Meet Lillian, the new girl who moved in from Rhode Island to Pennsylvania. Meet Jeremy, the guy who lives his life surrounded by a crowd of fangirls. Meet the notorious group made up of the middle school "prep" girls: Madeline, Lauren, and Allison. They're cooking up a scheme that involves Lillian as the main antagonist--and that will end up with more than a few broken hearts.
"Hurry up!" roars the driver, taking a swig out of his thermos, which smells strongly of black coffee.
But the three girls are still staring at me.
I don't know what's propelling me forward--these girls seem like they're the top dogs of the school. You know, best grades, face any guy would die for, teacher's favorite, popular, good taste in clothes, unable to do push-ups, all that stuff. But my feet walk of their own accord, and I take the two-seater directly across from the girls.
It's a blunt statement from the first girl, a blonde with dazzling blue-green eyes that are stone-cold at the moment, and it makes me feel like I'm being evaluated again. I shift uncomfortably in my seat.
"So, where did you move from?" asks the one near the window.
"Rhode Island," I mutter, still slightly intimidated.
"Not New York," says the one in the middle of the two girls, twisting a lock of black hair around her finger absently.
"Oh, whatever, she'll have to do," says the blonde. She smiles sweetly at me, pink lips curling upwards in a manner that catches me completely off-guard, since she was so cold just a moment ago. "Everyone likes new girls."
"Uh...you think?" I say stupidly.
"Not think, Lily, I know."
Did she seriously just call me 'Lily?'
The bus screeches to a stop and the students scramble out of their seats. The crowd slowly inches by. But the girls don't stand up.
Once all of the students are out, the blonde grabs me by my shirt and slams me to the window. "You're going to help us," she hisses. "Whether you like it or not."
"You're not exactly telling me what to help you with," I gasp, struggling against her iron grip. For a girl, she is actually extremely strong.
"You're going to follow through with the plan," she continues. "Or else you'll suffer through humiliation for the rest of your life at Pennsylvania. You'll get bullied, mocked, even blackmailed. You'll turn into an outcast. Got it?"
I'm secretly thinking that whatever they're planning, I'd actually rather get harrassed and blackmailed instead of working as their slave. Besides, these girls seem like they're only threatening me about my social life, which I don't really care about in the first place. My brain's screaming at me to say no, but my mouth opens and the word "Okay" slips out without consent.
The blonde's lips curl into a wicked sneer. "Good." She releases me and I stagger forward.
I brush myself off. Who does this girl think she is? Yet I'm still shaken from what she said. What exactly does she need help with?
The two other girls exit the bus, leaving me and the blonde girl.
"Um, if I'm going to help, are you at least going to tell me your name?" I ask.
She grins. "Oh, right. I'm Madeline, but Maddie's fine for a nickname. For the other girls...well, you'll see."
Maddie pulls me off the bus. The bus driver seems to be deaf, because he's still staring ahead, drinking black coffee and failing to notice a thing as I trip down the steps and land sprawling in a puddle of mud.
So much for new school clothes.
She's still pulling me by the hand, but once she's in view of all of the students, the grip on my fingers loosens slightly, which now makes it seem like she's being a nice, responsible student and showing the new kid around. Unfortunately, I don't have the guts to break free and run for it, because I have half a mind Maddie would track me down and kick my butt.
Maddie guides me around the school, which is more of a maze than a place for education. Hopefully, I can still figure out my whereabouts by following the map I was given, but it doesn't even show where the school's main entrance is.
The carpet floor is stained, by coffee or some other substance; I can't exactly say. The lights are rather dim, and some lockers are beaten in or unhinged.
This school sure needs some repair done to it.
"Look there." Maddie points.
"It's just a bunch of weird guys," I mutter, turning away.
She forces my head to look straight into the center of the group. That's when I catch a glimpse of his face.
The first thing I notice is his hair. It's black, shaggy at the ends where it reaches to the bottom of his neck, looks extremely silky, and gives me an almost irresistible urge to run over and stroke it. His facial features are so perfect I'm growing dizzy at the sight of him. He's clearly of Chinese heritage, but his dark eyes are almond-shaped and his skin has a perfect tan.
I absolutely hate him.
"So, what do you think?" says Maddie, smirking slightly.
"He's disgusting," I spit, glaring at him. The one thing I can't stand is perfection, and that guy, with his thin bangs just brushing his eyebrows and one of his basketball shoes untied, is the very image of perfection.
"I'm glad," said Maddie. "It makes things a lot easier. You see, his name's Jeremy. And our little group has quite a bone to pick with him."
Jeremy, huh? Not a bad name. At least he's not named Bob.
Maddie pats me on the shoulder. "Whatever you do, just pretend not to know him at all. Meet me in the table in the center of the cafeteria for lunch. See you later, Lily!"
And she takes off, leaving me alone with the group of guys only about one foot away. I fumble around in my backpack and pull out a schedule. My locker number's 119. And as I scan the surrounding lockers for the number, I find that 119 is directly next to Jeremy's, 120.
Was this just coincidence? Or was it all planned? My head's spinning as I approach the group of guys. Thankfully, they don't notice me; all they do is budge aside as I tap a bit on their shoulder. I open the locker after a bit of a struggle and take out my mountain of notebooks and binders. Just as I'm about to pile my pencil case on top, I trip over Jeremy's untied shoelace and all my supplies topple to the floor.
He's crouched down on the ground, helping me stack all my things up again. Our hands brush for the tiniest instant, and I jerk away involuntarily, as if I've had an electric shock.
Jeremy doesn't seem to notice. He's putting the pencil case on top of the pile and handing it to me. "Sorry," he apologizes. Then he looks closer at my face. "Are you the new girl?"
"Um, yeah," I mutter. Even his freakin' voice is perfect. Now I'm suddenly conscious of my muddy clothes. Why did I have to slip in that mud puddle when I got off the bus?
"What's your name?"
"Lillian. What's yours?"
Then he turns around and starts chatting again with his friends, as if nothing had happened.
It takes a moment to realize that my mountain of school supplies is shaking. The stupid part of my brain wonders if there's an earthquake, but my eyes say otherwise. My arms are trembling. As is my whole entire body.
I'm fuming at Jeremy. I have no idea what's making me so angry, but something about that kid completely ticks me off. Now, instead of acting as Maddie's slave, I'll make his life painful voluntarily.
He'd better watch his back.