Chapter 2

"So," a low, male voice said beside me the next morning, "Your name's Leigh, right?"

I didn't look at the speaker, assuming it was just another wimp trying to get in good with one of the A-listers. "Shove off, loser," I said in a bored tone, pulling out the books I needed from my locker and shutting the door to it.

Said boy gave a muffled laugh, like he was incredulous of my calling him a loser. That was weird, seeing as most of the sycophants backed off once I told them to shove off. I turned around, a frown on my face, getting ready to insult him more.

Instead I was met with the angelic face of Josh Vaughn.

Oh, crap, I thought to myself. This was not a good start to my day. "Um, hi, I thought you were one of those nerdy suck-ups, my bad," I said, internally wincing at how bad that sounded. I had a healthy respect for nerds, just not sycophantic nerds who tried to smooch their way into the A-list table (which, by the way, never really worked).

Josh just laughed and started walking by my side. "That's definitely a blow to my ego. Do I look like a nerdy suck-up to you?" he said, flashing a dazzling smile at me.

I flicked my golden-brown hair out of my face, flashing a winning smile at him. "Maybe. You could be a very attractive nerdy suck-up," I said, walking towards my first period class and flashing him a wink. "See you in Trig, Josh."

"Yeah, see ya," he said, an amused smirk playing on his lips. I just grinned in response and kept on walking, catching a few curious looks from my fellow schoolmates. Probably wondering what the King of the School was doing with one of the right-side A-listers.

I know, I know, we high-schoolers could be pretty damn pathetic. Our social hierarchy was sometimes more important to us than practically anything else—that was, for the popular people. The not-so-populars probably didn't like our social pyramid as much as we did.

Sweeping into the classroom, I found myself making eye contact with Stella Hughes, the Queen herself. How nice of her to actually look at a lowly right-sider. Funny, I didn't seem to remember her being in any AP classes, but here she was . . . in AP English? This was getting weird.

"I thought I told you to stay away from Josh," Stella snapped at me. Whoa there, was that a whole sentence without the word "like" in it? The world had probably stopped spinning just now.

I voiced my shock out loud, and I must say, it wasn't exactly taken in the most kindly way.

"Is that an insult?" she said, her voice rising even higher than its usual (and totally fake) soprano pitch. "Jocelyn Leigh, are you, like, insulting me?"

I raised my eyebrows, smiling at her coolly. "Oh," I said, putting my hand to my mouth in mock-surprise, "I'm sorry, was I not obvious enough about that? I'll try harder next time."

Her eyes widened, and she practically screeched at her (fake) blond friends, "That girl is, like, so insulting me! That's so not, like, cool. Doesn't she know I'm the biggest thing in the room? I mean, like, get a life!"

"I could say the same for you," I said wryly, stifling a snicker at the number of "like"s in her not-even paragraph. "By the way, how the hell did you even get into an AP class? Don't you have an IQ of, like, twenty?"

She frowned at me, pursing her perfectly lipglossed lips. "What's an IQ? Is that, like, some sort of water fairy? Because everyone already knows that fairies are, like, so last season."

God, this girl was dumb . . . What a bimbo. I rolled my eyes and decided not to tell her what an IQ was—she'd work it out eventually. Sitting down in my usual seat, I crossed one leg over another and tipped my head slightly to the side, assuming a bored expression. Cheerleaders these days could be so irritating.

Ah, what a pity that Stella was the cheer captain, I'd been planning on trying out this year. There went my plans for my last year of high school. Not that I was ecstatic about having to ever attend high school, what with all the drama and all.

God, who was I kidding? I freaking lived off of drama; it made the world go round. So long as the drama wasn't about me. The spotlight I could handle. The scandalous looks, maybe not so much.

Flashing a saccharine smile at Stella, I turned to grin widely at Hayden, one of the other right-side A-list boys. "Hey, Hayden, how's your day been?" Without waiting for an answer, I plowed on. "Mine's been great, I've antagonized the queen of bimbos so far, and I've found out that she doesn't know what an IQ is. How ditzy is that?" I said loudly, facing away from Stella so she wouldn't see me silently cracking up.

Hayden shook with barely suppressed laughter, and he raised his eyebrows in Stella's direction, mouthing, Look at her face. I allowed myself a quick peek over the shoulder, and nearly lost it then and there. Her bottom lip was trembling in a huge pout, and her drawn-in eyebrows were pushed together in an angry line. It looked like she'd sprouted a dozen wrinkles in her forehead.


I whipped my phone out and snapped a photo before she could stop looking so damn hilarious, and showed it to Hayden. He grinned widely, giving me a thumbs-up. "Going on Facebook?" he asked, looking highly amused.

"Going on Facebook," I agreed, grinning widely. "Can't wait for Kayla to get a hold on this."

"Wait, what?" screeched Stella, running towards me, her talons (fake nails) extended. I reflexively cringed, and Hayden stepped in front of me, his face creasing into a frown. "Delete that picture, like, right now!"

Even at the risk of having her status of social queen couldn't stop her from saying "like." Honestly, that was what made up my mind. Not that she'd been a total crazed ex-girlfriend, but that she couldn't get over herself enough to stop saying "like" for even a second.

My finger hit the "Post to Facebook" button, and I turned to face the rest of the class, smiling sweetly. "You guys can all check your Facebooks now, the photo's up and about. Courtesy of moi." I gave a little mocking bow and turned back to Stella, raising a single eyebrow. "Anything to say, Stellie?"

Her eyes narrowed to watery blue slits, showing me just how much eyeliner she put on daily. I was a fan of eyeliner, definitely, but this girl looked like a rabid raccoon. "You little bitch—!" she started to snarl.

"Says the queen of them all," I shot back before she had the chance to finish talking. "Denial's not just a river in Egypt, hon."

She looked at me cluelessly, and I realized just how uneducated this girl was. And people called me a slacker (not that they had much material to go on for that; my grades were spotless, courtesy of all the extra credit I'd done in my time). "Huh?"

"Forget it," I said, rolling my eyes. The last bell rang, and our teacher came strolling in, completely oblivious to the tension going on throughout the class. He clapped his hands together jovially and smiled toothily at us.

"Stella Hughes!" he said cheerfully. "Yes, I heard that you transferred to my class! Wonderful having you here, wonderful . . ." He shifted through a couple of papers on his desk and beamed. "I suppose you all read chapter three of Wuthering Heights?"

"Yes, Mr. Ueda," we chorused dully back at him. I noticed with a jolt of triumph that Stella looked completely bewildered.

The rest of the class continued similarly, but I wasn't expecting an attack from Kayla when I got out of English.

"Oh my god, Leigh!" she squeaked excitedly. "That—that picture! Where did you get it? OMG, you're so lucky, I can't believe that you got a shot of her like that! Score one for the little people!"

I smiled lazily at her and walked to my locker. "Not exactly little people, Kay," I said dryly. "We're in the A-list table, which is more than I can say for five-sixths of the school's population." (I'd taken a wild guess at that, but Kayla hadn't objected, so . . .) Punching in the combination to my locker, I dropped my AP English book in and pulled out my books for next period. "I'll see you at lunch, we're gonna be late."

I did indeed see her at lunch, and I saw Stella Hughes, too. It seemed that I was running into this girl far too many times for my liking.

"I'm going to get you back for this," said Stella (talking about the picture, I'd bet), her eyes narrowing furiously at me as she stomped by Kayla and me, followed by her little (cough, ginormic) clique of statuesque blondes (some of them fake).

"Good luck," I replied, amused. Getting me back wasn't easy, but apparently Stella hadn't realized it yet.

"Oy, Leigh!" I turned when I heard my name being shouted, and nearly smashed into Josh Vaughn. "Hey," he said, "you were the one who posted that picture of Stella on Facebook?" It was amazing how many people had managed to check their Facebook pages in their classes.

I snorted skeptically. "No, it was Santa. Who d'you think? No offense, Vaughn, but you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer. And by the way, your ex is way too overprotective." I sent a disparaging glance at her pink-clad figure. "You have bad taste."

"That's my cue to leave," mumbled Kayla, departing. I waved goodbye to her and sent a raised eyebrow in Josh's direction.

"Look who's talking, Leigh," Josh said coolly, as of we'd never been interrupted. "I've heard lots of things about you, and not all of it was good. Hell, most of it was terrible."

Flashing him a saccharine smile, I said, "I've heard lots of things from you, too, and all of it was good." I let him preen for a moment, then added, "That's why I don't believe a word of it."

His light blue eyes flashed angrily, darkening a fraction. "You're a real bitch, you know that?" he snarled, getting up in my face. I leaned back, fixing a distasteful expression on my face so it wouldn't be taken as a weakness.

"Language, little boy. And yes, I know it better than you do. And I'm assuming you know that you're a half-assed bastard, too." With that, and an artful flip of my hair, I sashayed away.

"Jeez, Leigh," said Lucas (if you'd already forgotten, he was the guy who'd oh-so-kindly let me cut in the lunch line). "You're having a field day." He set his lunch tray down. "Picking off the A-list centerpieces so we can move in?"

Shooting Stella and Josh looks (who were both, coincidentally, glaring in my direction at the moment), I said brightly to Lucas, "But of course. Some of the centerpieces gotta be smart, right?"

He chuckled and pulled out his Droid Incredible. Tapping the Facebook app, Lucas handed it to me. I was instantly bombarded with photos of Josh and me in the hallways, and Stella screaming at me. Wow.

Shocked, I turned my eyes to Lucas. "What—how the hell—" I stuttered.

"Dunno," he said, looking grim. "They're dating that you're tangled up in some sort of sick love triangle with Stella Hughes and Josh Vaughn—"

"Which is not true!" I interrupted heatedly, thrusting the phone back into Lucas's hands. "I don't do commitment, you know that!"

He held his palms up, trying to calm me down. "I know, Leigh," he said soothingly. "But these people don't know that, so naturally, they're assuming that you're caught up in a battle for Josh with Stella Hughes."

Scoffing at this ridiculous idea, I said, "Who would want that heap of tosh, anyway? Vaughn is hot, but he's also a brainless git." When I really got annoyed, a trace of an English accent returned to my voice—I'd lived in Britain before I came to America.

"Beats me," said Lucas. He redirected his attention to Damien Ashton, who was coming over to our table with his own lunch tray. "What's up, Dame?"

And like that, our conversation was over.

When the last bell for school rang, I walked over to my locker in high spirits, only to have them dampened by Josh Vaughn and Travis O'Donor—the boy who insisted on stalking me and getting me to go out with him.

"What are you two doing here?" I snarled at them, barging past them to get to my locker. They stumbled as I muscled my way through. Boys never expected girls to get physical; I'd learned that a long time ago, and the fact had helped me through many a tough situation.

I heard Josh's intake of breath, letting me know that he was startled. Obviously, no other girl had ever handled him this roughly. (Now that I thought of it, that didn't sound quite right.)

Once I was done stuffing everything I needed into my backpack, I twisted around to scowl at both Travis and Josh. "What d'you two want?"

"You," said Travis, his tone bright and cheerful, "but it just proves that even I can't get everything by pouting."

I couldn't help but smile at that; Travis's pout was, scarily enough, eerily effective, even though he was already seventeen, going on eighteen. "Yes, apparently not. Anything else?"

"I'm sure Vaughn's got something up his sleeve," muttered Travis, showing off his all-star and running off to who-knows-where. Probably to find another girl to woo or something like that.

Josh laughed quietly. "I've known him for eleven years, and I'm still not used to that kid." Seeing my questioning look, he added, "We're family friends. Known each other since we were six."

"I see," I said as we walked side-by-side, away from my locker and towards the parking lot. "So, what has he said about me in your long time of friendship and comradeship?" The last sentence was spoken with a hint of sarcasm, mainly because I found it irritating that Travis was friends with Vaughn. My lucky day.

Giving me a skeptical look, Josh said, "You're too arrogant for your own good. How would you know that Travis actually said anything about you, anyway?"

I scoffed, laughing sourly at his ridiculous question. "Are you kidding? He's been trying to get me to go out with him for—two years? Three years? I don't even remember anymore. Plus, Trav isn't exactly the type to keep to himself."

"True, true," Josh agreed, nodding his head and sticking his hands in his pockets. I noticed how his hair fell into his eyes when he looked down. Maybe I didn't like him much, but I wasn't about to pass up a chance to check out the most attractive boy in our year.

"We're being civil to each other," I realized out loud, somewhat amazed. The other few conversations we'd had, prior to this one, had all been flirty or angry. This one . . . it almost felt like we were friends.

Josh grinned lopsidedly at me, his teeth blindingly white against the tab of his skin. "You see, small miracles do happen every day. Hey, uh . . ." He suddenly looked nervous. "D'you wanna grab some ice cream with me or something? Since we're not biting each other's heads off or anything . . ."

I couldn't help but smile a little; he looked cute when he was nervous. It was nice to know that he wasn't completely devoid of any emotion besides anger or annoyance. "Yeah, sure, why not?"

"Cool," he said, looking slightly relieved. I felt a twinge of guilt—was I really that bad? "So, um, there's an rice cream parlor nearby, we can walk there . . . ?" Josh trailed off uncertainly.

I stifled a giggle, rolling my eyes and asking him, "Aren't you supposed to be all suave and confident around girls? Walking is fine, you lead the way." I tugged lightly at his arm; YOLO, right? Might as well have the right to say that I got to touch the most popular boy in the school.

Because, you know, that was sure to make a stunning bedtime story.

His suntanned face broke out into a sheepish smile and he nodded, beginning to walk towards the ice cream parlor. "I'm not that great with girls like you," he admitted to me, sighing a little. "Stella isn't . . . very good with academics, and she's not, well—smart. But you, you're practically borderline genius. I asked about you, and you've got a four point three GPA. Most of the A-list girls are ditzes, and it makes me feel safe. You, you push me out of my comfort zone, and I honestly don't mind it. Every guy likes a challenge, and I'm no exception."

I froze mid-step. What he'd said, it'd sounded like a . . . confession? Something a boy would say to the girl he liked.

"Leigh?" Josh said warily. "You okay?"

Then I remembered that Josh Vaughn liked anything that was pretty and female, and unfroze. I flashed him a confident smile to cover my slip-up up and started walking again. "Yeah, fine. Oh, look, there's the ice cream parlor!" I said, pointing and pulling Josh along. Nothing like a bit of ice cream to top off your day.

Josh chuckled at my enthusiasm, allowing himself to be dragged the rest of the way to the parlor. "Jeesh, you must really like ice cream," he said as I pulled him into line.

"Sweet tooth," I said, shrugging. "Mention donuts or ice cream and I'll practically be salivating in moments. It's a Leigh thing."

"I see," murmured Josh, seeming almost as if he were in another dimension. His sky-colored eyes stared of into space, telling me he was deep in thought. And you'd think that our star quarterback wouldn't need to be capable of thinking . . . okay, now I was just being stereotypical.

Josh Vaughn was a real looker, that wasn't even something that needed to be taken into consideration.

But that didn't mean I had to like him.