Part I – The World That We Know
1. ABE LINCOLN HIGH
"Have you seen what she's wearing?"
"Some dude got so drunk at Eileen's party last night that he threw up right on the floor."
"Like, who does he think he is to talk about ME that way?"
"Do you think I'm fat?"
Alex Byrnes wandered down the halls of Abraham Lincoln High School, aka Abe Lincoln High, while carrying a few books in her arms. She wasn't really meaning to listen to most people's snippets of conversations, as gossip that wasn't about her or Amelia didn't usually interest her, but she ended up having to anyways. She didn't like to stick with cliques that were too fond of drama and backstabbing. In fact, she thought the most admirable trait in a person was simply honesty. And since she prized it so much, she strived to be as honest as she possibly could be. She never told lies.
Alex had to stop to listen to one of the conversations before she reached her locker. The guys participating in it had no idea she could hear them.
"I hate that Byrnes chick. So much," said one of the guys, a boy who was in her Economics class.
"Why? Because she won't put out for you?" one of the other kids mockingly stated, and ended up evoking a chorus of laughter from the other boys in the group, except for the first speaker. The joker seemed pretty pleased with that.
"No," said the first boy, annoyed. "I wouldn't screw her even if we were the last two people on Earth."
What she had heard was enough. She dropped her books on the floor and stepped forward, amidst a second chorus of now-silencing laughter.
"Excuse me," she said bluntly. "I think I heard you guys talking about me."
"Ooh, shit's about to go down," muttered a random guy in the circle.
"Yeah," the first boy replied to Alex. "And I'm not taking any of it back."
Alex was pretty respected by most of the ninth grade class. She could say she was a little bit popular, kind of well-known and far more up in the social scale than heaps of people, although her only real friend was Amelia. However, people knew not to lie to her, or confront her by lying, or talk about her behind her back. It was harder not to gossip about Amelia, since she was so indiscrete and always told her business to everyone; besides, most of the gossip about Amelia was pretty juicy, but whatever people occasionally said behind Alex's back was often boring. However, Alex would always avenge Amelia in case anyone said anything about her. Therefore, it was advisable not to do that.
So it came as a surprise when that boy said that to her face.
She was quite confused. She appreciated a person who was honest and straightforward, and who stuck to their past words, but she didn't appreciate what he was saying.
"C'mon, Alex, what are you gonna do? You know it's true." More laughter from the group.
It enraged her. She was very practical and realistic; she knew not everyone was attracted to her or even liked her—in fact, she knew no one was attracted to her and few people truly liked her. The people who respected her only did so to not get snapped at and protect themselves, since Alex was known as… well, kind of a bitch.
But she did expect people to respect her and her snarky reputation.
"What ARE you gonna do? Hit me with those skinny arms?" he continued. "Everyone knows you're weaker than weak. Come on, just give up already and learn to get that giant ego of yours down to a decent level."
While the laughter created at her expense still echoed, Alex picked up her books and walked away. She wasn't very used to people humiliating her like that. But it was alright—in her mind, a million revenge plots started to take form. She knew it was petty, but it was the only thing that could comfort her at the moment. Besides, it's not like she would actually take action against the boy—his name was George Sham, and he was at the very top of the social scale. She was not. People would side with him, and would respect her less. It was a win-lose situation, she pondered, and the loser in the equation would be her.
Without any other unpleasant encounters, she reached her locker. Her best friend Amelia was waiting for her, with a not very pleasant look in her eyes.
"Where were you?" Amelia exclaimed impatiently in her high-pitched voice. "I've been here for hours—HOURS—and how do you even think it's acceptable—"
Alex cut her off in a pretend-tired way, like if she thought her impatience was actually endearing and not annoying like most would think. "Amelia, you have not been here for HOURS. You've been here waiting for five minutes, tops. And I got into a small discussion with some dude," she confessed.
That only served to make Amelia slightly more anxious.
"What? You mean, a fight? Again? Haven't we been over this?" She was nearly hyperventilating by then.
Alex couldn't help but laugh. "No, just a small discussion, as I said. Anyways, it's nothing," she brushed it off.
"Okay, but with who was it?" Amelia seemed to have calmed down a bit, and a normal conversation was finally possible between the two of them.
Alex sighed and turned around.
Amelia Flemming was beautiful, way more beautiful than her. She had brown hair with blonde highlights, and it was always perfectly arranged in a bob up to her chin. Her blue eyes were extremely piercing—Alex had once read a book, required reading for school, as she didn't like to read much, in which the narrator described the main character's eyes as "eyes that could stare straight into your soul". Those were the kind of eyes Amelia had. She had a great figure and a lot of charisma, which made many guys fall for her; however, there was something about her—a certain naiveté—that made Alex always want to look out for her. She was too innocent, too sweet, too nice, and too much of a dreamer. Alex was a lot more practical and kept her feet on the ground—and a lot more brutally honest, both with herself and others.
"George Sham," she admitted, her eyes down. Amelia could tell she was telling the truth, though—she was always honest. In fact, Alex's sole mission was composed of striving to never tell a lie and make the world a more honest, truthful place. She committed to being loyal and keeping her promises; one could always count on her. However, she wasn't exactly sweet: when she didn't like somebody, or didn't want to do something for them, she would tell them so, all blunt and straightforward. And when untrue rumors were spread, especially rumors about her or Amelia, she would definitely find out who started it and the person would definitely pay for it. Life with Alex wasn't made of a pocketful of roses, rainbows and sunshine; you had to earn her trust.
Amelia covered her mouth in horror. "George Sham?" she exclaimed in disbelief. "Oh my GOD!"
Alex confirmed by nodding. "Yeah, but don't worry. Nothing happened. He just said some mean things and I walked away. He'll forget it by noon, I'll bet ya."
"No, no, no!" Amelia said excitedly, marking each "no" by bouncing up and down like a little kid pleading her mother to buy an attractive, fun new toy. Alex could tell an idea was forming in her head, and she wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. "Tell me what happened. We could do something about it."
Alex told her what had happened, and finished her narrative with a warning sentence. "We're not doing anything about it, though. It could get us into trouble with him and his group of friends. Don't worry, Amelia, it's literally nothing."
But the spark of an idea had already been ignited behind Amelia's innocent blue eyes.
"No!" she protested, in a bossy manner that was new to both her and Alex. "Don't you see it? I'm sick of him and all his popular friends and girlfriends. I'm sick of these people! They're backstabbers, and liars. They're everything you hate! Besides, they disrespected you. And everyone knows it's bad to do that to you—or at least, they should know."
Alex was very tempted. She didn't mess around with those who were at the top of Abe Lincoln's social scale very much, and the reason for that was they rarely talked about people like Amelia or her, but she had fed the thought of screwing up their lives before. Those planned-out plots were simple jokes, that the popular people had done nothing to deserve; however, now they had. The opportunity was too good to be missed. She could see where Amelia was going. But she was also a coward, and very careful about what she could or could not do.
"Come on, Alex! It'll be fun! We need to teach these people a lesson!" Seeing that Alex had not yet been convinced, Amelia had to keep talking to persuade her. "That time in eighth grade when Elisa Banks called you a self-centered whore, you didn't rest until you found out how she was secretly going out with Harold Dumpsey and told her super strict parents!"
"That was different!" the other girl claimed, although she had already been persuaded by Amelia's insane idea. "Elisa was never at the top of the social scale anyways, and I never got into any trouble for doing that. What's your idea?"
Alex was like that—she could easily change topics, and when she wanted to do something, no matter how much her inner perception of risk and self-preservation told her not to, she would do it anyway. She had to admit that to herself—in fact, she was by far the most honest and trustworthy person she knew. What kind of honest person would she be if she lied to herself, the one person she should never lie to?
Amelia started describing a flamboyant and very complicated plan to Alex, as it was typical of her. Alex began to zone out as soon as Amelia mentioned water guns and invitations to a fake party.
"And then, we'll just get them while they're—Alex? Are you even paying attention to anything I'm saying?"
"No," Alex immediately replied. "Listen, the bell's about to ring. I'll think of something simple, something we can actually do, during homeroom."
And she was right—as soon as she completed that sentence, the bell ordering students to flock to their homeroom classes rang. We're all just flocking to one place or another, dragging our bodies to class like sheep to the slaughterhouse, she reflected.
From that, her idea from revenge came, completely formed, as if it had been sitting around in her head for ages and just decided to pop out at that exact moment.