Liar Liar(2)

By: L A Cotton

Fine. She was right—nothing could be worse than the last four months of my life. I immediately shut down my thoughts. Now was not the time to remember, to let in the memories that haunted me in my sleep. Just breathe. I clamped my eyes tight and inhaled deep, long breaths just like my therapist had shown me. If I didn’t give my memories power, they couldn’t control me.

He couldn’t control me.

“Okay, this is it.” Mom beamed over at me. “You’ll do great. Mac told your father Credence High is a good school.”

Mac, one of Dad’s oldest friends, was the guy who had made our move to Credence possible. If Mac said it was true, well, then it must be, and the thought eased some of the turmoil cutting through me.

Once upon a time, I would have strolled straight into Credence High School, sought out the most popular girls, and introduced myself. But that wasn’t who I was anymore. The old Becca Torrence was gone. Lost to a night that not only changed my life forever, it changed me.

Intrinsically and inherently altered me.

A part of me died that night, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get it back.

“Becca.” Mom’s voice snapped me into the car. “It’s time.”

I unbelted and grabbed my bag as my other hand hovered over the door handle. “Okay, then. See you later.”

“Good luck, baby,” she called as I climbed out and surveyed my surroundings with a heavy sigh.

This was it. All I had to do was walk in there, smile, and be myself. Only, I had no idea who I was anymore.

“I think that’s everything, Miss Torrence. I’m sure you’ll find Credence a welcoming school. We serve a diverse community, which I feel provides an enriching environment for our students.” Principal Garraway cleared her throat. Something flashed over her face, but it was gone as quickly as I’d caught it, and she glanced down at the stack of papers in her hand. “Right, well, Ms. Juliard will escort you to your first class, which is math with Mr. Phillips. He’ll see to it that you settle in, I’m sure.”

She thrust the papers at me, and I forced another smile. I was doing that a lot lately. “Thanks.”

“If you need anything, you can come to me or our guidance counselor. We’ll be more than happy to assist you. Do you have any questions?”

When can I get the hell out of here?

“No.” I held my smile. Forcing my lips up even farther, I hoped she didn’t detect my unease.

“Well, then.” She rose from her seat. “Welcome to Credence High School.”

“Thanks.” I left the room without a backward glance.

It wasn’t Principal Garraway; she’d been nothing but warm and welcoming. It was me—and the paranoia that had lived inside me since that night. The whole point of getting out of Montecito was to avoid people from ever finding out the truth. No one except Mac knew us here, and even he thought we’d relocated for a fresh start after my (fake) illness. Dad had wanted to go the whole hog and buy us new identities, but I didn’t want to become Marissa or Jessica or Amy. I’d already lost too much of myself to lose my name as well.

“This way, Becca.” Ms. Juliard beckoned me over to her. “Math is situated in the east wing. It’s an excellent class, and some of our brightest students are in with Mr. Phillips. You’ll be in good company.”

My ears perked up at that snippet of information. I’d missed school. It had been almost four months to the day since I last attended Montecito Prep. Four months since I sat in classes with my friends, laughing and gossiping about boys. I missed it—school, studying, even homework—and a part of me itched to get back to it. To get back to some kind of normal.

“Right, this is math. Good luck, dear.” Ms. Juliard wasted no time as she pushed the door open and stepped to the side to let me past.

“Umm, thanks,” I murmured, slipping into the room.

Greeted with a whoosh of heads snapping up in my direction, I avoided looking anywhere but at Mr. Phillips, a tall, wiry man standing at the front of the class smiling at me. “Ahhh, and you must be our new transfer, Miss Torrence.”

“Becca,” I said.

He nodded. “Find a seat, and we’ll get you caught up.”

Finding an empty seat meant looking for one, which meant making eye contact with my new classmates. It was inevitable, but it didn’t stop me from taking another breath before forcing myself to look up. A faceless sea stared back at me. A couple of girls snarled, narrowing their eyes, while some of the guys raked their eyes down my body. My stomach roiled, and I lurched slightly. It was enough to propel me forward. One foot in front of the other. Left, right, left, right. I shut out the curious stares and the low rumble of whispers, reminding myself this was completely normal. Roles reversed, I would have been the same, seated behind one of the desks watching a new kid turn up in class.