The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions)

By: Amy Spalding
CHAPTER ONE


Even though it’s only the second day of my senior year, the routine’s familiar. When a new student starts at Eagle Vista Academy, one of us gives them a quick tour and at least the illusion of a friendly face in the crowd. The school is expensive, so I think the Reception Committee is an attempt to make new kids tell their parents they were warmly welcomed. Parents therefore immediately feel like they got their money’s worth.

I joined the Reception Committee when I was a freshman, so I’ve done this more times than I can count. I’m notified a day in advance to be at the guidance office before first period begins, and when I show up, I get the new student’s schedule.

But this morning is not like any of the other mornings.

To be fair, it wasn’t to begin with. We have our first meeting of the Crest after school, and Mr. Wheeler will announce who’s been selected as newspaper editor in chief. If it’s not me… well, I can’t think about that outcome right now. Needless to say, I’m in no shape to be the best possible liaison a new student deserves.

Much less this new student.

Though maybe it isn’t him. There must be other Alex Powells besides the Alex Powell.

Ms. Guillory, the guidance administrator, clears her throat. I look over to her and realize I may have been zoning out for more than a split second.

“Of course we pride ourselves on all students enjoying an excellent but typical high school experience here,” she says. “But with some students, it’s important we pay special attention to that.”

I know then that it is the Alex Powell.

“I’ll be back on time,” I promise her as I dash out of the office. Luckily my best friend, Sadie, is at her locker when I run up.

“You look panicked,” she says.

“Look at this.” I hold up my liaison packet right in her face. “Look at it, Sadie. Don’t read it out loud, but look at it.”

“Oh my god,” she says. The packet’s still in her face, so she’s a little muffled. “Alex Powell.”

“I said not to read it out loud.”

“Jules, you should know I can’t follow a command like that. Wait, so do we know if it’s the Alex Powell?”

“Stop saying his name,” I whisper. “And, yes. I think so, at least. I don’t have one hundred percent confirmation yet.”

“Can you imagine?” Sadie checks her reflection in her locker mirror and fluffs her violet hair. “One day you’re one-fifth of the biggest boy band in the country, and then—how many years later? Two?”

“Two,” I say. Two years ago, it felt as if you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “Want 2 B Ur Boy.” Two years ago, everyone knew Chaos 4 All. Two years ago, Alex Powell was famous.

“Jules, this is a big responsibility,” Sadie says. “You are welcoming a teen idol to our school.”

“He’s not a teen idol anymore,” I say. There’d been at least a couple of songs after “Want 2 B Ur Boy,” but they hadn’t been so universally beloved. And then it was like Chaos 4 All had never even existed.

“Mom says once you’re famous, you’re changed,” Sadie says. “For good.”

Sadie’s parents are actors, so her mom would know.

“I have to go,” I say. “I can’t be late to welcome him. I should never be late to welcome someone on their first day, but—”

“But especially not Alex Powell,” she says. “Go.”

I rush back to the guidance office, where I appear to have beaten Alex Powell. I’ve been trying to picture him, but in my head he’s still fifteen with perfectly floppy hair straight out of a photo shoot.

“Welcome back, Miss McAllister-Morgan,” Ms. Guillory says with a sigh, and I think I’m supposed to realize I shouldn’t have dashed off, even briefly. It probably wasn’t the most professional move, but today shouldn’t call for standard operating procedures.

All right, of course today should. That’s why standard operating procedures exist.

“And good morning, Mr. Powell,” Ms. Guillory says, looking past me.

I turn my head very slowly in a calculated swivel.

Alex Powell, the Alex Powell, is standing right inside the swinging doors.

“Good morning,” he says with a little grin.

Great. Just great. He’s still cute. He’s not floppy-hair-straight-out-of-a-photo-shoot cute, but real-life cute instead.

And real-life cute is so much better.

“You’re in good hands,” Ms. Guillory tells him with a little gesture to me. “Good luck on your first day.”

She takes a seat and looks to her computer, and normally this is when I jump in seamlessly. But I’m still marveling that he’s here.

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