For a dizzy moment, I think Jayden Depaul is going to kiss me. But instead he reaches out a hand and curls my hair behind my ear.

“Stay strong, Latoya Rampele,” he says with his twisted grin. “This’ll all work out in the end – you’ll see.” 

Then he shrugs his bag onto his shoulder, and sets off down the road with his loose, easy stride. I climb up into the taxi on trembling legs.
The next morning at school, I can’t concentrate at all. All I can think about is the smoothness of Jayden’s fingers against my cheek, and the clean, piney smell of him. At break, I casually make my way over to the Thambo Fountain where he usually hangs out. No one asks me what I’m up to. My best friend Devorah emigrated to Australia at the end of last term. I haven’t really made any close friends since then.

My heart stutters in my chest as I catch sight of him. He’s talking to a tall blonde girl. A very pretty girl with a stunning figure, I can’t help noticing.

“Hi Jayden!” My voice comes out all cracked and squeaky. The girl swings around and eyes me narrowly for a moment.

“This is a private conversation,” she snaps. “I don’t remember anyone asking you to join it.


I smile nervously. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to butt in. I was just saying hi to Jayden.”

”Oh, you were, were you? Well if that’s the kind of manners I can expect from Innesfree High, I can see I’m going to hate it here even more than I thought. Now, if you would kindly push off, we can get back to our conversation.”

She rests her hand possessively against Jayden’s chest. I try to catch his eye, but he’s avoiding my gaze.

“Well?” she barks, flicking her blonde ponytail over her shoulder. “What are you waiting for? Get out of here!”

I scuttle away as fast as my legs can carry me. What on earth is her problem? Why is she being so mean to me? I’d swear I’ve never met her before in my life. It’s like she just took one look at me and hated me on sight.

Image: Marxchivist, CC-BY-2.0