Okay, so Zach was right. Those eyes weren’t following me through the lunchroom because I was new, or looked weird or anything like that. Those eyes held confusion, and wanted answers that they thought they could get just by looking at me. And lunchtime was, of course, the optimum gossiping hour.
Don’t get me wrong, most of them still remembered earlier today, no doubt, but that only made the whole thing weirder. Still, that was only part of the story behind the rumors that were, if my hunch was correct, about me and Zach.
But I really had to shrug it all off. I had to appear strong, and much more confident than I actually felt. The rumors were beneath me, I tried to convince myself, and I did not care about them. I would just have to make a fresh start with people who didn’t know, or at the very least didn’t care.
I stood in line, looking around the cafeteria for a good place to sit, all the while wondering if it might be better for me to take my lunch elsewhere. That would only be avoiding the problem, I rationalized. I had to face it head-on. But in hindsight it would’ve been so much easier.
After briefly searching the cafeteria, I noticed an as-of-yet empty table in the corner near the door. I picked out my lunch from the limited selection of main courses and unappetizing side dishes. My tray felt incredibly light as I settled on just a small turkey wrap and water bottle. The prospect of eating alone made me nauseous, and I could hardly stomach the idea of having to do this every day.
As I made my way to the (thankfully) still empty table, I realized I would have to pass a large table full of kids who looked completely put together, were laughing obnoxiously, and kept sneering at the other people who passed by them or would glance wistfully over in their direction from other tables and were caught. Basically, they all had ‘Popular’ tattooed to their foreheads. Candace and Nick were included in this group. Actually, Candace almost seemed to be the ringleader.
When I was still at least ten or so feet from the table, Candace looked up and saw me. It was obvious from the glare on her face that she remembered me and whatever it was I had done to wrong her.
“So guys,” Candace started saying to her group in a casual, yet louder than this-is-just-going-to-be-chance-gossip voice. “Did you hear about the new girl?” The table erupted into excited and incomprehensible outbursts as every person at the table put in their own opinions of me. I wanted to walk faster, but at the same time I couldn’t pass that table now, after she had just brought me up. I began to feel my face heat up. My knuckles turned white as I gripped my tray harder, gritting my teeth too.
“I hear she’s already practically begged a few guys to go outnwith her.” I almost stopped dead in my tracks, sucking in an audible in-take of air. A few people at the nearby tables glanced briefly at me, curious. Maybe they knew who I was, or maybe they didn’t. Maybe they too could hear what Candace was saying or maybe- but probably not- they couldn’t. I had no way of knowing.
I kept walking slowly, as Candace continued. “I mean, it’s only her first day of school and she’s offering to pay people to be her boyfriend. Can you even say desperate?” more obnoxious laughter erupted from the table. Candace smiled appreciatively, obviously proud of what she had started. “I’d bet my new car that was the only reason Zach would let himself be seen talking to her. She probably gave him money to just say a few words to her in a crowded hallway.”
Tears blurred my vision, and I could feel myself growing angry and embarrassed and dispirited all at once. Where did she get off, telling lies about me? This was completely unfair, considering I had never in my life done anything more than say ten words to her. And they hadn’t even been offensive.
I could see other people at the tables around me start to stare in my direction, giving me plenty of odd looks. So they knew I was the new girl, and they actually believed Candace. She had probably done something to humiliate all of them at some point, yet they were still giving her the benefit of the doubt on this one. Like they didn’t know how it felt to be on the other end. But I guess since were safe from her, at least for now, they would’ve like to keep it that way. That’s self-preservation in high school at its finest for you.
“I can only imagine what her reputation was like at her old school. She must have been such a slut.” That right there was the last straw. I blew past her table in a rush of falling tears and complete embarrassment as everyone else agreed good-naturedly, putting in their own forged stories. Once they saw me pass, no one seemed to feel any shame at the fact that I had unmistakably overheard every lie. Maybe I should have expected it, but the idea of me hearing these “rumors” only seemed to make it funnier to all of them. I knew I shouldn’t have been trying to rush out of there so fast, but I couldn’t help it. I had no more control over my body as my legs carried me out the doors.
People stared at me as I passed. My hurried departure and tear-stained cheeks let them know who I was if they already hadn’t. They all formed their opinions of me as I passed, opinions that stemmed from the seed Candace had planted in their heads with her vicious words.
As I dumped my food in the trash on the way out, save the water bottle, and then burst through the doors that led out into the hallway.
“Hannah, wait!” I could’ve sworn I heard someone calling after me, but I attributed it all to wistful thinking. I had no one here who would come out after me to make sure I was okay. All I wanted was someone who knew the truth, someone who would comfort me. I just wanted someone who cared enough to be my friend.
Mondays are always the worst. It’s just torture coming back to school from an almost sleepless weekend. Being part of one of the most famous band of brothers can really take its toll on you, and that’s without piling homework, tests, and grades on top of it.
My two older brothers and I made up the band ‘Radio Remedy’. Not to sound immodest, but we’re basically the biggest teen-pop sensation around these days. We’ve had so many hits lately I don’t think I could count them, and our overly-enthusiastic teen girl following alone could probably populate the entire west coast. Honestly, Peter, Zach, and Nick Lucas were starting to become household names, our songs overplayed on the radio and our shows selling out fast.
Our tours would take forever to finish because we usually only held shows on the weekends. This made weekends extremely fun, yet completely exhausting. We would jet around the country, trying to hit our usually number of three venues, and then end up back home on Sunday night, late. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if Zach and I weren’t still in high school.
Ah, high school. That was the trickiest part of the whole situation. Once we had first started becoming famous, school became almost impossible. Kids would go crazy around us, but after a while it became better. We were still the same three guys they had known since childhood, only now everybody else in the world knew us too.
So sometimes it was a stretch to keep up with school and still answer all the demands of a world-famous band, and usually it was the school part I wanted to abandon. But not today. Today was different, important.
The crazy thing about this important day was that I was uncharacteristically hopping out of bed right away, rushing to get ready for school, and excited to get there, all for one reason. All for a girl I didn’t even know.
Thankfully, I did see her at school, almost first thing too. I didn’t even have to go searching. It was fate, bringing me and my new neighbor together. Now if only I didn’t have an insanely jealous girlfriend to deal with, who predictably had gotten the (mostly) wrong idea.
It wasn’t funny what Candace had did, tripping Hannah, but then again I didn’t approve of most of what Candace did. She had some pretty cruel tendencies. Seeing Hannah brave the lunchroom later that day made me cringe. If Candace caught sight of her, I knew from experience that this wouldn’t end well. With Candace, it never did.
Candace took advantage of her special talent: making up rumors, harsh ones that didn’t even have the tiniest shred of reality in them to back them up, yet everyone believed anyway. And even though most people could’ve guessed they were untrue, even though Hannah knew for sure that they weren’t, I could see the hurt and embarrassment clear on her face. It’s not quite what you want to follow you, especially on a first day at a new school. While everyone was laughing just a little too happily, my eyes watched Hannah on her quick but steady exit of the cafeteria. She pushed out the doors and I stood up abruptly, my whole body turned in her direction behind the table. Candace looked up too, at me, a big, self-satisfied grin still plastered on her face.
“Nick, sweetie, what’s up?” she asked, already getting back to her food and not really looking for an explanation.
“I’ll see you later Candace,” I said, starting to walk away, not looking back. This, for once, caught Candace’s interest.
“Nick, honey. Nick. Where are you going?” She hollered after me. “Nick!” I barely heard her as I stepped out, past the doors.
“Hannah wait!” I called out, barely catching sight of what I thought were the ends of her blond hair. But she had already turned the corner down another hallway before she seemed to be able to hear me.
I followed her around the corner, but he was gone. She was either moving decently fast, hiding, or invisible. None of those mattered, however; if I could just figure out where she’d gone. Where down one go if they had just had the most humiliating day of their life, the most evil witch in the school was out to get them, and all they probably wanted was to be alone?
I knew where Hannah was, and I was headed there immediately.