HELL, RINGO WHEELER HAD DISCOVERED, was not an underground lair where demons and souls of the damned resided.
She may have only been seventeen years of age, but the girl knew full well that Hell came in a number of forms. Like recovering Christmas decorations and discovering that, once again, the lights had been tangled mercilessly despite your best efforts in packing them the year before. Or catching your parents in the middle of sex. Or even grabbing your curling iron by the wrong end.
Or having to move to Hawkins, Indiana.
The town was smaller than her neighbourhood back home, and in the space of a day - had proved every stereotype about small towns true. The parents were backward with their views, and all teenagers were hoodlums, simply looking for something to entertain themselves with within the dreariness. Those who weren't, were considered prudish and boring.
It was the cruelest punishment her family could have come up with, and she had to applaud them for it. They had threatened to send her away from their tiny house in Orlando to Indiana since she was a child, but now they weren't just threatening it any more.
Sure, her uncle and aunt weren't all that bad. Her aunt Karen pitied her to an extent, which was a horrible feeling, but meant she showered her with baked goods and gifts. Her uncle Ted, her father's brother, didn't care much for her - she wouldn't be surprised if Ted hadn't even noticed her since she arrived. The man was completely out of tune with his surroundings.
The only slight advantage to the stay was her relationship with her cousins, Nancy and Mike - who were both complete polar opposites, but came together when Ringo was around.
"You can't just lie in here all day," Nancy commented as she entered their now shared room, raising an eyebrow at her cousin - who laid spread eagle on the cot set up for her.
"I can, and I will," she retorted in a bored tone, just about hearing Nancy's voice over the loud songs flooding through her headphones.
'Ringo's Ass Kicking Mix' was a tape she had childishly made when she was twelve and angry at the world, fast forward five years and the songs were still of a comfort to her. Even if she had to hide the name of the tape from anyone in the nearby vicinity.
"I'm meeting up with Steve tonight, we're all going to a bonfire. It'd be a good way for you to meet the kids at school?" Nancy offered, biting her lip.
"Eh," she brushed off, waving her hand in the air and closing her eyes again.
"You're only here for a few months, Ringo," Nancy pointed out, "you may as well make the best of it."
"If I go near a large fire right now, I may get tempted to throw myself into it," Ringo huffed, rolling around onto her stomach, flipping her long, fluffy blonde hair over her shoulder.
"It's either that or staying here with Mike and his gang of geeks playing Dungeons and Dragons," she replied in a sing-song voice, looking through her drawers for an outfit for the night.
"You were even dorkier than he was at that age!" She laughed, recalling the time when the girls would dress up in ridiculous fantasy outfits and parade around the house with toy swords.
Sighing once more, Ringo pulled herself up to a sitting position before standing upright, heading towards her suitcase which was stuffed into the corner.
"I hope you have other friends there, I don't want to third wheel with you and Steven," Ringo sounded out as she opened up her case, sifted through the large mound of her clothes.
"First of all, will you unpack that already? Second of all, Barb will be there and third, it's Steve."
"Unpacking would be a sign of defeat," she refuted stubbornly, prompting Nancy to roll her eyes.
"So, Ringo," Karen began, smiling happily at the younger girl, "are you all excited for your first day at school tomorrow?"
"I'd literally rather lick a dirty tyre," she replied, with a sweet smile to lessen the blow before shoving another forkful of peas into her mouth.
"Our tyres out there are looking rather grimy if you want to have a go at it," Ted interjected, chuckling to himself, which was cut off by a swift glare from Karen.
"Mom," Nancy spoke up, "I wanted to take Ringo to Barb's tonight so they could meet. Is that alright?"
"I don't know, honey," she mulled it over, "are you gonna be late? It's a school night."
"Not for me, if those tyres have anything to do with it," Ringo cut in, causing Mike to giggle into his plate as he shoved the food around.
"Ringo," she reprimanded, then turning back to Nancy.
"You're going to that bonfire tonight, aren't you?" Mike whispered to his cousin.
"Yep," she nodded her head.
"Knew it," he hissed, smirking wildly. "Can you push her into it?" He nodded his head towards Nancy.
"I think if we gave her to the fire, the fire would soon give her back," she raised her eyebrows comically, causing him to laugh again.
Mike Wheeler had always looked up to his cousin. She was always the coolest in his eyes, always so chill and laid back, never letting anything affect her. His friends had always held childhood crushes on her, particularly when she accompanied them in the basement to join in on their roleplaying games.
"You don't want Ringo going to school without knowing anyone, do you?" Nancy moaned, "we'll be back at eleven. Tops!"
"Fine," her mother sighed tiredly, giving in and throwing her husband another glare for not offering his opinion even once.
Ringo had to eventually borrow a jacket from Nancy, who had laughed hysterically when her cousin came out of the bathroom wearing only a band t-shirt, shorts and boots.
"You are going to freeze to death! It's October!" Nancy cackled again, opening her closet and searching for a moment. She took out a coat and handed it over.
Nancy had promised that even with the coat, she would freeze in the shorts. But alas, Ringo was nothing if not stubborn, and insisted it was only a little cold air, she would be fine.
When eight o'clock approached, Nancy and Ringo shouted a goodbye to the rest of the family. They walked silently down the sidewalk until they reached the corner, where Steve's car was parked exactly where he said it'd be.
Steve got out right away, rounding the car to meet Nancy. His eyes hadn't even glanced over to Ringo, who stood there awkwardly while they shared a kiss.
Unfortunately for her, she was starting to understand what Nancy meant. Her hands were tucked into her armpits as her body began to shiver from the cold. The longer she stood there, the more she would shake, and the more frustrated she'd become.
"Alright!" She shouted finally, breaking the two apart as if they had been zapped. "He's not going off to war we're going out, get in the damn car!"
Nancy flushed in embarrassment, moving around Steve and rushing to the passenger side. But her boyfriend however, was in no such rush, looking offended that she had broke them off.
"Who are you?" He asked, his eyes narrowed as he gave her a quick once over.
"Ringo, Nancy's cousin," she answered, pushing aside her manners and moving towards the back seat to get inside the car.
"What kind of name is Ringo?" He asked cheekily, scoffing and finally returning to the drivers side as she got in.
There was another couple in the backseat along with her, the girl looked at her as if she were dog shit on her shoe.
"Tommy, nice to meet you," the boy greeted, holding his hand out and grinning flirtatiously.
"Ringo," she offered reluctantly, shaking his hand before quickly dropping it and turning to look out the window.
"Ringo? Like that dude's name from the Beatles?" She bristled at his emphasis on the gender of said member.
"Yes," she simply stated, not giving him an opening to continue.
"But aren't you a girl?"
"No," she looked at him as if he had said the most shocking thing, suddenly faking an English accent, "I am Ringo Starr. I just look really great for my age and decided long blonde hair looked good on me."
"Jesus," he muttered in response, while Nancy had held back a giggle and even Steve's lips upturned in amusement. "Well aren't you just prickly like a cactus?"
Ringo didn't answer, she was getting bad vibes from their entire group - Steve included. In truth, while some people tended to shy away when they were uncomfortable, Ringo was the exact opposite - and became rather 'prickly', as he had put it.
Nancy let out a small sigh as she watched half of her school year drool over the new girl. Truly, she didn't know why Ringo would be so reluctant to meet everyone - because instead of treating her like the new, weird kid, they fawned over her like a new toy.
Ringo was pretty, in a classic way that Nancy wished she was able to master. Even growing up, all the boys in the playground had wanted to play with the cool girl, and only ever asked Nancy when they were asking what her cousin's name was.
She didn't hate her for it, because Ringo had never once taken advantage of it. Every time someone had tried to tug Ringo away to play on the swings, Ringo dragged Nancy along. If they talked in a group and Nancy had spoken without anyone else hearing, her cousin would always acknowledge what she said. There were countless sleepovers as pre-teens spent with Ringo reassuring Nancy that she was even prettier than her, and that boys were stupid and only attracted to confidence.
It was also why Nancy would never let go of her friendship with Barb, no matter how much Tommy and Carol tried to force her to. She had learned that lesson from Ringo from a young age. Friends over boys, always.
Justin Kercher was in the midst of asking Ringo out, and when Nancy had noticed her cousin making wide eyes at her, she rushed to her safety.
"Ringo! Come meet my friend!" She interrupted their conversation, Ringo sighing with relief and waving a quick goodbye to Justin.
"God, thank you so much," she whispered to her, prompting a fit of giggles to erupt from the two.
"This is my best friend Barb," Nancy introduced the two, secretly sneaking a glance around to see where her boyfriend had run off to.
"Hi!" They both greeted with a smile, "wow, I love your outfit!" Ringo added, eliciting a humble chuckle from Barb, cheeks reddened slightly.
"Thanks! I love yours too!"
"No you don't, I'm so cold right now my ass cheeks have frozen together into one giant cheek," she laughed off.
"Hey babe," a voice purred into Nancy's ear, arms wrapping around from behind. Nancy smiled and leaned into his touch as he peppered kisses down her neck.
Barb and Ringo made eye contact before simultaneously gagging, which Steve rolled his eyes at.
"Hey what's that freak doing here?" He asked out of nowhere. The girls followed his eye line, Nancy sighing when she noticed Jonathan Byers was the object of his insult.
"'Freak'?" Ringo echoed, narrowing her eyes.
"Oh boy," Nancy whispered, pulling away from Steve and standing beside Barb, not wanting to get involved in the coming conflict.
"Did I stutter?" He raised his eyebrows at her, giving her a once over and crossing his arms over his chest.
"No, but your mouth is so tightly packed with shit I wouldn't judge you if you had," she mimicked his pose, standing in front of him and tilting her head back to see his face from her height.
"By all means, if you want to defend him, let him give you a ride home instead."
"I might just do that, because your car," Ringo stepped closer, their chests almost touching as she spat her words, "smells like a ballsack that hasn't been washed in a year."
Steve's face contorted, in anger or surprise he wasn't sure, his eyes couldn't help but follow the girl as she turned and stomped her way across the open field to Jonathan, who was standing by himself, all the while muttering under her breath calling him a 'big bird looking son of a bitch'.
He had never been spoken to like that before, at least, never by a girl and to his face.
"Hi!" Ringo was greeting from the other side of the field. "I'm Ringo Wheeler!"
Jonathan was startled, his eyes wide as his gaze scraped over the stranger now in front of him.
"U-uh, like the-" he stuttered in nervousness.
"The guy from the Beatles? Yeah. I get that a lot," she sighed in exasperation, forcing a smile anyway.
"I was actually going to say like the rapid dog that runs along down Maple Street," he smiled softly, completely taking her by surprise. Ringo smiled in appreciation and let out a chuckle.
"Yeah, my owners let me off my leash tonight," she carried along with it.
"I'm Jonathan Byers," he offered his hand out, which she shook. "Wheeler? Like Nancy and Mike?"
"Yeah, they're my cousins. I'm staying with them for a while," she explained.
"Oh," he said dumbly, not sure of how to continue the conversation. Thankfully, Ringo did instead, and lead the majority of the conversation so it never had a dull moment. That was how the rest of the night went, the two sitting by the bonfire and discussing everything from Star Wars to music.
"Ringo!" Nancy called out, breaking them from their bubble. "Are you coming home with us? We've got to be back by eleven!"
She hesitated, not all that eager to get in a car with Big Bird and his evil sidekicks.
"I can give you a ride home," Jonathan asked suddenly, causing Nancy's eyes to widen. "I-I mean, if you want."
"Really?" Ringo beamed happily, nodding her head in agreement. "Yeah, if you don't mind! Nancy I've got a ride home, give Big Bird a kiss goodnight for me!"
"Um... how am I going to explain that we went to Barb's if I come home without you?" Nancy pointed up.
"Ugh!" Ringo groaned, dragging herself up off the ground and turning to her cousin, "I'm coming. See ya later, Jonathan!"
"Bye!" He murmured quietly, waving his hand.
"Nancy?" Ringo called out, around a half hour after they had settled into bed.
Her cousin, who was just after falling asleep, groaned and turned around in her bed.
"What?" Her voice grumbled, pushing her sleeping mask up to her forehead.
"Why are you with Steve?" Ringo rolled around onto her stomach, tucking her pillow underneath her chin.
"Ringo," she whined, pulling her mask back down. "He's not that bad, okay?"
"He's a complete cliché!" Ringo complained, "I bet he's the school bully and everything!"
"No that would be Tommy," Nancy sighed, "you don't have to like him, but just be nice to him, please? For me?"
Ringo only hummed in reply, refusing to promise anything.
Hi hi! I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter!
I had this idea and couldn't get it out of my head, so now I'm writing it and seeing how it goes.
Just for some back story, I've seen a couple of fics paint Nancy as a bitch or annoying (no shade to anyone), because as much as I love Stranger Things - they show kinda ruined her character and her potential. I want this book to be filled with loving female friendships.
Have a nice day and I hope you enjoy the book!