Summary: They used to be best friends until her betrayal tore them apart. Three years later, he's back, only to discover she's become everything they used to despise. But that's not the only thing that's changed over three years.
I was young and caught in the crowd
I didn't know then what I know now
I was dumb and I was proud and I'm sorry
If I could go back, do it again
I'd be someone you could call friend
Please, please believe that I'm sorry
The water streamed down my body as I waded out of the surf, shivering as the cool morning air hit my bare legs. I pushed my hair out of my face and strode up the near deserted beach to my towel, wrapping myself in it.
"Astrid!" a voice called and I turned around to where the voice was coming from. A smile lit my face as I saw Henry, a lifeguard, waving at me as he walked over.
"Hey Henry. How's it going?" I asked, picking up my bag and slinging it over my shoulder.
"Good, thanks. The beach is fairly quiet at this hour of the morning… except, of course, for you. As per usual." I laughed as he continued. "I have no idea how you can always be out here at six in the morning when my own daughter doesn't even know seven am exists."
"I guess I'm a morning person," I admitted with a shrug.
Henry patted me on the shoulder. "You need to teach my girl a thing or to do. But I'll let you get back to whatever you were doing. I'll be seeing you this afternoon, yeah?"
"Of course." I nodded as he walked back to the small tent that had been set up on the beach for the lifeguards.
Once I was off the beach, I rinsed all the salt and sand off me in a quick, warm shower and just threw my school uniform over my one piece. Sighing, I regretfully left the beach behind and drove to school.
"Asti, babe, come give daddy a hug!"
I turned around from my locker, a smile forming on my face.
"Finley Grenier, you are not my daddy!" I cried. Nevertheless, I threw myself into his arms and hugged him tight. "How was Europe? Did you hook up with lots of hot, French women? And you didn't call me the whole time!"
He grinned and ruffled my hair as I pushed him away, pouting.
"I called you once."
"'Once'? That was a pitiful excuse for a phone call Finn! You talked for thirty seconds about some hot supermodel and then you hung up!"
"Oh, get the fuck over it," he said good naturedly, rolling his eyes as a grin spread across his face. "But I bet you're glad to see my sexy arse back in Sydney."
It was my turn to roll my eyes as I punched him in the arm. "You wish. I was having a grand ol' time without you."
I turned and grabbed the books I needed out of the locker.
"I don't think so, babe," he said, reaching over, snatching my books from my arms and chucking them back into the already messy locker. "We've got some catching up to do."
"So we'll do it later. Right now, it's school, so I'm going to class," I said resolutely, reaching for my books again. Before I could get there, the door slammed shut.
"Not later. Now. Don't tell me that over the holidays you've become – dare I say it – a nerd."
I snorted. "You are such a loser. But fine; we'll go to Harbourside. But you're paying."
He flung his arm around me and directed me out of the school, waving and nodding at the various people who greeted us. A girl standing hesitantly near the doorway caught my eye, and I ducked from underneath Finn's arm and approached the girl.
"Are you alright?" I asked, smiling in what I hoped was an encouraging manner.
Her head flew up and she stared at me with wide eyes. "I…um… You… I mean…"
"Do you need help finding your class?" I guessed.
She gulped and her head bobbed up and down.
"Which classroom do you have it in?"
"Um…" She glanced down and flipped through her diary with shaking hands. I immediately felt sorry for her – the poor girl was petrified! She was probably only in year eight or nine! "T8?"
"Oh, that's in the Tennyson Building. Come on, I'll show you."
I heard Finn groan but I just ignored him.
"My name's Astrid, by the way. Astrid Rochester."
"Tilly Jefferson," she blurted, then blushed. "As in, that's my name…"
I laughed. "So did you just move here?"
I continued to make small talk with her until we reached her classroom. I peeked in and saw it was one of my favourite teachers, Mr Birkby. I knocked on the door, interrupting him from what he was saying.
"Hey Mr Birkby. I picked up one of your wayward students, Tilly."
He checked the roll quickly before smiling at Tilly. "Matilda Jefferson?" At her nod, he continued. "You can take that spare seat next to David. And don't you have class, Astrid?"
I smirked. "I have a free period." Which was a lie. I actually had English, but he didn't need to know that.
He probably saw through that, however, as he cocked an eyebrow up. "I'm sure you do. Now, I have a lesson to teach."
I took the hint and waved at Tilly before stepping out of the classroom and walking down the now empty corridors.
"At the rate you're going, we're never going to make it to Harbourside," Finn said exasperatedly.
I shrugged as we walked out of the school. "I don't care. You know I always have to do one good deed a day."
"I thought you would've stopped that by now," he muttered, reaching into his bag and pulling out a pair Ray Bans. I scrambled around in my handbag for my own pair of sunglasses and slid them on as well.
"You know I'm serious about this," I murmured.
Finn quickly changed the topic, sensing that I didn't want to continue with that string of conversation.
"How were your holidays?"
I grimaced. "I spent most of the time with Joss, especially when Erin came home."
"Erin's a bitch," he mused, before picking up something else I said. "Did Joss miss me? I bet she did."
I rolled my eyes. "Like a tooth ache, Finn."
"So she did miss me?"
Ezra glared up at the looming, slightly familiar building. Who the hell painted a school building purple and green? It was the ugliest fucking thing he had ever seen. Scowling, he shrugged his bag on higher and walked into the empty hallway, intent on finding the office and getting this over and done with as soon as possible. It had been three years since he had last seen this damn school, and although it hadn't changed – he had.
He could defend himself now.
"Good morning!" the secretary said cheerfully as he pushed open the door to the office. "You must be new! Are you looking for your timetable, sweetheart?"
Three years, and the same secretary still worked here. And she was still half-blind.
Before he could reply, however, one of the side doors opened and the Principal's head peeked out from around the door.
"Ezra Wyatt! It is about time you showed up!" she exclaimed, walking out into the room.
"Ezra?" the secretary exclaimed, peering at him through her heavy glasses. She gasped. "So it is! You've grown quite a lot, haven't you, sweetheart? Here, I'll just print off your timetable."
"Now I realise that you probably still remember where everything is, but I organised you a guide to show you around the senior side of the school and explain things to you. She should be here any minute."
"Oh no, I really don't think that's necessary—"
The door swung open, however, cutting him off.
"Ah, Sienna, we were just talking about you."
"I'm sorry if I'm late; I came here as soon as I could. What would you like me to do, Mrs Ayre?"
Ezra's eyes ran over the girls figure, taking in her blonde, messy hair, long tanned legs, and perfect figure. It was all revealed, as her shirt fit her like a second skin and her skirt barely reached below her bottom.
His lip curled in disdain. He hoped not all of the girls here were as blatantly slutty as this one was.
"Ezra, this is Sienna Oakes, one of our senior prefects. Sienna, this is the new boy I want you to show around, Ezra Wyatt."
Even though she smiled at him, he could tell it was fake as she eyed his saggy clothing with disdain.
"And I thought you said you were going to lower the hem on your skirt, Sienna," Mrs Ayre said, a threatening tone entering her tone.
"Oh, but I did! And then I grew a few inches in the holidays, so you can't really tell, Mrs Ayre. I would get a new one but I only have this year left," she said, shrugging delicately as if she truly thought it was a pity.
Mrs Ayre sighed and turned to me. "If you have any problems, feel free to come in any time."
The secretary handed him his timetable and Sienna led him out of the office. Once they were out, Sienna called out to one of the girls walking past them.
"Lucie! Come here." The girl did, looking startled and intimidated as she refused to meet Sienna's eyes.
Disgust rose in Ezra as he realised this Sienna girl must be somewhere near the top of the school hierarchy. Therefore, Ezra hated her immediately.
"Show this nerd around," she snapped, waving her hand vaguely in his direction before stalking off.
"What a fucking bitch," he muttered, and the girl smiled at him.
"Yeah, that's the general consensus. My name's Lucie, obviously," she said, sounding nervous as she stuck her hand out to him.
"Ezra," he said, glancing down at her hand but not touching it. She kept it there for a moment before quickly sticking it into one of the pockets on her blazer.
"Right, well…" she trailed off, her eyes darting around nervously. "Yes! I'm supposed to show you around—"
"Don't worry about it, Lilly," Ezra said, walking past here and down the hallway. "I used to go here; I know where everything is already."
He frowned in irritation when he heard her footsteps quicken to catch up with him. "It's Lucie Davidson, by the way. Not Lilly. When did you leave?"
"Three years ago," he said shortly, hoping she'd stopped talking to him. Wasn't she supposed to be shy and nervous?
"Really? I've been here since year seven, but I don't recognise your name. Why'd you leave?"
"That's none of your business," he said crisply, voice cold. His icy tone made her falter in her stride, before she recovered and trotted to catch up.
"Oh, okay, sorry. Do you have a free period now?"
"Why the hell should I tell you?"
She shot him a confused look. "Why not? I'm just trying to help, you know. I'm trying to be your friend. I remember what it was like when I first came here in year seven and I just wanted to make sure that you feel okay with everything. I mean, I was so freaked out when I first came here! Everything was so new and big—"
Ezra stopped and whirled around to face her. "I told you, I'm not new here. Now do you mind leaving me alone?"
She shot him a quizzical look. "If you know where you're going, then why are you heading towards the gymnasium?"
He glanced around and swore. Last time he'd been here, the library used to be where a sparkly new gymnasium now resided.
Lucie's brown eyes sparkled with triumph. "I knew you didn't know where to go! Come on, let me show you around!"
She grabbed onto his arm, but he shook her hold off irately. Did this girl ever give up? "If I let you show me to the library, will you then stay the fuck away from me?"
"Sure!" she crowed, clasping onto his arm again and whirring him around, back the way they had come.
Five minutes late he was about to explode. The whole time, all she had done was rambled on and on about the history of the school, like a bloody encyclopaedia. He nearly sprinted towards the library when they finally arrived.
He burst into the doorway, earning a stern look from the librarian. He ignored it; too amazed by his surroundings to care. Even though he had been to this school before, this library was new and screamed money.
From the entrance, he could see that there were two stories and the building was wrapped around a central courtyard, where a few students were either reading or talking under the shade of a large jacaranda tree. Everything he saw was sleek silver metal and polished wood.
"It's pretty amazing, isn't it?" Lucie asked, a grin in her voice.
His amazed face immediately turned into a scowl, but before he could snap anything she said, "I'll show you around!"
"I think I'll be fine by myself," he ground out, severely annoyed at this persistent girl. Wasn't she supposed to be nervous and shy? "And you said you'd leave me alone."
"That is very true!" she agreed. "But I was crossing my fingers, so what I said doesn't actually matter!"
"You've got to be fucking kidding me," he muttered, scowling. Without waiting for her to start rambling on about something else, he took off towards where the fiction books looked to be located.
She followed like a stray puppy.
"Oh my god, Asti! I haven't seen you all day! Where've you been?"
Turning, I grinned as the blonde strode towards me – she would never run – and hugged me, kissing me on the cheeks.
"Sienna! We barely talked all holidays – where were you?"
Finn stood next to me impatiently, and I remembered that he didn't particularly like Sienna.
"I went to Melbourne to see all the fashion shows there. The people there are, like, so much more fashionable than the people here. You should see the stuff I bought! You know what? I'll just tell you! You are on your way to Ancient History, right?"
"Yeah, I think Mr Birkby will fail me if I skip any of his classes," I said ruefully. I threw an apologetic look over my shoulder at Finn as Sienna led me away. He imitated throwing up so I threw him a disapproving look. Finn had never liked Sienna, but I counted her among some of my closest friends. Most people thought Sienna was a – and I quote this from Finn – 'loose bitch', but I knew there was a lot more to her than the way she slept around with guys and her bitchy attitude.
Finn just didn't seem to see her in the same light I did.
"…and I bought this really hot dress from Veronika Maine, it's slightly more conservative than what I usually go for, but its this really pretty dark pink colour covered with this black chiffon. I have to christen it this weekend, so you'll come out with me to The Cross, yeah?"
I nodded, not really focusing on what she said. She could go on for days about her latest designer clothing, and I'd learnt that it was much easier to just pretend I was listening.
We were approaching the classroom when she finally changed the topic. "Oh, and Ayre-y Fairy wanted me to take this new guy around on a tour, but I passed him off to that Lucie girl. You know the one that looks like a fucking ghost?" She shivered dramatically. "She's, like, all pale and has the darkest eyes. Ew."
"Don't be mean, Sienna," I chastised. "I think she's pretty. And I bet if this new guy was hot you wouldn't have passed him on?"
"Hell no. I would've given him a tour of the janitor's closet. I guess he could be hot if he got rid of all his geeky attire. He had these thick glasses on, as in the typical nerd ones. What a joke! And his clothing didn't even fit him! Mrs Ayre mentioned something about him being on a scholarship, so he probably could only afford second hand. Poor people really do creep me out."
I sighed. "Do you have to be so judgmental? What does it matter if his family is poor? The majority of the world is in poverty!"
Sienna shot me a weird look as we entered the classroom. "Which is exactly why people with money have to stick together. Poor people are like leeches: they latch on and suck you dry."
I rolled my eyes as I sunk into my usual chair at the back of the classroom.
"Why in the world did Mrs Ayre give you the new kid to show around?"
Sienna shrugged delicately. "She probably wanted me to step into my prefect duties properly. But I am not demeaning myself by being nice to a scholarship student."
"I should probably check to see if he's okay," I mused. "What's his name again?"
"I don't know how you can be so nice to people like that. They're really only using you – they're social climbers."
"His name, Sienna?" I asked, amused. I was used to her stereotypes and knew that whatever I said would not change her views.
"It was some name that sounded hot, but obviously didn't apply to a hobo like him. Let me think…"
Her musings were cut off by a large figure planting himself in front of my desk. Sighing, I craned my neck up the meet the eyes of Gabe Winch.
"You didn't return any of my calls," he said without preamble, frowning.
"Gabe," I said gently, not wanting to hurt his feelings, "do you really expect me to talk to you after what you did to that boy last term? And you want a relationship from me, which is something I'm not ready to get into."
He ran his hand through his hair, clearly aggravated. "Asti, what the hell does it matter if I got that boy kicked off the team? He didn't deserve to be there!"
"You didn't just get him kicked off the team; you got him kicked out of the sport entirely! Just because he stood up to you doesn't mean he deserves to be humiliated and his dreams crushed!"
"I said I was sorry, okay? Can't you just get over it now?"
"Gabe, even if that had never happened, I don't want to go out with you."
His lips pressed into a firm line but he didn't say anything else. Instead, he turned and flung himself into his seat across the room with some of the other jocks.
I looked back at Sienna to see her licking her lips. "I don't know why you don't just screw the guy and get it over with. He is hot."
"Looks aren't everything, Sienna."
"They are if you look like that," she said, nodding towards a girl who had just entered the room. The poor girl used to have a bad case of acne, so she covered the scars up with pounds of foundation. It created a look that could only really be described as cake face.
I ignored what she said and was opening my books when something occurred to me. "What did you say that boys name was?"
"Oh, I'm fairly sure it was something like Ezra Witts."
My stomach dropped. "Do you mean… Ezra Wyatt?"
"Yes! That's it! How did you know that?" she asked, peering at my suddenly pale face.
"He used to come to school here," I said faintly.
I've decided to put Touché on hiatus and finally put this idea that I've had for ages into words. I hope you like the beginning. And there will be pictures – I just haven't put them up yet.
Caught in the Crowd – Kate Miller-Heidke