I'll be the first to admit, I was never aware of the blessed life I had lived. I never treasured what I had. Better yet, who I had.
Vain as Mother could be, and for good reason being the picturesque strutting model image, I was very much loved.
I was assured I was beautiful. As I was. No matter a pair of knobbing knees and tiny irises from a cross eye condition. Didn't affect my actual seeing-- but still a severe condition-- moving on.
I clung desperately to my Dad's first 1980's Dodge. There was the recreation and some better models bought over the years or kept from pre-releases. 20 o 9 at least, or 90's rather, same kind of shape in a more compact, rounded roof but there was nothing like that one.
It didn't have the same jostle in the front seats or unorthodox warmth at your bottom. Not the sickly cling of expensive orange perfume or the odd dent at the roof Mother and Father both refused to talk about. Probably some nauseatingly embarrassing lovey anecdotes about when they were supposedly "young and cool" as I was.
Then I promise here and now: I, Harley Scott, appreciate my lot in life. I am blessed. I'd been blessed to be spoiled, I'd been blessed to have a Dad who'd taken my side even when I lied and whined to no end.
What I wouldn't give to have that back.
What I would give to have the Dodge back rather than some square and hideously beige Camary that belonged to a mid-forties picket fence homemaker.
Why hadn't I realized it wasn't a car that kept him going back to her dealership?
Thank goodness I had been able to be absent for the wedding. If I had to watch my Dad get all lovey and cheesy with that woman then I really would have deserved to spend my summer in a mud bank, rank infested juvenile corrections.
Jokes on her though.
Knew me just as well as she knew her own product.
Until I met the attachments. Sixteen-years-old and uber annoying Clarissa and Fred.
To Clarissa the right outfit was the be all end all. Her gift to a new little sister was donate all of my "greaser garb," replacing it with dainty dresses, skirts, tops, shiny black party shoes, and flats in ten different colors.
What was wrong with her?! The-- the obscene amount of money to spend--
And seriously, she was supposed to be a style queen? My Mother knew much better, carried herself much more kindly. Mother knew and accepted that pairing my personality with cherry blossom innocent white dresses was a disservice and disaster untoward the whole world!
What she would have to say to this absolute mess of-- of shallow, uneducated presumption!
I should stop thinking about it. Don't dwell on the don'ts.
Wannabe grease monkey.
Every minute pestering about all his dumb questions on what motorcycle to buy. Moron didn't even know push rod tubes from steering race removers, much less how to upkeep a bike mind you.
In short, the interlopers that my Dad was insisting on calling family(blargh) were this close to driving me to murder.
With that cheery note...
Fall was here which meant a grey fade pair of jeans, spangled glittered fire and bloodied roses with a man's long sleeve, and a lightning and silver link chain bracelet.
With of course the new Aegis armband! My own Medusa head jutting to deter any pitiless boys away.
Instead, I had a boring dark blue knit sweater, plaid blue skirt at knee length, and brown, cinching loafers for Winmeinster Day, the standard institution for all Forcett children as I was so kindly informed was mandatory.
Upon the dewy grey of a chilled six a.m my body went to work making me proper and priss.
Stiff and back arched, one shoulder adeptly straddled my bag as I pulled up my hair. As I did pinpricks of a painful bun ghosted over my scalp. I didn't strain and pull against my skin the way it had been done on grounds. Settling for a low stakes but still adequate ponytail.
I didn't look like me.
"Miss Harley time to--"
"Already up and ready," I called back, alert and brief toward the surprised maid. "Oh and I'll just make myself a smoothie."
On my way to open the door I shamefully bumped into what I was still learning was a wider doorframe.
Mrs. Nellie Hannigan raised her brow, the stern aura of a wiser much more indominable woman forcing me to falter.
"I don't want to-- put you out?" I tried to lie.
"Nonsense, none of that now dear girl," she snapped. "At the table post haste or you'll see a nuisance yet."
I dashed in her wake, smiling all the while.
Spry for her sixty-five there was still the fatigue of a worked woman. Twenty-two years with the Forcetts spazzed her rigid bun of red hair now colored in rinds of grey. Sometimes back pains would keep her hunched over an entire day.
Not that my step-siblings cared.
I remained dutifully settled in my seat and marveling of the typical scrumptious spread.
Something about her food, maybe the presentation or continued sound of work in the connected kitchen just warmed my soul.
Back in my Dad's house the staff he hired were... colder. Cut of a stock image.
Cook, set, repeat.
From each and every corner I nabbed hot, buttery croissants, jelly spread besides the butter, sausage, a generous helping of veggie bacon, and sunny side eggs.
Devouring each bite my cheeks swelled to that of a chipmunk.
And then the sound of the juicer stopped.
"Miss Harley," hummed a cheery falsetto.
"By any chance are you," she prodded in a Scottish accent rough and thick, "avoiding the Masters Fred and Clarissa. Know I can't have that now do you? A happy home is a full home and besides, you're going to choke and give poor me a heart attack eating so sloppily."
I spilled the mound from my mouth, utensils down. I'd lived here long enough to know.
Never. Cross. The accent.
"Just remember, manners are one of the less diatribe parts of high society life."
I'd rested my head in my hand, a sleepless night of seething and then mental shopping filling the hours.
"Look it up Miss," she said feigning passivity yet sounding just a little haughty.
By that point any reprieve I had was cruelly shattered by Clarissa and Fred. Both strutting around in Winmeinster Day uniforms. Only they looked the part of Trust Fund babies.
"Nellie no juice? Ugh and I was counting on that weight loss blend." Clarissa simply clicked her tongue. "Oh well."
I paid Fred a glare when he plopped down on the chair beside me, looking more than a little disgusted.
"Morning Harley," Clarissa squealed hugging me tight and ruining my silent gobbling showing off an open mouth of mashed food. "Hmm well I mean except that hair. Ugh, I mean so drab. Not fit for a girl like you. At. All."
Stiff, I combatted her attempts to pull away the pins and band.
I continued to whine to no avail toward her, simply tangling me within her embrace.
"None of that now," Hannigan commanded.
Clarissa bit her lip realizing she had put her hands up.
"There now. Eat young masters and please Clarissa," her voice then turned soft, "hands to yourself dear."
"Fine," and then turned dangerously gleeful eyes toward me. Which looked to have no sign of dimming. "Now that complexion," she began, fluttering a napkin to her chest, "I have just the palette just for you my sweet little sister--"
"No," I insisted firmly.
"No way," I repeated.
"Harry be a pal," Fred chided, long and annoying. "Can't have the snobs at school figuring out all the rumors are actually true. I mean a Forcett at a Convent!" He shuddered at the idea.
"It was a Juvenile Disciplinary Program," I complained.
"I would be so humiliated. Everyone is already going to be so vicious for new details. So, what do you say?" Clarissa added, tag-teaming her brother.
"Thank you for your concern," I said coldly and curtly. I wanted to truly let loose just how much of a selfish, slow-witted disgrace she was. Just like me. Just as bad no matter how well she 'hid' it.
"But I am perfectly secure so if you will please excuse me, I forgot something."
The demure, placid smile dropped off my face.
Letting loose a long, undignified huff.
Awkward silence had hung in the car ever since *she* had been in it.
Least before, I coulda filled the noise with the clack of texts from a Pixel 13 Mini. Until Dad had had the gall to sell it. All because Lexy had convinced him to.
And to replace it with an Android *two* whole models out of date! I hadn't even packed the thing out of spite.
Fred was smart enough to put some distance between me and Clarissa. Still, I hoped she noticed how I had accessorized.
Now atop my head was a black skull and crossbones bandana that had survived her purge.
Though the few pleasures I had in this life were few and far between.
Winmeinster Day was not one of them.
For all its faults, namely Clarissa, Fred, and the posh disciplinary dictates, I could say it fabulously put that dingy old public school to shame.
Even if, that washout had my few friends in it.
They got it.
They would retch with me at the period piece drab this place was. I mean there was smoky, soft strappings of Dark Academia and English chic then there was the grim overcut of window ledges and jutting cathedral steppes of all things.
Come. On. What were you trying to prove?
Once out, a limo screeched to a stop behind us.
"What in blazes!" Dad exclaimed. "What is the jack--"
Lexy quietly sympathized, yet still warned to watch his language.
The long car now grazed our license plate.
A boy sat in the front passenger seat, slinking down with a look begging God for death.
Too bad on that guy. I'd tried. Many, many times.
Until he actually took a look.
From then on he turned nauseatingly amazed.
The door opened...
And by the scruff of his collar he was excised from the car. "Kay Jojo your the world's problem now!"
With the slam of the door, tires screeching in a spiteful U turn the boy almost looked outraged.
Almost. Then the dopey smile came back before a truly stupendous stampede of students, including Clarissa and Fred bowled over each other to get a look.
Somewhere in the mob I heard my name called.
Rather than join in oggling a boy like a zoo animal I made my way inside. Near the door was a girl in a wheelchair, utterly neglected.
The chair made an already short and chubby girl of suede skin tone resemble some chocolate tasty cake. On one of her legs was a splint over a cast.
"Need help?" I asked. Not an easy thing for me to say.
Used to be temporary or no girls in wheelchairs, not to mention, *plus size girls* were just uncool.
Shopping with *that.*
It was just a drag.
"Yeah," she laughed with a soft, somewhat reproachful smile looking down. "Megan had promised to help me, now that I'm out and allowed y'know, won't hurt myself worse." In a somewhat passive stare her sight went to the continuing frenzy. No. "Before seeing her dream husband drive up."
Squinting the girl added in a much more jovial, somewhat prodding tone, "bit of a let down if you ask me. I expected a bit more I dunno, style. Grace. That sort of show."
Not much to stylize on a standard uniform. Yet I found she somehow found a way, having bedazzled and embroidered utterly natural shoots of running ivy and devious purple buds abroad on the insignia at the blazer's breast. Her sleeves rolled up and some magenta skin tattoos running the length of her wrists. Or the one clunky hot pink boot with what looked like self-doodled blood red spider webs.
Had to say, I stanned her edgy aesthetic so hard. And she earned a high amount of new respect points.
The unknown celebrity, certainly more than a bit bedraggled, had thankfully escaped. Prude.
"That's horrible," I enthused, immediately disgusted with this Megan.
"It's okay. I mean, this is Jared Prince we're talking about," she pointed out as if such things were just basic, rudimentary knowledge.
"I don't care if he's the newly born Jesus she shouldn't have left you here-- you--"
I trailed, quickly realizing I had nothing else to call her.
Save for stumpy. Or peg leg. Or something of the kind. (Don't judge me! Not like I'd gotten the brain prod treatment!)
"Celia. Celia Heart."
Immediately I came up behind her, hefting the chair. It turned out to be just a bit easier than lugging water buckets for a lunch cooler or whatever dregs came up in a chili throw up janitorial day.
Celia reacted to each bump with an "oof" or a grunt.
"Please hate this try standing at attention when the guy has a ruler," I couldn't help but mutter.
"How--" only to backpedal, "guess you're right. I could not for the life of me."
For all my whinging and long, long moan it turned out to be no sweat.
"Yay! Girl Power!"
"I do hope you mean my power," I emphasized somewhat haughtily. Considering all the other demeaning jobs I'd once been forced to do I was well in my right to ask.
Just get a little credit.
"Oh yeah. Hey," Celia practically glowing so earnest and honest, "let's get eclairs. My treat."
"E-- eclairs, like French eclairs?"
I could hardly dare to dream of such a thing. Quality. Baked. Goods.
"Oh yeah," she gushed rolling to my front, "the. Absolute best I guarantee."
Don't cry. Really, really don't cry.
"Well what are we waiting for?" I declared, once again taking the handles.
I deftly made the turn, just shy of a tall, elder student shoehorned in our way. And of pastries. He really should have known better.
Celia Heart was in so few words; a saving grace.
Completely refreshing and honest. No hint of fear or worse yet condescending disgust of my "sordid affairs," that were none of hers or anyone's-es business.
But rich people newsletters, were still rich people newsletters and goss circuits.
Turns out the new 'bad girl' enrolling was the hot tea nowadays.
"I swear, you topped number two for hottest dish."
"And let me guess number one," I said, in a smug note of triumph.
"Jared," we both replied.
"What is with people?" I asked. And genuinely unaware. "He's just a dude and if you asked me; men. Waste. Of. Time. They are just," adding a shudder, "ick."
Celia shrugged. "Got me Harley."
Then a bit of chocolate landed on her prim, smoothed skirt.
I stared, waiting and quite ready for the shrieking and/or wailing to start.
Rather, Celia wiped an equally prim finger wiping away the mess. "Lucky I only broke my leg," Celia giggled.
"How, did you do that?" I ventured.
The bell cut her off, "oh well story for later. Lunch okay, bye Harley."
With a wave she rolled, only to bump into a decent looking boy. Celia laughed in a manner that punched me with nostalgia. How many times did me or my friends flirtatiously giggle to the simplest compliments over newly mint outfits or accessories. "Mind giving me a hand?"
For all the short-circuited nerves of a hormonal teen boy Celia had also guaranteed quality service who wouldn't allow a ruined hairstyle.
Leaving me obsolete and heading off to my own first class.
Passing by a line of lockers I saw Jared Prince block my way, and by the irreverent, sly smile on his face he unfortunately considered himself quite important. And quite possibly, had parents much less involved to teach him otherwise.
Plastered to oddly angular, well-done features for a thirteen year old was a star quality devil natured grin. Even did the hand through his hair bit.
Honest, with foresight it was, a little sad. No matter the unjust, inhumane torture "juvenile corrections learning" really was.
"Need an escort to class, doll?" he asked in a voice much too steamy.
Nope, nope, nope.
Only much like that awful Dopey face the sheer audacity froze me in place!
Somehow he made walking to class sound so dirty.
"Are-- are you high?" I reprimanded high, shrill, and not the least bit subtly-- very unsafe feeling.
Prince's face crumbled. Gaping like a fish he stammered out "that on God almighty I'd never touch so much as a beer salt."
Realizing his tone, his volume, and general hamming he facepalmed.
And so I could regain myself to realize he was just... another rich snob with an inflated ego.
"Stupid," he grumbled.
Quite. And I was sure Lexy Forcett would appreciate nothing of the kind in her peaceful home and peaceful life anymore.
"No kidding. See ya," I said, pleasantly enough I hoped, stepping past him into the simple, stock design classroom.
Girls dogpiled all over themselves to offer comfort.
Some nasty names were 'secretively,' furtively murmured to the rumor mill.
Meaning I had no choice. I couldn't ignore it.
Just who was this screwball Prince?
Lucky for me it was minimal trouble to get an answer. Which again, I would not risk if it meant putting Dear Step-Mother's putrid attention on me.
I had a lunch date with the biggest Prince fanatic at this school. Somehow Megan had already heard about my "atrocious treatment," of him.
"How could you have been so cruel to him?" she demanded at once. "And Celia," rounding onto her so-called friend-- must be tied to the hip those two-- to assail her that way. "Letting her sit with us? Do you know what that would do to our standing! They'll think we-- that we-- like her or some other mad lies."
Megan whispered the last part, trying so diligently hard to treat me as a non-entity.
I would show her. At any public school a spazzing, over-critical and loopy attitude like that Megan would be the talk, Grade A freak-zilla.
"Come on don't be so hard on her. I bet that was uncomfortable for you," Celia guessed with a sympathetic glance.
I let out a breath held hostage for a long while. To finally be allowed some compassion.
Megan heaved a heavy sigh of her own. "You are so weird. I would give absolutely anything, the whole world for Jared Prince to pay me that sort of attention," she gushed.
"I'll give him the memo," I said dully, spearing a brussels sprout with my fork.
Next class I found a white, fluffy bear on my desk.
"Yeah, no," I decided, picking up the toy by the head.
"Like it?" Prince asked leaning at my desk.
He cocked his head, that same devilish grin on his face. "I just couldn't bear getting on the wrong foot with you," he declared hand to his chest.
"Sweet I know."
Maybe a bit. Maybe he really-- I felt myself flush.
But I swept that all aside. No, no vapid, shallow, thoughtless wanting.
I was smarter than this, I was better and I wasn't the type to obsess over looks or how I may look with some random flavor on my arm.
"Creepy," I admitted brows scrunched.
"Huh? Wh-- why?" he asked.
"I have to explain it?" I complained. And well, it would only be fair at the moment now, right? To be a bit unkind and maybe he would get the hint then?
"We barely know each other, yet you decide it's a good idea to I suppose hit on me," I said so with an errant, high little laugh, "if you could call it that," flippantly discarding the bear where it made a light, piteous squeak at his feet. Aww. "At full, complete throttle straight out of cringe teen girl fantasy books, yuck. Just, yuck man. You poor, poor idiot. Get some A material, or at least something vaguely original if you're wanting this level of stunning."
And as if I couldn't have been more perfect the bell rang, forcing the guy to take his seat.
Except in his daze, or much more deviously annoying then I'd given him credit for, he took the seat right behind mine. Making an epic, screeching spectacle of it.
Today-- Of. All. Days-- had to be paired assignments.
This Lit. Genre doze fest paired us new kids together.
Forcing the hands of vultures, to spread the rumor... I 'hated' Jared Prince... like wildfire.
"You must think yourself quite the star attraction? I bet," sneered some girl in Clarissa's grade, "considering your step-mother cajoled dear Daddy into sending a classless, delinquent shrew like you off to boot camp."
And with frightening force, forcing my body of its own accords at attention, the older girl slammed my locker. I would like to emphasize that bit. Mine. Where I keep my pretty bookbag and magazines.
There was a twinge of laughter seeing me so petrified, but promptly got back to the matter at hand. "Even if you were a real Forcett, not just the unfortunate tag-along nothing gives your type the right to mouth off that way to the mayor's son," the girl scolded in a nasty tone. "Just a bit of advice, Private Witless."
She walked off, releasing me, to slump to the floor. Staring out, not even tucking in my legs, right for the whole hallway beside me, above me, in front of me, all to see.
No one paid me any mind. Not even to scoff.
And I wouldn't have minded. I was quite the stupid sideshow.
Then I sensed the lingering presence, a not haranguing or berating one, beside me.
Daring a glance, I saw the source of my misfortune. His Majesty Jared.
I huffed, finally doing the reasonable thing and tucking into a tight, nice little shell.
"Sorry," Jared said sounding as down as me, "I am. I-- I didn't want to cause you trouble, not anyone. I'll be sure to tell the other girls to leave you alone."
I said nothing. Just leapt to my feet, bag hitched up my arm and made a silent, reprieving exit.
Dear sister, Clarissa, just had to pry into my business. At this point I was absolutely enraged.
Hearing her absolutely bemoaning my "pitiful expression," and "all the bad blood," I had caused.
Yes. Of course she took his side. She and all the others.
"So I trust," Mrs. Forcett began, "that your first day was quite an adventure Harley?" Dear Lexy sparing hardly a glance for me.
I simply glowered, shoveling a honking portion of greens into my mouth.
Spearing my cut of dressed salmon whole, Fred now nudged me. Hard.
"Knife," he mouthed, suitably demonstrating. As if I hadn't had the very same silverware sets as this household.
I rolled my eyes.
"No 'o yur bunith," I uttered with salmon hanging off my mouth.
Mrs. Forcett shook her head.
"Sweetie," Dad said quietly, "she's never like this, I've never seen this type of thing. Harley's stressed, I think."
"Daddy, you hear her bullying me. I don't like how she's talking to me," I uttered venomously.
"Honestly, are you still throwing tantrums, trying to demand from your Father?" she prodded frustration at her every word. Like she'd not sent me off to where they'd said to use 'I feel' and 'May I' extensively until it glided along in my dreams.
"They'd said it was effective. Actually saying what you need in clear words," I said, furious and yet still speaking right rather than whining!
There was this certain look that at the moment Dad was giving to Mrs. Forcett.
"I suppose, there weren't calls from school. If what Clarissa says is true you didn't bully any children."
"Sure," I answered dryly.
"Liar," Clarissa cut in.
"Now Clarissa," her Mother and my Dad chided at once.
"Mom, Harley made an enemy of the mayor's son, degraded him right in their Lit class paired with each other. The whole thing is all over school," she plowed on.
Mrs. Forcett sighed deeply. "Well then you'll need to apologize by tomorrow and hopefully this could end working in your favor," she decided. Just like that.
"Hang on now Alexis. Shouldn't we at least hear Harley out. Of course, her behavior had been disruptive. Back then but we'd been told and have been shown, what leaps she's made, to grow as a person," my Dad insisted. Ever even and fair toward me.
I shot him a truly grateful smile.
"I'm sorry, you're completely right," she conceded, taking his hand but I didn't say anything. I preferred to look away from that.
I went into the complete, ridiculous hubbub Jared had made that morning.
Of which Dad nodded was absolute lunacy!
And it was hardly a shining impression when we had formally met, to suddenly be hit on and staring at me, absolutely proving me in my rights to tell he was creepy.
To my surprise Mrs. Forcett, an adult who had agreed to have me in her family-- to my Father and the law-- still insisted I had done something wrong.
She was certainly a pain and certainly didn't like me. But cruel wasn't quite a word I would use for my no-nonsense, no empathy step-mother.
"Well you caught his interest somehow. I admit I'm unsure how, which we agree, but most important is that it isn't an opportunity to squander. Anyone with class wouldn't purposefully have caused you discomfort, that I am sure of. You simply attacked too thoughtlessly, not unlike you," and though she wasn't displeased I'd still bungled things up, "all a learning process."
"Dear you-- you can't be serious?" Dad asked looking incredulous. "She's just told you the boy out and out harassed her! My little girl, your girl too. And you still believe the children should be friends?"
When she next spoke, it was in a much more subdued, tired voice. Right fitting for an elderly woman of her age.
"She is my daughter. I love how deeply you love her and fight for her, and I hold your opinion quite highly but powerful families, you've been lucky to be well removed from interacting with them. Too often those types strongarm any of lower standing than they are to get even a modicum of what they have assumed as theirs," the dark, withering look sweeping past the table so even my ditzy step-siblings turned away with some decorum of shame. "As for marriage, blended family, there will always be a few extra obstacles on that front whenever one is of-- well--"
"Lower net worth. Social capital," Dad guessed gruffly.
"It pains me, truly and add in Harley and what we've had to do for her well-being despite the reasons, it is by all accounts scandal. She is in a more unstable place than anyone."
"So what?" Dad declared, riled and defensive. "I don't care, I've told you many times, as long as it would take and much more, all I see is the beautiful, capable, and stunningly competent woman who somehow chose me, a single father. Neither of my girls not her or you, or anyone put up with being treated poorly."
He placed a firm, supportive hand on hers which bore a couple expensive rings.
I could think of someone who had already mistreated my wonderful Dad.
I am glad they don't bring it up too much.
For once us three step-siblings found ourselves our common ground. To watch who was swaying who. I obviously rooted for my Dad. Leading quite handily and generally on the side of all common sense.
"Believe me I don't like it but it is the best advice I can give," she admitted sounding painfully torn.
"i know for a fact her classmates probably tore her apart today, I-- I hoped the opposite, and hoped to hear that from her," she gazed at me. "I'd know it would be a lie and it would be terrible but I'd try not to care too much. It breaks my heart to know the truth of the matter and to see you suffer. To me, I have three children, three wonderful, sometimes strong-willed, unruly children." And it sounded like she loved those supposed flaws the most.
Her voice was worn raw. None of her business face was present. Just a woman.
Oh this woman was good. Too good, completely too good. A Grade-A scheme skillfully stripping my Dad's resolve gently as his work vest every evening.
"Well, if you are absolutely sure we can reach a peaceable resolution best for both," he ventured, but a smidgeon confident.
"NO!" I declared rising from my seat. "He did wrong by me and no one even cares! No one cares about me! AT! ALL anymore! I hate you all! WHY? I don't know, I don't know what I did wrong! Why don't you love me anymore? He isn't even that hot and who cares? Who cares how rich he is? Money is stupid, money is stupid," I whispered, rising again-- "I refuse to even look at his gross face!"
My Dad tried to get me to sit down, apologizing over and over, that he hadn't listened to me.
When I knew he would have.
If not for her.
And I wouldn't have worried, have felt guilty for the stress on his face because of me. Not as long as he would do what needed to be done to make me happy.
Lexy, as usual, derided my outburst. "We should be past these. She can't just be-- given into. This isn't a conversation for her--"
"So now it's about me?" I laughed in a sardonic manner.
"Harley, my sweet princess just deep, deep calming breaths. Like you'd learned. Clarissa, Fred to your rooms," Dad ordered off-handedly.
"No way," both complained.
"All the juicy--"
"Out!" he emphasized, now pointing at the door.
With stomping feet and plenty groans my stepsiblings obeyed.
A single door slammed. Letting my Dad continue to soothe me. "Now no one wants any trouble. I know you don't, I know you want and have been trying to be better and move past unlearning bad habits. Habits which weren't all your fault, I spoiled you, completely and excessively."
I shook my head. Fighting, really fighting for my voice to be steady and concise and not furious and hurt and anguished and completely exaggerating to make someone feel guilty.
"I just wanna be left in peace."
And no one seems to want to let me have that anymore.
"Then friendship is-- an unreasonable ask. It just is?"
"If that's the case, you don't have to give every detail, but okay," Lexy agreed, "but I do still think it would at least be worth your while to make sure few could say anything else in ill will."
"I suppose that is a fair goal," Dad said. "Harley?"
Both adults looked at me. Supposedly having compromised with me.
So I couldn't say no and not look like a brat.
"Fine, I don't care anymore," I relented voice hollow.
Thoroughly losing my appetite I turned away my half-eaten dinner.
All the same mumbling to apologize for me to Nellie. "Super good, as usual."
Lying despondent and splayed on my bed with my legs in the air I checked my phone.
Seven messages from Celia.
Now slightly important I didn't quite remember when exactly she'd asked for my digits. I wasn't the type to do the asking either.
Never had to. Considering, people still loved vibrant parlaying of pretty girls like they do a shiny star or Fourth of July fireworks.
'Need to talk?'
'Here if you need anything.'
Megan told me all the girls are calling you Disaster *shrug* Cinder or Ember? I dunno, I think they're brainstorming.'
'We won't obvi.'
'Really isn't fair. Prince is dead to me.'
The last couple just asked me to reply when I read the texts.
I sent her a nice lengthy response.
'alright even tho this is so wrong-- how'd you even get my number? Thanks for checking up and I'm fine. They're just petty, spiteful little harpies, believe me, I've got experience.'
I probably did deserve it. At least a little bit.
'Will admit I guess Jared's been the baseline of a gentleman not that I want him anywhere near me still. Double gag.'
Celia replied at once.
'Parents know someone in the force.' She included a deeply sorry face emoji.
'Yeah no way would you want a creeper near you.' Six sick emojis. 'Total support.'
'Least someone does,' I texted.
'Still talk to me. Promise,' Celia sent, not having seen my reply. 'What happened? Folks not believe you!!!??!?!'
Two rows of red angry faces.
'Lexy, my not mom, insists I apologize and she's brainwashed my Dad.'
Celia had my back the whole way. Swearing to guard me against bullies. Even if it was really no big deal, then again it would be lovely dealing with such annoyance even a little less. Still, she warned me about the Princes' almighty influence.
She relayed the story of Lexy who had personally sold the elder Prince son a car-- who does just about all of the driving and ferrying around for the family-- but hadn't gotten the model he'd wanted then. At least a few years back. Week after he returns the car and badmouths Lexy to every bigshot on his contact list causing a year-long dry spell.
'Thanks for the warning but I'm not letting anyone push me around.'
I was ready to defend myself from infinite legions of irate girls.