Authors: Olivia Lancaster
“No problem, nerd,” he replied, loudly enough for his friends that were around, that I hadn’t noticed, to all start bursting out laughing.
My face immediately went a bright shade of crimson and I ran into the hall, the echoes of the hot guy’s laughter still echoing in my ears.
Tears threatened to fill my eyes, but I forced them back. How could I have been so stupid? Of course no guy like that would have been interested in someone like me. He was sexy, he probably came from some rich family, it must have been obvious that I wasn’t nearly good enough for him.
I felt ashamed for having had those feelings when I looked at him. He obviously didn’t feel the same way about me. Of course not. I was a plain-looking, slightly on the chubby side fourteen year old. I wasn’t going to be the girl hanging off the arm of a guy who could have passed for a Greek god.
My heart plummeting towards the ground, I made my way up the stairs and found the math class. I knew I shouldn’t have let it bother me, but that sexy guy had just completely ruined my first day at Moreton Academy.
The next day I saw a poster on the community notice board by the front of the school. Track and field team tryouts were on Wednesday. I was never going to be a runner, that was for sure. Not with my shape. I wondered how serious you had to be about sports here. I liked throwing the shot put when I was in elementary school, and also the long jump was fun, though I wasn’t any good at it.
Maybe the school had a volleyball team. I was pretty good at that. Still, I decided I was going to try out for the track team and I’d see what happened.
After the final bell went on Wednesday, where I made sure to sit at the same spot in science class and waited for everyone else to leave before I did, so I wouldn’t run into that guy, I went to the gym change room then headed outside. I took one look at the group waiting for the track stuff to start and wanted to turn back and pretend I’d never wanted to do this. I was the shortest girl by at least three inches. Every single one of them were rack thin, with the ultimate runner’s bodies, and I was pretty sure if they pulled up their shirts a good chunk of them would have six packs. This was a huge mistake. Of course I shouldn’t be here.
I was about to turn back when I heard a whistle behind me.
“Good, you’re all here,” boomed a loud voice. I turned to see a tiny Asian lady, definitely no taller than five feet, coming towards us with a clipboard, dressed in black and red shorts and a polo shirt emblazoned with the school logo.
“Welcome to the track and field team here at Moreton Academy. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mrs. Chang. I’ll be your coach.”
She had a surprisingly strong voice for such a tiny body. I’d have been surprised if she weighed even ninety pounds.
“Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m not here to mess around. You’re all welcome to be on the team, you’re all welcome to train. But this is an academy of excellence, and if I don’t think you’re putting any effort in, if your grades begin to slip or if you’re simply not up to scratch, you’re not going to competitions. However, it’s my job as coach to help you get there, and by the end of the year I want each and every one of you to have gone to at least one competition event. Now, when I point to you, I want you to tell me your name, and the sport – or sports – you want to do.”
There was no denying it, Mrs. Chang was efficient. She immediately pointed to one of the girls to her left.
“Um, I’m Marcie. I’d like to do long distance running.”
“Good. You,” Mrs. Chang continued, pointing to the guy next to her as she scribbled Marcie’s name and sport down on her clipboard.
“John. Long and high jump.”
Eventually she got to me.
“Tina, and shot put please,” I squeaked, my face going red even as I said it.
“Good. So we have… six runners, four jumpers, and two throwing sport athletes,” she noted, going through her list. “I’ll be putting you into groups and organizing separate training regimes for those of you in different sports. If I had my way, we’d have three separate coaches, but apparently the lacrosse and field hockey teams here are considered more important than us. Anyway, today, we start by training together. I want you to start by running two laps of the field to warm up,” the coach finished, motioning to the football field behind us. The lacrosse team were out practicing, the twenty-odd fit men all decked out in their gear and tossing the little rubber ball around like it was nothing.
I had never been much of a runner, but I hadn’t expected to be left behind just as much as I was when everyone else suddenly took off.
This was such a bad idea. I shouldn’t have done this. I shouldn’t have come here,
I thought to myself, repeating the refrain over and over in my head as I jogged along, forcing myself to put one foot in front of the other. When everyone else began to lap me, the embarrassment got even worse. I wanted to cry. After I’d finished my first lap, I was panting, breathing heavily. I was obviously way out of shape.
“That’s fine, you seem warmed up,” Mrs. Chang told me as I went past her, and I shot her a grateful look as the others were all finishing up their second lap.
“Thanks,” I panted, resting my hands on my knees, trying to get my breath back. I wasn’t sure if my legs hurt more, or my ego.
Five minutes later we were split up into groups. The runners were sent on a run around the school ground, which Mrs. Chang said was exactly 1.2 miles long. The rest of us were taken to the field next to the football field where the lacrosse practice was happening, which was set up with a sand pit and a circle for discus and shot put.
“I don’t have a high jump area set up today, so the four of you are going to be doing long jump today,” Mrs. Chang told them. Go warm up, I’m going to get the shot put balls from inside.”
Myself and the other guy who wanted to do shot put – who reminded me suspiciously of The Mountain from Game of Thrones – looked at each other while the three guys and one girl started practicing their long jumps, leaping into the sand pit effortlessly, like their muscles were made of elastics.
Luckily, it only took Mrs. Chang about two minutes to go back and get the shot put balls. She dropped one at each of our feet.
“Tina, I want to see you throw first.”
“Ok,” I replied, hoping I sounded way more confident than I felt. The other guy who wanted to do this could probably throw me further than I could throw the 8 pound ball. I picked up the smaller of the two that had been dropped in front of me and made my way to the round circle. I took my two steps and threw the ball as far as I could. It sailed maybe ten feet.
“Well, if nothing else, there’s room for improvement,” Mrs. Chang told me, then motioned at the other guy to have a try.
With a grunt he picked up his shot put, went over to the circle and almost effortlessly threw the ball at least thirty feet.
“Wow,” I whispered to myself as I heard the ball land on the grass with a soft thud, knowing the earth would have been indented with the shape of the ball.
“Good. I want the two of you to practice on your own. Just get used to the feeling of the ball in your hand for now, then I’ll come back and work on your technique.”
With that Mrs. Chang left myself and the other guy by ourselves, and went back to the jumpers to work with them.
Ten minutes later I hadn’t noticed that the lacrosse players had finished with their practice. I’d learned that the other guy’s name was Pete, and his father had competed in the Olympics in weightlifting. That fact didn’t exactly surprise me. He was taking a breather, sitting off to the side, watching me throw.
Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me.
“Just pretend it’s a vegetable!” someone hollered, and I heard laughter.
I turned around to see that same guy from my science class, surrounded by a couple friends. He still had his Lacrosse gear on, holding his helmet and stick in one hand. A slight gleam of sweat stuck to his forehead that somehow made him seem even sexier, a thought that I forced to the back of my head. What an asshole.
“Excuse me?” I asked, not sure I’d heard him right.
“I said pretend it’s a vegetable. You look like you do your best to avoid them, so you’ll be able to throw it further.”
I turned around and ignored the raucous laughter behind me, but my eyes welled with tears anyway. I picked up the shot put and threw it, determined not to let him see me cry, but as I launched the ball away from me as hard as I could I felt drops of water flying from my face, landing on the dry grass below.
Why does he have to be so mean?
I’d known I shouldn’t have come here. I knew it was a bad idea. It had been a mistake. As soon as the guy and his friends left, I told Pete I was leaving. He tried to get me to stop, but I waved him off as I ran back to the change rooms.
As soon as I burst through the safety of the girls sign I burst into tears. Collapsing in a heap on the floor against the lockers, I let the tears flow.
I didn’t want to be a part of the track and field team anymore.
I didn’t want to go to this school.
I never wanted to see that guy again.
It wasn’t fair. I already knew I didn’t belong. I already knew that I wasn’t gorgeous, blonde, thin and rich. I knew that I wasn’t the type of person that usually went to this kind of school, and I knew that I wasn’t going to fit in and be super popular, ever. But did I really have to have this guy turn my life into a living hell whenever he saw me?
And if I did have a bully, why did he have to be super popular, and absolutely gorgeous? It wasn’t fair. I wrapped my arms around my knees as I felt sorry for myself and cried, tears streaming down my face.
Suddenly, a door on the other side of the change room slammed.
I looked up to see one of the girls I recognized from my table in science class standing in front of me, her black hair soaking wet.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing, I’m fine,” I replied hurriedly, wiping away my tears and scrambling to get up. The only thing that could have possibly made this day worse was getting caught having a cry, and that was exactly what was happening.
“No, you’re obviously not.”
“Fine, I’m not. But I don’t want to talk about it.”
She turned around and went back into the shower stall. I sat back down, resting my head on my knees. I had thought I was going to love this new life, but instead, so far, it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.
Five minutes later the girl came back out from the shower area, completely dressed.
“Hey, thanks,” I told her with a small smile. I didn’t want to talk about it, but I appreciated her asking.
“No problem. I’m Jas, by the way. Short for Jasmyn.”
“Cool, see you in class tomorrow.”
With that Jas left the room and I was left alone once more, with only the dull hum of the HVAC system to keep me company.
I didn’t think the day could get worse, but when I got home my mom told me we were spending the weekend at the Hunt’s place. I didn’t want any more reminders of this new life than I absolutely had to have.
The weekend couldn’t have come fast enough, but sure enough, it finally arrived. I had survived my first week at the Moreton Academy, with only a bruised ego and a bully to show for it.
I had to take the good with the bad though: I wasn’t behind at all, and it looked like my grades were going to stay high if I worked hard. My history teacher also suggested that I might be able to take her AP class a year early.
Saturday morning my mom surprised me with some new clothes, way nicer than what I owned before.
“Next week when we get a chance I’ll take you shopping and we’ll get you an actual new wardrobe, ok?” my mom asked. Naturally, as a fourteen year old, I was super excited. These were Diesel jeans, and a really nice Ralph Lauren shirt she’d gotten me! I’d never owned anything this nice in my life!
The car came to get us around ten and we made our way to the Hunt Estate. Mom told me there were going to be a few other people there, that it was going to be a family barbeque. Great, that was exactly what I needed. More rich people that I didn’t fit in with to be around.
I stared moodily out the car window as we drove to the estate. I could feel my mom’s gaze on me more than once, but I think she sensed I didn’t want to talk about it, and didn’t ask what was the matter. Not that I was going to tell her, anyway.
It was one of those gorgeous Indian summer days, when the sun is out and shining, it’s warm enough to be out without a jacket, and yet the leaves on the trees are already falling easily onto the ground below. When we got out of the car a warm breeze stirred, whipping a strand or two of hair that had escaped my ponytail into my face, and I smiled. I loved this weather. Not too warm, not too cool. Maybe this wasn’t going to be such a bad day after all.
Mr. Andrews greeted us as we entered the lobby, then led us to the backyard, where the sounds of mingling and laughter got louder the closer we got to the open French doors.
As I saw the crowd of fifteen-ish people gathered outside, the nerves began to pile up once more. I had been expecting less than ten people. This was what I considered a full-on party.
“Ah, Samantha, Tina, welcome!” Elton Hunt greeted as he noticed us standing by the entrance, holding a drink in his outstretched hand. “Now things can
get under way now that you’re here.”
Off to one side was the most hardcore, state of the art barbeques I’d ever seen. It had to have at least a dozen dials, and I imagined it was big enough to feed an entire small town. On a small table next to the barbeque was enough food to
feed everyone that was here. I saw steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, corn on the cob, vegetable skewers, and I’m sure there was other stuff I hadn’t noticed.
Straight in front of us was a huge white table, surrounded by a number of white chairs, all wood, all with that ‘this is supposed to look kind of vintage, but obviously cost a ton’ look about it. Two women in summer dresses with huge hats were sitting in a couple of the chairs, both sipping martinis and chatting, eyeing my mom and I as we came by.
About eight men were behind us in the yard playing a game of football, which seemed kind of hilarious seeing as they were all dressed like a Tommy Hilfiger store had just opened next door. Still, they were absolutely going for it.
“Tina, I’d like you to meet my sister, Isabella, and her best friend Anne, along with her daughter Elizabeth. Their sons and husbands are out there playing football, so I’m sure you’ll meet them eventually. Unfortunately my heart condition is keeping me here, where I risk my life by eating a lot of red meat,” he joked, and I shook hands with both women. Isabella had one of those firm handshakes you associate with powerful people, whereas Anne’s was basically the definition of a wet noodle. I wondered how the two became friends, they seemed very different. Isabella seemed friendly and warm, while I noticed Anne wrinkle her nose almost imperceptibly as she looked me up and down. Evidently I didn’t meet whatever standards I was supposed to. Elizabeth and I just kind of smiled at each other, the way girls our age do, and I wondered if she was going to be as snobby as first impressions made her mom seem.
“Ladies, you of course remember my lovely fiancée Samantha,” he continued, and my mom came over and kissed both women on the cheek.
We all sat down to chat, and I looked at Isabella. I felt like I’d seen her somewhere before, but couldn’t quite place where. I imagined that was going to become a regular occurrence as I met members of this family, they were so famous I’d almost certainly seen their faces on newspapers and in magazines.
For twenty minutes or so we made idle chit-chat while a waitress came by from time to time with drinks. To be more specific, the other ladies made idle chit-chat while Elizabeth and I just sat around with our hands in our lap, listening. It turned out Anne wasn’t any more likeable when she opened her mouth, but I liked Elizabeth immediately.
Finally, Elton got up.
“Well, I’m going to get started putting the meat on the grill. I’m assuming everyone likes their steaks done medium-rare?”
The collection of nods around the table indicated that was fine, and it was only the ladies left.
“So, Tina, your mom tells me you’ve just started at the Moreton Academy this week. How are you liking it?” Isabella asked me, reaching over to the table to have another sip of her martini.
“It’s great, I love it,” I lied, forcing a smile on my face. I really hoped I was a better liar than I felt.
“Excellent. Your mom tells me you’re a good student.” Thank God, something I didn’t need to lie about.
“Well, my mom’s always been my biggest fan. I’m not
great, but I do try.”
“Good. A good education is the most important thing for a young woman to have, and I’m glad you’re getting this opportunity. Elizabeth has been attending the Moreton Academy since grade six, the earliest year they accept, and she loves it. She’s in grade eleven now, though, so you wouldn’t have any classes together. Are you in any classes with Kiegan?”
“Kiegan? Elton’s son?”
“Yes, your new stepbrother-to-be. He’s a year older than you, but I know in a few classes he’s been staying back a year since Lacrosse keeps him so busy.”
“Um, I don’t know. I haven’t actually met him yet and I don’t know the names of most people in my classes.”
“Oh, you haven’t met him? Well, we’ll have to fix that. KIEGAN!” she yelled out at the men playing football. “Come over here!”
I squinted into the sun as one of the football players jogged over. As he got closer and closer to the table I began to recognize him, and when he stopped next to his aunt, I was sure my face had gone white.
That blonde hair. That gorgeous smile that I only saw when he made me feel like shit. That smug look that made me hate him. My bully finally had a name. Kiegan Hunt. My future stepbrother.
“Kiegan, this is Tina, Samantha’s daughter. She’s going to be your new stepsister, I can’t believe the two of you haven’t met yet.”
“Oh, we’ve met,” Kiegan replied with a sardonic smile crossing his lips. Isabella looked over at me, confused.
“I thought you said you didn’t know him?”
“I didn’t realize it was Kiegan. We’re in the same science class,” I replied, despite my mouth feeling like sandpaper. I was going to have to stick this out. There was no way I could tell his aunt that her nephew was a bully, that he had made my first week at Moreton Academy absolute hell, and that there was nothing more in the world I wanted than to see someone wipe that dumb grin off his face.
“Ah, ok. Well, that’s great! Maybe you can help Kiegan out with his homework sometime, I’m sure you’ll be a good influence.”
“Haha. Yeah, sure aunt Isa. I’m going back to football,” Kiegan replied, and with that, he turned, but at that point the smells from the barbeque had begun wafting towards the rest of the company, and it was quickly obvious that the football game had broken up in favour of the promise of food.
I stared down at the table while the men began to mingle in with us women and make their way towards the barbeque that Elton was expertly handling. I couldn’t believe this. It wasn’t enough that Kiegan was making my life hell at school, it turned out he was my stepbrother, too? He was going to be my brother, for the rest of my life? The thought made me want to puke.
“Are you alright, Tina?” my mom asked, noticing something was wrong.
“I’m fine, mom. Just feeling a bit under the weather.”
“OK, well go inside if you’d like.”
I shook my head. “I’ll be fine. Thanks.” I knew I had to be. I wasn’t going to be able to run forever. Kiegan Hunt was going to be a part of my life for the foreseeable future, I had to learn to deal with it.
“Alright, well listen, let me introduce you to Edward and Jacob, Elton’s brothers.”
My mom motioned at two men by the barbeque and they came over.
“Edward, Jacob, this is my daughter Tina.”
“It’s lovely to meet you,” Edward told me, the State Senator giving off that perfect feeling of making you feel like the only person in the room. I understood immediately why the man was so popular with voters, I was years away from casting my first ballot and I already felt like I wanted to vote for the man. I went to shake his hand, but he opened his arms wide and hugged me instead.
“You’re family now, shaking hands is what I do with factory owners and lobbyists,” he told me as he held me close.
Jacob Hunt, for his part, shook my hand. He was also a politician, a local congressman, but who admittedly hadn’t reached quite the same heights as his brother, who was definitely considered to be a future presidential candidate. He was obviously the youngest of all the siblings; no grey had touched his hair yet and the lines on his face weren’t quite as pronounced.
“Alright, lunch is ready!” Elton announced with a flourish, as plates and plates of meat and veggies were suddenly made available. The waiter came out of nowhere with jugs of lemonade and bowls of salad that made their way onto the table, and a low rumbling of chit-chat began as everyone started to get up and make their way towards the food.
“Hey sis, could you get me a steak and some corn?” Kiegan hollered at me from one of the chairs. He was leaning on the back two legs of the chair, with that same smile he gave me at school when he’d insulted me.
“Say please, Kiegan,” Isabella ordered.
“Pleeeeease,” my new brother continued, exaggeratingly. There was nothing more I wanted than to tell him to get his own fucking steak, and to tip his chair backwards so he’d fall on his head, but I knew I couldn’t. After all, this was his family. They were always going to think he was a cherubic little angel, no matter what. Plus, they didn’t know that he’d been bullying me at school. It would just make me look like the bad guy.
Instead, my face burning with rage and embarrassment, I went to the barbeque, picked out the ugliest looking steak from the pile – which I had to admit was pretty tough, the food did look amazing – and slapped it onto a plate along with a cob of corn. I took it over to the table where Kiegan was sitting and slammed it down in front of him as hard as I dared.
“Now, now,” he whispered to me, another one of those dumb smiles dancing on his face, “don’t worry, there’s lots of food left, I’m sure there’s enough, even for you.”
I swore I wasn’t going to let him see how angry he made me. I wasn’t going to let his fat joke ruin my day. I went back to the barbeque and got a hot dog and a couple chicken wings, along with some veggies. Sitting back down at the table as far as I could from Kiegan, I mainly listened as the adult started talking.
The topic of my mom’s wedding came up, and she and Elton revealed they were tentatively planning for June of next year. It was like a dagger to my heart. I didn’t want to be a part of this new family anymore. Sure, everyone was nice to me, and all that, except for Kiegan, and he was so bad he was ruining all of it.
I also couldn’t deny my body’s reaction – no matter how much I tried to resist him, Kiegan turned me on. I wanted to rip his clothes off. I wanted him to take me, to break me in, to make me feel things I had never felt before. He was on my mind a lot more than I liked to admit, and it made every jeering comment, every hurtful thing he ever said to me hurt even more.