinced by all the other defendants I've gotten off death row." He shakes his head. "Damn guilt, it gets in their heads every time."

"Well, there's still estate money," I say. I know what he needs to hear.  

"Ah, you've picked up some jargon, I see! Clever girl, just like your mom." He looks at me proudly. I don't know why reminding him of my mother makes him pay attention to me, but it does. "Just like your mom," he shakes his head. 

Except I don't waste my life making foods that make people fat, I think as I eat a square of watermelon. 

I don't say anything else. He doesn't either.

 

- [-~-] -

 

I pull up to the stately, brick school building in my adorable silver BMW convertible but Kimi isn't waiting for me by the doors like usual. A little pang hits me in the chest. Where is she? I scan the campus, and I spot her by the buses, talking to someone blocked from my sight by a tree.

She looks like a wreck. Her hair pulls down from her face in flyaway waves, not up, back, or neatly flattened like usual, and it only gets worse as she runs her hand through it. Her knit sweater has obviously seen better days, too. It looks like she bought it off a moth-eaten lady dropping it off at Goodwill in a grimy trash bag. Her jeans are slightly loose, her shoulders are slumped, and from what I can tell, there isn't a single drop of makeup on her face. God, some people have no shame. In contrast, my head is high, my back is straight, and I am fabulous. Pulling my silver book bag from the passenger seat and slinging it over my shoulder, I exit the car gracefully, close the door with a slam that startles a group of freaks nearby, and start walking up the sidewalk, cluttered with people. 

My heels click loudly as I pass her, and her head turns slowly to look at me. That's right, come comfort me. I know, I need it after the things that asshole did to me. But instead of running towards me and apologizing for him like she should, she blinks. From behind the tree, Wyatt emerges and gives me a look I most certainly don't deserve. Contempt. 

Rage rises in me from my strappy heels to my diamond earrings, a wooshing wave of prickly heat. I lift my chin, tilt my head, give a little smile and a wave, turn, and keep walking, but with each step my fury grows. 
A blast of cool air whisks my hair off my shoulders when I step into the busy hallway. People turn to look, sensing something is wrong. They're right. 

I walk to my locker and open it, Lauren, the school gossip columnist and one of my greatest allies, walks over, curly ponytail swinging with her hips. Her gaudy fake nails are poised over her her phone, ready to spread poison from the tip of my tongue to everyone withing a fifty mile radius. 

"Girl, spill," she says, giving me a serious look. She's a busy little pollen spreading bee, ready to collect orders from the Queen. "Who's the target?"

I raise an eyebrow. "You ready for this?"

She laughs. "Are you kidding?"

"Kimi."

She stops and looks up at me. "Are you serious?" 

I cross my arms. "Dead serious."

She winces. "Shit. Sorry, Anna, but I can't help you."

"Excuse me?" I move my hands to my hips and she shrinks down into her sequins.

"It's just, I mean, like, there's like-" Lauren stumbles.

I stare her down. "-Spit it out."

"I'm not good enough. Like, nobody would believe me. Ever. Kimi just, like... isn't gossip material. She's not a slut, she's not a cheat, she's not gross, and she's literally done something nice for literally everyone in the school at some point since pre-k. Sorry, chica, but you're gonna have to find someone better than me. Please don't kill me." She takes a step back.

The seething pit inside me flares and I fold my arms again. "So who's better than you?" I ask, hoping there's an answer other than the one I already know. 

"Um, yeah, nobody on the paper with me. There's really only one person, a girl from the broadcast... and she works alone."

"I'm persuasive. Name?"

"Sam Camington."

Damn.

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