After reading the text, I put my cell phone inside my jeans pocket and gulped down my remaining cereal. Collecting my bag and wiping my hands on my jeans, I stormed toward the front door.
“Mom, Addison’s here!” I yelled back at the kitchen. “I’m leaving. Bye!”
“Good luck on your first day!” I heard Mom shout back as I closed the door behind me.
Addison, my cousin, was waiting for me inside the car. Her mahogany skin shone beautifully under the sunlight, and her curly brown hair was tamed in a high ponytail.
I tucked my shirt down a little bit, making sure my belly was covered. The shirt that I wore today was longer than usual, yet it didn’t hurt to check twice that it covered what it needed to cover.
“Hey,” Addison greeted when I sat down in the passenger’s seat.
“So are you excited? Today’s your first day,” she chirped and started the engine. “You’re going to be the new girl, Keily.”
“You’re talking as if I’m in some teen show, where hot guys are going to jump at me and cheerleaders will claw me.” I giggled, her good morning vibes rubbing off on me.
“Hey! My girls won’t claw, they’ll punch.” Addison smirked.
“Oh, if that’s the case, remind me to clip my nails and take boxing lessons,” I joked back.
Our back-and-forth helped me calm down my jittery nerves. Today was going to be my first day at Jenkins High.
All eighteen years of my life had been spent in suburbs of Remington, so moving here and starting my last year of high school in a completely new town was, to say the least, overwhelming.
Moving hadn’t really been in our plans, but when Mom’s company had decided to open their new branch here and asked her to be the project manager, refusing wasn’t an option.
Bradford was Mom’s hometown, where she had grown up and spent twenty-one years of her life. Plus, it was a good hike in her pay.
My dad didn’t mind either; to be honest, he wouldn’t have minded if you moved him to another corner of the world. He was a freelance software and website designer, so moving for him wasn’t a big deal.
But it was for me…
I hadn’t wanted to leave the comfort of a known place and familiar people (even if those people were quite harsh) behind. It was supposed to happen a year later when I moved to college, not now.
We had arrived here as soon as my school year had ended, so I’d gotten almost two months of preparing and strolling around this town before starting at Jenkins.
Addison, my mom’s brother’s daughter, had been a great tour guide and a really good friend (or cousin). Thanks to her, my dislike for this whole ordeal of uprooting our lives had gone down a notch.
We’d hit it off right at the beginning over our love of anime and Taylor Swift. She was a really fun person and easy to be around.
She had introduced me to couple of her friends too, making this loner feel very welcomed.
She’d even promised me rides to school since her house was only a few blocks away from mine. My theory was she felt compelled to do so because I was her cousin; however, I also couldn’t refuse.
Hitching a ride from my cousin felt more appealing than shoving my body in the small seats of a bus and receiving condescending looks and jibes from other teenagers every morning.
I’d had a fair share of them in Remington.
“We’re here.” Addison honked, dispersing the crowd around the parking lot, making a way to a spot.
I looked at the big building standing high in front of us, a heavy feeling pressing down on my shoulders. My nerves hit back with full force.
“Welcome to your new hellhole, missy,” my cousin teased. She got out, and I followed like a lost puppy (a very big puppy).
Once again, I pulled down my shirt, feeling uneasy walking right next to Addison.
My cousin was not only on the cheerleading team, but she was also in track, one of their best sprinters, according to her friends. It was no wonder she had a body that every woman craved.
She was lean, yet beautifully curvy and muscular, only a couple of inches short of six feet.
Dressed in skinny jeans and a crop top, giving only a hint of her sculpted belly, she looked as if she had walked straight out of a fashion magazine.
I, on the other hand, barely reached her shoulder. I had a big belly, flabby arms, and trunks for legs.
My only assets worth considering okay were probably my breasts and hips. But sometimes, even they were a bother when shopping for clothes.
Today, I was clothed in a flowy top—to hide my flab—and black leggings.
Even though I considered these to be my best casual clothes, next to Addison I felt underdressed, also very badly out of shape.
Look at her; she’s gorgeous.
“You got your schedule, map, and locker code, right?” she asked as we reached the stairs leading to the open doors of the hellhole.
“Yeah, I got them on Saturday. You don’t have to babysit me, no matter what my mom told you.” We entered the hallways, and immediately, I was surrounded by the familiar bustle of high school.
Addison pouted. “Keily, I’m not with you because your mom or my dad told me to. I really liked spending my break with you. I officially consider you more of a friend than a cousin.”
That made me feel guilty for my jibe.
“I’m sorry. I just don’t want to trouble you. You’re already giving me a ride to school. I don’t want to be a burden.”
“What are friends for if not to be a burden on you?” Addison quipped, making me smile. She is perfect.
“Now that you’re saying it like that, I can see the point.” I replied, unable to keep up with her witty remarks.
“Speaking of burdens, let me introduce you to some.” She started walking toward the group of girls, all of them skinny, pretty, and tall. One look, and anyone could tell I didn’t belong in that crowd.
I mentally reprimanded myself for my thoughts and choked down those gnawing insecurities.
If not for Addison, I’d have been a complete loner here. I should have been grateful that I wouldn’t be spending my first day awkwardly trudging around these big premises.
So, with an excited smile, I followed Addison, letting her be my mentor.
“How’s everybody’s first day going?” our teacher asked. This was today’s third class.
A collective groan was his answer with some “boring” and “fine” answers. Obviously, these students didn’t share his enthusiasm.
“Is it in your job description to be always this angsty?” He sighed and began writing on the board. Joseph Crones.
“To any new students here,”—his gaze lingered on me for a tad longer—“I’m Joseph Crones. You can call me Mr. Crones.”
I nodded when he looked at me again. Am I the only new one in this class?
“Since it’s our first day of English, why don’t we—” He was cut off when the classroom door opened.
A boy walked in and handed a slip to Mr. Crones. I couldn’t help but study his features. He was tall, easily over six feet, and built like an athlete.
By the bulging muscles of his arms, you could easily figure out the rest of his physique was just as sturdy and muscular.
His eyes fell on me, and I realized I was checking him out. I immediately looked down, my face becoming flushed.
I hated how my face easily showed my embarrassment, turning red at any given opportunity.
“Mr. Haynes, tell the coach to either let you go early or keep you at the field with him,” Mr. Crones reprimanded Haynes.
“Tell him yourself,” I heard Haynes mutter as the sound of footsteps got louder. Our teacher didn’t hear him, or even if he heard, he decided to ignore him.
My head was still down, so when a pair of Nike shoes appeared, my brows furrowed, and without my knowledge, my head moved up. Haynes was getting comfortable at the desk just beside me.
A couple of desks besides the one next to mine were still free. Just my luck. He has to take this one! Oh God…
I knew I was overreacting, but the guy had just caught me checking him out. It was embarrassing. If I’d looked anywhere near like Addison, I’d not have been freaking out this much.
But it was me, a fat girl, and we didn’t have the right to go after beautiful men like him.
“As I was saying,” Mr. Crones began, “it’s our first day, so I’m giving you all an assignment that you have to submit by the end of this semester. Sounds good?” He gave a sweet smile.
Another collective groan was his reply.
“Very good.” He wanted us to write a five-thousand-word thesis or essay on any of the works of Shakespeare.
We needed to do in-depth analysis of his work and also present how it was affected by the politics and culture of the Elizabethan period.
Honestly, I was excited about this assignment. I liked literature; it was fun.
“Hey!” A hand slammed down on my desk, almost making me jump. Mr. Haynes had his hand on my desk.
My eyes first snapped to Teacher Crones—who was busy writing on the board—then they moved to the boy beside me.
Strands of his dark brown locks were falling to his forehead, and somehow it made him look dangerously handsome. I could make out a calculating yet taunting look in his pitch-black eyes.
His pink lips were twitching; he was trying to hide a smile. Even though this boy looked like the incarnation of Adonis himself, the look he was giving me screamed trouble.
“Yes?” I hated how whimpery I sounded. My face was already burning up. Stop being this weak already!
I saw his eyes scanning my body from head to toe. I didn’t know if my mind was playing tricks, but his stare reminded me of all the stares I’d received throughout my teenage life.
I could already feel him passing judgement: fat and lazy.
“So,” he said, bringing me out of my daze.
His lips pulled upward in a teasing smirk. My face flushed harder.
“I asked if you can lend me a pen. I forgot mine.”
I moved to pick a pen out of my backpack, but my gaze fell on his jeans pocket. Two pens were already peeking out of it.
What was he trying to pull?!
“No.” My voice came out harsher than I intended. I was trying to not sound weak, but I ended up sounding like a snob. Good work.
I turned my head back to Mr. Crones, who was still busy writing. To be honest, I didn’t want to be anywhere near this Haynes or have any reason to associate with him. I didn’t want to give him my pen.
His face, body, attitude, heck, even the way he was seated on his chair like a king, reminded me of all those entitled kids who thought they owned the world and ridiculed people like me at every given chance.
I might have been overthinking this, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
A scoff came from my side, and without even looking, I knew he was glaring at me.
“With all that fat jiggling out of your body, you sure got an attitude.” His words crushed the little confidence I had gathered.
I really wanted to bite back, but like always, my tongue froze, and instead, I peeked a glance. He was writing on his notebook with a pen—which nobody had given him.
I turned back, my fist tightening.
It was better to stay away from him, because in the end, no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t fight assholes like him.