Liar Liar(3)

By: L A Cotton

Cautious …

Judging …


Third row back, on the end, I found an empty seat and hurried to it.

“Excellent,” Mr. Phillips announced. “Let’s get back to it. Bonnie, I believe you were just about to tell us the answer to question three?”

The class resumed as I sank into the chair, keeping my eyes ahead.

“Here,” a deep voice to my left said, and I turned a fraction. A guy’s face appeared in my peripheral vision. He handed over his textbook open to the page the class was working from.

“Thanks,” I offered, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, suddenly very aware of him.

He nodded, not sparing me a second glance or a reply. Fine by me. I needed to get used to this again—being around people, socializing, holding a simple conversation. Four months was a long time to be checked out from reality. So when the bell rang almost an hour later and chairs shuffled, and everyone started filing out of the room, I looked around, hoping someone would offer to help me find my next class.

But everyone was gone.

The rest of the day didn’t go much better. Apparently, being the new girl meant nothing to the kids of Credence High. It was business as usual, leaving me feeling like a social leper. If Mom was here, I knew she’d have something to say on the matter because it wasn’t like I’d actually tried to talk to anyone or ask for help. I ended up late for second and third period after getting the room numbers mixed up on the crappy copy of the map Principal Garraway had given me. But no one tried to help the red-faced girl walking circles in the hallway. Not. One. Single. Person. Fortunately, it was hard to miss the cafeteria with its vast floor-to-ceiling windows, but I didn’t hang around after collecting my lunch. Situating myself in a quiet spot outside on the grass under a huge tree, I ate in solitude. It gave me the perfect vantage point to watch my new classmates without being obvious. Not that anyone had given me the time of day so far. Well, apart from the guy in math. But even he had rushed out of the room without so much as a backward glance.

Biting a chunk off my apple, I watched the kids around me. When Principal Garraway had said Credence High was diverse, she wasn’t wrong. It was worlds apart from the rich and privileged crowd back in Montecito Prep, not to mention the fact we had to wear a uniform there. Here, kids wore their own styles, and I realized my new wardrobe of mainly t-shirts and jeans wasn’t going to cut it in a place like this.

My eyes landed on a group of girls sitting at a table in the back of the cafeteria. Two of them sat on the tabletop with their feet up on the chairs in front of them, wearing smiles on their faces as they laughed and joked with their friends. A pang of something I didn’t want to acknowledge shot through me. These girls were at the top of Credence’s social ladder. Their friends hung on every word, kids at other tables watched them over their lunch trays with envy sparkling in their eyes, and guys ogled them hungrily. They might have lacked the designer purses and manicured nails of my girlfriends back home, but I knew that in Credence High, they were the girls at the top of the ladder—popular, beautiful … desired, and a hollowness filled me as I stared at a version of me before everything changed. I’d been that girl, and now, I was … no one. Realization hit me like a wrecking ball, sucking the air from my lungs. I hadn’t considered how hard it would be to acknowledge everything I’d lost when I finally returned to school—everything he’d taken from me.

From my family.

Mom and Dad had given up so much. Their privileged lives in Montecito with the big house and pool and membership to Montecito Country Club, not to mention twenty years of service with the police department. All for me. To protect me. To give me a real shot at finding myself again. Before everything, I’d been a social butterfly. Everyone knew me at school. Guys wanted to date me, and girls wanted to be my friend. Now, I’d barely said two words all day and was eating lunch by myself.

So much for a fresh start.

“FIGHT,” someone yelled, and a crowd of people rushed past me. Tension rippled through the air, and someone slammed into me, knocking me into the lockers.

“Watch it, bitch,” the girl hissed over her shoulder, and I stood there wide-eyed unable to find a reply, let alone an apology. She glared at me for another second and then re-joined the stream of people all wanting to watch two guys beat on each other.

I pressed back against the locker bank, just able to make out one guy driving his fist toward another before the growing circle swallowed them completely. Giving myself a couple of seconds to catch my breath, I rubbed my shoulder where the girl had crashed into me.