“Kian, my man.” The blond rested an arm on his friend’s shoulder and greeted him with a punch to the chest. “What happened to your hair?”
“My dad happened.” Kian replied sourly. “Nice tan. Sulani’s been good to you?”
“Oh yes. Hot, humid, and filled with exotic beauties. Wait ‘til you hear about my summer romance.”
Trevor winked as Kian gave him a shove. “Seriously? How do you even find the time during a family vacation?!”
“Dude!!” Connor interrupted with a smack on Kian’s back. “You can actually look decent! I can’t remember the last time I saw your natural hair colour.”
Kian grunted. “I swear that old man’s made me as boring as he!”
“And yet, chicks still dig your boring ass.” Marques jested. “Speak of the devil, here they come.”
Trevor dodged just in time as Carly pounced on Kian, throwing her arms around his neck and forcing him to carry her piggyback style. Her girlfriends joined the circle and cheered her on.
“Carly you CRAZY MINX!!” Kian bellowed. Their antics must be a common sight as students in the courtyard merely laughed and catcalled.
“Oooh! New hair, but..” Her hands examined him. “… the same ripped beach bod! Did you miss me while I was away? I promise, if I ever go on another cruise, it’ll be for just the two of us.” She made sure to whisper the last three words into his ear. Kian turned bright red.
“Lord of llamas!!! This is why you’re still single!!” Kian’s loud voice boomed across the courtyard, turning heads 50 feet away. He speedily displaced her center of gravity by yanking her arm hard, forcing her off-balance. Before anyone could react, he turned a full circle on the spot, catching her falling back with his left arm and slid his right swiftly underneath both her knees. He caught her even before she sensed her falling.
Cheers and whistles erupted from all sides at Kian’s split-second manoeuvre turned the cheeky ambush into a princess carry. Carly gazed at the school’s MMA youth champion seductively, caressing the fading scab on his cheek. “You know you can help me with that – being single,” she purred. Kian was not amused. He put her down as she pouted at him.
Trevor pushed his hair back and flashed his most charming smile at her. “My poor Carly. If only you hadn’t misdirected your affections to my unworthy friend, they would’ve been returned tenfold now.”
Carly scowled at him. “Zip it, Trevor. Your sleazy moves make me dry up faster than a 40 degree heat wave.” She stuck her tongue at him as the circle laughed.
They were clearly the stars of the school. Girls swooned if greeted by them and boys would either give high-fives or stare in admiration as they walk by. Athena watched as Kian dodged the brunette’s second attempt to embrace him. She still couldn’t believe she was experiencing a normal school life – sitting on a bench at lunchtime and not being harassed by anyone.
Coral Springs Highschool ranked top in all of Simsville, boasting a prestigious academic track record and had the most sought-after-graduates by the best universities. It quickly became a school for the elite. Almost all its students came from privilege – everyone was someone. Athena was considered so normal that she blended in and actually made friends on her first day of school. Kaitlin and Maia had approached her, saying that they recognised her from Celebnews and that they admired her for standing up for herself.
“Trevor’s the blond guy. His dad owns the entire SimMobile chain companies while his mom’s in every blockbuster movie. On his left is Marques, the finance minister’s son. He’s been featured a lot in Politisims lately. I think his dad’s easing him into the political scene. And honestly, how do you not know Connor from the ‘My Hecking Body’ fitness show? It’s hilarious! That’s how everyone keeps in shape too.” Maia exclaimed.
“Isn’t Trevor a dream? He’s got the looks, the brains, the money – everything!” Kaitlin gushed as she played with her ponytail.
“I wouldn’t if I were you, girl. He’s a heartbreaker.” Maia warned. “But if you really like him, go talk to him. He doesn’t even know you exist!”
“I can’t! I’m so ordinary!” she whined. “I’m nobody.”
“Kaitlin Feng – only you would think that way about yourself. Every dime I spend in Uptown Myshuno goes into your dad’s pocket. That’s a lot of money since we’re filming there. I say you two are a match.”
They were good looking, Athena had to admit. But having borne the brunt of infamy, she was not as easily deluded by social elitism. She found herself wondering who they really were if they shed their masks of privilege? Would they be like Curtis, who had her misunderstand him for her protection?
“How do they not tire out going to the gym every day?” Maia exclaimed, though she let out a smile.
Kaitlin squealed. “You’re in for a treat! Come on, let’s go too!” Athena noticed a large number of girls headed in the same direction as well.
Athena had never wanted to leave a place more quickly in her life.
It’s the spice festival all over again!
Maia scanned the gym. “The popular girls always occupy the benches near the court,” she sighed.
“Doesn’t matter, view’s just as good from the top!” Kaitlin squealed like a fan girl as Trevor broke past Kian, who looked distractedly in their direction. “There’s some empty spots on the deck!” Kaitlin led the way to the staircase.
“No thanks! I’m out. See you back in class!” Athena gave them a weak smile and started towards the exit.
“ATHENA! THERE YOU ARE!”
She cringed. There’s only one person in school who had a boombox for a throat. Kian appeared by her side and grabbed her arm.
“I was wondering where you were. I’ll introduce you!” Kian said enthusiastically.
This isn’t happening, Athena thought to herself as Kian dragged her to the middle of the court while the whole gym watched.
“Guys, Athena. Athena this is Marques, Connor, and Trevor.” Her cheeks burnt but she forcefully pried her fingers from her eyes and act normal.
“How’s it going? Welcome to CS High! If you have any questions or just want to hang out, don’t hesitate to call out to me.” Marques greeted her with a warm handshake, effortlessly exuding the charisma of a politician’s son.
“I was wondering why your mom didn’t send you here. Going to common schools is like a death sentence for us celebrities.” Connor gave a confident wave.
“Athena – the name of a goddess. It suits you.” A low baritone voice caressed her ear as she turned to come face to face with Trevor, who boldly leaned into her. The first thing he noticed was her unusual eyes. Intrigued, he lifted her chin before she could react. “Your eyes are purple, and you’re without eye contacts.” He examined with fascination.
Kian pulled Athena away from him. “Jeez, Trevor. Stop traumatising her.”
Kian, why are you doing this to me!? She screamed in her head. She wasn’t the only one who wanted answers from him.
“Who is she!?” Carly shrieked from the benches.
“I just introduced her. Athena, Carly. Carly, Athena,” Kian replied.
“I heard that. I meant why are you introducing her!”
“Because starting today, she’s hanging out with me every recess. We’re training together,” he declared. “If I do basketball, she does basketball. If we’re playing soccer, she’s in my team.”
“What!?” Both Athena and Carly responded at the same time. The rest of the gym exploded into whispers as they continued to watch the scene.
“She’s training with you? Is she your junior at the MMA club?” Marques asked.
“She may as well be. Hm, good idea. I’ll teach you some moves too.” Kian directed the latter response to Athena.
“Did something happen between you two during summer break?”
“Yeah,” came Kian’s unfiltered reply. The gym burst into an uproar as everyone talked at once. Carly could be heard screaming shrilly to her friends, “Do any of you know about her!?” while Trevor frustratingly asked, “How do you always get the exotic ones?” Meanwhile, Marques and Connor congratulated Kian. He tried to explain that they’ve got it wrong and to let him finish his story, but no one listened.
“We need to talk!” Athena proclaimed loud enough to silence the questions. She grabbed Kian by the arm and led him out of the gym.
She finally let him go when they were alone behind the cafeteria building.
“Woah, you are pretty strong! All this time, I thought Curtis had purposely set the mood in the alley.” He pulled back his sleeve to check his arm for print marks.
Athena shot him an exasperated look. “You’ve just made me become the most unpopular girl in the entire school!”
“By singling me out like that! New girl suddenly joins the most popular clique? Have you not noticed the audiences wherever you go?”
“Who cares about them? I do what I want. And you didn’t say no when I offered to help you back at the hospital.”
“I agreed but I didn’t realise that… you’re…” too popular? She’d sound like an idiot if she said that. She tried a different tactic. “What about Carly? She’s not going to agree to that.”
“Again, who cares? Just you, for some reason. Don’t worry, she’s not my girlfriend.” Kian shrugged. “The only people I listen to are the ones that matter – my mom and my… dad,” he admitted reluctantly.
“Look. I don’t know why you worry so much about what other people think. My plans and dreams are more important than what some bystander thinks about me, aren’t yours? Maybe you should give a thought about how important this is to you and see if it’s worth ditching for what people think you can or cannot do,” he lectured.
Athena blinked, then hung her head. “You’re right, Kian. I’m letting my fears control me… again. This is important to me and I want to follow through with your plans. I just… I don’t want to be treated like an outcast again.”
The memories came flooding back to her; there was a noticeable quiver in her speech. “I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have friends; sitting on a picnic bench with someone; eating with someone; not having to constantly look over my shoulder…” She blinked back a tear. “My first day here had been amazing! I don’t want to lose all that…” She didn’t want to make a scene, but she didn’t know where the washroom was and the risk of being seen was too high. She hid her face in her knees and apologised through wet sobs.
Immediately, she felt a comforting hand upon her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise… I thought I was helping. All I could think of when I lay in the hospital was how we dragged you into our mess, and what I can do to fix some of it.” He thought of hugging her to make her feel better but didn’t think it was appropriate. He kept stroking her hair instead. “This is the only way I can think of to make sure you stay safe, so I won’t take back what I said in the gym. I can’t take it back anyway.”
This isn’t what she wanted, having Kian feel guilty for trying to make her stronger. “No,” she said determinedly and hastily wiped her tears. “I’m glad you said it, I need all the help I can get. I just had a moment of weakness that’s all.” She quickly got to her feet and brushed the stray grass from her skirt. “You’ve reminded me to be strong, and what’s important to me,” she added. “I’ll look for you every recess.” She managed a brave smile.
“And I’ll eat with you every day!” Kian’s voice returned to its default volume as a huge grin spread on his face. “And sit with you on the picnic benches! And make sure no one so much as looks at you otherwise…”
“Those won’t be necessary,” she was certain eating with Kian would include the all-stars and their entourage of admirers; and the last thing she wanted was for Kian to face disciplinary action because of her.
“That’s the bell,” Kian said as a ‘DING’ reverberated throughout the school grounds. “I’ll walk you to your class.” Each held a smile as they returned to the classrooms.
If you think this chapter is obnoxious and yuck, you are not alone. But it is pretty accurate to my high school experience (even the shirtless boys). 🤣