Chapter 3 of my YA romance novel, The Gossip Web.
THEY DIDN’T STOP LAUGHING until the sixth period bell rang. Then, almost instantly, it was as if nothing had happened. The entire student body forgot about me. I knew why: they just wanted to get out of there and go home. I know I did. My whole day had revolved around Gloria and her wickedness. Like usual, it had been a nonstop nightmare.
While I was walking home, it suddenly dawned on me. Not only had they dismissed the harassment, but they had also dismissed me. It kind of irked my brain when I realized that I was that easy to forget about. Not that I wanted them to continue badgering me---but they could’ve at least took notice of how terrible I was feeling, how much pain they had caused me throughout the day. Why did they do it? It was all thanks to a dangerous six letter word.
I hated gossip almost as much as I hated the people who did it. It’s a terrible nuisance that puts you through complete hell for no reason whatsoever. Frankly, half of what Gloria reports isn’t the truth. But does anyone care? No. It doesn’t matter what Gloria Malone says so long as it comes out of her mouth. West Haven High is her domain and she’s queen within it’s walls. Gloria is aware of the power she holds which is why she weaves her gossip web, coating the school with her lies, turning it into one huge network of deceit. Gloria’s not entirely to blame though---she has her minions do most of the dirty work.
Girls like Camille and Lacey spread her every word, destroying the reputations of students they feel deserve to suffer. Their victims are less than social, and I’m always at the top of their list. Since I don’t defend myself, they use it to their advantage, but I avoid the battles the best way I know how. I just try to be invisible, and it often works…but not always. There are still times when Gloria finds ways to outdo herself, making me feel like the most pathetic person alive. Many nights I’ve cried over her stupid insults and pranks.
I’m not proud to admit it, but I used to want to be like the populars. I had always craved to know what it felt like to be envied the way Gloria was. Though, as the years have gone by, my desire to be like Gloria Malone and her clique has withered away. At one time, I used to think she was a queen, just like the rest of West Havenbrook High. However, my opinion of her these days is less than grand: I simply think she’s a callous bitch. Now, instead of praying to be like them, I pray for them to just leave me alone. As pathetic as that may sound, I don’t care. I just want to get through high school painlessly. Is that really too much to ask? Apparently it is, if your name is Jade Cannon.
By the time I got home I was fuming, and it didn’t help matters when I found my father’s latest girlfriend lounging out on the deck in a crisp white two-piece. How productive she was.
“Hello, Jade,” she waved cheerfully, scooting up straight in the patio chair. As she waved at me, her short blonde bob was tousled by the wind, making her appear even more beautiful than she already was. Oh, how I hated her beauty yet secretly wished to belong to that gene pool.
I didn’t return the smile as I stomped up the steps and into the house, where heavenly fumes drifted up my nostrils. Now that gave me something to smile about. Rushing into the kitchen, I laughed as I watched my father flip a chunk of dough high into the air. I sniffed the delicious aromas surrounding me and grinned. Oh how I loved when he cooked.
My father was a great chef, the head of the kitchen at the five-star restaurant where he worked. It was called the Grand Gourmet, and it was the nicest restaurant in West Havenbrook. People came from miles around to dine there, and food critics always gave it their highest score. I’d only been there twice, but I didn’t really need to dine at the restaurant; I had their famous chef’s cooking almost every day.
“Pizza?” I asked him happily, after setting my turquoise messenger-bag down onto the table.
He glanced back at me and nodded. “Why else would I be throwing balls of dough into the air while wearing such a ridiculous garb?” My father gestured to his infamous red apron. He always wore it when he cooked; it was his own personal trademark.
I laughed and replied with a shrug, “I don’t know? Cause you’re weird?”
After setting the dough down onto the counter, he approached me with spread out arms. I backed away quickly, shaking my head and pointing at his flour covered hands. “Don’t touch me,” I grinned.
“What are you going do about it, huh?” Lunging at me, my father grabbed my wrist and pulled me to his chest. He wrapped his arms around me as I laughed, and I felt him kiss the top of my forehead. “So, how was your day, Kiddo?” He asked me.
“Terrible,” I mumbled as he held me tight. “Just like each and every day,” I replied with a fake, cheery tone.
“Oh come now, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad,” my father said after he dropped his hold on me. He moved back towards the stove to stir something in a metal pot, which smelt like marinara sauce. When I didn’t reply, he glanced in my direction. After noticing my stern expression, the one that usually meant business, he asked, “What happened?”
I rolled my eyes and sighed. “I can’t talk to you about it, Dad. It’s girl stuff.”
“Are you sure, Jade? I’m always here for you, I hope you know that.”
Nodding, I plopped myself down on a chair near the buffet table. After laying my head onto it, I muttered, “You wouldn’t understand. My life sucks.”
He laughed then, giving me a slight smile. “Come on. You don’t mean that.”
I shrugged and replied, “I know…it’s just sometimes, things can be so difficult for me at school. ”
“It can for everyone, Jade. Remember, I was a teenager once too. I know how horrible growing up can be.”
“I just don’t understand why I have to get the brunt of everything,” I told him with a frown. “Or why I’m a social reject…”
“It’ll get better,” my dad replied optimistically. “You’ll see. You just can’t let anybody get you down, honey.”
I knew he was just trying to cheer me up, but the reality of my life was that it never would get any better---at least not until I went off to college. I was a nobody to a lot of people at my school…maybe to people who weren’t really important to me, but it didn’t hurt any less to know how big of a loser I was. Everything that had happened to me, up until middle school, had been wonderful. But I was a kid back then, so I guess it doesn’t really count.
I just remember that life had been so easy and care free. I had the coolest best friends in the world, my mom and dad were still together and happy…and no one had ever heard of Gloria Malone. It was just a bummer that I couldn’t tap my heels together three times and wish for things to go back to the way they used to be, before life had to go and screw it all up. If only I had a magic lamp, maybe then my life would be how I wanted it. Leave it to me to resort to fairytale objects to sort out my problems.
Standing up from the table swiftly, I grabbed my bag as I went towards the doorway. “I’ll be in my room, brooding and finishing my homework. Call me when dinner is done.”
“Okay, Jade,” my father replied with a smile, and whipped another chunk of dough into the air.
I grinned back at him then walked away, and I passed Erika as she was entering the house.
“Jade, how are you?” She asked me with a bright smile.
“Fine,” I replied bluntly.
My rude tone didn’t seem to faze her. Still smiling cheerfully, Erika asked, “I was wondering, Jade, if you would like to go shopping with me later? I heard of some great deals going on at the mall and I was thinking about heading down there after dinner. What do you say?”
My stomach churned at the thought of spending time alone with her. Hurrying on down the hall, I cleverly used my schoolwork as an excuse; it was the perfect defense. “Sorry, but I have to do my homework now, Erika. Then, I have to study afterwards…so I won't have time to go tonight.”
“Oh, okay. Another time then,” she replied, giving me another little smile.
I watched happily as she wandered off into the kitchen, while I was left alone in the hallway. Sighing with relief, I ran towards my bedroom, hurrying inside and shutting the door behind me. I really couldn’t deal with Erika tonight. My day had been a complete disaster, and I didn't want to add anymore stress on myself.
Lying down on my bed, I kicked my book bag onto the floor to give my legs more space. When I was finally comfortable, I allowed my mind to drift off. The first thing I thought of was Trace, and I frowned when I imagined the thoughts that went through his head today after he had heard that horrible rubbish about me.
“Please, God,” I whispered. “Don’t let him believe Gloria’s lies.”
Then, I realized something. If I didn’t have my homework out when my father came to get me for dinner, I would look like a horrible liar. I bet Erika would just love that. Sitting up quickly, I reached for my bag and whipped out my chemistry folder and textbook. I opened both and laid them on my bed so it would look like I was working. What a clever fox I was.
Laying back down, I glanced over at my nightstand and reached out my hand, searching for a familiar book. I grasped West Haven’s yearbook from the previous year and quickly flipped open to the sophomore index, then to the G’s, where I found Trace’s charming picture. I stared longingly at his face, disgusted with myself for being so pathetic, but I couldn’t toss the book away.
It had been four years since he’d left West Havenbrook, and I still didn’t know the reason why. Trace had never told me, and I had never found the courage to ask him. After tracing a fingertip over his smile, I fought the urge to cry. I had been so happy back then, when we were best friends…but things were different now. Trace and I weren’t close anymore; he was too popular to hang around me. Biting a lip, I thought about our conversation earlier and I wondered what we were.
However, I didn’t ponder it too much. I simply laid there miserably, staring at his photograph as I waited for dinner.