The R Word | Teen Ink

The R Word

August 17, 2011
By ThatOneWritingGirl PLATINUM, Greenwood Village, Colorado
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ThatOneWritingGirl PLATINUM, Greenwood Village, Colorado
21 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
Love Always. :)
When the tides of life turn against you and the current upsets your boat, don't waste time and tears on what might have been, just lie on your back and float.

Author's note: I wrote this book a little of a year ago in my spare time. It was just for fun and I started writing while visiting my grandparents in the mountains. After I got home I couldn't stop writing. I hope you enjoy the twists and turns as much as I did while writing them! Just keep reading, you'll never believe the ending!

The author's comments:
Keep reading!!

The most common fear among people is death. Wouldn’t it seem more reasonable to be afraid of the death of someone you love? If you die, then that’s the end of your life and you don’t have to deal with the aftermath. If a loved one of yours passes, then you have to deal with the pain of that reality until your death. What if that fear had already come true? Do you find a new fear? Do you just move on to the next chapter in your life? What do you do?
Beth lingered on her reflection in the mirror. Her long platinum blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin were as beautiful as ever. She couldn’t even take joy in the fact that she looked gorgeous today. Every time she saw herself she thought of Austin. She couldn’t help it. Her brother and she had looked so much alike, it was impossible not to see the resemblance. She took a deep breath and grabbed her bag. She needed to get to school. She couldn’t live in the past forever. Austin was dead; he had been for a year. She needed to move on, to live her life. He wasn’t coming back.
On her drive to school she still couldn’t shake the thoughts of Austin. It just didn’t make any sense to her. Austin was the most popular freshman in school, had tons of friends, and an older girlfriend. He seemed like the golden kid; he had everything going for him. He just didn’t seem like the kind of kid who would commit suicide. She knew Austin, she knew him better than anyone else did. And even though she hated him at times, he was her brother, and this just wasn’t something he would do.
No matter how sad or how bad things were he would never kill himself. He wouldn’t do that to Beth, or to their parents.
Beth’s mind drifted back to Kristen. Her teeth clenched at just thinking her name. She’d always hated Kristen, they’d been enemies ever since sixth grade; the last year they’d been friends.
From the moment Austin started dating Kristen they’d grown apart. They barely ever spoke to each other, and acted like complete strangers. Austin had known well before he started dating Kristen how much Beth hated her, and went out with her anyway. That was what hurt Beth the most.
Beth never could figure out why Kristen had gone for her brother. Kristen could have almost any guy she wanted, but she went for Beth’s younger brother. Beth couldn’t help but think that dating her brother was just another one of Kristen’s pranks on her.
She sighed dramatically as she realized she was still lingering on Austin and getting herself all worked up again. She took a few deep breaths, calming herself and trying to just let it go for now. She didn’t need to start her day in a bad mood.
She drove into the school parking lot and hurried to the bench that Aaron was supposed to meet her at. She checked her cell phone, she was late. She hoped Aaron hadn’t thought that she’d ditched him. Their relationship had been on edge for awhile, and she was worried that any little thing would push them over the edge.
“There you are!” Star announced and pulled Beth into a hug. Megan and Olivia were standing on either side of her, smiling. “Aaron came up to us, looking for you. We told him you were just running late.” Star explained and let Beth out of the hug.
“Where is he?” Beth demanded, looking around for him.
“He went to class.” Megan answered shrugging. Her curled, dirty blonde hair was cascading over her shoulders like a waterfall.
“Whatever.” Beth pretended not to care as she looked at her friends.
“Have you seen Kristen yet?” Olivia asked, holding back what looked like a laugh. Olivia’s brown hair was tied up in a loose and messy bun, showing off her angled face. Her eyes were outlined with black pencil eyeliner and gold shimmering eye shadow peeked out from her eyelids.
“No…why?” Beth demanded, squinting her eyes in confusion. They hadn’t planned on a prank recently…had her friends done one without her? That didn’t make much sense, seeing as Kristen was their permanent target because of her. And revenge was her thing; she was usually the one that came up with a plan.
“Her outfit is just tragic.” Olivia explained.
“A disaster.” Megan agreed.
“Ew.” Star laughed once. “You don’t even wanna know.”
“Mornin’ Beth.” Parker smiled as he approached their group. Beth’s eyes widen in surprise and her back stiffened, Parker wasn’t supposed to approach her in public. She shook her head once as if to tell him to go away. Parker shook his head once, “Star, Olivia, Megan.” He added quickly and smiled at them, his blonde hair cutely falling into his eyes. He didn’t take his eyes off of Beth. Beth suppressed a sigh, could he be any more obvious?
Star, Olivia, and Megan’s faces squished together in confusion. They turned to Beth, wondering why Parker was here. As far as they knew, Parker and Beth weren’t on speaking terms ever since the breakup a few months ago.
“What’s up Parker?” Beth asked stiffly, slowly, and cautiously. He knew how important it was to keep a low profile, or at least Beth thought he knew.
“Just…um…wanted to remind you about our Chem project. The group’s meeting during fourth off to brainstorm.” He quickly covered up and waved once. He smiled and walked away quickly.
Good save, Beth thought as she exhaled. Parker was her ex boyfriend that she just happened to be fooling around with, even though she was dating Aaron. If anyone found out she’d die. She turned to her friends with an innocent smile, hoping they wouldn’t suspect anything. As cute as Parker was, he was horrible at this secretive stuff. Luckily no one has suspected anything, let alone found out…yet.
“Okay spill.” Olivia demanded immediately.
“Spill what? What are you talking about?” Beth asked, pretending to be clueless as she pulled on a lock of her platinum blonde hair nervously. Beth always fussed with her hair when she was nervous, she just couldn’t help it, it’d been a bad habit of hers since second grade. Her friends and she told each other everything, but there were some things she just didn’t want anyone to know, including them.
“What’s going on with you and Parker?” Megan demanded.
“That was something.” Star agreed.
“What are you talking about?” Beth laughed once and pulled out her cell phone again, pretending to check for text messages. She just needed to keep her hands busy to keep from blushing like crazy, breaking down and telling them every single detail. She had thought about telling them, they were her friends after all. “Parker and I broke up like six months ago.”
Star, Olivia, and Megan just stood there staring at Beth, arms crossed. “Tell us.” Star demanded.
Beth took a deep breath and looked around quickly, making sure no one was watching. She leaned in close to all of them, biting down on her lower lip. “You can’t tell anybody.”
“Swear.” Star nodded seriously, her dark brown hair falling in her green eyes. She pushed it behind her ear and waited for Beth to explain further.
“Swear?” Beth demanded to Megan and Olivia.
“Swear.” They both agreed.
“Okay,” She motioned for them to get closer. “Parker and I are kind of…fooling around.” She whispered lowly.
“What?” Star whispered sharply.
“I know, I know, I know.” Beth held up her hands in defense. “It’s nothing though.”
“What about Aaron?” Megan wondered, looking around, checking to make sure no one was listening. “I thought you two were still going strong.”
“We are, so keep your mouths shut.” Beth snapped.
“Damn…” Star raised her eye brows and laughed.
“Such a slut.” Olivia laughed and smiled.
“As always, you are sincerely the biggest slut in the group.” Megan rolled her eyes and high fived Beth. “I can’t believe you’re…” Beth raised her eye brows, stopping Megan mid-sentence. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell us!” She said instead.
“Can’t you see why I didn’t though?” Beth demanded in a whisper. “You guys can’t say anything.”
“Okay, let me get this straight, you’re cheating on your boyfriend, Aaron, with your ex boyfriend, Parker?” Star clarified, her jaw still hanging slightly open.
“Well, no. It’s not like that.” Beth bit her bottom lip, when you say it like that, it sounds really bad.
“But you’re still involved with Parker though aren’t you? And you’re still dating Aaron.” Star urged.
“Well, yeah.” Beth admitted.
“Well then it is kind of like that sweetie.” Star shrugged and smiled sympathetically.
“You can’t tell anybody.” Beth repeated.
The morning bell rang and Star and Olivia waved as they headed off towards first period. “See ya slut!” Olivia called with a grin and Star laughed with her.
Megan hooked arms with Beth and they headed towards their first period.
Before Beth and Megan even managed to get to their classroom, fifty people must have said, “Hey Beth!” Most of them she’d never talked to in her life.
“So, is it annoying being the most popular girl in school?” Megan wondered as they took their seats.
“It’s been five years hun, you get used to it.” Beth laughed once as she looked Megan up and down. Megan had been the newest one added to their group. She’d joined a year ago, from Kristen’s group of all things. It had nearly killed Beth to let someone who used to hang out with Kristen into the group, but there was something about Megan that made her do it. And of course Megan had tons of new information they could use against Kristen, and her and Kristen had gotten into a huge fight, so she hated Kristen just as much as they did.
And it was in Megan’s favor that she was pretty. Beth wasn’t mean or shallow but she couldn’t have ugly best friends. That would kill her popularity and it would keep away guys. No matter how hot you are, guys don’t go for you if you hang out with the wrong people.
Beth’s mind drifted back to Austin, and how selfish she was being, worrying about these small problems when he was dead and gone forever.
“So you and Parker?” Megan whispered lowly, breaking Beth out of her day dream. “How does that work? How long has it been going on?” She wondered as she looked over her shoulder, making sure no one was listening.
“A month?” Beth shrugged and she chipped at her nail. The thing between her and Parker hadn’t even been a big deal to Beth; it was just like a spare time hobby kind of thing. She was bored, and it’s never been anything serious.
“How do you keep it from Aaron?” Megan whispered. “That must be hard. How does Parker keep it from Aaron? I mean they’re friends, they’re on the football team, they see each other all the time… aren’t you worried that Parker might let something slip?” Megan wondered, staring at her hands as she spoke.
“Not really.” Beth shrugged and looked back up at Megan. “I trust Parker, and it’s not like it’s anything serious.” She contemplated telling Megan anything more. She’d gone at least a month keeping it from everyone, and it managed to stay secret that way. But she knew she could trust Megan. “We’re going to the movies tonight actually.”
“Tonight? On a Friday night? Isn’t that a little dangerous? What if Aaron sees you?” Megan's jaw dropped slightly.
Beth laughed once and rolled her eyes at Megan’s inexperience. “You think I don’t do my homework? Aaron’s going to visit some family in the mountains all weekend. He’s leaving right after school.” Beth shrugged.
Aaron walked through the door at that exact moment. He spotted Beth, smiled and made his way over to her desk. Beth glanced at Megan, whispered a faint, “Shh,” and winked. Megan nodded; she would never do anything to get herself kicked out of Beth’s group.
“There you are.” Aaron smiled and sat on top of Beth’s desk.
“Sorry I missed you at the bench this morning. I was running late.” Beth shrugged and flashed an apology smile.
“I might be willing to forgive you…” He trailed of, raising his eye brows and then winking at Beth.
“Is that so?” She played along.
She did feel kind of bad whenever she was around Aaron. He truly was a good boyfriend to her, and she really did love him. She never wanted to hurt him, but she didn’t want to hurt Parker either. They’re in high school for God’s sake! Everyone acts like everything is the end of the world. If she’s torn between two guys shouldn’t she have to right to do whatever she needs to do to decide?
“Mm-hmm.” He nodded, slowly inching his face closer to hers. “I can think of a way for you to make it up to me.” He whispered, a huge smile in his voice.
“How would I do that?” Beth teased.
“Like this.” He whispered, grinned and leaned in to press his lips to hers. He stayed there for a long time and a few people coughed uncomfortably. Like Beth cared if people were uncomfortable watching she and her boyfriend make out. If they didn’t want to see it, then why were they watching?
“Take your seat Mr. Copper before I send you to the office for public displays of affection.” Mr. Fredrick announced as he walked in the room.
Aaron pulled his lips away from hers, not looking sheepish at all. Beth wasn’t embarrassed either. Aaron stood and pressed his lips to hers once more, winked and took his seat two rows behind Beth. Mr. Fredrick rolled his eyes and half smiled as he started the lesson.
Beth could see Parker watching her out of the corner of her eye. His fists were tight on his desk. She didn’t bother looking over at him though; he needed to calm the hell down. Aaron was her boyfriend after all, not him. Thankfully Aaron didn’t see Parker’s reaction and didn’t suspect anything, as usual. Suddenly a folded piece of paper landed on Beth’s desk. She looked around but no one was watching her. She unfolded it slowly and rolled her eyes at the note inside. High school kids could be so immature. It read:

Beth Taylor = SLUT
Aaron Cooper = TOOL
Beth Taylor

Aaron Cooper



She showed the note to Megan, who rolled her eyes also. “People are just jealous.” Megan mouthed and tossed the note back onto Beth’s desk. It wasn’t like Beth cared. Why would it matter to her what people said? And an immature note like this just proved to her that whoever thought this was a total wimpy loser. If you have something to say to her, you say it to her face, not on an anonymous lame-ass paper.
After class Aaron grabbed her hand and led her out of the room. People stared as they walked by, mostly Beth’s ex boyfriends or Aaron’s ex girlfriends. Jealousy was in fact the highest form of flattery.
“So what did that note say?” Aaron wondered.
“What note?” Beth played dumb.
“The one that Kristen threw on your desk during first.” Aaron explained.
Beth smiled to herself and shook her head. Of course, she thought. Of course it was Kristen. Beth handed Aaron the note, who crumpled it up and threw it in a trash can. “I’m…I swear to God—”
“Oh please.” Beth rolled her eyes and patted Aaron’s chest. “Settle down. I don’t care about what Kristen thinks of me. She can say whatever she wants. She’s just jealous because I have the biggest catch in the whole school.”
“Not arguing there.” Aaron agreed as he pressed his lips to Beth’s again.
Again, out of the corner of her eye, Beth could see Parker, arms crossed, staring. “What’s up with Parker?” Aaron asked as he pulled his lips away from hers and they walked away. “He looks like he wants to rip my head off.” Aaron laughed and Beth laughed with him.
She swallowed uncomfortably, throwing a look over her shoulder at Parker. “Jealous ex boyfriend is all.”

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Kristen’s car pulled up to the outside of Sarah Mae’s house as she blared her horn. She saw Sarah Mae’s bedroom light on the third floor flicker off. The porch light was on and both of her parent’s cars were missing from the driveway, they must have gone out. It was seven o’clock exactly; she turned up the radio as she waited for Sarah Mae.
She glanced at her cell phone, which announced that she had a new text message from Andrew, but she ignored it. Sure she felt bad about canceling her dinner plans to go to the movies with Sarah Mae, but he was suffocating her! She was sick of him stalking her and following her around like a little puppy.
Kristen smiled as Sarah jogged down to her car in an over the shoulder blue sweater, skinny jeans, and thigh high boots. Damn, Kristen thought, she sure has been getting a lot of use out of those boots. A little too much if you asked her.
“Hey slut-bag!” Sarah Mae called as she climbed in the passenger seat and grabbed her seat belt. It locked three times as Sarah Mae tugged at it. After four tries she finally got it buckled.
“Back at ya bee-yotch!” Kristen half smiled and pulled out of Sarah Mae’s neighborhood. “So I heard this movie sucks.” Kristen offered after a moment of silence.
“Yeah, me too. S’not like we go to watch the movie anyway!” Sarah Mae shrugged.
“S! I have a boyfriend now thank you very much.” Kristen reminded her, not like that’d stop her if she found someone hotter tonight.
“I don’t! Let’s not be selfish here Kris!” Sarah Maw responded, rolling her eyes as she changed the radio station.
“Me? Selfish? Never!” Kristen joked, she knew it was true.
“So how are things with you and Andrew?” She wondered.
Kristen thought about this for awhile, remembering back to his many text messages that she’d ignored tonight. She’d liked Andrew, she really had, but that was before she’d started dating him. Now he was just old news, boring. “I don’t think it’ll last long.” She answered matter-of-factly.
“Already?” Sarah Maw asked, although she wasn’t really all that surprised. It was unreal how quickly Kristen went through guys. When the last time she had a boyfriend, was months ago. The last time Kristen had been serious with a guy was over a year ago…with Beth’s younger brother, Austin. She hasn’t gotten attached to another guy since. “You can’t possibly be bored with him already.”
Kristen shrugged. “I knew I was taking a chance with him. He’s inexperienced, and not even that hot. It was only a matter of time.” Kristen explained as they came up to a red light.
“That’s too bad.” Sarah responded. “So when are you gonna break up with him?”
“I’ll wait until I have another boyfriend first. I can’t be single for any period of time.” Kristen explained as she stomped on the gas again. She wondered who would be her nest boy toy. Maybe that mysterious hot jock, Parker. Or she could always go for an attached hottie, like, say, Beth’s boyfriend, Aaron.
“Poor guy never had a chance.” Sarah laughed as Kristen pulled into the South Theater parking lot. The parking lot was packed. Kristen hoped that the lines wouldn’t be too long and that they wouldn’t get stuck in the front of the theater.
It was pouring rain outside so Kristen and Sarah Mae full out sprinted towards the door. They stepped inside huffing and puffing, laughing hysterically. Sarah Mae went and stood in line for the tickets while Kristen stood in line for the concessions.
Kristen absentmindedly watched the people who were handing their tickets to the ticket checker and then were heading to their movies. Tonight was the premiere of that one new animated movie so the place was crawling with small children.
She frowned. She was never going to find a hot guy here. Not unless she minded nose picking twelve year olds. Just then a familiar looking blonde girl made her way to the ticket checker with a hot and buff guy on her arm. Her back was to Kristen so she couldn’t see her face. And then the blonde and her boyfriend disappeared down the hall. Kristen shook her head, it couldn’t possibly be Beth. After all, she was still dating Aaron, and that was not Aaron.
She thought of first period today, when Aaron and Beth were shamelessly making out in front of everyone. They seemed, good, happy. Kristen chewed on her lower lip for a second. Beth would have to be totally out of her mind to cheat on Aaron. Practically every girl in the school would kill to date him, Kristen included.
But she knew that platinum blonde hair well, even just the back of it. She used to be jealous of it when they were younger, and now that same head of hair lingers in her dreams. Usually the ones where Kristen dreams of pushing Beth down a well, or shipping her off to China.
She shook her head as the boy working behind the counter called next. She ordered two waters and a large popcorn for her and Sarah to share and handed over her platinum credit card. She wondered why she hadn’t just gotten a small popcorn for Sarah Mae instead of a large for them to “share”. She and Sarah Mae both knew that Kristen Dollsworth would never eat buttery movie theater popcorn. It’s full of fat and calories that her flawless body and diet could not have. But Sarah Mae loved popcorn, and she’d be embarrassed if Kristen just bought her some. Kristen sighed; she could eat one or two little pieces so Sarah wouldn’t feel bad.
She had to admit, the boy working concessions tonight was cute, but she would never in a million years date a boy who worked at a movie theater. No matter how hot he was.
Sarah Mae appeared at her side and handed her a ticket. There were a few people in line behind her that groaned and complained, she contemplated chucking a hand full of popcorn at their heads. That’d teach them to be more patient. She was Kristen freaking Dollsworth for God’s sake. She rolled her eyes, grabbed their food and her and Sarah walked over to the ticket checking counter.
The boy who was checking the tickets was cute also. Kristen took a deep breath as she handed over the tickets.
“Third theater on your right. Enjoy the show.” He said directly to Kristen and smiled.
“Thanks.” She muttered as she pulled Sarah Mae down the hallway, the same direction as the blonde-in-question went. Kristen wondered if she was in the same movie as them.
“Damn…” Sarah mumbled and looked back at the ticket boy as Kristen dragged her along. “He was into you.”
“Puh-lease. As if I’d date a poor boy who works at a movie theater.” Kristen rolled her eyes and pulled Sarah Mae further.
“You never know. Stranger things have happened.” She shrugged and pushed Kristen’s hand off her.
“Amen to that!” Kristen laughed.
They walked into the theater and took seats around the middle. The house lights were still on and it was still in the middle of the early previews. Kristen looked around the room, wondering if that blonde that looked like Beth was in there. Right as she was about to give up she spotted her. She was several rows down, closer to the screen.
The boy she was with had his arm around her shoulder and she was laughing. Kristen couldn’t figure out why she cared so much. She just couldn’t stop watching them. Her thoughts were interrupted by Sarah Mae’s voice.
“So you aren’t as into Andrew as you thought.” Sarah Mae began, breaking the silence. “Who next? Do you like someone else? Is that why you’re over Andrew?” She wondered.
“Huh, what?” Kristen blinked and looked away from the couple. “Oh yeah. Right. Um, no. I don’t know who’ll be next.”
“Maybe John from Spanish?” Sarah Mae offered. “He’s hot.”
“Yeah you know, maybe I will go single for a little while. You never know. Stranger things have happened.” Kristen winked. “What about you?” She sighed and took a deep breath. “Got anyone on your radar that I should know about?”
Sarah thought for a little. “No, no one right now. I was hoping to meet some mysterious hottie here tonight, but that’s obviously not goin’ so well, huh?”
“The night is still young darling!” Kristen grinned and looked back to where the couple had been sitting. They weren’t there. She looked around the room but they were nowhere to be seen. She sighed. Why did she even care? She shook her head, ashamed at how pathetic she was being. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna head to the little girl’s room before the movie starts.”
“Okay, I’ll save your seat for you.” Sarah smiled as she shoved some popcorn in her mouth.
Kristen stumbled over a few people who had sat down in their aisle as she tried to get out. She squeezed past the people who were filing in and finally made it out into the hallway.
She stared at the cute boy who was checking tickets for quite awhile. She honestly considered him for a few moments. He was hot, fresh meat, he was into her; why not, right? But she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Kristen Dollsworth doesn’t date poor boys. Especially not the ones that work in movie theaters. It was a Friday night for God’s sake! Did he honestly not have anything better to do than work? Kristen sighed as she realized she probably just dodged a bullet. He was probably just a complete loser who happened to be slightly attractive. But she’s seen better, and she can do better.
Like Andrew. He may be completely empty in the personality and charm department, but at least he was hot and popular.
She shoved through the girl’s bathroom door. It was surprisingly empty; the movie must have started. She walked up to the mirror to examine herself. Her makeup was still flawless, as was her dark brown hair that she’d made into long, flowing curls. She ran her hands over her silk blouse and mini skirt and took a deep breath.
She couldn’t believe that she’d actually considered that boy. Her, Kristen Dollsworth, considered a boy working at a movie theater. He should be kissing her feet.
She scrunched up her nose. She always hated this movie theater bathroom. The mirror was in its own separate little sitting room with red velvet on the walls and red carpet. It was only four or five feet wide and then it changed into the hideous bathroom tiled floor. She knew if she was standing here looking in the mirror and someone opened the door she’d get smacked in the back with it. It was just poor planning on the builder’s part.
Just then she heard giggling and the sounds of lips smacking together. She peeked around the corner to where all of the stalls were. She’d thought no one was in here. She heard whispers and what sounded like people bumping into the stall doors.
She cocked her head to the side. That giggle sounded awfully familiar… she tip toed into the part of the bathroom that held the stalls as quietly as she could. She searched under the stalls until she found the one that held a pair of girl’s feet (clad in extremely hideous knock off heels) and a pair of large boy tennis shoes. Kristen peered through the crack in the door to find the blonde girl she’d seen earlier and the boy she’d been with making out.
Now she could see their faces. So it was Beth! Kristen didn’t recognize the boy at first, but then she was able to put her finger on it. Beth was making out with that hot jock Parker; and not her boyfriend Aaron.
“No freaking way.” Kristen mouthed to herself as she pulled out her camera phone. “Gotcha b****.”

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It was Monday morning and Beth was walking from the parking lot towards the school. It was only seven in the morning and she was already having a bad day. After she’d gotten home from the movies with Parker her mom, Janie, and her had gotten into a fight. It ended with her mom confiscating her phone for the weekend. Beth had finally gotten it back this morning, but the battery was dead. She didn’t have time to charge it and as if it were planned, her car charger had fallen out of her car yesterday, and broke.
She balled her hands up into fists as she walked towards the school. How was she supposed to get through a Monday without her cell phone? She came to the bench that Aaron met her at every morning before class and took a seat to wait for him. The stone bench was cold and her feet were freezing. Maybe she shouldn’t have worn open toed high heels today. She wanted to check the time, just to make sure she hadn’t missed Aaron, or to see how late he was so she could complain to him later, but she didn’t have her phone. She sure as hell didn’t wear a nerdy watch, and there were no clocks around. Bored, she started chipping the purple nail polish off her ring finger on her right hand.
She exhaled loudly, angry again. She didn’t have her phone to text her friends while she waited for Aaron.
“Hey Beth!” Oliver, one of the guys on the football team called. Beth turned to see him making kissy faces at her. He licked the air in front of him, rose his eye brows, laughed and walked away.
What the hell? Was this some kind of inside joke she didn’t understand? And since when did Oliver talk to her? They haven’t spoken since she dumped him last year. She shook her head, confused.
A couple of girls walked by giggling and pointing at her. They rose their eye brows at her condescendingly and tossed their hair over their shoulders as they walked away.
Beth rolled her eyes.
And then another guy from the football team came up to her.
“Hey Beth, you wBeth make out somewhere?” He asked.
“What?” She demanded. “Hello? Aaron, your friend. Yeah, he’s my boyfriend.”
“Not anymore he’s not.” He laughed.
“What are you talking about?” She demanded, rising to her feet. “He’s meeting me here any second now.”
“See ya later Beth.” He waved and walked away laughing.
She really wished she had her phone right now. She needed to text her friends, maybe they knew what was going on. It looked like she didn’t have to text them, she could see them coming up from the parking lot, rushing towards her. Star was in the middle with Megan and Olivia on each side.
“Hey guys, what’s up?” She smiled after they reached her. All of their faces wore hesitant expressions and full of what looked like sympathy. Beth’s face fell as she took it in. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“You mean you don’t know?” Star demanded.
“Know what?”
Megan, Olivia, and Star exchanged a look. “This,” Megan sighed and handed Beth her iphone.
Beth glanced at the picture on the screen. Her jaw dropped and her hand flew to her mouth to cover it. It was of her and Parker making out in the bathroom at the movie theater Friday night. It wasn’t even a good picture of her. Under the picture the caption read: SORRY AARON, LOOKS LIKE YOUR SLUT FOUND SOMEONE ELSE TO BANG.
“Where the hell did you get this picture?” Beth demanded.
“Kristen sent a text blast to everyone in school.” Megan explained quietly.
“Don’t worry Beth, we’ll get her back good!” Olivia quickly added.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. Everyone at school? You mean Aaron too?” She moaned, covering her face with her hands.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t talked to you yet.” Megan confirmed quietly.
“You mean dumped me?” Beth snapped.
“That’s not what I meant!” Megan began but Beth cut her off.
“When did Kristen send it?” Beth asked, shaking her head, covering her eyes with her right hand.
“This morning.” Star explained, gulping. “Don’t even worry about it Beth! We’ll get her back.”
“Yeah! The b**** won’t know what hit her.” Olivia agreed.
“Aaron’s not coming is he?” Beth asked, motioning to the bench.
“I’d guess not.” Star agreed.
“It just doesn’t make sense…” Beth mumbled to herself. “How did she…” Her head suddenly snapped up, glaring at Megan. “Megan.”
“What?” Megan demanded, startled.
“It was you! You’re the one that told Kristen that Parker and I would be at the movie theater on Friday!”
“What? You’re insane!”
“Not I’m not! You were the only one that knew. I told you Parker and I were going to the movies. Of course! How could I honestly think that you were done being friends with Kristen? How could I have even thought that I could trust you? You’re still a part of her group aren’t you?” Beth accused, close to tears.
“Of course not! I haven’t been friends with her in forever. I’ve been in your group for over a year!”
“What? Are you like her little spy? You go running to Kristen, telling her everything I say?”
Star and Olivia just stood there, helpless. After all, what could they say?
“How can you even think that? What’s wrong with you?”
“It makes perfect sense. Just look at the facts.” Beth said through her teeth.
“I can’t believe how ridiculous you’re being! Listen to yourself!” Megan tried to defend herself, but it was useless. Once Beth made up her mind that was that. After all, she had to blame somebody. Anybody but herself.
“And I can’t believe what a backstabbing b**** you turned out to be. I thought we were friends Megan.”
“I does make sense.” Star piped up.
“I can’t believe you.” Olivia glared at Megan.
“Friends don’t do that.” Star added.
“I can’t believe you guys are honestly taking her side! Have you all completely lost your minds?” Megan demanded, helpless.
“Come on girls, we’ve got to get to class. Consider yourself officially out of the group, traitor.” Beth hissed as she hooked arms with Star and Jun and walked towards the school. Leaving Megan behind, all alone.

It was already sixth period and Beth hadn’t seen Aaron all day. She really needed to talk to him, try to explain. She worried that he got the text blast before he left this morning and then just didn’t come to school. Or maybe he left early after he saw the picture.
During seventh off period, as if it were even a surprise, Megan was eating lunch with Kristen, Sarah Mae, Andrea, and Amber. Star and Olivia had acted like it was no surprise as well, but they were shocked. They’d never, before today, thought Megan was a traitor. They without a doubt believed that she did it now.
Finally, after the final bell had rung, Beth spotted Aaron in the parking lot, making his way to his car. “Aaron!” Beth called after him, but he didn’t turn. She took a deep breath and then ran to catch up to him. She grabbed his arm and turned him to face her.
“What do you want Beth?” He demanded.
“Oh come on Aaron, don’t be that way.” Beth fake laughed, trying to lighten the mood.
Aaron rolled his eyes and turned to walk away. Beth slipped under his arm and stood in from of him again. She smiled weakly. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?”
“How many times?” Aaron asked in a monotone.
“What are you talking about?” She pretended to be clueless.
“You and Parker. How many times?” He demanded.
She looked around the parking lot nervously. What was she supposed to say to him? Too many times to count?
“Look, Aaron, it’s not even a big deal, okay?”
“How many times?!” He yelled. A few other people in the parking lot stopped to watch.
“Just a few times over the past mouth.” Beth said slowly and quietly. In all honesty, it was only about five or six times maximum.
Aaron just shook his head and started walking again.
“Aaron wait!” Beth begged.
“Wait for what?” He demanded and turned around to face her again, his eyes turning slightly watery. Beth began to feel really bad. She hadn’t expected for him to take it this hard if he ever found out. “Wait for you to tell me it was no big deal again? Wait for you to lie to my face some more? Tell me did you ever think about me? My feelings? If you really don’t like me why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I do like you!” Beth cut in, but he wasn’t nearly done.
“And to think I had to find out with the rest of the God damn school.” He muttered lowly in her ear. “I thought we had a strong relationship.”
“We do!” She cut in again.
“Then why did you go back with your ex? You broke up for a reason!”
“Just calm down—“
“Don’t you dare tell me to calm down right now!” He yelled and more people stared.
“Can’t we talk about this?” Beth begged helplessly, frightened from Aaron’s anger.
“How’s this for talking? In case it wasn’t obvious, we’re through!” He turned and walked back to his truck, not looking back once.
Beth felt her heart throb and seem to shatter inside of her. She’d seriously damaged him. She never wanted to hurt Aaron. She heard snickering behind her and turned to see Kristen and Sarah Mae. Oh great, she thought.
“Good job Beth, every entertaining show.” Kristen clapped, still laughing.
“This is funny to you?” Beth demanded.
“Uh…yeah?” Kristen rolled her eyes, still laughing.
“Aaron just dumped me!” Beth yelled, walking up to Kristen and Sarah Mae. Both of them wore excited and amused grins and their eyes glowed. She could tell they had a lot of bragging to do. They finally got her good.
“Yeah I heard.” Kristen snickered.
“This is all your fault!” Beth exclaimed and jabbed Kristen in the chest with her finger.
“Hey! Don’t blame me! You’re the one who was cheating on him!”
“You sent that picture to the whole freaking school!” Beth nearly yelled through clenched teeth as she pushed Kristen back a step.
“I know! It was hilarious! Just priceless.” She grinned, shoving Beth back.
“Why did you do that? Don’t you have the decency to just tell him? He’s humiliated!”
“And you’re not?” Sarah Mae wondered, disappointment in her voice.
“Actually, no, I’m not. Even with this stupid-ass immature stunt you pulled I’m still the most popular girl in the school. I guess no matter what you do you’ll both always be losers.” Beth shrugged and pushed Kristen again.
“And I guess you’ll always be a slut!” Kristen yelled as she shoved back.
“You’re just jealous!” Beth accused, pushing Kristen back.
“Not likely!” Kristen snorted, shoving Beth back a few steps.
Beth clenched her teeth tightly and shoved Kristen again. “You b****!”
“You slut!” Kristen snapped, shoving Beth again.
“Why’d you even do it?” Beth wondered, taking a step back so Kristen couldn’t push her again.
“Isn’t is obvious by now? Because I hate you b****.” She kissed two fingers, flashed the insides of them to Beth and her and Sarah Mae walked away, very much pleased with themselves.

The author's comments:
Things are about to get complicated! Keep reading! ;)

Beth couldn’t believe that it was Tuesday already. Monday had been so eventful, stressful, and frustrating that it all just morphed into a blur. Kristen sent around that picture of her cheating on Aaron to the whole school, Aaron dumped her while Kristen got the satisfaction to watch, and one of her friends turned out o be a traitor and abandoned the group to be with Kristen’s. Not to mention the whole school was poking it’s nose into her private life. All of Aaron’s football teammates got a huge kick out of it and kept asking her if she’d make out with them or sleep with them. (“I won’t tell Aaron…or Kristen, don’t worry!)
It was her fourth period, which she had off, so she was sitting in one of the picnic tables in the back of the school, studying for the test she had next period. She didn’t know why she was even bothering, she couldn’t get her mind to focus anyway.
Finally when she’d gotten home she managed to get her phone charged. When it finally flickered back to life there were endless text messages waiting for her. One was the text blast itself, the rest revolving around the picture or the break up. Everyone was poking their noses into it, demanding the truth even though it had nothing to do with them. She had people she barely knew repeatedly texting her about the details which they’d never get.
She felt like she was under a microscope, and everyone in the world was taking turns, everyone getting their chance to look and see whatever they wanted about her. Hadn’t anyone ever heard of space or privacy? Why was her breakup anyone but her and Aaron’s business anyway? Why did everyone feel the need to be a part of it? It was hard enough to deal with it alone, and now the whole world was watching.
Beth felt a tap on her shoulder and then Parker’s face came into view. He reached his lips towards hers but she stopped him and pushed him away.
“What’s wrong?” He demanded. “No more boyfriend, right? So there’s nothing in the way of us getting back together. See, everything worked itself out.”
“Well I’m glad you think so.” Beth responded sarcastically, appalled at Parker’s reaction to the whole situation. He didn’t even care that the picture had been sent to the whole school.
“What’s wrong?” He wondered, taking the seat next to her.
“What’s wrong? Hmm. Let me think about that. What do you think Parker?! Every kid at this school has that picture and Aaron dumped me! How can you even ask me what’s wrong?” Beth demanded, shaking her head at his cluelessness.
“So? Who cares?” He shrugged.
“I do!” Beth shouted, closing her chem book, rising to her feet and grabbing her bag. “I don’t know if you understand this but I just go dumped!”
“So what? You didn’t even want to be with him.” Parker insisted.
“Who says?” Beth challenged.
“God Beth! Make up your mind! If you wanted to be with him then why were you with me?”
“I don’t know! I was confused. I’ve gotta go.” She rolled her eyes and started to walk away.
Parker grabbed her shoulder and stopped her. “Come on. We should talk about this.”
“Let go of me!” Beth tried to pull away but his grip tightened, causing pain to shoot through her arm. She felt like his fingers were just digging deeper and deeper into her shoulder, digging, breaking…
“Oww! Parker let go! You’re hurting me!” Beth struggled but again couldn’t move. Suddenly she remembered why they broke up in the first place… He had his arms on both of her shoulders now and had pulled her into the alley way off a few feet from the area she had been sitting in.
“Come on Beth. After all we’ve been through, you can’t just forget that. I love you!” Parker urged, trying to bring his lips to hers again.
“It’s over Parker!” Beth insisted, trying to get away. Parker’s hands dug deeper into her arms. “Oww! Parker! Let go!”
“Let go of her.” A deep voice growled as their fist crashed into the side of Parker’s face. Parker fell to the cold concrete ground in shock.
Beth gasped in surprise and turned to see Aaron. He grabbed her hand gently but firmly and pulled her behind him. “Go back to the grass.” He instructed.
As she walked backwards Parker shot up and nailed Aaron in the face with his fist. Aaron slammed into the wall of the alley and Beth let out a small squeak. Aaron tackled Parker and started punching him in the face repeatedly.
Beth gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. She knew she needed to stop them, but she was frozen where she stood.
Parker rolled on top of Aaron and started punching Aaron in the face. Aaron kicked Parker in the stomach and he flew onto his back. They both got back up and lunged at each other. It was happening so fast that Beth couldn’t keep up. She could see that both of them had blood pouring from their noses, and who knew what other injuries they had already. She knew she needed to stop them before someone got seriously hurt.
“Stop!” Beth screamed, but neither listened.
“Stay away from Beth.” Aaron threatened as he punched Parker in the face again.
“What’s she to you?” Parker replied as he shoved Aaron into the wall. “You dumped her, remember?”
“Just,” Aaron threw Parker onto the ground and kicked him in the stomach. “Stay away from her.”
Parker got back up and all Beth could see was a large blur again. She knew she couldn’t step them on her own so she sprinted back to the school. She came up to two security guards huffing and puffing. “You’ve gotta help. These two boys are fighting. You’ve gotta stop them!” She exclaimed, gasping for air.
“Where?” The big one asked.
Beth pointed the way she came. “The alley.”
The security guards both began running in that direction, Beth following. Each of them grabbed Parker and Aaron as another security guard arrived. Beth heard one of them instruct to call an ambulance.
An ambulance? Who had gotten hurt that badly? Beth tried to see, to get to them, but the other security guard wouldn’t let her through.
The ambulance arrived shortly and Beth watched in horror as both Parker and Aaron were loaded in. Neither of them moving.
Screw school, Beth thought as she grabbed her bag and began to run back to her car. There was a large crowd observing the scene now and many more students were rushing to see what happened. After all, Aaron was the star football player, and there was a big game tonight, which made it the entire school’s concern.
Beth reached her car, breathless, and sped down to the hospital. Her phone kept beeping, probably from Star and Olivia, wondering what was going on. The road blurred by as she pushed her car faster and faster, she felt like she couldn’t wait another minute.
Beth was so anxious that she was shaking. She was so worried that her stomach began to turn. How bad had they gotten hurt? Beth found herself only really worrying about Aaron. She couldn’t help herself from being mad at Parker still. In a way, this was all his fault, but in a way, it was all hers.
Beth wondered as she pulled into the hospital parking lot if they’d even let her see Aaron. This was probably just a waste of time. Beth hurried in the doors and asked the woman at the front desk if she could see Aaron…and Parker. The woman told Beth she’d have to wait, and that the doctor would let her know when she could see them.
But Beth wasn’t just about to give up and go home. She sat in one of the chairs and was prepared to wait as long as she had to.
Time seemed to drag on and on. The seconds turned into hours, the minutes turned into days, the hours turned into years, and then it all seemed to blur together. She felt like she was going to just fall over, asleep, a ticking sound in the back of her mind. How long had it been? It seemed as if time suddenly disappeared, and she was left with nothing to go by.
She chewed on her thumb nail nervously. What if they weren’t okay? What if one of them died? She flinched at the word, her mind automatically drifting back to Austin. She exhaled harshly. She’d managed to go quite awhile without thinking about him.
Beth twisted a pieced of her platinum blonde hair around her finger over and over, trying to make time pass by more quickly. She studied the pattern of the stitching on her jeans and then memorized every detail of her purple heels.
She glanced at the clock, whose noisy clicks seemed to be taunting her. It had almost been two hours. Just then her stomach started growling; she’d missed lunch.
After what seemed like a lifetime the doctor led her back to Aaron’s room. She hesitated before stepping inside and then timidly inched in further.
“Beth.” Aaron spoke. His face was splattered with dried blood from his nose, which must have been broken, his eyes had large dark circles under them, and his entire body was decorated with all kinds of cuts and bruises. She couldn’t help herself from feeling relieved, she’d imagined much worse. It looked as if there was nothing broken. “What are you doing here?”
Beth gulped, trying to keep the tears from spilling from her eyes. “Do you want me to leave?” She asked.
He just stared at her face for a long time and she stared back. “No.” He finally sighed.
She slowly came and sat at the foot of his bed. “Thank you.” She nodded and half smiled, “For saving me.”
He half smiled back and laughed once to himself. “Anytime, it felt good to kick his ass.”
They both laughed quietly for a moment. “Are you okay?” he asked Beth.
“Me?” She laughed once and rolled her eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Perfect.” He grinned.
“Seriously, what’ the damage?” Beth wondered.
“Uh, well the bastard gave me a mild concussion. But other than that it’s just bruises and cuts. He didn’t even break my nose, which was surprising. How is Parker? How many bones did I break?” Aaron grinned.
“Well I’m glad you think this is funny.” Beth rolled her eyes. “And I don’t know.”
“You haven’t seen him?” Aaron guessed.
“You goin’ after you’re done talking to me?”
Beth paused for a moment, considering. “No.”
Aaron just nodded, staring into Beth’s eyes. “I’m really sorry Aaron, this is all my fault!” Beth covered her face with her hands.
“No it’s not!” Aaron laughed once. “I’m the one that punched him and started the fight.”
“That’s true.” They both laughed together.
“Can I ask you a question?” Aaron asked, suddenly serious.
“Of course.” She immediately responded.
“Just tell me the truth. Were you…with him because you wanted to be, or because he made you, like today?”
Beth wanted to tell him that it was because he forced her, always. That way they could put this behind them and get back together, but she was done lying to him. “It was about half and half.” She responded, staring at her hands. She took a deep breath. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, and as much of a cliché as this is, I’d take it all back if I could.”
He just nodded, staring at the blank TV. Beth considered asking him if he wanted her to get him the remote, but she didn’t want to break the silence.
“Damn it Beth.” He muttered.
“What? What now?” She demanded, thrown off guard.
“I want to hate you, I really do, I really should. It would make things so much easier. But I…” He trailed off, not meeting Beth’s eyes.
“But what?” She demanded, a spark of hope lighting inside of her. She tried to keep a straight face, she tried to hide the smile that was threatening to break out, so she bit down hard on her lower lip, waiting.
“But…” he locked his eyes with hers. “But I can’t stop loving you.”
Beth sucked in a sharp breath, warmth spreading over her whole body. Hope overtook her and she smiled. “I still love you.” She added quietly.
“But Beth?” His voice was suddenly hard again.
“Yeah?” She jumped a little in her seat.
“I hope you know this doesn’t change anything.” He stared into Beth’s eyes seriously for a long time. His face was smooth and calm, but completely serious at the same time. Like a statue, his face was unmoving, and seemed to scream, ‘There’s no changing my mind’.
She knew it wasn’t going to change anything, she’d just hoped, hoped with all of her heart. She knew she didn’t deserve his forgiveness anyway. So with shattered hope and a broken heart she nodded, “I know.”

The author's comments:
Keep on reading!

Kristen sat across the table from Andrew at her usual table in James Ivory, her favorite fancy restaurant. Kristen’s mother used to bring her to this restaurant for her birthday every year, until Kristen decided that her mom needed to get more imaginative and do something different every year. Andrew was chewing on a huge mouthful of pasta, red sauce dripping down his chin, and Kristen watched in disgust. She knew she needed to dump him, and she didn’t know why she hadn’t done it already.
“Andrew, I need to talk to you about something…” Kristen began, rearranging her napkin on her lap. She hadn’t even touched her salad yet, she hadn’t planned on actually staying for too long on this “date”. She wondered how many calories were even in their salads, she couldn’t risk taking a bite. What if it was over two hundred calories? Then it would totally blow her diet calorie count for the day and she’d have to throw it up. It just wasn’t worth it.
“What’s that?” He asked, still chewing on the pasta. He wiped his chin with his napkin and set it down on the table.
“You and me…I just…” Kristen trailed off, wondering how to phrase it. She didn’t want to be too rude, she didn’t want to hurt Andrew. He was a nice guy and all, he just wasn’t right for her…good enough for her. She crinkled her nose at the dirty napkin that was just centimeters from her fork.
Andrew waited, shoving in another mouthful of pasta, oblivious to how disgusting he was being right now. Kristen took a deep breath, this couldn’t last any longer, she couldn’t take it. “You and I aren’t working out Andrew.” She shrugged and smiled sincerely. “I’m sorry.” She added as she picked up her purse and rose to her feet. “I’ll see you at school.”
“Wait!” Andrew demanded before Kristen had the chance to escape. She turned to face him, waiting. “You’re breaking up with me?”
“Yes. I’m sorry Andrew.” Kristen smiled as if she cared and walked out of the restaurant quickly, before Andrew had the chance to speak again. She sighed in relief, a huge load lifted off her shoulders, and she headed over to her car. It was a good thing she’d asked him to meet her here, otherwise she wouldn’t have a ride home.
She jumped in the driver’s seat, started the engine, buckled her seat buckle, and dialed Sarah Mae’s number.
“Hello?” Sarah Mae answered.
“Hey Sarah! Guess who I just dumped!” Kristen sing songed as she pulled out of the James and Ivory parking lot.
“Finally.” Sarah Mae laughed once.
As Kristen began to pull out of the parking lot another car began to back out. She blared her horn and the car stopped mere inches from her mirror. “S***! You moron!” Kristen yelled as she honked her horn a few more times.
“Are you in the car Kristen? You shouldn’t be on the phone.” Sarah Mae lectured.
“Well fine b****. When did you join the police force?” Kristen rolled her eyes as she pulled out into the intersection.
“Goodbye Kristen. Call me when you’re home.” Sarah Mae suggested.
“Well now you’ve pissed me off, so maybe I won’t.” Kristen teased.
“Bye slut-bag.” Sarah laughed once.
“Back at ya bee-yotch!” Kristen laughed and they both hung the phone up at the same time.
Kristen arrived at her house minutes later. She parked her car in the garage and went straight up to her room. It was seven p.m. and it was a Tuesday night. She sighed at the sad situation. Tuesday nights sucked.
Like clockwork her phone buzzed, it was Sarah Mae. “Yes b****?” Kristen answered, flopping down on her bed.
“I think I’ve got something to cheer you up.” Sarah Mae explained. Kristen examined her nails that were in a desperate need of a manicure. She bit her lip.
“Who says I need to be cheered up?” She demanded, rolling onto her back. “I’m perfectly…cheery.”
“Sure you are. You’re bummed because you’re single for the first time since grade school.” Sarah reminded her.
“I broke up with him remember? It was my choice. So no I’m not pissed about being single, it’s actually kind of exciting.” Kristen shrugged. “I can make out with any guy that I want and not have to be tied down by a relationship. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner.”
“You slut.” Sarah Mae laughed once. “Do you want my news or not?”
“What is it?” Kristen exhaled dramatically.
“I know someone who just might be interested in you.”
“If this is some dork from the chess club I don’t even want to hear the joke.” Kristen rolled her eyes and kicked her heels off onto the floor. With a dull thump they hit the floor, one flying under her bed. She groaned and begrudgingly bend down and dug it out. She did not need her favorite wedge heels to be covered in disgusting dust. She tossed the shoe over to her closet and lied back down on her back.
“How about Parker Patterson?” Sarah Mae asked in a smug voice.
“Parker Patterson?” Kristen asked, sitting up quickly. “You mean Parker-Parker? That jock that screwed Beth and broke her and Aaron up?” She demanded.
“That’s the one.” Sarah agreed.
“And he wants to go out with me?” Kristen demanded. “Then why the hell hasn’t he asked me out yet?”
“Because you were still dating Andrew!” Sarah Mae reminded her, laughing slightly.
“That didn’t stop him before…” Kristen mumbled, shaking her head. “Anyway what should I do? Should I ask him out, go to talk to him, what? Is he gonna ask me out?”
“I don’t know, I just thought I should tell you.”
“Where did you hear it? Who told you?” Kristen demanded, rising to her feet in excitement. Not only was Parker extremely hot, but it would sure piss Beth off.
“Parker’s friend, that Jack guy whose on the football team.” Sarah explained.
“Well, tell Jack to get Parker to ask me out tomorrow.” Kristen instructed, pacing back and forth.
“Tomorrow? But you just dumped Andrew, what, twenty minutes ago?”
“More like ten.” Kristen shrugged. She’d completely forgotten about Andrew. “Who cares? Tomorrow.”
“Whatever.” Sarah Mae sighed and hung up at the same time as Kristen.
Kristen tossed her phone onto her bed and let out a small scream. She danced around for a little bit, thinking about Parker. He was hot, a football star, and Beth was going to be so pissed when she heard.
Kristen smiled to herself. She really has gotten Beth good in the past couple of days. First with that picture at the movie theater, then with Aaron, and now Parker. Life couldn’t get better. She wondered if she needed to watch her back, after all, Beth wasn’t one to let s*** happen to her without inflicting twice as much. And she had even more reasons to hate Kristen then she did before. Then again, revenge was Kristen’s favorite game.
But Kristen didn’t want to think about Beth right now, she was going to have a new boyfriend by tomorrow, and it was going to be Parker Patterson of all boys. She jumped at the buzzing of her cell phone. The screen said it was an unknown number; she hesitantly answered it.
“Hey Kristen. It’s Parker. Parker Patterson.” Parker spoke in an excited voice.
It took all Kristen had not to drop the phone and scream. “Oh, hey Parker.” She responded casually.
“I hope you don’t mind, I got your number from Sarah Mae.” He explained.
Kristen’s jaw dropped. That b****! She didn’t tell her that she gave Parker her number! How could she hold back that kind of valuable information? “Oh yeah, that’s fine. So what’s up?” She asked, trying not to sound angry.
“Well, I heard you and Andrew broke up.” He went on.
“Yeah we did.” Kristen responded quickly, wishing he would just ask her out already. She hated waiting and she hated suspense. The boy just needed to get on with it.
“Oh, well, I’m sorry about that.” Parker responded, though he didn’t sound sorry at all.
“I’m not.” Kristen replied. “It wasn’t working out. Andrew’s a great guy, just not right for me. He wasn’t my type.”
“Then what is your type?” Parker flirted.
“Well, I like jocks.” She smiled, hoping she didn’t sound too obvious. “And he has to be funny, and fun to be around. Boring guys have no chance with me.”
“Damn, I guess you’d never date me then huh?” Parker played along.
“Sorry.” Kristen played along. “If only you were a football player and funny. Too bad.”
“That is too bad, because I was actually calling to see if you’d go out with me.” Parker admitted, though his voice still sounded extremely calky and arrogant.
“Oh were you?” Kristen acted as if it were a surprise and grinned to herself.
“So what do you say? I know I’m not exactly your type, I know I’m missing a few of the qualities, but maybe you can make an exception because of my amazing good looks.”
“Or maybe because of your amazing modesty.” Kristen laughed.
“That too.” Parker agreed.
“Gee, I don’t know Parker. I’d really be taking a jump for you.” Kristen trailed off, waiting for him to actually ask her. She wasn’t going to settle for vagueness.
“Come on Kristen, please?” He laughed.
“I don’t know…” Kristen trailed off, wondering if he was actually going to ask her in so many words.
“Kristen, in all seriousness, will you go out with me?” Parker asked after a moment of silence.
Kristen grinned, covered the phone, and exhaled loudly. “Finally.” She whispered and then put the phone back up against her ear. “I’d love to.” She responded with a huge smile.
It was almost as if it weren’t even worth trying to piss Beth off anymore, she was just so far behind and losing so miserably that it wasn’t as much fun anymore. But revenge was still her favorite hobby, and no matter how far behind Beth got in the game, she’d never stop.

The author's comments:
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“She’s just doing it to piss you off Beth.” Star explained, trying to comfort Beth.
“Well it’s working then.” Beth snapped.
It was Friday afternoon, fourth period. Star and Beth were sitting on the benches on the right side of the school. The news of the school today was the newest couple, Parker Patterson and Kristen Dollsworth. Beth couldn’t believe it. It’d been all but one day and Parker had already found another girl, and of course it had to be Kristen Dollsworth! She just didn’t get it. They were totally different people, how could they like each other? Kristen was totally not Parker’s type. She couldn’t help but wondering if Parker was doing it to make her jealous and if Kristen was doing it to piss her off.
“Don’t worry about it. They have nothing in common. And if they really are just using each other then it won’t last long. Don’t give them the satisfaction. They want you to get jealous; they want you to get mad. You just need to act like they’re just another couple. Another couple that you could care less about.”
“But I do care Star!” Beth argued. “I hate Kristen and now she’s dating Parker. We have to get her back. We have to.” Beth said through her teeth, exploring her head for an idea. She needed something so big, something so different that Kristen would never see it coming. It had to be better than all of the things she’s done to get back at Kristen with before. It had to be on a whole new level.
“I heard your mistress mister found a new slut.” Oliver announced as he approached Beth and Star.
“What do you want Oliver?” Star hissed, making a disgusted face at him.
Beth rolled her eyes. Suddenly Oliver thought he was so cool and that he could talk to Beth like this. She was the one that dumped him, and he seemed to have forgotten that. “I heard Amy Landers dumped you. How’s it feel to get dumped, again? I mean you always seem to be the dumped one huh? Never the dumper.” Beth laughed, watching Oliver’s face twist in a mixture of pain, and embarrassment. His head dropped and he shuffled away quickly without another word.
“Nicely done.” Star offered Beth her hand for a high five.
“Thank you.” Beth high fived Star and then sighed. “I don’t feel much better though.”
“I know sweetie, I know. How are things with you and Aaron? Have you talked to him?” Star wondered.
“Not since the hospital. He’ll be back tomorrow.” Beth shrugged. “Not like it matters, he hates me.”
“He told you he loved you, remember?” Star demanded.
“And that it didn’t change anything. He doesn’t want anything to do with me.” Beth argued, putting her head in her heads.
“That can be changed.” Star trailed off smiling.
“What are you thinking?” Beth demanded as she glanced back up at Star.
“Nothing.” Star shook her head quickly. “I just mean…by this time next week he’ll be begging you to take him back.”
“Don’t be so sure.” Beth mumbled.
“Hey, people make mistakes, and Aaron of all people should know that. And if he really loves you he’ll forgive you. He’ll be back Beth, he’ll be back.”
“I don’t even know why I risked it. How could I be so stupid? And for Parker! That was by far the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life Star. And I can’t fix it.” Beth mumbled.
“Just watch, things have a way of working themselves out. You’ll see.” Star encouraged with a small smile.
Just then the bell rang and Beth and Star went their separate ways to fifth period. The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur, Beth was mostly sleepwalking. She wasn’t awake, she wasn’t paying attention. She was in a sadness haze, nothing seemed to matter much to her anymore. The only two things that she could think about were Aaron, and how she was going to get Kristen back.
It was passing period between fifth and six period and Beth suddenly snapped up. She stood up straighter, sucked her stomach in tighter, held her chest out farther and lifted her chin higher. She was Beth Taylor. And Beth Taylor didn’t get mad, she got even. She couldn’t be the girl whose all loner like and sad because some gossip got around about her. She was the popular b**** whose ego and confidence couldn’t be touched.
She smiled as she walked to her sixth period class. She knew exactly how she was going to get Kristen Dollsworth back. And it was going to be priceless. The b**** would never see it coming.
“What’s got you so happy?” Olivia’s voice suddenly interrupted Beth’s thoughts. She forgot that Olivia was in her sixth period for a moment. Olivia must have seen her walking and caught up to her.
Beth rested her index finger on her lips. “I’ll have to tell you later.” She mumbled. “It’s a secret.” She grinned. She walked with more power and confidence than she had for the past few days. For the first time since that picture had gotten around she felt great. She felt awesome. She had the perfect plan. No revenge that she’d ever gotten on Kristen Dollsworth had even been this intricate and genius. She was going to get Kristen Dollsworth back so good, and she’d never see it coming.
“Is this about Kristen and Parker?” Olivia wondered, staring at Beth’s happy expression suspiciously. “You’re up to something aren’t you?”
“Shh.” Beth winked and bit her tong, her lips spreading into a smile. “It’s a secret.”
They entered their sixth period class and took seats in the back of the room. There was barely anyone in the classroom. Just a few nerds who got there early and sat in their seats silently, waiting for class to start. Everyone else dropped their things off on their desks and then left to go socialize in the hallways. “Now will you tell me?” Olivia demanded pulling at a lock of her brown hair.
“It’s a secret.” Beth shrugged.
“Come one, unless you’re worried about Never-Talks-Nadia I think you can fess up.” Olivia urged, nodding her head in the direction of Nadia.
“I just got the perfect plan to get back at Kristen.” Beth whispered lowly in Olivia’s ear. “It’s so freaking perfect.” She added, raising her eye brows and smiling.
“Would you mind sharing your master plan with your little old friend here please? Do I get to help?” Olivia asked, annoyed at Beth’s secrecy. Beth always came up with the best revenge ideas, and it was hell waiting to hear about them.
“My house. You, me, and Star. After school. We’ve got some serious planning to do.” Beth winked and dug in her purse for her pen.
“I have a feeling this is gonna be a good one.” Olivia smiled, excited.
“You have no idea.”
Mr. Werner walked in moments later, shutting the door and turning on the projector. “Let’s settle down class, we’ve got a lot of notes to blow through today. Pay attention, behave, and I won’t give you a pop quiz on Monday.”
Sixth period passed slowly. But sixth period was Beth’s favorite period, so she didn’t mind as much. It wasn’t because she liked history, it actually bored her to tears, it was just that she liked Mr. Werner. He was the hot teacher that every girl crushed on. He was only twenty-four years old, so not that much older than her. He was new this year, he was the replacement teacher for…Mr. Jameson.
After class Olivia waited for her outside the classroom while she walked up to Mr. Werner’s desk. The rest of the class had already rushed out, so it was just him and her.
“Mr. Werner?” She asked in her seductive voice.
“Oh!” He jumped a little, turning his chair around to face her. “Beth Taylor.” He smiled warmly, she’d always been his favorite student. “What can I do you for?”
“I just had a few questions about the notes. I got kind of lost around here.” She leaned over his desk, pointing to the portion of the notes. She knew her boobs were nearly busting out of her V neck, because that was the way she’d planned it. She watched his eyes widen a little and then flicker down to the notes.
“Oh yeah? Were you paying attention in class?” He wondered. It sounded as if he were trying to use a teasing tone, but he gulped loudly.
“I was.” Beth answered quickly. “It just confuses me a little. Maybe I could come in during fourth off period sometime next week and you could help me?” She asked, smiling a sweet and sexy smile. She stood back up straight as Mr. Werner’s eyes finally left her chest and met her eyes. She smiled to herself.
“Absolutely.” He agreed quickly as he took a deep breath. “How about Monday?”
“Great. I’ll come in.” She smiled and waved. She turned and deliberately waved her ass more than usual while walking. “Bye Mr. Werner!” She called over her shoulder and met Olivia out in the hallway.
Olivia grabbed her wrist and pulled her down the hallway, quickly getting away from Mr. Werner’s room. They were both laughing hysterically. “I cannot believe you Beth!” Olivia laughed. “Poor guy. Could you flirt with him any harder?”
“I could, but I felt like I should keep myself covered up. After all, we are at school.” Beth teased, winking at Olivia.
“He’s like seven years older than you!”
“Ew Olivia!” Beth laughed and covered her eyes with her right hand. “I have zero interest in him. I just like to see him sweat.” She shrugged and grabbed Olivia’s wrist. She led her further down the hallway. They both had seventh period off, so they wandered to the picnic tables in the courtyard in the back of the school.
“Let’s hope Parker’s not back here.” Olivia teased.
“He’s with Kristen now.” Beth reminded her, smiling a little. She noticed Kristen and Parker awhile away from them. They were sitting in the picnic table on the opposite side of the courtyard. She could see Parker’s injuries from where she sat. It looked like he had a black eye, and tons of bruises and cuts like Aaron. But other than that he looked okay.
“So how do you feel about that?” Olivia wondered as she pulled her paper bag lunch out of her bag.
“I could care less.” Beth shrugged, smiling to herself. “I have no feelings for Parker. They deserve each other.”
“Why are you so happy about this?” Olivia wondered, skeptically looking at Beth’s smile. “Is that part of your plan?” She whispered very lowly.
Beth put her index finger to her lips again and winked. “Shh.”
Olivia shoved her sandwich into her mouth as Beth pulled out a bag of pretzels. “Did you have an idea Olivia? I’m sorry I never asked you.” Beth asked suddenly.
“No. I’m glad you came up with something, even if I don’t know what it is yet,” Olivia frowned and pushed Beth lightly. “I hate waiting.”
“Trust me hunny, we know.” Beth laughed and winked.
Olivia laughed and shook her head. “You’re one to talk.”
Beth laughed. “I know. I know.” Beth glanced back at Kristen and Parker who were in a lip lock. She took a deep breath, letting the anger flood out of her. She needed to pretend like it didn’t bother her, but she couldn’t help but get angry. They hadn’t been dating for even a day yet and they were already making out in public. She rolled her eyes and turned back to face Olivia.
“Now she’s even more of a slut than you.” Olivia nodded towards Kristen.
“I think we already knew that.” Beth rose her eye brows and laughed with Olivia. She wondered where Megan was, probably hanging out with Kristen’s minions. But Beth knew she shouldn’t care, it was Megan’s choice to betray the group, and then go and join Kristen’s group. She made her choice, and Beth shouldn’t feel bad about it. “What do you think? Should we go say hello to the happy couple?” Beth suggested as she glanced back at Parker and Kristen.
“Are you crazy?” Olivia asked, her mouth full of her sandwich. “I don’t want to talk to the man whore and the b****.”
“Suit yourself.” Beth shrugged and started walking towards Kristen and Parker.
“Wait up!” Olivia called as she ran to Beth’s side. They approached Kristen and Parker, who were still making out, with fake smiles on their faces.
Kristen and Parker stopped kissing and looked up to see Beth and Olivia walking towards them. Parker whipped his mouth quickly, his entire face looking guilty while Kristen just looked annoyed. Parker shifted uncomfortably, only looking at Beth, as if he were afraid of whatever words might come out of her mouth.
“What do you want?” Kristen asked, her face all scrunched together like a snob.
“Just wanted to say hi.” Beth shrugged and smiled innocently. Parker flinched and shifted uncomfortably when she spoke. “And I wanted to let you know that I’m happy for you. You guys deserve each other. I can’t believe I never thought of it before, you guys are perfect together.” Beth added.
Kristen straightened up. “What game are you playing?” She demanded.
“No games.” Beth shook her head. “I hope you two are happy together.”
“We are, thank you.” Kristen snapped and grabbed Parker’s hand. He looked extremely uncomfortable. He whipped his forehead with his head and smiled weakly.
“We are.” He nodded and agreed quietly, though his face screamed the opposite.
“Well, see you around.” Beth waved. “Kristen.” She smiled and nodded. “Parker.” She smiled and stared at him for a moment too long and then turned and walked away with Olivia.
“What was that for?” Olivia asked, confused.
“Just preparing Olivia, just go with it. It’s all part of the plan, don’t worry.” Beth explained as they made their way back to their picnic table. They both sat back down and picked up their food.
“It would be easier to go along with your plan if I knew what it was Beth.” Olivia reminded her.
“We just planted the seed. This is where things start to get fun.” Beth bit her bottom lip, raised her eye brows and winked. “Things are about to get real interesting around here.”

The author's comments:
The Next Chapter is the best one in the book! Keep reading!

It was Friday afternoon and Kristen was driving home from school. Parker was in his car behind her, following her home. He’d offered to give her a ride, but she didn’t want to leave her car so he said he’s just meet her at her house. Kristen couldn’t stop thinking about seventh period today. Beth had acted so…suspicious. What was she up to? And the way she looked at Parker was unsettling. Beth cheated on her boyfriend with Parker, so who’s to say Parker wouldn’t cheat on her with Beth?
And it wasn’t just about pissing Beth off anymore, Kristen actually liked Parker. She wanted their relationship to work. She wanted him to like her, and only her.
The sky was full of clouds and the weather was taking a turn for the cold. There were leaves all over the ground the entire drive to her house. Kristen just hoped that the snow would wait a few months. Open toed high heels and snow on the ground didn’t go well together, and half of her shoes were just that.
She arrived at her house and parked her car out in the driveway while Parker parked out on the street. He hopped out of his car and ran to open her door for her.
“Thank you.” Kristen smiled as she stepped out, taking his hand.
“How was your day?” He asked as they walked up the wooden stairs into Kristen’s room. Parker sat down on Kristen’s black and white king sized bed while Kristen went and sat on her black mushroom chair that was in the corner.
“Fine.” Kristen lied, looking past Parker, staring off into space.
“Are you okay?” He wondered, waving his hand where she was staring.
“What was that today?” She blurted out, staring at Parker’s face seriously.
“Whoa.” Parker held his hands up as if he were surrendering. “What are you talking about? What was what today?” He wondered, concern washing over his face.
“Seventh period.” Kristen explained, waiting.
“What? We were making out. Did you not want to, cause if you didn’t then I’m sorry. You should’ve said something!”He defended himself.
“That’s not what I’m talking about!” Kristen cut him off, exhaling loudly. “I meant with Beth. What was that?”
“That’s just Beth being Beth.” Parker shrugged. “Friendly.”
“Friendly.” Kristen rose her eye brows. “I don’t want you two to be friendly.”
“No, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong.” Parker laughed. “There’s nothing going on between Beth and I. She dumped me, we’re over.” He shook his head. “There’s nothing for you to worry about. Besides, I’m with you now.”
“Something tells me that wouldn’t stop you.” Kristen snapped. “Beth was with Aaron but you were still involved with her.”
“That’s different.” Parker shook his head.
“Look, I don’t care about whatever went on between you and Beth. But I care about what’s happening between us now. And I don’t want you to think it’s okay to go hook up with some other girl while you’re dating me, okay? If you’re dating me we’re exclusive, and if you cheat on me I’ll know and we’ll be over in a heartbeat.” Kristen explained, watching to see how Parker would react.
“Understood.” He nodded, flashing her a smile.
“Good.” She agreed and took a deep breath. She smiled and chocked her head to the side. “Why did you ask me out?” She wondered.
He paused, squinting slightly, obviously not expecting this question. “Because I like you.” I answered simply.
“Not because you wanted to make Beth jealous?” Kristen demanded, raising her eye brows.
“God Kristen!” Parker exclaimed, throwing his palms up and letting them smack down against his thighs. “Are we ever gonna talk about anything but Beth? Everything that’s come out of your mouth so far has been about Beth. Why is it all about her? Can’t we talk about something else for a change?” He demanded.
“God Parker!” She took a deep breath. “Sorry if I wanted to clear the air before I start a relationship.” She crossed her arms and crinkled her whole face.
“I’m sorry. You’re right.” Parker sighed. “Come here.” He motioned with his finger for her to join him.
Kristen walked hesitantly towards Parker and took a seat next to him.
“Listen,” He began, taking Kristen’s hands in his. “I’m dating you now because I want to date you. That’s it. No alternative motives, no secrets, nothing. I just like you. Okay? I like you Kristen and I want to have a real relationship with you.”
“I want to have a real relationship with you too.” Kristen responded quietly with a smile.
“Good.” Parker smiled back and pulled her into a hug.
After Parker had left Kristen pulled her running spandex pants on, a wet-dry tee shirt, and her running shoes. It was still fairly warm and there was day light so she figured she’d fit a run in. She walked down her street until she made it to the stop sign and then started running. She had her iPod cranked up on her playlist titled: RUNNING.
The cold, crisp air burned her throat as she ran and her fingers were beginning to tingle. Kristen wished she would have remembered mittens or something. She couldn’t run with her hands in her pockets so she just had to deal with it. She crossed the street over to the running path and began running alongside her favorite river. There were shiny benches with plaques dedicated to random people lining the river and large trees that were just beginning to lose their leaves.
There weren’t many animals roaming around today and the running trail was basically empty. She pushed herself faster, her feet smacking against the running trail. After about a mile and a half she was gasping for air and slowed her pace to a walk. Kristen sighed and shook her head. She was really out of shape. She used to be able to run three miles without stopping.
She thought about seventh period again as she continued walking. She couldn’t help but try and decode what Beth had said and did today. It had to have meant something. But what? Was Beth trying to show her that she could have Parker back whenever she wanted? Was she trying to send her a message that she didn’t care if she dated Parker because she was over him? What did that mean? Beth had acted so…polite and nice and weird. It had to have meant that she was up to something. Kristen sighed and checked the time on her iPod. She had to find out what Beth was up to, she just had to.
Ahead on the trail she saw another runner. It was a guy, and it looked like Parker. She squinted at the figure, trying to see who it was. It looked like a teenager, with broad shoulders and muscular everything. She noticed that he was wearing the high school football sweatshirt. So it could be Parker. She quickened her pace, trying not to lose him. He slowed to a walk now also. It looked like Parker from the back, but it was hard to tell through the foggy air and her blurry vision from moving. The only way to find out was to catch him.
Kristen began running again, trying to catch up to him. She glanced down at her iPod, trying to set it to a different song, and before she knew it her face rammed into the back of the guy. Her iPod headphones fell out of her ears and she gasped, covering her nose with her hand. She hoped it wasn’t broken. She bent down to pick her iPod off of the ground, hoping she hadn’t broken it and he turned around to face her.
It wasn’t Parker at all.
It was Aaron.
“I’m so sorry.” She laughed once. “I was looking down at my iPod, I wasn’t watching where I was going. I didn’t even think there was anyone else out here today. Are you okay?” She wondered, swallowing harshly. She pretended to inspect her iPod for damage and then went back to looking at him.
“Yeah I’m fine.” Aaron responded, looking Kristen up and down once, an angry expression on his face. And wordlessly he turned around and started walking again.
Kristen cocked her head to the side and lowered her eye brows in confusion. Had he seemed, mad at her?
“Hey, wait up!” She called and ran to his side. He stopped and faced her, an annoyed and angry look on his face.
“Are you mad at me or something?” She demanded. “What’s with the attitude?”
Aaron just rolled his eyes and turned and started walking again. Kristen’s jaw dropped a little, annoyed at how rude he was being. She caught up to him again, stood in front of him and stopped him. “What’s your deal?” Kristen wondered, crossing her arms across her chest and shifting her weight to one side.
“What do you think?” Aaron snapped and tried to get around her but she stopped him again.
“I don’t know. If I knew why you hated me so much I wouldn’t be asking you now would I?” Kristen demanded, expecting him to half smile or laugh or something but he just stared at her with that same angry expression. “What?” She demanded, holding up her palms in a surrender gesture. “What did I ever do to you?”
“Let me think about that for a second… “ Aaron responded sarcastically. “You forced your nose into my personal life where it didn’t belong and then sent that picture of Beth and Parker around to the whole school. If you really wanted to break me and Beth up so badly why didn’t you just come and show me the stupid picture? Why did you have to send it to everyone in the school and humiliate us both?” He demanded as he crossed his arms over his chest.
Kristen bit her lower lip. She had forgotten about the picture. But she hadn’t thought it would have been such a big deal to Aaron. Yeah she knew it would hurt him, and that’s why he’d dump Beth. But she thought the actual picture would have been what he was mad about, not the sending of the picture. Shouldn’t he be mad at Beth for cheating on him, not Kristen for bringing it to his attention?
“Beth had it coming.” Kristen responded in a small voice.
“And what did Beth ever do to you?” He demanded.
“I can’t believe you’re defending that slut after what she did—”
“Don’t call her that.” Aaron snapped quickly. Kristen could see his shoulders and his neck tensing.
“What? A slut? Why not? That’s all she is, a slut. And after what she did to you I’d think you’d agree. In case you forgot she repeatedly cheated on you with her ex boyfriend!” Kristen snapped. She didn’t know why she felt so defensive.
“I didn’t forget.” He said coldly staring at her with hate filled eyes. “But she’s not a slut.”
“Did you see the picture?” Kristen joked, laughing.
“Yeah I did see it. I also saw how immature, insecure, and pathetic you are by you sending it around. And yeah I was hurt by what Beth did. And yeah I deserved to know, but not like that. And even though Beth and I broke up, and even though she hurt me, I still love her okay? So get a life and stop feeding off of people’s misfortunes, because it’s really just pathetic.” Aaron snapped and rolled his eyes, turned, and walked away without another word.
Kristen’s jaw dropped, tears beginning to form in her eyes. She blinked before any of them could escape. She stared after Aaron who was quickly walking away from her now. She swallowed hard and rose her chin up. She couldn’t let something a stupid jock-head tool said get her down.
What she did was epic. It ruined Beth Taylor and was by far one of the best things she’s pulled in a long time. Aaron was just all prissy because he was humiliated and because his girlfriend cheated on him. It wasn’t Kristen’s fault that he was dating a slut that didn’t even love him. And he was just angry so he needed someone to blame.
She rolled her eyes and turned to head back home. If anyone was pathetic, it was Aaron Copper.

The author's comments:
This was my favorite chapter to write. I love going into backstories of characters that you don't hear much about in the book. It's fun to explore new characters. Keep reading!

It was Friday night and Beth, Olivia, and Star were sitting in a circle on Beth’s bed. Star and Olivia were anxiously awaiting Beth to explain her oh-so-amazing revenge plan. But Beth couldn’t stop thinking about Aaron. All she wanted to do was fix things with him, if he’d let her. And even though she was super excited about her revenge plan on Kristen Dollsworth, the three most important parts of her plan were patience, timing, and waiting. All of which she lacked right now. She didn’t want to have to wait to get back at Kristen, she was so mad at her that she wanted to get her back now. But her plan won’t work if she doesn’t wait.
“So, go on Beth, spill.” Olivia encouraged.
“Yeah Beth,” Star agreed. “You promised you’d tell us about your plan. I’m dying to know what you came up with this time.”
“This one is going to be the best of all.” Beth explained. “But it’s also going to be the hardest one to carrying out. It’s going to take tons of patience, and waiting, and it all depends on timing.” Beth went on, staring at the window. She had a strange and impossible fantasy of Aaron climbing through her window right this second, pulling her into his arms and telling her he wanted to get back together. He’d tell her he was sorry and that he forgave her and that everything could go back to normal. Either that or he’d play her favorite song, Brave by Tawgs Salter, on a huge stereo out on her front lawn and then she’d run down to meet him and everything would be fixed.
“Hello? Beth?” Star snapped her fingers in front of Beth’s eyes. She must have zoned out. “Go on.”
“Guys, I’m sorry. I’m just really not in the revenge mood right now.” Beth shrugged.
“We’re not doing it tonight. We just want to know what it is!” Olivia demanded. “I’ve waited all day for this, come on.”
“It’s complicated, and I don’t even know if it’ll work…” Beth trailed off, envisioning Aaron and her making up again.
“I don’t get it, you were so exciting about it earlier. And how it was the perfect plan. What’s going on? What’s wrong?” Olivia wondered as Beth took a deep and painful breath.
“Are you okay Beth?” Star wondered.
“I’m just thinking about Aaron.” Beth mumbled.
“Oh.” Olivia and Star both bit their lips and looked down at their hands. They both knew how torn up Beth was about the break up. And even though they both so badly wanted to insert an “I told you so” but they knew she wouldn’t laugh.
“Oh well.” Beth’s head suddenly snapped up and her excited energy about her plan flowed back in her. “I’m not gonna be all mopey about it. You wBeth hear my plan? Then I’m gonna tell you the plan.” Beth smiled and started to explain the details.
Olivia and Star Ohhed and ahhed through the entire explanation, their eyes lit up in excitement. This was by far Beth’s best plan ever.
“How did you think of that?” Olivia wondered.
“That’s genius! The perfect plan indeed.” Star grinned, watching it all play out in her head.
“That’s like the perfect way to get back at her for what she did to you.” Olivia added.
“Perfect plan huh?” Beth grinned. “Do you think it will work?” She wondered.
“You’re right, it’ll be tough.” Star nodded. “But we can do it. We’ve done some pretty difficult stuff before.”
“Nothing like this…” Olivia trailed off, picturing it in her head. “Oh this is going to be brilliant!”
“I know!” Beth agreed, trying to sound excited. It truly was the perfect plan. She should be extremely proud of herself for thinking of it, or at least happy, but thoughts of Aaron invaded her mind again. Suddenly her head snapped up to look at Olivia and Star. “If you were in Aaron’s shoes would you ever forgive me?” She whispered.
“What?” Olivia and Star asked at the same time, taken off guard by the sudden change in subject.
“If you were Aaron would you ever forgive me? Would you ever get back together with me? Or would you go on hating me forever and never talk to me again?” Beth explained, knowing what their answers would be before they answered.
“Yeah.” They both said at the same time.

“He’ll forgive you.” Star nodded seriously.
“You guys will totally get back together.” Olivia agreed.
“You’re lying. Just tell me honestly. Don’t spare my feelings because I really want to know. If you were in Aaron’s position would you ever be able to forgive something like that?” Beth asked again, closing her eyes tightly, waiting for them to answer.
“That’s not the question you should be asking Beth.” Olivia answered quietly.
“Olivia’s right.” Star agreed slowly in a small voice, staring at her hands. “Think about it this way, would you be able to forgive Aaron if the situation were reversed?”
Beth stared at the wall for a long time without blinking. Her eyes began to sting from the air and then water formed in her eyes, but she didn’t care. She stared at her window, her window fantasy appearing in her head. But like dust it was blow away with the wind, drifting farther and farther away from view. She knew if the situation was reversed, the answer would be no. Finally she blinked, a few salty tears escaping down her cheeks.
“No. I wouldn’t.” Beth answered quietly.
Later that night Star and Olivia headed home, repeating to Beth how amazing her plan was and how excited they were for it. Beth pretended to be excited too as waved to them and then closed the front door behind them. She ran back up to her room and took a seat on her bed. She didn’t allow herself to look at the window. She wished she could come up with some brilliant plan on how to apologize to Aaron and to get him back just like she had with getting revenge on Kristen. But nothing came to mind. Maybe that was because there was nothing she could do. Maybe she just needed to move on, because no matter what she said or did, Aaron was never going to take her back.
Beth couldn’t really blame him. If he had cheated on her with one of his ex girlfriends and then a picture of them making out in a bathroom stall had been sent around to the whole school, she would be devastated. She would be so crushed that she wouldn’t be able to forgive him and take him back. At least not for a very long time. But he told her that he still loved her, that had to count for something, didn’t it?
Beth jumped to her feet and took a deep breath. Look at her! Beth Taylor can’t be sitting around in her bedroom on a Friday night feeling all sorry for herself. She can’t sit around hoping on what could have been or what could happen. You have to make your own future, you can’t just let life happen to you.
Beth pulled a pair of Ugg boots onto her feet and her fuzzy sweatshirt around her. She grabbed her car keys and ran out to the driveway. She pulled out and started driving towards the park that was about mile away from their house. It was also the place that Austin was found dead. It was actually just slightly behind Kristen Dollsworth’s house. (Coincidence or not?) She parked her car in the parking lot and walked across the soccer field over to where Austin’s body had been found. She kneeled down in the grass and stared at the exact spot that he’d been found at, a year, one month, three days, five hours, and she didn’t know how many minutes ago.
She ran her hand over the grass as she sat down cross legged. “What happened to you Austin?” She whispered. She glanced behind her at Kristen Dollsworth’s house. You could see the lit up windows, her large fountain and pool that was covered for the winter from here. Kristen’s bedroom light was off, but her parents were downstairs in the living room watching TV.
Beth swallowed her anger at Kristen and turned back to the empty grass in front of her. She didn’t know why she thought that coming here would help her figure it out. That’s all she tried to do every day since he died, find out what happened to him. Her parents had accepted the story that it was suicide, his friends had bought the story, everyone who ever knew him went with it, but not her. Austin and her were super close, she knew him better than anyone else. They were like best friends growing up, she knew him so well. And she knew that no matter what, no matter what, Austin wouldn’t kill himself. He just wouldn’t. If there was one thing that Beth knew for sure, it was that her brother did not commit suicide. And the whole world could pretend that was what happened, but she knew. Someone murdered her little brother, and she was going to figure it out, if it was the last thing she did.
She stared at the grass and exhaled loudly. She remembered the day they found him perfectly. It was the day Parker and her had gone on their first date…
Parker walked Beth to the front porch, his jacket around her shoulders. It was mid October, so it was pretty chilly. The sky above them was dark and the air felt pretty damp. “I had a really nice time with you tonight.” Beth smiled as they stopped just a foot from her front door. She never imagined a first date going so perfectly.
“I had a really nice time with you too.” Parker smiled.
They stared at each other’s face for a few moments. Parker’s eyes flickered to Beth’s lips, and Beth’s eyes flickered to Parker’s lips. Parker slowly leaned in, his eyes going back and forth from Beth’s eyes to her lips, Beth’s doing the same. And he pulled her into a kiss. They stood there, lips locked together for what seemed like forever. Beth’s entire body felt warm and Parker’s hand reached across her lower back and pulled her closer to him.
“Bethany Ann Taylor!” Her father gasped. Beth pulled her lips away from Parker to see her mother and father standing in the doorway. She hadn’t even heard them open the front door. “I think you need to go home Parker.” Her father said quietly.
“Okay. Yes sir.” Parker nodded awkwardly. “I’ll see you later Beth.”
Beth smiled and waved as Parker hurried back to his car and pulled away. Beth turned back to her parents with a frown. Then she noticed they both had tears in their eyes. They couldn’t be that upset that she kissed a boy. She was sixteen after all. “It was just a kiss guys, there’s no need to get so upset about it.” Beth rolled her eyes and began to walk around them, but her father stopped her.
“It’s your brother.” He said quietly as her mother let out a harsh sob.
“What about Austin?” Beth wondered. “Wasn’t he at some party tonight?”
“They found him in the park about a mile away from here, you know, Hill Groves?” Her father went on but she wasn’t following.
“So what? Was he like drunk or something? You guys are totally overreacting, it’s not the end of the world.” Beth rolled her eyes.
“He’s dead, Beth.” Her father whispered as her mother let out another sob.
They’d taken her father’s car over to the park, her father for the first time in his life speeding. Beth sat silently in the back seat, staring out the window, hoping this was some kind of cruel joke. When they’d arrived to the park there were police cars and an ambulance and tons of people gathered around the yellow ‘do not cross’ police tape. Before the car had even stopped Beth had thrown the car door open and sprinted towards the commotion. She shoved her way through all of the people, not bothering to say excuse me.
When she got to the yellow ‘do not cross’ tape a police officer stopped her. “You can’t cross here miss. I’m sorry.”
“That’s my little brother!” She cried and shoved her way through. She pushed past everyone until she came to patch of grass that held Austin’s body, covered in a white sheet.
She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until that moment. She exhaled and tears began streaming down her cheeks. Two police officers grabbed her as she began to run towards his body. “You’ve got to stay back.” They told her as she struggled and tried to get out of their arms.
“Austin!” She screamed, struggling still, more and more tears streaming from her eyes. “That’s my baby brother! Austin!” She screamed, all of her makeup running down her face, her tears streaming down like a waterfall. “Austin!” She screamed again as they pulled her backwards.
She glanced back at the crowd, no one was doing anything. No one was saying anything. Everyone was just standing by, crying, accepting what they saw.

“That’s my brother! Let go of me! Austin!” She shrieked, but it was no use. He was gone.
She looked up, her flashback vanishing. She hadn’t noticed that she’d started crying now. She whipped the tears off of her cheek and took a deep breath. She laid down on the patch of grass, running her hands through the blades slowly. More and more tears began to stream from her eyes now, the flashback replaying and replaying in her head. “I’m so sorry.” She whispered. “I love you Austin.” She breathed as a soft sob escaped from her throat. She couldn’t help but think of how she could have prevented it. Austin had invited her to go to that party with him, if she would have just blown of that date with Parker and gone with him none of this would have happened. Beth punched the patch of grass as hard as she could with her fist, tears streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry Aussie, I’m so sorry.” She cried.
“Beth?” A voice called.
She snuffled and sat up to see Aaron standing there in his running clothes, watching her, his eye brows down in confusion. He walked over to her side and sat down. She didn’t realize that it had already gotten dark. How long had see been out here? “Are you alright?” He asked as he wiped a tear off her cheek.
“I’m fine.” She shook her head and wiped the remaining tears off of her face. She fake smiled and bit her lower lip to try to stop the tears that were threatening to spill over. “Really, I’m fine.” But as she spoke she couldn’t contain the tears. They split over, gushing out with more force than before. She couldn’t stop the sob from escaping her throat. She didn’t even bother trying to hide it anymore.
“Come here.” He whispered as he pulled her into his arms. “Shh.” He whispered as he whipped the tears, one after the other, off of her face. He hugged her tighter and rubbed her back slowly. “It’s okay. Shh.” He whispered, rocking her slowly back and forth.
She knew that she should be embarrassed right now. But it felt so nice to have his arms around her again. She couldn’t help the sobs that kept escaping from her chest, one after the other. It had been a long time since she’d let herself cry over Austin.
Beth knew that Kristen was probably watching from inside her house, laughing her head off. But Beth didn’t care. Her baby brother was murdered, she had the right to be shattered.
Aaron felt so warm and comforting. It almost made her forget why she was crying, almost. But every time she glanced down at the patch of grass a whole new flood of tears and sobs escaped.
“Shh.” Aaron whispered again, rubbing her back slowly with one of his hands. He wiped more tears off her cheeks. “It’s okay. Shh. It’s okay.” He pleaded, trying to calm her down.
Beth wanted to say something to him, anything, but she couldn’t get words out through the tears and sobs. She knew that all she could do was wait for it to pass. She gasped a few times, trying to bring air to her lungs. She couldn’t help herself, she was having a total breakdown, and she knew once she started, there was no stopping it.
“It’s gonna be alright, it’s gonna be okay.” Aaron whispered over and over. “Shh. It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay Beth. Shh.” Aaron whispered and tightened his arms around her.
Beth could feel her heart beat slowing down a little and the tears slowing. There were no more sobs building inside her and finally the tears stopped. She took a deep breath and sat up. Aaron looked at her face, a worried expression on his face, as if she might break down at any moment. And then Beth remembered, that may have been the first time Aaron had ever seen Beth cry.
“What happened?” Aaron whispered slowly. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
Beth took a few long, deep breaths, trying not to let herself breakdown again. She swallowed hard as she looked towards the patch of grass. She covered her mouth with her right hand, holding back more tears. Aaron reached his arm out and rested it on her shoulder. “This is where it happened.” Beth whispered in a rough and scratchy voice, the result of so much crying.
“What?” Aaron whispered, rubbing small circles on Beth’s back.
“This is where it happened. This is where they found him.” Beth explained in a whisper as she rested her hand on the patch of grass again. “Right here.”
“Found who? What happened?” Aaron demanded, deeply confused now.
“You know how my little brother supposedly committed suicide a little over a year ago?” She whispered slowly.
“Yeah?” Aaron whispered in the warmest and nicest tone he could manage.
“This is where it happened. Right here was where his body was found.” She pointed towards the grass. “Only, he didn’t commit suicide Aaron. He was murdered.” Finally speaking the words set Beth into more tears. She was able to control herself this time, they silently fell down her cheeks. She couldn’t meet Aaron’s eyes so she just stared at the patch of grass. “Everyone believes the story. No one wants to find out what really happened. But I know Austin. I knew him so well. We were so close.” Beth cried, a small sob escaping her throat again.
Aaron wrapped his arms around her again. “He wouldn’t kill himself. No matter how bad things were, no matter what he wouldn’t do it. I know I sound like I’m in denial but I just know that he wouldn’t do it.” Beth explained as Aaron met her eyes and wiped another tear that was falling off her cheek.
“It’s gonna be okay.” He whispered.
“No it’s not Aaron.” Beth cried and pulled out of his arms. He stared at her face, worry painted all over his face. “Because I don’t know how much longer I can go on without knowing what really happened to my baby brother. Someone killed him. And they’re walking around right now. They got away with it Aaron. And that is not okay. That is not okay.” Beth cried.
“I know Beth, I know.” He whispered, taking her hand in his. “But it is going to be okay.”
“And why is that?” Beth asked, another tear streaming down her face.
Aaron smiled a half smile as he wiped the tear of her chin. “Because I’m going to help you find the person who did this.” He whispered and tightened his hand around Beth’s.
“You believe me?” Her voice broke.
“I do.” He nodded.
“Are you just saying that so I won’t break down again?” Beth asked, trying to lighten the mood.
Aaron smiled. “No. I honestly and truly believe you and I’m going to help you find whoever did this.”
“Why would help me?” Beth cried, more tears escaping from the corners of her eyes.
Aaron leaned his face closer to Beth’s until it was only an inch from hers. “I already told you. I still love you.” He shrugged once shoulder and smiled.
“How can you still love me?” Beth wondered, not able to meet his eyes. “I…I…after what I did…” Beth fought for words, not able to say it out loud.
“Shh.” Aaron put his index finger on her lips. “I don’t care.” He shook his head once and gulped. “I don’t.”
“You’re just saying that because you know I’m unstable right now.” Beth smiled and took a deep breath.
“No I’m not.” Aaron let out a small laugh. “I’m saying it because I don’t care. I know that you were dating Parker right around the time when your brother… and I know that you probably feel that if you hold onto him your holding onto part of your brother. And I also know that you’re a good person. And I know that people make mistakes. And I know that I love you, and the fact that even when I saw that picture my feelings for you didn’t change at all says something.” He whispered.
“I don’t deserve a guy as great as you.” Beth whispered as her eyes flickered to the patch of grass.
“Beth.” Aaron breathed and put both of his hands on each side of Beth’s face and looked into her eyes. He laughed slightly to himself and spoke with half a smile. “Please don’t make me be the one who has to beg you to take me back.”
“What?” Beth gasped. If this was a dream it was a really cruel dream. She pinched her leg but she stayed in the same place, Aaron in front of her. “You…what?”
Aaron didn’t say another word; he just pressed his lips to Beth’s. After a few more moments Aaron pulled his face away from Beth’s. “Let me take you home.”
“Okay.” Beth agreed. She couldn’t drive right now anyway. She handed Aaron her car keys and swayed a little on her feet. Whenever she cried that much she always got a little light headed. Aaron swept her into his arms and carried her back to her car.
When they arrived back to Beth’s house Aaron unlocked the door and carried her up to her bedroom. He tucked her into her warm and soft bed and turned to flick the light out and leave. Beth caught his hand and he turned to face her.
“Please don’t leave me here all alone in this house.” Beth whispered.
“You won’t be alone.” Aaron whispered back as he kneeled down on the floor beside her head. “I bet your parents will be home soon.”
“They’re in California for the whole weekend. Their flight left at two this afternoon.” Beth mumbled.
Aaron took a deep breath, glanced at the door, then at Beth, and then back at the door. He rose to his feet, turned out her light and walked back to the side of the bed.
“Scoot over.” He whispered, a smile in his voice.
Beth did as he asked and he crawled under the covers beside her. He wound both of his arms around her, pulling her head onto his chest. Beth smiled to herself and wound her free hand around his neck.
“Goodnight Beth.” Aaron whispered.
“Goodnight.” Beth yawned and then the entire world slowly slipped away until there was nothing but darkness.

Beth found herself in what seemed like a jungle. Everywhere see looked all she could see was green. The green grass all over the floor, the giant green canopy trees that swooped down to where her head was. There was green moss covering the tree trunks, the ground, the rocks, everything in sight. The air seemed to have a bit of a green tint to it as well. And if colors had a taste, when Beth inhaled the air, it seemed to taste green. She heard a twig snap somewhere up ahead of her.
“Hello?” She called hesitantly as she inched forward. She stepped over a large moss covered log and ducked underneath a large hanging branch of a tree. “Is someone there?”
There was no response. She heard more twigs snapping up ahead.
She quickened her pace. She pushed through the branches that were blocking the path, stepping over countless rocks, plans, fallen tree trunks, and miniature rivers.
“Hello?” She called again.
“Beth…” She heard a voice far off in the distance call. “Beth…” It repeated. It didn’t sound like a voice at all, only a blurry echo that barely was loud enough to comprehend. “Come find me…come help me…” It chanted in a voice that was barely louder than a whisper. “Come find me…come help me…”
“Hello?” She called again, louder this time. “Who’s there?”
Suddenly the ground beneath her feet seemed wobbly. Her vision began to blur and everything started to look yellow or orange instead of green. She swayed back and forth on her feet, feeling woozy and dizzy. She felt as if she’d overheated and as if she were about to pass out. But before her feet gave out from under her, the floor beneath her did.
Before she had the chance the react the earth beneath her feet was crumbling until there was nothing left and she was falling, falling, falling... she passed out before she ever hit any kind of ground, and when she reopened her eyes she was lying on the field of Hill Groves.
She came to her feet to see a large commotion a few yards from her. She walked slowly towards the large crowd gathered around yellow ‘do not cross’ police tape, the police cars, the ambulance, and the news vans. There was a tense and sad vibe in the air. She knew she’d been here before, but her memory just seemed to be blank.
And then the world went blurry again. She felt herself getting woozy and lightheaded. She suddenly remembered exactly where she was and exactly what was happening.
She sprinted towards the commotion, shoving through people until she made her way to the front. She ducked under the yellow police tape and rushed past everyone, her eyes locked on the white sheet lying on the patch of grass.
“Austin!” She cried, her lungs screaming for air as she ran as hard as she could. Two police officers grabbed her by the arms and restrained her. “That’s my brother!” She screamed as she flailed her arms and legs, trying to break their hold. “Austin!” She called again, slowly getting pulled backwards by the two police officers.
Beth looked around helpless, no one was doing anything! Everyone was just watching with sad and hopeless eyes. Everyone else had given up. She kicked her legs as hard as she could and with all of her strength pulled away from the officers. She managed to break free of them and sprinted forward.
“Austin!” She called again. “Austin!” She cried and feel to her knees inches before the white sheet. “Aussie?” She whispered as she grabbed the cold and white hand that was sticking out from under the sheet. “Aussie?” She cried in a voice so low she couldn’t even hear it herself.
She sat there in shock, his cold and unmoving hand in hers. Her eyes wide open, staring into space in front of her. The two police officers caught up to her now and grabbed her arms and pulled her back. But she didn’t resist or try to break free this time. She allowed herself to be pulled backwards. She felt like the life had drained out of her too. Austin was gone.
Her head snapped up, her heart racing and her breathing heavy. She sat up in her bed and looked around the room. There was just a tiny ray of sun peeking through her curtains and the clock read 7:30 a.m. Beth put her hand to her heart, trying to slow down it’s beating, and focused on her breath. She was huffing and puffing like she’d just run a marathon. She swallowed hard and laid back down.
“Are you okay?” Aaron’s voice suddenly sounded and his arms were suddenly around her.
She jumped and her heart started hammering again. “My God!” She gasped, her breathing accelerating once more. “You scared me.”
“Sorry.” He apologized, watching her face carefully.
She laid her head back against his chest while she tried to return her breathing to normal. “Sorry.” She apologized, ever since he found her last night she’s been nothing but a mess. “I didn’t think you’d still be here.” She admitted.
“I told you I wouldn’t leave you here all alone.” He reminded her.
“Yeah. But I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had left after I’d fallen asleep.” Beth shrugged as her heart beat returned to normal.
“Bad dream?” He wondered.
“Something like that.” She murmured.
“About Austin?” He guessed.
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
Beth felt him shrug. “Guessed, after the night you had. And…you kind of mutter in your sleep sometimes.”
“I do?” Beth squeaked, surprised. “What did I say?”
“You just kept saying, ‘Austin’.” She felt him shrug again. “It was really quiet though, if I hadn’t been this close to you I wouldn’t have heard it.” He went on.
Beth put her hands on her eyes and took an exaggerated breath. “Sorry I’m such a mess.” She mumbled.
“You’re not a mess Beth.” Aaron argued in a gentle voice. “You’ve been through a lot.”
Beth stared at his face for a few moments, wondering why he was even here. He shouldn’t have forgiven her just like that, it isn’t supposed to work like that. She shouldn’t just get off so easy, it made her feel even worse about what happened.
She kicked her legs over the side of the bed, threw the covers off her and jumped up. She realized she was still wearing her school clothes. She wondered how she managed to sleep comfortably with skinny jeans and a fancy and expensive French blouse on.
Beth didn’t dare to look in her mirror, she knew she’d breakdown again if she did. With the night she’s had, she couldn’t even imagine what kind of a nightmare she looked like.
“Hey Aaron?” Beth spoke as she turned to face him.
He was sitting up cross legged on her bed now. He was watching her with careful eyes, the way a new mother watches her baby, as if he might fall and hurt himself at any second.
“Yeah?” He smiled and met her eyes.
“Thanks for doing this for me. Thanks for everything you did last night.” Beth smiled sheepishly, embarrassed that he’d seen her break down last night. It wouldn’t have been as bad if she would have let herself cry about Austin more often. The last time she’d cried about his death was over a year ago. Crying meant weakness, and Bethany Ann Taylor couldn’t have any weaknesses, could she?
“I’m here for you, anything you need it. I’ll always be here for you.”

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Kristen and Parker held hands as they crossed the parking lot. It was Saturday afternoon and they’d planned a bowling group date. It was going to be Kristen and Parker, Sarah Mae and a guy she met recently whose name Kristen couldn’t even remember, and Andrea with her new boyfriend, John. (The hot guy from Spanish class.)
“Are you sure about this?” Kristen asked in a whinny voice as Parker pulled her through the doors.
“Sure about what?” He asked as he lead her to the front desk.
“A group date.” Kristen’s nose squished together as she said it, as if it were the most disgusting thing in the world.
“What’s wrong with a group date?” He wondered. “We’re meeting a party here. “ He said the woman at the front desk in a very polite tone. “The name’s under Parker Patterson.”
“Well, I’m not dating the group now am I?” Kristen snorted as she rose her nose higher into the air. “I’m dating you.” She reminded him and poked him in the chest.
“I’m here too aren’t I?” He smiled.
“Yes. The rest of your party is already here, they’re in lane four, right there.” The woman instructed. “Go to that desk there,” She pointed to a desk a few yards from hers, “to rent shoes. Have a good day.” She added in a monotone. “Next!”
Parker grabbed Kristen’s hand and pulled her towards the shoe rental desk.
“Ew.” Kristen complained as the man handed her a pair of smelly 8 ½s.
“Come on Kris, be a good sport. This is gonna be fun.” Parker urged as they walked over to the other two couples who already had their shoes and bowling balls ready. “Did you guys already punch in the order for the game?” Parker asked Sarah Mae’s date.
“No not yet.” The mystery guy shook his head. He had sandy dirty blonde hair, just barely long enough to swoop to the side. He was tall and lean, with overly light blue eyes. Kristen had to admit, Sarah Mae had good taste.
“Alright, just put Kristen and I last. We still gotta find our bowling balls.” Parker smiled and pulled Kristen over towards the bowling ball racks. “Do you want a heavy one or a lightweight one Kris?” He wondered.
“I don’t care.” Kristen replied in a whinny voice.
“How about light?” He offered with a smile. He put his finger tips on the corners of her mouth and pulled them up. “Smile would ya? It’s fun.”
“Fine.” Kristen mumbled and carried her lime green bowling ball back to their lane. “I’m sorry Sarah Mae, I didn’t catch your date’s name.” Kristen smiled as convincingly as she could manage.
“Oh, how rude of me.” Sarah Mae smiled and walked to her date’s side. “Kristen, Parker, this is Trey; Trey this is my best friend Kristen and her boyfriend Parker.” Sarah explained as she gestured to the people whose name she was calling. “Oh, Trey you’re up first.” Sarah Mae instructed.
“Alright, here we go.” Trey smiled as he picked up his electric blue bowling ball and threw it down the lane with no bumpers. It quickly went perfectly straight and knocked every last pin over with a loud crack. “Yeah-hh-yeah!” He cheered as Sarah Mae ran to give him a hug.
“Show off.” Kristen rolled her eyes as she took a seat in one of the chairs.
“Play nice kitty.” Parker winked as he grabbed his red bowling ball for his turn.
Kristen’s name was last on the order so pulled out her cell phone and started texting Amber.
“Kristen.” Sarah Mae smiled as she took the seat next to her. “What’s going on, are you okay? You seem kind of…pissed off, to be honest.”
“I’m just not into the whole group date thing.” Kristen shrugged, not looking up from her cell phone.
“Well, Parker obviously is.” Sarah Mae smiled and nodded her head towards Parker who was chest bumping Trey and high fiving John because he just bowled a spare. “For him why don’t you just make the best of it while you’re here?” She shrugged and looked back to the bowling screen. “Oh! My turn!” She grinned and ran to grab her yellow bowling ball.
Even with the bumpers she still managed to only hit four pins. “Here, let me help you.” Trey offered as the knocked down pins were cleared off for her second bowl. He stood behind her with his hand over hers on the ball. “Now take three steps, and release like that,” he helped her throw it and she knocked down the rest of the pins. “Yeah!” He grinned and pulled her into a spinning hug.
Kristen found herself smiling at their clueless happiness. It was bowling for crying out loud. Why was it so exciting to them? And then she realized she was sitting all alone while everyone else was over there having a great time.
Kristen shook off her distaste for group dates, swallowed her pride, and stomped over to the rest of the group. “It’s your turn Kris!” Parker announced and handed over her ball.
“Watch this.” Kristen winked and stood facing them, her back towards the pins. She threw the ball backwards, under her legs as hard as she could. Thankfully she had the bumpers up, which the ball bounced off quite a few times. But by the time it reached the pins it was directly in the center, and she got a strike.
“Holy crap.” Andrea laughed.
“Yeah-hh-yeah!” Trey high fived her.
“Damn Kristen. Is there anything you’re not amazing at?” Parker asked as he kissed her.
Kristen smiled and shrugged. “Guess not.”
Sarah Mae smiled and winked at her and Andrea’s boyfriend, hot John from Spanish, grabbed his dark green bowling ball and threw it as hard as he could. He didn’t have the bumpers up so it fell in the gutter. He laughed and Andrea gave him a high five.
“Maybe this time I won’t lose to everybody by fifty.” She laughed and he laughed with her.
“Bowling is not my forte okay?” John laughed as he threw the bowling ball again. He managed to knock six pins over the second time.
“Not bad!” Trey high fived him and Parker laughed.
Parker was having a great time, he really was into this kind of stuff, Kristen thought. She smiled to herself as she realized she was having a good time too. After Parker bowled and got a spare for the second time in a row, he pulled out his wallet.
“I’m gonna go get some fries and soda, what do you guys want?” He asked.
“Coke.” John nodded.
“Coke.” Andrea agreed.
“Whatever’s fine.” Sarah Mae shrugged.
Knowing that Parker knew what she liked, Kristen didn’t feel the need to say anything.
“I’ll come with you.” Trey offered as Sarah Mae threw her second ball the way Trey taught her. Trey high fived Sarah Mae and smiled at Kristen as he passed and walked with Parker to the food stand.
“Your turn Kristen!” Andrea called.
Kristen picked up her lime green bowling ball, disappointed that Parker and Trey wouldn’t get to see her bowl again. This time she threw it normally, facing forward, and knocked eight pins over.
“Good throw Kristen!” Andrea called.
“The b**** of bowling,” Sarah Mae laughed. “I think you’ve got a new nick-name.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so.” Kristen laughed as she threw the ball and knocked one other pin over.
“Only one left!” Andrea laughed. “So close.”
Kristen looked over at Parker and Trey who were waiting for the food to come. “I like Trey, Sarah Mae. He’s good for you. I usually don’t like you’re boyfriends, but I like him.” Kristen smiled at Sarah Mae.
“Thank you.” Sarah Mae smiled as she looked over at Trey. “I like him too. He’s different you know? He’s fun and acts like a kid sometimes, which is actually refreshing. But he can be serious too, which is good.” Sarah Mae shrugged. “I’m glad you approve.” They both laughed as John picked up the bowling ball for his turn.
“What do you think of me and Parker?” Kristen asked Sarah Mae.
“What do you mean? You know I like Parker.” Sarah Mae lowered her eye brows in confusion. “Do you not like Parker?”
“No I do, I just…he’s not like other guys I’ve dated. Does it seem weird that a guy like him would be dating a girl like me?” Kristen wondered.
“I actually think he’s good for you. You guys are really different, and you bring out the best in each other.” Sarah Mae smiled at Kristen and then glanced over at Parker and Trey. “I’m glad he’s not like the other guys you’ve dated by the way. You and Andrew so weren’t right, and all the other guys have pretty much been douche-bags. No offense.”
“None taken. I agree.” Kristen laughed.
“We’re back!” Parker announced, carrying a large basket of fries, Trey following with two pitchers of dark soda. They set everything down on the table.
“It’s your turn Trey.” John nodded.
“Sweet.” Trey grinned and went to grab his bowling ball.
“Hey babe.” Parker smiled as he threw his arm around Kristen’s shoulders. Kristen eyed up the greasy and delicious yet disgusting looking French fries. She wanted to eat them so badly, and she knew she could eat the entire basket in less than five minutes, but she knew she couldn’t let herself eat that many calories. She didn’t even eat that many calories in a whole freaking day.
“You want some?” Parker offered as he shoved a handful into his mouth.
“Nope.” Kristen immediately responded. “I’m good.”
“Parker, you’re turn!” Trey announced.
“Sick.” Parker kissed the top of Kristen’s head and went to meet Trey.
“Looks like our two guys are really the only ones too into the bowling part huh?” Sarah Mae laughed as she came to stand by Kristen’s side.
“Maybe we should find something different to do next time.” Kristen offered, still eyeing up the French fries.
“Next time?” Sarah Mae beamed. “You mean you’d go on another group date?”
“I guess it’s not that bad.” Kristen rolled her eyes at Sarah Mae’s excitement. Sarah noticed Kristen eyeing up the French fries and raised her eye brows.
“You’re not actually going to eat those are you?” She demanded, squishing her nose together at the thought.
“Of course not.” Kristen laughed once. She was Kristen Dollsworth, she didn’t get French fries. Are you kidding? She has a hard time letting herself eat the croutons in her salad!
After they finished the game of bowling, (Trey won, big surprise) instead of playing another game they decided to go out for pizza. Kristen hoped into Parker’s car and wrapped her hands around her bare arms. If she was going to wear short sleeved shirts in the middle of November, she really needed to start wearing a jacket. Parker hoped in and started the engine, turning the heat on full blast for Kristen.
“Here, take this.” Parker handed her his grey fleece coat as he pulled out of the parking lot.

“Thanks.” Kristen murmured as she slipped it on backwards, so the back side was covering her entire front. “Hey Parker?” She asked in her slightly seductive and sexy voice.
“Yes Kristen?” Parker responded in the same tone.
They both laughed as they pulled up to a red light.
“Do we have to met the others for pizza?” She asked, making her cutest sexy puppy dog face.
“Did you have something else in mind?” He wondered.
“Mmm-hmm.” She nodded, just hoping to get out of eating out. It was so hard to control her calories and fat grams when she ate at some greasy New York pizza place. She didn’t want to have to deal with it. And Parker would start to notice if she never ate anything around him. But it wasn’t her fault that he always picked totally unhealthy and fattening foods. First French fires and now pizza! What’s next? You might as well just shove ten pounds down her throat.
“And what would that be?” He asked, his eyes flickering from her eyes to the light every few seconds.
“Um…” Kristen stalled, trying to think of something. “Maybe we could go back to my place? We could watch a DVD or something.” She offered, hoping he’d go for it.
“You don’t want to eat out with them?” He frowned.
“I actually had a really good time on our group date Parker, I was just hoping to have some time with you, alone.” She smiled sweetly and innocently. “The light’s green.” She nodded and he started driving again. But instead of taking the right turn to the pizza place he kept going straight; straight to Kristen’s house.

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It was Monday morning, the entire sky was full of dark grey clouds, and the sun was nowhere in sight. It had rained hard the night before, so the streets were slick and shiny. The grass was still covered with the rain drops, as were the leaves on the sidewalk. Beth hoped in her car, actually running a little early today. So drove slowly, in no particular hurry to get school, listening to a mix CD that Olivia had made her.
It was a dreary and depressing day, she’d tried to pretend like she was too sick to get out of bed this morning, but her mom didn’t buy it. She forced her to go to school, and now here she was. Monday mornings were hard enough for Beth, but one where it’s freezing, she is limited to close toed shoes, and you can’t even see the sun, she’s doomed. She wore stylish black boots with a heel around three inches, her favorite skinny jeans and a gold tinted white shirt/dress.
She pulled her car into the school parking lot, almost hitting a lamp post, and parked her car. She rushed to the bench and waited for Aaron. She’d actually beaten him today. She smiled to herself. She pulled out her cell phone and texted Olivia and Star, who were also supposed to meet her here.
“Hey beautiful.” Aaron’s voice called from behind her. She rose to her feet and turned around to meet him. He pulled her into a hug and laughed once. “Crappy morning huh?” He rubbed his hands together, and his breath came out in a fog.
“You have no idea.” Beth agree, her breath a misty fog as well.
“Beth!” Star and Olivia both called at the same time. They both gave her a hug and looked at Aaron, who had thrown an arm around Beth’s shoulder, questioningly. Beth hadn’t spoken to her friends since Friday afternoon when she told them her plan. They didn’t know about the field or Aaron and her getting back together. “What’s going on…?”
“Oh I forget to tell you.” Beth smiled apologetically. “We’re back together.” She shrugged, hoping they wouldn’t get mad at her for not calling them the moment it happened.
“What?” Olivia and Star both gasped at the same time.
Beth just forced a smile, she hoped they wouldn’t freak out and embarrass her in front of Aaron.
“Well that’s great.” Olivia said calmly.
“Looks like Aaron came to his senses.” Star winked.
“I just couldn’t live without her.” He shrugged and laughed.
“We’ve gotta go, I’ll see you around Star.” Beth, Olivia, and Aaron waved as they turned and headed towards first period. Olivia’s first period was fairly close to the English room, so she decided to walk with Beth and Aaron for a little.
“You know, I totally forgot, I was supposed to meet Nick today before school started. ” Olivia suddenly piped up, giving Beth a subtle smile. “I’ll see you in second period, okay?”
“Wait? Nick Bailey?” Beth demanded. Nick and Olivia had been the one again off again couple of the school freshman year and part of sophomore year. They finally broke up for real halfway through sophomore year. “You guys are not on again are you? I thought you guys broke up for good last year.”
“No, no, no, no. Not like that.” Olivia laughed. “We just got stuck as partners for this project thing. We were supposed to get together this morning to talk about the project.” She waved as she started to head the other direction. “I swear I’m not dating him again okay? I’ll see you during second.”
“Hmm.” Aaron snorted as he lead Beth towards first period.
“What?” Beth demanded.
“Nothing, you’re friends are just…subtle.” He laughed.
The first three periods were just a foggy blur to Beth. She nearly fell asleep in English first, and then almost forgot that she was supposed to go in during her forth off period to go over notes that she already totally understood. She just wasn’t in the mood to flirt with Mr. Werner today.
Beth walked quickly, until she found Olivia. “You’re coming to Mr. Werner’s room with me.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. You needed ‘help with the notes’ right?” She laughed once.
“Not joking, I so don’t feel like dealing with Mr. Werner today.” Beth rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. “I’m actually a little concerned about being in that room alone with him.” Beth lied casually.
“You liar.” Olivia rolled her eyes. “But I’ll go with you, just so you can tell him that I already helped you with the notes and that you didn’t need his help anymore though. I’m not witnessing the soon to be teacher student affair cliché.” She winked.
“Fine.” Beth agreed and hooked arms with Olivia as they walked towards the History room. “And I would never have an affair with Mr. Werner. Sure it may be fun to make him sweat and yeah he’s hot, but gross. And besides, I’m back with Aaron and I am not ruining that again.”
“Good for you.” Olivia nodded as they walked into Mr. Werner’s room. He was sitting at his desk as usual, and it looked like he was waiting for her.
“Beth Taylor.” He nodded and smiled widely when she walked in. Beth noticed his face fall a little when he noticed she wasn’t alone. “Olivia, to what do I owe the pleasure?” He asked in a forced polite tone.
Olivia just pointed to Beth who smiled and started to explain. “You see um, Mr. Werner, Olivia already helped me out with the notes so I totally get it now. So yeah. I guess I don’t need your help after all. But thanks anyways.” Beth shrugged and grabbed Olivia’s arm, they started to head towards the door until Mr. Werner’s voice stopped them.
“Oh.” He nodded as Beth and Olivia turned back to face him. “Are you sure? Because we’re having a test over all of the material we’ve covered in the past few weeks on Thursday.” He tried, his face beginning to look desperate, as if he’d do anything to make Beth stay.
“Yeah I’m sure.” Beth nodded. “I totally get it now.”
He stood up from his desk and walked towards them. Beth swallowed, getting fairly nervous. If he started flirting with her like he usually did, she didn’t want to flirt back. She wasn’t in the mood for this game today. He stopped right in front of Beth.
“Alright.” He smiled a flamboyant smile. “Let me know if you change your mind. I’ll see you girls during sixth period then.” He smiled.
Olivia and Beth turned and left the classroom, Mr. Werner following. They turned and starting walking towards the courtyard while Mr. Werner locked his room and started walking the opposite direction.
“Damn Beth…” Olivia trailed off, laughing slightly.
“What? What’s funny?” She demanded.
“You got yourself in deep hunny. Now he seriously has a thing for you.” She rose her eye brows.
“I told you!” Beth smiled and they both laughed.
They reached the courtyard and waiting for them were Star and Aaron. “Hey Aaron. What are you doing here?” Beth waved with a confused smile on her face. Today was supposed to be a meeting for Beth, Star, and Olivia about the plan they had for Kristen. Aaron definitely couldn’t hear that conversation.
“Oh I’m going to leave, I just need to talk to you for a second.” He explained, forcing a pleasant smile.
“Sure, what’s up?” Beth asked hesitantly.
“In private?” He wondered.
“Alright…” Beth agreed. She let him take her a few tables away. The courtyard was empty besides their group. “What’s going on Aaron?”
“It’s about your brother.” He told her quietly. “Did you still want me to help you with that?”
“Yeah of course.” Beth gasped a little, that was the last thing she had been expecting him to want to talk about. “What’s going on?”
“So on Saturday, after I left, I decided to research your brother’s case a little.” He explained, glancing up at Olivia and Star, who were watching them with confused expressions. “Anyway, the news story is that it was determined as suicide.”
“I know.” Beth nodded.
“But they looked into the case, Beth. They left it open ended and just gave up, stopped searching for answers.”
“I know that too.” Beth bit her lip bitterly. She’d been so pissed when they stopped looking into her brother’s case.
“Anyway, that means that they had no proof of it being suicide. So I think you’re right Beth, I think he was murdered.” He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry that I don’t have any information that’ll help you figure out who it was, but I just wanted to make sure you knew all of the information that has to do with the police.” He shrugged. “I’m sorry I can’t give you anything new.”

“Don’t worry about it. Thank you for looking into that, it means a lot to me.” Beth smiled.
“Beth!” Star called and pointed at her wrist where a watch would go.
“I know, I know, I know.” Beth held up her hand. “I’ve gotta go, but we can talk about this later, okay?”
“Sure thing.” He smiled and leaned down to kiss her.
She kissed him back for a moment and then pulled away. He waved and headed the direction towards the football field. Beth hurried back over to Star and Olivia and sat down.
“So are we doing the decoy rumor spread today or what?” Star wondered.
“No, not today.” Beth shook her head, trying to focus on the problem at hand. She knew this revenge plan was important right now, and that Star and Olivia really needed her. Sure as hell they couldn’t do it on their own. Her mind just didn’t want to focus on something so seemingly petty right now though. All she could think of was Austin, and how badly she wanted to figure out what happened to him.
“Then when Beth?” Olivia asked.
“I don’t know.” Beth admitted, still staring off into space, thinking about Austin.
“Hello? Beth? You there?” Star sighed impatiently, snapping her fingers in front of Beth’s eyes. Beth blinked and shook her head, coming back to the present.
“Yeah? What?” She asked, looking back to Olivia and Star.
“What’s going on Beth? You were so excited about this and now you act like you could care less. What are you doing? Are you bailing on us or are you gonna help us go along with the plan?” Olivia demanded, both her and Star starring at Beth’s face.
“I’m sorry guys I am excited about the plan, I’m just a little distracted.” Beth admitted.
“By what? Aaron?” Star demanded.
“Gee, thanks Star.” Beth rolled her eyes and exhaled angrily. “It’s Austin actually.”
“Oh.” Star and Olivia both breathed at the same time, both off their faces nearly draining of color. They both immediately made apologetic expressions.
“I’m sorry Beth, I didn’t know.” Star shook her head. “I shouldn’t have—“
“Yeah Beth, I’m sorry. We’re being so insensitive.” Olivia looked to Star and then back to Beth’s face.
“Hey, don’t worry about it guys.” Beth lied as she stood up quickly and grabbed her bag. “You know maybe we should just work on the plan some other day because I am really not in the mood right now.”
“Oh Beth please don’t be mad. I had no idea and I’m so sorry! I was stupid, that was such a stupid thing to say.” Star hit her forehead with her palm. “That was really insensitive of me, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not that. Don’t worry about it guys. I’m just really distracted today so I don’t think I’ll be much help anyways. You guys feel free to plan without me if you want. Maybe tomorrow.” Beth shrugged and walked away, one single tear slip from her eye and slide off her face. She wiped her cheek quickly before anyone could see and rushed towards the football field.
After she made it halfway to the field she stopped herself. She’d planned on running and finding Aaron, talking to him about this, but she thought better of it. Beth knew she just needed to be alone when she got like this, and she sure as hell didn’t need another breakdown. She couldn’t let anyone at school see her cry like that.
She turned back around and headed towards her car. She didn’t want to deal with Mr. Werner during sixth period History anyway.
When she passed the courtyard she noticed that Star and Olivia weren’t there anymore. Beth walked quickly until she reached her car, and then she stood completely frozen, her hand on the door handle. She looked around for a moment, trying to decided where she’d go if she did leave. Without over thinking it she jumped in the driver seat and threw the car in reverse.
She pulled out of the parking lot and drove in the direction of her neighborhood. She wasn’t going home, but she knew exactly where she was going. A few streets before hers she took a sharp right, passing by Hill Groves park. She didn’t even look over at the soccer field as she passed. She didn’t even slow the car down.
She sped forward as if it were just any other park with no significance to her.
Beth drove onward and took a left at the next street. Finally she arrived at the destination she’d neglected to visit for one year, one month, and six days. She parked her car along the side of the street. The street was completely abandoned, not a person in sight, and no cars parked nearby. All of the trees nearby had lost all of their leaves which were scattered all over the ground.
Beth hoped out of her car, her feet drowning in the hundreds of thousands of leaves. She took a deep breath, remembering all the excuses she’d given to herself before for not coming here. She wondered if it was a mistake, coming here. She stopping in the middle of the street to think about it for a minute, knowing that no cars ever drove down this street.
Beth took another deep breath, her purse increasing slowly as she inched towards the other side of the street. Once she made it to the sidewalk she knew she’d made the right decision coming here. She needed to do this. Better late than never, right?
Beth shook her arms at her sides, as if to shake off all of her worries and fears. She swallowed hard and walked through the entrance of the cemetery.

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Beth found herself walking as slowly as possible, stalling. She hadn’t been here since the funeral. That was the one and only time she allowed herself to even step foot inside of the entrance. She was terrified of Austin’s grave. Just thinking about seeing his name on a tomb stone made her want to curl up in a ball and start sobbing. The leaves went up past her ankles, scratching her as she walked. The air was cold and the sky was still hidden beneath a blanket of dark gray clouds.
Beth hoped that it didn’t rain.
She found herself looking back at her car every few seconds, as if to make sure it was still there. She contemplated just running back to it, gunning it as fast as possible and never looking back. She’d gone over a year without visiting here, so why should she start now? All it was going to do was cause her more pain and grief. She had enough problems to deal with already. She knew she was just being a coward so she forced herself to keep walking forward.
Even though she’d only ever been here once she knew exactly where Austin’s grave was. The cemetery was empty as well, which would usually send shivers up Beth’s spine, but not today. Usually being in an empty cemetery would scare her to death, she’d think someone was following her or that it would end up like a horror movie. But all she was concerned with was Austin. She walked up to his grave, holding her breath doing so.
Here lies Austin Taylor.
Beth exhaled shakily and sat down directly in front of his tomb stone. She cocked her head to the side and stared at his name for a long time. She rested her palm beside his name and smiled. “I miss you Austin.” She whispered lowly.
She let her eyes drop to the ground beneath her. She wondered who had spoken to Austin last. Who had he been talking to? Who had he been thinking about right before he died? What did he regret never saying to someone? What did he wish he would have been able to do before he died?
Beth took a deep breath, willingly letting the tears spill from her eyes. She wished she would have spent more time with Austin. He was dating Kristen right around the time when he died, so Beth had been angry with him. They hadn’t really been speaking. She wished they would have been close again before he died. She wished she would have had the chance to fix things.
Beth shook her head, trying not to let herself think about how she could have prevented it.
“Who did this to you?” She whispered as she stroked the grass in front of the tomb stone.
The wind began to blow with a little more force, blowing leaves into Beth’s face. She rose to her feet, brushing off her clothes. She wiped the tears off her face and smiled.
I did it, she thought. She never thought she’d ever be able to visit Austin’s grave.
“I’m sorry I never came.” Beth added, as if Austin could hear her. She had read somewhere that if you talk to a dead person’s grave that they can hear you in the afterlife. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring flowers.” She laughed as she sat back down on the ground, she didn’t care if she got leaves and dirt all over her.
“I think about you all the time. You’d be a sophomore this year. You would have turned sixteen next month.” Beth forced herself to smile, nodding at nothing. “I wish you could still be here. I wanted to throw you a sweet sixteen, and I wanted to see your face when you got the car you wanted. I wanted to sneak into your bedroom at 4:23 a.m. so I could wish you a happy sixtieth birthday at the exact time you were born just like you did for me.” Beth dropped head, facing the ground now. She watched the little tears drops fall from her face and land on the leaves.
She heard footsteps distantly behind her. She turned to see no one there. It’s just someone visiting a grave, just like you. She assured herself. She brushed her fingers along Austin’s tomb stone one last time and headed towards the exit. “I’ll visit more often Austin, I promise.” She whispered and then speed walked back to her car. She exhaled dramatically as she started the car and began driving in the direction of the school.
She felt better now. Maybe that’s what had been bothering her all along, she just needed to face her fear and visit her brother.
Beth glanced at the clock, she could still make sixth, seventh and eighth period if she hurried. Suddenly she wasn’t so angry at the idea of sitting through Mr. Werner’s sixth period. She felt more like herself now, like she was free from a trance.
And Beth Taylor liked flirting with teachers and making them uncomfortable, because it was funny. Beth Taylor liked being at school because every minute of the day girls and boys alike stare at her in insane jealousy because she was the most popular girl at the school. Beth Taylor liked planning revenge schemes on Kristen Dollsworth with her best friends. Beth Taylor wasn’t this sad mopey girl who’s hung up on her little brother’s death. That wasn’t Beth Taylor.
Yes, Beth missed Austin. Yes she was still sad about his death, and yes she loved him. But her world didn’t stop spinning because of it. She was fabulous and she could bury her pain and move on with her life just like everyone else who knew Austin did.
She arrived in the school parking lot with ten minutes to get to sixth period. She could easily make it, even if she walked in slow motion. She grabbed her bag and jumped out of her car. At a leisurely pace she approached the school and headed towards the left part of the school where her History classroom was. It was still fifth period, so she didn’t want to get caught by a teacher and suspected of ditching class. She just rushed back to school to make it to class didn’t she?
Beth hadn’t really thought about it, but it was lucky that she managed to just miss fifth period today. That meant she didn’t have to deal with Parker and that project that they have to work on together. It was awkward enough during their fling, but now that he’s dating the b**** of the school it’s even worse.
She sat on one of the benches in the courtyard while she waited for the bell to ring.
Finally the high pitching ring went off and kids started spilling out of every door nearby. Mr. Werner’s class was the last to get out in this hallway.
Beth watched from the table, waiting until at least one other kid showed up and went inside the classroom. Beth Taylor couldn’t be the first one to class.
She pulled out her history book and faced the table, bent over her book. She pretended to be reading, so she didn’t look like a loner just sitting there waiting for class. That would be even more pathetic than going to class and sitting in her seat silently, waiting for class to start.
Screw it, she thought. Beth picked up her things and strut through the classroom door. She could feel Mr. Werner’s eyes on her as she walked to her desk, set down her things, turned, and headed towards the door.
“Beth can I have a minute?” Mr. Werner asked.
Beth clenched her teeth and then turned to face Mr. Werner. She painted on a fake innocent smile. “Sure. Anything for you Mr. Werner.”
“I was just making sure you understood the homework. Since you had trouble with the notes and the homework covered most of the material in the notes. I just want to make sure you’re caught up for the test on Thursday.” He explained, clicking and unclicking a black pen in his left hand.
The noise was driving Beth insane. She wanted to slap the pen out of his hand or yell at him to stop. Instead she just smiled politely and nodded. “No I understood the homework completely. I’m one hundred percent ready for that test Mr. Werner, but thanks for the concern.”
A group of kids came filing in through the door and Mr. Werner eyed them for a moment too long. “I’d like for you to come in during off next period.” He instructed and then turned and walked towards his desk, suddenly very interested in a paper he already graded.
“What?” Beth asked, following him to his desk. “Why do I have to come in? I already have something I have to take care of next period.” Beth lied and shrugged.
“Well your entire semester’s History grade depends on you coming in. So I guess you can decide what’s more important.” He smiled and shrugged. While Beth’s jaw dropped he walked around his desk and sat down in his chair.
“I don’t understand Mr. Werner. I have a 98 percent in your class.” Beth demanded.
“It’s funny how easily grades can change.” He added, not looking up from the same paper.
“I have something really important that I have to do next period though Mr. Werner. Can I please come in during fourth tomorrow?” Beth wondered.
“Well you were supposed to come in during fourth today also.” He looked up at her, an unreadable expression on his face.
“How long will it take?” Beth asked, crossing her arms.
“Only a few minutes, ten maximum I’d guess.” Mr. Werner smiled a smugly, he’d just gotten what he wanted. He knew that Beth’s grades were really important to her. But were teachers even allowed to do that? Threaten to destroy a perfectly good student’s grade? And what could be so important that he needed to talk to her about it seventh period, and it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?
“Fine. No more than ten minutes.” Beth muttered angrily and then stormed out of his classroom. She had to find Olivia. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and texted her as she looked up and down the hallway.
Finally she saw Olivia coming from the direction of her locker. Beth speed walked to meet her, and led her the opposite direction of Mr. Werner’s room. She couldn’t have any chance of him hearing what she was going to tell Olivia.
“I have a serious problem.” Beth mumbled to Olivia under her breath.
“I do too. I was trying to get to History and then this crazy girl just came and dragged me the other way.” Olivia smiled.
“Seriously.” Beth said as she pulled Olivia around a corner. They sat down on the stone bench.
“What’s going on?” Olivia wondered.
“Mr. Werner is a perve.” Beth explained, a sour look on her face, “That’s what’s the matter.”
“What happened?” Olivia asked in a bit of a laugh.
Beth explained quickly what happened, leaving Olivia’s eyes wide with her jaw dropped. “What do you think he wants to talk to you about?”
“I don’t know.” Beth shrugged. “But I’m actually kind of worried about that.”
“Maybe he’s gonna try and kiss you.” Olivia laughed.
“Ew!” Beth gagged to herself. “This is so not funny Olivia! Will you at least wait outside the door for me so if I scream you can come in and save me?” Beth smiled.
“Sure thing, I’m a black belt remember?” Olivia joked.
“But seriously, will you wait for me?” Beth asked, hugging her arms to her chest.
“Yeah. Don’t worry about it. He probably caught you cheating on a test or something and wants to talk to you about it in private.” Olivia offered.
“But I didn’t cheat on any tests Olivia. I never have to cheat in History. It’s my best class.” Beth explained as they started to walk back towards Mr. Werner’s class.
Before they reached his class room, Beth pulled down her shirt so there was no skin visible, and she pulled up her undershirt so no cleavage could be seen.
“What are you doing?” Olivia laughed with raised eye brows.
“I don’t want to give him the wrong idea.” Beth shrugged.
“Yeah like you haven’t already. You’ve shamelessly flirted with him all year Beth.” Olivia reminded her.
“Yeah but it was a joke. I don’t actually like him. That would be completely disgusting. He’s my teacher. I find him about as sexually attractive as squirrel.” Beth laughed and Olivia laughed with her.
They walked into Mr. Werner’s classroom with one minute left until class. Beth could feel Mr. Werner’s eyes on her the entire time, but she refused to meet his eyes.
It was the longest sixth period of Beth’s life. After class she sat in her desk, her arms folded across her chest, waiting for everyone to exit. Mr. Werner sat on top of his desk, his arms folded, staring at Beth, waiting for every other student to leave. Beth could see Olivia walk over to the courtyard and sit in a table to wait for her.
After everyone left Mr. Werner rose to his feet, shut the door, and closed to blinds on the small window on the door. Beth gulped, this was definitely not about a test.
“What did you need to talk to me about Mr. Werner?” Beth asked in a confident voice as she rose to her feet and collected her things. Beth pulled out her cell phone to send a 911 save me text message to Olivia but Mr. Werner’s voice startled her, making her drop her phone into her bag.
“See that’s just what I don’t understand about you Beth Taylor.” Mr. Werner replied.
She left her phone, not wanting him to take it away from her for having it in class. Beth slowly packed her things in her bag so she had something to do with her hands. “What is that?” She asked.
“You’re hot and cold. Today you want nothing to do with me, but then tomorrow you’ll flirt with me like I’m one of your classmates. “ He explained, raising his eye brows.
Beth stood up straight, crossed her arms and raised her eye brows at him. “Someone’s full of himself. I’ve never flirted with you. You’re my teacher. You’re like ten years older than me, no offense but eww.” Beth rolled her eyes and picked up her bag. “Are we done?”
“Not nearly.” Mr. Werner replied coldly. “I’m going to give you a choice.” He began as he walked closer to her.
Beth had that feeling in the pit of her stomach that she should run away as fast as she could. But her feet were glued to the floor, she was frozen. She couldn’t move.
He stopped once his face was inches from hers. “What are you doing?” She demanded in a shaky voice.
“Shh.” He whispered, putting two fingers on Beth’s lips. “Tell anybody and your grade drops to an F. This late in the semester you wouldn’t even be able to get it back up to a D-.” He laughed slightly.
Beth pushed him away and took a few steps back. “I’ll tell the office. I’ll get you fired.” Beth threatened as Mr. Werner crept closer and closer to her. She took a step back for every step he took towards her.
“Only a few problems with that. One, you’re Beth Taylor.” Mr. Werner laughed once to himself. “Do you really think they’d believe Beth Taylor with all of the stuff that you’ve pulled?” He asked, an evil smile in his voice.

“Like what?” She demanded.
“You think I don’t know all about your past with Kristen? You think I don’t know about what happened back in January?” He rose his eye brows.
“How’d you hear about that?” She demanded, taking a large step backwards.
“Well I guess that’s for me to know, huh?” He smirked.
“Security cameras. The security cameras.” Beth spit out. “They’ll see what you’re doing.”
“There are no security cameras in here hunny, only out in the hallways.”
Beth had nothing. “Please don’t do this.” She begged as she inched towards the door. “Please, just let me go. I won’t tell anyone if you just let me go now.”
“It’s a little late for that. You should of thought of that before you flirted with me all year long.”
“I never flirted with you!” Beth insisted, inching closer and closer towards the doors. “That’s absurd. I’m your best student and I have a boyfriend. I would never flirt with you.” Beth squished her face together as if the thought repulsed her.
“Oh no, don’t go doing that. You see that’s what I’ve learned about you Beth Taylor, you get inside people’s heads. You play your little games until you run people dry. And then you go off lying to get yourself out of things, but you can’t lie your way out of this one. I know that you were flirting with me.” Mr. Werner said as he made his way closer and closer to Beth.
Before she had the chance to slip out the door he had her pinned against the wall. He leaned over and locked the door and smiled, his face inches from hers.
“Why are you doing this?” Beth cried. “Why do you even want to kiss me? I’m your student. Just let me go, please.” Beth begged but Mr. Werner was far past reason.
“Do you even need to ask me why?” He asked in a laugh. “You deliberately wore low cut tops all year,” He breathed, getting a little closer to her face. “You flirted with me, and even though I’m a teacher I have to admit. You are the most beautiful girl in the school.” He rose his eye brows.
Coming from that pervert it was no compliment.
Beth felt like she was going to throw up. She was trapped and helpless. She’d never been in a situation like this before so she had no idea what to do.
“You brought this on yourself.” He whispered just before he shoved his lips forcefully against hers.
Beth squirmed and tired to break away but he locked both of his hands on either side of her face. She pushed as hard as she could against his chest. She tried to scream around his lips but all that came out was, “Mmm! Mmm!”
He slid one hand off of her face and slowly brought it down the side of her body, resting at her lower back. He pressed himself against her and slid his tong across her lips.
Now Beth really felt like she was going to throw up. She pushed at his chest, and then at his shoulders but he wouldn’t get off her. She felt like crying, and throwing up, and screaming, all at the same time.
Finally Mr. Werner broke his lips away from hers. She wiped her mouth with her hand, trying not to gag. “Get off me you perve!” She demanded as she pushed hard on his chest.
“I’ll make you a deal Beth Taylor.” He whispered, moving his face close to hers again.
“What’s that?” She cried, trying to break away from him.
He grabbed both of her wrists and pinned them at her sides. “Oww, let go of me!” She complained. “Mr. Werner you’re my teacher.”
“I don’t care.” Mr. Werner laughed once. “My deal for you is this, you can take it or leave it. If you don’t tell then I’ll let you go now, otherwise, we’ve got an entire hour to ourselves.” He chuckled to himself.
“Okay I won’t tell anyone, just let go of me!” She pleaded.
“Very well.” He agreed and released her, taking a few steps backwards. “You have a nice day Beth.”
Beth swallowed hard and rushed out of the door as fast as she could. Even if she couldn’t tell, the least she could do was switch out of his class. She never imagined in her wildest dreams that being the result of her pointless flirting. And Mr. Werner acted as if he was teaching her a lesson, as if that was her punishment. He acted like the fact that she flirted with him made it okay. But nothing on this earth could have made what Mr. Werner just did okay.
Beth wiped her mouth again. She wondered if she’d ever be able to kiss Aaron again without throwing up from thinking about Mr. Werner.
“What happened?” Olivia wondered, but Beth just grabbed her arm and lead her towards the parking lot.
“We’re leaving, now.”

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It was late Monday afternoon and Kristen was standing a few feet from her door, staring at the knob, shoes on, car keys in hand. She’d been frozen in this position for at least ten minutes. She was arguing with herself whether she should go or not.
Kristen had planned on visiting Austin Taylor’s grave today. She visited every once and awhile, after all he was her boyfriend. But she always worried that she’d run into some of his family, Beth especially.
Word was it that Beth hadn’t visited the cemetery since Austin’s funeral, but Kristen didn’t want to take any chances.
She glanced at the car keys she had clenched tightly in her fist, causing some pain, and then at the door again. There was supposed to be a huge storm tonight, so she didn’t want to while it was snowing or pouring rain either. She took a step back, all of the reasons not to go overwhelming her.
But she hadn’t gone in a long time, and she felt like she needed to. Austin was the only guy she’d ever actually been in love with. She knew it was crazy, especially because he was Beth’s brother, but she sincerely cared about him.
She placed her hand on the door knob, about to twist it open when suddenly her phone was buzzing. She walked over to her desk and picked up her phone, it was Sarah Mae calling.
“Hey Sarah, what’s up?” She asked, slightly annoyed at her bad timing.
“Did you hear about what happened today?” Sarah Mae chirped, a bit of a smile in her voice. She was in an unusually happy mood today.
“To what are you referring to?” Kristen asked playing around with the car keys in her hand. “A lot of stuff happened today.” She reminded Sarah Mae. She threw her keys into the air and then caught them, and then threw them up again. They bounced off her fist and when sliding under her bed.
She groaned slightly, got on her hands and knees and fished the keys out, blowing off some of the dust that had immediately clung to them.
“I meant about Mr. Werner.” Sarah Mae explained.
“Mr. Werner?” Kristen asked nervously, flinched at the name. She hadn’t heard anything about Mr. Werner today. How could she be out of the daily gossip? “No I didn’t hear anything. What happened?”
“Well during seventh off period, you know how he usually leaves his door open so any of his students can go ask him questions or whatever?” Sarah Mae began.
“Well today he closed his door, locked it, and shut all of his blinds.”
“Which means…?” Kristen trailed off, not understanding what Sarah Mae meant.
“Use your imagination Kristen, really.”
“Did he like bang a student in there or something?” Kristen snorted.
“I don’t think banged is the right word for it.” Sarah Mae mumbled quietly.
“What are you talking about Sarah Mae? What do you know that you’re not telling me?” Kristen demanded. She hated being out of the know.
“Well some girls were gossiping about how they heard struggling in the class room, like cries for help.” Sarah Mae explained.
“You think he like raped someone in there?” Kristen laughed once. “You’re kidding me right? Mr. Werner?” She tried to act like it was absurd, but it was clear in her voice that the news was of no surprise to her.
“And then they saw Beth coming out of the classroom. And I’m quoting right now, ‘she looked horrified, like she’d just seen a ghost, or like Mr. Werner…did something to her.’” Sarah Mae laughed once. “Girls at our school will make up anything to get attention.”
“What if they were telling the truth?” Kristen demanded, glancing at her car keys again.
“Who cares?” Sarah Mae snorted. “It’s Beth Taylor we’re talking about here. She probably deserved whatever Mr. Werner did to her. I mean, I don’t doubt that it’s true. Have you seen the way he looks at her all the time? I’m surprised he hadn’t done anything sooner.” She laughed.
Kristen was silent for a moment, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “I’ve gotta go Sarah, I’ll call you later.” She mumbled into the speaker and hung up the phone without waiting for Sarah Mae’s response.
She forcefully shoved her arms into her coat and threw her door open. She quickly rushed down the stairs and ran out into the cold outside air. She jumped in her car and began driving as fast as she could. She wasn’t even sure where she was going anymore. She still wanted to go visit Austin’s grave, but that didn’t really feel like the right thing to do right now. She stopped at a red light and turned the radio up a few notches.
Kristen looked out the window at the pitch black sky. Rain was beginning to sprinkle down and she automatically turned up the heat another notch. The light turned green and she launched forward again, taking a sharp turn. She arrived in front of the cemetery and hesitated. She turned off her car but didn’t get out.
She stared at the entrance for a few moments. Did she really want to go into an empty cemetery in the middle of the night all alone? She took a few deep breaths, her heart racing. The street was dark because all but one street light had burned out.
She thought again about what Sarah Mae had told her about Mr. Werner and Beth Taylor. She shivered at just the thought of it. She decided she was just being a scared little girl and threw her car door open. She paused before moving, regretting ever coming. She started to have a mild panic attack. She held her hand to her heart until her pulse slowed back down. “Stop being a baby Kristen. Just get out of the damn car.” She hissed at herself over and over until she finally listened to herself.
Kristen stepped into the cold, pulling her coat tighter around herself. She locked her car and ran across the street towards the entrance of the cemetery. She looked back a few times, having the strangest feeling that someone was watching her…following her…coming after her…
She knew she was just being paranoid so she fumbled her way to Austin’s grave, only having the one street lamp in the distance and her cell phone for light. She sighed in relief when she found his tomb stone. She sat down, leaning against the tomb stone across from his. “Hi Austin.” She whispered with a small smile.

It was late Thursday afternoon and Beth was sitting on her bed, curled up in a ball, on the phone with Aaron. She had to use the stupid home phone that was set up on her desk in her room since she misplaced her cell phone. She couldn’t remember where she put it. The last time she’d seen it was on Monday. She hadn’t gone to school since the incident on Monday; she’d convinced her mom to let her stay home. Then again, she flat out wouldn’t take no for an answer this time.
“I know it’s the third time I’ve canceled our plans this week Aaron, and I’m sorry. I just can’t go out with you tonight.” Beth explained quietly, staring into space. She felt like the person that used to be Beth Taylor left her body, and she wasn’t coming back. She was afraid just to go out in public anymore. And she knew if she even saw Mr. Werner she’d break down crying.
Beth Taylor wasn’t used to having people do her wrong, because she was usually the person who did the wrong doing. But the fact that a teacher, someone she listened to, someone she trusted, had treated her like that, terrified her. She never imagined anything like that ever happening to someone like her, but it did. And she couldn’t take it back.
Every time she closed her eyes she saw Mr. Werner forcing his mouth onto hers. She hadn’t slept the past four nights.
“But it’s Thursday night Beth.” Aaron complained. “Come on, I’m worried about you. You haven’t been at school since Monday. I understand that you needed some time off and so you were going to ditch a few days, but three days in a row Beth? Is everything alright?” Aaron wondered in a concerned tone. “Did something happen? You know you can tell me anything.”
“Nothing happened.” Beth snapped, a few tears forming in her eyes. “Okay just drop it.”
“Beth you’re scaring me. The way you’ve been acting is kind of crazy. What’s going on? Please tell me.” Aaron urged in a helpless voice.
“Well maybe I am crazy!” Beth exploded; her breathing and heart beat going uneven.
“You’re not crazy Beth.” Aaron argued.
“I should go Aaron.” Beth mumbled, hugging her legs to her chest and resting her chin on her knees.
There was silence for a few moments. “Alright. Call me when you want to tell me what’s bothering you. I want to help Beth. I want to be here for you, if you’ll let me.” Aaron murmured in an earnest voice.
It almost made Beth want to tell him, almost. But she didn’t want to do anything that would anger Mr. Werner or make it happen again. It was bad enough having to think about it, she didn’t want to hear the words out in the air too.
“Goodbye Aaron.” Beth sighed and hung up the phone. She wanted to tell him, she really did. And as much as she hated to admit it, she, Beth Taylor, was scared. Terrified. She didn’t ask for any of this to happen to her, but she didn’t want to do anything to make it worse.
Maybe she’d become a high school dropout, maybe she’d transfer schools, maybe she’d start online school, she didn’t know. She didn’t know what she was going to do, but she knew what she was not going to do. She was not going to get anywhere near Mr. Werner any time soon.
Beth threw her stupid home phone across the room as hard as she could, mad at Mr. Werner, herself, and life in general. This kind of a thing shouldn’t be happening to an innocent teenage girl like her. She was going through so much already; did she really need this on top of it all?

This was the part where she was supposed to snap out of her I-feel-sorry-for-myself slump and remember who she was. This was where she was supposed to suddenly feel fabulous again and come up with some elaborate plan that would make everything better, but she came up blank. This was the part where some miracle was supposed to occur and there ended up actually being security cameras in Mr. Werner’s classroom, or someone happened to be videotaping through the window. But nothing like that was happening, and Beth still felt helpless and miserable.
She sighed, annoyed at herself for pushing Aaron away like she did. “Where’s that God damn cell phone?” She muttered to herself as she threw her legs over the side of her bed and stood up.
She tried to remember where she last saw her cell phone on Monday; she hoped she hadn’t left it in her locker. If so, she’d never get it back. She was never going back to school, not if she could help it. That’s when it hit her, the last time she had it was right before it all went down with Mr. Werner.
Beth ran across the room and snatched her bag out from her closet. She dumped it all on her bed, her phone falling out last. “Thank God!” She exhaled in relief and pressed the unlock button.
She sighed at the fourteen missed calls. Beth’s forehead creased when she realized they were all from Parker. What the hell? She shook her head and clicked back to the home screen, not wanting to deal with Parker today.
She cocked her head to the side as she realized a blinking notification on the bottom of the screen. She clicked on the notification and the recording screen popped up. That’s odd, she thought, when’s the last time I used this feature? Well apparently on Monday, during seventh period, when Mr. Werner attacked her. When he scared her and made her knock her phone into her bag she must have bumped the button on the side of her phone that automatically started a voice recording.
Her phone could only record ten minutes of voice, and then it auto saves to her phone. So she’d managed to record the entire thing without even knowing it. She grinned to herself. She jumped up and started dancing around the room, screaming.
Her mother was at her door the next second. “What happened? What’s wrong?” She gasped as she burst through the door. Her mom stood at the door, her hair pinned up in a messy bun. She wore her favorite yoga pants and a tank top that was a size too small. Her mom crossed her arms expectantly, waiting for Beth answer her questions.
“Nothing.” Beth grinned, trying not to scream from excitement again.
“You were screaming.” Her mom raised her eye brows, watching Beth suspiciously. “You’ve been acting weird all week. Do you wanna tell me what’s going on? Is it a boy?”
“No.” Beth rolled her eyes; that was always her mom’s immediate assumption. “I screamed because I uh…because I…thought I saw a spider.” Beth shrugged. “Turned out it was just a dust bunny. False alarm.”
Her mom eyed her for another second and then shrugged. “Okay Beth.” She turned and shut the door behind her.
And this would be the time when Beth remembers she’s fabulous and that everything always works out for her. And this time, she actually believed it.
Outside of Beth’s window she heard her favorite song faintly playing. She knew the song immediately; she’d listened to it five thousand times in jus the past year. The song was ‘Brave’ by Tawgs Salter. She opened her curtains to see Aaron standing on the lawn, holding a boom-box that was playing her song above his head. He was grinning up at her, obviously knowing he’d struck gold with her with the whole old romantic gesture. He knew she was a sucker for that kind of stuff.
She leaned her head to the side and smiled and him. “How’d you know this is my favorite song?”
“I know you.” He shrugged.
Beth noticed the ladder that was leaning up against her house, pointed directly at her house. Before she had a chance to get another word out Aaron had clipped the handle of the bloom-box to a clip on a back pack he was carrying on his back and began climbing up the ladder.
Beth held onto the top of the ladder that was at her window, worried that Aaron might fall off or that the ladder might give away. He grinned at her as he climbed in through her window. He set the boom-box down on her desk and turned the volume down a little. “My mom’s gonna kill you if she sees you here.” Beth mumbled in his ear.
“I’m not afraid to die.” Aaron joked, but Beth had a feeling that statement was more true than either of them knew.
Aaron pulled Beth into a hug and she hugged him back tightly. She felt like she could stand here forever, she never wanted to let go. Beth sighed with contentment. Even though an hour ago everything seem pretty bad a life seemed like it would never work this problem out, she had hope now. She was going to get Mr. Werner caught so she didn’t have to be afraid to go back to school, and she had Aaron back.
Then maybe she’ll be able to start dealing with her brother’s death. She’s done everything but gotten over it, and it seemed like maybe it was time to finally move on.
And then maybe, just maybe, she’ll be able to go back to being the real Beth Taylor. Maybe she’d be able to be the worry free care free Beth that went missing the moment Austin was found dead. Everything just went downhill from there, but now it was time for Beth to get her life back. Then hopefully she’d be able to carry out her brilliant plan for Kristen. At the time, that had been the highlight, what she couldn’t wait for. And then a million other things came into view and she just couldn’t find room in her heart to want to do something like that. Even though that was as real Beth Taylor as you could get.
“Does this mean you’re gonna tell me what’s been going on with you?”
“Yes.” She nodded, smiling excitedly. “I can tell you know.”
Beth Taylor was back in business.

Kristen sat on her black leather couch a few feet from the fire place, wrapped in a blanket like a burrito. She was sitting down in the living room watching re-runs of her favorite show 90210. It was Thursday night and Parker still hadn’t called. But she swore to herself that she wouldn’t be that pathetic girl who sat around waiting all weekend for her boyfriend to call. But secretly she was extremely pissed off about it.
She wrapped her hands around her hot chocolate, trying to warm them. She’d stayed for quite awhile at Austin Taylor’s grave last night. She’d finally left once it started to snow. She felt a little better now, she’d been meaning to visit Austin’s grave for some time. She used to go religiously, every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. But lately she just hasn’t made it.
She knew that she owed it to herself, and to Austin. After all, he did die at her party.
Kristen nearly screamed at the sound of her phone buzzing, and then became a flustered mess trying to find it. If Parker called and she missed it she would be so pissed at herself. She tried to untangle herself from the blanket, knowing the phone was in there somewhere. Finally she found it, she didn’t even bother to look at the caller I.D.
“Hello?” She answered, slightly out of breath.
“Hey Kristen it’s Sarah.” Sarah Mae declared in a preppy and excited voice.
Kristen frowned and sighed in disappointment. “What do you want Sarah?” Kristen demanded as she tried to rewrap herself in the blanket. She was all comfortable and got up for nothing.
“Ugh, b****.” Sarah spat.
“Sorry.” Kristen rolled her eyes at Sarah being oversensitive again. “What’s up Sarah?”
“Well…” She said dramatically. “I have exciting news.”
“Clearly.” Kristen retorted.
“What’s got you in such a bitchy mood this morning?” Sarah Mae demanded, clearly taken back by Kristen’s rudeness.
“I’m sorry Sarah Mae, I’m just pissed at Parker is all.”
“I’ve been waiting for him to pick up his freaking phone and call me for the past two days. But you know what? I don’t care. He can do whatever the hell he wants. I’m perfectly fine without my boyfriend.” Kristen declared, lifting her chin up. Kristen Dollsworth couldn’t be the lame-ass girl who depended on a guy like she depended on air.
“I see…”
“Anyway, what’s your exciting news?” Kristen asked even though she really didn’t care. It probably wasn’t even that exciting.
“There’s a party tonight and you, me, Megan, Andrea, and Amber are going.” She announced as if there was no other choice.
Kristen let out a loud exhale. “A party?” She asked as she bit the end of one of her nails. “I’m not really in the party mood right now Sarah, sorry.”
“But I think it’ll be good for you! It’s just what you need! After all, Kristen Dollsworth can’t be the girl sitting around alone all weekend now can she? And Kristen Dollsworth can’t miss a party.” Sarah Mae reminded her.
“True that.” Kristen agreed absentmindedly. Lately she’d been questioning who Kristen Dollsworth really was, and who knows? Maybe Kristen Dollsworth could stay home all alone instead of going to a party. “I don’t know though Sarah…”
“It’ll be fun!” Sarah begged. “And by the look of things, you really need some of that right now.”
Kristen glanced down at herself. She was already in her pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, sitting by a fire, watching reruns that she’s seen ten thousand times. She was kind of turning pathetic. “When and where?” She mumbled, unwrapping herself from the blanket again.
“Yes!” Sarah cheered smugly. “It’s at Nick’s house. I’ll pick you up at eight!”
“Hold on there!” Kristen demanded before Sarah Mae hung up the phone. “Nick? As is Nick Bailey?”
“That’s the one.”
“Count me out.” Kristen sighed and sat back down in her couch.
“Oh come on Kristen, please? Are you seriously gonna make me beg you to go to a party?”
“Do all the begging you want but I’m still not going.” Kristen shrugged and strolled up the stairs to her room.
“I’m picking you up at eight, no exceptions. I don’t care if you’re still in your freaking pajamas when I get there. I’m dragging your ass out as is and we are going to that party. Bye now.” And she hung up the phone.
Kristen groaned and slammed her bedroom door behind her. She tossed her phone onto her desk and flopped onto her stomach on her bed.
She sat up and stared at her closet through the bead streamers. Parker would probably be at the party, especially if it was at Nick’s house. And maybe she could get some answers out of him as to why the hell he hasn’t called her. Or she could just make him jealous by dancing and flirting with other guys all night. Either way, it was a chance to get out and mess with Parker a little.
She walked to her closet, if tonight was going to serve its purpose she needed to look absolutely fabulous.

At eight o’clock sharp Sarah Mae’s car pulled up in front of Kristen’s house, Amber, Andrea, and Megan already piled in the back seat. Kristen inspected herself in the mirror one more time. She wore her tiny gold sequin dress over her favorite two hundred dollar skinny jeans and her French black booties. Her dark brown hair was curled and flowed halfway down her back. She’d never looked better.
She grabbed her jacket and clutch and ran out to Sarah’s car, actually excited for the party. “Slut-bag.” Sarah called as she got in.
“Bee-yotch.” Kristen winked as Sarah Mae pulled away from Kristen’s house.
Kristen noticed that Sarah was wearing a little silver dress with patterned black tights and three inch high black boots. Amber and Andrea were practically matching with their over the shoulder slut shirts and mini jean skirts (In November, really?) and Megan was just wearing jeans and a cute sparkly tank top with a black sweater over. Kristen looked the best by far. She smiled to herself, she always managed to outdo herself.
“Well don’t you girls look slutty?” She called towards the back seat.
“Well aren’t you a b****?” Andrea teased back.
“Why yes I am, thanks for noticing.” Kristen replied and made a clicking sound with her mouth. “So what’s the plan, how long are we staying?”
“I was thinking two hours-ish.” Sarah Mae shrugged.
“Whatever works.” Amber agreed.
“Just find me when you want to leave. I didn’t want to come in the first place.” Kristen said bitterly, directed towards Sarah.
“Oh shut up.” Sarah rolled her eyes and honked at the slow driver in front of them. “Look at yourself. You’re totally excited. You wanted to go.”
“Whatever.” Kristen exhaled dramatically and stared out the window. They were a block away from Nick’s house and she could already see tons of cars parked along the streets. “Good luck finding parking.” Kristen mumbled.
“Well damn.” Sarah cursed and pulled over and parked behind a little blue Subaru.
“We’re a block away!” Amber complained.
“Suck it up.” Sarah hissed as everyone filed out of the car.

“But it’s cold.” Andrea whined.
“Then walk quickly.” Kristen snapped as she slipped her jacket on and shoved her clutch under her arm.
Kristen, Sarah Mae, Andrea, Amber, and Megan followed another large group into Nick Bailey’s mansion of a home.
“They better have beer.” Andrea mumbled, taking off in a random direction.
“I’m gonna go find Trey, he was supposed to meet me here.” Sarah Mae waved and disappeared into the sea of people.
“I need beer.” Amber added, following the direction Andrea had gone.
“Looks like it’s just you and me.” Megan shrugged, looking around nervously. Kristen remembered that Megan was never the party type.
“Actually sweetie I’m off to find Parker.” Kristen waved once and started shoving her way through the crowd. She was surprised at how many kids had come, she could barely breath. Some people were trying to dance to the music and bumped into Kristen as she tried to walk past.
“Watch it losers.” Kristen hissed and shoved them out of her way. But no one would ever push Kristen Dollsworth back, and she knew that.
Kristen ran into Nick and took a step back. “Oh hey.” Nick half smiled at her.
“Have you seen Parker?” Kristen nearly yelled over the noise.
“No I haven’t.” Nick shrugged. “I haven’t seen him since school. I haven’t heard from him.” Nick explained, taking a big gulp of beer from his red plastic cup.
“Damn.” Kristen cursed under her breath. She had honestly thought that Parker would be here. “See ya.” She fake smiled at Nick and started to push through the crowd. She grabbed a cup from the kitchen and filled it up with beer and then headed towards the walk out doors.
She didn’t care that it was cold outside, she just needed to get away from all of the crazy people inside. She took a seat on one of the deck chairs, looking out at Nick Bailey’s backyard. He was even richer than her, which made her a little annoyed. Someone like Nick Bailey shouldn’t have anything better than her.
There were a few other people out here, mostly just couples making out where no one could see them. (Or so they thought)
“Kristen?” A voice behind her called.
She turned to see Beth, of all people. “Beth?” Kristen rose her eye brows.
“Hey.” She waved once and walked out and closed the door behind her. “I know this is weird of me to ask you, and it’s not what you think, I swear. But have you seen Parker? I have something really important to ask him.”
“What, are you gonna try and hook up with my boyfriend?” Kristen demanded.
“No,” Beth laughed once. “It’s not like that. It has do with Aaron…anyway, have you seen him or not?”
“No,” Kristen admitted, annoyed. “I haven’t seen him. I don’t know where the hell he’s been because I haven’t seen him since school.”
“Well have you seen Aaron?” Beth wondered.
“Thanks.” Beth nodded and headed back inside.
Kristen sighed as she looked around Nick’s backyard, still annoyed at his wealth. She stood up and threw her half full cup of beer on the ground, she didn’t need to get drunk tonight.
She started pacing across the lawn, praying that she wouldn’t get any mud on her favorite booties. Kristen’s forehead creased as she continued walking on and on, the yard never seemed to end. She ducked under a few trees and realized that she wasn’t in Nick’s backyard at all anymore. There was no fence in the back of their yard, she’d wandered out into a field. She looked back, wondering if she should just turn back and return to the party, but she liked the quiet over here.
The grass was perfectly dry, which made her smile. The field was even bigger than Nick Bailey’s yard. She looked around, it seemed to never end from all sides. She could barely see a few trees a few hundred yards to her right, but that was it. She guessed that it didn’t look so large and strange in the daylight. She only had the stars and the moon for light, which made it look much more other worldly.
She leaned her head to the side as she spotted something a few yards off into the field. She hesitantly walked towards it, wondering what it could be. She looked back again, but no one had seemed to notice that she’d left. She walked forward more, headed towards the figure in the center of the field.
She hugged her arms tightly to her chest, even with her jacket on she was still freezing. She found herself moving slower and slower as she got closer to the unidentified object. Fear was pumping through her, because of the things she was guessing it could be in her head. She convinced herself that she was just being a wimp and she took the final few steps until the object was only a few inches from her feet. She looked down in shock, her legs suddenly turning to lead, her feet glued to the ground, her lungs full of cotton. Her jaw dropped and she covered her mouth with her hand. Tears began to form in her eyes, and if she wasn’t so terrified she would have screamed.
Finally, after she swallowed a few times, she screamed as loud as possible, hoping someone at the party would hear her and come investigate. The figure before her was Parker.

The next day Parker sat in his hospital bed, propped up, watching some football game on the small TV in the corner. Kristen sat next to him, pretending not to be bored out of her mind. Even though it was Friday she’d decided to stay with Parker. He was supposed to get out later that night.
“So…how are you feeling?” Kristen wondered.
“I’m fine. I don’t know why they don’t just let me leave already.” Parker mumbled bitterly to himself.
“Come on Parker, you overdosed, they just didn’t want to take any chances.” Kristen shrugged, it made her feel a little better, knowing he was safe in a hospital too.
“I already told you Kris, I didn’t O.D.” He turned to Kristen, an unreadable expression in his eyes. “You have to believe me.”
“Then please explain to me what really did happen Parker. All I know is I found you unconscious in the middle of a field all alone. Tell me, how does that happen?”
“I don’t know, okay?” Parker responded bitterly. The fact that he couldn’t remember what happened frustrated him.
“Well what do you expect me to do Parker?” Kristen sighed, resting her head on her hands.
“I expect you to believe me.” Parker looked up at Kristen with frustrated eyes. “But obviously you can’t do that.”
Kristen and Parker stared at each other for a few moments, the silence seeming to grow louder than Kristen’s scream had been when she found Parker.
Parker gasped and sat up straight. His eyes were focused on some point far off in space, a glassy look in them.
“Parker?” Kristen asked cautiously, but Parker didn’t move. Kristen gingerly poked Parker’s arm. “Parker are you okay? What’s going on?”
Parker didn’t look at her, he didn’t flinch, and he didn’t blink.

“Parker?” Kristen poked his arm again.

He didn’t respond. He looked as if he were in a trance, or like he was possessed. He turned to her suddenly; his eyes still glassy, his mouth hanging slightly open.
“Parker?” Kristen asked again in a small voice. “Will you please tell me what’s going on?”
He didn’t move, and he didn’t blink. He just stared at Kristen’s face and spoke one word. “Beth.”
Kristen choked a little and moved her face away an inch. “What did you say?”
“Beth.” He repeated, his eyes fixed on a point off in space.

“Yes, very funny Parker.” Kristen spit as she stood up, arms crossed over her chest. “I’m Kristen.” She said through her teeth. “Not Beth. What kind of a sick joke are you trying to pull Parker?” She demanded, anger flooding through her. She didn’t know whether to believe he honestly mixed her name up with Beth’s or if he was trying to pull some sick joke.
“No I know.” Parker shook his head, finally coming back to reality. “Kristen,” He said seriously. “I need you to bring Beth here.”
“Oh yeah of course. Let me just go grab my BFF Beth Taylor to bring to my boyfriend who she used to bang while she dated another guy.” Kristen spit, turning towards the door.
“No Kristen please.” Parker held his hand up, “Kristen, I need you to bring me Beth. I need to talk to her.”
“Alright, I’ll get right on that.” Kristen snapped sarcastically and stormed out of Parker’s hospital room.
She stomped down the long white hallway until she reached the automatic sliding doors. She braced herself and then ran out into the rain. She was in tears as she slid into the driver’s seat. She smacked her hand against the steering wheel and sped out of the hospital parking lot.
She couldn’t stop herself from wondering why Parker wanted to see Beth the entire drive back to her house. She’d thought that Parker was completely over Beth, she’d thought that he wanted to be with her and only her.
She arrived back at her house and stomped up to her room without speaking a word to anyone. If Parker wanted to see Beth that badly he could go to talk to her himself. Or at least get someone other than his girlfriend to go fetch her for him. Did he seriously expect her to run off and bring Beth to him? Did he seriously expect her to talk to Beth at all?
She ignored the four missed calls from Sarah Mae and turned her cell phone off with a frustrated sigh. She didn’t feel like talking to anybody right now. She just wanted to feel sorry for herself and be pissed at Parker in peace.

The author's comments:
Didn't see that one coming! Ha! Keep reading!

It was Friday morning before Beth knew it.
She hadn’t had a chance to go to the police with her phone recording yet, and she didn’t know when she was going to do it. Beth couldn’t decide whether she was going to show it to the office and get Mr. Werner fired first, or go to the police and try and get him sent to jail. Either way, she was almost late to school so she jumped into her car and decided to worry about the whole thing later.
“We’re going to the office, right?” Aaron asked her after she’d arrived at their meeting bench. “To tell them, to show them the recording.”
“I don’t know…” Beth admitted, she still hadn’t decided on how she wanted to handle it.
“What do you mean you don’t know, Beth?” Aaron demanded. “You can’t let this go on any longer. You can’t let that perve get away with this, what if he does it to somebody else?”
“Yeah, well maybe we should just go to the cops first.” Beth offered, pulling nervously at her blonde hair. She didn’t want the news to get out yet. Once she came forward, then the entire school would know. She didn’t want to be the school’s new hot gossip again. The news of her and Parker still hadn’t died down yet.
“Okay, I’ll drive. Let’s go right now.” Aaron offered, pulling his car keys from his bag.
“Can I have a day? Just wait one day? I’m not ready for this to get out yet.” Beth admitted.
“You can’t go to sixth period Beth. I don’t want you anywhere near that guy.”
“Just give me a day. One day. Please?”
“I don’t like this Beth…” Aaron began but agreed. After all, it was Beth’s life, her news, her problem. He couldn’t force her to do anything.
Before she knew it-it was sixth period. Beth stood in the courtyard, staring at Mr. Werner’s room, her bag hanging off her shoulder, frozen. She couldn’t decide whether she should ditch today, or go in pretending like nothing was wrong. She’d decided to leave her phone in her locker, just in case. She couldn’t risk anything happening to that recording. She finally decided not to mention anything about the recording, that way Mr. Werner wouldn’t see it coming.
Not only did she want to end this and get that ass the hell out of there, but she also wanted to be a little crafty with her revenge. After all, he’d sexually harassed her, Beth wouldn’t just let that slide and let the police punish him for it. She had to add her own personal touch to the excitement.
Beth waited for Olivia and they walked into his classroom together. They set down their things and took their seats and Mr. Werner made his way over to their desks.
Beth took a deep breath, let her acting début begin.
“Hello there Beth, Olivia.” Mr. Werner nodded as he took a seat on top of the desk across from them. Olivia and Beth exchanged a look and then looked back to Mr. Werner. “Happy Friday!”
“Yeah…” They both fake smiled and Olivia coughed into her elbow.
“Welcome back Beth, we missed you the past couple of days.” Mr. Werner said as he clicked and unclicked a pen.
“Yeah I got really sick. Walking Ammonia actually.” Beth lied casually.
“Oh that’s too bad.” Mr. Werner smiled innocently. “Are you feeling better now?”
“I’ve never been better.” Beth smiled. She had a strong urge to jump up and announce that she’d caught him, that he didn’t win, but she did. She had the urge to slap him in the face for thinking he could do something like that to her, but instead she just took a deep breath and stayed in her seat. Soon enough she’d get her revenge. Soon enough there would be justice.
“Anyway, Beth, you missed your test on Thursday so I’d like you to come in next period to make it up.” He explained and started walking towards his desk.
“Wait! Um, Mr. Werner? Could I maybe make up the test tomorrow?” Beth asked, her throat beginning to feel like it was full of cotton.
“Why is that?” He wondered.
“I’d like an extra study day, you know, refresh my mind.” Beth lied smoothly.
“Well you had all week, and you even had an extra study day yesterday. So I think you should be well prepared, don’t you?” He rose his eye brows and pulled down the projector screen as more kids began to file in. “I’ll see you next period miss Taylor.” He concluded, there was obviously no changing his mind.
Beth didn’t care though. Her and Aaron could go to the police or the office or whichever after school. She actually was fully prepared for the test. She hoped some other kids had to make it up too so that she wouldn’t have to be in his room with him all alone again.
After class ended Beth packed her things into her bag and walked up to Mr. Werner’s desk with Olivia. “Can I have my test?” Beth asked.
“Sure.” He handed her a three page packet and then turned to Olivia. “What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if I could use your classroom to study for a test I have next period.” Olivia smiled sweetly. She didn’t even have a text next period, she had P.E.
“You can use the courtyard. I have a student taking a test.” He nodded towards Beth. “I need silence.”
“But I’ll be studying, I’ll be silent.” Olivia argued.
“But you’ve already taken this test, you may use the courtyard.” He repeated and nodded towards the door.
“Okay.” Olivia sighed in defeat, shooting Beth a concerned glance.
Beth stiffened as Mr. Werner shut the door and closed the little window’s blinds again. She tried to do the test as quickly as she could so she could get out there.
“Do you have any questions?” Mr. Werner asked as he took a seat on the desk next to her.
“Nope. I’m fine, thank you.” She replied bitterly.
“Okay.” He nodded but remained on the desk next to her. He watched over her shoulder.
“Can you just let me take my test please?” Beth snapped, lifting her head up to glare at him.
Mr. Werner slapped his hand onto her desk and shoved the paper onto the floor. Beth stared at it for a second and then glared at Mr. Werner. “What did you do that for? I wasn’t finished yet.”
“We both know you’re not in here to take the test.” Mr. Werner rolled his eyes.
“Well, if I’m not working on my test then I’m leaving. I have other classes that I need to make up work for.” She announced, grabbed her bag, rose to her feet and started walking towards the door.
Mr. Werner shoved her against the wall and pinned her arms at her sides. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Beth gasped, the air having been knocked out of her. She gulped and tried to break free from his hold. I should’ve known! “Let me go. I did as you said, I didn’t tell anyone, now let me go.” She lied. She’d shown the recording to Aaron and Olivia.
Mr. Werner pulled something out of his pocket and hit it against the wall beside Beth’s head, just a few inches from her ear. She turned to see that it was a pocket knife. Beth’s entire body went cold. She felt like her insides turned to ice and her heart accelerated in her chest, threatening to break through. “Please don’t do this.” Beth choked, her eyes never leaving the knife that was sticking from the wall.
She felt like someone had just punched her in the gut, or hit her with a train, or told her that she was actually dead right now. Her heart stopped beating for a moment and then picked back up again. The last time Beth had felt like this was the night Austin’s dead body was found in the field.
“Just do as I say and I won’t have to use this.”Mr. Werner whispered as he pulled the knife out of the wall and brought it back in front of him.
“What do you want?” Beth demanded, her eyes locked on the knife that was only inches from her face.
“Break up with Aaron.” Mr. Werner told her.
“What?” Beth demanded. “Why would I break up with Aaron?”
“Because I told you to.”
“Why do you want me to break up with him?”
“Oh come on Beth, you don’t even like him.” Mr. Werner snorted.
“I do too like him.” Beth argued.
“Then why did you flirt with me all year while you were dating? Why did you cheat on him with Parker?” He rose his eye brows.
“It’s complicated.” Beth muttered.
“How is Parker by the way? I heard he was in the hospital.” Mr. Werner asked with a smiled.
“Did you do that to him?” Beth gasped.
“What?” Mr. Werner pretended to be taken back. “Of course not. It was an overdose.” Mr. Werner said in a way that made it sound like it wasn’t an overdose at all.
Beth wished she would have just listened to Aaron and gone and told earlier today. And she really wished that she had her phone to record this. Not only was he sexually harassing a student, but he brought and knife to school and was threatening her with it.
“You have until this time on Monday to break up with your boyfriend.”
“Let me go.” Beth begged but Mr. Werner didn’t move.
“Shh.” Mr. Werner whispered, a smile in his voice. He glanced at the clock on his wall and then back to Beth’s face.
He pushed his lips to hers again and then pulled away after a second. “You can go.” He told her, a huge smile on his face as he backed away.
Beth stared at him for a moment, wide eyed, and then went through the door as fast as she could. Olivia came running up to her, concern all over her face. “What happened? Are you okay?” She demanded.
Without a word Beth grabbed onto her arm and started pulling her in the direction of her locker.
“Will you please tell me what’s going on?” Olivia demanded once they reached her locker. “What happened in there?” She urged, her eyes full of fear.
“He had a knife Olivia. A knife. He threatened me with it and then kissed me again.” Beth said through her teeth quietly.
“Oh my God.” Olivia whispered. “You need to tell. You need to tell now.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Beth asked sarcastically through her teeth. She shook her head once. “I’m sorry. Let me grab my phone and then we’ll go find Aaron.” Beth nodded as she opened her locker. “I’m not bothering with the office Olivia.” Beth went on. “We are going straight to the police.”
Olivia nodded in agreement.
Beth’s insides turned to ice again. She triple checked her locker and then kicked the one below it as hard as she could, leaving a huge dent. “Damn it!” She cursed and slammed her locker closed.
“What? What is it?’ Olivia demanded.
“My phone.” Beth nearly cried. “It’s gone.”

“Absolutely not. No. No way.” Aaron shook his head quickly. “No, Beth, no.”
“I’m sorry Aaron, I have no choice.”
“You can’t let that douche bag control your life. We’re going to the police.” Aaron nodded, convincing himself. “We’re going to the police with or without that recording. “
It was Saturday afternoon and Beth and Aaron were sitting on Beth’s bed. Beth had explained what happened to Aaron and he had flipped out. Angry both by Mr. Werner’s actions and also by him trying to break Beth and him up.
“If I don’t do what he says he’ll kill me or something.” Beth held her hands out helplessly. “What else can I do?”
“I’ll kill him before he lays a finger on you again.” Aaron said through his teeth.
“Aaron, listen to yourself. We can’t beat him. He fooled all of us. He broke into my locker and stole the only proof I had. And then he threatened me with a knife. If I don’t break up with you like he told me to, who knows what he’ll do next.” Beth went on, shivering at the memory of Mr. Werner from yesterday.
Aaron’s head suddenly snapped up. “What if he already did…”
“Already did what?” Beth’s forehead creased.
“He already did something else. What if he had something to do with what happened to Parker?” Aaron gulped, and then nodded to himself. “It makes sense.”
“I don’t know Aaron…do you really think he’d do that?”
“Did you really think he’d pull a knife out on you?” Aaron rose his eye brows as Beth swallowed hard.
“When I’d mentioned Parker he did act weird. Like he was happy about what happened to him. And then when I accused him he didn’t really deny it.” Beth mumbled to herself and then looked back up at Aaron. “Do you really think he did it?”
“There’s only one way to find out.” Aaron said as he held up his car keys.
“No Aaron.” Beth shook her head. “And besides, don’t you remember? Parker doesn’t remember anything that happened.”
“Well maybe we can jog his memory.” Aaron grabbed onto Beth’s wrist and pulled her to standing. “What do we have to lose?”
They arrived at the hospital, the rain outside beating down hard. The nurse looked at them suspiciously, as if she thought they were going to try some kind of funny business but showed them into Parker’s room nevertheless. Parker was propped up on pillows, watching an action movie on the little TV.
He turned to see who walked in the door, his eyes widening when he saw Beth. “Oh thank God.” He gasped. “Kristen actually told you.”
“What?” Beth asked, her forehead creasing. “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t Kristen tell you to come here? That I needed to talk to you?” He wondered.
“No…” Beth trailed off, glancing at Aaron and then she looked back to Parker. “We came because we need to ask you some questions. About what happened to you the other night.” Beth explained as Aaron shut the door and they pulled up two chairs to the side of Parker’s bed.
“Look I know you don’t remember man…” Aaron began but Parker cut him off.
“I do remember. I remember everything now. It all just came back to me. It kind of slapped me in the face actually.” Parker explained, his eyes watching Beth carefully. “And it was all because I saw.”
“Saw…what?” Beth asked, feeling uncomfortable from Parker’s stare.
“I saw, Beth. I saw.” Parker explained. “Mr. Werner may have closed the blinds on the door, but he forgot about the windows on the back wall.”
Beth gasped, her hands flying to her face. “You were there?”
“I was walking by, on my way to talk to my Spanish teacher, and then I heard something. I looked over and saw you and Mr. Werner in his classroom all alone, which I thought was weird, so I walked up to the window to see what was going on. I must have been a little late, because I only saw…um…right before you left.” Parker explained, his eyes locked on his hands in his lap.
“Oh my God.” She whispered and she could feel Aaron stiffen beside her.
“After you left he looked over at the windows and saw me. I panicked and just ran off. But before I ran you should’ve seen his face…he looked like he wanted to murder someone.” Parker rose his eye brows quickly and then sighed.“He was at Nick Bailey’s party,” Parker went on. “I was outside, looking for Kristen, who I guess hadn’t shown up yet, and I was just wandering around in Nick’s backyard. Something, or someone grabbed me and yanked me into the bushes. They hit me over the head with something and I blacked out. The next thing I knew I was in the middle of that field. He asked me to tell him what I saw.” Parker swallowed hard and shook his head. “He was desperate for no one to find out. So we got in somewhat of a fist fight, and something fell out of his pocket. I shoved it in my jeans pocket before he could notice, but while I was distracted he hit me hard over the head and I blacked out again.”
“He fought you?” Aaron wondered, his eye brows raised as high as they could go. “This man is a psychopath.”
“He’ll do anything to keep this news from coming out.” Parker nodded.
Beth sat silently, staring at her hands. She couldn’t help but feel bad. This was all because of her. She was the one who started the whole thing. She was the one that flirted with Mr. Werner all year. She thought it was harmless, it was just supposed to be a joke. And now it wasn’t just about her, it’s become a threat to almost everyone she cares about.
“Beth? Are you okay?” Parker asked, waving his hand in front of face. He laughed nervously. “Beth?”
“Sorry.” She shook her head and looked up. “I just…it’s just a lot to take in, you know?”
“You’ve been through a lot.” Aaron agreed, laying his hand on her shoulder and giving her a half smile.
“So what do we do?” Beth asked, looking up at Aaron and Parker. “We can’t just let him get away with this. We can’t just let him win. What if he does this to someone else? What if he does something else?”
“What do you mean?” Parker asked.
“He pulled a knife on her.” Aaron explained, his jaw clenched tightly.
“What?” Parker demanded, his eyes wide and smoldering.
“Can we focus on the more important issue here please?” Beth asked, giving Aaron a look for bringing it up. “We need to figure out how we’re going to stop him.”
“And after he stole your cell phone…” Aaron trailed off sighing. “That was all the proof we had.”
“We don’t know that he stole it.” Beth argued.
“Who else would have broken into your locker and stolen your phone? Who else had that much of a reason to?” Aaron demanded.
“Wait a second, he stole your phone?” Parker demanded, leaning away from the back of his bed. His eyes were wide and his mouth was in what look like the making of half a smile, it just wasn’t quite there yet. “When?”
“Yesterday at school…why?” Beth wondered, confused by his reaction.
“Why did he steal your phone?” Parker demanded.
“Because I…it’s complicated. What are you not telling me Parker?” Beth demanded.
“Why would he steal your phone?” Parker pushed.
“Because that day in the classroom that you saw, somehow I managed to accidentally voice record it.” Beth shrugged. “I guess he found out and stole my phone. I was going to go to the police with it or the office or something, but he outsmarted me.” Beth shook her head. “I never should have left it in my locker.”
“Wait, so your phone has proof on it that could end this whole thing for good?” Parker wondered, his mouth turning into a smile.
“I guess so…?” Beth trailed off, raising one eye brow suspiciously at Parker’s reaction. “Exactly what fell out of Mr. Werner’s pocket when he was fighting you in the field?” Beth asked slowly.
Parker reached over to the table beside his bed and pulled something out from under a pile of magazines. He held up Beth’s cell phone, a smug grin on his face. “Just something that might be able to solve all of your problems.”
“Oh my God!” Aaron and Beth both gasped at the same time.
Beth snatched it from his hands quickly and scrolled to the voice recordings, hoping Mr. Werner hadn’t deleted it. She noticed that the recording of her, Olivia, Star, and Megan singing a song they’d made up while drunk was deleted, but right above it was the one dated back to Monday. “If he tried to delete it, he must have gotten the wrong one.” Beth said slowly. “Because it’s still here.” She grinned and stuffed her phone into her pocket.
“We’re back in business baby!” Aaron high fived Beth and nodded at Parker. “Thank you.”
Parker shrugged. “I didn’t even know I was helping.” He laughed once and then looked at Beth. “Just do me one favor okay?”
“Anything.” Beth nodded.
“Get that jackass back good for putting me in here.” Parker grinned.
“My pleasure.” Beth agreed with a grin. “I can’t believe this.” She sighed in relief and smiled at Aaron. “You were right. We should’ve just gone right then and there and I’m sorry I didn’t just listen to you. If we would have just gone when you said none of this would have happened.”
“It’s okay.” Aaron half smiled and threw his arm around Beth’s shoulders. “I get that you didn’t want this to go public, and I understand. But this time, we are gonna do this right. We’re going to the police station straight from here.”
Beth looked back at Parker. “Hey, don’t let me stop you. I’ll still be here when you get back.” He laughed once.
“My phone is safe with me right now, so I don’t think it would hurt if we waited ten minutes. Are you cool with that?” Beth turned towards Aaron.
“Yes. Don’t let that thing out of your sight.” He laughed once. “Because I am not getting in a fist fight with Mr. Werner if you lose it again.” He winked.
“Dude’s stronger than he looks.” Parker added.
“I don’t know…I think I could take him.” Beth grinned.
“I’m sure you could.” Aaron agreed as he leaned over and peeked Beth on the cheek.
Beth, Aaron, and Parker jumped at a different voice at the door.
“Aww. Look at the cute little love birds.”
They all turned around to see Mr. Werner standing in the doorway, a smug smile on his face and his arms crossed over his chest.
“Oh s***.” Parker hissed as Mr. Werner took a step inside. Parker casually tired to reach for the call button as Aaron and Beth rose to their feet, Aaron pushing Beth behind him.
“Stay away from us.” Aaron warned as he and Beth walked backwards until they were on the other side of Parker’s bed.
“Oh calm down.” Mr. Werner rolled his eyes. He stopped walking forward, leaning against the wall. His eyes were watching Parker, whose hand was only inches from the call button. “Teenagers.” He sighed dramatically. “Always so overly dramatic.”
“You tried to kill me.” Parker spat.
“And you pulled a knife on me.” Beth added.
“And you sexually harassed my girlfriend and tried to break us up.” Aaron joined in.
“So sorry if we’re not too pleased to see you.” Parker hissed.
“I just wanna talk. I heard you got your cell phone back Beth.” Mr. Werner winked and Aaron’s arm tightened around her waist.
“You should leave.” Beth said through her teeth as Parker’s hand moved closer to the call button.
“Too bad that phone’s useless now.” Mr. Werner went on. “That recording was damn good proof I must admit. Too bad it’s gone now.”
“Oh really?” Beth raised her eye brows. “And why is that?”
“You think really think I’m that stupid? Do you really think I don’t know how to work a cell phone? I deleted it.” He rolled his eyes. “Go ahead and check.”

“I already did.” Beth rose her chin up a little. “And looks like you really are that stupid.” She spit. “You deleted the wrong one.”
For a split second she could she fear flicker across Mr. Werner’s face. He composed himself quickly and raised one eye brow. “Not likely.”
Beth shrugged. “Maybe I’m lying, maybe I’m not.”
“You’re lying.” He shook his head.
Parker’s eyes flickered to Beth and then to Mr. Werner. Mr. Werner had his eyes locked on Beth, oblivious to Parker and Aaron. Parker pushed the call button quickly.
“No, I’m not.” Beth shook her head, a smile slowly creeping across her lips.
Mr. Werner’s face twisted in anger and he began to walk forward. “Give me the cell phone.” He growled.
Aaron pushed Beth behind him and stiffened.
Just then a nurse came rushing through the door. “Is everything okay in here?”
“No.” Parker said quickly, his eyes locked on Mr. Werner. “Can you please remove this man?”
“Why you little—” Mr. Werner began as he stalked forward.
“Get him out of here!” Parker demanded as the nurse ran out of the doorway and down the hallway.
Aaron and Parker exchanged a confused look and Mr. Werner glanced back at the door. Beth’s forehead creased in confusion. Had she just run away?
In the next second the nurse and two large security guards appeared through the door. The two men each grabbed one of Mr. Werner’s arms and dragged him out of the room.
Mr. Werner didn’t struggle, he just let himself get dragged away, a sly smile on his lips and his eyes locked on Beth. Beth felt a chill run down her spine. She knew that Mr. Werner wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

The author's comments:
This chapter was particularly difficult to write, everything that happens is very important to the plot but had to happen in certain ways. It also made the sequel that I'm writing possible. I hope you're enjoying the book! Keep reading!

Make your own luck happen. Don’t depend on anything in this world because all you’ll find is that the only person that won’t let you down is yourself. The world is full of traitors and tricks while the percentage of people that are genuinely good is about as small as the tip of a finger.
That was Kristen’s favorite quote that she’d heard on some television show ages ago. But this was the first time that she honestly believed the words. She’d always liked the tone and idea of the words, but never once had she felt like she knew how the writer was feeling, until now.
Kristen had been through a lot of let down’s in her life. There was Parker, who basically just slapped her in the face, and there were her parents who honestly didn’t give a damn about her, there was Beth, who used to be her best friend until she turned into the biggest b**** in town, and then there was Austin. He promised Kristen that he loved her, he promised her forever, and then he died. How could he do that to her?
She would be able to forgive him if it had been an accident or murder or something, anything other than suicide. But it was suicide. He killed himself and left her all alone. Apparently he didn’t love her as much as he claimed.
She took a deep breath, remembering the first time Austin had ever told her he loved her.
“You’re sister’s gonna hear us.” Kristen giggled.
“Who cares?” Austin laughed as he kissed her again.
They were sitting down on Austin’s bed, one door down from Beth’s bedroom. Austin pushed Kristen onto her back and climbed on top of her. He kissed her softly for a moment and then Kristen giggled again.
“What’s so funny?” He murmured.
“I don’t know…this.” Kristen explained. “It’s just so, weird.”
Austin’s forehead creased as rolled off Kristen and sat up. “Weird how?”
“I don’t know.” Kristen admitted, chewing on her lip. “You’re sister’s in the other room.”
“Who cares about my sister?” He demanded.
“I guess it’s just weird because I’ve know you since you were in diapers. And you’re the first guy that I’ve ever dated who’s younger than me.” Kristen went on as she sat up.
“Is that a bad thing?” Austin wondered.
“It’s a different thing. Something that I’ll have to get used to I guess.”
Austin just watched Kristen for another moment, a confused expression still on his face.
Kristen stroked his cheek once and smiled. “I don’t care about the age thing Austin. I want to be with you.”
He smiled as he pulled her lips to his again. Austin climbed back on top of Kristen again, his lips still locked to hers. He pulled away to look at her face for a moment.
“So this isn’t weird for you? You and me?” He asked.
“No.” Kristen shook her head and smiled. “Not at all.”
“Good.” Austin sighed and let out a small laugh as he kissed Kristen more forcefully this time. “Because I’m in love with you.”
Kristen shook her head as if to erase the memory. It was actually one of her favorite memories, but it was also one of the most painful. That was only days before her party, days before Austin killed himself…
That was one thing that she didn’t understand. Why did Austin come to her party if he was just going to kill himself? Why didn’t he do it at home, why in that field behind her house? And why did he do it in the first place? He seemed perfectly fine that night, happy even. He was excited and slightly drunk and they were having a good time. So why did he have to go off and ruin it by killing himself?
Kristen jumped at the sound of her home phone ringing. She stared at the blinking red light on the side for a few moments with no intentions of answering the phone. Her parents were out for happy hour so she was alone. She figured she’d just let it go to voicemail and listen to the message while the person left it.
For being one of the richest girls in town you’d think that Kristen’s family would have caller I.D., but her mom thought it was a waste of money. Good money that could be spent on more important things, like, say, pedicures, jeans, or facials.
After seven rings the beep sounded and Parker’s voice came over the speaker. Kristen frowned, hadn’t the fact that she didn’t want to talk to him sunken in? After five missed calls from him on her cell phone she just turned it off. She had no intentions of speaking to him anytime soon.
“Hey Kris, it’s Parker.” He cleared his throat. “I’m just checking in, you’ve been ignoring my calls all day. I, um, really need to talk to you. I know you’re there just listening to this right now, so would you please pick up the phone? Please?” He paused for a few seconds. Kristen could hear him sigh. “Well, if you feel like talking to me later I’ll be waiting by the phone. And I just want to let you know that there’s absolutely nothing going on between me and Beth and I don’t want you to be worried about that. And I don’t want this to drive a wedge between us. So…just call me back when you get this message, okay?” He sighed again. “Alright. Bye.”
Kristen frowned at the phone as a red blinking 1 showed up, indicating she had a new message. She contemplated calling Parker back, just to let him grovel, but then she decided that she didn’t want to hear it. She was pissed at him and she had the right to ignore him. She didn’t care if he was in the hospital, there was no reason why he had to act like some mental case.
Kristen stiffened at the sound of movement downstairs. She swallowed hard and exhaled. She shook her head and held her hand against her chest, trying to slow her heart beat back down. She was just being paranoid, there was no one else in the house. Her parents wouldn’t be home for at least another two hours. Knowing them it would be later, they weren’t ones to just have a few drinks and then come straight home…
Kristen walked up to her mirror and frowned at her reflection. How she felt on the inside seemed to directly reflect how she looked on the outside. She looked tired, sad, and…well, like a complete mess.
She had large black bags under her eyes, her long dark hair was flat and limp, and her skin was shallow and blotchy looking. She grabbed her favorite copper bristled brush and yanked it through her hair, teasing the top, hoping to give it a little body. She sighed as it just fell flat against her head again. It was just one of those nights. She decided that it would be a waste to try and fix her face up with makeup, it wasn’t like she planned on going anywhere.
She glanced back at the home phone, wondering if she should call Parker back. He had just gotten out of the hospital today after all. But she thought better of it. If he really wanted to make things right he could be a man and come talk to her in person. She was not putting up with the lame over-the-phone-apology thing. He screwed up, so he needed to come and make it right, face to face.
Kristen wondered for a moment if she was just overreacting, but let the thought pass. She had every right to be mad at Parker right now.

She jumped at the sound of movement downstairs again. She wished she could blame it on the cat or dog, but they didn’t have any pets. She glanced out her window, and sure enough, her mom’s 2010 black Porsche was still gone. She heard more movement, the sounds of floorboards creaking and rattling of objects on the title counters. She glanced around her room, wondering what she should do.
She’d never given much thought as to what she would do if she was ever in a situation like this. Then again, she never imagined she would ever be in any kind of situation like this. She took a deep breath, her heart nearly jumping out of her chest. She bit down on her lip, for the first time in years actually wishing that her parents were home.

For once she hoped it was Beth, trying to get her back for all of the things she’s pulled lately, but she knew it wasn’t. Someone was in her house, and whether they were there to rob her or kidnap her, she wasn’t sure. But she sure as hell wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

Kristen slipped her tennis shoes on and slipped her fuzzy grey sweatshirt on. She shoved her car keys and cell phone into the jacket pocket and zipped it up. The only part she hadn’t figured out yet was how she was going to get out of the house.
As more sounds came from downstairs she pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911.
“911 what’s your emergency?”
“There’s someone in my house.” Kristen whispered as lowly as she could into the phone. “I’m upstairs and they’re downstairs. They don’t know that I’m in here yet.”
“Where is your location?”
“Uh, 3112 Forest drive.” Kristen whispered. The sounds from downstairs seemed to get closer.
“We’ll send help. Can you stay on the line until someone gets there?”
“I can try.” Kristen whispered, her voice beginning to break.
“Don’t try and leave the house, do you understand me? Keep yourself hidden.”
“Okay.” Kristen whispered as she quietly slipped into her closet.
She heard footsteps coming up the stairs. “They just came upstairs.” Kristen choked.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in my closet.” Kristen cried.
“Are they in your room?”
“No. I think they just went in my parent’s room.”
“Where are your parents?”
“A bar.” Kristen answered, not embarrassed at all. Maybe that would cause some trouble for her parents. They deserved it.
“I think I hear him coming towards my room.” Kristen choked, sinking farther back into the clothes, hoping that if he came in he wouldn’t be able to see her.
“Help is almost there.”
Kristen’s throat felt swollen and sweat began to form on the nape of her neck. She desperately wanted to get her jacket off, she was over heating, but she was frozen in fear as she listened to the sounds outside her door.
Kristen heard cop cars pull up outside her house. She swallowed hard and tried to return her breathing and pulse back to normal. But her heart was hammering in her chest and she was panting like she’d just finished a race.

“S***.” Kristen heard someone curse just outside her door. They threw her door open and it slammed violently against her wall. Kristen scooted back as far as she could in her closet and hid under some clothes. Just then she remember that her desk lamp was still on. S***.
“Alright.” The rough voice called loudly. “I know someone is in here. Show yourself.”
Kristen covered her hand with her mouth, tears streaming down her face. She heard the man going through the drawers on her desk and she tried not to get worried about her things. But she didn’t want some stranger getting his hands on her diary, or worse yet, the Jameson folder. She shivered, remembering what happened back in January.
She heard the front door downstairs bust open and what sounded like many men rush inside. She heard footsteps on the stairs and she sighed in relief. She was going to be saved.
Apparently she sighed too loudly because in the next moment the closet door flew open. The man searched through her closet, throwing clothes everywhere, knocking down shelves, calling for Kristen to show herself.
Finally he came to the pile of clothes she was hiding under and pulled her out by the neck of her shirt. He wore a ski mask so she couldn’t see who it was. He was tall and fairly slim. He wore all black and the voice he was talking in was obviously not his natural voice. He shoved Kristen in front of him, held her with his arm across her neck and pointed a gun to her head.
Kristen was breathing in short gasps, tears running down her face. She could hear the woman from 911 speaking to her but the man slapped the phone out of her hand and stomped on it with his foot. He kicked it to the back of her closet and forced her out into her room, yanking on her hair the whole time.
In the next second the police burst through her bedroom door, guns pointed straight at him.
“Take one more step and I’ll shoot.” He threatened, pressing the gun harder against Kristen’s skull.
It took every part of her not to cry out in pain. She tried to swallow but his arm was pushed so tightly against her neck that she could barely breath.
“Let the girl go.” One of them warned.
“No I don’t think so.” He responded, taking a step back.
“What do you want?”
“Maybe I want the girl.” He played along, pulling Kristen even tighter against him.
“What do you want?”
“I’ll tell you what I don’t want. I don’t want to go to jail, and I sure as hell don’t want a bullet in me. So you’re either going to let me go, or this girl’s death is going to be on your hands” Kristen felt him shrug as he pressed the gun even harder against her skull. “Your choice.”
Before she knew it the man had taken the gun away from her face. She almost sighed in relief, her head throbbing, but moments later the gun came thrashing into the side of her head. With a shooting pain cursing through her entire body, her head feeling like it’d just been hit with train, her eyes fluttered closed as she faded into the darkness.

“It’s okay. You can do this Beth, you can do this.” Aaron urged in her ear as they walked towards the police station, hand in hand. As soon as Mr. Werner had been forced to leave the hospital, Aaron and Beth had rushed to Aaron’s car. Aaron decided that it wasn’t safe for them to wait, and he refused to drive Beth home until they went to the police. Begrudgingly Beth had agreed, although she didn’t want to, deep down she knew it had to be done.
“What if they don’t do anything about it? What if they just let Mr. Werner go? He’ll come after me Aaron. He’ll kill me.” Beth panicked, glancing back at Aaron’s car every few seconds, contemplating making a break for it.
“And if we don’t tell then he’ll definitely stay free and come after us. Calm down Beth, everything’s going to be fine.” Aaron assured her as they pushed through the big metal and glass doors. There were a few red fabric chairs sitting in the corner, brochures in a wooden bin and a bulletin board filling with Have You Seen This Boy?, and Missing: Rick Jameson posters. Beth shivered at the Mr. Jameson poster that had been up there since January and glanced at Aaron again. She still wasn’t sure that she could do this.
He gave her hand an encouraging squeeze as they walked up to the front desk. The man looked up from the computer and cocked one eye brow. “Can I help you?”
Beth looked at Aaron again, who nodded encouragingly. She took a deep breath and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket. Here goes nothing.

Surprisingly it had all been easier than she’d thought. The man had automatically believed her, before she even showed him the recording. And he assured her that he would be arrested and that she wasn’t going to have to worry about him anymore.
For the first time in a really long time Beth had felt safe.
“We’ll bring him into the station and call you down here so you can confirm that we have the right man.” The man smiled sympathetically. “I don’t want you to worry sweetheart. We’re going to catch him.”
Aaron led her back to the car. Beth sighed as she buckled herself up and Aaron pulled out of the parking lot.
“Do you feel better now?” Aaron asked.
“I do.” Beth nodded and sighed again in relief. “Thank you. I just hope they catch him soon, that way I don’t have to worry about watching my back every second of the day.” Beth laughed once.
“Hey,” Aaron said seriously, grabbing one of Beth’s hands. “I don’t want you to worry anymore, okay? I know you’ve had a rough week, but everything’s going to be okay now. They’re going to get Mr. Werner and he’s not going to be able to hurt you again.”
Beth sighed and squeezed Aaron’s hand. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Aaron nodded as he pulled into Beth’s driveway. “I’m staying here with you tonight. No exceptions. You’re not leaving my sight until they have that bastard behind bars.”
“Whose paranoid now?” Beth teased.
Aaron peeked her on the cheek. And walked around to open her car door for her.
“But seriously, I don’t think my parents would be too pleased with the idea…” Beth laughed once as Aaron led her inside.
“I don’t care. I’m not leaving your side until they catch him.” Aaron shrugged, his face solid yet kind.
“I still haven’t even told my parents yet.” Beth reminded him.
“Tell us what?” Beth turned to see her mother standing in the kitchen, eye brows raised, arms crossed over her chest. Beth looked to Aaron who nodded and gave her a half smile.
“Mom, is dad home? I need to tell you guys something.”
Her mom gave her a strange look but nodded. “Richard?” She called up the stairs, her eyes not leaving Beth’s face.
They all sat down at the kitchen table, Aaron holding Beth’s hand underneath the table. Her mom and dad were watching her hesitantly; they probably thought that she was going to tell them she was pregnant.
“Look, there’s something I need to tell you. It first happened back on Monday, and I should have told you sooner.” Beth began, glancing at Aaron every few seconds for support. “You know my history teacher, Mr. Werner?”
They both just nodded.
Beth took a deep breath, clutching her cell phone tightly under the table. “He sexually harassed me. And then he threatened me with a knife.”
Beth’s father slapped his hands down on the table and quickly rose to his feet, his face turning a deep red. “What?” He demanded. He looked like he wasn’t breathing. Beth’s mother just sat there, not blinking, her mouth hanging wide open.
“What happened?” Her mom demanded.
“On Monday Mr. Werner told me that I had to come in during free period or he’d drop my 98 to a zero in his class. And then when I went in he locked the door and shut the blinds and everything. And then he pinned me against the wall and forced me to kiss him.” Beth explained in a small voice. “Well, I didn’t kiss him, but he kissed me.” Beth went on. Her face felt as hot as fire with all eyes on her and her skin tingled like it’d fallen asleep. “And then on Friday I had to go in to make up a test,” Beth continued nervously. “And I thought there would be other kids in the classroom, making the test up too, but I was alone again. And then he threw my test on the ground and pinned me against the wall again. I tried to leave but he pulled out a pocket knife and threatened me with it…and then he kissed me again.” Beth shuttered and Aaron tightened his hand around hers. “He threatened me into not telling. But on Monday I must have accidently bumped a button on my phone because somehow I managed to voice record this.” Beth explained as she placed her cell phone on the table and played the recording.
After the voice recording ended she pulled her phone back off the table and shoved it in her pocket and stared at her parent’s shocked and appalled faces.
“He stole the phone from my locker, and tried to erase the recording. And then put Parker Patterson in the hospital, because he’d seen the whole thing through the window.” Beth gulped and looked at Aaron nervously.
“That’s how Parker Patterson got in the hospital?” Her mother gasped.
“That’s it, I’m calling the police.” Beth father growled.
“We already did dad.” Beth said quickly. “We just got back from the police station actually.”
“How could you not tell us?” Her mom demanded, a glistening tear streaming down her cheek. “You should have reached out to me Beth. I’m your mother for God’s sake.” It seemed like she was just speaking to herself now. “I’m so sorry that happened to you sweetie.”
Beth smiled slightly at her parents. Her concerned father in a black muscle shirt and jeans, and her heartbroken mom in a V neck, skin tight, purple sweater from Victoria’s Secret and cropped yoga pants that said PINK across the butt. If you didn’t know them, you wouldn’t be able to tell they were parents.
“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to stay with Beth tonight. I’d just like to stay with her until they catch him.” Aaron spoke up, squeezing Beth’s hand under the table.
Mr. Taylor’s jaw clenched and he glanced over at Beth’s mom. He exhaled slowly and then nodded. “Okay.” He agreed.
“Thank you sir.” Aaron nodded and him and Beth stood up.
“We’re gonna go up to my room.” Beth said in a small voice. “I just thought you guys should know before the police show up or something.” Beth smiled, trying to lighten the mood.
Her mom and dad stood up too, both bringing Beth into a hug. “I love you.” They both told her.
“I love you too.”
Beth and Aaron headed up stairs. Beth heard her father say something along the lines of “First Austin and now this!” But she ignored it. Aaron closed the door once they were in her room and Beth flopped down on her bed.

“I can’t tell you how exhausting fearing for your life can be.” She joked and Aaron laughed with her.
“Are you okay?” Aaron asked seriously.
“I will be.” Beth nodded, staring up at her white bumpy ceiling. She smiled at the red stain from when her Star and Olivia had-had a paint fight in third grade. They’d used yellow, blue, green and red, but all of the colors but the red were washable, and so they managed to scrub those off the walls. Her parents had been furious. There were a few patches of red on the walls as well, but they’d painted over them when they first re-did her room in the fifth grade. It’d been redone two other times since.
Beth slipped off her shoes and socks and let them fall to the floor.
“So what’s up with our history teachers? They’re all criminals.” Aaron laughed once.
Beth stiffened and then forced a laugh. Aaron didn’t know the truth about what happened with Mr. Jameson back in January, and she didn’t plan on telling him…ever. It was between her and Kristen, and she prayed it would always stay that way.
“I’ll be right, I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.” Beth announced, hoping off the bed onto her feet. The wood floor felt like ice under her bare feet. She shivered once and made her way towards the bathroom.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come in there with you? I am your bodyguard after all.” Aaron winked.
“Ha, ha.” Beth rolled her eyes and locked the bathroom door behind her. Truth was, she didn’t need to go to the bathroom, she just need a second alone to think.
She sat down on the fluffy blue toilet seat cover and stared at her brown and blue painted walls and matching hand towels. She had a ton of pictures hanging in frames along the walls. Most of them were of her Olivia, Star, and Megan making weird faces, or posing in front of random things, or hot strangers. She had a few of her parents and her, mostly of when she was younger and they used to go on family vacations all the time.
But the biggest frame, surrounded by several smaller frames held a picture of her and Austin, side by side, arms over each other’s shoulders, standing on the beach in Santa Monica. That was the last family vacation they’d gone on.
Behind them you could see seagulls flying by, and people sun bathing on towels covered the sand. Austin was grinning, as if he were the happiest boy in the world…
Around the big picture were smaller ones of her and her brother grinning at movie theaters, amusement parks, or playing night games with a group of people. Beth smiled to herself. Austin and her had been best friends their whole lives. That was, until the year that he died.
Beth sighed and stood up to face the mirror above the sink. She stared at her reflection in the mirror for a long time. She didn’t see a beautiful platinum blonde haired girl with glowing blue eyes and flawless ivory skin, instead she saw a selfish, conceded, lying, shallow and manipulative b****.
She clenched her teeth, angry at the girl that she saw in the mirror. Angry at the things that she’d done, and angry at the mistakes she’d made. Beth knew that wasn’t the real her, but this person had been living her life for so long that she didn’t even know who the real her was anymore.
She wondered if other people hated this new her as much as she did, and then sighed as she realized she could name a list.
She took a deep breath and raised her chin. She was Beth Taylor, and Beth Taylor didn’t play the I-feel-sorry-for-myself game. If Beth Taylor didn’t like something, then she fixed it, she didn’t complain about it and wish things were different.
Beth jumped at the sound of knocking on her bathroom door. “Is everything okay in there?” Aaron called.
Beth took a deep breath. She’d almost forgotten that Aaron was still here. She glanced at the door with a frown. “Everything’s fine.” Beth called back.
She bit her lower lip and stared at herself in the mirror for another second. She exhaled in frustration.
She flushed the toilet and turned the sink on so that Aaron didn’t think she’d gone in here just to get away from him. She turned the water off, counted to ten and then opened the door and walked back over to her bed.
“Are you sure you’re okay Beth?” Aaron asked.
“Fabulous.” Beth responded as she fell onto her back on her bed. “Thanks for asking.”
Beth looked up at the sound of her favorite song. She sat up and smiled at Aaron who’d turned her iPod on and set it to Brave by Tawgs Salter. Aaron held out his hand with a big smile. “May I have this dance?”
Beth laughed and took his hand. “You may.”
Aaron pulled Beth close to him, placing one of his hands on her waist. Beth propped her left hand up on Aaron’s shoulder, her right intertwined with Aaron’s. They simply shifted back and forth spinning in a small and slow circle.
“God I love this song.” Beth sighed and leaned her head against Aaron’s chest. “It’s like the key to my heart.” She laughed.
“I know.” Aaron laughed with her. “I mean you paid ten bucks just to get this song.”
Beth blushed slightly. “I’ve listened to it over a thousand times. It was worth it.” They twirled in silence for a few moments. “I mean how lame is it that the only way you can buy this song is if you buy the entire soundtrack of Prom Night? It’s complete bullshit. I mean this song is so good that they should just sell it as a single. They would get a lot more money that way.” Beth ranted off, and then laughed at herself for being so serious.
Aaron laughed with her. “Why do you love this song so much?”
“I don’t know.” Beth shrugged. “I think the lyrics are really sweet and meaningful. And…” Beth blushed slightly. “Ever since I heard this song I’ve always sort of dreamed of having a guy say those things to me.”
“Well why didn’t you say so?” Aaron asked and kneeled down on one knee, taking Beth’s hand. “I think I’ll be brave, starting with you. But I’ll fall away if you tell me to. I’d rather be wrong, than hope that I’m right, cause I can’t go on with this all inside. I think I’ll be brave and say how I’ve wanted you.” Aaron grinned and got back onto his feet, pulling Beth back in.
He picked back up where they left off, continuing to spin in their small circle. Beth leaned her head against Aaron’s chest with a small laugh. “Thank you.”
The song ended and then started again, Aaron must have set it on replay.
Beth closed her eyes, spinning with Aaron in complete peace, escaping reality for a few moments.
Beth lost count of how many times the song restarted, time just seemed insignificant to her. She sighed in contentment, she could dance like this with Aaron all night.
Aaron’s phone buzzed loudly against the wood of Beth’s desk, making her jump.
“Hello?” He answered while Beth paused the music. “Yeah, why? What? Are you joking? Oh my God…” Aaron’s jaw dropped as he turned to Beth, his eyes wide.
“What’s going on?” Beth mouthed, concern growing in her. “What?” She demanded.
“Yeah, thanks for letting us know. Yep, Okay. Yeah call me later and let me know. Damn. Okay, yeah. Bye.” Aaron hung up the phone, his jaw still slightly dropped.
“What?” Beth demanded. “What’s going on?”
“Kristen’s in the hospital.”

The author's comments:

Kristen’s eyes fell open to find herself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. For a moment she couldn’t remember anything, it was all a complete blank. She couldn’t remember where she was, what had happened, or what day it was. The only she knew for sure was her own name.
She blinked, the florescence lights burning her eyes. She heard a cop car siren blaring on the road outside, faint red and blue lights shining through the window.
She rubbed her eyes with her hands, wondering how long she’d been asleep. She stared at the ceiling for another moment. That wasn’t her ceiling. It was completely white and chalky looking, something that Kristen would never allow to be in her room. She tilted her head, trying to remember what happened. She slowly sat up, the bed screaming as she did so.
Her head pounded as she moved, blood rushing to the tips of her ears and nose. She groaned a little and held her head with her left hand. What happened?
She looked around to realize she was in a hospital. Complete with the cheep scratchy white sheets, the microscopic dinosaur television in the corner, and the smell of old people and hand sanitizer. She shivered when she noticed the IV. Needles.
To her left was Parker sitting in a chair beside her, watching her carefully. “Welcome back Kris.” He smiled, “How are you feeling?”
“Um…” Kristen thought, pressing the remote to move the hospital bed into a sitting position. “I’m not sure…My head hurts…?” She said more like a question as her skull throbbed again.
“I’d imagine so.” Parker laughed once. “Funny how the second I get out you get in here huh?”

Kristen knew he was just trying to lighten the mood, but she couldn’t laugh. She could remember anything. “What happened?” She asked, rubbing the sore spot on her head.

“Do you remember anything?” Parker wondered.
“Um…” Kristen trailed off, searching her head for any memories of the past few days, but she came up blank. The only image that kept flashing in her head and then disappearing the next second was her closet, and the blinking red light on the telephone… “No.” She admitted. “What day is it?”
“You’ve been in and out a lot, but it’s Monday.” Parker explained.
“What happened…Saturday night?”
“Well you were home alone, your parents were at happy hour I think.” Parker began, watching Kristen’s face, probably expecting her to suddenly remember something. Kristen’s mind remained foggy and unreadable. “I kept calling you, but you wouldn’t answer the phone. And I guess you heard someone in your house, you called 911.” He went on, leaning his head to the side. He frowned when she didn’t jump in, remembering what happened next.
Kristen creased her forehead, thinking as hard as she could. She could faintly and distantly remember her parents telling her they were leaving for happy hour, and Parker calling multiple times but she was too angry to pick up the phone. But they seemed so distant and unclear, it was like they were memories back from when she was three. The unimportant ones that seem like they never even happened.
“When the police got there the criminal was holding you hostage with a gun. He knocked you over the head with the gun and knocked you out. That’s why your head hurts so bad.” Parker finished explaining.
Kristen gasped slightly as the memories flooded back into her. The hiding in the closet, the man storming into her room and looking through her drawers, her hand wrapped tightly around her cell phone, the ski mask the man was wearing… He’d pulled her out of the closet and roughly pressed his gun to her temple. She shivered slightly.
“What happened to the criminal?” She whispered.
Parker looked down at his hands and took a deep breath. “I don’t know how it happened Kristen, I honestly don’t. They had back up outside, they had your house surrounded. And there were two cops in the house that found you and him.” Parker rambled on, avoiding Kristen’s question.
“What are you saying, Parker?” Kristen demanded.
“Well, he kind of…got away.” Parker said in a small voice.
“Got away?” Kristen demanded.
“They’re looking for him, they’ve got posters all around now. They’re going to catch him, Kristen. Don’t worry.” Parker assured her, taking her hand in his.
“Oh God.” Kristen sighed and covered her face with her right hand. She flinched at the sight of the I.V. again. Needles. “Can things get any worse?” She mumbled.
“It’s okay.” Parker assured her. “And it could be worse.”
“How?” Kristen demanded, lowering her arm to stare at Parker.
“You could have got seriously hurt. Be thankful you just walked away with a concussion and some cuts and bruises. It could have been a lot worse. But the doctor said it shouldn’t cause any permanent damage.” Parker explained with a small smile. “I was really worried.”
Kristen flinched as her head throbbed again. She didn’t feel so lucky. Her head had never hurt this bad before. She touched her temple lightly with her hand and flinched away from it. “How hideous do I look?” Kristen wondered.
“You look gorgeous as usual.” Parker responded with a creased forehead.
“If I got hit hard enough to be knocked out then I’ve got to have a pretty decent cut and bruise where he hit me right? How bad is it?” Kristen demanded.
Parker sighed and ducked his head. “It’ll heal Kris.”
“That bad?” She demanded and covered her face with her hands again. “Damn it!”
“Of course, of all things you’d be worried about how you look.” Parker laughed.
“Don’t mock me.”Kristen snapped but laughed with Parker.
Something crashed outside her window which made her jump, her pulse picking up. She exhaled as she realized outside her window was an alley way that held the dumpsters. Someone had thrown something in and let the cover fall, creating a crashing sound.
“Jumpy much?” Parker raised his eye brows, a kind smile faintly on his lips.
“I just got threatened with a gun and knocked out. I think I’ve earned jumpy.” Kristen snapped.
Parker held his palms up in surrender. “Okay, easy there.” He said in a laugh.
Kristen let out a slow and exaggerated breath and reached for the television remote. She pushed the power button, a small dot on the TV lighting up red. She sighed as she flipped through the channels. They only had around fifteen or twenty. And none of them Kristen watched. They were just things like the news or cartoons or some animal wildlife educational s***. In frustration she flipped the TV off and tossed the remote back onto the table.
“Do you want me to go get you some movies? I could bring you your laptop or a portable DVD player to entertain you for awhile.” Parker offered, standing up and grabbing his car keys.
“Yeah that’d be great, if you don’t mind.” Kristen smiled at the offered. “Hey wait,” She called right before Parker disappeared through the door.
“Movie preferences?” He asked.
“No, um, I was just wondering if my parents ever showed up.” Kristen admitted sheepishly.
“They did actually.” Parker nodded. “They didn’t stay long, five or ten minutes maybe. They’re still here, in the cafeteria getting some lunch.” Parker explained.
“Lunch?” Kristen asked. “What time is it?” She looked over at the clock with said it was almost one in the afternoon. “Damn.”
“So no movie preferences? Last chance.” Parker smiled.
“As long as you don’t bring me Star Wars or Star Track or whatever it’s called I’ll be fine. Oh! And no pirate or ninja movies either.” Kristen and Parker both laughed once.
“Can do. I’ll be back in thirty.” Parker waved and disappeared out of the door.
Kristen sighed. She looked around the depressing white room with the hideous red cushion chairs in the corner, the plastic rails on her cheep and scratchy bed, and the old chipped wood door. She frowned and shivered once. Her room felt like it was fifty degrees. Her nose burned from the strong scent of a mixture of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Hospitals always just seemed too clean. It was unnatural.
She wondered if that old people smell could give you brain damage, it sure seemed like it. Maybe that’s why people in hospitals are such mental cases.
She smiled at the at table in the far corner. On top of it was a pile of flowers, stuffed animals, get well soon cards, balloons, and chocolate. She wondered who all knew about what happened to her. Her whole neighborhood knew because of the big scene, and she was sure Parker called a bunch of people and told them, maybe she was even on the news. She smiled smugly to herself. She indeed was top story worthy news.
Her cheeks burned when she thought of all the people that knew about her. What if they’d stopped by to check on her? What if they’d seen her? She probably looked completely hideous with the bruises and no makeup and her hair being a rat’s nest and all. She sighed again. What horrible timing to become the town’s biggest news.
Kristen rolled onto the side that hadn’t been hit with the gun and closed her eyes, the other side of her head still throbbing violently. She sighed again as she thought about her parents. That was just like them, their daughter almost died so they show up at the hospital, look at her for a second, and then bail. They were probably just planning on where they’d go next. They probably wouldn’t even stop by to see if she was awake before they left.
“I think she’s asleep.” Kristen heard someone whisper, followed by the clicking of high heels against the hospital tiled floors.
She heard more than one pair of feet walking into her room but she didn’t open her eyes, maybe if they thought she was asleep they’d leave.
“I don’t think so.” Another one whispered. “See her eye lids just twitched.”
Kristen suppressed the urge to moan and yell at whoever it was to just leave her the hell alone.
“You’re right.” Another one giggled. “Kristen! Open your eyes!”
Kristen let her eyes fall open again and groaned. It was Sarah Mae, Andrea, and Amber. Kristen faintly wondered where Megan was, but then was grateful that she didn’t come. She didn’t want anyone to come.
“I was trying to get some sleep before you guys rudely barged in here.” Kristen snapped.
“It’s afternoon Kristen.” Amber rolled her eyes as she plopped down in one of the ugly red chairs.
“Well…now that you’re up,” Andrea began, “We might as well stay, yes?”
“Whatever.” Kristen rolled her eyes and yawned.
“Damn.” Sarah Mae muttered, staring at the spot Kristen was hit with the gun. “Narley mark there sweetie.”
Kristen rolled her eyes again. “I know.”
“How are you feeling?” Andrea asked.
“Terrific. Never better. What do you guys think?” Kristen snapped sarcastically.
“Well someone’s not in a very good mood.” Amber sing songed quietly.
“Well no duh. I almost just died and you guys just bust in here like it’s no s***. Well I’m tired and my head hurts and you guys are annoying the crap out of me right now. So either pretend to be a little concerned or thoughtful or leave.” Kristen snapped, raising her eye brows at them.
“Touchy, touchy.” Andrea laughed once. “We came because we were concerned about you and wanted to see how you were doing. In case you forgot we’re your friends. I mean, I don’t see Parker anywhere around here.” She added, raising her eye brows and crossing her arms.
“He’s been with me like the whole time.” Kristen lied. She wasn’t sure if it was a lie or not, but she didn’t exactly know how long Parker had been with her, she was unconscious. “He just went to get me some movies to watch.”
“We’re sorry if we disturbed you. We just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” Sarah Mae cut in, giving Andrea a warning look.
“Well I appreciate it.” Kristen nodded and yawned again. “What have I missed while I was out?”
“Nothing.” They all responded at the same time.
Kristen narrowed her eyes and looked at them skeptically. “What are you guys not telling me?”
“Nothing.” They all responded at the same time.
“Really Kristen,” Sarah Mae added. “You haven’t missed anything. You’ve just been out for a day, after all.”
“Wait a second, isn’t it Monday? Why aren’t you guys in school?” Kristen wondered.
“Ha!” Andrea laughed and rolled her eyes. “You act so surprised that we ditched.”
“Yeah, we wanted to see you.” Amber added.
“It gave us a good excuse to ditch today.” Andrea agreed.
“What they mean is we couldn’t go to school without you. We couldn’t go without at least knowing that you were okay.” Sarah Mae nodded.
Kristen raised her eye brows and snorted. “You guys are so full of s***.”
They all laughed together and then Kristen moaned.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah Mae asked.
“Laughing hurts my head.” Kristen admitted with a snort. “I’m like crippled.”
“We should let you get some rest.” Sarah Mae nodded. “We’ll come back later, okay? I promise.”
“I don’t doubt you.” Kristen smiled as they all filed out the door.
Once they were all gone and out of sight she sighed in relief. This was probably one of the first times in her life that being the absolute center of attention was a bad thing. She just hoped Parker would hurry up, she was so bored.
The clock on the wall ticked loudly, each tick reverberating inside Kristen’s head. The lights in the hallway and above her were so bright that her eyes burned and started to water. She wondered what the point of having lights that bright constantly shinning everywhere was.
She tried to entertain herself by counting the small black dots on the ceiling. Finally Parker appeared through the doorway, a bag hanging off his right shoulder. He set a portable DVD player down on Kristen’s lap and sat down in the chair beside her.
“I have a lot from you to chose from and I promise none of them involve ninjas, pirates, or light sabers.” He grinned as he pulled a stack of DVD’s out of his bag. “So what will it be? I’ve got that vampire romantic movie series here, that princess bride one that all girls are like in love with.” Parker laughed to himself once. “And these.” He explained as he laid the choices out on the scratchy white sheets.
Kristen pursed her lips as she looked over the twenty something DVD’s. “This one.” She instructed as she plucked a romantic comedy with a colorful cover from the bunch.
Parker half groaned, half laughed. “That one? Are you sure?”
“Yep.” Kristen grinned as she shoved it in the DVD player.
Parker got up and closed the loud metal blinds, closed the door, and turned off all of the lights besides the one next to the bed. Kristen sighed in relief, her eyes no longer feeling like they were on fire. It was almost like she was somewhere fun, somewhere enjoying herself. It was almost as if she hadn’t nearly been killed and almost as if she weren’t in a hospital. Almost.

It was Saturday and Beth felt relieved. Her and Aaron had gone to the police station, confirmed they had the right man, and that was that. She didn’t have to worry until the court day approached. But until then, she decided that she needed to get out of the crazy world that she had been living in recently. She needed to do normal Beth Taylor things again.
Beth found herself parking her car along the street and stepping out onto the cold, wet, pavement. The wind blew, the water on the leaves and grass slowly rolling onto the sidewalk. Beth could smell rain in the air and hugged herself as she ran up to the front door. She rang the doorbell once, marching in place, trying to stay warm. She could see her breath in front of her and her fingers tingled. The sound of a fire truck one street down made her jump. At the same time Olivia opened her front door, making Beth let out a small scream.
“Hey jumpy!” Olivia held up her palms in surrender.
“Sorry.” Beth laughed once and shook her head as Olivia lead her into the house. Olivia’s house was toasty warm and smelt like cinnamon and oranges.
Olivia pulled Beth into a hug and pulled back, a small smile on her face. “How are you?”
Beth bit down on the inside of her cheek, wondering why she felt so empty and asleep. “I’m…fantastic.”
“I meant seriously Beth.” Olivia rolled her eyes.
“I’ve been better…I’ve been worse.” Beth shrugged one shoulder as her and Olivia headed up to Olivia’s room. “Is Star coming?”
“Yeah, she said she had something she had to take care of. She’ll be here…” Olivia glanced at the her iPod dock that was resting atop her redwood desk, the time glowing in bright blue. “Pretty soon I’d guess.”
“What does she have to take care of?”
“Who knows, it’s Star.” Olivia laughed as her and Beth took a seat on top of her brown and light blue bed spread, the matching pillows scattered on the floor.
“Very true.” Beth agreed.
“Are you sure you’re up for this?” Olivia asked at the same time.
“Why wouldn’t I be? I’m Beth Taylor. I’m always up for a new revenge scheme. And this is my plan, this is my baby.” Beth laughed once. “I can’t not be up for this.”
“We’d never do it without you, but we don’t have to do it today if you’re not up for it.” Olivia offered, hesitation and sympathy painted all over her face.
“Oh please.” Beth sighed dramatically and rolled her eyes. “Everyone needs to stop treated me like I’m some dynamite preparing to blow.”
“It’s not like that Beth. It’s just with everything about Mr. Werner…I’d understand if this didn’t seem so important right now.” Olivia shrugged.
“Trust me, this is all I want to do right now.” Beth shrugged and lifted her chin higher. “No more pity s*** okay? I’m still the baddest untouchable b**** out there. No matter what that bastard did.”
“Baddest?” Olivia laughed once.
“Shut up.” Beth rolled her eyes and narrowed her eyes at a picture hanging on Olivia’s wall. It was of Olivia, Star, Megan, and Aaron from a few months ago, in the background there was a dark figure watching them. It almost looked as if it were Mr. Werner. They were standing in the outside hallway in front of his classroom…Beth shook her head and looked back to Olivia. “So are we doing this or are you chickening out?”
“Oh please.” Olivia rolled her eyes and she pulled a notebook out of her desk. “Look who you’re talking to.”
Olivia’s high pitched doorbell sounded. She sighed and ran out the door. Beth could hear the thumping of her feet against the carpet stairs and then the sound of her yanking the heavy wooden door open. Beth had always hated their front door, and suggested more than once that they get a new one. She could never get it open herself, and then whenever she could have sworn she closed it, she looked back to see it swinging open.
Olivia and Star appeared back through the door, a huge grin painted across Star’s face. She had her brown hair braided to the side, her bangs bumped in the front. She wore her gold glitter eye shadow, skinny jeans, high heeled back boots, and a brown boho looking halter. She tossed her white leather jacket onto Olivia’s bed and nearly jumped up and down as she looked at Beth, her mouth still twisted into a huge grin.
“We’re all set ladies.” She purred as she took a seat on Olivia’s bed.
Olivia and Beth exchanged a look at then looked to Star, both confused. “What are you talking about?” Beth wondered.
“The prank!” Star rolled her eyes as she pulled a piece of gum from her purse. “Get with the program guys. You’re slower than my grandma.”
“What did you do?” Beth demanded, her eye brows shooting up. They hadn’t planned or discussed any actions yet. They never began a prank without the others knowing.
“Oh calm down.” Star rolled her eyes, stretching herself out on Olivia’s bed. “I didn’t do anything. I just set everything up.”
“Anyway.” Olivia cut in, pushing Star’s feet to the side so she could sit back down on her bed. “We’ve got some serious planning to do.”
“Hold on.” Beth held up a finger, her eyes narrowing on Star. “What do you mean you set everything up? What did you do?” Beth demanded.
“Calm down.” Star rolled her eyes, an exaggerated exhale escaping her throat. “All I did was write down exactly what we’re going to say and reserve our spot for next Sunday’s paper. We have to send in the information by the end of tomorrow.”
Beth exhaled and nodded a few times. She’d forgotten about the decoy rumor. “Um, did you write down all of the information to send the paper?” Beth asked, half in a day dream, as she scratched her forehead with two fingers. She glanced at her purple nail polish for a moment, frowning at all of the chips, and looked back up at Star.
“Yes ma’am.” Star smiled and pulled a folder out of her bag. She handed Beth two pieces of printer paper stapled together. She scanned over the small print, nodded to herself.
“This is good.” Beth nodded and handed the papers back to Star. “Good job.”
“Thank you mother. Would you like to check the rest of my homework?” Star joked and Olivia laughed with her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Beth demanded.
“Oh don’t get all pissed about it Beth. You’ve just been really uptight lately. All…professional and s***.” Olivia shrugged and Star nodded in agreement.
“You two are insane. Do I need to remind you who came up with this plan? And even if I am being a little serious, don’t I have good reason to?”
“You said you didn’t want to be treated any different just because of Mr. Werner.” Olivia reminded her, raising her eyes brows. “Which one is it?”
“I don’t want to be treated any different.” Beth nodded once. “But I’m not boring now. Okay, bitches?” Beth sat up a little straighter and smiled her devious smile. “We’ve got some serious work to do.”
As Olivia and Star planned on how they would carry out the plan Beth actually read through the work that Star had typed up. They planned on carrying out the actual prank on the Wednesday after the Sunday when the paper with their article was released. That way it gave Kristen a little time to be humiliated by the decoy prank, and then she wouldn’t see the actual one coming.
“Beth?” Star asked, looking up from the notebook that her and Olivia were bent over. She tossed her side braid over her shoulder and smacked her gum. “How did you want Kristen to find out? Rumor? Parker? You? How?”
“That is a problem.” Beth murmured to herself as she scooted over to them and glanced down at their notebook. Olivia’s squiggly and intricate handwriting covered the paper. “How about we do something like a note from Parker?”
“Even though it’s Parker, he still has a little more class than that. Don’t you think?” Star wondered.
“Then what do you think?” Beth asked, chewing on her thumb nail, the purple nail polish almost completely gone.
“Do you think you could get Parker to say it to her face?” Star wondered. “I mean he’s still like in love with you and everything. Couldn’t you like seduce him into doing it?”
“I just patched things up with Aaron, I don’t want to risk it by fake flirting with my ex boyfriend…that I already cheated on my boyfriend with…” Beth trailed off, biting her lip. “He’d think I was cheating again.”
“Not if you tell him the plan!” Olivia piped up.
“I can’t tell him!” Beth shook her head quickly. “He hates all of our revenge stuff. Telling him would make it even worse.”
“Parker can’t seriously be dating her because he likes her. He’s probably got some plan of his own. My guess is that he’d go for it if we explained the plan to him.” Star suggested.
“Or he really does like Kristen and then tells her our plan so it backfires?” Beth rose her eye brows at Star, swallowing hard. She sighed as she thought of all of the times she’d seen Parker and Kristen together. As sickening as it was to watch, they looked really happy together. The kind of couple happiness, that you just can’t fake. They’re really and truly dating, and Beth could tell that it was turning into something serious. And as much as she didn’t want to admit it-it was obviously real. “We can’t take that risk, it could ruin everything.”
“Olivia?” Olivia’s brother Anthony called as he knocked on the door. Olivia’s shiny brass door knob turned and her door slowly opened as Anthony’s head appeared. “Can I come in?”
“Um…” Olivia smiled like she’d been caught. She threw the papers into Star’s folder to hide them and nodded. “Yeah, sure, come in Anthony.”
Anthony closed the door behind him and leaned against Olivia’s closet doors. He eyed Star, Olivia, and Beth suspiciously.
“Can we help you?” Olivia pushed.
Beth couldn’t help but still think Anthony was cute. She’d had a crush on him back when they were in junior high. He was only a year older, she hadn’t thought that it was such a stretch. He was a senior this year…and he had a senior girlfriend. Beth sighed internally. She still couldn’t figure out how on earth he’d pick that toothpick, bleach blonde, fake boobed, air head. She was such a better option.
“You guys aren’t at your stupid revenge game again, are you?” He wondered, eyeing the folder that Olivia had shoved all of the papers into. Anthony had never approved of their little hobby.
“What do you want Anthony?” Olivia demanded, moving the folder with her foot.
“Who’s the unlucky victim this time?” He joked bitterly, crossing his arms over his chest. He was just mad because they’d gotten him pretty good when they were freshman. It had looked pretty bad; he was the most popular sophomore boy after all, and he got dissed by a couple of freshman girls. His football buddies made fun of him ever since.
“If you really want to know, it’s Kristen Dollsworth.” Olivia told him. “And it’s not really a game Anthony, we don’t allow other players. We only go after Kristen. You were just a special exception.” She shrugged.
Anthony clenched his teeth.
“Oh calm down!” Olivia rolled her eyes. “I was just kidding. What did you want?”
“I overheard your conversation when I was passing your room.” She smiled slightly sheepish. “What are you planning on Parker Patterson?”
“I already told you, we’re going after Kristen Dollsworth, that’s who we only and ever go after.” Olivia rolled her eyes.
“He’s dating Kristen and he’s a good friend and teammate of mine, so you’re going to tell me right now what you’re planning.” He demanded in a strict older brother voice.
“Just because you’re a year older, doesn’t mean you’re the boss of me.” Olivia snapped. “It’s none of your business and we have work to do. So if you don’t mind,” Olivia motioned for him to leave and gave him a sarcastic smile.
Anthony snorted, walked out and slammed the door behind him.
“I know what we need!” Star gasped.
“What?” Beth and Olivia both snapped quickly.
Just as Star began to explain Beth’s cell phone buzzed. She held up one finger to Star and Olivia. “Hello?”
“Beth, it’s Kristen.” The voice on the other line responded.
Beth gasped and covered the speaker. “Shh!” She snapped and pointed towards the phone. “Shut up! It’s Kristen!” She explained as she walked out in the hallway, closing the door behind her.
“Hi Kristen…?” Beth said in a question.
“Look I wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t an emergency, so just hear me out, okay?”
“Keep talking.”
“It’s gone.” Kristen announced.
“What’s gone…?” Beth trailed off, not following.
“The Jameson folder.” Kristen explained in a smaller voice. “It’s gone. That robber who broke into my house last week stole it. I just noticed.”
“What do you mean it’s gone?” Beth gasped, her eyes getting watery, her throat beginning to feel like it was full of cotton balls. Her heart pounded in her chest like she was running a marathon and she swallowed hard to speak again. “It can’t be gone.”
“It is.”
“Then what are we supposed to do?” Beth snapped.
“There’s nothing we can do!” Kristen shouted. “It’s gone.”
“Oh s***.” Beth cursed under her breath and glanced back at Olivia’s door. She realized she was pacing back and forth in the hallway. She took a deep breath and began shaking her free hand at her side. “There’s got to be something we can do. Did you see who it was who broke into your house?” Beth demanded.
“No, he was wearing a ski mask.” Kristen explained.
“Damn.” Beth muttered and continued pacing. “Thank you for telling me.” She finally added.
“You’re welcome. I was actually hoping you could come up with some way to fix this.” Kristen admitted.
“Like you said, there really is nothing we can do.” Beth said slowly, feeling weird talking to Kristen, let alone nicely. All they’d been for years was horrible to each other.
“Just watch your back. I don’t think the guy who broke into my house managed to steal that folder and only that folder by accident.” Kristen went on.
“Wait, he didn’t steal anything but the folder?” Beth’s jaw dropped.
“Only the folder.” Kristen told her, her voice obviously showing fear.
Beth and Kristen hung up the phone at the same time. Beth slipped her phone back into her pocket and starred at Olivia’s door, both of her hands locked at her sides. How was she supposed to concentrate on ruining Kristen when she’d just had that conversation with her? When, in the first time in a long time, they actually had something in common. And even though that thing in common was fearing for their lives over the same thing, it still counted.
Beth jumped at a hand wrapping around her wrist from behind. She turned to see Anthony standing there, towering over her. She swallowed hard, her eyes widening. As much as she wanted to be afraid of Anthony, she couldn’t help but find him incredibly attractive. On his face was a scowl and she could see that he’d heard the entire conversation she’d had with Kristen over the phone a few moments ago.
“Um, hi.” Beth squeaked, taking a step away from Anthony.
He stepped with her and raised his eye brows. “We need to talk.” Was all he said as he pulled her into his room and closed the door.

The author's comments:
Please keep reading!

Anthony’s door clicked at she turned the lock. Beth stood frozen for a few moments, gazing at his room in awe. As weird as it was, she’d actually always wanted to know what his room looked like, and had tried to picture it more than just a few times. His large brown bed was in the corner, an old oak desk resting against the opposite wall. He had a guitar leaning beside his bed, a keyboard against the same wall, and a flat screen television hanging over his desk. Of all the things Beth had imagined, this was never it.
“What’s going on?” Beth demanded in a small voice, still looking around his room.
“I could ask you the same thing.” Anthony responded, crossing his arms and sitting down in his black rolling desk chair.
“They’re going to notice if I don’t come back soon.” Beth reminded him, pointing to Olivia’s bedroom.
“What’s going on?” He repeated in a firm voice.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Beth shrugged and turned towards the door. “I need to get back to my friends now.”
“Hold up.” Anthony responded, he was suddenly blocking the door. “You’re gonna give me some answers. Why were you talking to Kristen Dollsworth on the phone out here, and then going back into my sister’s room planning to destroy her?”
“Eavesdrop much?” Beth snapped.
“Just tell me why and you can go.”
“It’s not like that Anthony.” Beth shook her head. “I was on the phone with Kristen because she called me.”
“Why were you so upset about what she told you?” Anthony asked, obviously suspicious. But what could he possibly think that Beth was up to that he had to shove his way into her business?
“Don’t you have anything better to do than poke your nose into other people’s business?” Beth demanded as she crossed her arms.
Anthony just rose his eye brows and waited.
Beth exhaled dramatically. “Just because I sincerely hate Kristen Dollsworth now doesn’t mean that we weren’t friends in the past. And we have some things that we did in the past that kind of tie us together. I’m still helping Olivia and Star destroy her, we still are getting our revenge.”
“Revenge on what?” Anthony laughed once.
“Did you hear about what she did to me?” Beth demanded.
“When are you going to learn how stupid these grudges of yours are? Revenge isn’t the answer Beth.” Anthony lectured in a condescending voice.
Beth snorted and rolled her eyes. “Revenge isn’t the answer? Ha! That’s a joke! Revenge solves everything. It may not be the answer, but it sure as hell works as a solution.”
“Look, I’m not getting in this stupid teenage girl cat fight stuff. I’m just telling you to be careful who you pretend to be. You can’t be on both sides forever.”
“Is that what this is about?” Beth snorted. “You think I’m still friends with Kristen? That’s a joke!” Beth laughed and rolled her eyes. “If you’re going to spy on other people, at least get your facts right. It’s nothing like that.” Beth laughed again as she pushed past Anthony and opened his door.
Beth quickly returned to Olivia’s bedroom where Olivia and Star were still bent over their papers, as if nothing was wrong. They hadn’t seemed to hear anything. As Beth walked through the door both of their head snapped up and huge grins formed on their faces.
“We know what to do.” Olivia announced excitedly.
“What do you mean? I thought we were going with my plan.” Beth asked, confused and slightly angry. She leaves the room for five minutes and they already throw her plan out the window? She thought that everyone was as excited about it as she was.
“No, no, no, we are.” Star nodded quickly. “This is just a way to carry out your plan. A way to make it so Kristen will have no clue that it’s us whose pulling the strings here.”
“I’m listening.” Beth nodded.
“You know how Kristen got you and Aaron to break up by catching you cheating on him with Parker?” Star began.
“No, really Star? I forgot.” Beth snapped sarcastically.
“Just stay with me okay.” Star rolled her eyes and shifted her weight impatiently on the bed. “What if instead of us getting Parker to dump Kristen, we got her to cheat on him, and then do to her what she did to you?” Star explained.
“How would we get Kristen to cheat on Parker though?” Beth wondered.
“Didn’t you hear about Oliver Smith’s party tonight?” Star wondered.
“Yeah I heard, but I don’t see how that has anything to do with this…” Beth trailed off, her forehead creasing.
“You know Kristen wouldn’t be able to resist if the hottest boy at school threw himself at her when they were both drunk.” Olivia went on.
“How do you know Kirsten’s even going to that party?”
“We can only hope.” Olivia shrugged.
“So what do you think?” Star asked, a hopeful smile on her face.
“I think it’s an awesome plan.” Beth admitted. “But I thought we were going to convince Kristen that we got Parker to ask her out as a joke and that he really never loved her.”
“I know,” Olivia nodded and shrugged one shoulder sheepishly. “Don’t you think this would be easier to do though?”
“I mean, they both accomplish the same thing. They both leave Kristen with a broken heart and no boyfriend.” Star agreed, looking to Olivia who was also nodding.
“And then after she hooks up with the hottest guy in school we can have him just make it a one night stand. Have him tell her he just used her and that he didn’t really like her. He can only go after her because we told him to.” Olivia tossed the papers back into the folder and looked at Beth hopefully.
“Then we get both your original plan and our new plan in.” Star agreed. “What do you think?”
“What about the decoy rumor?” Beth wondered as she chewed on her pinkie nail.
Star and Olivia looked at each other and then back to Beth. “We hadn’t really thought about it.” Olivia shrugged.
“Do you think we still need to do it?” Star wondered.

“I say we inform the rest of the world about Kristen’s eating disorder some other time. We always need another prank right?” Beth shrugged.

“Does that mean you’re in for our plan? To make Kristen cheat on Parker?” Olivia demanded hopefully.
Beth bit the inside of her cheek and stared at the both of them for a moment. She couldn’t help but think about that phone call she’d had with Kristen, and that conversation she’d had with Anthony. Was it really the right time to get her revenge on Kristen with everything else that was going on? Shouldn’t she be worrying about how they were going to get that folder back? Shouldn’t she be working with Kristen, not against her?
Beth sighed as she remembered all of the things that Kristen had done to her. She really did deserve a nice big helping of her own medicine. She’d humiliated Beth in front of the entire school, broken her heart, made Aaron dump her, and got the satisfaction of watching it all. Beth couldn’t let Kristen Dollsworth stomp all over her life.
Beth smiled a devious smile at Olivia and Star and nodded. “I think we have a phone call to make.”
“Yes!” Olivia and Star squealed at the same time as they high fived each other.
“This is going to be awesome!” Olivia announced, grinning, as she rose to her feet and grabbed her cell phone.
“And by the hottest boy in school you meant…” Beth trailed off with a smile.
“The one and only.” Star nodded.
“Someone who just might be willing to do anything for you.” Olivia raised her eye brows and handed Beth her cell phone.
Beth hit speed dial number fifteen and waited as the phone rang. She wondered if he would be able to hear the phone, the party had probably already started. “Hello?” His voice came over the phone.
Beth giggled once to herself and held her index finger up to her lips, looking over at Olivia and Star who were laughing hysterically. “It’s Beth Taylor, and I need a favor.” Beth spoke seductively into the speaker, excitement flowing through every vein in her body. This was going to be the sweetest revenge she’d ever gotten on Kristen Dollsworth.
She almost felt bad about being so excited about this while there were much more serious things happening around her. But she’d been the serious common sense Beth for way too long. It was time for her to get back to her revenge loving, exciting self. And it wasn’t like they were pulling this prank on some random innocent girl, it was Kristen Dollsworth they were talking about!
The b**** had it coming.

The author's comments:
Next chapter=very funny! Keep reading! :)

Kristen was on edge since the folder went missing. She couldn’t even enjoy that fact that she’d finally gotten out of the hospital. And she couldn’t even enjoy the fact that it was a Saturday night. She sat on her bed up in her room, reruns of 90210 blaring on her TV, even though she wasn’t paying attention. She chewed on her thumb nail nervously, wondering if maybe she was overreacting, maybe it would be no big deal. Shouldn’t she feel relieved for having that folder off her back?
Kristen glanced at her windows, which had the blinds fully lowered and the curtains drawn tightly. She felt ostracized from the world, hidden away, throw out. She sighed as she realized she was back to the same problem, Parker hadn’t called. You’d think he’d be a little more aware and concerned since she just got out of the hospital the other day, but he still seemed to be ignoring her.
Something about it just seemed…weird. She had no other way to describe it. He was acting weird. Like in the hospital, when they’re together he’s all perfect and ‘What can I do for you now?’, but other than that, they might as well not be dating.
He doesn’t call and ask her out on dates, he doesn’t text message her just because, he doesn’t show up randomly for a surprise. All of the regular boyfriend stuff that Kristen was so used to seemed to fly right past Parker’s head.
Kristen had thought that after she’d gotten off of the phone with Beth she’d feel a little better, having someone equally terrified and miserable, but she felt no relief. She wondered if she’d ever get over the folder being stolen, or if they’d ever lay eyes on it again. She kind of hoped they would never see it again, because that would mean that no one else would see it, and everything inside that folder would stay a secret.
But everybody knows that secrets don’t stay secrets. They’re only made to be found out over time.
Kristen covered her face with her hands at the thought. She didn’t know what she’d do if those secrets got out.
Kristen jumped at the sound of her phone, the intricate bells and dings ringtone on too high of a volume. She rose her eye brows at the caller I.D. Parker Patterson. Not likely.

“This is Kristen.” She answered expectantly. She wondered if it was one of Parker’s meat head football buddies. The kind that called her from Parker’s phone, pretending to be Parker, all of the time. She’d gotten sick of it. It was hard enough to distinguish voices over the phone, and now they were purposely imitating her boyfriend’s voice. To make it even more difficult to tell when it was really Parker or not, they all kind of sounded alike to begin with.
“Hey Kristen! It’s Parker!” He responded in an excited voice. She sighed as she realized it really was him.
“I know.” Kristen retorted bitterly.
“…Is everything okay?” Parker wondered hesitantly, his voice trailing off.
“I don’t know Parker, is everything okay? Oh yeah, you wouldn’t know! On account of you never freaking talk to me anymore.” Kristen barked. She shifted her weight and the bed squeaked in objection.
“Whoa there.” Parker laughed once. “I didn’t realize I was on trial.”
“Wonderful. Yes, let’s make this into a joke Parker.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say!” Parker replied defensively. “You’re mad at me because I don’t spend every waking hour thinking, talking, or being with you. Sorry that I have a life outside of this relationship.”
“Wow.” Was all Kristen said, taken back. “Sorry I’m holding you down.” She rose to her feet and padded over to her window. She opened the curtains, pinning them back on the hooks on either side, and opened the blinds. It was just getting dark and there were cars lining her street. She smiled slightly at the setting sun and the street lights that had just turned on. A runner ran past her house, making her flinch from the memory of her run in with Aaron awhile ago.
“You know it’s not like that.” Parker defended.
“Do I Parker? Do I know? Because all I’m hearing from you is how you have better things to do than talk to me. All I’m hearing is how you have more important things in your life other than me. And how you have no time for me. All I’m hearing is how you don’t give a freaking damn about me.” Kristen spit. She let the blinds fall back to the windowsill and she took a seat on her bed which let out another squeak.
“Calm down Kris.” Parker sounded like he was rolling his eyes. “Major overreaction. I never said any of that.”
“You know what Parker? I don’t care if you did or didn’t say that in those exact words. Everything that you have said and all of the things that you have done have shown me that. So I’m done.” Kristen snapped.
“What does that mean?”
“It means…It means I don’t want to talk to you right now. So just…give me some space, okay?” Kristen growled as she hung up her cell phone. She tossed it to the foot of her bed and exhaled loudly as she blinked hard. She wasn’t sure how she felt. Was she relieved? Sad? Angry? Confused? Regretful? She wasn’t sure.
She’d considered dumping his sorry ass right then and there, but deep down knew that she’d probably regret it later.
Kristen jumped at the sound of knocking on the door. “Oh!” She gasped. She noticed that ever since the folder had gone missing she’d been more jumpy than usual.
Her mom stood in the doorway, arms crossed, eye brows lifted half way up her forehead. She wore her blonde, high-lighted, straightened hair down, and she was wearing a pair of Kristen’s old Black Orchid jeans with a black Juicy Couture sweatshirt. Kristen almost wanted to roll her eyes, could her mom try any harder to be a teenager?
“You scared me.” Kristen gulped as her breathing returned to normal.

“Is everything alright?” Kristen’s mother wondered, clicking her acrylic French nails against Kristen’s wooden door frame.
“Fantastic.” Kristen retorted sarcastically. Had her mom honestly forgotten that she had just gotten out of the hospital.
“You should clean that up.” Her mom nodded towards the contents of her desk that were scattered on the floor from the burglary.
“Really mom?” Kristen demanded, “You’re asking me to clean my room? For one thing, I just got out of the hospital, and for another since when did you do responsible parent things? Why do you care if my room’s clean?”
“I don’t appreciate the attitude Kristen.” Her mom responded, puffing her chest out a little further and lifting her chin higher.
“Sorry.” Kristen responded in a monotone. “Did you need something?”
“Am I not allowed to check on my daughter?”
“Well…” Kristen trailed off, watching her mother suspiciously “Really the only times you “check on me” is when you want something.”
“I just came to let you know that dinner will be ready in a few minutes.” She shrugged and ducked out of the door, closing it harshly.
Kristen exhaled and turned back to her television. She was disappointed that Parker hadn’t called back after she’d just hung up on him like that. Had he wanted her to break up with him? Did he really not care? Was he seriously not upset about their spontaneous fight?
Kristen jumped out of her bed on an impulse and threw her sweatpants onto the floor. She pulled her favorite Miss Me jeans on and her gold glittery “slut shirt” that her and Andrea had gotten as a joke four months ago. She snatched her cell phone off the foot of the bed and frowned at the “no missed calls” notification. She slipped her feet into her favorite brown wedge heels and grabbed her car keys. She needed to get out of the house. Now.
She rushed into the bathroom, and reapplied all of her makeup. And stood frozen for a moment, watching herself in the mirror. Kristen fluffed her brown hair with her fingers and pursed her lips for a moment. “You’re Kristen freaking Dollsworth.” She whispered to her reflection. “Don’t ever forget that.”
She rushed down the stairs, her black North Face jacket in one hand, her cell phone and car keys in the other.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Her father asked, looking up from his book. He was sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for dinner. He was still clad in a dress suit, tie, and still had his fancy black Italian leather shoes on. Her mother stood over the stove, the bright green oven-gloves on her hands.
“Yeah. Dinner’s ready.” She agreed.
“Sorry, maybe tomorrow. I totally forgot I had plans tonight.” Kristen lied and shrugged simply. “I’ll be back later, don’t wait up for me!” She announced as she closed the front door behind her.
She slipped into her jacket, her breath fogging up in front of her eyes. She slipped into her car, turned the heat on, and sat there, waiting for her car to warm up. She wasn’t exactly sure where she was going yet. She could drop by Sarah Mae’s, Andrea’s, Amber’s, or even Megan’s. And there was always that party down at Oliver Smith’s house. At least there was the guarantee that all of the hot football guys would be there. Kristen knew she should think about other guys like that when she had a boyfriend, but she was pissed at Parker, and he deserved it. And she deserved a night of fun, of complete irresponsible fun.
Kristen drove down her street and headed in the approximate direction of Sarah Mae’s, Andrea’s, and Oliver Smith’s houses. She decided not to turn the radio on, leaving the car in complete silence besides of the sounds of Kristen’s breathing. She pulled up to a red light and groaned. It was the one stop light in town that was notorious for being impossibly long. You could be the only car at the light and still sit there for five minutes.
She looked out her window and starred at the luxury homes lined with perfectly trimmed hedges and healthy looking trees. Across the street was the outdoor shopping mall that her and her friends used to spend every weekend at. The wind blew and pushed piles of leaves from the gutters across the intersection. She dreaded getting back out of her toasty warm car into the freezing cold. Her car’s thermometer said it was only six degrees out. She wished she would have worn boots, or at least something with socks.
Kristen looked around her to see that she was one of two total cars at the intersection and sighed. She had very little patience at the moment.
She tried to decide where she was going to go. The next street was where Oliver Smith’s, Sarah Mae’s, and Andrea’s houses no longer were in the same direction. She could turn right for Andrea and Oliver’s, or go forward for Sarah Mae’s. She tapped her right index finger against the steering wheel, thinking. She gazed at the red traffic light absentmindedly, and then looked down, trying to blink the spots in her eyes away.
A green glow appeared and she launched the car forward. She went on forward, figuring that she could pick Sarah Mae up and they could both go to Oliver Smith’s party together.
Kristen hoped that Sarah Mae didn’t already have plans with Trey or something, now that they were exclusive.
At the next stop light she picked up her phone and dialed and Sarah Mae’s number. Sarah picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”
“Hey Sarah, it’s Kristen. I’m a few blocks from your house, so I’ll be there in two minutes. Be ready for a party.” Kristen explained with a hopeful smile on her lips.
“A party?” Sarah Mae squeaked in a nervous voice. “I’m not ready for a party!”
“That’s why I’m giving you a heads up. So hang up the phone and get dressed already!” Kristen started the car again as she hung up and tossed her phone over onto the passenger seat.
Kristen still had spots in her eyes. She rubbed one of her eyes with her right hand, and flipped the radio onto her favorite station. She pulled up outside Sarah Mae’s house and pulled the keys out of the ignition. She knew Sarah Mae wouldn’t be ready, so she might as well go inside and wait.
Zipping her jacket up to her chin and timidly cracking the car door open, Kristen hoped out into the cold and rushed towards the front door. She knocked twice and rung the door bell.
“It’s open!” Sarah Mae called from inside, out of breath.
Kristen stepped inside, her arms wound tightly around herself.
“Give me like, five minutes.” Sarah Mae held up her hand as she rushed back up the stairs.
“Fine.” Kristen sighed and walked over to the brown leather sofa to take a seat. She starred at the burning fire place. She wondered where Sarah Mae’s parents were, and why Sarah hadn’t already had plans. She hoped everything was okay between her and Trey, they were so cute together.
Sarah Mae came rushing down the stairs, huffing and puffing. She wore a grey shirt with black lace designs, dark, skinny, Black Orchid jeans, and her velvet black booties that Kristen had always loved. Her hair was just pulled back into a messy bun and she grabbed her black and green Columbia jacket. “How do I look?” She wondered as she spun around.
“Fabulous, as usual.” Kristen rose to her feet and smiled.
“Okay you look amazing.” Sarah Mae responded, motioning towards Kristen’s entire outfit.
“With my slut shirt?” Kristen laughed.
“I never thought the shirt was that slutty, just…sexy.” Sarah Mae shrugged with a smiled and nodded towards the door. “You ready?”
“Is it cool if we go to Oliver Smith’s party?” Kristen asked as she wrapped her still numb fingers around the brass door knob.
Sarah Mae crinkled her nose for a moment and then her expression softened. “A party’s a party right?”
“You got that right bee-yotch.” Kristen laughed as they rushed out to her car and cranked the heat up as high as it would go. Kristen tossed the pair of mittens, sunglasses, and the old plastic water bottle that were resting on the passenger seat into the back of the car and turned the radio down a notch.
“So it’s Oliver Smith’s party?” Sarah Mae wondered with a disgusted look on her face.
“Are you okay with that?” Kristen asked hesitantly as they pulled onto Oliver’s street.
“Yeah, like I said, a party’s a party. It’s just…it’s Oliver Smith. Are you okay with going to his party?” Sarah Mae wondered.
“It was my idea remember?”
“Very true.” Sarah Mae agreed as Kristen pulled her car over to the side of the street and parked. The entire street was lined with cars and you could hear the music from Oliver’s house from a block away. It wasn’t as crowded as Nick Bailey’s party had been, but it was close.
Kristen snorted as they passed Nick Bailey’s Jeep and they pushed their way through into Oliver’s house. A lot of the kids were in his crazy expensive living room. They had an entire home theater with every video game console, DVD, and game imaginable, their own mini bowling alley, a mini bar in the corner, and the staircase that lead to their game room down in the basement.
In the backyard there were white twinkling Christmas lights lighting up the porch, and traveling back into their deep lawn, leading all the way to their covered up pool. There were only a few people out there because of the cold.
Kristen swallowed hard, feeling slightly claustrophobic. You couldn’t turn around without bonking heads with someone. And even though you’d think by eleventh grade everyone would have gotten the memo, you’d be surprised by how many teenagers still didn’t wear deodorant.
Kristen and Sarah Mae shoved their way through and filled a plastic cup with beer. The music seemed to make the entire house vibrate and spin and Kristen was beginning to feel a bit woozy. Her vision was beginning to blur and the ground seemed to be spinning beneath her. She wondered why she already felt so out of it. She wasn’t even drunk yet.
Sarah Mae lead Kristen by the hand through the crowd of drunk teenagers until they reached the living room. The boys had set up some game on the Xbox 360 and there was a crowd of sophomore girls watching and giggling like morons. It wasn’t even funny. Could they be any more obvious?
“Is Parker coming?” Sarah Mae shouted to Kristen over the music.
Kristen shrugged. “Who knows, who cares?”
“You guys fighting?” She wondered as she took a big gulp of her beer.
“What?” Kristen shouted back, moving her ear closer.
“Are you two fighting?” Sarah screamed.
“I don’t know.” Kristen shrugged. “Maybe?”
“Come on, let’s get away from these idiots.” Sarah Mae suggested, nodding towards the drunken boys who were dancing dangerously close to them.
Sarah Mae and Kristen pushed through the people again until they reached the landing of the upper floor. It held a luxury ten thousand dollar couch and a large, shiny, black grand piano. There were still a lot of people hanging out up there, but not as many as in the living room.
“What happened with you and Parker? Is that why you wanted to come to night?” Sarah Mae asked, squinting her eyes at the pulsing music.
Kristen just rose her eye brows and smiled. “Two plus two.”
“What happened?”
“He’s being an ass, that’s what happened.” Kristen retorted bitterly as she bit down on the inside of her cheek. She didn’t want to think about Parker.
“Are you guys broken up?” Sarah Mae wondered as she glanced over the overhang down at the dancing drunken boys. She laughed once and turned back to Kristen.
“I don’t know.” Kristen sighed over dramatically. “I just don’t know.”
“You came!” Someone announced cheerfully behind Kristen. She turned to see Oliver Smith standing behind her, a huge grin on his face and a cup of beer half empty in his right hand. He wore dark wash jeans and a casual black button down. His medium dirty blonde hair was perfectly messy in his Jesse McCartney hair due. Kristen had to admit, he was really good looking.
“Yeah, I couldn’t miss a party.” Kristen shrugged with a smile.
Oliver just laughed once and waved once to Sarah Mae. “Good to see you.”
“Bathroom?” Sarah Mae asked, giving Kristen a I’m-going-to-leave-you-two-alone,-you’re-welcome look.
“Down the hall, third door on your left.” Oliver pointed and then looked back to Kristen as Sarah Mae wandered down the hall, looking back at Kristen with a smile.
“Having a good time?” Oliver wondered. “Need any more beer?”
Kristen looked down at her cup that she’d barely touched sheepishly. Kristen Dollsworth couldn’t be standing around with a full cup. She chugged one large gulp after the other until the cup was completely empty. “Nah, I’m good.” She responded with a laugh.
“Damn, I’m impressed.” Oliver laughed as he lifted his plastic cup to his lips. “Let me get you some more.” He offered as he grabbed her empty cup and disappeared into the crowd.
Kristen sighed dramatically, looking around. Where had Sarah Mae gone? She shifted her weight to the other foot uncomfortably as she waited for Oliver to come back.
Finally he appeared through the crowd and handed Kristen the cup full of beer. She took a large sip again and smiled widely at him. “So, you excited for basketball season?” She wondered. Oliver played varsity football, basketball, and he was on student council.
“Hell yeah.” Oliver winked and laughed once. “You gonna come watch some of my games?” He wondered.
“Just for you.” Kristen flirted with a cute smile.
“Sweet.” Oliver grinned. His smile began to fade and he swallowed. “Or you know…for Parker.” He nodded.
“No.” Kristen shook her head and took a step towards him. “I’d just come for you.” She whispered seductively in his ear.
“But I thought you and Parker were still…you know…going out.” He responded in a shaky voice as he swallowed loudly.
“I don’t know…” Kristen trailed off and she brought her hand up his arm. “I think we’re over.”
Kristen could feel the beer sloshing around in her stomach. If she wasn’t drunk before, she was now. She hoped her breath wasn’t too horribly disgusting, and she hoped Oliver was as drunk as her. She leaned her head to the side and smiled at him.
“You guys are broken up?” He asked hopefully.
Kristen bit her bottom lip, smiled and nodded.
“Thank God.” Oliver exhaled as he pulled Kristen’s face to his.
Oliver’s lips lasted like beer and vanilla mint chap stick. Kristen kissed him back, her stomach beginning to turn. The room was beginning to spin and she had to throw her arms over his shoulders just to keep from falling over. Oliver kissed her roughly, like they only had so much time. Kristen tightened her arms around his neck as she began to sway back and forth on her feet.
He pulled away from her for a moment, looking at her face with an unreadable expression. Kristen uncomfortably sipped more of her beer, though she knew it was a bad idea.
“I have some place we can go.” Oliver whispered.
Kirsten just nodded as Oliver lead her down the hall by the hand. He pulled her into one of the big wooden doors, closed it behind them and locked it. He didn’t even bother turning the lights on because the moon was glowing so brightly through the window. He pulled Kristen closer to the bed and started kissing her again.
Kristen giggled once as she swayed on her feet again.
Oliver caught her and set her back up straight. “A little tipsy are we?” He laughed.
Kristen nodded with another giggle. “Did you like, slip me something?” To her it sounded like she was in a wind tunnel. She wondered if Oliver could understand her words.
“No.” He laughed with her. “But don’t worry. I’m drunk too. I’m so freaking drunk.” He laughed as they both collapsed onto the bed.

“Hurry up!” Beth snapped in a whisper as her, Star, and Olivia sneaked into the closet of Oliver Smith’s bed room. His closet smelt like cheep cologne and Axe deodorant. Beth held back a gag, she hated that smell. The closet floor was covered with clothes, that Beth suspected were dirty. She pushed the articles of clothing away from her with her foot.
The conversation had actually gone much easier than Beth had expected. Oliver Smith had agreed immediately, and gave them instructions on how they could pull it off. In only a few minutes Oliver was going to bring Kirsten Dollsworth into his room, with Beth, Star, and Olivia hiding in the closet.
They cracked the closet door open slightly, just enough for them to see. The moon shinning through the window was just enough light for them to get a good picture on their cell phones.
Oliver had promised that he would act drunk, so Kristen wouldn’t suspect anything. When in reality, he hadn’t even had a sip of beer all night.
Beth hoped that Oliver would be able to get Kristen drunk enough for their plan to work. If Kristen caught them, it would all be over. But as long as they got the picture first, it didn’t really matter. Kristen could anticipate the sending of the picture, but at least she had no way of stopping it.
Beth covered her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing as Kristen and Oliver stumbled into the room. They were kissing erratically and Kristen was swaying like she was on a giant rollercoaster. Beth bit down on her cheek to keep from laughing. How drunk was she?
Kristen began to fall to the right, as if she were fainting and Oliver caught her with a laugh. He looked back at them in the closet and nodded once. Beth nodded back, not quite sure that Oliver could actually see her. “A little tipsy are we?” He joked as he pulled Kristen back up to standing.
Kristen nodded like an idiot and giggled obnoxiously. “Did you like, slip me something?” She asked stupidly.
“No.” Oliver laughed. “But don’t worry. I’m drunk too.” He lied and looked back at the closet one last time. “I’m so freaking drunk.” He laughed as they both fell onto the bed.
Star nudged Beth’s leg and Olivia gagged. “Ew!” Star whispered as Oliver and Kristen started making out on the bed. They all started shaking with laughter, their hands planted firmly over their mouths to keep from making too much noise.
“Do you think she’s drunk enough to notice if we get out of the closet to take a picture?” Olivia whispered.
“Only one way to find out.” Beth rose her eye brows and smiled excitedly. This was her chance to get Kristen back, and to get her back good.
She crawled out of the closet on her hands and knees, being as quiet as she possibly could. Olivia and Star followed. The carpet beneath them burned Beth’s hands and knees with rug burns but Beth kept going. At least it wasn’t wood floor, then it would hurt and squeak.
Beth gagged at the sounds of Oliver and Kristen making out as she crawled around to the side of the bed that Oliver was on. She poked his back with one finger to let him know she was there and she could see him faintly nod.
Beth squatted and pulled her cell phone out of her pocket.
Kristen giggled like an idiot again as Oliver pulled away and looked back at Beth. “What are you doing?” She asked, clearly very drunk. Beth nodded at him.
“Hmm?” He mumbled and started kissing her again.
Beth took a few pictures with her phone as quickly as she could and Olivia and Star did the same. Beth nodded towards the closet, instructing to go back. The plan was to get in, take the pictures, wait, and then Oliver would lead Kristen out of the room so they could leave.
Beth stayed in a low squat and made her way back to the closet, not willing to get back on her hands and knees. Her thighs were cramping and she felt like they were about to give out beneath her. Olivia and Star crawled quickly and closet the door behind them.
Beth leaned against the wall of Oliver’s closet, her shoulders shaking with laughter. Both of her hands were covering her mouth now, desperately trying not to make any noise.
Tears were streaming down Star’s face from trying so hard not to laugh and Olivia was lying down on the floor, her entire body shaking with laughter. Star silently high fived Beth as they waited for Oliver to take Kristen out of the room.
Beth was thankful that the party was so loud downstairs. Even though the sounds were muffled from the closed door, and most of the noise was a floor away, it was still loud enough to cover up their quiet laughter.
“What are you doing?” They heard Kristen ask in a drunken laugh.
“I think maybe we should slow down.” Oliver responded.
Star elbowed Beth in the ribs, and they both started to laugh silently again. Tears started to form in Beth’s eyes form trying to hard not to laugh.
“Why?” Kristen wondered.
“Because you’re obviously drunk and I don’t want to take advantage of you.” He explained.
“But I want to.” Kristen giggled like the insanely drunk girl she was.
“I’m sorry Kristen.” Oliver replied.
Beth heard the bed squeak as they both rose to their feet. “Why don’t we go find Sarah Mae? I think you need to go home.”
They heard the sound of the door opening and laughter, music, and screaming from the party flooded in. Beth heard the door close and her, Star, and Olivia all stood up at the same time. Beth stretched her arms and legs, her knees and elbows popping in the process. She rubbed her knees with her palms, her bright red rug burns stinging intensely.
Beth exhaled loudly, glad to be able to make noise again. They all exited the closet laughing hysterically.
Star and Olivia high fived Beth, laughs still exploding from their throats. “That was hilarious!” Star announced breathlessly.
“Brilliant!” Olivia agreed.
“Best one yet!” Star added.
“Let’s get out here.” Beth suggested as they made their way to the door. “Does everyone have their cell phones?” Beth checked, her hand resting on the door knob.
“Check!” Star announced.
“Yep.” Olivia agreed.
Beth flung the door open and they quickly made their way through the crowd. The music was too loud to make out any words that anyone was saying. Star could have been screaming to Beth in her ear and she still wouldn’t be able to understand what she was saying.
Everywhere they looked they saw drunk teenagers dancing like idiots or teenagers standing in big groups seeing who could drink the fastest. The group of guys that were downstairs on Oliver’s insane home theater were playing video games, screaming at each other and the screen.
Beth wondered where Oliver’s parents were, and how he managed to convince them to let him have a party like this…if he asked them at all.
Beth lead them outside into the cold night and they all rushed back to her car. Olivia, Star, and Beth jumped inside and turned the heat up, still laughing.
“Oh my God that was awesome!” Olivia laughed as Beth pulled her car out onto the street. “Did you get a good picture Beth?”
“Indeed I did.” Beth laughed as she turned the radio off. She’d had enough loud music for one night.
“I got four!” Star announced.
“So what are we gonna do with the pictures?” Olivia wondered. “Just show them to Parker? Send them around the school?”
“Good question.” Beth murmured as she thought it through in her head. The pictures that they’d gotten of Kristen were even worse than the one that Kristen had sent around of her. It would be appropriate pay back to humiliate Kristen by sending it to everybody. Beth grinned to herself at the idea. Now that’s what she called pay back.
Beth dropped Olivia and Star off at Olivia’s house and then headed back to her house. They planned to send the pictures on Tuesday morning, right before school. That way Kristen would already be there, and she’d have no way of avoiding the complete humiliation.
They’d wanted to do it Monday, but Beth had Mr. Werner’s court thing that day, and she was missing school. Olivia and Star wouldn’t think of doing it without her.
Beth parked her car in the driveway and rushed into her house. Her fingers were tingling and she was shivering violently. It must have been zero degrees outside.
She mentally reminded herself to call or text Oliver later that night, he deserved a thank you. That was the best acting she’d ever seen. How he managed to pull it off without laughing was beyond her. She didn’t know if even she could have done it.
“Where have you been?” A voice interrupted Beth’s thoughts as she stopped half way up the stairs.
Beth turned to see her mother standing in the kitchen, arms crossed over her chest. “It’s past midnight.” She went on.
“I—I—I was at Olivia’s house, I told you that.” Beth reminded her, trying to act casual. She didn’t know why she was suddenly nervous, it wasn’t like she’d done anything wrong. It was Saturday night and she was home before curfew. So why was her mom on her back?
“This late? Were her parent’s okay with that?” Beth’s mom demanded.
“Geez mom,” Beth rolled her eyes and let her jacket slip off her shoulders. “Why are you going all detective on me? I’m home before curfew and everything.”
“I just don’t feel like you’re safe like I did before. And if you weren’t at Olivia’s house, and you were wondering around this late at night, who knows what could have happened to you!”
“Is this about Mr. Werner?” Beth demanded.
“I’m just worried about you hunny.”
“Don’t be.”
“I used to not have to worry. But after what happened with your teacher…”
Beth cut her off. “Look, I know what happened, okay? I very well remember it, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every second of the day!”
“I’m just worried Beth.” Her mother shrugged at her helplessly. “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“Well I appreciate the concern, I really do mom, but I really was at Olivia’s house and I’m perfectly fine. You don’t need to worry about me. I’m not thirteen anymore.” Beth reminded and tossed her coat back down the stairs. It landed on the table beside the coat closet and Beth looked back to her mother. “I’m tired. I’m gonna go to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Beth’s mother nodded and smiled. “Good night! I love you!” She called as Beth began to run back up the stairs.
“Love you too!” Beth called over her shoulder and then ran into the her room, closing the door behind her.
Beth kicked her shoes off into her closet and pulled her hair back into a bun.
Her entire body felt warm from excitement, she couldn’t wait until Tuesday! She let out an exaggerated exhale, letting the anxiety and excitement flow out of her.
Beth swallowed hard as she stared at her calendar that was hanging from her bulletin board. Monday was Mr. Werner’s court date. She couldn’t find it in herself to be excited for it, even though she desperately wanted to put all of that behind her. She dreaded Monday even more than she usually did. She didn’t know if she was afraid, or just didn’t want to have to see Mr. Werner again. What if they didn’t lock him up in jail? What would she do then?
Beth shook her head, and decided that she didn’t need to worry about that until Monday. She slipped her pajamas on and laid down on her bed, staring at the ceiling.
Aaron had told her he’d come with her for moral support, but not even that comforted her. She just didn’t want to go, period.
Beth wished that it could all be forgotten, or that she could go back and change it all from happening. She just didn’t want to have to deal with it.
Her phone announced that she had a missed call from Aaron. Beth sighed and set her phone down on her bedside table. She’d call him back in the morning.
Beth was going to be happy about their prank success tonight and that was it. The only thing that was going to keep her off the edge was her excitement and anticipation for Tuesday. That was the only thing she had left to look forward to.

The author's comments:
Next chapter: very important! Keep reading!

Kristen woke up in her bed, still dressed in her jeans and gold glittery shirt. Her head throbbed and her stomach felt like if she moved she’d puke. She groaned loudly as she searched the room with her eyes for her cell phone. She rolled onto her right side to look on her bedside table and fell back, a shooting pain cursing through her hip. She reached into her pocket to find her cell phone.
It was Sunday morning and she had the worst hangover of her life. She never drinks that much. Kristen groaned again as she looked at the three missed calls from Parker. What was she supposed to say to him? She couldn’t kiss and make up with him now, at least not until she figured out what exactly happened and whether or not she even wanted to be with him anymore.
Last night was really just a big blur. The bright lights, loud music, beer smell, and Oliver Smith. She remembered her head pounding from the loud music, her stomach turning from way too much beer, and Oliver’s beer and vanilla mint mouth all over her. She shivered once. What if something else happened that she just couldn’t remember?
Her blood seemed to go cold as she remember what happened before that party. She’d talked to Beth Taylor about the Jameson folder.
Kristen swallowed hard and shook her head. She didn’t want to think about the folder, the burglar, or Beth Taylor.
Kristen groaned as her phone started ringing, it was Parker, again. Normally she’d be thrilled that he was upset about fighting with her and that he was trying so hard to talk to her, but today it was just annoying. Didn’t she tell him to give her some space?
Kristen rubbed her eyes and yawned, her back arching, and then she flopped back down against her back. She tilted her head as she heard music outside her window. She squinted her eyes as she tried to determine which song it was.
“What the hell?” She snorted as she realized it was some Hannah Montana song. She struggled to get out of her bed and grasped her desk for support. The room began spinning and her vision blurred. Her head pounded and she took a deep breath. It was going to be a long day. She opened her blinds to see nothing outside, and then turned and looked around her room and the music disappeared. She cocked her head to the side and chewed on her lower lip. Was she going completely insane now?
The room seemed to be overly warm and Kristen’s skin burned like she had a fever. Her breath was shallow and her throat felt hard and swollen. Kristen hadn’t thought that she’d had that much to drink last night. She still wasn’t fully convinced that Oliver hadn’t slipped her something.
Then again, why would he have slipped her something if he didn’t even want to hook up with her? That wouldn’t really make much sense.
She nearly screamed at the sound of her phone ringing again. She snatched it up off the bed and glared at Parker’s name that was popping up on the screen. “What?” She demanded into the speaker.
“Well hello to you too…” Parker laughed once.
“What do you want?” Kristen demanded as she stomped over to her closet and grabbed something to wear.
“Yesh Kris, what’s wrong?” Parker wondered as Kristen yanked her jeans on and turned her iPod onto her favorite song, Here’s To The Heartbreakers by Katy McAllister.
“Didn’t I tell you to just give me some space?” Kristen snapped. She took a deep breath as she looked at herself in the mirror. She wasn’t really sure why she was mad at Parker, or if she was even mad at him. She figured she was just angry and needed to take it out on someone. “I’m sorry Parker, I’m…I’m having a rough day.”
“Do you want to go out today?” He offered. “We could go to your favorite pizza place that’s across from the movie theater.”
“Thanks Parker, but I’m…uh…kind of,” Kristen laughed once to herself and glanced at her door, hoping her parents weren’t listening. “Really hung over.”
“When did you get drunk?” Parker laughed once.
“Oliver Smith’s party.” Kristen explained as she yawned and sat back down on her bed. The mattress squeaked in objection and a lock of her hair fell out of her bun and into her eyes. She blew it out of the way and rubbed her eyes. “Sarah Mae and I stopped by last night.”
“Really? I was there and I didn’t see you.”
Kristen was silent for a minute as the chorus of Here’s To The Heartbreakers repeated. Parker was…there? She didn’t know if she was more afraid that maybe he’d seen her, or if she was angry that he’d gone without her. He hadn’t even called and asked if she wanted to go.
“Yeah, it was just a quick stop.” Kristen replied stiffly. She cleared her throat and sniffled. She walked over and turned the light switch on. The sun had been shining brightly through her window so she hadn’t felt the need to turn the lights on.
“Well do you want me to come over? We could just watch some DVD’s.” He offered.
Kristen thought about it for a minute as she stared at the dirty clothes that were splayed across the floor. If she wanted Parker to stay in the dark about her moment with Oliver Smith, she was going to have to act like nothing was wrong. She didn’t want to just give up on Parker, especially because there was nothing going on with her and Oliver. That was a one night kind of thing.
“Um, sure.” Kristen agreed breathlessly, as she pulled a black Juicy Couture sweatshirt over her hot pink and dark blue tank top. “What time?”
“I could drive over in an hour.” Parker offered, his voice sounding questioning.
“Sounds great.” Kristen lied. She really was just in the mood to spend all day watching movies in her bed, alone. At least an hour gave her some time to herself to do whatever she decided she wanted to do.
“Cool. See ya then.” Parker responded as he hung up the phone.
Kristen exhaled dramatically and in frustration as she tossed her phone onto her bed. Was it bad that she didn’t want to spend time with her own boyfriend?
The door made a large thump sound as Kristen slammed it and stormed down into the kitchen. Her parents were nowhere to be seen and the kitchen looked like a tornado had passed through. There were papers and ripped open envelopes scattered all over the counter, and the island was covered with sunglasses, books that no one had ever read, gum wrappers, old birthday and Christmas present gift bags, and door keys that didn’t even work anymore.
The slick wooden floor felt like ice cubes against Kristen’s bare feet and it wasn’t nearly as warm downstairs as it was in Kristen’s room. She turned the thermostat up five degrees and padded over to the pantry. She pulled out her favorite cereal, a bowl, spoon, and her light soy milk.
At the kitchen table, eating all alone in silence, Kristen sighed. She didn’t even know where her parents were. They didn’t bother to let her in on their latest adventures. They could be somewhere in Europe for all she knew.
A flashback of her parents and her in France for a family vacation flooded back into her mind. It was the summer before she’d gone into eighth grade and they’d stayed for a month. She’d gotten more clothes there than anywhere else and they’d taken more pictures than Kristen had even seen in her life. She used to have an entire photo album dedicated to that trip on Facebook, but she’d deleted it after Freshman year, deciding that advertising a family vacation to all of her high school peers was about as lame as she could get.
The clock announced that she only had thirty minutes until Parker got there. She dumped the left over milk into the sink and put her bowl and spoon into the dishwasher.
Kristen rushed into her bathroom and put her face on and pulled her hair into a neater looking bun. She didn’t want Parker to show up and see her looking like some homeless girl. Squaring her shoulders and sucking in her stomach, Kristen stared at herself in the mirror. She didn’t want Parker to see her as this pathetic hung over girl who won’t even go out in the daylight either.
When Parker showed up Kristen was going to turn him back around and instruct him to drive. She didn’t know where, but they were going to go somewhere. Maybe out for lunch, maybe a movie, or bowling, or to Las Vegas. She didn’t care, she just wasn’t going to sit around being pathetic all day.
Kristen walked over to her three way mirror to inspect herself. She grasped the edge of her desk for support as the ground beneath her began to spin again. The air seemed to start drifting away from her, leaving the space around her empty. She gasped for air as her vision began to go in and out of focus and her head throbbed. Kristen couldn’t remember the last time drinking had ever done this to her before. What the hell was in that beer?
Kristen laid down on her bed as she waited for her world to stop spinning. After her vision returned to one picture and the ground beneath her stopped trying to run away from her, she got back on her feet and put her cell phone in her front jean pocket. She grabbed her purse, pulled on a pair of wedge heels and descended the stairs again.
Just as Kristen’s feet made contact with the wooden floor the door bell rang. She threw the door open with a smile.
Parker’s forehead creased and he laughed once. “I thought you were too hung over to go out?”
“Oh trust me, I am.” Kristen nodded once and laughed. “But I don’t care. We’re going out anyway.” She shrugged, grabbed onto his hand and lead him back outside.
The air was crisp and cold. Kristen shrugged into her jacket and shivered slightly. She hoped that the cold weather would end soon, she was so sick of nearly getting frostbite every time she wore her favorite open-toed heels. Most of the trees were bare, the leaves scattered over the streets and collected in the gutters.
Kristen remembered racking them into big piles with Beth when they were little. They’d jump in the leaves, their parents standing by, taking tons of pictures. The year after Kristen and Beth’s friendship died so did Kristen’s interest in leaves. Who knows what could be on those? Who wants to risk getting dirt, water, and dog pee on their extremely fashionable and expensive clothing? Not Kristen Dollsworth.
Kristen plopped down in Parker’s car’s passenger seat as Parker started the car. “Where to?”
Kristen pursed her lips and racked her brain for memory of any place she wanted to go. Her head pounded and she groaned. Thinking hurt too much. “I don’t care.”
“How about lunch?” He offered as he pulled out of her neighborhood.
“Mm-hmm.” Kristen agreed as she sunk down in her seat and stared out the window. She leaned her head against the leather seat, the window frosty from the cold.
“How’s James and Ivory sound?” Parker suggested as he pulled onto the high way.
Kristen nearly laughed out loud at the memory of the last time she was in James and Ivory. That was the time she’d dumped Andrew and then left him to pick up the check. “How about the Off the Block Tavern?” She suggested in a sleepy tone.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?” Parker eyed her carefully for a moment and then looked back to the road.
“Absolutely.” Kristen responded instantly. “I can’t lie around in bed all day.”
“There’s no shame in taking a day off, Kris.”
“Blah, blah, blah.” Kristen grumbled as Parker pulled into the Off the Block Tavern parking lot.
“Careful on the ice.” Parker instructed as he opened Kristen’s car door for her. He grabbed her hand and led her across the parking lot.
“I can walk by myself.” Kristen reminded him.
“I don’t think you can.” Parker laughed and rolled his eyes. “You’re acting like you’re still completely drunk.”
“Not true.” Kristen objected as they were seating in a table in the back of the restaurant.
“Water please.” Kristen told the waitress who was wearing two pounds too much of black eye shadow. She wore jeans that must have been at least a size too small and her tank top was so low that it made Kristen uncomfortably pull her own shirt up. Did she look as bad as her?
“Water.” Parker agreed as the waitress bit her lower lip, smiled, and raised her eye brows suggestively. She headed back towards the kitchen. Parker pursed his lips and stared at Kristen silently, watching her as if she was about to collapse right in front of him.
“What?” Kristen demanded, self-consciously sitting up straighter and raising her chin a few inches higher.
“I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on with you. It’s more than just a bad hangover.” Parker explained, still eyeing Kristen carefully.
Kristen swallowed hard and tried her best not to look guilty. Did he know? “Just a hangover.” Kristen lied casually as the stripper looking waitress set down their waters. “Thank you.” She smiled politely and set her paper napkin in her lap.
“Are you ready to order?” The waitress asked in a low voice.
Kristen rolled her eyes and cleared her throat. “I’ll have the green salad, light ranch dressing on the side.”
“Okay.” The waitress nodded as she jotted it down on her notepad. She turned to Parker and leaned over the table, her shirt just barely covering her chest. “I recommend this.” She instructed as she pointed to something on Parkers’ menu.
Parker smiled and uncomfortably moved away from her a little. “I’ll just have a hamburger?” He said as if it were a question. “Well done please.”
“I’ll have those right out.” The waitress rose her eye brows again and swayed her ass over exaggeratedly as she walked back towards the kitchen.
Kristen coughed uncomfortably and her and Parker both laughed.
“What was that?” Kristen wondered as she rolled her eyes.
“God.” Parker coughed and raised his water in the air. “A toast?”
“To what?” Kristen laughed once but held her glass up nevertheless.
“To…” Parker pursed his lips and thought for a second. “To having more self respect than that girl.” He nodded towards the kitchen.
“Clearly toast worthy.” Kristen rolled her eyes and clinked her glass to his.
“So how was Oliver Smith’s party?” Parker asked absent mindedly.
“What?” Kristen gasped and dropped her water glass in surprise. The glass fell to the floor and shattered, water spraying everywhere. Kristen’s cheeks blazed as everyone in the restaurant looked over to their table. Her feet were soaked with ice water and she stared at the mess on the floor, her mouth hanging open. She opened and closed her mouth a few times, not quite sure what to say. “I’m sorry.” She apologized to Parker sheepishly.
Kristen’s heart pounded harshly in her chest as a few waiters rushed over to clean up the broken glass and mopped up the water. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Kristen repeated over and over again.
After the waiters returned to the kitchen and brought Kristen out a new glass of water Parker laughed once. “You sure know how to make a scene Kristen.”
“This is funny to you?” Kristen tried to sound serious but she couldn’t stop herself from laughing with him. She covered her face with her hands. “I’m so embarrassed.”
“What’s got you so jumpy?” He wondered as he cautiously drank some of his water.
“Nothing.” Kristen lied immediately.
“Okay… So how was Oliver Smith’s party?” He asked again.
Kristen swallowed hard and smiled fakely. “You were there.” She shrugged uncomfortably.
“I know but I didn’t see you. Where were you?” He wondered casually.
It seemed more like he was asking out of mere curiosity, or just for conversation, not like he was suspicious. Kristen took a deep breath, convincing herself that he knew nothing about what happened between her and Oliver. “Um, Sarah Mae and I spend some time upstairs, you know on the landing?” Kristen shrugged. “We didn’t stay long.”
“Oh.” Parker nodded absentmindedly. “I was with the guys on the Xbox. Oliver’s got that new Kinect thing. It’s pretty cool. But if you watch the people who are playing,” Parker laughed to himself and shook his head. “And you don’t look at the screen; they’re just jumping around and flailing their arms like morons. God they look like total idiots.” He laughed.
Kristen laughed with Parker. “That would look pretty funny.” She lied smoothly; she actually had no idea what he was talking about. She had zero interest in video games.
The entire lunch Kristen was on edge, jumping and flinching at every sound and word. She’d never felt so guilty over something in her entire life. She couldn’t figure out how Beth had managed to hold it together. She’d cheated on Aaron for over a month and never lost her cool. It’d only been one day and Kristen’s inside were eating her alive.
Parker drove Kristen home after lunch, helping her across the ice to her door again. “I could stay if you want. We could still watch those DVD’s.” He offered.
“Thanks, but I should make sure I have all my homework done, and then go to bed early, you know? Don’t want the school on my back for underage drinking.” Kristen laughed once uncomfortably.
“Yeah, sure.” Parker creased his forehead and gave Kristen an unsure look. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” He waved as he headed back towards his car, cutting through Kristen’s front lawn.
It had snowed less than an inch that morning, leaving just specs of white on the grass. It had iced over on the roads quickly, but barely any snow was visible.
Kristen shut the front door and headed back up to her room. She closed the door and fell down on her bed, dreading the school day tomorrow. She couldn’t believe that tomorrow was Monday. She’d heard that Mr. Werner’s trial was tomorrow, so at least she wouldn’t have to deal with Beth Taylor at school. If only the rest of her Wanna-Be-Bratz posy would skip too.
Kristen glanced at the clock. She groaned, it was only three in the afternoon, that was way too early to go to bed. It wasn’t like she had anything else to do with her day though. She hadn’t heard from Sarah Mae since last night, and Andrea, Amber, and Megan may as well have fallen off the map completely in her world.
“Kristen!” Someone yelled from downstairs, their voice seeming to bounce off the walls inside Kristen’s head, echoing inside her entire body. With shaky hands and a pounding head Kristen walked down the stairs to see both of her parents waiting for her in the kitchen.
“Can you not be so loud?” Kristen snapped, rubbing her temples with her index fingers, as she walked over to the kitchen table. “What do you want?” She asked as the world started spinning again as she nearly fell into the chair.
“What’s wrong with you?” Her father asked, his forehead creasing as he took the chair across from her.
“What are you talking about?” She demanded, covering her eyes with her hands. The bright kitchen lights burned her eyes and were making them water.
“Are you drunk?” Her mom demanded, sounding appalled.
“Of course I’m not drunk!” Kristen snapped back, rolling her eyes. “Yesh.”
“You’re hung over!” Her father barked, pointing his finger at her.
Kristen exhaled loudly, annoyed. They’d find out soon enough. “Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.” Kristen rolled her eyes and spun her index fingers around.
“Well I’m glad you’re finding enjoyment in this.” Her mother snapped.

“What’s the big deal?” Kristen demanded, annoyed at the expressions on both of their faces. They both looked so surprised and appalled. “Oh don’t act so surprised!”
“This is unacceptable.” Her father replied angrily looking to her mother for support.
“Somehow, someway, I think you’ll get over it.” Kristen rolled her eyes again as she struggled to her feet. Heading for the stairs she looked over her shoulder at her parents again. “It’s not like it’s the first time.”

The trial was nothing but hell. It was ten times worse than Beth could have imagined, and seemed to have dragged on forever. Beth had never felt so alone and judged in her entire life. She worried that no one would believe her, that Mr. Werner would get away and then turn around and kill her, that everything would just go wrong.
It hadn’t gone that badly, but bad enough. They had believed her and Mr. Werner was sent to jail, but that didn’t comfort Beth. The stare that Mr. Werner had given her the entire time still sent chills down her spine, and the emotionless and stern faces of everyone in the room made Beth flinch. She felt like all of their eyes were daggers, and they were all on her. It was the scariest thing she’d ever had to do in her entire life.
She hadn’t expected that. She’d tried her best to prepare beforehand, but her plan failed miserably. Maybe the things that she’d feared would happen didn’t, but things she hadn’t even thought of, that were much, much, worse, did happen. They’d questioned her as if she was the one that did something wrong. And just thinking about it hours later still made her sweat. Her voice had cracked and didn’t sound convincing the entire time because she was so terrified and she began to question every word she said as it exited her mouth. All of her memories and thoughts seemed to turn to mush in her brain and she couldn’t remember what was fact and what was fiction.
Beth was just thankful that it was all finally over…and she was extremely excited to knock Kristen off her high pedestal today. In a matter of minutes that picture was going to go public, for all eyes to see. It was going to be the gossip of the school, and the downfall of Kristen Dollsworth.
Beth parked her car in the same school parking lot that she did everyday and waited for Star and Olivia at the bench. They’d all showed up an hour early so the timing would be perfect; you couldn’t rush perfection.
Beth’s breath turned to foggy mist as she breathed and a shiver ran down her spine. She hugged her arms close to her chest, the cold and crisp winter air seeming to sink through her skin and freeze her bones to ice.
After what seemed like a lifetime, Olivia and Star came rushing towards her, cell phones in hand, and huge grins plastered across their faces.
“You ready for this?” Star asked excitedly, scrolling through her pictures on her cell phone.
“You know it.” Beth agreed and pulled out her cell phone. “Who has the best picture to send?”
They all exchanged cell phones and compared pictures, finally deciding that Olivia’s second picture was by far the best. “And making it anonymous, we send it to everyone in the school.” Olivia said aloud as she punched the send key and grinned up at Star and Beth. “And it’s done.”
“Good work ladies.” Star giggled and high fived the both of them.
Beth jogging in place for a second, her teeth beginning to chatter. “I don’t know about you two, but I’m freezing my ass off! I’m going inside.” Beth laughed once as she turned and started speed walking in the direction of the main building, Olivia and Star following close behind. They sighed in relief as they collapsed onto one of the wooden waiting benches in the lobby, the heater running steadily on high.
The day passed far too quickly for Beth. Throughout the entire day, everywhere she went, there were whispers, laughs, and gossip, which made her happy. The only time she’d seen Kristen she’d had her angry b**** face on, like she was going to murder whoever did this. Beth hadn’t seen Parker much either.
The faculty had heard about the picture as well, but they hadn’t found it as entertaining as the students had. Beth had never seen so many phones confiscated in her entire life. And even though the text was send anonymously, pretty much everyone in the school knew it must have been Beth. She’d gotten countless high fives and secretive, quiet congratulations! and way to go!’s.
Finally Beth’s private life took the backseat and Kristen’s came to full attention. Beth was relieved to have people finally stop talking about what happened with her, Parker, and Aaron.
After the final bell sang Beth, Olivia, and Star started walking towards the main parking lot. As they headed towards their cars they spotted Parker and Kristen standing beside Parker’s car, fighting. It couldn’t be more perfect, Beth thought to herself as they stood by to watch.
“Why would you do this?” Parker demanded.
“Oh why do you care? That was you a few weeks ago need I remind you?” Kristen snapped.
“You were the one giving me all that crap about how if I was with you we were exclusive and that I was dating you and only you. I guess that was all one sided huh?” Parker spit and opened the driver car door.
“Wait!” Kristen demanded as she grabbed his arm and stopped him from getting into the car. “This isn’t that big of a deal! We shouldn’t even be fighting about this!”
“And yet, here we are.”
“Oh come on! You know you’re going to forgive me eventually, so why don’t we just get it out of the way now? I was wrong, I was drunk, and I’m sorry. It was all my fault. I’m sorry.” Kristen told him fakely and smiled a smile just as fake. “You’re turn.”
“I’m glad you find this funny.” Parker spit bitterly. “And I just don’t think I can be with someone who says one thing and then does another. You lied and you cheated and I don’t want to have to deal with that. I’m sorry Kristen.”
“Oh and you’re one to talk! How dare you judge me?” Kristen shrieked.
“I’m not judging you.” Parker defended, “There’s a freaking picture Kristen!”
“It’s Beth you should be screaming at!” Kristen yelled desperately. “She sent it out to get back at me! I mean she wasn’t even original enough to come up with her own idea! This is her fault!”
“I think you deserved it.” Parker said angrily. “This is just what you did to her isn’t it? Taste of your own medicine, huh?” Parker spit, obviously hurt, as he jumped into the driver’s seat in his car, closed the door harshly and threw the car into reverse. “We’re done.” Parker spit strictly as he pulled out of the parking lot.
Kristen stood frozen, staring after Parker’s car.
Beth, Olivia, and Star couldn’t stop themselves from laughing. Kristen snapped around and stomped towards them, a glare painted across her face. “Are you happy now?” She demanded.
“I just did to you what you did to me.” Beth shrugged with an innocent smile.
“How the hell did you even get that picture?” Kristen demanded.
“Who do you think asked Oliver Smith to flirt with you? Who do you think got him to throw himself at you? Who do you think got him to pretend to be drunk, get you drunk, and pull you into the room that we were hiding in? I guess even Oliver doesn’t like you.” Beth shrugged with a smug smile as Olivia and Star snickered. “He only tolerated your bad kissing because I asked him to.”
“You got Oliver to hit on me?” Kristen gaped, dumbstruck.
Beth laughed once, shrugged and smiled smugly. “Guilty.”
Olivia, Star, and Beth started laughing again, rolling their eyes and Kristen’s cluelessness.
“Laugh while you can, bitches,” Kristen spat, a mixture of hatred, embarrassment, and pain painted across her face. “This isn’t over.”
Beth waved as Kristen stomped back to her car, her cheeks beginning to cramp from laughing so hard.
“That was awesome!” Olivia snickered.
“Best one yet.” Star agreed, laughing.
“So what now?” Olivia wondered. “We could all head over to my place if you want.”
“I think I’m just gonna head home.” Beth told them in a small scratchy voice. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow at school.”
“Hey wait!” Star called as Beth turned to walk back over to her car. Beth’s teeth began to chatter from the cold and her breath came out in short choppy mists. “What’s wrong? You should be thrilled! Your plan just worked out flawlessly!”
“I know.” Beth nodded once as she began marching in place to keep warm. “I’ve just got a lot of other stuff on my mind, is all.” She shrugged, forced half a smile and turned to walk back to her car again.
Olivia ran and caught up to her, grabbing her arm and turning her back around. “Is this about Mr. Werner?”
“Of course not. He’s in jail now, I don’t have to worry about him anymore.” Beth lied. She wanted everyone to think she was fine with it, because she hated all of the pity, but secretly she was still terrified by the entire situation.
“I’m sorry if we haven’t been here for you.” Star added as she ran up to Olivia’s side. “We’ve been so absorbed in this prank, that was really selfish of us. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Beth snapped. “I’m fine, really.” She went on as she opened her car door and slipped inside. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
Olivia and Star waved hesitantly, confused, as Beth’s car pulled out of the school parking lot and on to the main road. Beth turned the heat on high, and turned the radio off. She exhaled as the silence surrounded her, the only sounds were her heart’s beating and her shallow breathing.
After all that’s been happening, Beth just couldn’t find the energy or patience to hang out with the girls today. Watching mindless reality TV, reading fashion magazines, and gossiping about guys just wasn’t on her must-do list. She had more important things to do than freshly coat her purple nails and plunk her eye brows to perfection. It all just seemed so petty now.
The light turned red just as Beth’s car crawled up to the crosswalk. Beth sighed and glanced at the glowing numbers on the clock. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do once she got home, she didn’t have any homework, or anything to think about. Aaron had offered to come over and help her study for their Chem exam, but Beth knew that she wouldn’t be able to force her mind to concentrate right now.
Beth couldn’t even find it in herself to be excited about her prank success with Kristen. She was too busy worrying about Mr. Werner, feeling sad and curious about Austin, bad about hurting Parker, terrified about the Mr. Jameson folder, and annoyed at herself for still being angry at Megan. Everything just seemed overwhelming and out of control. Beth wondered if she got one more piece of bad news if her head would explode. It felt like it.
Beth reluctantly jumped out of her toasty warm car into the below freezing temperatures after she parked her car in the driveway. There was no one else home when she stepped inside, which made her sigh. It had only been a day since the trial and everyone had already gone on with their lives, completely forgetting about all that Beth had been through. She wasn’t an attention snob and she didn’t think that everyone should be worrying about her twenty-four seven, but shouldn’t they at least be considerate? She had been through a lot lately, and everyone was putting their noses up as if it were no big deal.
Beth dumped her things onto the kitchen table and headed upstairs, planning on just crashing on her bed and never getting out. She could start going to online school, never speak to anyone in person again. She could just disappear and no one would question it or care. And after she graduated high school she could move somewhere that she doesn’t know anyone, and buy a house in the middle of nowhere. Just leave her life and past behind, start new.
Beth stopped, her feet sinking into the carpet as she stared at the wooden door beside hers. She hadn’t stepped foot in Austin’s room in what seemed like forever. They hadn’t cleared it out yet. The only thing that was more terrifying than opening that door and seeing everything that belonged to her brother gone, was opening the door to see everything still in place, like he was still there. Everything was in its place, all but one thing accounted for. Austin.
Beth held her breath as she rested her palm on the cold door knob. She hesitantly turned it and cracked the door open, peeking inside. Beth swallowed uncomfortably, her heart beating in her throat as she took in what she saw. It was his room, and everything was still exactly where he’d left it. Beth glanced over her shoulder, as if someone was watching her from behind, and then stepped inside his room. She flicked on the lights and closed the door behind her, gasping at the sight of Austin’s things. She knew she shouldn’t be surprised, she knew exactly what she was going to see. It was almost as if she thought that magically she’d find Austin sitting on his bed, watching South Park on his TV or playing his Xbox.
His hunter’s green comforter was still wrinkled and falling off the right side of the bed, which was still pushed up against the far wall. His black bedside rolling table was still against the left of his bed. The iPod dock, half empty plastic water bottle, the remote to his TV, a box of tissues, and a dusty pile of coins still were scattered over the surface. His desk was still covered with loose papers, his laptop, more empty plastic water bottles, old wooden pencils, and a pair of headphones. One of the light bulbs on the lighting fixture hanging in the center of the room was out, and the air smelt like dust, cardboard, and stale air. It reminded Beth of what houses always smelt like when people were packing everything up, about to move.
Beth cautiously stepped over to his desk and took a seat in his black, leather, rolling chair. She smiled to herself as she looked at the one picture that was propped up in a frame, resting on the back of his desk. She recognized it, because she had the exact same one hanging up in her bathroom. It was of her and Austin, arms wound around each other’s shoulders, grinning in front of the ocean water; both of their legs were covered in sand up to the knees.
Beth wiped the dust of the glass in front of the picture and sighed. She didn’t know what she was doing. Did she really just plan to sit in Austin’s chair and take a trip down memory lane? Or did she honestly believe that she’d find something to help her figure out what really happened to Austin?
Beth opened the drawer on the right side of his desk, peeking inside. She cocked her head at a dusty leather brown notebook. She didn’t know that he still even had that. She’d given it to him for Christmas the same year that they’d gone on their last family vacation. She’d also given him charcoal pencils, and How-To-Draw books. That was when he was really into sketching and he’d wanted to be an artist.
Beth lifted the book out of the drawer and blew the dust off. She opened the leather cover, expecting to find a sketch of a naked woman or some comic book monster, but instead she saw her brother’s neat cursive writing. How Austin had managed to have better hand writing than she did, she’d never known. She’d thought that boys were supposed to have horrible hand writing, and girls had neat hand writing. But when it came to them, it was the opposite.
Austin hadn’t used the book as a sketch pad like Beth had intended, he’d used it as a journal.

Kristen pursed her lips and rubbed her eyes at the sound of her alarm clock. It was Wednesday morning, and she was supposed to go to school. She untangled her arm from her covers and slapped the snooze button as hard as she could. The hell she was going to school with what just happened. That little b**** not only made Parker dump her, and humiliated her in front of the whole school, but she also stole her idea. Kristen sent around a picture of Beth cheating first, Beth couldn’t just do the same exact thing that she did. It just doesn’t work like that.
And to make matters even worse, Beth didn’t just copy Kristen’s idea, she one-upped her. Beth had actually set Kristen up, she’d gotten Kristen to cheat on Parker. Kristen had just been lucky enough to find Beth and Parker making out on accident. And as if it could get any worse, Kristen didn’t have her top on in the picture. Beth beat her at her own game.
Kristen rolled over onto her other side and grabbed her second pillow. She pulled the pillow over her head and groaned. What was she supposed to do now?
Kristen sharply inhaled as her alarm started to go off again. What was the point of a snooze button if that alarm just went off five minutes later? Wasn’t she supposed to get at least ten more minutes? Kristen sat up quickly, breathing through her clenched teeth. She pushed a lock of her dark brown hair behind her ear and grabbed the electrical cord of her alarm clock. She yanked hard until it came flying out of the wall and the screen on her clock went dark. “There.” She snapped and fell on her back.
She knew that she wouldn’t be able to hide out in her room forever, and that eventually her parents would force her to go to school again, but with all things considered, she figured she deserved a day off. If her parents knew that would agree.
“Kristen?” Someone called from her doorway, their fist knocking against the wood.
“I’m sick. I’m staying home today.” Kristen mumbled from under her pillow.
“That’s fine.” The voice agreed. Kristen pulled the pillow from her face to see her mother standing in the doorway. “I need to talk to you though.” Her mother went on as she made her way to Kristen’s bed and sat down on the edge.
“About what?” Kristen demanded, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.
“You’re grounded Kristen.” Her mother explained firmly.
“Ha! That’s funny mom.” Kristen laughed and rolled her eyes. “Good joke.”
“I mean it.”
“Mom,” Kristen laughed again. “I don’t get grounded.”
“Well, you just did.” Her mother snapped, rising to her feet. “First you got drunk at Oliver Smith’s party, and now this!” Her mom shrieked, pulling out her cell phone and shoved it into Kristen’s face.
Kristen’s insides went cold as she realized what it was she was looking at. She had to give Beth props, her pranks were effective. She’d sent her mother a copy of the picture.
“How could you be so irresponsible?” Her mother demanded. “And with this, the hangover, and your attitude all of the time, your father and I agree that you need some punishment.”
“Oh please. Drop the act mom. We both know you don’t have what it takes for real parenting, you haven’t been a responsible parent for a day in your life.”
“I’m starting now.” Her mom snapped, rising her chin farther in the air. “You’re grounded for the rest of the month. You can go to school, and then right after school lets out, you come home. This conversation’s over.” Kristen’s mother turned towards the door and strutted out into the hallway, and down the stairs.
Kristen’s mouth hung open and her heart began to ach. How could things ever get worse? She lost her boyfriend, she was humiliated in front of the entire school, and now she was grounded. Those kinds of things just weren’t supposed to happen to Kristen Dollsworth.
Wondering if she should just suck it up and go to school, Kristen fell back onto her back. She did have that big Chem exam today after all. She decided against it and grabbed her cell phone off the bed side table.
Kristen looked up and dropped her phone on her bed. She sat up and hugged her knees to her chest. She was going to text Parker to let him know she wouldn’t be at school, but then remembered that he wouldn’t care, they weren’t together anymore. She could text Sarah Mae or Andrea or Amber or Megan, but none of them would probably care either.
Kristen looked over to the corner of her room, where her sofa was sitting, pictures surrounding it on the wall. She sighed as she stared at the largest one that was directly in the center. The one of Austin and her, they’d taken it in a photo booth on their first date, and for their two month anniversary Austin had enlarged it, framed it, and given it to Kristen as a present. She exhaled sadly and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She wasn’t going to go to school, but that didn’t mean she was going to stay locked up in her room all day. She was going somewhere, whether she was grounded or not.

The alarm on Beth’s clock went off, the music from her iPod filling her room. The sun was just barely peeking in through her curtains and the smell of vanilla hot chocolate filled her nostrils. Was her mom making breakfast?
Beth rubbed her eyes with her fists and looked over to Austin’s journal which was sitting on her bedside table. She couldn’t bring herself to read it. Even if she was dead, she wouldn’t want anyone reading her diary. She traced the stitched pattern on the leather with her index finger absentmindedly for a moment and then jumped to her feet. She had a huge exam in Chem today, she couldn’t stay home from school.
Beth yanked a pair of Black Orchid jeans on and pulled her light blue lounge shirt from Silver Jeans over her head. Beth strapped her favorite pair of black high heeled booties on and quickly applied her makeup. Combing through her hair that she’d washed and straightened the night before, she looked back at Austin’s journal. Would it really be so bad to read it? What if it told her something about the night he died? What if it gave her some kind of clue? And besides those reasons, she had a few of her own selfish ones. If she read Austin’s thoughts, it would be like he was there with her, one last time.
Beth grabbed her bag and started walking towards her bedroom door. She stopped in the doorway and looked back at Austin’s journal one last time. Just in case, she thought as she snatched it off the bed side table and gently put it in her bag. She needed something to read after she finished her Chem exam, didn’t she?
In the kitchen stood her mother, in yet another pair of yoga pants, a V-neck tee shirt form Victoria’s Secret and her hair was in a knot on the top of her head. On the table was a mug of vanilla hot chocolate and pancakes. “What’s this?” Beth asked, her eyes darting back and forth from her mother to the food.
“I know you’ve been through a lot lately, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m not here for you. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all of that alone, but I’m here now. And I just want to make sure you know that you’re loved and that your father and I both care about you.” Her mom explained and motioned towards the kitchen table. “I made your favorite.”
“Thanks.” Beth half smiled and cocked her head to the side, confused. Her mother hadn’t made breakfast, well, ever. Beth took a seat in front of the big navy blue plate with two pancakes stacked on top of each other and the mug she’d painted in fourth grade full of light brown hot chocolate. She took a sip and sighed eternally. She loved white chocolate hot chocolate. The last time she’d had it must have been over a year ago.
“I do need to tell you something hunny.” Beth’s mom interrupted the silence as she took the seat across from Beth.
“What is it?” Beth asked, putting her cup of hot chocolate back down on the table.
“It’s nothing bad, don’t worry. It’s just, your father and I are leaving for California tonight. Mom, your grandmother, my mom’s best friend just passed away, and so we’re going to go spend some time with her. She’s having a really hard time with it. They’ve known each other since they were in diapers. You can imagine.” Her mom explained.
“Yeah, sure, of course. I understand.” Beth nodded.
“I’d love to bring you with us, I just don’t want to pull you out of school…” Her mom explained.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. A week right?”
“Yes, we’re leaving tonight. Our flight is at five so we won’t be here when you get home from school, and we’re flying back Monday night.”
“Okay.” Beth agreed as she sipped more of her hot chocolate. “Tell grandma I said hi okay?”
“Sure thing sweetie.” Her mom smiled and walked back over to the pantry.
After she finished the hot chocolate and one of the pancakes she grabbed her white North Face jacket and bag and smiled at her mom. “Thanks, for this.” She motioned towards the kitchen table. “It was just what I needed.”
“Have a great day.” Her mom responded as Beth fished her car keys out of her bag and rushed out the front door.
It was freezing outside, as usual. Beth turned the heat up as high as it would go as she pulled out of the neighborhood, her mind drifting back and forth between Mr. Werner, Kristen Dollsworth, Parker, the Jameson folder, and her Chem exam. Sadly the exam seemed the least important to her.
Beth hoped she hadn’t done too much damage to Parker, and she hoped that she wouldn’t have to worry about Mr. Werner or the Mr. Jameson folder anytime soon. That was just unnecessary stress.
Beth looked at her bag that was resting on the passenger seat out of the corner of her eye, a corner of Austin’s journal peeking out of the top. Should she feel guilty about taking it from his room? Was it wrong for her to want to read it?

The windows were frosted over and the steering wheel felt like a block of ice. Beth mentally reminded herself to keep a pair of mittens in her car. There weren’t as many leaves on the ground anymore, and the street was covered in ice. It had snowed again last night, more than last time. Beth frowned to herself, wishing she would have just worn her damn Ugg boots. Her cute booties were going to get all wet and muddy and ruined.
Beth pulled into the school parking lot and pulled her jacket tightly around her. She braced herself, grabbed her bag and stepped out into the cold, her foot immediately sinking into a pile of slush. “Great. Just great.” She muttered to herself as she slammed her car door. She hated winter time.
As she was walking towards the school she passed Parker’s truck. Parker was just sitting in the driver’s seat, the car in park. He was staring out the windshield, a blank look on his face. Beth bit her bottom lip and hesitantly walked over to the window. She knocked on it three times and Parker jumped slightly, looking over to her. Beth took a step to the side as Parker opened the door.
“Hey.” Beth tried to smile convincingly. “What are you doing, just sitting out here?”
Parker exhaled slowly and leaned his head to the side. “Did you do it? Kristen’s convinced but something about it just doesn’t seem…you.”
“What are you talking about?” Beth laughed once, shifted her weight to her left leg and looked around her.
“So it was you.” Parker nodded and exhaled again, turning to face the windshield again.
There was awkward silence for what seemed like hours. Beth swallowed hard and shifted her weight again. Her teeth began to chatter and her fingers were tingling. “So are you ready for that big Chem exam today?” Beth offered.
“Chem exam?” Parker responded stupidly. “Oh yeah, the exam. Um…no.” Parker laughed once and shrugged one shoulder. “I’ve had other things on my mind.”
“I know what you mean.” Beth added, staring off into space.
Parker looked back at her face, sympathy registering on his face. “I’m really sorry Beth, about Mr. Werner…and your brother.” Parker smiled halfheartedly.
“Wait, you’re not mad at me?” Beth demanded, her eye brows shooting up. “For the picture?”
Parker sighed and chewed on his lower lip, looking past Beth’s head. “No. It’s not your fault. Kristen was the one that was cheating on me. And I get that you were getting her back for sending that picture of us around. So no, I’m not mad you.” Parker half smiled and stepped out of his truck. He closed the door and looked back at Beth, an unreadable expression on his face.
“What?” Beth laughed once uncomfortably as they both started walking towards the school.
“You just seem really different now.” Parker shrugged and waved once. “I’ll see you in English. I’ve gotta do something first.”
“Okay…?” Beth waved once and headed towards the English room, her hands completely numb now.
“Beth?” Someone behind her called.
Beth turned. “Oh hey Star.” Beth smiled as Star caught up to her. “What are you doing over here? Isn’t your classroom on the opposite side of the school?”
“Yeah.” Star shrugged. “How come you haven’t returned any of my calls?”
“I’m really sorry about that Star, I’ve just been really busy lately. My mind’s kind of been occupied with all of this Mr. Werner stuff. And on top of the stuff about Austin I barely have time to breath.” And of course there’s the Jameson folder, Beth added silently.
“What do you mean the stuff about Austin?” Star wondered.
Beth sighed, she’d forgotten that to everyone else it was over. Everyone else just thought he’d committed suicide and that was the end. She was the only one who thought there was more to it.
“Nothing. Just forget about it.” Beth smiled and exhaled loudly. “I’ve gotta get to English, but I’ll see you during fourth?”
“Wait, I needed to tell you something—” Star began, but Beth was already halfway to the English classroom.
“You can tell me during fourth!” Beth called back.
“Whatever.” Star nodded with a sigh and headed in the direction of her first period.
Beth hugged her arms to her chest and hurried into her English classroom. There were only a few people in the classroom already, neither Aaron nor Parker were there yet.
Beth glanced at Kristen’s empty desk, wondering if she’d even come to school today. As more and more kids began to file in Beth sat down in her desk and pulled out Austin’s journal. She stroked the leather cover once and sighed, did she really want to do this?
“What’s that?” Aaron wondered as he sat down on top of her desk and pecked her on the cheek.
“Nothing, nothing.” Beth replied quickly, stuffing the journal back into her bag.
“Oh come on.” Aaron rolled his eyes. “Just because you read, doesn’t make you a nerd. There’s no need to be ashamed. Unless it was some like education informatory s***.” Aaron laughed and pressed his lips to Beth’s. She kissed him back for a moment, his lips tasting like toothpaste and fruity cereal. His breath covered her face as he exhaled, blasting her with the smell of milk and Fruit Loops. Beth pulled away.
“What’s wrong?” He wondered.
“Nothing.” Beth smiled once and glanced back at Austin’s journal, tucked between her Chem book and homework folder in her bag. “I’m fine.”
“Well good.” Aaron smiled and pulled Beth’s lips back to his.
Mr. Fredrick cleared his throat as he entered the room. “Are we going to make this a habit Mr. Cooper?” He asked bitterly as he wrote something on the white board.
Aaron sighed and pulled away from Beth. “Only if you enjoy the show Mr. Fredrick.” He replied with an innocent smile.
“Very funny. Take your seat.” Mr. Fredrick rolled his eyes and grabbed a stack of papers off his desk. “We have a lot to blow through today so keep your mouths shut and pay attention and I won’t have to give out F’s for the day.”
The first three periods of the day passed slowly. Beth sat inside the building on one of the plastic benches near the main office during fourth. She hated hanging out inside the school, but it was just too cold, icy and wet for the courtyard today. She didn’t need to sit on a snow covered picnic table and go through the rest of her day looking like she’d peed herself.
Beth leaned against the wall and pulled out Austin’s journal. She wondered if maybe she should just wait until she got home to read it. And then she wondered why she was being so weird about it. Who cares if someone saw her reading it? It’s not like it’s some government secret book that she stole.
Beth opened the cover to the first page, smiling to herself at Austin’s handwriting. A few tears formed in her eyes but she blinked them away as she read the entry:
Today was Christmas. Beth gave me this book for sketching, because the entire family still thinks I want to be an artist. I don’t know why I told everyone I wanted to be an artist, I hate drawling. I guess it’s a little less embarrassing than telling them I want to be a writer. They all expect me to grow up to be some professional football player, and yeah, I love football, and I’m great at it. But it’s a hobby, and that’s it.
Beth rose her eyebrows. She’d never even for a second thought that Austin would have wanted to be a writer. He’d always acted like he hated writing.
Beth flipped through the pages, most entries just about his writing or girls or the football team or what happened in his day. She stopped at a page that said it was just a few days before the night Austin died.
I am so sick of football. Well, maybe not football itself, but the guys on the team. I knew I’d get s*** because I was the youngest, and none of them were too thrilled with having a frosh on the team, but I’d never imagined it would be like this. Parker Patterson is the only one who gives me a break, and that’s just because of my sister. Aaron Cooper is the worst. He’s such an ass all of the time. Today after practice they jumped me in the locker room. Aaron started it. He told me he’d kill me if I tried to start as quarter back in the next game again. He said he was sick of me and he’d be able to kill me without thinking twice. Too bad for him I’m starting as quarter back in the game two days from now. I think he should be the one to watch his back.
Beth opened and closed her mouth a few times, closing Austin’s journal. She couldn’t believe it. Aaron had threatened to kill her little brother? She knew that guys said that kind of stuff to each other all of time, and that it was usually just a joke. And Austin had been starting quarter back in the game that was just one day before he died…
Beth gasped and opened the journal again. She scanned through the pages, more than half of the entries Austin had written about Aaron, and the horrible things he’d done to him. It was Aaron who had given Austin that black eye and bloody nose two days before Beth’s birthday. When Austin had gotten home he refused to tell them what happened. And it was Aaron who put a stink bomb in Austin’s locker after the homecoming game. Austin had almost gotten suspended for that. They’d thought he’d done it purposely. It was Aaron who stole Austin’s clothes out of the locker room. And then Austin had come running up to Beth, a towel wrapped around him, begging her to drive him home. It was Aaron who tied Austin’s favorite extremely expensive custom made running shoes to the ceiling fan in the main building. They’d gotten shredded and ruined. Austin had actually cried about that.
I’ve decided to get back at Aaron Cooper for all of the things that he’s done to me. Tomorrow he will open his locker to see his uniform, pads, everything, ripped into pieces. His hallway locker will be filled with shaving scream, and in his gym locker will be the stolen keys, and coach’s clipboard. I already tipped coach off, so all I have to do is wait. Tomorrow there will be justice. It’s going to be sweet! Coach said whoever stole his keys and clipboard will be benched for the rest of the season. Who’s laughing now Aaron Cooper?
Beth slammed the book closed and shoved it in her bag. Not only had Aaron done all of those things to Austin, but he’s been acting like nothing was wrong all this time. And when Beth had been bawling about Austin that night he’d acted so understanding.
She couldn’t find it in herself to be angry at Austin for what he did to Aaron. She did that sort of thing to Kristen all of the time. But Aaron had been benched for the rest of the season, he’d been so angry, she’d felt bad for him at the time. Now all she could think was, he deserved it.
Beth clenched her teeth, angry that she’d been so gullible. Aaron had tortured Austin all through his freshman year, and then he killed him.
He had motivation, and an opportunity. He sure as hell was at Kristen Dollsworth’s party that night. And not only had he been benched for the season because of Austin, but he’d already hated him to begin with.
Beth stared at the floor, her mouth hanging open. She didn’t want to believe it. She couldn’t make herself believe it. It just didn’t make sense, but there was so much evidence that it was him. She couldn’t deny what was right in front of her.
Aaron just didn’t seem capable of murder, let alone to her little brother. Beth pulled at her hair with her hands and looked up. It couldn’t have been Aaron, it just couldn’t.
What if it was Aaron? What was she supposed to do?
She couldn’t come forward. The case was closed, they weren’t looking for suspects. And even if they were, who’s gonna believe her? Who in their right mind would believe Beth Taylor when it comes to something this serious?
But what if it was Aaron who killed Austin?
Was that why he said he’d help her figure it out? Was that why he’d pretended to be sympathetic that night? Was that why he was dating her? To cover his tracks? And the second that Austin was gone, Aaron had stepped in his place. He was next in line for starting quarter back. The coach decided to let him start playing in the games again. Because Austin died, all of his problems were fixed.
But would someone really kill just for their spot on the football team?
Beth rose to her feet, tears forming in her eyes again. There were only a few things in life that she knew for sure. She knew that she hated Kristen Dollsworth, she knew that Mr. Werner was a perve, she knew that she’d never be a famous singer, she knew that the sun would rise in the morning and she knew that Aaron Cooper killed her little brother.

With her Victoria’s Secret PINK sweatshirt on and a brown Hollister parka over, Kristen felt like a marshmallow. She’d never worn this many layers in her life. She wore a pair of black leggings underneath her Black Orchid jeans and her tall chocolate brown Ugg boots. She was planning on being outside for an extended amount of time, and she figured she’d want to avoid frostbite. It was way below freezing out there.
Kristen parked her car on the abandoned street, pulled her fuzzy multi-colored scarf tighter around her neck and stepped out into the cold. She felt kind of weird, skipping school to visit the cemetery. But it was later in the day, so school would be out in an hour. Not like anyone would see her, this cemetery was almost always completely empty.
Kristen wondered why. Judging by the vast number of tomb stones there would be a lot of people buried here, so shouldn’t that translate to lots of visitors?
Kristen shivered as the wind blew and then made her way through the snow. She walked over to Austin’s grave and frowned. She couldn’t sit on the bench or the ground because they were both covered in snow. She did not need to cover her ass with water on top of everything else.
Kristen leaned her head to the side as she stared at Austin’s tomb stone.
Here lies Austin Taylor.
Kristen turned at the sound of a twig snapping. She creased her forehead as she looked around the cemetery. She didn’t see anyone else. There weren’t any other cars on the street besides hers.
Kristen shook her head and stuck her hands in her pockets. Even with her mittens on, her hands still tingled from the cold. Another twig snapped and she heard the sounds of feet crunching on top of frozen snow.
“Hello?” She called hesitantly, taking a step backwards. “Is someone there?”
She heard more footsteps and the roar of the wind. “Hello?” She asked again, her throat getting dry.
Kristen kept walking backwards towards the entrance. She turned to see Aaron Cooper standing right in front of her. She let out a small yelp and then exhaled loudly. “You scared me.” She laughed once, her right hand flying to her heart that was hammering loudly. “What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” He asked.
Kristen frowned as she took in what he was wearing. He just wore an American Eagle casual sweatshirt, the pull-strings dangling unevenly across his chest. Kristen frowned, that had always been a pet peeve of hers, when sweatshirt’s pull-strings were different lengths. How was he out here in just a sweatshirt? How was he not freezing?
“I asked you first.” Kristen looked back up to his eyes and shifted her weight, a shiver running through her body.
“True.” Aaron laughed once and nodded his head towards the tomb stones. “Visiting.”
“Oh.” Kristen nodded, her breathing fogging before her eyes. “Me too.”
“Austin Taylor?” Aaron asked in a bitter voice.
“Uh…yeah. How’d you know?” Kristen wondered, creasing her forehead at his tone.
“Good guess.” Aaron shrugged and forced half of a smile. “You weren’t at school today.”
“Um no, I wasn’t.” Kristen nodded once, uncomfortable. “You know, with everything I thought I should just take a day off.”
“I understand.” He nodded strangely. “You should get back to your car, it’s pretty cold out here.”
“You’re telling me. You’re in a freaking sweatshirt!” Kristen laughed once.
“I don’t get cold too easily.” He responded, an unreadable expression on his face.
“Okay then…uh well, I’ll see you at school tomorrow.” Kristen responded hesitantly as she started to walk back to her car. She turned up the heat but didn’t start the car. She looked back at the cemetery, Aaron nowhere to be seen. She looked up and down the street, but his car was nowhere to be seen either. As a chill ran up her spine Kristen pulled her car out onto the street and started driving home. With any luck she’d be able to beat her mom to the house. She didn’t need any more drama or trouble in her life.
The entire way home Kristen found herself thinking about Aaron. Had he been acting really weird or was it just her? He’d acted…suspicious. But what could he have to be hiding? Nothing. He was Aaron freaking Cooper. He was the perfect I-never-do-anything-wrong boy. What could he possibly have to hide?
Kristen shook her head, deciding she was just wasting time worrying about it. She grinned to herself as she pulled into her driveway, her mother’s car nowhere to be seen.
Throwing her coat and sweatshirt into the laundry room, Kristen’s phone buzzed. She frowned at the screen with read: Restricted.
As she headed up the stairs she answered the call. “Hello?”
“Kristen Dollsworth.” The voice breathed in a dark and scratchy voice. It wasn’t a question, just a confidently spoken statement.
“Um…yeah. This is Kristen. Who is this?” She asked slowly as she kicked her boots off into her closet.
“Don’t worry yourself with that hun.” The dark voice chuckled on the other side of the line. “I heard you met my friend. Sorry he lost his temper.”
“What are you talking about? Who is this?” Kristen demanded. She stood in the middle of her room, staring at her closet.
“Burglar. Knocked you out with his gun. Took your ‘Jameson folder’. Any of this ring a bell?”
“Oh my God.” Kristen breathed, and fumbled with her phone, almost dropping it to the floor. “Why did you take that folder?” She demanded.
“Oh I didn’t. I wouldn’t risk coming and doing it myself. I have people to do my dirty work for me.” The man chuckled darkly.
“Why do you want that folder?” Kristen demanded.
“That’s irrelevant.” The man responded rudely. “I just thought I should call and tell you something, before your entire world turns upside down.” He chuckled.
“Wait what? You’re not going to let what’s in that folder get out are you?” Kristen asked helplessly.
“I might,” The man laughed again. “I guess it depends on my mood, and if you get on my bad side.”
“What do you want to tell me?” Kristen asked through her teeth.
“Watch your back Kristen Dollsworth. We both know you’re the guilty one here, even more than your little naughty friend Beth Taylor. Not everything is quite as it seems. And it’s all right under your nose. All you’ve gotta do is look down.”

It was Thursday, seventh off period. Beth hadn’t come face to face with Aaron all day, mostly because her main focus was avoiding him. She was almost positive that Aaron had killed Austin, but it’s not like she could come forward with it. The case was closed, everyone knows Austin’s death as suicide. Beth couldn’t just come forward with a suspect for murder, because in everyone else’s eyes it wasn’t murder. Beth needed proof. Real proof.
Beth’s insides turned to ice as she saw Aaron down the hall, making his way towards her. “S***.” She cursed under her breath, turned around and started to quickly walk the other way. She hoped that he hadn’t seen her.
“Hey Beth!” He called from behind her. “Hey Beth wait up!”
Beth turned reluctantly, forcing a smile onto her face. If she was going to figure out what really happened to Austin, if she was going to get any proof, she was going to have act like nothing was wrong. “Hey Aaron.” Beth waved. “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
“No worries.” He grinned and threw his arm over her shoulder. “Weren’t you heading this way?” He wondered when Beth didn’t move.
“Yeah.” Beth smiled as they started walking again. “What’s going on?”
“Not much. I think I flunked that Chem exam yesterday, how about you?” He laughed.
“I think I did well actually. I studied pretty hard for it.”
“Oh.” Aaron nodded as they reached Beth’s locker. She put in her combination and slowly opened her locker.
“So anything new with you?” He wondered as Beth started packing things that she didn’t really need into her bag.
“Um, my parents are leaving tonight. They’re going to California for a week to visit my grandmother. So I’m home alone for an entire week.” Beth offered.
“Really? Sweet. I’m thinking you’re the owner of the new party pad Ms. Taylor.” Aaron laughed but Beth didn’t laugh with him.
“I don’t think so Aaron.” Beth shook her head and shrugged. “I’m not really in the party mood lately. Sorry.” Beth added as she turned and started walking away. Maybe she’d just blow of eighth period and go home early.
“Hey!” Aaron caught up to her and grabbed her arm. “Wait up. It’s fine, I was just joking around anyway.”

Beth and Aaron walked in silence, their shoes squeaking against the wet tile floor of the inside hallway. The air smelt strongly of cleaning supplies and a mixture of all of the girls’ perfumes. Beth held back a gag.
“So what happened yesterday? You kind of just disappeared.” Beth asked absentmindedly, staring out the windows at the snow covered grass and trees. The sidewalks were covered in ice, so not many people were taking the outside hallways today. Beth wished it wasn’t so cold.
“Yeah…I left school early. I went home.” Did he? Was he lying?
Beth shook her head. She couldn’t help herself but question everything that Aaron did and said. She wasn’t positive that he’d killed Austin, but just the possibility made her walk on egg shells around him. What if he had murdered Austin?
It was like that tumbling towers game that Beth used to play in junior high. Sitting around with all of your friends, on edge as you pull your block out, hoping you’re not the one who makes it go crashing to the floor. Not only did you lose, but then everyone laughed at you too. Did Aaron secretly laugh at her for being so stupid? For falling for his little charade? For not figuring it out? Or was he the one on edge, hoping his tumbling tower didn’t fall down?
“Oh.” Beth nodded, her mind in a thousand other places.
“Hello? Beth? Anybody home?” Aaron asked in a laugh as he waved his hand in front of her glazed over, unmoving eyes.
Beth blinked and looked back to him. She hadn’t noticed that they’d stopped walking. “Huh? What? Sorry.” Beth lifted the right corner of her lips and shook her head once. It was a given that she’d have to act as if nothing were wrong so Aaron didn’t suspect anything, but so far, she wasn’t off to such a good start.
“Is everything okay? You’ve been acting really weird.” Aaron observed.
“Everything’s fine.” Beth answered him as if it were obvious. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
He killed my little brother, Beth thought to herself, chewing heavily on the inside of her cheek. He killed Austin.
“Beth?” Aaron asked again. “What are we doing? Eight period or ditch?”
“Um, I should go to eight period.” As long as it meant getting away from Aaron, Beth was okay with it. If she told him she wanted to ditch, he would ditch with her, and then she’d have to spend all afternoon with him. If she went to eight period and he went to her eight period, which was on the opposite side of the school, she might be able to escape to her car after before he caught up.
“Okay. I’ll see you after final bell?”
“Course.” Beth agreed as Aaron pecked her on the cheek.
Aaron stood and watched her expectantly. She waved once and headed off towards her eight period elective, Aaron still standing in the same spot. Beth’s forehead creased, wondering why he wasn’t heading towards his class, it was on the opposite side of the school, if he didn’t hurry he’d be late. Aaron was late to class so often that his teachers all told him they’d give him a referral.
Shaking off the thoughts of Aaron, Beth walked towards the main building. The wind blew and the snow soaked through Beth’s shoes. The clouds covered the sky, blocking out all light from the sun. It was just one of those gloomy, dark and serious days. A wave of sadness and depression swept over Beth, the reality of her surroundings closing in on her. Beth shook it off and took her seat in the back of the classroom.

As the final bell rang Beth collected her things, pushed through the leisurely walking kids, and scrambled out the door towards the parking lot, all in a matter of seconds. She was desperate to make it to her car and evacuate the school grounds before Aaron caught up to her.
As cautiously as she could she ran over the icy sidewalks, stumbling and slipping a few times. Finally her car came into view and she jumped into the front seat. Letting out a relieved sigh Beth realized Aaron was nowhere in sight. She couldn’t even find his car in the lot. That was strange.
On the ride back to her house, Beth drove slowly and watched out the windows. It was almost as if you could see the chill in the air. As if the frost and below freezing temperature was actually visible and tangible in the air. There were no runners on the ice covered, slippery paths or sidewalks, and there were no birds settling into the trees or swooping down through the intersections, dodging cars as if it were a game, like they usually did. Beth suppressed a sigh. Winter just seemed like the most depressing time of the year.
Pulling into the driveway, Beth half expected to see her parent’s cars, until see remembered they were getting on a plane right now. Even as a mature young woman, Beth felt afraid and alone. She was going be home alone for an entire week. And after what happened with Kristen Dollsworth, she was terrified of being home alone at night.
Beth locked the door behind her as she stumbled into her toasty warm home. She double checked the door, making sure it was securely locked before heading upstairs to her room.
Right as Beth opened her bedroom door, about to throw her bag over onto her bed, she gasped, her bag clattering to the floor. Beth stopped in her tracks, holding her breath.
She barely even recognized her own room. Candle flames licked the air above them from every hard surface. They covered her dresser, her bedside table, her desk, and her book shelf. The bed had a comforter she’d never seen before neatly made and covered in red and white rose petals. The air smelt strongly like the inside of an Abercrombie and Fitch store, Beth held back a gag. She’d always had a distaste for that smell.
Her throat began to feel dry and parched and her head began to spin, the perfume and cologne mix making her dizzy. Before her stood Aaron. He wore his dark washed American Eagle jeans and no shirt. His young Jesse McCartney style hair was perfectly messy, falling slightly into his eyes. Beth tried not to stare at his flawlessly muscular and tan chest. Her knees began to feel wobbly.
Aaron’s hands were at his sides, but Beth could see them shaking a little. His mouth was twisted in a partially smug, partially nervous smile.
Beth’s eyes widen and words escaped her. What was he doing?
“I skipped eighth period so I could set this up.” Aaron explained, motioning towards the candles and rose petals. Beth swayed on her feet slightly, she felt like she was going to be sick. “I know we’ve only vaguely talked about this once or twice, but I love you Beth, and I know you love me. And I’m ready.”
Beth opened and closed her mouth over and over again, no words coming out. What was she supposed to say? She knew she was supposed to act normal, but this wasn’t normal. And there was no way she could do it. How was she supposed to be with the person who killed her little brother? She could barely look at his face without screaming in anger.
Aaron walked towards Beth, who was still frozen in her place. He put both of his arms on either side of her and closed the door. Beth swallowed hard and shook her head once, awareness returning to her body. “Aaron…”
“Shh.” Aaron smiled and shook his head. “You don’t need to say anything.” Aaron pushed his lips to hers. Beth could taste the awful overwhelming Abercrombie smell. Her stomach twisted and she felt like she was going to be sick. The scent filled her entire head, making her dizzy and nauseous. Was that his plan?
“Yes I do.” Beth said around his lips, pushing him away from her. “Because I can’t do this. I can’t be with you. Not now.” Beth shrugged sheepishly, her face still frozen in shock. How else was she supposed to react to this?
“What do you mean?” Aaron demanded, his biceps and pectoral muscles flexing. Beth grasped the doorframe for support as she swayed on her feet again.
“I mean…I’m sorry Aaron. I’m not ready for this.” Beth motioned towards the candles and bed. Beth forced her eyes away from Aaron’s body and looked him in the eyes with an apologetic and sheepish expression.
“But your parents are gone for an entire week. It’s like fate Beth.”
“So you think the reason for my grandmother’s closest and best friend’s death was so we could have sex?” Beth demanded, taken back.
“Not when you say it like that.”Aaron laughed once and took another step towards Beth.

Beth stepped away from him, a disgusted feeling in the pit of her stomach. “How else can you say it?”
“Can we not do this? This was supposed to be the perfect romantic night for us.”
“I can’t Aaron. I just can’t.” Beth smiled apologetically and opened her bedroom door. “I think you should go.”
“Is this because of that whole thing that happened with Mr. Werner? Because I swear it doesn’t change a thing between us. You’re still the same girl Beth. We’re still the same. All guys aren’t like him.” Aaron pleaded, taking a step away from the door.
“This isn’t about Mr. Werner. This is about you and me, and you and me can’t…I can’t.” Beth stepped aside and motioned towards the door. “I need you to leave Aaron.”
Aaron licked his lips and shook his head subtly to himself a few times. He snatched his shirt off the floor and pulled it over his head. “Alright. Fine. You don’t want to be with me, that’s cool.” Aaron snapped into his too-cool-to-care attitude. He stomped out of Beth’s room, the candle’s flames swaying from the whipped up air around them.
“Aaron…” Beth called helplessly, but it was too late. She already heard the front door slam downstairs.
Beth shook her head once as she blew one of the candles out. What was she doing? Why was she feeling bad about this? He killed Austin.
As Beth blew out the rest of the vanilla and cinnamon scented candles she vaguely wondered why she hadn’t seen Aaron’s car parked out front. Had he parked down the block so she wouldn’t see it?
Beth let her door fall open all of the way, trying to air out the toxic scent. She wondered if she would even be able to sleep in her room tonight, it the scent wasn’t gone she was going down to their guest room. Grabbing her bag off of the floor and shoving it into her desk chair, Beth exhaled loudly. That was something she hadn’t planned for. With everything going on right now, why would Aaron try that? She has so many things on her mind, so many worries, how could he expect her to do that?
As much as Beth didn’t want to admit it, if she hadn’t found Austin’s journal, if Aaron wasn’t the most wanted on her Austin’s killer list, she would have wanted to. Even with her sadness over Austin’s death, and everything that was going on with Mr. Werner and the Mr. Jameson folder, she would have wanted to. But that fact that there was even a remote chance that Aaron could have been the one who’d done it, the entire feeling was washed away. Never again would Beth Taylor feel that way for Aaron Cooper.

Beth sat on her bed, leaning against her wall, her knees tucked tightly to her chest, her chin resting on top, a bowl of popcorn beside her feet. A tear ran down her cheek as fear penetrated her skin from all sides and slowly consumed her.
It’s all over. She thought to herself as the bright lights of the television lit up her face and then darkened again. It’s all over. She repeated over and over again in her head.
On the television was the local news, the polished and plastic news people revealing every little dirty detail of their new breaking story. Unluckily for Beth, it was about her, and the Jameson folder. Every fear of Beth’s, every little secret that was hidden in that folder was unraveling for anyone who wanted to know. Soon enough, everyone would know, and Beth’s life would be over as she knew it.
“Local high school juniors, Bethany Ann Taylor and Kristen Mary Dollsworth,” the bleach blonde, Botox victim, woman went on. Just as they began to go into detail of the contents of the folder Beth jilted forward in her bed.
Quickly and desperately Beth whipped her head to the side, her eyes searching for the clock. It was Saturday morning, 5 a.m. It was just a dream. It was just a dream. Beth sighed in relief and sat up on her bed. Her heart pounded violently against her ribs and her breathing was rapid.
As the memory of Thursday night flashed into her head Beth groaned. That however was not a nightmare, regardless of how badly Beth wished it was. Aaron and her hadn’t spoken since, not like Beth would pick up the phone if he called.
Beth let her head fall into her hands as she took deep yoga breaths. She couldn’t even comfort herself by thinking about how things could actually be worse. At the moment, it didn’t seem possible. Mr. Werner, Kristen Dollsworth, Aaron Cooper, Austin Taylor, the Mr. Jameson folder…it was all just way too much.
Beth rolled herself out of bed, frowning as she remembered her parents were still in California. They had called last night to check in, but that had been the first and last time. She wished they’d hurry and just get back already. She was sick of being home all alone all the time.
Faintly Beth’s mind drifted to Kristen, she wondered how she was handling the Mr. Jameson folder issue. Was she crumbling like Beth was? Even though it was Winter Break and she got two entire weeks off of school, Beth still couldn’t force herself to be even slightly happy. It seemed ridiculous to even try. Desolately, Beth pulled her arms to her chest, feeling utterly and completely alone.
Beth’s insides iced over and her heart skipped a beat. It was amazing that she hadn’t thought of it earlier, made the connection. Maybe, just maybe, if Aaron really was the one who killed Austin, he was also the person who broke into Kristen’s house and stole that folder.
It was hard for Beth to picture it. She’d thought she knew Aaron so well, and that just didn’t seem possible for him. He just didn’t appear to be the type of person who would do something like that…either of them.
But what if it was all an act? What if he was acting like this amazing, sweet, all American boy to cover his tracks? What if he was the type of psycho who kills people and breaks into people’s houses, and puts them into the hospital for a damn folder?
Then Beth got to thinking, what would Aaron want with that folder? Nothing really concerned him in there; there would be no reason for him to want it. Unless his sole objective was to terrorize Kristen and Beth.
“Ugh!” Beth groaned. Her head hurt. Why did everything have to be so complicated and confusing? She wished it was like elementary school again, where everything was just so simple and easy to figure out. The directions were simple: color inside the lines. There was nothing confusing about it.
Beth jumped three feet in the air and she let out a small scream at the sound of her phone. After her heart began beating again and her breathing came a little easier she fumbled for the phone and pulled it to her ear. “Hello? Hello?”
“Hello. Is this Bethany Ann Taylor?” An unfamiliar voice on the other line wondered.
“Um, yes it is. May I ask who’s calling?” Beth asked, her forehead creasing. Who addressed her by her formal name?
“This is Officer Daniel. I helped you with your case.” He explained. “Regrettably, I have some upsetting news.” He went on in a lower voice, it almost sounded as if he was previously crying.
Beth’s back tensed and her heart began thumping violently again. “Upsetting news?” She squeaked, her voice breaking.
“Yes. I’m sorry to inform you that your boyfriend, Aaron Cooper, has gone missing.”
“Missing?” Beth demanded in a gasp. “You’re kidding right? That’s not possible, I just saw him on Thursday.”
“His parents said he never came home that night. He wasn’t seen yesterday either, and still no word from him today.” Officer Daniel explained as Beth began to pace nervously.
He never went home that night?
Was that because of that fight they had? Had he run away because of her? Did he run away because of their fight? Was it really her fault?
“He’s missing?” Beth echoed in barely more than a whisper.
“We’re going to do all we can. Do you have any ideas of where he might be?”
“None.” Beth breathed as she stared out her window, falling helplessly into a daydream. Her favorite song rang in her ears, the memory of Aaron playing it outside her window, and them dancing to it in the middle of her floor. She remembered crying like a baby in the middle of the field when Aaron showed up, their fight after he’d found out about Parker, and when he told her he’d always love her. Beth swallowed hard, wondering why she was so heartbroken for the person who killed her little brother.
Until she found that journal she had no suspicions, it couldn’t be Aaron. If she hadn’t found Austin’s journal she still wouldn’t suspect Aaron. And as much as she wanted to hate him, as much as she wanted to make him pay, she was still involuntarily, irrevocably, and hopelessly in love with him.
And even though she had a pretty good idea to exactly where he would be, she lied. “I have no idea where he could be.”

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. The clicking of the over-sized black modern clock reverberated through the police station waiting room. Beth sat in one of the scratchy red cloth chairs in the back right corner of the waiting room, her mother on her right, her father on her left. Her dad shifted his weight and her mom switched her legs, crossing her left over her right.
Beth nervously picked at the brown finger nail polish on her thumb and tapped the toes of her black flats against the gray and green pattern on the carpet. It seemed like she’d been waiting there for hours. Maybe there was a camera watching her and the police officers were sitting in a back room watching her. She probably looked pretty guilty to them. She felt guilty.
Besides them, there was only one other person waiting. He was a middle aged man who obviously had some weight to lose. He had a gray and brown beard, with what looked like bacon bits weaved in. He was clad in an oil stained too-tight tee shirt and ripped jeans. Was this some kind of statement he was making?
The man at the front desk was typing away on his computer, only looking up every so often. His glasses were perched low on his nose and his hair was combed perfectly to the side. He looked like someone trying to sell pens.
Beth swallowed uncomfortably, feeling a little dizzy. They obviously had the heat up way too high. Maybe it was all a part of their plan, to make people delusional and hysterical from the heat so they would tell them whatever they wanted to know. Beth wondered exactly what they expected her to tell them. She didn’t really know anything that could help them find Aaron. So why her? Why didn’t she see Aaron’s parents or close friends sitting in here? Why was it just her?
The hideous wall paper wasn’t making it much easier for Beth. She was staring at tan and red pointless patterns that honestly made her sick to her stomach. Between the carpet and the wallpaper Beth felt extremely over dressed. She could have worn tie dye and camouflage and fit right in.
“Bethany Ann Taylor?” A tall man with dark brown hair gelled back in an awkward fashion asked as he walked out of a back room. He looked like he couldn’t be over twenty-five years old. If it wasn’t for the badge and serious look on his face, he could look like he was heading off to Sunday church, or for a date arranged by his parents. Beth shivered, he reminded her of Mr. Werner.
“That’s me.” Beth raised her hand slightly and rose to her feet.
“Right this way.” He instructed. The man led Beth and her parents into a back room with a desk in the middle. There were four chairs, three on one side and a rolling one on the other. “You can have a seat right there.” The man went on as he closed the door behind them.
Beth looked around cautiously. It felt like she was in one of those visiting rooms in a prison.
“My name is Officer Henry. I’m sure you know why you’re here. I just want to ask you a few questions about Aaron Cooper, who went missing last Thursday.” Henry explained as Beth and her parents took their seats.
“Okay.” Beth nodded weakly, her voice barely more than a whisper.
“I understand you were dating Mr. Cooper. Is that correct?” Officer Henry asked, a small stack of papers resting on top of a folder were in front of him. He held a black pen in his right hand. He glanced up at Beth, waiting for her answer.
Beth swallowed hard. Was he going to write down everything she said? “Um, yes. Aaron and I were dating.” Beth answered slowly.
“For how long?” Officer Henry wondered as he jotted something down on the papers in front of him.
“Um, I don’t know.” Beth answered honestly. “Five months?”
“And were there any signs that Mr. Cooper would run away? Were there family troubles? Was he depressed?”
“No.” Beth shook her head quickly. “Aaron had everything going for him. He was as happy as anyone could ever be. Everything was fine at home for him, life at school was perfect. He didn’t act like anything was wrong.”
“But could there have been?” Henry pushed, an unreadable expression on his face, it almost looked as if he wasn’t a believing a word she was saying. “Could there have been something wrong?”
“I don’t know.” Beth admitted helplessly. “He was over at my house on Thursday. When he left he was upset, but I thought he was just going home.”
“He was at your house before he disappeared?” Officer Henry asked in an interested tone as he quickly wrote something else on the papers. “Why was he upset?”
“We got in a fight.” Beth said slowly, hoping she wouldn’t have to go into detail.
“About what?” Office Henry demanded, resting his arms on the table and staring at Beth.
Beth shifted her weight and looked to her parents for help. They just nodded encouragingly.
“Private stuff.” Beth shrugged.
“Beth, it is important for you to tell me everything. It could be what helps us find Aaron.” Officer Henry insisted.
“Look, if my daughter doesn’t want to talk about her personal issues that she and her boyfriend had, then don’t push it. It’s none of your business what problems they had in their relationship.” Beth’s mom cut in, giving Beth’s hand an encouraging squeeze.
“We’re dealing with a missing minor here. I’m not trying to cut into Bethany’s life so I can have the high school gossip. I’m trying to find this missing kid.” Officer Henry snapped leaning against the back of his chair.
“And digging into my daughter’s private life isn’t going to find him for you. If you’re really that determined to find Aaron, why don’t you go out and look for him.” Janie snapped. Beth looked to her mom with a thankful smile. She really didn’t want to have to explain to the police, in front of her parents, the real reason Aaron had stormed out so upset.
“I think you got enough here.” Beth’s father, Seth, added as he and Janie rose to their feet. Beth looked up at them, worry and confusion all over her face. Her mom grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet.
“Have a good day Officer Henry.” Beth’s mother added as they walked out of the backroom and headed towards the station’s front door. Outside the snow and ice had finally melted off of the sidewalks and roads, but the air and wind were still pretty cold. Beth pulled her white North Face coat tightly around her and braced herself as she stepped out into the cold and crisp winter air.
“Let’s get you home.” Seth, Beth’s father, said to her.
“You know, I’ll meet you there.” Beth offered as she headed over to her car. “There’s something I need to do first.”
Her parents creased their foreheads but agreed as they headed back to their car.
Beth jumped into the driver’s seat and buckled her seat belt. Just because Officer Henry was never going to find Aaron Cooper, didn’t mean she wouldn’t.
Beth had spent some time reading through Austin’s entire journal. She remembered reading about this abandoned mansion just a few blocks off the street to Hills Grove that the football team found. All of the windows and doors are boarded up but they found an entrance in the back of the house. Austin’s journal said they used it as a get-away. He’d said that any of them would use it when they needed to get away, somewhere where no one would find them if they didn’t want them to. Austin had described it as the perfect place to run away to if he ever tried to run away from home.
The road was wet from all of the melted snow and ice. As Beth turned onto the street that led to Hills Grove water splashed up against her windshield. Flipping the windshield wipers on, Beth turned onto the next street, which had a sigh indicating it was a dead end. As Beth neared the end of the road, a huge house came into view. Beth let out a small gasp, wondering why it was abandoned. It was one of the biggest houses she’d ever seen, not to mention the beautiful architecture.
Besides the lawn being in desperate need of mowing, the bushes and vines needing trimming, and the house needing some rebuilding, it was amazing.
It was abundantly visible that the old walls were decaying and breaking away, and that it would be a sad mistake for anyone to think someone could actually live here currently. But it had only been a couple of days, and maybe Aaron didn’t mind the broken down haunted looking house kind of thing.
Beth parked her car along the street, fishing Austin’s journal out of her bag. She flipped back to the first time he’d talked about the house, and located where he had explained the entrance.
The grass was mushy and soggy as Beth stumbled towards the back of the house, dirt and water seeping into her black flats.
Behind the house was an old half broken fence, only made of planks of wood. Beyond the fence was a large felid, disappearing behind two giant hills. Beth wondered what was beyond that.
The back of the house was just as beaten up, and broken glass lined the window sills, balconies and back porch. Someone must have broken in through the windows at one point, maybe that’s why everything was boarded up.
Beth studied the explanation of the entrance in Austin’s journal and searched for the panel of metal that he’d described. She spotted the green piece of metal and pulled it out, revealing a large hole. Begrudgingly she got down on her knees and crawled through the damp, and cold passage. After a few yards she came to another sheet of metal, which she kicked as hard as she could with her right foot.
Using her cell phone for light, Beth climbed out of the passage way to find herself standing in the middle of what used to be a living room. There was an old green sofa lying in the corner, the fabric on the cushions and arms torn open, a dusty fireplace on the far fall, and paintings hung high on every wall. Closest to her was a small antique looking desk that had a sheet of dust covering it. A pile of books lie in front of her, which she stepped over, the floor boards screaming beneath her.
Beth coughed once, the air stale and dry. She looked around, everything she could see was covered in dust, but there was no sign that someone else had been here recently. Beth slowly walked towards the staircase, her hands shaking slightly. The entire upstairs was completely black, and she couldn’t see a thing. What if someone else was in here? And what if it wasn’t Aaron?
A few rays of sun barley peeked in the windows, and it wasn’t much warmer than it was outside. Beth worried if she tried to walk anywhere, especially up the stairs, that the floor would just crumble beneath her. It looked like it could.
Squeaking on the floorboards sounded, making Beth jump. She turned around quickly, but nothing looked out of place. Her heart beat loudly and her hands shook furiously as she scanned the room with her eyes once more. She heard footsteps upstairs. “Oh!” She gasped in surprise, covering her mouth with her hands only a moment later. She took a deep breath and built up a little courage. “Aaron?” She called hesitantly, taking a cautious step towards the stairway. “Aaron is that you?”
After she heard no response, just more feet clamoring against the squeaky floorboards, Beth ran back to the passage that she’d come from. She wasn’t going to risk her life on a stupid hunch that she had. This place probably hadn’t even popped into Aaron’s mind when he’d decided to run away. He probably wasn’t even in the state anymore.
With her breaths in short gasps, Beth fell out of the passage way, out onto the muddy ground. Mud splattered on her jeans, shoes, and hands and she scrambled back to her feet. Positioning the sheet of metal exactly as it had been, Beth checked the time on her cell phone. She needed to hurry home. If she didn’t show up soon, her parents would start to wonder where she was.
Beth brushed off the mud the best she could, leaving brown streaks all over her hands and thighs and rushed back to her car. Beth sighed as she climbed in, she so did not want mud all over her seats. As she buckled up and pulled away from the house Beth wondered who had actually been in the house, or if it was just her imagination. But she could have sworn that she’d heard footsteps.
Her car was toasty warm and her heartbeat finally returned to normal. The road beneath her tires crackled, a few rocks flying up towards her windshield. Beth sighed as she drove slowly back in the direction to her house. Even without ice on the road she found herself driving more cautiously than usual. In reality she just wasn’t in any rush to get home. After she walked in that door what was she going to do?
Beth found herself barley crawling as she came up to Hills Grove. Beth’s car rolled to a stop in front of the soccer field. She put the car in park and stared out the window. The playground, the running trail, and the soccer fields were empty. It was perfect. This was exactly the kind of time that Beth would come visit the field, when no one else was around to witness it.
With a dramatic sigh Beth threw her car door open and stepped back out into the cold. She felt immediately embarrassed for being in public covered in mud.
Beth pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and stared at it for awhile. Was she really stupid enough to try this? Was she really stupid enough to believe that it would work?
As stupid as it made her feel, Beth dialed Aaron’s cell phone number and held her phone to her ear as she walked towards the spot where Austin was killed. She cocked her head to the side, her forehead creasing. She heard the phone ringing from the speaker that was right next to her ear, but she also heard it…close. Like it was echoing.
Beth absentmindedly continued to walk forward as the two rings rang on and on. It sounded almost as if Aaron was standing right next to her, his phone ringing in both of her ears.
When Beth finally reached the patch of grass where Austin was found, she gasped. Lying on the exact patch of grass was a grey cell phone, the screen lit up, Beth’s picture and phone number flashing on the screen. Beth hung up her cell phone quickly and let her arms hang by her sides, her eyes locked on the cell phone in front of her. That couldn’t really be Aaron’s cell phone, could it? What would it be doing in the middle of the felid? In this exact spot?
Beth crouched down and cautiously brought it into her hands, examining it carefully. Her forehead creased and she chewed on her lower lip as she realized it really was Aaron’s cell phone. It was unmistakable.
After the ‘missed call’ notification faded off the screen, as if someone were pushing the buttons, the screen changed to the dial pad. Suddenly Aaron’s phone was calling her cell phone, and Beth hadn’t pushed one button.
Beth jumped as her cell phone started ringing. She looked from her cell phone, to Aaron’s, and then back to hers. How was that possible? She hadn’t pressed a single button. It was like a ghost was standing over her shoulder, pressing the buttons on Aaron’s phone, and she just couldn’t see it.
Beth quickly punched the end key and let the cell phone fall back onto the grass. Beth took a few deep breaths, rose to her feet and took a step back, her eyes never leaving the cell phone. She wasn’t in some lame murder mystery TV show, okay? Beth looked around her again, biting down hard on her lower lip. Was someone watching her right now?
A shiver ran up her spine as she looked over her shoulder again. She didn’t see anyone, but that was what creped her out so much. It was almost as if she could sense that someone else was nearby, just watching her. She wondered again, why her? Why did all of this crazy stuff that she’d really rather not be a part of center around her?
Beth snatched the phone back off the ground and stared at the pervious dialed calls. Where the date and time that the call was made should have been there were just tons of random letters and numbers. Beth stuffed the phone in her pocket and sprinted back towards her car. If someone was watching her that very second, she was going to give them a show.

“What do think? Is this my color?” Kristen wondered as she examined her newly painted fingernails. She held them inches from her eyes, and then turned her hand towards Andrea.
Andrea pursed her lips and after a moment, smiled. “I like it.” She nodded. “Me?” She wondered, showing Kristen her newly painted skin colored nails.
“I like it.” Kristen nodded, examining her brownish purple nails once more.
Kristen pushed herself up into a sitting position and leaned against Andrea’s wall. The bed squeaking as she moved. The second season of 90210 was blaring in the background on Andrea’s flat screen TV.
“So…you and Parker? Dead or what? Do you think it can be fixed?” Andrea wondered as she blew on her fingernails.
“I don’t know.” Kristen sighed and stared intensely at the TV. She’d seen this episode four-thousand times, but it still managed to suck her in. “Maybe after he cools off we might have a chance. I mean look at Beth and Aaron…before he went missing of course. I never expected them to bounce back after that, but,” Kristen shrugged and exhaled loudly. “I guess stranger things have happened.”
“Do you want to get back with Parker?” Andrea asked.
“Of course I do.” Kristen snapped as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“Then why Oliver Smith? Why would you risk it for him?” Andrea demanded, cocking one eye brow expectantly.
“I already told you, I was beyond drunk and he threw himself at me.” Kristen shrugged and blew on her nails as she stared off into space. “Speaking of which, I need to borrow your super cute brown blouse. I’ve got this fancy dinner this weekend and I have the perfect shoes to match your top.” Kristen explained, already on her feet walking over to Andrea’s closet.
“No! Kristen wait!” Andrea called, but Kristen was already at her closet. “Don’t open that.” Andrea pleaded as Kristen threw the door open.
“Oh my God.” Kristen took a step back and looked to Andrea. “What is this?” She demanded.
Inside Andrea’s closet were countless boxes stacked up everywhere. It looked like she was…moving.
“I wanted to tell you Kris, but with everything that’s going on, I figured I’d wait for a better time.” Andrea shrugged helplessly.
“Tell me what?” Kristen demanded staring at Andrea.
“I’m moving.” Andrea laughed once with a shrug. “Surprise.”
“Wait, you’re moving? Where?” Kristen demanded.
“My mom got a new job in New York City. I don’t have a choice Kristen. We move in two weeks. My mom’s been on my back for not starting my packing yet.”
“You’re moving to New York?” Kristen breathed, her forehead creasing. “That’s like three thousand miles away from Colorado.”
“I know, I know, I know.” Andrea made an apologetic expression and shrugged again. “It’s not like I didn’t fight it. But my mom’s made up her mind. I just don’t have a choice Kristen. I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Kristen snapped and grabbed her bag. “I know you’ve always wanted to go to New York. I’m happy for you, I really am. I just…uh…I gotta go.” Kristen waved the air in front of her face away with her hand, as if to shove the moment away, and turned towards Andrea’s door.
“Oh come on Kris, you don’t have to leave.”
“I’ll see you later.” Kristen forced half a smile and bolted down the stairs and out Andrea’s front door.
Andrea was moving. She was moving! That was just perfect. Exactly what she needed right now.
Kristen exhaled loudly and jumped into her car. It was done then, and there was nothing she could do about it. One of her best friends since junior high was moving across the country, and that was that.
Kristen sighed as she drove with a little more speed than usual through her neighborhood. She really couldn’t imagine things getting any worse.
As she pulled into her driveway she noticed an unfamiliar car parked on the street outside of their house. She’d never seen that car before in her life. Was someone visiting that she didn’t know about?
Kristen walked up to her front door, glancing over her shoulder at the mysterious car again. She turned the door knob and stepped inside, the wind getting knocked straight out of her lungs in the next moment. She felt like someone had punched her in the gut, slapped her in the face, kicked her at her knees, and hit her with a train all at the same time.
Her eyes widened and she stumbled back against the front door. Kristen gasped for breath as she tried to make sense of what was standing right in front of her.
“Oh good, you’re home.” Her mother announced, coming out from behind the corner. “You remember your cousin, Brooklyn Bates.” She motioned towards the girl standing in front on her.
Of course Kristen remembered Brooklyn. They’d grown up together. But not one of Kristen’s memories of Brooklyn were good. Brooklyn was the one who replaced her shampoo with a super glue, honey, and maple syrup mixture when she was thirteen. On the night of Kristen’s first date ever Brooklyn had stepped on the back of her shoe as she began to walk down the stairs. Kristen had tripped, rolled all the way down the stairs, landed at her date’s feet, her skirt revealing her pink flower underwear.
When Kristen had lived in Florida, she and Brooklyn had gone to school together. In third grade it was Brooklyn who had tipped the teacher off that Kristen had cheated on her test and had stolen candy from the candy box. Kristen spent the rest of the day in the principle office, and her parents took away her TV privileges for a month. And what had Brooklyn had to say for herself? She’d laughed and said, ‘You deserved it. It’s your own fault for being so careless and stupid.’

Kristen had moved to Colorado after third grade, and she’d hoped she’d seen the last of Brooklyn. But life never did work that way. Every summer Brooklyn’s family had flown to Colorado and spent three months with them. The year Kristen had turned thirteen was the last time Brooklyn’s family had come. That was the year Brooklyn replaced Kristen’s shampoo and ruined her first date.
Brooklyn was the one and only daughter of the devil.
“What the hell is she doing here?” Kristen demanded, glaring at Brooklyn, who wore a giant smug smile on her face.
“Kristen.” Her mother snapped. “Don’t be rude.”
“Yeah, Kristen.” Brooklyn smiled evilly and rose one eye brow. “I know we’ve had our differences, but we’re not little kids anymore. I’m actually staying with you guys for an entire year. I start school with you right after Winter Break finishes.” Brooklyn explained smugly.
“Wait, what? Why are you staying with us for a year?” Kristen demanded.
“My mom thought it would be good for me to get out of Florida for awhile. And what better get away than to go spend time with my cousin in Colorado?” Brooklyn squared her shoulders and rose both of her eye brows.
Brooklyn’s blonde hair cascaded over the front of her shoulders, her blue eyes glowing. Her skin was even more tan than Kristen remembered, and she looked as if she’d gotten even more slim and tall. B****.
There wasn’t one good thing about Brooklyn. She was just a blackmailing, backstabbing, cruel, evil little b****.
Brooklyn was the kind of girl who wore just tank tops to school, a lacy push up bra underneath. She was the type of girl who could flirt her way out of anything, and had potential as a future stripper or prostitute, at least in Kristen’s opinion. Kristen thought she wore too much eyeliner and not enough clothes. If it was some kind of statement that Brooklyn was making, it was pretty clear. Everything about her screamed: I’M A SLUT.
Kristen wanted nothing to do with her, ever again.
“Isn’t this great? You haven’t seen each other since you were both thirteen! Now you guys can catch up. I told Brooklyn she could stay in the guest room.” Kristen’s mom went on.
Brooklyn nodded pompously, clearly enjoying this. Kristen glared at her, nostrils flaring. If Brooklyn thought she could just swoop in her on her broomstick and ruin everything that Kristen had going for herself, then she needed to think again. Kristen wasn’t thirteen anymore, and she wasn’t going to act like a child. If Brooklyn wanted a war, she was going to get one.
Kristen rose one eye brow at Brooklyn and shifted her weight to one side. Kristen’s mom didn’t seem to notice the building tension in the room. She never did notice. No matter how many horrible things happened between Kristen and Brooklyn, her mom just shook it off. (“Kids will be kids.”)
“Fabulous.” Kristen snorted and looked Brooklyn up and down once more. If Brooklyn thought she could just come in and ruin Kristen’s life all over again, then she was sadly mistaken. “Just stay out of my stuff.” Kristen pushed past her mother and Brooklyn and headed upstairs towards her room. Slamming the door behind her, Kristen threw her bag across the room and slid down to the floor. A tear escaped the corner of her right eye. She wiped it away immediately and hugged her knees to her chest. Not only did she hate Brooklyn, but she was one of the very few people that Kristen was actually afraid of.
Their entire childhood Brooklyn had tortured Kristen. Never once had Kristen and Brooklyn gotten along. And the one thing that Kristen had learned about Brooklyn over the years, was that Brooklyn wasn’t the kind of person that changed. She was always the same deceiving, manipulative, sadistic b****, year after year. She never changed.
And with age, came experience. There was no doubt in Kristen’s mind that Brooklyn had a few new tricks up her sleeves. Her pranks were no longer going to be the simple shampoo switches or first date humiliations.
Kristen wondered how anything else could go wrong. First Beth Taylor got Parker to dump her, then she finds out that Andrea is moving away, and now the devil’s little helper was moving into her house. What more could go wrong?
There was one thing that Kristen knew for sure, she wasn’t just going to take this sitting down. She wasn’t going to cry in a corner and let Brooklyn Bates stomp all over her, in her own house. Kristen wasn’t the same girl she’d been when they were thirteen. Kristen Dollsworth was the popular, fabulous, perfect girl who didn’t let anyone do her wrong. Brooklyn had better prepare herself, because Kristen was no longer the victim. And she’d mastered the art of revenge.
Kristen pulled out her cell phone furiously, her hands shaking slightly from the anger building up inside her. If she was going to take down Brooklyn Bates, she was going to need help. A job this big couldn’t be done alone. And after all of the pain Brooklyn had put her through over the years, she was determined to do it right.
“Sarah Mae,” Kristen spoke stiffly as she rose to her feet. She picked her bag back up off the floor and threw her bedroom door open. “I hope you’re not busy, because I’m coming over. We’ve got a situation.”

Beth clutched Aaron’s cell phone in her right hand tightly as she made her way to the school. She’d been running a little late this morning, so the parking lot was packed by the time she made it to the school. She was lucky enough to get the parking spot all the way in the back of the lot.
She couldn’t bring herself to search through Aaron’s cell phone, though it probably contained some good clues, if not evidence of what really happened to Austin.
Beth wondered where Star and Olivia were, she usually ran into them in the parking lot on her way towards the school, but neither them nor their cars were anywhere to be seen.
As Beth approached the bench she looked back over her shoulder, a feeling of being watched creeping through her. Across the lot was an unfamiliar boy, standing beside a black SUV, staring at her. It wasn’t a creepy stare, or one that would make fear flood through Beth. It was just another one of those admiring stares. He was probably a new kid, saw Beth, and already has a cute little school boy crush on her.
Beth pursed her lips and creased her forehead as she stared back at the mystery guy. She didn’t feel bad for him like she did for the rest, if he was interested in her (why wouldn’t he be?), he might actually have a chance.
He was tall and lean, obviously an athlete. He had perfectly messy dark caramel brown hair, a partially freckled face, ivory skin, and a cute smile. Beth frowned and nodded once in approval. He was pretty damn attractive.
Beth shook her head once and turned back towards the main building. She didn’t even know the guy, what if he was a freshman or something? Besides, there were much more important things on her mind today.
The main hallway smelt strongly of Axe deodorant and lemon cleaning spray. The halls were filled with hundreds of students shuffling along, laughing or talking loudly to one another. With all of the noise it all just morphed into a blur. Beth pushed her way through the crowd. She didn’t have to try that hard, once people noticed it was Beth Taylor they quickly stepped out of the way. She was treated like royalty.
Right before Beth walked through the door to English she stopped dead in her tracks. The girl behind her ran into her back and coughed, annoyed. Beth faintly wondered if this girl knew who she was annoyed with. Did she not know who she was bumping into? She had no right to be annoyed. Beth didn’t move.
“Um, excuse me?” The new girl demanded. Annoyed after Beth didn’t move, the girl walked around her.
Beth stood frozen in the doorway, blocking the way. She stepped to the side as a few more people approached the door, her mouth hanging open and her eyes locked on a certain senior boy that she hadn’t seen in over a year.
He was walking down the hallway towards her, his white teeth sparkling as he smiled a smug smile. His dark brown, almost black, hair voluminous and gorgeous. He was still extremely tan, buff, and drool worthy. Even Beth had to get off her high horse for this heartthrob. He was the bad boy of the school. The dangerous stud that every single girl was partially afraid of, particularly in love with. He was the kind of boy who wore black leather jackets, road motorcycles, played the guitar, and spent more than half of his time in a gym.
Beth noticed she wasn’t the only person staring. No one ever thought they’d see him back in school for his second attempt at senior year. No one thought they’d ever see him out of Juvenile Detention again.
Beth held her breath as he approached her, his eyes locked on hers. He winked, raised his eye brows and passed. She felt butterflies in her stomach, she wasn’t sure if it was because she was afraid, or because she was attracted to him.
Tucker Layton was back.
Beth found herself drifting in the direction Tucker had gone, as if she were a magnet. As Beth got farther and farther away from the English classroom her awareness grew smaller and smaller. It was almost as if she were brainwashed.
A twinge of pain shot through her as a large and muscular body ran into her. Beth shook her head, snapping out of her trance as she turned to see Anthony, staring at her with an unreadable expression.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” Beth shook her head once and smiled.
Anthony stared at her for a moment, almost as if he were angry with her. Beth looked at him, confused, waiting for him to say something.
“Sorry.” Anthony shook his head and forced a smile. “So you saw Tucker’s back, huh?” Anthony nodded towards the direction Tucker had gone.
“Um, yeah. I didn’t know he was coming back anytime soon.” Beth stuttered.
“I wish he wasn’t.” Anthony nearly growled, glaring in the direction Tucker had gone. “Just stay away from him, okay Beth?” Anthony said seriously, and without waiting for her response, he stomped in the same direction Tucker had gone.
Beth shook her head, surprised at Anthony’s anger, and then cautiously slipped into her English classroom. She knew Anthony wasn’t Tucker’s biggest fan, most people weren’t, but it had seemed deeper than that. He just acted full out weird. What was that? And telling her to stay away from Tucker, what was he? Her new big brother?
Beth took her seat, sighing at the sight of Aaron’s empty desk. She almost expected him to just walk in the door, saying he’d just gone on a short vacation or something. Beth stared at the door, but he didn’t appear.
One by one the rest of the class filed in and took their seats, all but one student. Parker didn’t even look at her as he stormed in and took his seat.
“Beth,” Someone tapped her shoulder.
Beth turned. Her forehead creased. “What do you want Megan?”
“I just need to talk to you, okay?” Megan shrugged honestly.
“Well we can’t all get what we want, now can we?” Beth snapped bitterly.
“I just have to ask you something.” Megan begged helplessly, her face creased with worry.
“Well I’m all out of time and answers.” Beth replied coldly and eyed Megan up and down once. “Why aren’t you with Kristen?”
“Because I can’t take her group anymore. There’s a reason I left Beth.” Megan explained.
“And yet you chose to go back.” Beth replied in nearly a laugh, her eye brows raising.
“What other choice did I have? You falsely accused me of something I didn’t do just so you didn’t have to face the consequences of your carelessness. And then you threw me out, just so you wouldn’t have to face the truth.”
“We’re still on that?” Beth demanded, laughing once. “Look I don’t care whether or not it was you who told Kristen, even though I know it was, you still went back to her group and turned into the same b**** you used to be. The same b**** you always were I guess.”
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay. That’s what real friends do. I know that’s a foreign concept to you, on account of you’ve never been a real friend to anyone in your entire life. You’re too absorbed in your own life and your own problems to even acknowledge other people.” Megan snapped.
“Yes I can see what a good friend you are. Yelling at me, telling me what a horrible person I am. Good friend stuff Megan.” Beth pumped her fist once and scrunched her face together.
“I don’t want to fight like this with Beth. I know you’re going through a lot and I feel bad. I mean between Austin, Mr. Werner and now Aaron, I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
“Please. Like you care.” Beth rolled her eyes.
“I do.” Megan insisted earnestly.
“Right.” Beth snorted. “I get what game you’re playing. Act like my dear friend, all concerned. I’m not buying it hun. You’re not that innocent. You’re trying to get me to trust you so then you can squeeze back into our group and spy for Kristen. I bet this is a part of her next plan isn’t it? Beth accused.
“Beth I’m serious. Why do you have to be so cryptic?” Megan exhaled and bit her lower lip. “You have to believe me.”
“I don’t have to do anything. Especially not for you. I’m Beth Taylor. And you’re going to have to do a lot better than that. I’m not falling for it.” Beth lifted her nose higher into the air and turned away from Megan. “Nice try.”
As the clock’s hands began to slowly craw over the numbers, one by one, Beth felt herself falling asleep. She faintly wondered if maybe, just maybe Megan was telling the truth, but she let the thought pass just a moment later. Megan was a betraying, backstabbing, manipulative, and untrustworthy b****. Beth couldn’t trust her. She wasn’t just about to make the mistake of trusting the wrong person again.
“Yes?” Mr. Fredrick’s voice interrupted Beth’s thoughts, making her slide to the back of her chair. “Um, new girl. I’m sorry, what’s your name again?”
“Brooklyn. Brooklyn Bates.” The pretty new girl responded in what sounded like a smug voice. Beth rose her eye brows and slid back down in her seat. She hated new kids that thought they were the s***.
Beth heard Kristen make a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. Kristen must not have been a huge fan of ‘Brooklyn Bates’ either.
“And I think that the poet’s point in those particular choice of words wasn’t to emphasize the importance of death, but rather, the unimportance of death. I mean, he talks so much in the other stanzas about the afterlife and how even though your body dies, your soul doesn’t. You still live through memories and the people who remember you. I think he’s saying that death isn’t such a big deal like everyone thinks, because, well, it’s not the end.” Snobby, clearly full of herself, Brooklyn went on. Beth rolled her eyes again. After only ten minutes in a class with Brooklyn she could already tell she was a smart-ass know it all who thinks way too highly of herself.
“Insightful opinion.” Mr. Fredrick praised as Beth rolled her eyes. “Anyone else have an opinion?”
Beth sank down in her chair slightly, hoping he wouldn’t spontaneously call on her like he always did.

“Beth Taylor!” He announced.
Beth groaned internally. Great.
“I disagree with Brooklyn.” Beth responded quickly, sitting back up straight. “Yeah, maybe the poet does make a point of addressing the idea of afterlife and living through memories and literature after your gone, but he also explains through the entire poem the importance of making the most of your life. He repeats over and over again about how you only get one life and how you should do everything you can with your one chance. I mean, even if there is an afterlife, you only get one life. You only get one chance to make an impression with other people and to make your name in the world. And if you don’t do that, then exactly whose memory do you expect to live through when you’re gone? Who’s gonna remember you? Who’s going to want to remember you?” Beth answered, squaring her shoulders slightly.
“Also very insightful.” Mr. Fredrick nodded and winked at Beth. “Does anyone else have any other opinions?”
The rest of the class period passed slowly. Mr. Fredrick was determined to have everybody share their opinion, and then debate both sides of the argument. Beth had never been happier to hear the bell ring in her entire life.
As Beth passed Tucker in the hallway her heart did a back flip. Tucker bit his bottom lip and winked as he passed Beth, making her pulse race. Since when did Tucker Layton pay so much attention to her? She may be the most popular girl in the school, but she was also just a junior. For his third time as a senior, you’d think he wouldn’t be interested in any girl that went to the high school. Wouldn’t he think they were all too young for him?
Beth must have heard ‘I’m sorry about Aaron’, and, ‘how are you?’, a thousand times between second and sixth period. Apparently her personal life was the newest juicy school gossip all over again. Beth sighed as she headed towards the History room. When would it ever stop? It was like everyone had already forgotten about the Oliver Smith and Kristen Dollsworth scandal already. Beth had hoped it would last longer than that.
Beth walked through the History classroom door, half expecting to see Mr. Werner standing there. Without even looking up to see the new History teacher, Beth headed to her desk. Right before Beth set her things down on the table she looked up, her breath catching in her throat.
Her things clattered to the floor as she struggled for air. It may have not been Mr. Werner standing in the front of the room, and it may not have been Mr. Jameson, but it was even worse.
Beth gasped and quickly bent down to pick up her things. He was so hot. So much more attractive than Mr. Werner. And he looked so young. How old was he? Twenty three?
The new teacher looked up and smiled at her, his white teeth glistening. He had chestnut tousled hair and beautiful brown eyes. The sleeves of his white button down shirt were rolled up to his elbows, exposing his muscular forearms. He was lean and tall, and almost looked like he was still in high school.
Beth smiled back at him and took a seat, nervously fussing with the hair rubber band on her right wrist. “So you’re the new History teacher?” Beth asked, trying to sound casual and confident.
“That I am.” The hot guy grinned again, pointing to the stack of papers on his desk. “First day and I’m already overloaded with papers that need to be graded. You’re teacher didn’t exactly leave a clean slate for me.” He laughed once.
Beth couldn’t force herself to laugh with him. Just mentioning Mr. Werner made her insides turn to ice. She swallowed uncomfortably, hoping that the new hot teacher hadn’t noticed her sudden stiffness.
“So you are…” The hot guy went on, grabbing for the seating chart. “Ms. Taylor. Bethany?” He asked, still smiling.
“I go by Beth.” Beth nodded once and forced a smile.
“Well it’s very nice to meet you Beth.” He continued as he set the seating chart back on his desk. “I’m Mr. Ryder.”
“Ryder?” Beth laughed once, grinning back at him. “That’s awesome.” Beth found herself back on her feet, drifting towards Mr. Ryder’s desk. She noticed she was the only student in the classroom. “Am I like seriously early, or what?” Beth laughed, motioning towards the empty classroom as she reached Mr. Ryder’s desk.
Mr. Ryder laughed with her and glanced at the clock. Beth wondered what his first name was. She cocked her head to the side, gawking at how amazingly gorgeous and flawless his face was. He looked like a Greek God.
Beth shook her head once and snapped out of it. What was she doing? She just sent yet another History teacher to jail, and now she was crushing on her new one? What was wrong with her?
Did she enjoy complicating her own life? Or did she have a secret obsession with ruining other people’s lives that she hadn’t realized yet?
“You know, History’s my favorite subject.” Beth offered, trying to turn the conversation back to school.
“Really? That’s good.” Mr. Ryder nodded approvingly. “I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s mine too.” He whispered with a wink.
“No s***.” Beth laughed once, her eyes widening the very next second. It was pathetic how strict the school was about language. You drop the F bomb and you get detention for a month, if they like you. Otherwise the consequences are something extremely ridiculous like suspension. “Um…I’m sorry.” Beth gasped helplessly.
“Don’t worry about it.” Mr. Ryder laughed and winked at her, a lock of chestnut hair falling into his eyes. “I’ve heard the word before. Used it myself even.”
Beth smiled back at him, her heart slamming against her ribs. They were going to get along just fine.
Beth dug her fingernails into her thighs. She couldn’t do this, not again. She saw where flirting and crushing on a teacher had gotten her before. That was not happening all over again.
Beth looked back to Mr. Ryder who was smiling a gorgeous smile at her. It would be so much easier if he wasn’t so damn sexy and perfect.

With the sky still dark outside, and the heat just beginning to flood through the vents, Kristen rolled out of bed. Her eyes barely opened and her feet dragging on the floor like one hundred pound weights, she stumbled over to her closet.
Her Brooklyn downfall planning hadn’t gone too perfectly. Sarah Mae was too busy gushing over the going away party they were going to have for Andrea. She felt the need to tell Kristen every single detail, and then they spend the rest of the time thinking of new ideas. It wasn’t like Kristen didn’t love parties, but she just didn’t want to think about the fact that Andrea was moving all the way to New York.
Kristen rubbed her eyes and one by one went through her shirts that were dangling perfectly off wooden hangers. Kristen cocked her head to the side as she reached the last shirt. She knew exactly which blouse she was looking for, and she knew that she hadn’t wore it in at least a month, but where was it? Had she accidentally skipped over it?
Kristen went through all of her shirts once more, but her favorite blue French blouse was nowhere to be seen. She glanced at the clock and sighed in frustration.
Settling for her green blouse, dark skinny Black Orchid jeans and high heeled, thigh high, black boots. She quickly applied her makeup, styled her hair, triple checked her reflection in the mirror and then headed down to the kitchen.
Already sitting at the kitchen table was Brooklyn…in Kristen’s missing blue French blouse.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Kristen demanded, aggressively tapping Brooklyn on the shoulder.
Brooklyn turned, a smug expression on her face. “I’m eating breakfast.” She nodded towards the giant plate in front of her, which held a stack of pancakes smothered in maple syrup.
“Ew.” Kristen scrunched her face disgustedly and placed her hands on her hips. “I meant the shirt you’re wearing. That’s mine.”
“I know.” Brooklyn shrugged as Kristen took the seat across the table from her. “I’m sorry for not asking before I borrowed it. But it goes so well with these jeans.”
Kristen pursed her lips as she examined Brooklyn’s jeans, which weren’t even as hot as her skinny Black Orchid’s. “I believe borrowing without asking is called stealing.” Kristen snapped as she walked over to the counter and poured a bowl of her Special K cereal. She glared at Brooklyn, who was shoving down more and more pancakes. Kristen couldn’t believe she was actually eating that. Pancakes were just ten pounds of pure fat covered in syrup wrapping. And man did she use a lot of syrup. How the hell was that girl still so skinny?
Kristen sat back at the table and shoved a spoonful of her Special K vanilla almond cereal into her mouth.
“Oh calm down. I’ll give it back tonight.” Brooklyn rolled her eyes and shoved a mouthful of pancakes in.
Kristen scrunched her nose and glared at Brooklyn. She hated her. “Fine, but if anything happens to that shirt you’re dead.”
Just as Kristen said it a huge amount of maple syrup came flying off of Brooklyn’s plate and fork as she ate another mouthful, leaving a large stain all over the front of the blouse.
Kristen’s jaw dropped and she rose to her feet in anger. “What did you just do?” She screamed.
“S***.” Brooklyn grabbed a napkin and started wiping off the syrup. But it was too late, it was already stained. “I’m going to have to pick out a whole new outfit now.” Brooklyn complained.

“Do you have any idea how much that blouse costs?” Kristen demanded.
“Calm down Kristen. It’s just a stupid shirt.” Brooklyn rolled her eyes.
“And you’re just a stupid b****.” Kristen snapped and stomped over to the counter. She grabbed her jacket, bag, and car keys. Just as Kristen was about to storm out of the front door and head to school her mother appeared in the kitchen.
“Kristen wait up!” She called. Kristen reluctantly turned. “I need you to drive Brooklyn to and from school, just for now. Her car is having some trouble and down at the garage right now, so she has no way of transportation. I just need you to be her ride until we can figure something else out.” Her mother explained.
“You’re joking right?” Kristen demanded, glaring at Brooklyn, her mouth still hanging slightly open. “I’m not driving her around.”
“I can be ready in five minutes.” Brooklyn peeped up, placing her plate in the sink and walking to the foot of the stairs. “Give me a second to change and then we can leave.” She offered sweetly and then turned and headed up the stairs.
“I can’t take this much longer mom.” Kristen growled.
“Oh please.” Her mother rolled her eyes. “Brooklyn is making an effort to get along, so why can’t you? Stop being such a drama queen Kristen.”
Kristen’s jaw dropped as her mom headed up the stairs to her room. Crossing her arms over her chest, Kristen impatiently tapped her foot against the wooden floor, waiting for Brooklyn. It was bad enough that Kristen had to live with Brooklyn, and she had to go to school with her. But now she had to drive her around too? How could things get any worse?
Brooklyn came rushing down the stairs in an over the shoulder sweater, her bag and jacket in hand. Without saying a word, Kristen turned and stormed out to her car.
The entire ride to school Kristen didn’t look at or say a word to Brooklyn. She wouldn’t even turn the radio on. The silence hurt Kristen’s ears, making her shift her weight uncomfortably multiple times. Brooklyn didn’t say a word either. The tension inside the car made Kristen want to scream.
The school parking lot was crammed. Luckily, Kristen managed to find a parking spot in the first row.
As Kristen and Brooklyn made their way towards the school, silently, a very familiar face approached them.
“Hey there.”
“Parker?” Kristen raised her eye brows as they came to a stop right in front of the main building. “What do you want?”
“I wanted to introduce myself to the new student. It’s called being polite.” He snapped and turned towards Brooklyn, smiling. “I’m Parker.” He said as he extended his hand.
Brooklyn shook his hand, smiling stupidly. “I’m Brooklyn. I’m Kristen’s cousin.” She nodded towards Kristen who made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat.
“Very good to meet you Brooklyn.” Parker beamed.
Kristen cleared her throat loudly and tapped Brooklyn on the shoulder. “I’ll meet you here after school.” She said through her teeth and then stormed inside the main building.
Did Brooklyn have to take everything that belonged to Kristen? First her home, then her school, then her favorite shirt, and now her boyfriend? It was like Brooklyn’s only goal in life was to make Kristen miserable. Kristen had to hand it to her, she did a damn good job.
Kristen was one of the first people in the English classroom for once. She took her seat and absentmindedly doodled on a loose leaf piece of paper.
The rest of the class slowly filed in. Kristen refused to raise her eyes when Brooklyn and Parker walked in together. She could hear Brooklyn’s shrill laugh and Parker’s deep voice whispering something. Great. Ten minutes and they were already BFFs.
Kristen didn’t pay attention the entire period. Instead she spent her time zoning out, doodling, and glaring at Brooklyn from the corner of her eyes. After the bell rang Kristen quickly rushed out into the hall. It was still cold and icy outside, so the outside halls were almost completely empty…which meant the inside halls were crammed.
Kristen pulled out her cell phone and began texting Amber as she walked.
“Oh!” Kristen gasped as she ran into something large and hard. She looked up. Stumbling back two steps she stuffed her cell phone back into her pocket. Before her was Tucker Layton. “Um, I’m sorry.” Kristen stuttered. “I wasn’t looking where I was going. My bad.” She shrugged sheepishly and stepped to the side so Tucker could pass.
She swallowed uncomfortably. She didn’t know Tucker was back from Juvie. She waited for Tucker to pass, but he didn’t move.
“You’re Kristen Dollsworth, right?” He asked unexpectedly.
Kristen’s eye brows raised. She was surprised that he knew who she was. “Um, yeah.” She nodded once as she gulped loudly. “And you’re Tucker Layton.” She laughed once uncomfortably.
Tucker laughed once and looked down at the ground. “Yeah. I guess I’ve got a reputation here, huh?”
“You’re a senior for the second time and you’ve been to Juvie twice. How could you not?” Kristen laughed once.
“Yeah, well that’s the old me.” Tucker looked back up at Kristen with honest eyes. “I’m done with the bad-ass s***. I’m gonna graduate, and stay out of Juvie, or jail.”
“That’s great.” Kristen smiled at him, feeling weird talking to Tucker Layton.
“You were going out with that Parker Patterson guy, right?” He asked.
Kristen lifted her chin slightly and clenched her teeth tightly. “Yeah. Big mistake.”
“Yeah.” Tucker laughed. “He’s a total noob. He thinks he’s the s*** when he’s really a scared little boy. In my opinion, you can do much better.”
“Tell me about it.” Kristen rolled her eyes, thinking back to him and Brooklyn.
“Well it was good to see you Kristen.” Tucker smiled.
“You too.” Kristen nodded as Tucker walked away and disappeared around the corner.
Kristen stared after him for a few moments. Had he been flirting with her? Had he actually seemed interested? Kristen shook her head, laughing once to herself. How could she honestly think that Tucker Layton would be interested in a Junior? And why would she even care? She would never want to go out with Tucker Layton. Would she?
Kristen turned around, pulled out her cell phone, and hurried in the direction of her second period class. She forwarded her messaged to Sarah Mae, Andrea, Amber, and Megan:
Double 911 emergency!!

The final bell had rung and Kristen was begrudgingly waiting for Brooklyn. She contemplated just taking off without her. She would deserve it.
Finally Kristen spotted Brooklyn, who was coming around the corner. She made it to Kristen with a huge grin on her face.

“What are you so happy about?” Kristen asked skeptically, raising her eye brows.

“You know that guy I met this morning? Parker Patterson? He asked me out!” Brooklyn beamed.
“What?” Kristen demanded, taking a step back.
“What?’ Brooklyn demanded innocently. She knew it would get under Kristen’s nerves. She smiled smugly. “I thought you’d be happy for me.”
“He’s my ex boyfriend!” Kristen nearly shouted. “We just broke up, like a few days ago.”

“Well,” Brooklyn shrugged. “Looks like he moved on. You should too, because we’re going out tonight.” Brooklyn went on, clearly pleased with herself.
“You know what Brooklyn?” Kristen laughed once, shaking her head and biting down hard on her lower lip. She clenched her teeth and resisted the urge to scream as loud as she could.
Brooklyn may have found a hobby in torturing Kristen when they were kids, but no longer did Kristen Dollsworth let anyone run all over her. Especially not Brooklyn Bates.
Anger flooded through Kristen like fire, pervading through every inch of her body. She glared at Brooklyn, biting her lip so hard that she began to taste blood.
Brooklyn took a step back, her forehead creasing with what looked like fear.
“Screw you.” Kristen laughed in anger and flipped Brooklyn off. She began to walk backwards, towards the parking lot. “Find your own ride home b****!” Kristen called as she turned and stormed towards her car.
She was Kristen freaking Dollsworth, and she didn’t put up with anybody’s s***.

It was yet another school day, and Beth just barely managed to force herself out of bed. Beth groaned overly dramatically as she pulled her black blouse, skinny True Religion jeans, and silver toned six inch boots on. Beth curled her hair into large soft curls and blew a kiss to herself in the mirror. Even when she was so tired that she felt like she was going to pass out, she still managed to look fabulous.
After applying her makeup and grabbing her bag, keys, and jacket, Beth hurried down to the kitchen. Both of her parents had left for work already, but they’d left a bagel for her on the counter.
Beth snatched the bagel and hurried outside. She locked the door and turned around, to see a car waiting for her out in the street. It was Olivia’s black SUV. Beth cocked her head to the side and smiled.
Olivia rolled down the window, an expecting look on her face. “Well, are you gonna get in or just stand there?” She laughed.
Beth hurried down the porch stairs and across her lawn to Olivia’s car and jumped into the passenger seat. “What’s the occasion?” Beth wondered as she buckled her seat belt. She shoved her car keys into her bag and then tossed it into the back seat.
“You’re still coming over today after school right?” Olivia wondered as she pulled out of Beth’s neighborhood.
“Yeah.” Beth nodded, still not understanding.
“Saving gas,” Olivia shrugged. “You know, save the planet and all that s***.” She laughed.
“Since when were you such an environmentalist?” Beth wondered.
“Okay you caught me!” Olivia joked, rolling her eyes dramatically. “I needed to talk to you in person before we got to school.”
“Alright, hit me with it. What’s going on?” Beth sighed as she looked out the window and then back to Olivia.
“I’m just the messenger, so don’t like flip out or b**** slap me, okay?” Olivia asked with an apologetic expression. “Anthony wanted me to tell you to stay away from Tucker. I don’t know why, but he hasn’t shut up about it all week. Tucker this, Tucker that.” Olivia rolled her eyes. “It gets so annoying. And on top of all the Tucker talk, he keeps talking about you and how you need to stay away from Tucker. Not once has he told me to stay away from him. I guess I’m not cool enough for his concern.” Olivia laughed and rolled her eyes. “Well,” She shrugged as she pulled up to a red light. “I told you.”
Beth creased her forehead as she gazed out the window. Why was Anthony so concerned about her? Why was he so determined for her, and apparently only her, to not talk to Tucker Layton? Why would he think she would talk to him in the first place? Before Tucker left for Juvie, Beth and him had barely said five words to each other. They might as well have lived in completely different worlds.
As Olivia pulled her car into the school parking lot Beth noticed a figure by the bench in front of the school. Beth squinted her eyes and she stared at the figure. It looked like the same guy that she’d seen the other day.
“Who’s that?” Olivia wondered as she parked and they stepped out of her car.
“Who’s who?” Beth asked as she pulled her bag out of the backseat.
“The boy who’s undressing you with his eyes.” Olivia laughed and nodded towards the bench.
“He is not!” Beth laughed once as they began to walk towards the school.
“Who is he?” Olivia demanded.
“I don’t even know, okay? I saw him yesterday too, but other than that I’ve never seen him before in my life. I bet he’s not even looking at me!” Beth defended as they got closer and closer to the bench.
“Ooo. Look here, Beth Taylor has discovered modesty. When did you make this astounding breakthrough?” Olivia teased.
“Ha, ha.”
“He’s cute.” Olivia offered. “And Beth,” Olivia stopped Beth, turning her so they were face to face. “Of course he’s looking at you.” Olivia laughed once. “Like you even need me to tell you that.”
“Um, hi.” A deep voice called. Beth jumped and turned to see the boy standing in front of her. She glanced back at the now vacant bench, just to make sure it was the same guy. “I’m William Foley, but you can call me Will.”
“Um, hi.” Beth shook his hand, her forehead creasing slightly. “I’m Beth Taylor and this is my friend Olivia.”
“I know who you are.” Will smiled flirtatiously. “You’re the most popular girl in the school.”
“But I don’t know you.” Beth inspected him with her eyes. He was even cuter close up. “Are you like new or something?”
“Yeah I just transferred the other day.” He nodded.
Beth pursed her lips as she tucked a strand of her platinum blonde hair behind her ear. He just looked a lot…younger close up. Almost as if we was freshman. “What grade are you in?” Beth wondered, raising her eye brows.
“I’m a sophomore.” Will admitted sheepishly.
Beth and Olivia exchanged a look, and then turned back to Will. Beth snorted and made an almost apologetic facial expression. “Goodbye Will.” She rolled her eyes as Olivia and her began to walk away.
“Hey wait up!” Will called, running in front of them. “You’re just a junior right?”
“Yeah.” Beth nodded, exchanging a look with Olivia again. “Obviously you don’t know me like you claim to. I’m Beth Taylor. The most popular girl in school. I would never be interested in a sophomore.” Beth coughed once and then moved Will out of the way. “Sorry.”
Suddenly Will was in front of them again. Beth exhaled loudly, beginning to get impatient. This guy needed to learn to back the hell off. He was a sophomore, and no matter how cute he was, that wasn’t going to change. “I’m not your ordinary sophomore.”
“I can see that. You’re way more annoying than the rest are. Most of the stalkers back off after I tell them once.” Beth raised her eye brows and grabbed Olivia’s arm. “Now if you’ll excuse us.” She added rudely and pulled Olivia away.
“Feisty! I like it! You’ll see Beth, I’m not going to give up!” Will called after them.
Beth rolled her eyes, her patience quickly decreasing. “You do that.” She wiggled her fingers over her shoulder.
“Damn sophomores.” Olivia laughed as they walked into the main building.
“I’ll see you during sixth, okay?” Beth waved as she headed towards English. She hoped that new girl Brooklyn-what’s-her-face wasn’t here today. She so didn’t need a smart-ass, full of herself new girl bugging her today. She had enough on her mind.
First period was nothing but brutal. The know-it-all b****, Brooklyn, wouldn’t shut up the entire class period. Even Mr. Fredrick seemed annoyed. And to Beth’s surprise, there was a new familiar face in her second period math class. The one and only not-too-secret admirer, Will Foley. (“I’ve always been a grade higher in math. What can I say? I’m brilliant!”) Beth had just rolled her eyes and attempted to ignore the crumpled up notes that kept flying onto her desk. Could he be any more persistent? Beth felt like she was being full on stalked.
By the time it was sixth period Beth was so exhausted she’d felt like she’d just finished a marathon. Between avoiding Will, freaking out whenever she saw Tucker, skeptically wondering when she saw Anthony, and worrying about seeing Mr. Ryder, she’d used up all of her energy.
“Hey Beth,” Mr. Ryder called as she entered his classroom. “Hello there, Olivia.” He added as Olivia shuffled in behind Beth.
“Hey Mr. Ryder!” Olivia replied happily. She’d gushed over how much she liked Mr. Ryder and what a great teacher he was (and how freaking hot he was!) to Beth multiple times already.
“Hi Mr. Ryder.” Beth nodded shyly as she took her seat.
Olivia gave her a questioning look but didn’t probe. She knew that sometimes you just needed to let Beth suffer in silence.
“How are we today?” Mr. Ryder wondered, coming and sitting on the desk across from them.
“I’m fantastic.” Olivia told him enthusiastically.
“Good.” Mr. Ryder smiled warmly and then looked to Beth. “How are you?”
Beth chewed on her lower lip, wondering what to say. Should she lie just to drop the subject? No one ever pushes for details if you say you’re doing great. It’s when you say ‘not so good’ that they want to know more. But Beth was through with lies. “I’ve been better.” She shrugged with a sigh.
“Is everything okay?” He wondered.
“Yeah.” Beth nodded, squeezing her eyes tightly closed. She reopened them to see Mr. Ryder stared at her with a concerned expression. “It’s nothing.”
The rest of the class filed in as the bell rang. Giving Beth one last look, Mr. Ryder headed up to the front of the classroom, and started writing on the white board.
“Are you okay?” Olivia mouthed as the room fell silent.
Beth nodded weakly as she stared at Mr. Ryder’s back. She still didn’t even know what his first name was. Even though Mr. Ryder was only a few years older than her, she felt so juvenile and inferior. Like she was a preschooler trying to debate politics with a senior in high school.
After the bell rang and Mr. Ryder dismissed class Beth began to pack her things into her bag.
“Can I speak with you for a minute Beth?” Mr. Ryder called.
Beth felt herself blush as her heart skipped a beat. She looked to Olivia, who just shrugged and pointed towards the door. “I’ll wait for you in the courtyard.”
Beth nodded as she picked up her bag and walked over to Mr. Ryder’s desk. Although they were completely different, Beth couldn’t help but have a knot in her stomach as she was reminded of Mr. Werner asking to talk to her after class. “What’s going on?” She wondered as Mr. Ryder took a seat on top of his desk.
“Is everything okay Beth?” He asked seriously, pushing a lock of hair behind his ear.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Beth responded coolly.
“I don’t know. You were really distant and distracted today in class. Is there something going on?” He pushed.

Beth stared at him for a minute. She chewed on her lower lip and laughed once to herself, looking up to the ceiling and then back to Mr. Ryder. “Even if there was something going on, you wouldn’t want to hear about it.”
“Yes I do.” He urged.
“Why do you care?” Beth demanded, her nose and eyes beginning to sting, as if she were about to cry…or sneeze.
“I want to be here for you Beth. You can trust me; you can open up to me. I’ll listen as long as you want to talk.” Mr. Ryder shrugged with an earnest expression.
Beth groaned eternally. She wanted to punch him in the face so badly. Him being so freaking wonderful was not helping her not like him.
“Well I don’t want to talk.” Beth snapped. She could feel water forming in her eyes.
“Well if you change your mind, and you do want to talk, I’m here for you.” He offered with a warm and honest smile.
Beth swallowed hard as if she could swallow the feelings for him that she was developing. “Thanks, but no thanks.” Beth nodded once. “Can I go?”
“Of course.” Mr. Ryder forced a smile and nodded towards the door.
Beth walked quickly out of the classroom and met up with Olivia. “What did he want to talk to you about?” She wondered.
“Nothing. Just some stuff about my grades.” Beth shrugged as they walked towards Star’s locker.
Olivia could tell that there was obviously something going on with Beth, so she didn’t say a word as they walked towards Star’s locker.
“Hey guys!” Star grinned and waved as they approached her. “Give me one second.” She told them as she packed her bag.
Beth sighed as she stared off at the fountain whose water wasn’t even running. Beth laughed once to herself as she realized they were the same. Her foundation was still here, but everything that was on the inside seemed to have gone on a break. Beth wondered if it would ever come back.
She found herself thinking about Mr. Ryder again. If he wasn’t her teacher she could see him being the perfect guy for her. But she didn’t want to get involved with a teacher. She didn’t need her life to be even more complicated.
“So what do you say we blow off eighth and just head straight to my house?” Olivia offered as they started walking towards the courtyard.
“I’m cool with that.” Beth shrugged.
“I don’t know…” Star trailed off, looking back at the main building. “I’m sorry guys, I really can’t miss eighth again. If I ditch one more time I’m stuck in a month’s detention. Can I meet you guys after?” Star offered.
“Sure.” Olivia agreed as Star waved and headed off towards the south building.
Since Olivia was Beth’s ride she just stuck with her as they walked towards the parking lot in silence. Beth’s throat began to feel dry and swollen from not talking for so long. “Is everything okay? What’s going on?” Olivia finally blurted out after they were in her car.
“Nothing’s going on.” Beth shrugged. Olivia pulled out of the school parking lot and headed towards her house.
“You’ve been acting all gloomy and depressed. You weren’t this morning. What happened?” Olivia demanded.
“I just had a shitty day okay?” Beth snapped, flipping on the radio.
“Okay.” Olivia held her palms up in surrender as they came up to a stop light.
Beth stared out the window the rest of the car ride, just watching everything pass. She wished life was like that. After you passed something it just disappeared behind you, and you couldn’t see it anymore. But memories never really leave, especially the bad ones.
“I’m sorry.” Beth shook her head as Olivia pulled into her driveway. “I’ve been acting all ,woe-is-me. I’m cool now though.” Beth added as she and Olivia entered the house.
Olivia eyed her skeptically and then smiled. “Well good. Because there’s no way in hell I’d be able to make the plans all by myself!” Olivia grinned widely as she took Beth’s hand and dragged her up the stairs to her room.
“Plans? Plans for what?” Beth demanded.
Olivia closed the door behind them, and locked it. Beth creased her forehead as they took a seat on her bed. “Seriously Olivia, what’s going on?” Beth pushed.
“Well,” Olivia said dramatically. “We really need to make plans for—”
“Olivia?” Someone knocked on the door, cutting Olivia off mid-sentence.
“What?” She demanded as she unlocked the door.
Beth inhaled sharply at the image of Anthony standing in the doorway. “Oh.” He gasped slightly, his eye brows moving upwards a fraction of an inch. “I didn’t know Beth was over.”
“Yeah well we’re in the middle of something. So yeah, go away.” Olivia snorted.
Anthony gave Beth half a smile and walked past Olivia into the room. “What are we doing?” He grinned as he spread out across Olivia’s bed.
Beth laughed slightly and jumped off the bed.
“Ugh! You are so annoying! Get out!” Olivia pointed towards the door.
“You mean I can’t help you plan your latest scheme to ruin some random person’s life?” Anthony teased and frowned like he was heartbroken about it.
“Ha, ha.” Olivia rolled her eyes and pointed towards the door again.
“You follow up on our deal?” Anthony demanded, suddenly serious.
“Yes.” Olivia rolled her eyes again. “I told Beth that you wanted her to stay away from Tucker.”
Beth could see Anthony blush slightly. “Will you Beth?” He turned to her. Beth took a step back, surprised by the seriousness in his eyes.
“Why?” Beth wondered, her forehead creasing.
“He’s a bad guy. And he’s obviously developed a new found interest in you. I don’t want you to get hurt. Tucker’s a bad dude. And I know he’s acting like he’s changed and is a good guy now, but it’s all an act.” Anthony explained seriously, his eyes smoldering.
Beth’s heart skipped a beat, her old feelings for him resurfacing. “I have no interest in Tucker.” Beth replied with a shrug.
“Good.” Anthony nodded, his eyes never leaving hers.
“Okay creeper. You’re leaving.” Olivia cut in, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him towards the door.
“Beth,” He added as Olivia pulled him to the doorframe. “Promise you’ll steer clear of Tucker?”
Beth squinted her eyes as she stared at Anthony. Why was he so determined to keep her away from Tucker? “Sure. I promise. Whatever.” Beth shrugged.
Anthony nodded, stared at her face for a moment too long, and then disappeared from the door.
“Oh and Olivia,” he added, his head reappearing through the doorway. “I’m heading over to Steve’s, I won’t be home until late. Can you tell mom not to wait up for me?”
“Whatever, just leave.” Olivia barked and closed the door in his face.
“Sorry about that. He’s a real freak sometimes, you know?” Olivia laughed once and took a seat back on the bed.
“Consider yourself lucky you have a brother. You never see what you have until it’s gone.” Beth said quietly, shrugging.
Olivia opened and closed her mouth a few times, no words coming out. Her facial expression was clearly apologetic. “Beth, I’m so sorry, I didn’t…I mean…Austin….I didn’t…”
“Don’t worry about.” Beth laughed once.
“Bye!” Beth heard Anthony call from downstairs, followed by the slamming of the front door.
Beth let herself fall onto the bed with a dramatic sigh.
“Hey, have you checked Facebook lately?” Olivia wondered.
“No, why?” Beth wondered, sitting back up.
“Here, log on.” Olivia pulled Facebook up on her laptop.
Beth rolled off the bed and sat down in Olivia’s rolling chair. She typed in her email and password, the Facebook newsfeed appearing. She had six notifications, one message, and one friend request.
All of the notifications were about people who’d commented on one of her pictures, tagged her in another picture, or wrote something on her wall. Beth rolled her eyes, she didn’t care about any of those things.
“Okay so you have to go to Nick Bailey’s profile. He uploaded the funniest picture of the football team ever!” Olivia laughed.
“You’re kidding me!” Beth nearly screamed as she rolled herself away from the desk.
“Oh s***! Did he take the picture down?” Olivia demanded, hurrying over to the computer.
Both the new message and the friend request was from the same person: William Foley.
“Who’s William Foley?” Olivia laughed as she read the message. “Oh my God have you read this?” She laughed.
“No.” Beth covered her eyes with her hands. “He’s that new sophomore who won’t stop stalking me!”
“I’m reading you this message, it’s pathetic!” Olivia laughed and cleared her throat. “It says: Dear Beth, hey! This is Will Foley. You remember me? We met the other day. I saw you in the hallway today and almost fell over from how beautiful you are. I know you don’t want anything to do with me, since I’m just a sophomore, but I’m determined to prove you wrong. I’m not Aaron Cooper or Parker Patterson, but I’m better. I’m smart and loyal and funny and totally hot you have to admit. So my cell phone number is at the end of this message, give me a call when, not if, you change your mind and you want to go out. See ya beautiful! –Will Foley.” Olivia looked up from the computer, grinning.
“Ugh!” Beth groaned. “He won’t freaking leave me alone!”
“He’s like in love with you.” Olivia laughed. “Hey maybe you should give him a chance. Since you’re the most popular girl in school you’ll probably only be made fun of for like a month.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying this.” Beth laughed and threw a pillow at Olivia’s head.
Olivia cocked her head to the side as footsteps on the stairs sounded.
“I thought Anthony left.” Beth sat up on the bed, her forehead creasing in confusion.
“I thought so too.” Olivia echoed.
Olivia’s door burst open and Star’s grinning and bright face appeared. “Hey guys!” She announced as she flung the door closed behind her and flopped onto the bed.
“Okay, so like I was saying before Anthony busted in, we need to make plans—”
“I’m really sorry to interrupt you again, Olivia, but I’ll be right back, okay? I’ve gotta, um, go to the bathroom.” Beth shrugged as she slipped out into the hallway.
Beth glanced down the staircase, Anthony had already left. Her eyes flickered from the bathroom door to Anthony’s bedroom door over and over again.
She couldn’t help herself from being curious. Something about the way Anthony was acting just made him so, suspicious. It almost seemed like he was so protective over her with Tucker because he felt guilty.
Could it all just be in her head?
Beth looked at the bathroom door once more, then back at Olivia’s bedroom, and then to Anthony’s door. She took a shy step further away from Olivia’s room and took one more look down the stairs.
She didn’t know what she thought she’d find in Anthony’s bedroom. Clues? Some new breakthrough about Aaron or Austin? Evidence? Something that explains his weird behavior lately? She didn’t know.
What if he knew something?
After taking a deep breath Beth looked back at Olivia’s door one last time, and then slipped into Anthony’s bedroom.

Kristen’s face lit up as she read the new text message on the screen on her cell phone. She was propped up against Sarah Mae’s wall, lounging out on her bed. Sarah Mae had invited Amber, Kristen, and Megan over to plan Andrea’s going away party. But Kristen’s mind was too occupied to concentrate.
“Oh my God Kristen. Turn the damn phone off!” Amber complained as Kristen furiously punched in a reply, giggling like crazy.
“Who is she texting?” Megan wondered as Sarah Mae grabbed a black Sharpie pen and notebook from her red wood desk.
“You didn’t hear?” Amber rolled her eyes sarcastically.
“Kristen’s dating Tucker Layton now!” Sarah Mae announced with fake enthusiasm.
“You’re what?” Megan demanded, her eyes widening and her jaw hanging. “You’re dating Tucker Layton? Are you insane?” She demanded.
“He’s changed.” Kristen shrugged, her eyes not leaving the screen on her cell phone.
She was reluctant to tell her friends for a reason. Tucker Layton sure had a strong reputation, and everyone knew him as the bad boy to stay away from. Kristen couldn’t help it, he still had the super attractive dangerous vibe, along with his new sweet changed side. How could she resist?
He’d asked her out earlier that day at school, and they were going on their first date tomorrow night.
“I highly doubt that.” Megan snorted.
“Yeah, he just tells girl’s he’s changed to get them in bed.” Amber added.
“And then he throws them out and finds a new one.” Sarah Mae agreed.
“What is this? Bash Kristen’s new boyfriend day? Give it a rest would you? Nothing you say is going to make me break up with him.” Kristen rolled her eyes, took a deep breath and shoved her phone into her pocket.
“So pigheaded.” Sarah Mae laughed once and winked at Kristen. Kristen laughed with her, she knew it was true.
Kristen did feel kind of bad for the real reasons she’d said yes to Tucker. Yeah he was hot, and she honestly wanted to go out with him, but the main reason was because of Brooklyn and Parker. They were the newest announced couple in the school, and all Kristen could do was be pissed and jealous. Brooklyn of all people had to steal her man. She was really only dating Tucker in a sad attempt to make Parker jealous. Or at least make it appear like she moved on too. As for Brooklyn…she hadn’t decided how she was going to get back at her yet.
Yesterday, after Kristen stranded Brooklyn at the school, she’d caught a ride with Parker. Of course the moment Brooklyn got home she went tattling to Kristen’s mom, who was not pleased. Her own mother wouldn’t even listen to her side of the story.
“Anyway,” Amber cut in, “Let’s get back to planning Andrea’s going away party. We don’t have much time. So I was thinking we hold the party next weekend, so that gives us like a week to finalize details and stuff.”
“But Andrea leaves in two weeks.” Megan argued.
“Exactly. So we have the party a week before she leaves.” Amber shrugged.

It was Friday afternoon, and they’d already agreed that this weekend was out of the question. And to avoid parent issues and to insure everyone could come, they decided to have the party on a weekend.
“I think next weekend could work.” Kristen nodded.
“Okay so next weekend,” Sarah Mae echoed as she wrote it down on the notebook.
“Guest list?” Amber wondered.
“Exclusive.” Sarah Mae replied quickly. “No losers.”
“What about Tucker?” Megan asked.
Everyone looked up at Kristen.
Kristen raised her eye brows, staring at Sarah Mae’s face. This entire party was Sarah Mae’s idea in the first place, so she had the final say. What if her best friend said that Kristen couldn’t bring her new boyfriend to the party? Then what would she do?
Kristen watched as Sarah Mae pursed her lips, opened and closed her mouth a few times and then sighed. “Tucker can come. But if there is any trouble you are handling it Kristen. I am so not dealing with police, violence and drugs at Andrea’s going away party.” Sarah Mae finally decided.
“No trouble.” Kristen grinned.
“I’m serious Kris. If you don’t think he can control himself, don’t bring him.” Sarah Mae added.
“He’s changed.” Kristen assured her, crossing her arms over her chest. Why was her boyfriend the main problem here? “What about Trey?” Kristen wondered.
“What about him?” Sarah Mae asked robotically.
“Well, what’s going on with you two? Last I heard you were fighting. So are you guys on or off?” Kristen wondered.
“We’re fine.” Sarah Mae shrugged stiffly.
“So are you going to bring him?” Kristen wondered.
“Why so many questions?” Sarah Mae demanded, looking up from her notebook.

“Why so defensive?” Kristen retorted, eye brows raised.
Sarah Mae sighed and looked around the room once. “Okay so we’re not fine. I don’t know what we are.” Sarah Mae shrugged. “I haven’t heard from him in over a week.”
“Why haven’t you called him?” Megan wondered.
“I shouldn’t have to be the one to call him. This fight is all his fault. So he needs to be the one to fix it. Not me.” Sarah Mae explained. “Can we just drop it?”
“Cool.” Kristen held up her palms in surrender. “So what about beverages?” Kristen wondered. “Alcohol, no alcohol?”
“Depends on the parental units.” Amber shrugged. “Is our party going to be supervised like some lame school dance?” Amber looked at Sarah Mae.
“Well it is Andrea’s going away party. Don’t you think her parents would want to come?” Sarah Mae wondered.
“Don’t you think Andrea will want to get drunk with us one last time?” Amber laughed.
Sarah Mae rolled her eyes. “We do not need you drunk again Amber. Remember last time?”
Everyone laughed. Amber was crazy enough to begin with, adding alcohol was not a smart idea.

After they planned for two hours straight, Kristen had taken off. On her drive home she spoke to Tucker over the phone, who was sweet and charming. Kristen pulled her car into the driveway and hopped out.
There weren’t any cars on the street or in the driveway besides hers, so unless Brooklyn had parked in the garage, it looked like no one was home.
Kristen grabbed a protein bar and water bottle out of the kitchen and headed upstairs to her room. She tossed her things onto the floor and flopped down on her bed.
Exhaling dramatically, Kristen looked at her phone, whose battery had died. Kristen frowned. She didn’t know where her charger was. What if Tucker had texted her? Would he be one of those guys who got mad when someone didn’t respond?
Kristen squinted her eyes at what sounded like…giggling. She could have sworn no one else was home. She pushed herself off the bed and went towards the sound which lead to Brooklyn’s room. Kristen hesitated, staring at the door. She grabbed the door knob and threw it open, immediately regretting it. On Brooklyn’s bed was Brooklyn and Parker, making out. Parker was over Brooklyn, and Brooklyn’s iPod was playing some bad classical song in the background.
Parker and Brooklyn looked up at the same time. Kristen’s jaw dropped and she held back a gag. Ew. That was something she never needed to see.
Parker’s face blushed a deep red while Brooklyn just looked annoyed.
Kristen scrunched up her face and took a step back. “I’m sorry, I thought no one else was home.”
Parker rolled off of Brooklyn onto his feet. He straightened his shirt and looked at Brooklyn, who was just glaring at Kristen. “So you thought you’d sneak into my room while I wasn’t home? What were you planning to steal?” She demanded.
“Brooke,” Parker began, but Kristen cut him off.
“I don’t steal, unlike some other people in this house.” Kristen coughed once, raising her eye brows. “I thought no one was home, but I heard something so I came to see what it was. Turns out it was just a slut making out with a guy she’s known for a day. Who would have thought?” Kristen shrugged.
Brooklyn glared harder, her jaw clenching. “You’re just jealous because I got farther with him than you did in months.” Brooklyn snapped as she hopped off of her bed.
“Funny.” Kristen rolled her eyes and looked at Parker for a second. As soon as he met her eyes she looked back at Brooklyn. “Just stay out of my stuff okay? If you steal one more thing of mine I swear to God I’ll—”
“What? You’ll what?” Brooklyn demanded, her eye brows raised. “You’ll go run to mommy? Go ahead. It’s not like she’ll believe you. Isn’t it strange how she always believes me and not her own daughter?” She laughed.
Parker creased his forehead and swallowed uncomfortably.
“F*** you.” Kristen said through her teeth, turned and stomped up the stairs. She heard footsteps behind her and exhaled impatiently. Was Brooklyn seriously following her?
“Hey, Kristen, wait up.” Someone called as they pulled on her arm.
Kristen turned to see Parker. “What do you want Parker? Shouldn’t you be back there with your girlfriend?” Kristen demanded as a tear fell down her cheek. She exhaled in frustration and wiped the tear off her cheek.
“Are you okay? What was she talking about?” Parker demanded.
“Like you’d care! You’re dating the b****!” Kristen said through her teeth and began to walk away again. Parker caught her arm and pulled her to face him.
“What’s going on?”
“That girl,” Kristen cried, pointing back towards the basement guestroom. “Has tortured me my entire life. It started when we were kids. She did everything she could to make my life miserable, and even like ten years later she’s still at it! And whenever I tried to tell my mom, she never believed me. Not when I was eight, and not now.” Kristen explained with a helpless shrug. “She wins. She always does.”
Parker creased his forehead and looked back towards the stairs. “Is that what this is about?” He asked seriously.
“What?” Kristen wiped the tears off her cheeks.
“Is that why you’re dating Tucker Layton? To get back at Brooklyn? To get back at me?” He demanded.
“What does Tucker have to do with anything?” Kristen demanded.
“Just answer the question.”
“No. I’m dating Tucker because I want to. Not everything’s about you Parker.” Kristen said through her teeth.
“Kristen, you shouldn’t date him.” Parker said seriously.
“Why not?” Kristen threw her arms up in the air and let them fall against her thighs. “Are you the only one allowed to move on? You’re allowed to have a new girlfriend but I can’t have a new boyfriend? You just can’t stand to see me happy with someone other than you.” Kristen accused.
“It’s not that Kris. He’s a bad guy, and I don’t want to see you get hurt.” Parker’s face was honest and desperate.
Kristen’s heart throbbed. Why did he have to look like he still cared so much? Wasn’t he supposed to be over her? Couldn’t he at least have the decency to act like it?
“Oh, spare me. Don’t pretend to care.” Kristen swallowed uncomfortably, unable to meet Parker’s eyes. “Anyway, I’m really none of your business anymore. You don’t get to tell me who I can or can’t date. So why don’t you go back downstairs with your girlfriend and leave me the hell alone, Parker.” Kristen snapped as she lifted her chin higher in the air. “I don’t need a body guard, I don’t need a big brother, and I sure as hell don’t need you looking out for me.” Kristen added as she turned and started to head for the door.
“Don’t do this Kristen.” Parker called after her.
“Save it.” Kristen scoffed, throwing her middle finger over her shoulder.
If Parker could fool around and be over her with the snap of his fingers, then so could she. If Parker wanted to bang her evil cousin that she hated more than anyone in the world, then she didn’t care. They deserved each other.
Kristen ran up to her room, grabbed her purse, car keys, and jacket. There was a shiny new doorknob with a lock calling her name.

Nothing. There was nothing. Beth sighed loudly, remembering her complete failure Friday night. She was sure that she’d find something, but Anthony’s room was squeaky clean, not a hair out of place. Beth began to think it was too perfect and unsuspicious, but she decided not to go there. Maybe Anthony was just acting weird because he was a crazy teenage boy, maybe he didn’t know anything.
Beth stared at her bag that was lying on the bench beside her. She’d been fighting with herself for the past few days, whether or not she should search Aaron’s phone for information. She didn’t know what she expected to find, maybe where he was, what really happened with Austin, something.
The halls were fairly empty, everyone out getting lunch or hanging out in the main building for seventh period off. Star and Olivia had invited her to go get coffee since it was so freaking cold and snowy outside, but she’d lied and said she had to go in for Mr. Fredrick. All she needed was a little time alone to clear her head, was that so wrong?
Beth looked around her one, the hallway completely abandoned. She snatched her bag off of the bench and dug around the bottom, pushing lip gloss, a mini mirror, a pen, headphones, her cell phone, and bobby pins out of the way. Finally she found Aaron’s phone.
Beth held the screen inches from her face as she chewed on the inside of her cheek.
Pushing the enter key, the screen glowed to life. Beth scrolled through Aaron’s text messages first, and then his notes and pictures, but she wasn’t finding anything.
Frustrated, Beth went back and started looking through the text messages again, and then listened to his voice recording. She jumped at the sound of another voice close by.
“You won’t find what you’re looking for.”
Startled, she turned to see Will Foley standing before her. She raised her eye brows and swallowed.
“Excuse me?”
“In there,” Will nodded towards the phone that Beth had now hidden behind her back. “You won’t find what you’re looking for.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Beth snorted, grabbed her bag, and rose to her feet. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to be somewhere.”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about Beth.” Will stopped her. “I know all about Austin and Aaron and your pathetic attempts at investigating.”
Beth turned, her forehead creasing. How did he know? What did he know? “What are you talking about?” She demanded.
“Oh stop playing dumb. Even you aren’t that stupid. I know that you know exactly what I’m talking about. And since we both know exactly what’s going on here, then let’s skip just skip the lies, okay? Plain and simple, you need me.” Will shrugged, a smug expression painted across his face. He looks as if he were about to start a race that he was positive he was going to win. Like he was racing cars with a guy whose car he’d taken the engine out of just minutes before the race.
“You’re insane.” Beth laughed uncomfortably and took a defensive step backwards.
“Am I insane? Or do I know where you can find what you’re looking for?” Will laughed once.
“What do you know?” Beth demanded.
“Oh no, no, no, it doesn’t work like that. I’ll be happy to tell you everything I know, after you do something for me.” Will told her, clearly enjoying himself.
“What do you want?” Beth groaned, crossing her arms.
“You know exactly what I want.” Will assured her.
“Platform heels so you can finally ride the bumper cars?” Beth snorted.
“Ha, ha.” Will rolled his eyes. “No. I want you.” He shrugged casually.

“Wait, what?” Beth laughed, looking around her one more time.
Will’s eyes sparkled as he bit his lower lip and raised his eye brows smugly. If he wasn’t such a loser jackass, Beth may have actually found him attractive. “You. My terms are you date me, you get your information. Do we have a deal?”
“You’re joking right?” Beth demanded.
Will just scrunched his nose and shook his head.
“I can’t date you. You’re a sophomore for Christ’s sake!” Beth half laughed, beginning to feel very nervous.
“Your loss.” Will shrugged dramatically and turned to walk away.
Beth chewed on her lower lip, her insides burning. “Will!” She called, choking on her own voice.
Will turned, a huge grin on his face. “Yes?” He batted his eyelashes.
“I’ll do it.” Beth shrugged helplessly. What other choice did she have? How else was she supposed to find out what happened to Aaron and Austin? Isn’t there a term used for situations like this? What is it that people call it? Blackmail, maybe? “But you should know,” Beth added quickly, “That I’m not doing it because I like you or find you attractive in any way, shape, or form.”
Will shrugged, grinning smugly. His cheeks were flushed a light pink and his eyes glowed with excitement. He reminded Beth of a little six year old boy she had seen in the candy store about three years ago. He had walked around the entire store, picking up every kind of candy imaginable, his eyes glowing just like Will’s…that was until the store clerk informed him that the total was fifty big ones, and the little kid only had five bucks. “Works for me.”
Beth rolled her eyes and her stomach seemed to clench into a tense knot. She, Beth Taylor was going to date a sophomore just to dig into the past…and he was an obsessive, freakish stalker sophomore no less. This was going to murder her reputation.
Beth stopped her train of thought short, mentally flinching at the word murder. That was going to take some getting used to, thinking of Austin as a murder victim, rather than a suicide victim. She’d always thought that it wasn’t suicide, but the idea of murder had never fully sunken in before. Beth shook off the thought and squared her shoulders as if she were in the presence of a bear, trying to make herself look bigger.
Although all this time she’d known that Austin was dead, just not exactly how that came to be, thinking about made her heart feel heavy and sink all over again. Her throat felt tight, like her airways were closing their doors and locking up. Beth licked her lips and realized she was being stupid, dwelling on something that happened over a year ago. Hadn’t she already felt miserable about this for long enough? Does she really want to start all over again?
Will stared at her expectantly, waiting for her to say something. She realized she must have just been standing there, staring off into space, looking like a complete moron. Not like she cared what Will thought of her, if he decided she was a freak after all then maybe he wouldn’t make her go through with the whole fake dating thing. Beth opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again. Swallowing hard she racked her brain for something to say, everything suddenly going blank. It was as if just thinking of Austin had turned her brain to mush.
“Okay, then.” Beth nodded weakly, anger burning in the pit of her stomach. Did Will even know how incredibly selfish and inconvenient he was being? Beth so didn’t need the extra stress right now. “Now that I’ve agreed to be your first girlfriend,” Beth said in a shrill, sarcastic voice, grinning and batting her eye lashes. “Tell me everything you know, now.”
“Please,” Will rolled his eyes as if Beth had just said the most unintelligent statement in the world. “I’m not going to tell you everything. Not right now anyways.”
“Why not?” Beth demanded, swinging her back over onto her other shoulder.
“I’m not stupid Beth. The minute I tell you what you want to know, you’ll dump me and forget about your side of the bargain.”
“So then tell me one thing per thing I do for you.” Beth offered. “I hold your hand, you tell me something. I tell someone we’re dating, you tell me something. I change my facebook relationship status, you tell me something. I let you kiss me on the cheek, and only on the cheek, in public, and you tell me something. Get it?” Beth rose her eye brows, speaking as if she were teaching Algebra to first graders.
Will bit down on his lip, considering. Beth wished he would think a little faster, standing here in silence, waiting was driving her insane. Beth’s mother had always made fun of her because she’d never had much patience. All of the time she rants off on old stories of when Beth had just stormed out of the grocery store when she was six because her parents were taking too long. Or when flipped the waiter off in Red Robin when she was nine because he’d forgotten her ketchup, and then took ten minutes to bring it to her. But her mother’s favorite story was when they were waiting in line for the ladies’ restroom in the Platinum Mall, Beth had gotten so fed up with the long line that she’d just barged into the men’s room. She was only seven years old at the time, but there was a little boy washing his hands who screamed at the top of his lungs when he saw Beth storm through the door. From how high pitched and dramatic the scream had sounded, you’d have thought the little boy was being brutally murdered; but he was just still afraid of cooties. Somehow her mother managed to tell almost everyone who ever came over to diner or to a party. In fact, Beth couldn’t name one person who her mother hadn’t told.
“Fine.” Will agreed, snapping Beth out of her flashbacks.
“Then you owe me one, right now.” Beth instructed, cocking one eye brow expectantly, as if Will owed her some huge debt.
“For what?” He demanded.
“For agreeing to be your girlfriend. Now quit with the staling and spill.” Beth snapped as she flipped her hair over the fronts of her shoulders. She readjusted her necklace and wondered if Will actually knew anything, or if this was all just some kind of game to him.
“Fine.” Will agreed reluctantly. “Uh, let’s see...okay, so I don’t know what you read in Austin’s journal—”
Beth cut him off. “How did you know about that?’
“Would you just let me finish? Do you want to know or not?” He snapped rudely.
Beth waved her hand in front of her, as if to motion for him to go on.
“Austin and Aaron weren’t enemies.” Will told her simply, as if they were discussing what color of shoe laces he should buy next time he goes to the store.
Beth squinted her eyes. “But I thought Aaron like tortured Austin—”
Will cut her off. “Yeah, Aaron pulled pranks on Austin, Austin pulled pranks on Aaron, blah, blah, blah. But that day before Kristen Dollsworth’s party, they made a truce. They were planning pranks together, they were like a team or something. I guess they came up with some kind of understanding or something. But basically what I’m saying is, Austin and Aaron weren’t fighting or pissed at each other or anything the day before Austin died.”
“So you’re telling me Aaron didn’t kill Austin?” Beth asked slowly.
“I’m not saying that all.” Will shrugged and laughed once. “I’m just telling you that they weren’t as big of enemies as you probably think they are. I mean they’re guys after all. Guys aren’t like girls. They don’t have lifelong rivalries because one of them dating the boy that the other likes.” Will laughed once to himself, obviously off somewhere else, thinking about something that Beth didn’t even what to know about.
“Do you know who killed Austin?” Beth asked, barely louder than a whisper. Her voice cracked, and she could feel her heart gaining weight with every second.
“One piece of information at a time.” Will batted his eye lashes, looking as evil and manipulative as anyone Beth had seen in her entire life.
Beth looked around her once. No one else was around.
She swallowed the vial taste in her mouth, a nauseating feeling forming in her stomach at the thought of what she was going to have to do. She knew what had to be done in order to get some answers. Her head throbbed and every nerve in her body screamed for her to just slap that jackass and walk away; but she couldn’t do that, not while she still needed him. Beth swallowed back her disgust and took a step closer to Will.
Will’s forehead creased and Beth saw what looked like a flicker of fear in his eyes. She raised her eye brows and grabbed onto the neck of his shirt. She pulled his mouth to hers, trying not to let her distaste show too much. Of course Will would take advantage of it, so he grabbed either side of her face and held her securely there. He wrapped his mouth around hers and Beth was surprised by how not completely awful it was. As much as she wanted to punch Will in the face right then and there, he wasn’t the worst kisser. His lips were soft and warm, and kind of reminded her Valentine’s Day in some way. The way all of the hearts, valentines, romantic notes, candy grams, presents, and overall romantic feeling just makes you feel warm and blissed out. Beth flinched away from the thought. The first thing that always popped into her head when she thought of Valentine’s Day was love, and she sure as hell didn’t love Will.
Beth pulled away, slightly breathless. Will was breathing heavily as well. “Okay, tell me. Do you know who killed Austin? Who was it?” Beth demanded.
“And we were having such a nice time.” Will rolled his eyes.
“Tell me.” Beth pushed.
“Okay, yes, I do know who killed your brother. But it’s going to take a lot more than a kiss for me to spill something that major.”
Beth caught her breath, taking a step back. So everything that everyone had held to be true since that horrible, dark night, was all a lie? Every piece of comfort and understand had been faulty? Everything was just a huge, intricately woven lie? Austin really hadn’t committed suicide. But confirming this statement didn’t bring any joy or relief to Beth as she’d hoped it would.
Beth suddenly felt angry, and helpless, and terrified, and protective, and confused, and determined all at the same time. Some had murdered her brother. That was even worse than him committing suicide.
“If you know then why didn’t you tell the police?” Beth squeaked.
“It’s complicated.”
“It’s not complicated!” Beth could feel tears swelling in her eyes. She clenched her teeth tightly so they wouldn’t spill over. She didn’t want to cry in front of Will. She couldn’t show any weakness in front of him. “Someone killed my baby brother point blank. What is so complicated with speaking the truth? Don’t you think all of his friends, his family deserve to know the truth? Deserve to get some justice? Don’t you think the person who killed him deserves to rot in hell? Or at least jail?” Beth demanded in a rush, like waves crashing against the shore.
“I won’t tell you who killed him, I just can’t, not yet. But I will tell you that you’re little boyfriend didn’t. So I guess you made him run off for nothing.”
Beth stumbled back a step in surprise. It felt like the time she’d fallen off the monkey bars in the local playground when she was seven. She’d landed directly on her back, knocking the wind out of her. She’d laid still for two minutes, gasping for air, tears stinging her eyes. Beth coughed, trying to bring air back to her lungs as she took another step back.
“If you know then you have to tell me.” Beth demanded hoarsely. Her voice cracked and was barely audible. It sounded as if she’d just been crying for hours or hadn’t spoken for weeks.
Will shrugged as if they were talking about the weather.
“Oh come on Will, even you aren’t that cruel.” Beth added, barely louder than a whisper. She couldn’t even hear her own voice, she wondered if Will would understand her. Her eyes stung as tears began to form. “You have to tell me.”
“If I tell you then you’ll just drop your side of the deal. No way.” Will argued.
“This isn’t about a fucking high school relationship!” Beth shrieked loudly. She didn’t even bother looking around to see if any adults that would bust her heard her. She swallowed and lowered her voice. “This is about a murder. You have to tell me, I’ll do anything.” Beth pleaded.
And then it hit her.
He. Didn’t. Know.
He was just playing her! “What the hell!” Beth shrieked and pushed Will as hard as she could in the chest. Will obviously wasn’t anticipating this, and fell over onto his back. He caught himself before his head had smashed into the floor. He looked up with wide, shocked, and confused looking eyes. He scooted back a little.
“What the hell to you too!” He rose back to his feet and brushed himself off. “What was that for?”
“You jackass!” Beth shrieked and shoved him again.
This time he wasn’t taken by such surprise. He stumbled backwards two steps and then steadied himself. Beth took two steps forward too, keeping herself just inches from Will.
Her nostrils flared and a million flags went off in her head. A million different emotions flooded through her veins at exactly the same moment and Beth was amazed that she was able to hold so much at one time.
Will didn’t know anything. He was taking advantage of her when she was desperate and vulnerable. Was he really that low? Was he really that manipulative, evil, and cruel? When she thought of it, maybe he was. After all, how much did she really know about the guy?
“Back up a step.” Will held his palms up in surrender, sensing that Beth was going to hit him again. “Why are you suddenly so pissed?”
“Because you are the biggest asshole I’ve ever met in my entire life! And trust me, if I could, I’d kill you right here and right now.” Beth growled and slapped his right cheek.
Will rubbed his cheek with his hand, a red mark appearing over his pale complexion. “Never speak to me again. Never look at me again, and stay the hell away from me.” Beth said through her teeth, looking at him once more with a disgusted expression painted across her face, and turned abruptly. She stormed away quickly, her breath coming in short and shallow.
Even though she was completely vulnerable and desperate right now, she was still Beth freaking Taylor. And no one messed with Beth Taylor. No one tried to fool Beth Taylor. No one, under any circumstances, got away with anything of the sort. Will Foley had no idea what he’d just gotten himself into.
Beth stormed back to her car and threw her bag in the back seat. She needed to get out of there before she sprinted back to Will and did something she’d regret later. Beth wasn’t known for controlling her anger well.

“Can you pass the mashed potatoes?” Brooklyn asked Kristen, smiling innocently with a slight yet obvious tone of smugness.
Kristen just raised her eye brows and stared at Brooklyn. Her shiny peach lips her pursed and her eye brows were raised expectantly. Kristen took in a shallow breath, clenching her hands into fists underneath the table. She wanted to slap that smug little smile right off Brooklyn’s stuck up face.
“Kristen. Pass Brooklyn the mashed potatoes.” Kristen’s mom urged in an impatient voice as Kristen sat completely still, with no intentions of moving.
Kristen continued to stare at Brooklyn, hatred burning deep within her. She crossed her right leg over her left underneath the glass table and crossed her arms over her chest. If Brooklyn wanted that huge bowl of carbs so bad she could reach across the damn table and get them herself. Their dinner table wasn’t even that big anyway.
“Kristen!” Her mother demanded.
Kristen cocked one eye brow, looked to her mom, and then back to Brooklyn. “Why would I do anything for her?” Kristen demanded.
“Don’t be rude Kristen. Just pass your cousin the mashed potatoes.” Kristen’s dad cut in, his forehead creasing. He was completely oblivious to the problems and tension between Brooklyn and his daughter.
“No.” Kristen unfolded her arms and lifted her chin a fraction higher into the air.
“You don’t have to be so headstrong all of the time Kristen.” Her mother snapped and handed Brooklyn the mashed potatoes.
“Thank you.” Brooklyn over exaggerated in an innocent and sweet tone. Kristen gagged in the back of her throat.
“It’s not like she needs the carbs anyway.” Kristen snapped, “She’s already pushing it. One more plate of those and you won’t even be able to fit into all of my jeans that you’ve stolen!”
Brooklyn set her fork down, pretending to be hurt. Kristen could see right through her little act, she was just trying to win the sympathy vote from her parents. Unfortunately, knowing her parents, it would work. Anyone could see that she was faking it, but judging by the looks on her parents faces, they were actually buying it.
“Kristen!” Her father hissed.
“What?” Kristen demanded. “She comes into my house, steals my clothes, ruins my favorite blouse,” Kristen began counting off on her fingers, “steals my boyfriend—”
“Ex-boyfriend.” Brooklyn cut her off.
Kristen kept going, “Not to mention she deleted my new 90210 recording on the television in my own room! And she walks around like she’s the s***, acting like a little stuck up b**** to me all of the time. I may have put up with your s*** when we were kids, but I’m not putting up with it now!” Kristen nearly screamed at Brooklyn. She could feel heat beginning to flood through her body, her throat feeling tight. Both of her parent’s faces were taken back, and her mother looked appalled, but Kristen didn’t care. It was her own fault that their rivalry had gotten this far. She was the one who couldn’t even listen to her own daughter! If she had, Brooklyn would be long gone by now.
“That’s enough Kristen!” Her mother nearly screamed.
“You’re right. This is enough. I’m out of here.” Kristen threw her napkin on the table and threw her chair back, which screeched in protest as it scraped across the floor. She glared at Brooklyn for another moment and then pushed her chair in forcefully. “Don’t bother waiting up for me, I don’t even know if I’m coming back.”
Without another word Kristen grabbed her jacket and her car keys and slammed the front door behind her.

Kristen arrived at Tucker’s house moments later. She felt awkward as she marched up to his front door. She probably should have called. What if he wasn’t home? What if he didn’t want her here right now? What if he had some other girl over here? Kristen took a deep breath, her hands shaking by her sides.
He was her boyfriend now, of course he’d want her here.
She knocked three times on the dark brown, wooden door and glanced at the side windows, covered by red curtains. The upstairs floor was lit brightly through the curtains and she could see a light glistening from somewhere back in the house. So at least someone was home.
She heard footsteps ringing against the floor, sounding louder and louder until the front door flew open.
Tucker smiled in confusion and cocked his head to the side. “Kristen.” He said in a high pitched, surprised voice. “What are you doing here?”
“I know I should have called…” Kristen shrugged one shoulder and trailed off.
“Oh no, no, no. It’s fine…uh…come on in.” He gestured as Kristen walked past him. He closed the door behind her and smiled again. “Is everything alright?”
“I just didn’t know where else to go.” Kristen admitted honestly. “You know my cousin, Brooklyn Bates?”
“I believe you referred to her as the devil’s one and only daughter.” He grinned.
“I wasn’t exaggerating.” Kristen mumbled. “I just had to get away from her before I did something I regretted.”
“Well I can understand that. Look who you’re talking to.” Tucker laughed once and gestured to the couch, where they both took a seat. “So what happened with Brooklyn? Is everything okay?”
“She’s driving me crazy. She steals my clothes, goes into my room, starts dating my ex boyfriend, and she’s determined to ruin everything in my life. She’s been doing this ever since we were kids.” Kristen rubbed her temples and let out a slow exhale. “I’m really sorry to ask this, but is there any way I could stay here tonight? I mean I could crash on a couch, or even the floor, I just can’t go back there tonight.”
“Yeah, of course. Sure. But you don’t have to sleep on the floor, Kristen.” Tucker laughed.
“Thank you, Tucker. You have no idea how much that means to me.” Kristen sighed in relief.
“I mean I have a king sized bed, and you can always borrow one of my tee shirts or something to sleep in.” He gestured to the jeans and fancy silk blouse Kristen was wearing, “Since I’m sure you don’t want to sleep in that.
Kristen’s cheeks flushed and she felt heat shoot across her skin. Had he just asked her to sleep in his bed with him tonight? Kristen smiled and swallowed uncomfortably. She figured he’d offer her a guestroom or air mattress or something. She even would have put up with the couch.
“Are you okay?” He laughed once staring at her suddenly nervous face.
Kristen shook her head once and forced a smile. “I’m fine, of course. I just…I didn’t expect your parents to be okay with housing me at such last minute.” She lied.
“Oh my parents are out of town until Wednesday actually. They said they needed a week to themselves and then flew to Paris last minute.” Tucker rolled his eyes and leaned back against the leather couch. Kristen swallowed uncomfortably again. “And they call me impulsive.”
He wanted her to stay with him, and his parents were halfway across the world? Great. Just great.
Kristen forced an uncomfortable smile, but judging by Tucker’s expression he wasn’t buying it.
“If that okay?” He asked suddenly, examining her face closely.
“Of course.” Kristen lied smoothly and ran her fingers down the back of her now sweaty neck, trying to calm herself down. Why was she getting so freaked out about this? It’s not like she’d never slept in the same bed with any of her other boyfriends. But it was Tucker Layton she was talking about. The thought of it still was a bit of a shock, and he was still a dangerous mystery. She’d only been dating him for a little while, and every time she looked at him she thought of his reputation and every rumor she’d ever heard about him.
“Okay good.” Tucker laughed once, still looking at Kristen skeptically. “Do you want to pick out a movie to watch or something?”
“Um…” Kristen licked her lips and glanced around the room nervously. Her heart was beating quickly and her mind was spinning in overdrive. Kristen could feel her nerves sparking and heat flood through her veins. Should couldn’t quite put her finger on the feeling…was it fear? Kristen heard the faint sound of a bird from what sounded like upstairs. She cocked her head to the side and half smiled at Tucker. She hadn’t realized he had a bird. “You have a bird?” She wondered.
“Oh yeah.” Tucker grinned and grabbed Kristen’s right wrist. Trying with every fiber in her body not to flinch away, Kristen forced a smile back at him. “Come with me. You’re gonna love this guy.” Tucker continued and pulled Kristen up the stairs. Once they reached the top of the squeaky wooden stairs Tucker flung a large dark wooden door open, exposing what had to be his bedroom.
Kristen tried not to make it obvious, but she was carefully scanning the room with her eyes. She’d always been curious, and she wasn’t sure what she was expecting to see. Almost to her disappointment, it just looked like a regular guy’s room. Kristen put her right hand over her forehead and closed her eyes for a minute. What was wrong with her? Tucker was just a normal guy, and she was being ridiculous. When she opened her eyes again Tucker was before her, staring at her with confused eyes.
“Is everything okay?” He wondered in a sweet and concerned voice.
“Everything’s fine.” Kristen smiled earnestly and shook her head once. “I was just a little light headed.”
“Do you want me to get you something to eat? We don’t have much, but I could make you a sandwich or soup, or I bet we have some bagels—”
Kristen cut him off. “Thank you Tucker,” Kristen said in a laugh. “I’m not hungry. I just have naturally low blood pressure, so sometimes when I stand up or go up stairs I get a head rush.” Kristen shrugged. “I’m totally fine. Show me the bird.” She grinned.
“I thought you’d never ask.” Tucker beamed and pulled her into his room. On the far left wall sat a tall metal cage that held a purple-ish blue bird. On the right of the cage swung a large mirror that the bird was gazing into. At the sound of their footsteps the bird looked up and squawked. Kristen laughed once and Tucker squeezed her hand. “His name is Pooker.” Tucker laughed once as they walked closer to the cage.
“Pooker?” Kristen laughed and rose her eye brows at Tucker.
“I’ve had him since I was a boy, and I’ll admit I wasn’t so good with naming things back then. I had a teddy bear that I called sir-fuzz-a-lot.” Tucker laughed and rolled his eyes. “Lame, huh?”
“Not at all.” Kristen poked one finger into the bird’s cage. “Hey Pooker.” She cooed and grinned back up at Tucker. “It’s nice to see this side of you.”
“A nerd instead of a bad-ass?” Tucker wondered sarcastically.

“You’re not a nerd.” Kristen argued as she looked around the rest of his room. His sliding closet doors were closed tightly, a plastic shopping back hanging off one of the hangers. There were a few pairs of jeans and tee shirts lying on the floor, and she could see a few articles of clothing peeking out of the drawers of the dresser in the corner. On his large oak desk were piles of CDs from bands she’d never heard of, a shiny blue laptop, and the remote control to the TV hanging on the wall directly facing his large bed. King sized, just as he’d said.
Kristen paced over to the bookshelf on the opposite side of the room and ran her middle finger across the spines of the books. She read a few of the titles and looked back up at Tucker, grinning. “Who would have taken you for such a bookworm?”
Tucker laughed once and ducked his head with a shrug. “Something to kill time I guess. You know, even though sometimes it was true, when most people thought I was off getting high somewhere, I was locked in my room reading.”
“Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Kristen began reading off titles. “Shakespeare, impressive,” She smiled as she mumbled the titles of more books to herself. “You like classic stuff, huh?”
“I think the modern world’s literature is a little flat. I mean what is with the recent vampire craze?” He laughed. “And now every show on TV has some chick dating a vampire or something. Well, either that or someone is sleeping with their teacher. Oh, and there always has to be a gay character! It’s ridiculous.”
“I guess that rules out Twilight for the movie, huh?” Kristen pretended to pout.
“Sparkling vampires.” Tucker pretended to look appalled.
“Yeah.” Kristen agreed absentmindedly as she looked around the rest of his room in awe. Who would have thought Tucker would be so deep…and normal?
“Not what you expected?” Tucker interrupted her thoughts.
“Your room?” Kristen looked back to him. “No.” She admitted with a half laugh. “It’s not what I expected at all. Well, I’m not sure what I did expect, it just wasn’t this.”
Tucker paced over to his closet and threw the doors open. On the second to top shelf held an entire movie library. Kristen’s eyes widened, he had more movies than most movie rental stores. “What do you say we watch this one?” Tucker yanked out a comedy and showed it to Kristen.
“Sure.” Kristen nodded as Tucker slipped it into the side of his TV as the screen lit to life.
She double checked his movie library, just to make sure he didn’t own Twilight. She frowned at the vampire-free options and turned back to Tucker.
After Kristen and Tucker settled into Tucker’s bed and the movie started on the flat screen, Tucker turned to Kristen. “I wasn’t planning on asking this, but I just have to. What’s that whole thing going on between you and Beth Taylor?”
“Beth Taylor?” Kristen was taken back. Just hearing him say her name made her flinch. “What about Beth Taylor? We haven’t been friends since like the sixth grade.”
“It’s obvious you’re not friends, but there’s obviously something there.” Tucker pushed.
“You’ll think it’s stupid.” Kristen murmured. “It probably is. It’s just been going on for so long that I think neither of us know how to stop.”
“Stop what?”
“It’s this…revenge thing we do. I guess we try to make each other’s lives miserable. I know it’s not the most common hobby, but over the years it’s been like a full time job. Both of us have gotten really good at it.” Kristen added bitterly, looking up at the ceiling. She didn’t like explaining this to people, no one ever really understood.
“So you’re like enemies, getting each other all the time. Like what kind of stuff do you?”
“Prank stuff mostly.” Kristen shrugged and looked back at Tucker. “You probably don’t want to hear specifics. None of its exactly lady-like.” She laughed.
“Good.” Tucker laughed once. “Because if you wanted, I have a pretty good idea for you, but it’s not exactly lady-like.”

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This book has 8 comments.

prettymystic said...
on Mar. 11 2016 at 1:43 pm
prettymystic, Atl, Georgia
0 articles 0 photos 9 comments
i love this book. i couldnt stop readin this.

on Oct. 21 2014 at 6:19 pm
ThatOneWritingGirl PLATINUM, Greenwood Village, Colorado
21 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
Love Always. :)
When the tides of life turn against you and the current upsets your boat, don't waste time and tears on what might have been, just lie on your back and float.

Thanks so much! Unfortunately, I wrote this around 5 years ago (yikes, was it that long ago, already?) so I probably won't be adding any more to it (but who knows? Never say never, right?). I'm really glad you liked it though! :)

on Oct. 20 2014 at 5:08 pm
EmilytheBelleofA. DIAMOND, Athens, Georgia
81 articles 5 photos 1486 comments

Favorite Quote:
To love is to be vulnerable; Triumph is born out of struggle; We notice shadows most when they stand alone in the midst of overwhelming light.

Oh, geez Luis. Is it alright if I ask, if there is more coming? This is absolutely, fantastic and amazing. I absolutely, mean it. You know to make it suspenseful. When I first read it, it grabbed my attention, right from the start and I didn't stop reading it until I got to the last chapter. If there is more coming, I hope that I can read it. :) You have such a talent and greatness and light in you; and you're an amazing and wondeful and talented writer. It's true, it just is. Thank you so much, for sharing this, my friend! To be honest, I'm curious and excited about thsi book. You're just really talented. Thank you, again!

on Mar. 14 2014 at 10:28 pm
monikitty12 PLATINUM, New York, New York
35 articles 0 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
Don't cry because its over. Smile because it happened.

This book really has to be published. You are literarry a born to be author. My works are average compared to yours!!!

on Dec. 12 2012 at 2:55 pm
Ccookiez BRONZE, Fabens, Texas
4 articles 6 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life Sucks and then you die ~ jacob black

i love this book. i couldnt stop readin this. they had to turn off my wifi so i could stop. you need to write the rest

missreadalot said...
on Nov. 15 2012 at 9:49 pm
i just finished the first chapter and i have to say this is the most well written book ive seen on this sight  its so nice to see things from a cheaters point of view

on Nov. 1 2011 at 5:08 pm
ThatOneWritingGirl PLATINUM, Greenwood Village, Colorado
21 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
Love Always. :)
When the tides of life turn against you and the current upsets your boat, don't waste time and tears on what might have been, just lie on your back and float.

Oh my gosh, thank you SO MUCH! I can't tell you how awesome it is that someone actually read it. I was worried no one would even bother after reading the summary or anything! Thanks so much!

on Oct. 18 2011 at 2:12 pm
Country_Storm_Inspired, The Colony, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 28 comments!!! This is amazing! I stayed up until 12:30 reading it and I almost cried when I realized the end wasn't there!!!!! You have to have to have finish it!!!!!!! (: