Stella felt like she was back in third grade again, which was the last time she'd been to a new school. And now here she was, wearing the Villanova uniform, sitting in a car, feeling just as nervous and excited as she'd been back then. Almost as if to add to the effect, Alice and Martin had insisted on driving her to school! Stella had strongly suggested it would be a better idea for her to drive but they hadn't seemed to even consider listening.
"Are you certain that you can manage from here?" Martin asked outside the gates of the school.
Stella nodded. She absolutely adored her parent but sometimes she simply couldn't understand why they had to be so perfect all the time.
"Okay then," Alice said. "Good luck, sweetheart."
I'm not going to climb the Mt. Everest, mother, Stella was tempted to say. However, she settled for a simple "Thanks," and started walking towards the school.
The hallways were so empty it felt almost haunted. She was awfully early but she didn't have a choice for Stella was supposed to see the Principal – Mrs. Kiplinger – first thing in the morning, before the classes started. Lisa had already had such a meeting with her the day before and was especially invited to the school for that purpose. The Principal had surveyed her records and confirmed that the Villanova cheer-squad would be honored to have her as long as she put forward a good audition. Lisa had been overjoyed and had been practicing routines all night. Stella had told her it was highly unlikely that she would be auditioned on the very first day but she'd replied saying she wanted to be prepared at all times. Her all-nighter had resulted in inability to wake up in the morning and thus, Lisa missed the first day of her sophomore year.
Stella jumped when she saw the door with the tag "Principal Kiplinger". It was – no jokes intended – a pink door! This was the first pink door she had witnessed in all of Villanova…or ever. She read the tag again, eyes wide open. It still read "Principal Kiplinger". Principal Kiplinger, Stella thought. Principal. She knocked; unsure she wanted it to be answered.
"Oh, hello dear," said a lady seemingly in her mid-forties, opening the door. Stella's first impression of seeing her was that she had, by mistake, landed in a super-model recruit group. Although Mrs. Kiplinger had lines around her eyes and mouth and looked fairly old from the face, she was dressed and made-up like a celebrity. Her jet-black hair was up to only a little above her waist and she was wearing a Ralph Lauren suit and Jimmy Choo heels. Even her thick-rimmed, square glasses made her look glamorous, as opposed to scholarly. This really couldn't be the Principal of Villanova Academy.
"Stella, yes?" she inquired. "Come on in."
Stella followed her quietly. The office was way smaller than she would've imagined, with a desk placed right in the middle of the room. The walls were all pink, just like the door. Stella instantly thought of Eric and how he would've surely commented on the Dolores Umbridge-ness of it had he seen the room. Influence of popular culture, one might call it, but Stella expected Mrs. Kiplinger to be a sweet-mouthed cow.
"How's Burlington treating you?" She asked as they both got seated.
"Pretty well," Stella replied.
"That's good," Kiplinger said. "Now let me be the first to welcome you as a new member of the Villanova community. You should know that here we thrive for excellence in order to shape every student who graduates-"
How many times have you repeated that? Stella thought.
Oh wait, she might've said it out loud.
Mrs. Kiplinger looked taken aback for a second and then giggled. She actually giggled.
"Okay, let's just get to the important part," she said after a while. "Your academic records have been excellent, if my file is correct. You've scored enough in your aptitude tests, done enough community service; you seem pretty set for college."
Stella was about to thank her when Kiplinger spoke again.
"There's just one thing," she added. "You have no records of any kind of extra-curricular activity!"
"I was in-"
"The Unofficial Talker's Club doesn't count," she said looking at a file.
Oh crap. Stella had never thought she fit for any activity at school. She sucked at sports, she hated the Mathletes, she never made it to the student-council and she was hardly a cheerleader. The only thing she wanted to be involved in was the school musicals but she never gathered enough balls to go for an audition.
"At Villanova, it is a compulsion to be seriously involved in at least one type of activity. We have a very wide range of clubs for you to choose from." she took out a green flyer from under her desk. "Check these out and you have two weeks to decide what you would want to settle for."
"But, Mrs. Kiplinger," Stella hoped she would understand. "Clubs really aren't my thing."
"Of course they are, dear," she said with a chuckle. "You just need to look at these and ask yourself what you really want to do. Besides, you have to do it in order to graduate. At the end of senior year, every student must prepare a report on their activity, which is ten per cent of your final G.P.A."
Stella sighed. "I'll get back to you in two weeks."
"That's lovely," Kiplinger smiled and took out another sheet of paper and a key with a tag "247". "Now this is your course syllabus for the year, look at it thoroughly. The class-schedules are attached and here's the key to your new locker. Anything else you would want to discuss before you officially start?"
"No, thank you," Stella was getting desperate to leave the room.
"Okay then, good luck," Kiplinger repeated Alice's words.
It's a freaking school, not a war zone.
When Stella got out of the pink door, wondering why Lisa hadn't told her they would be having that for a Principal, the hallway was already crowded and noisy. Students were running around from one end to another, some staring at Stella as she walked around to find her locker. All those times she'd stared down new girls in her boarding school, she'd never put herself in their shoes and thought of how weird it must be to looked at like you're a zoo animal. A firm believer in karma, Stella wasn't surprised she was now in the receiving end of the gazes.
She found a row of lockers starting from the number 242.
243, 245, 246…
And then right in front of locker 247, she saw the back of a tall girl with extra-long legs and gorgeous blonde curls. The girl was busy exchanging saliva with an even-taller, black-haired guy. Stella was relieved she didn't have to see either of their faces. She went past the two of them, hoping she could find a way to open her locker without disturbing them but she was faced with number 248. They were positioned perfectly to only block the whole of her locker.
At boarding school she would've probably snapped and yelled at the two love-birds till their ears bled. But this was a new school and she couldn't start off by making enemies.
"Excuse me," she said softly. They didn't react.
"Excuse me," she tried being slightly louder. No reaction.
Stella swiftly went behind the girl again and raised her hand to tap her on the shoulder. She stopped mid-way, afraid; then she carried on and tapped.
"What?" the girl turned around and snapped. It was no wonder the Principal looked like she did if the students of Villanova looked like the girl in front of her. Barbie dolls were probably inspired from the likes of this girl. Stella was suddenly very aware of how, at 5'3, she was really small.
"Uhm," she started nervously. "You're in front of my locker."
The girl raised an eyebrow. "So?"
Of course she was a bitch. Ah, stereotypes.
"So I need to keep my stuff in," Stella responded evenly.
"I'll give you three seconds to scram off," she said. "One, two,-"
"What the hell?" Stella exclaimed, eyes as wide as giant saucers, when she looked behind the girl's shoulder and saw the guy she had been kissing.
This was probably a dream. Stella thought it had to be pretty obvious she was dreaming because even coincidences had their limits. Right? Because the guy she was now looking at could not be her one-night-stand Ashton Sinclair.
She went past the Barbie-girl and pinched the guy in the arm, just to prove to herself that she was dreaming.
"Ow!" He yelped. "What the fuck?"
"Sorry," Stella said immediately, realizing what she'd done. This wasn't a dream after all. And then she added excitedly "I just…I can't believe I'm seeing you again."
"Again?" his make-out buddy looked at him quizzically. "You know this thing?"
"Who the hell are you?" He asked, looking Stella right in the eye.
She opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again. Stella was dumbstruck. Had she been that easy to forget?
Stella, remember? She wanted to say. We met in a train and were together for hours! We had sex… as in you had your organ inside mine! How can you forget?
Unable to speak or move or do anything at all, Stella just stood there, staring at Ashton Sinclair. Barbie-girl looked at her like she was a freak, pulled Ashton and walked away. It took another few minutes for Stella to be able to bring herself to unfreeze.
According to the schedule Mrs. Kiplinger had given her, Stella's first class was Math: a subject she happened to hate, but after what had happened in front of her locker, she barely had it in her to complain.
When she reached Math class it was empty except for – lo and behold – another familiar face! Compared to seeing Ashton Sinclair again; however, this didn't even qualify as a co-incidence.
"Hi," she said to the brunette girl sitting on the desk at the far left and staring at her notebook. "Danni, right? Danni from Starbucks?"
She looked up. "You're the girl who sat at the pink table."
"Stella," she said cheerfully and sat beside Danni.
"Danielle," she didn't smile. The dark circles under her eyes added to what seemed to be an aura of solemnity around her.
"Is something bothering you?" Stella asked, not being able to help herself.
She eyed Stella gravely, as if trying to study her intentions. A few seconds later, she finally smiled. "I'm okay. It's just grades and stuff and you know all the pressure that comes with being a scholarship student."
Stella didn't know but she could venture a guess. She wasn't surprised that Danni was a scholarship student though; someone who could afford to go to Villanova Academy didn't need a waitressing job at Starbucks.
"Lighten up, it's math class now!" Stella made a fake-excited expression, hoping it would cheer Danni up. After all, a scholarship-student-stereotype was bound to harbor an ever-lasting love for math.
"Stella," she looked amused. "I hate math."
"Oh thank god," Stella sighed, genuinely relieved. "Me too."
Danni started laughing and Stella couldn't help but join in.
The class was soon swamped with students - a fairly big number of students - to Stella's surprise. Usually at her boarding school if any math class had a double-digit number of students, it was deemed miraculous. Here it seemed normal to have almost twenty of them! The room had twenty-two seats and only three of them were empty, one of those being on Stella's immediate right. She wondered if Danni, who was on her left, chose this precise area to sit because no one else came near it. With her need to speak constantly at regular intervals, Stella was about to ask Danni if that was the case, when the teacher entered the class, uttering the word "silent!" over and over again.
It was a middle-aged, bearded man with a visible pot-belly.
"What's he like?" Stella asked.
"Boring," Danni shrugged.
Stella was taken aback by her demeanor. "You're not really here on a scholarship, are you?"
"I wish," she rolled her eyes. "Then I wouldn't have to study so much."
Stella just looked at her incredulously.
"Is it so surprising that I don't enjoy being nerdy?"
"No, sorry, I just-"
"Its okay, most people have a hard time believing I'm normal," she said smiling.
"Good thing I'm not most people," Stella said brightly matching the smile.
"Okay, shush, you don't want to get on Mr. Wilder's bad books on your very first day," Danni whispered as Stella looked at front and watched as "Mr. Wilder" drew a triangular prism on the board. She understood what Danni meant by "boring" now: he seemed to be the kind of teacher who got straight to the subject matter without any useless sidetracks like introductions with the new student in class.
Not that she was looking for attention. Of course she wasn't.
Okay, maybe just a little.
"Oh the joys of Math," A male voice cut off her thoughts. She looked on her right and found Logan Kensington occupying the previously empty seat, looking delighted.
"When did you come in?" Stella asked, surprised.
"When you were busy looking at Wilder with those wild eyes," he grinned.
Danni snorted sarcastically from Stella's other side.
"I wish someone would've told you years ago that you make really crappy jokes," Stella said, ignoring
Danni's reaction for now but making a mental note to ask her about it later.
"They did, actually," he said, the grin still plastered in his face. "I simply chose to ignore them."
"Not the best decision ever," Stella informed him.
"While we're at decisions," he now looked serious. "I am glad I could be of help in yours to join Villanova."
"What do you mean?" she narrowed her eyes.
"You know, the fact that you met a gorgeous young man the first time you came here must've affected your decision in more ways than one," he said matter-of-factly.
"But I swear I had never seen Mr. Wilder before today," she made an innocent face.
Logan laughed. "I like you, Red."
"Great, my life is now complete," she gave the sweetest smile she could muster.
"You're not the first-"
"Mr. Kensington, what seems to be the problem?" Mr. Wilder suddenly asked, startling Stella a bit.
"Nothing Wilder," Logan said easily. "Stella here was just telling me about her fantasies concerning you."
What? What? WHAT?
Stella's face flushed so hard, she could feel the embarrassment encompassing her whole body. Staring in front of her like a nerve in her head had just unscrewed, she just quietly hoped that the chair would consume her alive and she'd just permanently disappear.
"Leave the classroom now, Mr. Kensington," Wilder said in a very scary voice. "And you should join him, Miss. Milligan."
Stella still couldn't move. A squeaky "But," was all that came out of her mouth.
"Now," he repeated sternly.
Logan got hold of her elbow and pulled her out of her chair. Stella couldn't register much of what was happening as Logan hauled her out of class.
The minute they were out Stella jerked her arm away from him. The humiliation had now converted to ferocity.
"What the fuck is your problem?" She bellowed. "How dare you mortify me in front of a teacher on my very first day? My very first freaking class! I have never, ever been kicked out of a lesson before, let alone have a fat ugly teacher believe I thought of him in any way-"
"He would never take me seriously," Logan cut her off.
Stella shoved a very pointy index finger on his face. "Do not interrupt me when I'm angry."
"Yes, Ma'am," he said and then as if to add effect, bowed. He looked so cute doing that that Stella forgot to be angry for a second.
"As I was saying," she tried to regain her rage. "As I was saying…"
He folded his arms, as though he was waiting, an amused expression on his face.
"I was saying that you seem to be a complete and utter ass-hole," Stella finished and then marched off in the opposite direction.
"Hey Red, just one thing," he called a few seconds later.
"What?" She turned around and snapped.
"Your ass looks exceptionally cute in a uniform," he smirked.
She scowled at him and carried on walking.
By lunch Stella had completely lost it. She would have never thought that the few minutes she had spent in the Principal's office thing morning would end up being the best part of her day. But fact remained that from the moment she had gotten out of her pink door, things had only gone wrong. First with Ashton Sinclair not recognizing her (she still couldn't get over the fact that he studied here to begin with) and then the whole Math class debacle and then not being able to answer a single question from about fifteen that the Chemistry teacher had thrown at her in the two-hour Advanced Chemistry lesson. Everyone in the class had hissed the whole time, probably talking about how stupid the new girl was. Stella wasn't stupid; it was just her first time doing Advance Chemistry so she simply wasn't prepared.
And now she was here at the lunch room, a tray full of food in her hand, not knowing where to sit in a massive room filled with cliques. Why does Villanova have to be such a typical high school? She suddenly had an image of herself eating alone inside the bathroom like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls.
She tried to clear that image from her head and spotted Danni sitting in the corner of the room. She wasn't alone, though. She was with an Asian guy, perhaps her boyfriend? Stella wasn't sure she should approach her but it was between this and the bathroom.
She walked to Danni's table. "Mind if I sit?"
"Go ahead," the guy stood up. "I was just leaving anyway."
"Boyfriend?" Stella asked once the guy was gone.
"Classmate. We were just discussing our Physics project," Danni said, looking up from her tray for the first time. "So, how did it go with Logan Kensington?"
"What do you mean "how"? I yelled at him and walked away," she said as if that should've been obvious.
"Wise," she nodded approvingly.
She wasn't going to do it: she wasn't going to ask Danni what her deal with Logan was. They weren't really friends yet and it would be highly inappropriate. Stella knew better.
"What's your deal with Logan?"
Danni shrugged. "He's just…he doesn't have the best reputation."
"As in?" she couldn't help asking.
"Oh look at this, Danni has found someone to sit with," Stella heard a very fake-sweet voice and looked up to find Barbie-girl from this morning staring at them. There were three more utterly good-looking girls beside her.
"Hi," Stella smiled at them. She had decided if she wanted to survive at this school she was going to have to try and be nice to everyone. "I'm sorry about this morning, I didn't mean to interrupt or anything-"
"Is that a new uniform, sweetheart?" she was looking at Danni, completely ignoring Stella. "I wasn't aware you could afford one. Wait, that tip I gave you last week should've covered it."
Danni just looked at her bitterly, not uttering a single word.
"Oh my poor thing, you've lost your voice, have you?" her voice was so sugary, Stella suddenly felt an urge to punch her around the face. "I know this health care centre where they treat you for free, do you want the number?"
Stella waited for Danni to respond but she didn't. So she went ahead and said "I think you should leave her alone."
Barbie-girl finally turned towards her. "And why would you think I would care about what you think?"
Stella stood up. If she was going to do this, she might as well do it right. "Because it is downright pathetic that you would gain pleasure out of tormenting someone else. It's not cool, it's pathetic."
"Is it now?" she said looking at another blonde girl on her right. "Do you want to know what new girl did this morning, Isla? She pretended to know Ashton just because he happened to be good looking. That is really not pathetic."
I know him! I've slept with him! Stella wanted to scream but she would only seem more pathetic since Ashton had no recollection of her.
"Now, now, just because I saw you make-out with a girl the other day doesn't mean you have to take it out on me in front of the whole school!" Stella confidentially said instead, to the gasp of everyone within ear shot. She thought she heard Danni giggle but turn it into a cough.
Boarding school had taught Stella the rules of being a bitch very well but she'd never imagined actually having to apply them. She watched the furious look on Barbie-girl's face and suddenly saw a fist coming towards her face. She shut her eyes in fear but the blow never came. When she opened them, Ashton Sinclair was standing beside his girlfriend, holding her elbow.
"Let's just get out of here," he said to Barbie-girl, seeming annoyed at her.
She looked like she had made a firm decision to not leave that room without throwing a punch at Stella but after a few seconds gave up and walked away with Ashton. The other three girls followed her.
"Great first day you're having," Danni joked as Stella sat back down.
"Oh, I've had better," Stella wasn't sure how she felt about what had just happened.
"You know, nobody talks to Gwen like that," Danni sounded like she had thoroughly enjoyed herself. "The expression in her face was priceless."
"Why don't you say anything to her?" Stella asked.
"My mom's her housekeeper," she replied expressionlessly. "She'll get her fired her if I so much as look her directly in the eye."
Stella was taken aback by her knack to provide personal information. Not knowing what to say on that topic, she asked another question that had been bugging her. "She hasn't been dating Ashton very long, has she?"
Danni raised an eyebrow. "You know him?"
"I guess you could say that," Stella thought being vague would be the best thing to do till she got to know Danni better.
"You clearly don't know him well enough because if you did you'd know they've been dating forever," she said.
That didn't add up. It didn't add up at all. Ashton had seemed distraught when they'd first met and later told her it was because his girlfriend had cheated on him. If the girlfriend he'd talked about was Gwen – which she was if Danni was right – what was he doing with her now? It made very, very little sense. This place was going to drive Stella insane.
Her first day at Villanova had finally come to an end and by now she was surprised to be alive. She hadn't expected the day to be so…eventful.
Well, at least she'd made one friend. Sort of.
Stella had asked Danni to come to her place after school to do their math homework together but Danni had said she couldn't because of her early shift at Starbucks. She'd left school almost an hour ago and now Stella was walking out of there alone, trying hard not to relive a big chunk of the day.
She was about to get into her car when she saw the side of Ashton Sinclair leaning against a wall of the parking lot and smoking a cigarette. She knew approaching him wouldn't be the best idea but she couldn't help herself.
"Hi," she walked over to him. "I know you don't remember me and all but I just wanted to thank you for saving me from your girl-"
"We fucked," he looked at her with a gaze icy enough to cut glass. "Once. Doesn't make us friends. Barely makes us acquaintances."
With that he threw the cigarette into the dustbin and walked towards his own car, leaving Stella with the feeling that she'd just been slapped on the face.
A/N: I am sure many of you want to murder me right now for making Ashton say what he said but...I'm hoping you will eventually forgive me. :P
I have sent out review replies to all of you by now...I think. Just another thanks to all you lovely people, you make my life gorgeous ^_^.
Please leave some feedback for this chapter as well, if you liked it, hated it, thought it could've been better, ANYTHING at all you have to say, I will happily hear. XD