All The Words For Red

Red Laurens is used to being the new kid. Used to making friends and losing them just as fast, used to having her heart broken and trampled on, used to having a plan for making friends in the vain hopes that one day it might make it easier.

She thinks Greenwood High will be the same. She is wrong.

With a notorious school wide gossip blog, a whole school full of theatre kids, and friends who attract drama like mrtal attracts, well, magnets, Red has a feeling that her senior year won't stick to the plan either. She is right.

(Cover by Lily Anna)

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1. Blush

Red Laurens hated school dances. School gyms stuffed full of sweaty adolescents who were only there because they thought their crush might notice them, because all their friends were going and they didn't want to be left out of all the 'fun' everyone was going to have. Red didn't fit into either of those categories; no crush, no friends.

 

Being the new kid was always kind of tough, but she'd been there at least a month already. This was, in the majority of cases, adequate time o make friends, or at least casual acquaintances, to maybe find a group of people you fitted in with. The trouble with Greenwood High School, however, was not that there were cliques and tiny groups of select personality types - jocks, nerds, princesses - but that everyone was friends. Sure, not everyone liked each other, but it seemed to be all or nothing at Greenwood.

 

There was that tiny little group of people who may have been the princesses or the jocks in another school, or another town, or another life, and the few who didn't bother showing up to class at all, and then there was everyone else. All flung in together like one big happy family, and Red was the awkward cousin who just got adopted from a foreign planet.

 

So of course, it was a bit harder to make friends here than at all her other school. They didn't even have small groups of extra-curriculars. Everyone just jumped in to every activity they could see and fit in, and everyone else just rolled with it, whether they be senior or freshman.

 

Standing there in the entranceway to the school gym was Red, a senior student who, after her mom and older sister's insistence, had agreed to come to this dance, to try and find at least one friend. Dressed to the nines, there she was, in a bright blue dress and nude heels, straight hair pulled back into a bright ginger bun in an effort to reveal her face for once. The pink lipstick felt sticky on her lips, and she had to remind herself not to pick it off. Be confident, Red, she told herself. You got this.

 

Crossing the gym to the dance floor, Red almost bumped into someone; a girl from her gym class she recognised as one of two Lyon twins, Cyrus and Celine. "Sorry," Celine said with a too-sweet laugh like strawberry flavouring that's been processed too much for it to even resemble strawberries anymore.

 

"It's fine," Red mumbled, only reminding herself to be confident after Celine had left, when she had to bite her lip to keep from screaming in irritation. Why was this school so different from the rest? Why couldn't she just use her usual plan and find all the theatre kids and make friends with them and cry a sorrowful goodbye when she had to leave a few months after?

 

Of course, this school had to be different, had to be the one school that she had to spend a whole fantastic year in.

 

Making her way to the punch table, Red kept scolding herself for picking at the hem of her dress, for hunching her shoulders over and making herself smaller. 'Confidence is key,' her sister always told her. 'You have to look like you're cool in order to be cool.'

 

Red had never thought of herself as cool - how cool could a theatre kid be seen as, really? - but at least she found it easier to make friends. Here, just about the entire student body was a self-confessed theatre kid. It was more High School Musical than Mean Girls, and while Red loved a good musical, cliques and a hierarchy were things she understood. Things she could work with.

 

She poured herself a glass of strawberry punch, careful not to spill any on her dress as she'd done once before, and scoured the room for any empty seats around the dance floor. There was one, just in the corner over there, kind of near to a group of girls from Red's art class. With a sigh, she made her way over to the table and sat down, placing her cup and her bag down on the table.

 

One of the girls from the other table eyed her suspiciously, and Red dodged her gaze. There was something about that girl she didn't like - she was too loud, too quiet, too rude, too polite. There always seemed to be something that tiniest bit off about her, which made Red squirm. She couldn't quite recall what the girl's name was, but she was one of the smarter girls in the senior class, which vaguely terrified Red. In most schools, she was one of the smart girls. Here, everyone was one of the smart girls.

 

There was a sound of a chair scraping backwards, a few hushed whispers, and before Red could realise, Autumn James stood in front of her. She gulped. The girl's springy black coils swept over her face, which was heavily made up in the exact perfect colours to set off her deep skin tone. Her maroon-painted lips parted as she spoke. "You're Red, right? Red Laurens?"

 

"Yeah," Red replied, heart hammering. The girl smiled a smile more beautiful than any Red had seen before, and she felt her stomach flutter with butterflies. "Who's asking?"

 

"Just me," Autumn, her intoxicating vanilla scent dancing around Red's nostrils. "Well, me and my girls. We were wondering if you wanted to sit with us?"

 

Red cast her gaze over to the table beside her, where Autumn and her 'girls' all sat. Sakura and Hana Ito, the two sisters who everybody adored for their kindness, but who no one really ever spoke to outside of formalities. Maya Cruz, the smart girl who scared Red just the tiniest bit, and who she was quite certain had a relationship with Autumn. A bit irritating that she was the smart one, but Maya was sweet nonetheless.

 

And then there was Celine Lyon, hyper intelligent, super cool and way out of Red's league as far as both friends and girlfriends could go. Yasmine Latey, arguably the sweetest girl in school, who spoke the most out of anyone Red had met before, but somehow found only kind things to say about people. And Zoya Idris, ice cold and cool, though never cruel as far as Red had heard.

 

All of them smiled at her, and Red felt the butterflies return. "Sure," she said with a weak smile. "That'd be great." At long last, things seemed to be looking up for Red. Sure, it wasn't her usual plan, but at least it might get her somewhere. "Thanks."

 

"Well, come on then," Autumn laughed, grabbing Red's hand and pulling her out of her chair with a grin that warmed her heart. "Girls, this is Red Laurens. Red, this is Sakura, Hana, Zoya, Maya, Yasmine, and Celine." She pointed to each of the girl's in turn, and Red didn't fail to notice how her cheeks grew the tiniest bit pinker when she looked at Maya.

 

"Hey, Red," Maya said with a grin. "I love your dress, by the way."

 

"Oh." Red's cheeks flushed. "Thank you, Maya."

 

The girl smiled in the most sincere way, and Red felt suddenly self conscious in her old blue dress and light makeup. "So, where're you from, Red?" asked Zoya, leaning forward and adjusting her hijab. It glittered pink tonight, different from its usual black; it was prettier, and Red quite admired Zoya's almost magical ability to match her dress perfectly to it.

 

"Wisconsin," she replied. That was the first home she had, anyway, or at least the first she remembered. "We move around a lot, though. My last school was in New York City, for most of my junior year, and Austin before that."

 

"So what brings you to LA, then?" Sakura asked, twirling a strand of glossy black hair around her pink-tipped finger.

 

"Mom got a new job." It wasn't strictly speaking true. Mrs Laurens had always had the same job, all the time. Freelance photography, she called it, though Red thought it was just a cover up for her gambling and drinking and whatever else she got up to when Red's father wasn't home.

 

"That sucks," Hana said, green eyes glittering. "Our mom moved us out here from Miami a few years ago, just before we started high school. It was tough, but she loves her job. And we love it here, too." The girls smiled as if they had something to hide, and Red shivered a little.

 

"Yeah," Sakura added with an encouraging smile. "You'll get used to it here. I know everyone's really close at this school, but you'll fit in just fine. You've got us." Sakura winked, and the other girls laughed again, and again Red felt like there was something she didn't know, something she was missing. Still, she cleared her mind and plastered on a smile.

 

"Yeah," Maya said, leaning back on her chair without a hint of fear or worry about falling. "You're cool, Red."

 

"Thanks." Red frowned. These girls all seemed so close, so in touch with each other, like they genuinely liked each other, loved each other even. So why were they talking to her?

 

"Wanna come dance?" Celine asked, as music started up. It was some old song, one Red remembered from her Avril Lavigne phase in middle school, when she had bright neon pink highlights that clashed so awfully with her ginger hair that her she asked her sister to just shave it all off. Much to young Red's annoyance and grief, Kayleigh had refused. Instead, she just laughed and booked an appointment with a local hairdresser to get it all fixed, something Red never had the guts to do herself.

 

"Sure," Red said, breaking away from her thoughts and following the herd of other girls to the dance floor.

 

The bright lights shone down like the all mighty gods, blinding and boiling hot, and Red was all too aware of the sweat beading on her forehead, probably smudging all her makeup. Around her, students screamed the lyrics - most of them incorrect, Red might add - and the noise reverberated around Red's ears, drilling holes in her mind. It was just like any other high school dance, she noticed with a start. Blinding lights, deafening music, beautiful girls and handsome boys and people dancing right next to kids they'd never even spoken to before. It was a kind of magic, Red thought. How one simply thing like a high school dance could bring people together, even if it was just for one moment, suspended in time like a timeless oil painting, a work of art.

 

"Hey," said a boy who looked like a senior, wearing a sloppy grin. "You're the new girl, aren't you?"

 

Wasn't she always? "That's me. Red Laurens."

 

The boy smiled. "Nice to meet you. You're in my European History class, by the way. I'm not sure if you recognise me." Music wailed all around them, and Red frowned, trying to recall his face, his name, where he sat.

 

"Tony Medici, isn't it? You sit at the front, next to Sakura Ito." Tony grinned.

 

"So you do remember me? That's a relief." He leaned in closer to Red, grinning. "I was worried I might have to run away from you. Nothing worse than making a fool of myself in front of a beautiful girl like you."

 

Red smiled nervously, feeling her hands begin to grow clammy with sweat. In her defence, no one at her old schools had made a move so fast. "Oh. Well, that would be a travesty, wouldn't it?"

 

"Sure would." Tony leant in closer as if he was about to kiss her and Red took a step backwards, heart racing. With a pang and a pain in her heart, she watched as his face fell. "Oh."

 

"Tony, I don't - I don't really know you." There was something cold in his eyes, but it was soon replaced by a look of acceptance, even if it was feigned.

 

"I get it," he said, smiling a little, running a hand through his deep brown hair. "It's ... Cool, I guess. Euro History... It's a pretty fun subject."

 

"Yeah." What was she supposed to say to a boy who she didn't even know, and who had just quite possibly tried to kiss her? Christ, she wished Kayleigh was here with her, guiding through it like she would have done a year ago. "I um... I like the Black Death?"

 

Shit. The black death, which killed pretty much everything in Europe except Poland and, like, one Italian city? Great fun, Red, she scolded herself. Now he thinks you're rude and a weirdo.

 

But Tony just laughed, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets. "Sure is. See you in Euro," he chucked, before moving away to get lost in the crowd.

 

Red looked around to try and find any of Autumn's friends, but there was no one at their table, and she couldn't see any of them on the floor. Sure, Yasmine Latey was over in a corner making out with Jason Latefield, but Red had no desire to walk over there and interrupt them. Plastering a grin on her face, Red turned back around and tried to find a rhythm in the song to dance to, as it built up to the chorus.

 

It was sad without anyone to dance with, almost. The song was still good, of course, and though the lights hurt Red's head, she managed to find her rhythm and continued dancing on her own, until someone grabbed her wrist. Dreading the no doubt awkward return of Tong Medici, she whirled around to face Celine Lyon with a fierce expression, which subsided once she recognised the girl.

 

"Sorry," she mumbled, picking at the hem of her skirt. "I thought you were Tony Medici."

 

Celine laughed. "Oh, don't bother yourself about Tony. He tries it with every new girl at some point. Nice guy, attractive enough, but not the most committed in a relationship." She cast a glance over to Jason and Yasmine in a corner. "Then again, that's never bothered Yasmine."

 

Frowning, Red was about to ask what Celine meant, but was stopped by the brunette speaking again. "Come on, we want to introduce you to a few people."

 

Following Celine through crowds of people, Red walked into the outside air, breathing in the freshness. Before her stood a couple of Celine's friends - Autumn, Maya, and Hana - and some boys from their year, as well as a couple of girls Red recognised from being on the yearbook committee, which pretty much everyone was on, typical of Greenwood High School. "Guys, this is Red Laurens, the new girl." How many time had she heard that phrase tonight?

 

"Hey, Red," they all chorused back, as if they were in some kind of dull school assembly.

 

"Red, I want to introduce you to a couple people," Celine said, linking her arm through Red's. "Obviously you already know Autumn, Maya, and Hana, but I don't think you know any of the guys here?" Red shook her head. Of course, she knew of them, had seen them wandering the halls and laughing with anyone they could find to laugh with, but none she really knew.

 

"This is Stuart Love," she said first, pointing at a skinny boy with floppy blond hair and a smirk. "Jackson Fields, captain of the basketball team." Celine gestured to a tall, stocky boy with dark skin and wild black hair, who grinned at Red like they'd known each other all their lives. She recognised him; he was on the school basketball team, as well as the boy beside him, but before Red could mention this, Celine continued speaking. "This guy's Mark Woods, co-captain." The boy beside him was as tall as Jackson, if not taller, but it was clear at a glance he didn't quite possess the same athletic prowess as his friend.

 

"This is Lucas Santos, wannabe pro surfer," Celine giggled, pointing to a tanned boy with a crown of dark brown curls and sparking hazel eyes. "His 'brother from another mother', Jiu Wu." She pointed to the boy on Lucas' left, whose jet black hair flopped over his pale skin, hiding his face. "Mackenzie Sutton." Celine then pointed at another boy who lounged on a bench, laughing behind his mop of ginger hair, almost as bright as Red's. "And finally, the senior class's designated theatre geek and all around weirdo, Cyrus Lyon."

 

Celine's brother lifted his head up at the sound of his name, revealing warm brown eyes that glittered with specks of gold just visible from where Red stood. Red felt butterflies in her stomach, and tried to keep down the blush that she felt rising to her cheeks.

 

"You got all that, Red?" Celine asked, and Red jumped, broken out of a trance.

 

"Uh, most of it," Red lied, laughing with nerves. "Stuart, Jackson, Mark... Lucas?" Celine nodded. "And Jia and Cyrus."

 

"Yeah." Celine turned back to the others, grinning. "Looks like there's finally someone as smart as Maya in this place!"

 

The kids on the benches laughed as Maya Cruz rolled her eyes. "Oh, and I haven't even introduced you to the other girls! They're on yearbook. This is Nicole Bobbington, head of the school equalities committee; Ariel Hart, captain of the debate team; and Rosa Harkness, head cheerleader."

 

"Right." Red had no idea which was which, for they'd all looked up and smiled at the same time, right at the end, but she was sure she'd figure it out. Maybe just somewhere else - it was beginning to grow colder outside, and Red felt goosebumps rise on her arms.

 

"Now, is that everyone?"

 

"I think you've forgotten Jason making out with Yasmine inside there, Ce," Cyrus chuckled, which earned a snort of laughter from Stuart.

 

Celine rolled her eyes. "That doesn't count. He isn't actually here, is he?"

 

Cyrus laughed again, running a hand through his golden hair. "Relax, sis. I was just joking with you."

 

With a scoff of mock disgust, Celine turned away to go back inside, as Autumn and the other girls stood up with her. Unsure of what to do, Red hung back for a moment, before she felt both of her hands being held. Startling, she turned around and realised that the Lyon twins had taken a hand each.

 

"Come on, Red," Cyrus laughed from her right. "I need a dance partner."

 

"Uh, she's my friend now, Cy," Celine scoffed in a mocking tone. "Get your own."

 

"Red's way too cool to be one of your friends, lil sis," Cyrus chuckled, holding Red's hand tighter. "C'mon."

 

With a fluttering heart and an apologetic glance back at Celine, Red allowed herself to be lead away by Cyrus Lyon to the dance floor, where they were playing a relatively recent tune that everyone seemed to know except from Red.

 

When she didn't sing along like all the others, Cyrus laughed. "You don't know the song?" he chuckled, looking down at her.

 

"Not all of it," Red laughed. "I do vaguely recall the tune."

 

Cyrus smirked. "Uh huh? Then why aren't you humming?"

 

Crap. He'd really gotten her there, hadn't he, the great intelligent guy he was? "Because this school doesn't deserve the greatness that is my ability to carry a tune," she laughed, wobbling a little in her heels. "That a good enough answer?"

 

"S'ppose." He grinned a wicked grin, and all of a sudden Red felt a feeling of nervousness. "Chicken."

 

"Chicken?" Was that really the best this guy could come up with? Out the corner of her eye, Red caught Autumn, Maya, and Celine looking at her and Cyrus, and she felt a fluttery feeling in her stomach looking at Autumn, which she pushed away quickly. "I'd like to hear you sing any better, Cyrus Lyon."

 

"Going for the full names now, are we?" Cyrus laughed, quirking up an eyebrow. "Nice. You know, I'm impressed you even remembered my name, Red."

 

"How come?" Red asked with what she hoped was a normal-sounding laugh.

 

"Well, I just figured that you've got enough guys' names to remember tonight, I'm sure." He winked. "I saw you with Tony Medici."

 

"Oh no," Red groaned with a laugh, feeling herself flush scarlet. "Don't even."

 

"Why not? You aren't blushing are you?"

 

"God no," Red laughed. "He's just... Not my type. Too forward. He tried to kiss me about twelve seconds into our conversation."

 

Cyrus took Red's hands in his and she relaxed at the unexpected warmth. "Your hands are freezing, by the way," he laughed, before leaning in a little bit. "Are you cold or something? D'you want my jacket?"

 

"I'm fine," Red laughed, ducking her head in abashedness. Just then, the music changed and the DJ howled something incomprehensible over the slow melody.

 

"A slow dance," Cyrus said with a disarming wink. "Care to join?"

 

Red blushed, unable to keep down the butterflies or to quell the pink in her cheeks. "Sure."

 

To Red's surprise, Cyrus pulled her closer to him, still holding her hands. He seemed to just radiate warmth, Red realised, frowning. Like he was his very own sun. "Your hair's really pretty," he told her in a low murmur. "Suits your name."

 

Like she'd never heard that one before. "My dad chose it. Says he saw my mop of ginger hair when I was first born and new exactly what he wanted to call me. It's a stupid name."

 

"I think it's cool," Cyrus said, lips quirking up into a smile. "It suits you. Red."

 

"It's not a proper name," she laughed, barely even listening to the music as Cyrus spun her around. "You'd never call your child Orange or Yellow or Purple, would you?"

 

"Dunno," Cyrus shrugged. "I mean, if they were born with bright purple hair that'd be something in itself, so I don't see why not add to the effect?"

 

Red rolled her eyes. Her sister Kayleigh had dyed her hair purple, once, ruining those bouncing blonde curls that Red had always adored so much. It was a beautiful colour, and for a short time Red was jealous of the fact that if she tried it, her hair would most likely just turn green, but after the curls began to lose their shine and bounce, and her hair began to dry out... Red decided she didn't like purple hair anymore.

 

"Well, if you ever find a baby born with natural purple hair, do give me a call," Red drawled, then inhaled a sharp breath as Cyrus snaked a hand around her waist. Shit.

 

Her mind drifted to Autumn for a moment, but Red cut that out. Autumn had a girlfriend - Maya - and she clearly wasn't interested. But here was a boy, a rather attractive boy who made her heart beat a little bit faster too, and who was standing her with one hand in hers and the other -

 

"And that's the last dance of the night, folks," the DJ shouted, and Red frowned. "Thank you all for coming, have a lovely evening, and please have a safe journey home."

 

Cyrus pulled away from Red then, smirking. "I gotta go get my stuff," he said. "See you in a sec."

 

As the dance floor cleared, Red returned to her table where most of the girls already were, collecting bags and jackets. "D'you need a ride home, Red?" Celine asked with a smile. "We thought we were giving Yasmine a ride, but she's going home with Jason, so you're more than welcome."

 

Red blushed. "I'm fine, thanks. My sister's waiting outside for me. But thank you for the offer."

 

As she left, Red scanned the room for Cyrus but she couldn't see him anywhere, not even with the boys, not even with his sister. She decided it didn't matter. He was in her theatre class anyway, wasn't he? And besides, it was just one night at one dance. In her experience, that never really changed anything. On Monday morning, everyone would be just the same as always, and she'd be on her own again, the girl that the others took pity on at a dance because she was sitting alone.

 

She slid into Kayleigh's car with a sigh, dumping her bag in the backseat. "Good night?" her sister asked with a knowing smirk.

 

"Yup," she said, as the car began to pull out.

 

---

 

Celine Lyon sat on the fringes of a party, sipping at a drink. She didn't know its contents, but that didn't matter to her right now. All her attention was focused on the boy walking towards her: Jason Latefield. His brown eyes were warm, as though begging her to come meet him halfway, but she did not give in.

 

"Cel," he said, dropping into the seat beside her. "Long time no see. How are things?"

 

Celine rolled her eyes. "Go away, Jason."

 

"Touché," he laughed, smirking. "What's your deal, Cel?"

 

What was her deal? As if he didn't know. "You tell me, Jason. How many girls have you had now?"

 

"Ah, that's for my knowledge only, dear Celine." She resisted the urge to wipe that smirk off his face right now. Don't cause a scene, she reminded herself. Don't let Yasmine consider it. "You could be the next, you know. You just have to say the word."

 

"No."

 

"Aw, come on, Cel." He poked her in the ribs with a playful smile. "Just a little fun. It's not gonna hurt anyone."

 

Oh, how she wished her brother was here. Cyrus would have no issues with slapping Jason on her behalf. "I said no, Jason. You're my best friend's boyfriend. Even if I wanted to, it's wrong. And you need to realise that, too."

 

With a smirk, Jason stood up. "Whatever you say, Cel."

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