"Nicole! Come on and get your breakfast, we need to get ready to go!"

"Okay, Momma!"

Nicole stumbled to put on her black converse that matched her plaid gray skirt and black tights while her mother briskly served her scrambled eggs upon her breakfast plate.

The Johnson family had just moved from San Diego to small town Willits located in the northern part of California. This was Nicole's first day attending Marymount High, she was anticipating the day since they arrived to town months ago.

"You're going to be late!"

"Stop rushing me, Mom!" Nicole snapped and quickly grabbed a nearby fork and started scarfing down on the warm food set before her. She coughed a bit, surprised at the hot temperature causing her tongue to swell.

"Let's go," instructed her mother, grabbing a piece of toast and her jean jacket hanging from a hook in the foyer. Nicole, who couldn't even finish the last bite, angrily snatched her book bag and headed out the door after her mother.

Today is going to be such a joke, she thought.

The Johnson SUV drove steadily onto the windy parking structure of the high school. There was a large banister embellished above with a red and black Falcon, the school's mascot. Nicole frowned at the labeling and took a short sigh. Her mother parked the vehicle, took off her seat belt and reached over to give her a long hug.

"Remember, call me after school gets out okay?"

"Okay mom."

"And don't speak to anyone strange."

"Yes, I know already mom."

"I love you," her mother said softly, letting go of her embrace and pecking her on the cheek.

"Love you too," said Nicole quickly as she opened the car door and stepped down from the car. She closed the door looking at her mother one last time, giving her a faint reassuring smile. Mrs. Johnson waved until she could no longer see her daughter.

The Johnson parents always wanted what was best for Nicole. They were a well-off family who brought up their children excellently. Charmed and poised, the Johnsons had the characteristics of idealistic parental guidance. Mrs. Johnson was a 2nd grade school teacher while Mr. Johnson worked at a high-end company that sold radiators for different aerospace engines. Together, they raised three children: Alex, the oldest brother who was attending a university in Sacramento, Drew, the second oldest brother who was away at boot camp and Nicole, the youngest sibling who had just completed her sophomore year in high school. The decision to move to Willits was made because the family had wanted to become closer to their son who struggled frequently living on his own since he decided to go to a school that fit his G.P.A (and not his personality). And so, the Johnsons sold their home in San Diego, took out a second mortgage and headed up to Willits that summer and moved into a suburb neighborhood called Willow Oaks.

At first, Nicole was excited by the idea of moving. But she didn't realize that moving to an entirely different location 8 hours away from her hometown would sever the relationships she had with her old friends. She kept in contact with them as long as she could, but of course, her friends had become very busy with activities in the city. While Nicole drowned in boredom stuck in her new suburbian town, she became enraged by the many still unread messages on Facebook she sent to her so-called buddies. Influenced by her raging hormones, she sent them all "hate mail" and deleted her account from the cyberspace world. She never heard from either of them again.

Were they ever even my friends? Nicole's reoccurring thought disturbed her again, as she snapped her mind back into the present moment noticing for the first time her surroundings in a small boxed shaped classroom. There were florescent lights shining down on plastic beige desks and a few posters hanging on the walls to give the room an educational styled feel.

"Nicole Johnson?" came the hoarse voice of an older woman.


"This will be your assigned seat," she pointed to the chair next to a boy with long blonde bangs drooped across his forehead, covering his eyes. Nicole clenched her teeth and walked over to the seat, staring straight ahead avoiding the peculiar glances.

The teacher cleared her throat and readjusted her glasses, "Alabaster Jones?"

"Alabaster's a fart!" yelled a brown curly haired, blue eyed boy obnoxiously.

"Jeffrey, you are getting on my last nerves!" scolded the teacher as the entire classroom broke into shrieks of laughter. "If I have to tell you to keep quiet again, I will not hesitate to send you to Principal McDaniels office. I will not be putting up with your nonsense again this year, young man."

Alabaster looked around embarrassed and put his black hoodie up, slouching into the corner. Nicole couldn't help but feel sorry for him. What a jerk, she thought to herself glaring at the boy across the room named Jeffrey.

"But Miss Laurel," insisted Jeffrey, "I just thought it would be polite to properly introduce him to the new girl." He gestured with his palms facing upwards, pointed towards Nicole.

Everyone turned to stare at her, causing Nicole to nervously drop her pencil onto the ground. She tried to stare down at her books. No! She thought, now I look even more awkward.

"Jeffrey, I'd rather you stick to keeping your introductions strictly to yourself. But yes everyone, this is Nicole Johnson. She has just moved here from San Diego and—well dear, why don't you introduce yourself?"

Nicole cleared her throat and stood up slowly. She looked up at the class as confidently as she could, "Yes. I'm Nicole-"

"No shit, Sherlock," interrupted Jeffrey smirking, causing another rupture of laughter to break out in his audience.

Nicole felt her stomach drop and perspiration started to leak from her forehead.

"Not another word out of you Jeffrey, I mean it!" shrieked Miss Laurel.

The laughter continued. Nicole stammered, "I—um—well, I came here with family and—"

"Wow, what else is new?" replied Jeffrey, "Did you breathe air and walk on two feet to get here too?"

Nicole's legs began to shake uncontrollably as the laughter grew louder and rowdier. She kept glancing back and forth from her chuckling classmates to the exit of the room. I should just run for it.

"That's it!" declared Miss Laurel walking over to her desk, "I'm going to have to ask you to leave." She tore off a slip from her notebook and scribbled down a few notes. Jeffrey walked over to the desk and snatched the note from Miss Laurel.

He turned to grin at Nicole. "Pleasure was all mine, Nicole!" he shouted as the door slammed behind him. The laughter from the classroom began to die down as Miss Laurel rang a silver bell, "Everyone needs to be quiet! Have a seat! We haven't even started class yet and this clowning has already—QUIET EVERYONE, PLEASE!"

The classroom's wild laughter slowly decreased as Miss Laurel stood up in the front of the classroom frantically ringing the bell. She sighed as she turned to look at mortified Nicole, who was barely holding herself from fainting onto the ground. "I won't be having him in my class, my dear," she stressed with sympathy, "I'm so sorry."

Nicole sat back down in silence. As Miss Laurel finished calling attendance and began the first lecture, Nicole wiped her quiet tears streaming gently down her dark-caramel colored cheeks.

"Hey! Can you throw that over here?!"

Nicole looked up from her sandwich looking out into the distance and observed a tall, built dark fellow. He yelled again, "Can you pass the ball over to us?"

She looked down by her feet and noticed a football lying by her left converse. She grabbed it with her free hand and tossed it.

"Thanks!" said the boy as he caught it and tuned back in his game with the group of friends across the quad.

Nicole watched them play for a bit while she consumed most of her lunch and then decided to explore the campus more. During her adventure, her thoughts would veer from her friends in San Diego, to how much she hated everyone in the school, to thoughts of her humiliation earlier in the morning, to how much she hated everyone in the school, to thoughts of her friends in San Diego… It was as though she couldn't think of anything positive. All she wanted to do was curl up in a corner, and die, she thought.

Why did I say my name again?! She scolded herself in her mind as she passed the basketball courts, reflecting on her embarrassing moment again, Why?! I'm such an ass, everyone knows it and I just—I just keep denying that. My whole life sucks, I know that. God, I just wish people would leave me alone! She growled internally as she watched a group of laughing girls cross paths with her. She recognized some of them being in the classroom where Jeffrey delivered his punch line.

She passed through the courts and onto the baseball field. For a high school, Nicole knew the grounds were pretty expansive. She walked along the dirt path paved for the track course across the field, the crowds of people becoming smaller and smaller. Soon she reached the empty football turf, climbed up stairs to the top row of the bleachers. She sat down near the center, put her feet up against the bleachers, wrapped her arms around her legs and buried her head deep into her lap.

I hate me. I just wish me would die! She began to cry softly, What an awful day. I wish I could just disappear, I hate this place! I want to go home, back to San Diego. Why did we have to leave? I want out!

Her thoughts kept swirling deeper and deeper. Suddenly, she heard another voice, No matter what, I'm here for you. She looked up from her lap and wiped the tears off her puffy, bloodshot eyes on her sleeve.

Nicole, this isn't who you are, the voice continued. You aren't some person who just vents about how much life sucks. Get it together! C'mon, everyone's first day at a new school is pretty rough.

Yeah right.

No really, you can get through this.

No, actually, I can't.

Nicole kept arguing with herself as two girls quietly approached the turf gates. Both looked her age, one wearing a short skirt, the other wearing tight black skinny jeans. They both held hands and kissed one another as they helped each other jump over the fence. Nicole shuttered as she heard the sound of the fence rattle and quickly glanced over and caught sight of two more girls jogging across the turf following the others. She ducked below the seats of the bleachers and watched them all gesture to each other carefully looking out for danger. Nicole curiously peered over the benches to watch the group of girls congregate. She noticed they had these delicate, colorful looking beads wrapped around each of their wrists. What could those be? She thought to herself. She lowered herself stealthily onto a row beneath the top bleacher to get a closer look. She could see their mouths curving into smiles all at once, the first girl with a black, short skirt holding up four slender, white cylindrical objects. Nicole edged more towards the next row to get a better view once again, now their voices being more audible.

"—Kaycee got some more!" exclaimed one of the girls with pink hair. "I'm super impressed."

"Yeah, looks like we don't have to barter Jeff anymore," replied another girl with long dark hair that reached her hips. "Thanks again Kaycee."

"Of course!" said the girl with the black skirt, passing out the objects to each girl. "My mom doesn't give a shit."

She took out a lighter, stuck the cylindrical object in her mouth and began sucking it profusely. Then she began lighting each of their cigarettes one by one, all of them smiling as they took a long puff out of each of theirs. Smoke rose up out of the

"Finally," moaned one of the girls with an arm covered in rainbow colored, shiny beads, "I've been dying for a stogy all day!"

"You think these be 27s, Micah?" asked one of the girls turning towards the girl with long dark hair and bangs covering her eyebrows.

"I don't think so," replied Kaycee, grinning. "My mom only gets Lucky Strikes. The best kind," she added as she proudly puffed on the cigarette more.

The girls awed and stared at their cigarettes with glee. Micah turned her head looking from side to side, "Let's go under the bleachers, security still patrols around here at lunchtime."

"Nah, they can't see from where we're standing," responded Kaycee.

"But last time they came at the end of lunch, remember?" piped up the quieter girl with the dark skinny jeans. "My mama would be so pissed if she found out—"

"We won't get caught, chill out Ricki," Kaycee snapped. "I promise, okay babe?" she planted a kiss on the girl's cheek and then took another drag off her smoke.

Nicole started to feel uneasy and wanted to take off and run. But she was afraid that the girls would call after her, or worse…they would chase after her and group up on her and attack. She shook her head and continued to watch the girls smoke their cigarettes. She sniffed at the air as a toxic odor entered her nostrils. She almost let out a cough, the smell almost choked her. She held back by plugging her nose and holding her breath. That smells awful!

"Jesse says you didn't call back last night?" inquired the girl with bright pink hair.

Micah giggled, "Veronica…c'mon…"

"What? I thought he would be your kind of man," she grinned.

"No, I like the quiet guys. Jesse is too football playerish. I like guys that are shy."

"So you can do all the talking, right?" laughed Kaycee, throwing her cigarette butt to the ground, crushing it under her foot.

They all laughed simultaneously as Nicole tried to inhale as inaudibly as she could. The smoke was becoming too thick, she didn't think she could hold in her cough any longer.

Ugh, I think I'm going to be sick.

She hacked a noisy, dry cough covering her mouth with both hands. As her lungs gasped for air, she came up from the row of bleachers and noticed a dark silence. The girls were no longer standing around the football fence, but on the bottom row of the bleachers staring right back up at her. Nicole stumbled to her feet, "Oh, hi! Sorry, I was just here…Enjoying some sun—"

"How long have you been standing there?" demanded Kaycee, her face white as blood rushed down from her complexion.

"Um, not too long," answered Nicole nervously.

The four girls looked among each other and then glared back at her. Veronica stepped up, "Hey, I think I remember you. You're that new girl, Nicole Jensen?"

"Johnson", corrected Nicole anxiously. "Yeah, you were in my 1st period class?"

"Yeah, with Jeffrey Stoder. Wasn't very nice of him today, huh?"

"Not really," came Nicole's response. There followed a silence. The girls kept staring at her, Nicole began to feel awkwardness rise up within her body. What are they staring at? She thought to herself.

Kaycee stretched out her hand as began to walk up the steps of the bleachers towards Nicole. "I'm Kaycee, and this is my lady Ricki" she said politely smiling, gesturing with her eyes towards the girl with skinny black jeans. Surprised at her friendly demeanor, Nicole took her hand shook, "Nicole, nice to meet you." The rest of the girls followed and also began to introduce themselves.

"I'm Veronica," said the girl with pink hair.


"Ricki. Nice shoes."

Now that all girls were up close, Nicole could clearly see their features and noticed they all had such varying, yet similar styles. Ricki had on thick mascara and light foundation caked up the sides of her face. She wore a tight shirt with a David Bowie logo attached, an orange-red, large key chain ring hanging from the side of her right pocket with yellow converse matching her shoes. Nicole smiled as she noticed both of their matching shoe brands. Veronica had a wilder look; she had on a black and white stripped long sleeved tee covered by a yellow shirt promoting the words "DGAF" in red. She was also wearing dark, washed out, blue ripped skinny jeans complimented by gray Toms. Nicole also noticed her piercings on the entire side of her cartilage on each ear and one in her septum. Micah was the most alluring out of them all, she wore a button up dolly laced shirt with a light pink skirt covering her knees with black buckled boots. Her lipstick was black and had dark eyeliner painted across her eyelids. Around her ankle was a small tattoo around her ankle of a purple rose adorned with thorns. Nicole couldn't help but stare madly at her perfectly structured circled face, her cheeks were lightly brushed with dark blush. Kaycee was a little heavier than all the girls combined and had very charming round face. Her delicate light blue eyes glimmered in the light as she placed a hand around Ricki's side. She wore a dark blue shirt of a wolf howling at a full moon. Her hair was wavy, thick and wild, but it naturally suited her appeal. All the girls looked like they had just come out of an outdated issue of some Seventeen magazine that Nicole remembered reading before she left San Diego.

A slight breeze blew through Veronica's chopped pink hair and the sound of a bell could be heard as though miles away. All their heads turned and saw tiny ant sized dots move into the buildings filling in the classrooms. Lunchtime was over.

"Oh, well that's the bell," said Nicole looking at them all. "We should go."

"Wait," panicked Kaycee, "You won't be telling anyone about us, will you?"

"No, of course not," replied Nicole.

"Awesome," responded Micah as she flipped her hair. The girls all looked at one another and smiled.

"Hey, you should come hang with us," offered Kaycee.

"Yeah! You can totally hang with us," repeated Veronica and Micah in unison. Ricki remained silent, but looked at Nicole eagerly.

"Well…sure…" hesitated Nicole.

"We'll give you the down low," jeered Kaycee. "There's some do's and don'ts around here."

"For real," nodded Ricki, the first words Nicole heard her speak.

Nicole smiled, "Okay, but like shouldn't we start going back over to class?"

"None of us have 5th or 6th period," responded Micah.

"Yeah," said Veronica, "We have early release!"

"Oh, I see. Well I better get going, I'll see you guys later," said Nicole grabbing her book bag and began climbing down the stairs.

"Later Nicole! Wanna kick it here next lunch?" asked Kaycee, while the other two waved.

"Sure! I'll just find you, same spot?"

"Yee," replied Veronica. "Bring us a sandwich!"

"Huh?" Nicole turned to look at her.

"She's joking," laughed Micah.

"Oh," giggled Nicole. "Okay, see you guys tomo—"

"What ethnicity are you?" inquired Kaycee.

"Oh?" Nicole was caught off guard. It was rare hearing that question. "I'm just Black."

"Not mixed with anything?"

"Nope, just Black."

"That's cool. Really cool," she added with a wink.

The girls stared at one another.

"Okay guys, I'm going to be late. I'll see you all tomorrow!" waved Nicole goodbye. The girls bid her farewell again, and Nicole ran off into the field and followed the track course all the way to Geography.

Mrs. Johnson passed Nicole the salad bowl as she placed more napkins onto the table. Mr. Johnson sat down in his usual chair at the head of the table.

"So you met Veronica, Kaycee, Rick and Michael? These are all girls?"

"No Dad, it's Ricki and Micah," stressed Nicole grabbing the tongs from the salad bowl pouring the spinach onto her plate. "They're really nice, they started talking to me when I was by myself at lunch."

"You said you met them by the cafeteria?"

"Yeah," she answered briskly. "Yeah, we met there after a boy kicked a football next to my shoe. Ricki came over to me and told me I had some really nice shoes because she had the same ones and yeah. It was a pretty cool day," Nicole added as put a mouthful of salad into her mouth.

"Don't eat too fast Nicole."

"I know, Mom."

"Do you have any of the girls' in any of your classes?"

"Yeah actually. Veronica is in my first period," Nicole said, her voice muffled by the sound of her chewing.

The dinner table became silent except for the sound of the Johnson eating quietly with the television on mute.

Why do I lie? Nicole's thoughts asked.

Because that's the only way I'll have friends here.

Lies. Why do I cover myself up in lies!?

Nicole's foot started to tap anxiously underneath the table.

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