Cinderella and the Three Princes

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2. The King of Hearts

It's my first day at Gem High, and I've already managed to piss off the most popular guy in school. By the time to get to school the next day, I'm still debating whether or mot I want to stay.
'Hannah! I'm so glad you decided to come back! Does this mean you're staying?'
'I've decided to stay.'
'Really?' Kayla's eyes light up like a Christmas tree. She throws her arms around me and squeezes me tight. 'I'm so happy!'
'You've known me a grand total of one day. How have you grown this attached?'
'Because you're the first student at Gem High to talk back to Oliver Gem.'
'I thought you told me that was a bad idea!'
'It was. It was a terrible idea and you're probably going to regret it.'
'Then what-'
'But that doesn't mean it wasn't the greatest thing I've seen.' I laugh and shake my head. As I stuff my normal clothes into my locker, a card falls into my hands. A king of Hearts? More stupid games. I don't have time for this. I toss the card into the trash can and follow Kayla to the atrium for my first class of the day.

I barely squeak into horticulture before the bell rings. 'Hello class. Today we'll take a walk and identify the various shrubs planted here. Notebooks should be open with your pencil's ready to sketch. No talking!' I hear whispers behind me, but ignore them as I follow instructions. I have a feeling we'll be quizzed on these later. It's better to be prepared.
Suddenly, something touches my back. I jump. 'Some spiders deserve each other.' I feel eight spindly legs making their way down my shirt. Did she seriously drop a spider on my shirt?! Calm as I can, I reach my hand back and prick the thing off from between my shoulder blades, then throw it in the dirt. I shoot Bethany a look, but her head is suspiciously buried in her notebook. Joke's on her. I'm not afraid of spiders. Now, if it had been a grasshopper...
I collect a few bugs of my own. When she looks away, I deposit them in her purse as a special surprise. She won't discover it till later, but it doesn't matter. I'm playing the long game, Bethany. My pencil skitters across the page as Bethany bumps into me. 'Oops.' I try to get back to work, but Bethany comes around again, smearing a handful of dirt down the side of my arm. 'What is your problem?'
'Who's talking?'
'It was Hannah. She's been disrupting us all morning.'
'No, I haven't. You've been bugging me.' A girl with brown hair speaks up. 'It's true. I saw the way she's been teasing Bethany. I think she should be expelled.'
'Excuse me? You wanna say that to my face?'
'Ms. Lawson, if you can't listen to a simple no-talking rule, I will send you to the principal.' I want to protest, but the bell rings as Mrs. Forrest finishes her reprimand. 'We'll pick this up tomorrow.'

The moment I make it to the hallway, I pull Bethany aside. 'Bethany, what's your problem?'
'It's pretty obvious that you're my problem. I went easy on you. You're in for more.' Out of the corner of my eye, I see Oliver wink. Huh, what's going on?
That's when the first balloon hits me. Slimy cooking oil slides down my skin. 'What the-' The students scatter as another balloon hits me. Within seconds, I'm dripping in oil. When I look up to try to catch the culprit, a bucket of glitter falls in my face, stuffing up my nose and mouth. I cough and try to wipe my eyes, but the flakes have penetrated everywhere.
'Smile for the camera! The internet is going to live this.' She snaps a picture on her phone. That bitch! I grab her phone, coating it in thick, slimy oil as I delete the photo. 'Hey! Give that back!'
'Oh? You mean this?' I toss the phone down the hall. She gives me a dirty look and runs after it. Moments later, Kayla races up to me, her face full of concern.
'I'm sorry. I was afraid Oliver would do something like this. Come with me to the restroom and we'll try and get you cleaned up.'

The nearest restroom is close, which is good because I'm leaving a trail of oozing glitter. 'Tell Oliver that if he's trying to get me to fight back, he's not getting the satisfaction. Ugh. Does this restroom have any more soap? I can't get it off.'
'Be thankful it wasn't glue this time.'
'This Time? Do you think it'll happen again?'
'Who knows, but be careful. Oliver really has it out for you.'
'It's fine. I can handle it.' I try my best to clean myself up, but it's no use. The sparkling evidence is everywhere. I look like a rave fairy barfed on a sweaty go-go dancer. I can't go to classes like this! 'I'm going to have to go home. I'm soaked.'
'Why did you have to get that card?'
'That's what this is all about? That stupid card I found?'
'They're a warning.'
'Oliver's in charge of those cards, then?' Kayla nods, and I fume.

The two of us make our way out to the front doors where a crowd of students - and Oliver - are waiting. 'The glitter looks good on you. Maybe I should make this a daily thing.'
'Come on, Kayla. Let's just get out of here.'
'I don't know about this.' The crowd presses in, and I'm not sure if they're here to help Oliver or just hear the drama for themselves. 'Move, people!' But instead of giving me my space, they pull into a tighter circle around me. 'Be warned, Hannah. I'm not finished playing with you - or her - yet!' I try to step around him but find myself in a crowd closing in on me, separating me from Kayla. I push my way through and hear a yelp. 'Kayla!' I rush to her side and help her up from the concrete. Her hands are scraped and she's shaking. 'What did you do to her, Oliver?!'
'You need to know I'm the one in control here, not your big mouth.'
'You think you're a big shot, don't you?'
'My father owns this school. I can do anything I like and no one can stop me. Especially not a poor girl like you.'
'You're such a shallow tool, Oliver.'
'Oooh, what a come back. Next, you'll be calling me a doo-doo head.'
'Not a bad idea. It's always good to fall back on the classics.'
'You don't understand how this school works, do you?'
'I don't care if hamsters run the school. I don't want you messing with my friends.' I step closer to Oliver, grabbing hold of his tie and smiling like I'm about to seduce him. He sucks in a breath, chest tightening under my touch. 'I think you're underestimating exactly how dangerous I can be.' I act like I'm about to walk away, but at the last moment, I spin my leg in the air and land a kick hard into his chest. He flies backwards, falling to the ground wit tears in his eyes. 'Don't touch my friends again. Okay, pumpkin?' After that, the crowd dissipates. A few students pick Oliver up and drag him off. I offer my hand to Kayla and she looks at me with stars in her eyes.
'That was the coolest thing I've ever seen anyone do.'
'Really? You need cooler friends.'
'Nope! Now I have you.'

The next few days don't get any better, but they don't get worse. More importantly, no one is bothering Kayla. None of that matters today. Today, I have my first soccer practice. There is nothing that feels better than the total focus required for difficult exercise. 'I'm going to school, dad!'
'Sounds good. I'm picking up burgers for dinner.' I feel bad I've been lying to him about where I've been going to school. It's not like he wouldn't understand. He would. He'd probably be happy for me. I just don't want to make him feel bad since he's nothing like the other fathers at the school. He's a welder and still has calluses on his hands despite the gloves he wears. 'I have soccer practice today, so I'll be home later.'
'Good luck. Call me if you need a ride.' I wave goodbye and jog to catch the bus to the expensive side of town. For once, no one gives me trouble. The entire day is eerily quiet, and except for my lunch with Kayla, no one has spoken to me. I wonder what that means. Maybe they've started picking on someone else?

I shake it off as I change in the locker room for practice. My teammates don't even bother to say hello. Everyone leaves the room quicker than I expect while I'm still tying my cleats. I hurry to the door to catch up. When I reach the exit, a group of four boys are waiting just outside.
'I don't care what Oliver says. He's the one who gave her the King of Hearts.'
'Plus, she's a nobody with no one to remember her.' I don't like the sound of where this is going at all. They're talking about me like I'm a toy for them to play with. Not cool. They enter the room, and I step back, preparing myself for a fight or flight. My hands begin to sweat as my eyes dart around. 'Hey, new kid. We want to talk to you.'
'Come any closer and I'll get a cleat to the nads.'
'Kinky, eh?' Instead of answering, I kick out with my shoe. He pivots and I narrowly miss him. 'Whoa there. You almost got me.'
'Stay back! You won't be so lucky next time.' I ball my hands into fists, ready to fight back, but one of the boys grab me from behind. I flail my feet, trying to jab my elbows into my attacker, but his grip is too firm. The two boys in front of me take my feet and pull off my cleats. A fourth boy is taking pictures on his phone. My socks come off next, followed by my shin guards. I squirm as much as I can, but the boys fight back harder. My foot shoots out and catches my attacker square between the legs. He howls in pain and stumbles backwards, gripping his crotch.
'You b-' Another boy twists my ankle with such force I hear a pop and scream out in pain. 'You asked for trouble, and now here it is.' The door bursts open. I can't see what's happening, but there's a few grunts and then the first boy hits the ground, startling the other one who has my feet. He releases them just enough so I can sock him on the chin with the foot that doesn't hurt. A blur punches the attacker in the face, knocking him out with one blow. The remaining two boys flee. When I catch sight of my hero, I lose the ability to breathe.
'Oliver?'

 

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