JACKIE.

Plot: Meet Jackie, just another girl who is partly crushed and partly content with the fact that her life couldn't possibly get worse. But of course, the threatening combination of a new stepfather, two new stepbrothers and the annoying boy next door in a whole new city had to prove her wrong.

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A/N. Not sure if I'm happy with this chapter. It's a start, I guess.

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CHAPTER ONE.

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S I X MONTHS LATER.

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"Have you even told her yet?" Mercedes wanted to know as Jackie Whelan traced small circles on her pearly white Nokia.

Jackie had been lying on her bed in the same position for the past one and a half hours. She was on the phone with Mercedes, a petite redhead she'd known since forever. Mercedes was sweet, warm and comforting. She made you feel good about yourself and was the perfect person to pour your heart out to.

Jackie, Mercedes and Cassie -another person she'd known forever- had randomly sat next to each other in the 6th grade. They had been BFF ever since.

"Um, Jackie?" Mercedes prodded on as Jackie shifted slightly, biting her lip.

"No, Merce. I haven't." she finally admitted, as she pulled her long dark locks into a ponytail. "Haven't got the chance to."

"What do you mean haven't got the chance to?" Mercedes practically shrieked on the other end. "You've got to tell Cassie sooner or later. There's no use waiting for this non-existent situation which'll make things easier."

"That's easy to say," Jackie shot back testily. "When exactly am I supposed to tell her, Merce? When she's in Kelly Montez's 'haute' party which we weren't invited to? When she's jumping Bradley Sheer? Or during lunch though, oh wait, she doesn't sit with us anymore-"

"You should tell her, Jack," Mercedes maintained, in an annoyingly calm voice. "You can't just leave like that without telling her. I mean, what'll she think?"

"She probably won't give a damn," Jackie shot back, rolling her eyes. "I mean, why should I even bother when all she's doing these days is ditch us just because she's got herself some uber popular boyfriend and a whole new clique to go with it?"

"Jack-"

"I'm not telling her," Jackie cut in, stubbornly. "Let her find out through the gossip mill or something."

"Cassie's our friend, Jack," Mercedes went on, ignoring her. "I mean, sure, she's kinda like, drifted apart these days..but..think of all the times she's been there for you. You can't just ignore those times, can you?"

Jackie blinked.

Cassie wasn't as level-headed as Jackie and Mercedes were. She was the more aloof, more secretive and slightly bitchier one. Her classic blonde-hair-blue-eyed good looks also naturally made her the vainer one. Yet Cassie had also been sensitive and kind to those who cared for her.

She had patiently listened to Jackie's outbursts and been really protective of Mercedes, who was oh so innocent and could easily be taken advantage of. That was before Bradley the star quarterback- and Cassie had started going out which had automatically made her a part of the Inner Circle.

Suddenly, Cassie was invited to a dozen A-List parties and started hanging out with Kelly and her crew of elitists. Suddenly, Cassie seemed to have absolutely no time for Mercedes and Jackie.

Jackie sighed.

"Cassie's our friend," she agreed, almost grudgingly.

"So when are you gonna tell her?"

"I don't know. Definitely not when Bradley's around. He pisses me off."

-

A day later, she went to school bleary-eyed and annoyed. She hadn't wanted to go to school, but her mother had 'insisted'.

"Don't you want to spend all the time you have with your friends, honey? You can't just bunk school all the time. It won't look good on your records and- won't you miss Kline High after this?"

Yeah right. Her mother probably wanted Jackie out of the flat so that Brandon Howells, her Fling of The Month turned fianc could come over and they could make love for the hundredth time that week.

Her mother had met Brandon at a vegetable shop six months ago. Donna Whelan's shopping cart had collided with Brandon's, knocking her over, causing fireworks in more ways than one. Jackie had been an unwilling witness of the shameless flirting that followed.

Though Jackie had already gathered that Brandon didn't love her mother as much as he pretended to, she did nothing to dissuade her mother from fawning over him. Brandon was rich and seemed to take care of her mother, despite his calculative and businesslike approach to the relationship (like he'd done it so many times before that it almost bored him?).

Moreover, the way he blatantly ignored Jackie suited her.

But of course, Brandon was the reason why she had been forced to sleep through AP Calculus, AP Chem and Physics and now..AP Bio.

She leant against her locker, watching people disperse in groups as the warning bell rang. The sight of two blondes a few feet away from her bobbing up and down as they skipped to class made her feel even more tired and irritated.

The sight of Kelly and Bradley in an empty classroom right opposite her locker, hidden from public view with a bottle of what looked like vodka between them did it. She wasn't going to go to class like a good girl when Kelly and the others drank, smoked and did whatever shit that wanted.

She was going to slam her locker shut and trudge towards the ladies room when all of a sudden, she stopped. She leaned forward, squinting and frowning at the same time as her heart began to thud faster and faster. Were Kelly and Bradley really-

They were. They totally were.

She stumbled forward to get a better look. The classroom was only slightly ajar but from where she was, she could see everything clearly. Kelly's arms were wrapped around Bradley as their lips were glued together. Oh. My God.

Despite the fact that Cassie and Jackie were barely speaking to each other; Despite the fact that she should've been delighted that Cassie had got what she'd deserved, all Jackie felt like doing was bursting into the room and tearing Bradley apart.

She tore her eyes away from them with difficulty as she stomped down the stairs and dashed past the school gate, not caring about the trouble she could get into for cutting class and being found outside school property before school was out.

She leant against the cold stone wall outside the gate as she could feel her heartbeat increase every second..

"Jack?" she heard a soft, sweet voice call out as she jumped.

She hadn't heard that voice in a long time.

She turned sideways as she smiled weakly, both panicking and relaxing.

"It's been long, Cass."

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"-I know, and then like, Kerri burst into the room to see Delphia making out with her boyfriend..and- ohmygod- guess what she did." Cassie gushed, giggling as her eyes gleamed slightly.

"What did she do?" Jackie asked lightly, thoroughly amused by Cassie's rushed chatter.

Cassie had spent the past fifteen minutes 'filling her in' on the happenings of Kline High. Like she gave a damn.

Still, watching Cassie narrate the escapades of the popular and rich made Jackie almost giddy. Cassie didn't seem like the A-List wannabe she had been a few weeks ago. Oh no. It was too late to even have that Cassie back.

Cassie was now one of them. Self-involved, confident and oblivious. Oblivious to the way she'd hurt Jackie and Mercedes by dumping them like hot potatoes once Kelly, Delphia, Bradley and the rest of The Crowd had invited her to hang out with them. She was talking to Jackie like nothing had ever changed between them.

The change in Cassie was shocking.

This Cassie kept twirling pieces of her golden blonde hair that seemed to have been recently trimmed, conditioned and highlighted. This Cassie gushed about mindless things she assumed everyone would be automatically interested in. This Cassie's clothes were straight out of the cover of Elle.

This Cassie was so fake that Jackie felt saddened at the loss of the prissy yet fiercely loyal and sweet Cassie she'd known.

"Welll-" Cassie resumed at once. "Kerri just walked in and took both Delphia and her boyfriend's clothes and walked out. So she like, left them naked and helpless-"

Jackie was half tempted to ask Cassie to 'guess' who she'd seen lip-locking Kelly Montez. It was like, ohmygod- Bradley, Cassie's boyfriend. But then, it wasn't exactly funny.

The soft spot Jackie had for Cassie hadn't really vanished, despite what Cassie had turned into. When Jackie's first (and only, so far) boyfriend, Kurt, had dumped her, Cassie had spent the night at Jackie's. She'd forced Jackie to stop moping by making them bake cookies together, watch Heathers and make mindless prank calls.

Things might have changed between them, but-

"Cass," she found herself whispering, before she could stop herself. "Cass, I really need to-"

-talk to you about something.

She swallowed the rest of what she was going to say as a dark-haired, towering figure sprinted past the school gate to join them. It was none other than Bradley, who had been all over Kelly Montez only minutes ago.

Jackie's face darkened into a scowl.

Bradley however, barely even looked at her. He slung his arm around Cassie, giving her a lingering peck on her lips.

"Babe," he said huskily. "Sorry I got held up."

"What happened?" Cassie asked, pulling away.

"Um, counseling again. Don't know what Stevenson's fucking problem is. It's not like I'm not gonna get an athletic scholarship. He keeps picking on my fucking grades," he responded, stamping nothing in particular.

Jackie glared at him.

It was all carefully done. The cursing, rightful anger and the way his voice rose at the right intervals. Cassie believed him. Why wouldn't she? She hadn't seen him hooking up with Kelly, had she?

Jackie opened her mouth-

"Oh, hey, Jack, weren't you telling me something?" Cassie said suddenly, turning back to Jackie as Bradley surveyed Jackie for the first time.

-and closed it again.

She met her wide, child-like blue eyes. Why the hell would Cassie believe her? Why would she wantto?

Suddenly, she didn't feel obliged to tell her anything. It was her shit to figure out.

"Uh, nothing," Jackie stumbled, as Bradley got bored already and started caressing Cassie's hand. "It's just that..my mom, you know, she met this guy a few months back. And he asked her to marry him. My mom said yes and Brandon, my stepdad, lives in the city-"

"Which city?"

"-New York City. And since Brandon has two other sons, it would be more convenient for mom and I to move in with them. So..I'm moving this week. Which is..nothing, really.."

Jackie trailed away...what now?

She was met with silence.

"Cass, don't you have cheer practice?" Bradley cut in, which caused Jackie's unsure smile to snap.

"You should- go then?" Jackie asked, monotonously.

"Yeah," Cassie replied, awkwardly. "I should."

"Um, yeah, then whatever. Go." she responded, before heading back to school.

-

"So she just..left like that?"

Anger. Frustration.

"Yes. Bradley Queer was all,'Cassie, you have cheer practice' and she just hopped off-"

"Maybe-"

"God, Merce. Are you gonna make excuses for her again?"

"Uh- you're right, Jack. She really is a bitch. At least you won't be seeing more of her. What am I gonna do when you go to New York?"

"Uh-"

"This sucks, Jack."

A sigh.

"I know. I miss last year when-"

"-Cassie wasn't such a bitch?"

"Yeah. But whatever. She's made her choice. I've gotta move in..and move on. And you-"

"Yeah. I've gotta move on as well."

"This is depressing."

"But it needn't be, you know."

"Ohmygod, Merce. You never give up on optimism, do you?"

Laughter.

"You're right, Jack. I'm pa-thet-tic."

"I'll miss you, Merce."

"I know. So will I."

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