The More Things Change

Chapter One

Alex was bored. That was basically all there was to it. It was Monday morning, five minutes into her first period and her English class was finishing up their study of King Lear which really meant listening to Mr. Harrison drone on about crap at the front of the small classroom.

'Alex?'

She had been content to let her mind wander but now Alex turned her attention back to the tall, bald man that was meant to be in charge of her for the remaining forty-two minutes.

'Yes Mr. Harrison? Could you please repeat the question?' She smiled brightly at him, hoping to win points for appearing eager and aware.

'What was your overall impression of the final scenes of King Lear?' The dry, white spit in the corners of Mr. Harrison's mouth sprayed out as he enunciated the sentence with venom.

Well, I first of all I didn't think it was the strongest ending that Shakespeare ever wrote but I liked how they all died I guess, it gave more ambiguity to the theme of justice which is important because one of the things Shakespeare is saying is that, well, things like that aren't black and white. ' Alex flashed another shit-eating grin, glad that she had memorised the essay for King Lear last weekend. She'd already written a template essay for her upcoming exams and even though it wasn't really a complete study, she knew she'd pass the class with it.

'Right.' Mr. Harrison turned back to the class of bored schoolgirls. 'Anyone care to elaborate on that?'

Leaning back in her chair, Alex groaned inwardly. Ever since the last exam for English, he'd been on her back to make sure she 'understood the material.' It was his own damn fault she almost failed, Alex thought bitterly. She'd had her prepared essay down for the whole Journeys unit but he'd confused her with all these ideas about integrating texts before the exam which was completely not part of her essay. Negotiating her mark out of a fail was something she didn't want to have to repeat for the trials. Ignoring him was her best bet.

As Mr. Harrison paced across the low vaulted stage at the front of the room, picking on girls throughout the Year 12 class, Alex reached surreptitiously into her pencil case for the ultimate cure to her boredom. Eyes flicking from her desk back to the front of the class; she unlocked the keypad of her phone and got to texting, all from memory. She typed out 'Kel. so bored. meet at engl corri afta class. hav goss! xx'. Kelly was two doors down in the other Advanced English class and it'd be easy to meet up after class. She'd been on the verge of telling Alex something potentially interesting before class but Harrison had interrupted them because 'English starts at exactly 9am, girls.'

Sitting back up in her chair, Alex pretended to look eager again, knowing that the reverse psychology of this would deter Mr. Harrison from asking her any more questions. Then she could get back to thinking about more important things.

As soon as the bell chimed for the end of class, Alex rushed outside, bypassing questions from Mr. Harrison. She was impatient to get out of class and do something more fascinating, like getting goss from Kelly. It was easy to see her friend down the corridor, pacing outside her English classroom. Kelly's hair was bland brunette but her skirt was a vision in gravity-defying perfection. Alex still couldn't figure out how she got it past the 'to the knee' rule.

'Kel!' They hugged and did the kiss on the cheek as they had done that morning; obligatory for every greeting.

'Did you get this?' Kelly waved a note in front of Alex's face as they walked down the verandah towards the Year 12 verandah. She smirked at her best friend and Alex smiled back knowing that, as usual, Kelly had the news first. Stalking slightly ahead, Kelly waved at a few girls walking past them in the corridor as Alex lagged behind, absorbed in the note:

November is right around the corner and Sydney is like a burning candle: beautiful and bright. It's getting dark later now and we can't tell the difference between night and day. Not that we care. At this time of the year our turf is virtually parent-free. They're too busy with their tennis and polo matches, garden parties and golf games up the coast. So they're leaving us to rule the town. Our names have been at the top of the guest list at every exclusive pub and club in Sydney since we were fake id'ing it at fifteen. We move in clusters and dominate the scene. The North Shore has always been ours but here comes graduation and that means saying goodbye. But let's not get all dreary. Now's the time to make our mark, it's our turn to be louder and more obnoxious and beautiful then ever! And with no one around to disapprove, it's time to seriously misbehave… Greenwood this Saturday, dress for the heat (inside not out!). xx

Alex smiled slowly as she read through the note, until she got to the end.

'Fucking Greenwood again? We did that last week and it was shit. Can't we do the city? Who wrote this anyways? Vivi? Why bother typing it'

Kelly frowned slightly, 'Well, actually—'

'Doesn't matter. It's kay. We'll just do it again. The boys are going to be there right?' Alex was already thinking about something else. 'Mark better show. He's been completely AWOL. I gave him that essay to memorise, I don't really get why he needs to study after that.'

'What, so he doesn't fuck up like you did in the half yearlies?'

'Which we don't mention. Like we don't mention who broke up with who when it comes to you and whats-his-face last summer.' Alex one-upped her, glad for alcohol induced confessions that she could use for ammunition as they passed through the glass doors of the corridor and walked across the long tiled verandah that opened onto a small courtyard, the area exclusively for the Year 12 girls.

'Fine.' Kelly glared at Alex before changing the subject as they sat down at their specific wood table, one of many that dotted the verandah. 'Where's Shannon anyways?'

Alex looked up from her bag that she had been rifling through, lip gloss in hand before regarding Kelly and asking slowly. 'Do you need to ask?'

'I guess not… Did she pill it Saturday?'

'Yup, after we left apparently. Fucking Drew. He's going to make her fail the trials. And then sabotage our whole plan for next year.' Alex finished applying a fresh sheen of gloss and passed the tube to Kelly.

'Didn't you have that full D&M in the bathrooms about how she was going to dump him? Or was that just a drunken chat like most nights?' Kelly said abruptly.

Alex frowned at the question. 'Yeah, no, not a drunken chat but 'deep and meaningfuls' aren't that meaningful for Shannon. Especially when Drew's handing it out for free. I mean, she's cool and shit but the whole plan for going to uni in Melbourne was her deal first and now she doesn't even care.'

'Wanna go over there tonight? I have a ton of historians to memorise for Modern History but maybe we should try and make her like … see the light you know? I don't really know what I'd say though…' Kelly pulled out her books as a teacher passed them by. 'Is this study by the way or are you ditching?'

'Kel. I've had the same study periods as you all of this year. I just can't be bothered studying right now. Harrison was being an idiot before. I do everything he asks for that class and he's still a jerk.' Alex pulled out her own books in acquiescence to the glare of the closest teacher prowling the verandah and nearby courtyard. Kelly smiled sympathetically at her before opening her Modern textbook. It was the end of September and the sun that flowed into the courtyard was forcing some of the girls to don the mandatory maroon straw hats of Mercy Ladies College. Alex has glad that her spot on the verandah saved her from that fate. She opened a book and began doodling, glancing over guiltily at Kelly's work.

'Are you actually doing anything or just writing crap?' Alex asked after a few minutes and one inappropriate sketch of Mr. Harrison and his mother.

'Writing another note to pass around about this weekend.' Kelly kept her head down as she spoke.

Alex bit her lip in annoyance and inwardly kicked herself: foot in mouth disease thy name is Alexandra Pierce.

'Make sure you change Greenwood to Spectrum. Time for a new place.' She muttered, head down. She had made the mistake of inadvertently insulting her best friend but she still didn't really feel like apologising so early on a Monday morning.

Walking to her last class, Alex hugged her books tight to her chest and thought about the next week. There was Spectrum this weekend and she really needed to talk to Mark. They'd been together for six months but she was thinking that after the formal, they could probably go their separate ways. He'd been 'busy' so much that Alex figured it wouldn't be much of a change. Nothing really was going to be, despite what everyone said, Alex still hadn't figured out the big deal about uni. It basically seemed like you got to do what you wanted instead of having to do the shit subjects like Math or Chem and going to Melbourne was going to be awesome with Kelly and Shannon. There wouldn't really be any difference. Except that Shannon would hopefully dump Drew and stop pilling so much.

'Vivi!' Alex waved hi to the Asian girl walking into their Chemistry class as she ran to make the bell for the last period of the day. Scooting in the door, she gave a patented sheepish look to Mr. Bobbin as he closed the door behind her.

'Sorry sir.' she muttered to him before sitting next to Vivi on one of the high backed chairs in the last row of the lab. 'I'm totally not missing anything if I ditch this but.' she said under her breath and Vivi laughed.

'Yes Victoria?' Mr. Bobbin stopped taking the roll at the front of the bright laboratory and glared at the twosome, the rest of the class swiveling around to look at them.

'Just letting Alex know that … I did the homework.' Vivi flubbed brilliantly, brushing her stiff side fringe out of her eyes. Alex smirked in the seat next to her and studiously looked at her nails.

'Then can we get back to the roll and then onto revising molecular polarity?' Mr. Bobbin's look softened, as the girls pulled out their textbooks and Alex was glad for a slightly easier teacher. She knew crying would always get an extension in her assignments for Chem. If only English was so easy… Turning back to the subject at hand, i.e. what Vivi knew about Shannon's weekend, she slipped a copy of Kelly's note out of her pocket and scribbled on the back of it before tossing it onto Vivi's copy of Introduction to Chemistry 2.

'I got the note from Kelly in Maths before lunch.' Vivi whispered to Alex, eyes trained on the Mr. Bobbin's figure as he wrote revision questions across the whiteboard.

'Yeah… Read the back!' Alex hissed back, pen poised over her folder to start copying out the questions. Looking around the class, she made sure that they were out of earshot. 'Have you talked to Shannon lately?'

'Shouldn't I ask you that?' Vivi asked, turning to face Alex and lowering her voice further.

Alex rolled her eyes at the petite girl's stupidity and noticed Mr. Bobbin looking at them pointedly. She slowly ripped a sheet of paper out of her book, careful of the noise, and scribbled on it quickly.She's been AWOL. I was hoping you were there when she scored on Saturday? If not, don't worry. Just been freaking about the whole Melbourne thing. It's the dream baby. You still set on that art school?

Vivi smiled at her and nodded, then whispered 'We'll talk later kay. I seriously need to study for this. Totally lost in polarity and even if it doesn't count, I just want to do well you know?'

Affronted, Alex nodded too and turned back to her work. Chemistry won't count for me either, she thought to herself, but I'm not going to be the idiot who works on something that doesn't count.

Later that day, after the final bell had gone, Alex hung around Kelly's locker, waiting for her friend. It was Kelly's day to drive but knowing her, she'd probably been held back in her history class. It wasn't that Kelly was stupid, just a little slower in the classroom than Alex and Shannon. Speaking of Shannon… Alex slipped her phone out of her pocket and dialed her number in. Sweeping her gaze up and down the plush corridor to make sure she was alone, she let the phone ring out and tuned out during Shannon's awkward "Leave a message!" bit.

"Shannon! Call me back when you get this. It's not urgent but then again, nothing really is, but it'd still be nice to know that you're alive and not completely fucked still. Call, text, something. Kel and I want to talk to you."

Slumping to the ground, Alex hung up and halfheartedly threw her phone onto her lap. She was tired of school already. They were only a few months away from finishing final exams and getting out of here but with formal and graduation in between then and now she wasn't sure how she'd get to relax at all. They had so much shit to take care of and now she wasn't sure if the whole moving to Melbourne for university was the best idea. She'd never tell Kel or Shannon but it was all getting to be a bit too much.

Her phone glowed, vibrating and for an instant, Alex stared at it like it had two heads before snatching it up and checking caller ID before she answered.

'I just called you Shan. What, did you just wake up?' Bitterness tinged her voice as she checked her watch again. Not only was Kelly fifteen minutes late but Shannon didn't sound nearly as coherent as she needed to be for Alex to yell at her.

'Sort of.' mumbled the phone and Alex suppressed the urge to sigh loudly.

'Right. You coming to school tomorrow?' Alex spotted Kelly walking towards her down the hall and motioned to her phone, mouthing "It's Shannon".

'Probably. Just had a hard come down. Drew had some fucking awesome stuff. You totally missed out. I can swing some freebies for you next time though.' Shannon's voice came alive through the phone a little more and Alex was hardly surprised that the thought of Drew would be what perked her up.

'Right. You know our policy, nothing but nature when it comes to that shit.' Alex motioned Kelly over and she sidled up against Alex on the floor.

'Haha yeah, you two are funny like that. But anyways, I'll see you tomorrow. I'm hanging out with Drew tonight. His parental units are out of town and so he and the student council are going to hang out. I figured I'd go ya know. You and Kel want to come?'

Alex rolled her eyes at Kelly and answered briskly. 'Kelly and I are grabbing coffee and my brother gets back from Paris tonight and I want to be home for that.'

Shannon again perked up. 'Derek's back? Sure I can't come over?'

'Fuck off Shan, he's practically engaged to some French chick. He's not going to be interested in your barely legal ass. We'll just see you tomorrow.' Barely making it through the pleasantries of goodbye, Alex jabbed her phone violently trying to hang up before she spouted more profanities into the phone.

'So, your brother's coming home?' Kelly stood up, offering her hand to Alex and smiling. 'He'll be fun eye candy.'

'Kelly. He's only home for a month or two. Just long enough to gather shit up for the move to Paris.' Alex leant down to pick up her bag, throwing her phone into it with barely concealed force. 'Besides, I don't want Shannon getting close to him again. I mean, she's great, sometimes, but with Derek… Yeah don't want to deal with that again.'

Kelly nodded, unable to hide her half smile from Alex before she led her best friend out to her car.

Later that evening, Alex sat on a tall stool at the long bar in her kitchen. Small black frames were perched on her frowning face as she tapped away at her laptop, browsing the University of Melbourne's website. With the house to herself, she didn't feel any need to do homework and as such, was going over the same things again, accommodation, coursework, prerequisites but felt uneasy about the whole situation. She'd started off the day in her usual, bitchy fashion but Shannon's phone call and Derek's delayed flight had left her feeling a little frustrated.

She checked her phone again, hoping for a message or missed call from her mother about Derek but the screen just highlighted an old picture of her and Mark. The two of them were practically over but Alex wasn't really in the mood for a break up. They hadn't spoken since last weekend and even then, he'd been chugging beer with her friends and Alex had been out in the courtyard with the other smokers.

Speaking of which… Slipping off her stool, Alex snatched the pack of Dunhill's that lay beside her phone and walked across the wide marble expanse of her kitchen before slipping out of the house. She had already lit up and inhaled deeply before she even sat down on her favourite wicker chair. There were few things better than a nicotine high, especially for moments like these when she had nothing better to do. Fingering the edges of her yoga pants she wrapped her arms around herself, careful of the lit end of her cigarette in a bid to rid the August chill from her bones.

She sat like that for awhile, stubbing out time after time, mind eventually clearing itself of everything but the subtle swirls of happiness that each cancer laced breath gave her.

The French glass door squeaked behind her and Alex leapt out of her chair in fright, twirling around to see who had caught her out. When she saw who it was, she stubbed her cigarette out quickly and ran into her brother's arms.

'Fuck Derek,' she breathed into his chest, 'took you long enough.'

He laughed and she felt the rumblings comfort her in a way that no cigarette could. There was something about having a big brother around that eased everything a little bit. Especially Derek who could've been her twin if not for the extra foot of height and four years that he had on her. Both had classic Pierce chestnut hair, clear blue eyes and slim builds. 'Yeah kid. The plane was late coming out of Singapore.' Pulling back, he peered down at her. 'Why do you smell like an ashtray? I thought I was leaving all those chain smokers behind in Paris?'

She rolled her eyes and let go of him, walking over to the table and retrieving her pack. 'I've been smoking since before you left. Mum doesn't care because she thinks Dad condones it and Dad doesn't care because he thinks Mum condones it. The joys of parents who don't talk, right?'

Derek steered her back into the house, rubbing her goose bump plagued arms and settling on the countertop next to Alex's stool. 'Gotta love that. Mom's over at Dad's at the moment anyways, negotiating the "fee" for my staying here.'

Al sat down and slapped her laptop shut. Derek was being quiet. He hadn't yelled at her for smoking and agreed that their parents were stupid. Granted, it was an improvement but something was up and of course, she was right.

'Look Al, I know I said I was just here for a month and that I was going to spend all of that with you but I'm only going to be home for two weeks.'

Before Alex could protest, Derek continued. 'Remember Simon?'

Alex did. Clearly. It'd been a year but there is no way that a half naked bartender sprawled on your floor gets forgotten that quickly.

Eyes wide, she stared at the body lying face down on her rug. It was shirtless and had one of those great backs with the defined shoulders and perfectly curved spine. She cocked her head to the side and thought of how nicely defined back muscles were… Right, time to get the half naked male out of her bedroom.

She prodded his back with her foot, trying to figure out exactly how drunk they had been last night.

'Simon?'

She shook her head slightly and realised Derek had still been talking. 'He's gotten me a job with him and I just feel like I need some time away from Marie.'

She spoke slowly, drawing out each syllable so as to make Derek realise her innate disapproval and disdain for this plan. 'You left Paris and the most beautiful French girl in the world to come back home and bartend with a drunken moron who has never been good for you and hates my very being?'

Derek attempted a smile. 'Does it sound that stupid?'

'You know, I normally don't get so fucked on a weekend. It was just… a bad week.' he mumbled, sitting up and looking around the room.

Realising he was looking for his shirt, Alex shoved it at him. She couldn't believe he'd followed her home like that. She licked her lips nervously and wished for something to rid her mouth of the foul old sock feeling and to expunge this blonde from her life.

'Right.' He slipped the T-shirt over his head and motioned to the door. 'I'll be off then?'

And now, all of a sudden, she wasn't sure she really wanted to answer that question with a 'No.'


a/n:Okay, I've tried to set up these characters as best I can, I'd love to know what you think of them and whether or not they work. Also, if anyone knows a good beta, I'm in desperate need of one. I have the next two chapters written but they need some reworking

Also, this story is set in Sydney, Australia so in August, it is winter.