CHAPTER ONE

In which life takes a complete 360

met·a·mor·pho·sis [met-uh-mawr-fuh-sis] : any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.

It all started on the day I came back from Brazil. A really long, expensive, totally outrageous and fun holiday that left me in a cloud of utmost euphoria and swimming in a sea of my own hormones. The hormones, I guess, had to be from the insane flirting (and kissing) experience I had with beautiful, tanned, toned and debauched Brazilian guys who were so in awe of me that one wanted to elope with me and the others begged me to stay longer.

I mean, I know that wherever I go, people immediately fall in love with me, I can't help it that's just how I am, but these gorgeous guys really shocked me because they were really taken with me. I mean, really. I was flattered but I wasn't ready for anything serious like eloping. Which would be hard to explain to my parents and to other people depending on me. I can't exactly just elope and then call my parents dropping a bomb like 'Hey! Mom, Dad, remember that guy Estefan? Well, I just eloped with him because we're totally in love with each other but don't worry about me, alright? Oh, by the way, now I'm knocked up with his baby because if you're married to him, you'll be knocked up too!'.

Like, hello! I'm only seventeen but I guess that does not matter when people look at me and just marvel at the absolute power I yield because I am Rhonda Wellington Lloyd. Yes, the one and only. The heiress to a multi-billion dollar fortune and the owner of three new sports cars, a clothing line and a cute little puppy named Bobo.

Okay, I am guilty for naming my dog Bobo, after being sober from the margaritas I gulped the night I got my dog I realised that Bobo is a pretty stupid and ugly name. Furthermore, I learnt from my friend Tessa who is a Filipina, that Bobo actually means stupid in Tagalog, one of the main languages spoken in the Philippines. Let me tell you, to protect my dog from humiliation all caused by myself who gave him a literally stupid name, I will absolutely not, under any circumstances, bring Bobo to the Philippines.

Yes, I do have a heart.

I'm getting side-tracked, so I came back from Brazil after months of heavy partying and playing nice with the rest of the rich and famous and guess what I came home to? A really sad Bobo and an envious best friend, Nadine, who told me that someone had majorly changed during the summer. I had really no idea who but apparently that certain someone has been the talk of everybody in town, even extending to social networking sites like Facebook. This of course, got my attention.

As soon as I unpacked and took the amazing clothes I hauled from Brazil from my pink Louis Vuitton luggage I immediately dialled Nadine with my red iPhone. "So, what's the scoop? What's so important that you had to make a costly overseas call only for the staff to answer and tell you I wasn't there?" Bobo jumped on the bed and I scratched his little tummy which he seemed to like.

"Uh, who's this?" a childish voice from the other line whispered. Oh, crap, Nadine's brother Charlie.

"Oh, hey, Charlie! Could you pass the phone to your sister? It's me, Rhonda!" I chirpily replied to the six year old kid. A kid who looked exactly like Nadine when she was his age but had this brilliant maturity level that often surprised adults during dinner parties and other social events.

"Whatever," he muttered. So much for mature. I heard him scream in the background, "Nadine! Rhonda's on the phone!" Then I heard him mumble as I strained to hear if Nadine's approaching, "She's probably going to gossip with you about boys again. However, I don't see anything that interesting about us anyway."

"Hey!" I yelled, appalled that a six year old thought that's all his sister and I do in our spare time. We do talk about important stuff too! Like economics, world hunger and politics… Wait, have Nadine and I actually discussed those things?

Eventually I heard a thud, which meant that Charlie dropped the phone and run off to be mature somewhere else. Thank goodness.

All of a sudden I heard shallow breathing, reminiscent of scary movie phone calls, then , "Hey, chica! Are you home already?"

I nodded then figuring Nadine could not see me I said, "Yeah," and dropped to my bed, exhausted. Bobo followed suit and laid down on the bed, why was he so tired when all he did was lounge around the house all day?

Suddenly, the ten hour flight was taking a toll on my travel weary body and I sighed a happy sigh as the comforter swallowed me whole. It was good to be home. Sure, the hotel was nice and all but nothing could compare to the feeling of being home. Having a look around at my large room with shiny teak floors and walls painted with the colour scheme of pink and brown, I smiled happily and continued. "Yes, I am definitely home. So, are you going to tell me whatever it is you were going to tell me, because I really don't like the suspense?"

"It's really going to shock you!" she said excitedly. "But on, second thought, I don't think I should say anything. You should really see for yourself. You'll find out soon enough, tomorrow to be exact." The tone of her voice made me suspicious. What was going on?

I sat up, trapping the phone between my cheek and my shoulder. "Why are you making this more suspenseful than it already is? I wanna know! As your best friend, don't I have the right to know from you all the salacious gossip being passed around while I wasn't in town?"

"It's more fun if you see for yourself tomorrow," she sang.

"But Na—"

She hung up on me. She hung up on me! The nerve of the girl! I wanted to dial again but figured she still wouldn't really give me an answer. Nadine can be pretty persistent when she wants to so I would really have been just wasting my time but as I look back on it now, maybe knowing about it would have prepared me for what would have happened the next day; the first day of my sophomore year.

Being really really tired and starved from my flight (what? You expected me to eat airline food? Didn't think so), I got up from my bed, changed into a tank top and pajama bottoms, ordered food to be brought up to my room, eat said food and then within two shakes of my lamp's tail I was fast asleep. The earliest I have ever slept in a long time, 4:36 PM. I didn't wake up until the next day…

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The next day, I woke feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, kind of what I think an ecstatic popstar feels like in the morning. Stretching my arms, I thought of how coffee would be awesome at that moment. I noticed it was just 6:05 and I grinned knowing that most of the people in the mansion, except for the morning staff, were still asleep.

I pulled the immaculate white covers off me carefully so that Bobo won't wake up as well then tiptoed to my ginormous walk-in closet that had everything from Oriental amber earrings to skinny jeans, from Prada to Anna Sui to Fendi. It contained only the latest and greatest fashion picks; clothes, shoes, accessories and makeup. This was what I have always loved about being an heiress. Oh, the perks of being a rich daughter. Let me count the ways…

I breathed in the scent of newly arrived leather and squealed happily when I saw the stunning and just wonderful pair of Bonomo from the Autumn/Winter collection of Manolo Blahnik. I could just die of fashion bliss! I tried them on and they fit perfectly. At least, I had the shoes picked out for the day.

Next, I went to the clothes section of the closet and picked up the silver Universal Remote that sat atop the long, shiny, black countertop that stretched from one end of the closet to the other. Underneath the countertop are drawers filled with makeup and jewellery organised by color and occasion. I usually choose cheap but funky jewellery for school so that if I lose any, I could just shrug and say 'So what? It only cost me twenty bucks'. And so I headed for the section and chose red, dangling earrings shaped like ribbons and pulled out my "Going to School" make up kit consisting of concealer, foundation, lipstick and eyeshadow, all from MAC.

After that, I pressed the touchscreen icon that said 'Clothes' and soon the seemingly ordinary gold-metallic wall opposite the countertop parted to reveal a circulating rack of clothing, moving at a suitable pace for me to see what I would like to wear for the day.

I eyed a tight red Angora sweater that have never been worn before and hot black pants that just appealed to me to match the black and white shoes. Since it was extra chilly that day, I saw on the Universal Remote that it was 36.7 degrees Fahrenheit, I took a white trench coat with gold accents.

I saw going to look so kickass but immediately realised that the gifts for my friends that I bought from Brazil was still marinating in my bag so I called someone to unpack the rest of my stuff and wrap the gifts and put them in a bag altogether. With that done, I was content with what I had achieved and saw that it was only 6:37. I sighed. It was still early so I dawdled in the shower, I scrubbed, shampooed, plucked, shaved, waxed; all the nasty things that one does in the shower to look and smell good.

It was 7:15 when I got out of the shower and by then I was impatient and frustrated. I hate to admit it but I was definitely curious as to what Nadine was so excited about. I could not think of a single juicy gossip that would require her to keep it from me so that I could "see for myself". What did that mean?

So, by the time the chauffeur drove the white S-Class Mercedes Benz car pulled around in front of the mansion, I had already eaten my heart-healthy breakfast which consisted of scrambled egg whites, toast and Columbian coffee, packed all the stuff I needed for school, was dressed in the outfit I had chosen, styled my long dark hair and applied red lipstick.

After all this preparation, you may wonder why I actually just go to public school, East Farley High School. One part of it is because I like to look good wherever I go, we Lloyds always do and the second reason is actually because I started my education in a public school.

By the time I was fourteen, when my parents thought of transferring me to a private school, I already had this unchangeable and unshakeable belief that public school is more beneficial for me than those hoity-toity, posh private schools that people as rich as me were required to go to. I guess I hated the constant 'My kid is better than your kid' drama that my peers in private schools faced. Each one of them just had to be better at everything than other students whether it be playing the violin or reciting Shakespeare in Greek or Latin.

The stressful competition was just not for me so my parents thought it best for me to enter a public school. However, it had to be the best public school in the state and luckily, by some twist of fate, most of my classmates from elementary and middle school made it to East Farley, one of the most prestigious high schools in the state due to the great curricular programs.

And let me tell you, I enjoyed every experience in public school (except experiences with him but more on that later) that I had. The people in public school, my schoolmates, were much more interesting and diverse than those stuck up, snot-nosed, pompous teenagers that occupied private schools who had this innate thought that they were superior than the rest of the world. How I loathed spending time with them during social functions but could not be impolite in fear of my family name being besmirched or ridiculed.

And so, I went to public school, where I learnt to be giving and generous and accept all types of people and try to make friends with everyone. Moreover, not being blinded by prejudice and not judging a book by its cover is essential to becoming a great person. Public school taught me that.

After the staff had packed everything in the car, all that was needed was for me to get in. I got in the car and waved at the people who worked hard at managing my home, the staff, smiled at the driver and told him to stop by Nadine's place.

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"Here's one for you, for you and… Wait, that one is for Helga," I said, jumbling presents around as my friends' eager hands tried to get theirs.

"What did you get me, Princess?" Helga asked as she lifted the box close to her ear and shook it.

"Nothing fragile," I smiled.

"Oh, glad to hear it," she muttered and continued shaking the box. Nadine who already opened her present in the car and adored it, I got her a necklace with a silver chain and a blue pearl pendant, was smiling and watching Helga as she shook the box maniacally.

Phoebe, Sheena and Lila were opening theirs. For Phoebe I got a book she really wanted which has a title I can't pronounce, for Sheena a wristwatch that had a green strap with leaves painted on it and the watch part with pink petals around it and for Lila, I got her a deep green sundress that really brightened her eyes and matched her hair. They all loved their presents and thanked me profusely with such big smiles on their faces that I knew this was one of those really great heiress' perks and that I would by them a million other gifts just to see those expressions again.

In the meantime. Helga was still shaking the box. "You could just open it," I suggested.

"Princess," she hissed, "that would ruin the surprise. You already gave me the gift, and for that I thank you, now lemme do my part by choosing however and whenever I open my present."

I raised my hands up in surrender as all the other girls giggled, Lila even snorted, and Helga gave us scathing look. We got up the steps of the old school building that haven't been used in year and was about to be renovated. We had been meeting up there for the past years.

That was my clique. Girls that could not be any more different from each other but somehow when we are together, we mesh really well. And just to prove how different we are from each other I'll tell you all our characteristics and habits.

Me, Rhonda Lloyd Wellington, the leader. I know that I can be vain, being born with great looks does come with a price, and I'm stubborn and I am horrible when it comes to music but I love to dance. I am popular, no, not because of my money, it is due to my ability to talk to people like I know them and this has really gained me a lot of friends.

I know some, okay, a lot of people think that I'm just popular because I'm pretty and rich but I think there's more to it than that. I could be rich and pretty but be antisocial and have no friends because people will think I'm a snob.

I am tall, have dark hair and hazel eyes that some people think are green while others brown. I also seem to have an all-around tan.

Then there's Helga, who likes to think she's the leader. But, come on, of course, I'm really the leader. Helga is brash, confident, could be menacing but in reality, she's a big softie and a gigantic romantic. Sure, she could be sarcastic and mean but sometimes, I get so exasperated with her because most of us can see it's pretend. She's doing it all to mask something big. Something I'm sure is going to be amazing. We are all just waiting for it.

On another note, Helga has beautiful slightly wavy blonde hair that she always keeps tied up in a ponytail with her beloved pink bow that works for her and stunning blue, Slavic eyes that have been quite unnoticed until we plucked that hideous unibrow that hid them last year. Apparently, boys think she's a knockout now. I think she is too, just not in the same way. The way I see it, Helga is a knockout, in a sense that if you piss her off, she'll knock you out.

Phoebe is a different story, the smartest of all of us, had an early admission to Harvard she did not accept. When asked why, she just shrugged and said she wanted to be with our friends which appreciated and suited us because we wanted to be with her too. Always top of the class, has an unbelievable winning streak in the scholastic decathlon thing that she does and has enormous appeal to the opposite sex. Must be related to the fact that she's a very adorable, petite Asian with exotic eyes that told stories of cherry blossom trees and samurais.

She does not like conflict and can sometimes be perceived us a very quiet girl but I know she's just observant and is probably the only person Helga talks to about everything. Those two have been sewn in the hip since young.

Just like Phoebe, Sheena is a pacifist and is very non-confrontational. She also hates hates hates commercialism and likes to buy items that are hand crafted or are homemade. That's why I got her the flowerwatch, I got it from a boutique. She's also like a really cool hippie but without the drugs and a vegetarian. Being a member of PETA, she totally despised me and only forgave me after I apologized a thousand times about wearing the mink coat when we were young. Now I only wear faux fur because Sheena, I know, will rip my throat out. What a lot of people don't know is that she actually has temper. A huge one, that she can easily hide because it doesn't come out until somebody or someone has gotten her really mad.

And then, there's Lila. Sweet girl, very polite and friendly and to sum her up in one word, really, perfect. Nobody can find a flaw in Lila Sawyer. She is too perfect actually. Nice and caring, compassionate and a great friend. She really is one of those girls that one would love to hate, just because, but then you can't hate her because she's just too nice.

Her red hair and her creamy complexion just adds to her glamour, and even though Helga and her are complete opposites, she is the second most closest person to her. I think she also knows the BIG secret that Helga is yet to reveal. Still, it's Helga's decision, if she's ready, she'll tell us, if not, we certainly won't force her.

Finally, Nadine, similar to Alicia Keys, she is actually a mix of African American and Caucasian blood and the result is beautiful. I know I keep saying my friends are gorgeous but really, they are, makes me kind of sad that I actually have to work at it and it just comes to them naturally.

Nadine is truly spunky and has an attitude, not a bad attitude, an interesting one. We may clash sometimes but we've remained friends since we're young which is blessing because I don't think anyone can ever understand me that way Nadine does. We can almost speak telepathically to each other like most best friends.

I was just thanking God, something I don't do very often, for giving me such a group of great friends when I walked inside our school building and the crowd parted to let us through, it was the same old, same old, and I realised something was missing… or someone.

That was usually the time when Curly would harass me with his suggestive flirting and loads of presents that I don't really need. Now, it used to be that Curly had been intense, confessing his love publically and doing graffiti on the wall saying he loved me, that he got suspended for, but over the years he mellowed down. The big emotional daily confessions lessened, present piles from him got smaller and the flirting still happened, but at a much toned down level. And that day, on the first day of junior year, I wondered if I finally lost his interest and attention after years of ignoring him.

I walked, along the hallways with a confident smile on my face, reasoning that this year would be great, it would just be alright but I have this feeling, in my chest, that things weren't exactly perfect. I was walking with my awesome friends, wearing awesome clothes and all I could think of was where was that guy?

Weren't he supposed to be there? Eager to greet me? Apparently not!

I was really mulling my head over that issue until I saw a cute, tall guy twirling his finger around a girl's hair, a girl who was leaning on the lockers. Not just any girl either, my arch nemesis to be exact, Allegra Harlton, heiress to Harlton airlines and automobiles.

I stopped and I knew all of my friends stopped too. Then I whispered to Helga, who was beside me, "Who's that guy, flirting with Allegra? Is he new?"

She gave me an incredulous look that seemed to say "Are you out of your goddamned mind?". I turned to the rest of them, I knew they all heard what I said, they gave me the same puzzled look that Helga was giving me except one of them. Nadine was smiling knowingly and at the pit of my stomach I knew this was what she didn't want to tell me on the phone the night before. The someone everyone was talking about.

On impulse, I turned to the guy again, he was still twirling Allegra's hair. Probably has a disturbing hair fetish, I thought.

And then I noticed that he had a mop of jet black hair, long, gangly limbs that made him seem like a rockstar and a charming grin, if I was Lila: an ever so familiar grin that made me swallow and choke on my own spit.

Shut up.

Nooooooooo. Freaking. Way.

How could this be?

In a span of one summer, the boy who had loved and adored me and had kissed the ground I walked on for years had changed. Gone was the bowl cut and the chunky glasses, so was that awful t-shirt and pants unsuitable for any human being. In its place was a great haircut, a black polo shirt and jeans that were stylishly baggy secured with a clunky belt. He was taller. More matured looking. Finally growing into that nose and jaw and was showcasing those breath-taking eyes that I have only seen once in my life.

Curly had gone through a complete change.

A metamorphosis, so to speak and it shocked me and rocked me to my very core because in a million years, that's really long time, I would never have predicted this happening.

It made my heart hammer fast in my chest and my hands sweat and made all of the people in that same hallway stare at me weirdly as I'm sure the expression in my face must have been a horrifying one.

A look of pure horror.

There was silence. Nothing but awkward, dramatic, I can hear a pin if it drops silence. It dragged on and I guess the two lovebirds noticed the quiet and glanced up, taking a pause in their flirting session.

I gulped then growled through gritted teeth, "This was what you didn't want to tell me?"

I heard her squeak in return, "It seemed like a good idea at the time, I didn't know it'll be this intense."

"Intense?" Helga scoffed. "So what if Curly's had a growth spurt, got some fashion sense, turned into a total 'hottie', became popular during the summer and is now engaging in 'stimulating' conversation with Allegra Harlton. I could not care less. We're going to be late for class, let's move on."

Now, of course, Helga just had to say it in this loud, patronizing voice that was heard through the deafening silence in the hallway. The two lovebirds who were scanning with their eyes the cause of the silence in the crowd found their target.

Me.

For a moment, he and I locked eyes.

He was… different. He seemed calculating and… just, not really bothered to see me. On the other hand, Allegra, however, the smug bitch, grinned like she won the frickin' Texas Derby or something.

I've got your "man"… she seemed to say with her eyes.

Fine, she could have my leftovers. Or actually, my unwanted meal that suddenly became appealing…

Helga walked on and I sighed, the crowd, along with my four other friends, awaited my next move. Just like a chess game.

He was watching me too. Those eyes he used to hid behind those ugly glasses boring down on me as I decided if this was a big chess game, I would win.

So I smiled, smirked really, at him, at them, at everyone, and it took him aback. It took everyone aback.

And I walked on, passing them by with total confidence. So what?

You moved on, big deal. Like I wanted your attention in the first place.

"Rhonda, I'm so sorry, I honestly th—" I heard Nadine say as all of them tried catch up with me when I was already a distance from the "adorable" couple.

"You know what? It's fine! I'm glad actually, finally that boy is moving on! It's really something isn't it? Good for him! Really!" I said cheerfully but all of them looked unconvinced.

I let out a shaky breath then said softly, "Guys, it's fine, I'm fine, we're all fine. Let's be glad for Curly and get the heck out of this silent hallway."

They all nodded and we headed to class then I think of what I said.

No, it wasn't fine. I despised that his loyalty to me was no more but I couldn't really act like an insolent child and throw a tantrum over it. Put the past behind us and all that. Besides, if he had caught bitchier, skankier fish, who am I to stop him from regretting the fact that he reeled her in.

I am Rhonda Lloyd. I don't ever become sad about some pathetic boy despite what everyone thinks.

I'm a woman. Hear me roar, or at least listen to me as I stomp all the way to my Biology class…