This is the first chapter of my new YA novel, The Gossip Web
|© Chelsea Lynn Charters 2012
THE INCIDENT HAPPENED IN SECOND PERIOD, and by “incident” I mean my absolute humiliation. It wasn’t unusual for my day to start off with a confrontation though, and I suppose it would’ve happened sooner or later. Being embarrassed in front of my fellow classmates was a known entertainment around campus, and I couldn’t go a day without receiving some sort of abuse. By now, I had gotten used to the populars’ constant insults…but it didn’t make it hurt any less. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be one of them, and I guess that’s what makes their cruelty the absolute worst.
I arrived to class late, thanks to my best friend and my only true friend at West Havenbrook High School, Heidi. After first period she rushed to the bathroom and locked herself in one of the stalls, bawling about Jason Wheatley never noticing her anymore. Jason was Heidi’s latest crush, and God forbid he speak to another girl in or out of her presence. He was hers and hers alone, or so she thought. We had just left our first class for the day when Heidi witnessed Jason giving Lindsay Carbright a hug in the halls, and sure enough, it pushed Heidi over the edge.
Heidi and I have been friends for over ten years, so I was used to her usual antics and over dramatics. Most people---like Jason---couldn’t understand why Heidi was so over the top about everything. What they didn’t know was that Heidi has wanted to be an actress ever since she was six years old. She took acting lessons to help broaden her talent, but I think taking those lessons so young warped her mind somehow and turned her into a diva. They did improve her talent though, and I loved to watch Heidi on the stage. Mr. Carver, West Havenbrook High’s drama teacher, always cast Heidi as the leading lady in his plays. She was a great actress, and I was proud of her performances. After high school, I knew Heidi was going to be a big star.
While Heidi was the bright-eyed and bubbly friend that everyone noticed, I was the academically driven wallflower. She partied and dressed in outrageous, bright fashions. I studied day and night, and bought most of my clothing from the gap. We had nothing in common, but it didn’t matter. She and I were like two peas in a pod. Ever since third grade when she spilled chocolate milk all over a drawing I had slaved over, we had been inseparable. She was the one person I could count on---the only friend I had in the world. Truth be told, as crazy as Heidi was, I would’ve been lost without her.
So, when Heidi flipped out at the sight of Jason embracing another girl, I could do nothing but chase after her. She ran past Jason, headed for the ladies’ room and intent on putting on a show. The shocked expression on Jason’s face was priceless when she hurried by him, and I assumed the boy knew he was in big trouble. When Heidi disappeared behind the restroom door, I followed her inside, detecting her shrill sobs from one of the middle stalls. After giving her enough time to cool down, I leaned against the door of the stall and waited for the right moment to speak. Usually, as soon as she was fresh out of tears, I could calm her down. Once Heidi got started though, it was never easy to snap her out of a tantrum.
“Heidi, come on…don’t cry,” I said, my voice sounding sympathetic for her sake. “You know Jason still cares for you. I saw how worried he was when you ran in here.”
“Really, Jade?” Her voice echoed from behind the metal door. “He looked worried about me?” She sounded wounded, her typical dramatized tone.
I rolled my eyes and cracked a smile.
“Yes. Now please get out of there. We’re going to have to run if we want to make it to Mr. Reid’s class.”
After successfully persuading her to come out of the stall, Heidi hesitated at the mirror, taking a long look at her reflection. When she noticed the smeared mascara cascading down her pale cheeks, she started crying all over again.
“Oh no! Look at my face!” She groaned, lifting her hands to feel along her smudged appearance. “I can’t go to class looking like this!” Heidi frowned and reached for the paper towel dispenser. “It's empty!” She whined loudly.
“Calm down, Heidi. If you start crying again your mascara will only run worse. Here, use this,” I said, handing her a tissue from my purse.
When Heidi finished wiping away the dark streaks from her face, she started rummaging around in her huge white tote, searching for her makeup case.
After pulling my cell phone out of my messenger bag, I checked the time. Grimacing when I noticed it was already 8:12, I urged her to hurry. “Heidi, come on. Remember that test we have to take today? I studied all night and I don’t want to miss it. I didn‘t get to bed till two!”
As she covered her lips in a bright cherry shade, Heidi rolled her eyes at me. “Seriously, Jade?” She grinned and added, “You and your grades…they won’t keep you warm at night.”
Crossing my arms, I leaned up against the sink and muttered, “Well, my extravagant fur coat will---after I make my millions.”
Heidi laughed genuinely before thrusting all of her cosmetics into her small pink tote bag---and the bag was so full it looked like it was about to burst. Heidi didn’t need all that makeup, if any. She was naturally gorgeous---one of the fortunate ones, but she never thought she looked good enough. She constantly complained about her features. Honestly, I thought she was prettier than Gloria Malone and her drones. It was sort of funny, because although Heidi looked flawless, her beauty was one of her biggest flaws.
I on the other hand, didn’t have a choice when it came to looking average. A plain Jade through and through, I didn’t waste my time with makeup, and because of that fact, no one saw me as pretty. Besides, I had always figured inner beauty to be most important, but apparently nobody at my high school agreed with that. If you wanted to catch somebody’s attention, you had to look the part. Since I blended in like a wall flower, everyone figured I was less than special…which wasn’t a big deal I guess, and I doubted that a bit of make up and hairspray would make a difference. Ever since middle school I was the butt of their jokes. Nothing would change that now.
I watched Heidi fluff her bright blonde curls with envious eyes. I would’ve given anything to look like her, anything to know what it felt like to be beautiful without trying. I sighed when I realized how pathetic I sounded, and how pathetic I was to be jealous of my best friend’s beauty. Heidi didn’t know about my jealousy though; my pride always got in the way of telling her. One time, I almost came close to divulging my secret. It was a few years ago, at a time in my life when I had reached the lowest point imaginable…My gaze flickered back at Heidi. She still didn’t know. Thankfully, I came to my senses that time and I never did tell her.
Ignoring my many insecurities, I flipped open my cell once more. Panicked about the time and the fact we weren’t going to make it to class, I pulled Heidi towards the door.
“Okay, you’re gorgeous. Let’s go.”
We scrambled to Algebra, arriving five minutes after the bell had rung. When we walked through the door, I noticed that everyone had already begun taking the test---the one that was worth twenty percent of our overall grade. It was a very important test, and it was not one that I wanted to fail. Scowling as I took my seat, I shuffled inside my backpack, searching for a pencil. It was when I glanced up that I found everyone looking at me with absolute interest. Feeling uneasy and confused by all their attention, I stared back down at my desk as I waited for Mr. Reid to hand me the test paper.
“Tardy, Ms. Cannon? That’s not like you,” my teacher said as he placed the paper in front of me. “Is there a reason why you and Ms. Wells couldn’t come to class on time?”
I frowned at his question, and my eyes flickered over at Heidi, who was presently staring down at her own desk in embarrassment. My cheeks turned red as I began to mumble my response. “I, well…uh…”
Then, out of all the people in the classroom, Gloria Malone opened her big mouth.
“I think I know why she’s late, Mr. Reid,” she said sweetly, smiling over at me.
Fear crept up the back of my neck as I stared at her wicked smile, and I instantly dreaded what she was going to say next. Gloria wasn’t the type of person to help anyone out, especially someone like me. The only thing she’d ever done for me was ruin my life. After giving me a fake little wave, Gloria’s smile transformed into a smirk. Oh no.
Every student in the room stopped writing and glanced over in her direction. When Gloria spoke, she commanded attention from every single person around her, and of course, they obeyed without question. She always had that effect on the student body, ever since sixth grade when she moved to West Havenbrook. Throughout middle school she claimed her throne as the most gorgeous and the most important girl in our small town. Everyone knew who Gloria was, and everyone who wasn’t friends with her, hated her. People who weren’t popular were her targets and she had knack for bullying. It was her hobby.
Unfortunately for me, I was her favorite victim, but I was never really sure why she disliked me so much. I’d never done anything to offend Gloria, so her hatred towards me had forever been a complete mystery. I’d always wondered about it but could never figure it out. What I did know, was that my life had been much easier before she showed up on that dreadful first day of middle school. Since then, she’d made my life a living hell. Literally.
Continuing on with the caring façade, Gloria said, “By the looks of that huge stain on the crotch of her pants, I’d say that Jade had an accident, Sir.” Flashing a sparkling white grin as the class roared with laughter, I let my eyes fall down to inspect what she was referring to.
Panic and embarrassment clouded my head as I stared at the large wet stain near the zipper of my jeans. Memory of leaning up against the sink flashed in my mind and I couldn’t help but feel utterly idiotic for not noticing the water spot on my jeans in the bathroom. I could’ve saved myself all the mortification if only I’d been more careful. Now, once again I was the butt of their jokes for the day.
I glared at Gloria as the class carried on with their sniggering, then sharply turned back to my paper and lowered my head. Thankfully my long red hair covered my ruby shaded cheeks, hiding my face from their view. I didn’t want them to see how hurt I was; my pained reaction would only fuel more insults. I closed my eyes and mentally counted to ten, forcing myself to ignore their laughter. It wasn’t easy.
“Alright, alright! That‘s enough!” Mr. Reid muttered irritably, and he sent Gloria a disapproving frown. “Thank you, Ms. Malone, for that interesting theory. As for the rest of you, cut the chatter or you all fail!”
I was thankful for Mr. Reid’s compassion when the classroom returned to it’s normal calm and their attention was directed elsewhere. But, even though their laughter had ceased, I couldn’t shake off my anxiety. I stared blankly at my test paper, finding it difficult to focus. Forgetting about what Gloria just did to me seemed impossible. It was too cruel, even for her. For years she had relentlessly picked on me, but this…this took the cake.
Peeking over in her direction, my pulse quickened when I found her staring right back at me. After sending me a sneer, she mouthed the word, “Loser.” Then, she flipped back her blonde hair over her shoulder and glanced down at her desk to take the test, acting as if she were completely unaware of my existence. She was such a colossal bitch! I felt tears threatening to spill but I did my best to hold them in.
I returned my attention back to my own quiz sheet, determined to finish it without worrying about Gloria. Besides, I needed to get a good grade whether or not she had embarrassed me, and I couldn’t let her deter me from my goal of the day. I was already passing Algebra with an A, but I wanted it to remain a high A. My grades were all that I had---they were the only thing that kept me hopeful. Only one more year left to go, then I could say sayonara to Gloria Malone and the rest of West Havenbrook.
Much to my surprise, the test was fairly easy. When I finished I was completely satisfied with my answers, and I knew undoubtedly that I was going to get a high grade. Of course I was the first one done, and fear crept up the back of my neck when I realized I had to stand up in front of the entire classroom to return the test paper to Mr. Reid. I debated waiting till the very end of the period to hand in the quiz, but after battling with my fears, I realized that I had nothing to hide. It’s not like I actually pissed my pants.
My face was red as I anticipated their laughter when I stood from my desk, and I took a deep breath to steady my nerves before walking towards the front of the classroom. On my stroll up, I held the paper out in front of me nonchalantly, hoping that it would cover the dreaded spot. I detected a few snickers as I walked past the front rows, but I ignored them and placed the paper on Mr. Reid’s desk. After quickly returning to my seat, I buried my head in my hands and sulked for the rest of the period.
When the embarrassment of what Gloria had said worn away, all I was left with was anger. How immature was she? That was the best she could come up with? It had to be lamest insult I’d ever heard, not to mention the worst. I peeked over at her blonde head once more, feeling the urge to retaliate, but I couldn’t though. As much as I wanted to tell her off, I never found the strength to do it. Man, I was such a wimp.
Thankfully, class ended quicker than I thought it would, and I was able to slip out unseen without another person mentioning the said “accident”.