"Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless."
– Jamie Paolinetti
I wasn't hurt. Not really.
Now, you see, I wasn't exactly the type to get all emotional about this sort of thing. No, I much preferred to keep my head up and act like I was absolutely fine. After all, that was the best sort of revenge, not crying to your friends and being a complete baby about the whole thing. Truly, I had known this sort of thing would happen, so really I should have seen it coming. The problem was that I actually hadn't for once, and it was that fact that stung above everything else.
To be honest, Max and I weren't really great for each other, anyway. He wasn't exactly the nice sort of guy, and I wasn't the nice sort of girl, so one couldn't really say that we brought out the best in each other. The worst part about the whole breakup was that Max and I were good friends before the whole dating fiasco, so afterward, it was going to be awkward. This was a fact. We used to go around spray painting the windows of teachers' classrooms, and now we couldn't even so much as speak to each other.
Max had also been my first boyfriend, so my inexperience in relationships was probably a contributing factor to our downfall. Not that I was blaming myself or anything. I was hardly the self-detrimental type.
Instead of coming up to comfort me, though, most of the school just stared at me as I walked down the hallway, which I thought was fairly stupid. If they wanted to say something to me, couldn't they just say it to my face? I was aware that I was slightly intimidating, but it wasn't as if I would actually murder anyone or anything. I was just a freshman, after all.
It was later that afternoon, on the way to lunch, that I finally snapped. This one boy with dreads was staring at me, as if he was trying to figure me out, and I was absolutely sick of it. With a huge scowl, I hissed, "Is there something you want to say, Dreads? Because I suggest you either say it or STOP STARING AT ME." Then I marched off to lunch.
Honestly, I had been dreading this period all day. I was fairly high up in social status, this much was true, but not because I was popular. More like because I knew everything about everyone. It was so easy to learn things about people if you simply sat back and observed. I could ruin someone's social life with the snap of my finger. And on occasion, I did.
So, even though I was fairly high up in status, I didn't really have many friends. Oh, scratch that, I didn't have any friends. Because of this, after I got my food, I went to an empty table and sat down alone.
The first one to approach me was that freak, Sinjin Vampire or whatever his name was. He hovered by the table with a creepy look on his face, as if he was waiting for an invitation or something. As if. I gave him a dark glare. "Go away."
The kid scurried off as quickly as he came.
As always, I sat back and observed. I observed the popular girls, all clustered around their table, perfect smiles painted on their spray-tanned faces. Mentally, I counted them off in my head – Christina Hanaran, Amy Pierce, Violet Sutter. All of them pretty, all of them with perfect, happy smiles on their faces, as if they hadn't a care in the world. It was sickening. On occasion, I just wanted to walk up and pour out my coffee all over their plastic heads.
Doing so would be social suicide, though. I knew that much. In fact, I was at a high enough status that I could probably march right up there and join them, though of course they wouldn't be pleased to have 'actual Goth Jade West' sitting with them. (Of course, I'm not actually a Goth; I doubt they know that, though.) The point was, though, that they were scared of me. Practically everyone was. I had this certain air about me that scared people off, that intimated them, that made them not want to be friends with me. I was completely aware of this, yet I never stopped. It made me invincible. I wanted to be invincible.
My eyes continued to travel to the guys' side of the table, where the reigning king of the popular guys sat – James Holton, to be exact. Beside him were the other two 'popular guys', Eric Wilson and Beck Oliver.
As always, Beck Oliver grinned at me. This was sort of a 'tradition' of ours. Every time he caught my gaze, he would smile at me. It was kind of weird, actually, considering how popular he was, but I never really thought to ask him about it. I just assumed he was just the nice type of guy (which, ironically enough, was not my type), and that was the way he rolled. Obviously he wasn't interested in me. No one was.
The next time I looked back up, though, Beck Oliver was no longer sitting there. My brow creased in confusion and I glanced around quickly, wondering what was going on.
Then I turned to see a synthetically redheaded girl and Beck Oliver standing right beside me.
I did a double take. Who was this kid who was standing here and why was Beck Oliver even here? I raised an eyebrow in confusion, but the girl just sat down, as if she owned the table, and Beck Oliver followed.
Despite my confusion, I still spoke in a cold, calculated voice as I said, "What do you want?"
"To sit here," the redhead piped up. "You looked lonely and Beck and I thought maybe you could use a friend!" Her face was clear, sincere, as if she actually meant what she said. Her innocence exuded from her. I could tell that she wasn't lying. What I didn't get was why? Why did they suddenly care about me? What was even going on?
I simply shrugged. "Well, I'm Jade West."
"We know," Beck chimed in, giving me one of those charming grins again. "I'm Beck Oliver, as you most likely already know, and this is Cat Valentine."
"Hi!" Cat chirped, giving me a slight wave.
"Hello," I said coolly, leaning down to take a bite of my enchilada. I thought quickly through everything I knew about this name – Cat Valentine, freshman, majoring in acting with a minor in singing, weird but insanely talented. Definitely my type of friend. However, Beck was the one I didn't quite get. He was a fantastic actor despite the fact that he was a freshman, popular, and good-looking as well, not that I would ever admit it. Yet he was sitting here as if he had some sort of interest in me.
"You used to have a boyfriend, right?" Cat inquired with a grin. "A cute guy that used to sit with you at lunch? Where did he go?"
Beck stared at me as if he was expecting me to explode, but really, I respected her for asking me instead of simply staring at me as if I was some sort of lab specimen. So instead of exploding, I simply said, "We broke up. He decided it wasn't working anymore."
"Oh." This made Cat look sad, and she reached over and patted my arm. "I'm sorry." Then she glanced around and squealed. "OMG, it's almost time for cotton candy! I'll see you later, Jade and Beck!" She jumped off and ran for the school, leaving me alone with Beck.
"Why are you here?" I asked coolly. Cat seemed like the type to genuinely want to help people, but Beck – he had to have some ulterior motive. There was no way he would sit with me out of the kindness of his own heart.
"Cat wanted to," he said with a shrug. "And, well, I think you're interesting, so maybe I'd just like to get to know you better."
This was beginning to feel more and more like some sort of cheesy romance movie. Who even said chiz like that even more? "I'd like to get to know you better?" What was he, fifty-five? I just crossed my arms and stared at him. Instead of freaking out like some of those girly boys, like Shapiro, he just stared back. It was honestly slightly intimidating. Instead of focusing on this, though, I just said, "Who says I'm going to give you that chance?"
"I know you will," he retorted after a moment. "Because you're lonely and face it, Jade West, you can't be a loner your whole life. Other people were made so that you could have relationships with them."
Relationships. The word stung me like a slap in the face. Every other relationship I'd had raced through my mind – my ex-best friend, Christina, who had quickly become Queen Popular, Max, who had randomly decided I wasn't worth it, my father, who hated me and everything I'd chosen to become... all of the faces raced through my head at the speed of light, and I scowled, keeping my mouth in a straight line. "I don't need anyone," I retorted in a clipped tone. Quickly, I got to my feet and turned to leave.
Beck Oliver grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. (He was stronger than I'd thought, I realized.) With a frown, he told me, "I'm sorry if I offended you, Jade. I just... I want us to be friends."
All of my arguments suddenly felt null and void. Perhaps this would be the perfect revenge on Max, on Christina, on everyone who had ever hurt me. With a small, appraising smile, I just nodded my head. "Fine. Whatever. Don't expect me to be totally nice or fluffy or whatever though. That is not my style."
"I already have Cat for all of that," Beck pointed out with a laugh. "She is a nice girl, though. Don't hurt her or anything."
"Wasn't planning on it," I informed me icily. "Is that all you were going to say, or were you planning on kidnapping me too?"
He ran a hand through his hair, something I'd noticed that he did quite a lot. With a devious smile, he said, "Little girl, I've lost my puppy and I have some candy in my car. Would you come with me to find the puppy? Maybe I'll give you some candy afterward..."
"Get me sour apple flavored candy and I'll think about it," I tossed back with a smirk.
Beck Oliver just grinned and shook his head. "You are one of a kind, Jade West."
After school, Max approached me. Part of me had been expecting this, thinking he would probably confront me about eating with Beck; the other part of me thought that I had unrealistic expectations. Apparently, my expectations were spot on, because the first thing out of his mouth was "Why are you eating lunch with Beck Oliver?"
"Why do you care?" I retorted in a patronizing tone. "You broke up with me, kid. You don't get to be all jealous and chiz."
Max just gave me one of his infamous dark looks in return and crossed his arms across his chest. "That's how it's going to be, huh? You're going to be a jerk about all of this? Very mature, Jade."
"Very mature, Maxy," I mimicked, then darkened my glare. "I don't want to talk to you. Go away."
Max just threw up his hands and walked away. It was only then that I noticed that he'd vandalized my locker, written all kinds of things that I preferred not to say out loud. I muttered "jerk"under my breath, then said in an undertone, "Very mature, Max."
"What happened to your locker?" Cat said cheerily, skipping up to stand beside me.
"My jerk ex-boyfriend is what happened," I muttered under my breath. "Can you go get some wet paper towels from the bathroom?"
"They have wet paper towels in the bathroom?" Cat asked, looking completely awed. "I only see dry ones whenever I go in there!"
I cursed under my breath, wondering why I was the one who got stuck with all of this insanity. Though, if I was telling the truth, I knew that being friends with Cat and Beck was a heck of a lot better than being a loner. With a frown, I told her, "You run the paper towels under the water from the sink and that gets them wet."
"Oh." Cat considered this. "That's a really good idea, Jade! You're so smart."
"I know." I watched as she skipped off to the bathroom and sighed, thinking absently about how my life had changed so much over the course of a day. I'd gone from being comfortable, albeit unhappy, with Max, to gaining the friendship of two unlikely people.
Cat skipped back to me with a grin. "I brought three," she squeaked, handing me one of the soaked paper towels. "Just in case you needed one."
"Cat, I said run it under the water, not saturate it completely and then add more water," I complained, scowling at my cupped hands that were now soaking wet as well.
"Oh. Sorry!" Cat actually did look really sorry, which made me feel bad about yelling at her.
"It's fine," I sighed. Upon seeing Robbie Shapiro, I smiled devilishly, then draped the paper towel over my soiled locker, walked over and shook my wet hands like a dog, spraying the weird child with water. Once I was done, my hands were almost dry and Robbie had water droplets all over his stupid glasses and clothes. He stared at me with wide eyes.
"Now I can't see!" Robbie griped, rubbing his glasses. "What is your problem?"
"Your face is my problem," I snapped back, returning to my locker.
Cat didn't seem too pleased, either. She dashed over to Robbie and cleaned off his glasses, then handed them back to him. "Sorry about that," Cat apologized under her breath. "I think she's just having a hard time! She didn't mean it."
"I'm sure she is," Robbie said with a frown, but his eyes sparkled as he looked at Cat, as if she was some sort of angel or something. I rolled my eyes. So sappy.
"Cat!" I called, interrupting their little eye-contact session. "I need to get this chiz off my locker before it permanently dries there."
"Okay." Cat grinned. "See you later, Robbie! Have a good day!"
"You too," Robbie replied, but he stood there, looking kind of dazed, for like five minutes before he walked off. I simply rolled my eyes and handed Cat one of the soaking paper towels, and we got to cleaning. I couldn't say that the words didn't sting, though. As I cleaned, I had to repeat to myself over and over in my head that I wasn't worthless, I wasn't a jerk, I wasn't any of what the locker said I was. I was sarcastic, suave, smart, and talented, unlike the majority of the people at my school. Unlike Max.
"I didn't vandalize your locker," Max said sharply, glaring at me and crossing his big, stupid arms. "I can't believe you would think so low of me, Jade."
"We used to vandalize chiz all the time," I said casually, raising an eyebrow. "It's hardly 'jumping to conclusions' if I have prior reason to believe that you would do it." This much, I knew, was true. He thought nothing of vandalism, of damaging others' property, of hurting other people, so he could hardly be mad at me for assuming he would do it to me. After all, he'd proven through our recent breakup that I was no different than any other girl to him.
"I didn't do it," Max repeated, looking incredibly irritated. "Even if we broke up, I wouldn't vandalize your locker and write horrible things about you. I mean, you are a jerk, but you're not worthless."
"Thanks," I drawled. "That makes me feel all better. Who did vandalize my locker, then, since you obviously seem to know everything?"
"I don't know!" Max threw up his hand. "Why don't you figure it out yourself, Miss Nancy Drew?"
I fumed in silence for a moment, but then Dreads was in front of me with some guy by his side. With a frown, he said, "You said you'd been vandalized?"
"Yeah," I replied with a shrug. "What's it to you?" He looked genuinely curious, which was puzzling – why would this guy that I didn't even know, that I'd been nothing but rude to, be curious about my locker? This week was getting weirder by the moment.
"I'm Andre," he introduced himself abruptly. "And this is my buddy Josiah." Josiah tipped his hat with a cheesy grin. Andre continued, "Two days ago, we came back from Piano to find that someone had vandalized his locker and written nasty things, the worst of which being that they were going to poison him."
"I've been eating packaged foods ever since," Josiah confessed, looking slightly scared, though that seemed kind of out of place on this blonde guy that seemed like he would be pretty confident. This surprised me – I'd thought that it had been a friend of mine playing a joke on me, or an enemy trying to rile me up, but if Josiah had been attacked as well – well, it was either a coincidence or some sort of sick person rampaging the school. What I didn't get, though, was why he would choose Josiah and me. I'd never even met the kid before. What could possibly tie the two of us together?
"That's weird," I said simply, leaning back against my locker and crossing my arms. "Imagine that it was the same person?"
He and Andre exchanged a glance, but then Josiah simply said, "Nah, it couldn't be. That would be crazy."
"I can't think of anyone that would do that," Andre agreed. "Not to mention Josiah's pretty well-liked. I can't think of anyone who would want to kill him." He didn't mention that there were plenty of people who would love to kill me. I try not to dwell on this.
"Probably just a coincidence," I responded with a frown, and the two of them just nodded in agreement and turned to walk off.
Then Andre turned around slightly and gave me a wave. "See you around, Jade West."
At the end of the day, Beck Oliver walked up to me, a slight smile on his face, and asked me, "Hey, you wanna hang out or something after school?"
"With Cat?" I inquired casually. Part of me wanted her to be there, while part of me didn't.
"Nah, her brother swallowed a toy car or something." Beck rolled his eyes. "So it'd just be me and you. Unless, of course, you're uncomfortable with that."
"I'm fine with it," I snapped. "What about all of the popular girls? They don't want to hang out with you?"
"Oh, sure they do; I'm hot, after all," Beck said with a smirk, confidence exuding from his face. "But they're boring." He gave me a lilting smile.
I decided to milk this offer for all it was worth. "Buy me coffee," I demanded, raising an eyebrow.
"Fine," he relented. By this time, we were nearly at his locker. As he turned around to open it, his face paled. Curiously, I stepped beside him, only to see the all-too-familiar letters painted all over his locker – worthless, weak, ugly – all of the horrible things that had been on my locker, duplicated on his.
"Unbelievable," I muttered, my fingertips tracing the letters. "That's three."
"Three?" Beck asked, seeming to have calmed down already. Then again, I'd never really seen him look scared about anything, anyway.
"Yeah," I replied absently. "Me, Josiah, you. That's three. Three lockers vandalized, all with the same things written on them. It can't be a coincidence."
Beck just nodded, grabbed his books, and then walked off. I followed after a moment. But, with one last glance back at the locker, five words jumped out at me.
I'm going to kill you.
At his house, we'd just lounged on the couch laughing at dumb old TV shows and eating popcorn until his mom showed up and kicked us out. Once I got home, though, I glanced in the mirror at my stereotypical brown hair, pulled back behind my head, and my typical black shirt, dark jeans, and combat boots. Not intimidating enough.
Of course, my mom picked that moment to materialize behind me. Running a hand through my hair (like Beck often did), I said quietly, "I think I want to do something to make myself more edgy. You know, streak my hair, get a piercing, something."
"You already are edgy," my mom informed me, looking uncomfortably at my dark shirt and jeans. "You scare me enough already."
"Untrue," I retorted, frowning at my boring hair. "My hair is so boring, Mom. I can hardly expect to get respect at school if I look like some mousy little background dancer."
"You look like a star to me," my mom offered.
"Sure." I glanced back in the mirror. Tomorrow, I vowed, I would go to the hair salon and ask them to streak my hair in various colors, no matter what my mom said. It was time I started living my own life and changing myself so that I wasn't the same girl that idiot Max had dated.
(And maybe, if I was intimidating enough, this creeper wouldn't threaten me or any of my friends.)
A/N: So yes, this is a multichap (I will update my others at some point shush) and it is AU and quite obviously eventually Beck/Jade, since it's set pre-Pilot and kind of follows the canon. It will have a lot of Beck/Jade/Cat/Robbie/Andre friendship, though, since in The Great Ping Pong Scam we see that they were all friends pre-Pilot. And yeah, we've got an 'interesting subplot'.
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