Hannah lay on her back staring up at the ceiling. Earbuds in her ears, her favorite band blasting in her ears. A tear trickled down her cheek. This was the worst day of her life.
Her day started off like any other day. A quick text to Ity. A quick bite of toast to satisfy her parents that she wasn’t starving to death. Then off to school. Today was the day they would post who made the cheer leading squad.
She approached the information board to check the list. A formality. The head cheerleader had informed her yesterday she had the position. She scanned the list her heart plummeting to her toes. Her name wasn’t there. She read it a second time. Name by name. Her name was definitely not there. Stunned she blinked back the tears that threatened to fall.
She could feel the other girls staring at her. Their eyes pitying her. She wished the ground would open up and swallow her or them just so long as they stopped looking at her.
“Hey I thought you were a sure thing,” Ryan said coming up behind her.
“So did I,” she mumbled “I don’t know what happened. They said I was good. The best they had trying out.” She could feel the tears welling up inside her. She swallowed hard, blinking several times refusing to let those girls see her cry.
“I thought you were good,” Ryan told her trying to cheer her up.
She smiled up at him “you liked my performance yesterday?”
“Sure did,” he said “you were the best they had trying out for the squad.” He put an arm across her shoulders directing her towards the cafeteria “come on cuz I’ll treat you to lunch.”
“Why is everyone giving us weird looks?” she asked feeling like she had grown a tail and horns.
“I don’t know,” Ryan said waving at a boy on the football team who promptly turned his back without acknowledging him “it’s like we have the plague or something.”
“Yeah” Hannah agreed straightening her back and shoulders. She refused to let them see how this was affecting her.
A short distance ahead of them a boy was slammed against the lockers. His glasses flying from his face on impact. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Hannah said charging ahead as she recognized the boy being assaulted.
Vincent had his eyes squeezed tight as blood trickled from his split lip. “Hannah don’t,” he begged.
The older student who had shoved him snarled at Hannah as his feet hovered above Vincent’s fallen glasses. “Vinny can’t you even defend yourself?” he taunted “you need a girl to fight your battles.”
Vincent lunged forward taking a wild swing at the other boys face. The boy easily ducked and avoided getting hit. Anger marred Vincent’s otherwise handsome face as he tried to swing again only to find his arm twisted behind his back.
Laughing the boy shoved Vincent to the floor. Leaning over he said “next time when I tell you to do something you do it without question.” He pressed his knee into Vincent’s back making the blond grunt in pain. Hannah pushed against the boy but he wouldn’t budge.
“Let him up,” Ryan growled towering above them. He clamped a hand on the boy’s shoulder and squeezed until he let Vincent go.
Grunting in pain the boy stood up allowing Vincent to get up. “Well if it isn’t the football star. You think your pretty special don’t you?”
Ryan’s eyes simmered with anger as he said “leave him alone.”
Smirking the boy took a step back. Searching the floor he found Vincent’s glasses, raised his foot and smashed his heel into them before stalking off humming a tuneless tune.
“Jerk,” Hannah yelled after him.
“Where’s my glasses?” Vincent asked his hands searching the floor around him.
Stooping Ryan picked up the remnants of the eyeglasses and handed them to his friend. “I’m sorry Vincent. I didn’t know he was going to do that or I would have tried to stop him.”
“It’s not your fault,” he mumbled “I have an extra pair in my locker.”
“What did Bull want anyway?” Ryan asked using the nickname they had given him on the football team.
“He wanted me to do his homework,” Vincent sighed “I told him he could do his own work like everyone else.” Rubbing his shoulder where it had collided against the locker “I guess he didn’t like my answer.”
“I told Bull to keep away from you,” Ryan fumed as they walked to Vincent’s locker “I wonder why he attacked you.”
“He said things were changing and that being friends with you wouldn’t protect me anymore,” Vincent explained as he felt around for his extra pair of glasses “I hate these frames” he muttered slamming the door shut.
“I think they look good on you,” Hannah smiled at him causing a deep red blush to spread across his face.
“Hey watch it,” Ryan yelled as a girl bumped into him.
“I’m sorry,” Divia mumbled her head down, eyes on her feet.
Putting his hands on her arms Rory asked “what’s wrong Div?”
She lifted her chin, visible streaks of tears coursed down her cheeks. “I went to our table to wait for you guys. Someone else was there saying it wasn’t our table anymore.”
“Who said that?” Hannah demanded feeling as if they had all woken up in an alternate universe or something.
“The head cheerleader,” she ducked her head down as some students walked towards them snickering.
Vincent put an arm around the shy timid girl. He could feel the tension from her body leaking into his. “Let’s find Teasha and Zach and get her out of here.”
“I can’t,” Ryan told them “I have football practice for the big game this weekend. I can’t miss it.”
“Be careful,” Vincent told him his voice serious “Bull wasn’t joking. He’s going to want revenge.”
“I’ll be ready for him,” Ryan waved his friends off as he continued on his way to the cafeteria.
“Teasha says they’re in the parking lot,” Hannah said putting her phone away “let’s go and see if their day has been as bad as ours.”
“Is Zach with her?” Vincent asked not wanting to leave his best friend behind.
“He’s with her,” Hannah informed him “come on let’s get out of here.”
They found Teasha’s car. Running up to it Vincent dropped his knees beside the open door where Teasha was holding her brother who was sobbing in her arms. “Zach what happened?” Vincent asked eyes round with shock.
“He won’t tell me,” Teasha answered for her twin “I just found him like this.” She transferred her brother’s weight to Vincent’s arms despite Zach’s protests.
“He needs to see a doctor,” Hannah cried upon seeing the bloody mess his face had become.
“He won’t go,” Teasha cried wringing her hands pacing the length of the car, “wait until I get my hands on the person who did this.”
Divia looked around the mostly empty parking lot “I think we should leave.” She said after watching a group of boys gathering near a building close to the parking lot.
Vincent looked in the direction she had been staring in. He gulped “I second that idea,” he helped Zach sit up and got him belted into the front seat “it’s going to be alright,” he assured his friend.
Zach hissed with pain, his swollen lips almost preventing him from talking “I want to go home.”
Closing the door Vincent turned to Teasha “take him home. Have your dad’s take care of him.”
“Do you know what’s going on?” she asked him.
“I might” he looked away watching the group of boys as they started towards them “I can’t tell you. If he wants you to know Zach will tell you.”
Teasha took a step forward unaware of the group of boys coming towards them. “What aren’t you telling me? I need to know.”
Pulling on her arm Hannah motioned towards the group coming nearer their location. “Now isn’t the time for this discussion. Get Zach home before they can hurt him anymore.” She pointed to the boys now only four cars away.
Awareness sharpened her eyes as Teasha noticed the unfriendly faces of the group coming towards them, “do you think they did this to him?”
“I don’t know,” Hannah told her as an uneasy feeling swept through her “I think you should just go and let us handle this.”
Teasha seemed on the verge of protesting when someone shouted out a profanity directed towards her brother. It served to galvanize her into action. “Come with me,” she said running for the driver’s side of the car.
The other’s glanced at each other than at the hostile group before bolting towards the car. No sooner had they shut the door and Teasha had thrown the door locks then the group of angry students surrounded the car. “What do I do?” Teasha shouted as someone jumped on her car.
“Just drive,” Vincent shouted back. Stomping on the gas the boys jumped out-of-the-way of the car and the boy on the hood fell off. Watching through the rear view mirror Teasha watched as he got up and dusted off his jeans.
Turning out of the parking lot everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “What’s going on?” Teasha asked again wiping away tears with a shaky hand.
They stared at each other in incomprehension at what just happened. “I wish I knew,” Hannah said in the silence that ensued after their escape. “Things have definitely changed,” Hannah glanced around the car observing the friends she’s had all her life.
Zach worried her the most. He was almost comatose in the front seat like a lifeless doll. His eyes were glassy and except for a few moans he hadn’t made a sound. Teasha was shaking so hard it was a miracle the car was still on the road. Divia always the quiet one of the group seemed to have pulled into herself even more. If she had a shell she’d have crawled into it by now. Only Vincent seemed calm like he knew something the rest of them didn’t.
“Vinny out with it,” Hannah demanded causing everyone to jerk as her voice seemed to blast at them from a bull horn, “you know something and I want to know what it is.”
“I might but I can’t tell you. I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Vincent wiped a stray tear away turning to gaze out the window.
Nodding Hannah thought about all the things she knew about the kids she grew up with. All the secrets they knew about each other that no one else did. The ones they only told to that one specific person they trusted most. The one they were closest to. She told all her secrets to her cousin Ryan and he in turn told her his. She also had Charity to confide in.
Teasha was protective of her twin. Everyone knew if you hurt him you would have to answer to her. She wasn’t afraid to do whatever was necessary to protect those she cared about. She was the same way towards Divia. Sometimes she was the only one Divia had to talk to. Divia’s parents were more concerned with doing their own thing than in being parents.
Zach when he wasn’t with his sister was closest to Vincent. They were always going to art museums or concerts together. She and Ryan would tease them about their bromance. If anyone knew Zach’s secrets it would be Vincent. Knowing Vince as long as she had, she also knew he would never divulge that information unless Zach gave him permission.
Hannah was the first one Teasha dropped off. She walked up to the front door wondering how her parents were going to react to her skipping school. She opened the door to find her dads making out on the couch. Smiling she said “get a room.”
Eddie jumped up upon hearing her voice “why are you home so early?” he asked frowning “I didn’t hear you drive up.”
“Teasha dropped me off. My car is still at school,” she explained “I’ll need a ride later to get it,” she turned to go to her room.
“Are you ok?” Rory asked following her.
She tried to blink back the tears “not really daddy,” she choked barely getting the words out “things were awful at school today.” She turned throwing herself into his arms sobbing giving up every pretense of being strong.