Gretchen Goulding watched as the sun set past the trees. The sun rays dulling to mix with the clouds creating a color spectacle of orange bursting into purple, creating a mirage of dreams in the evening sky. The brunette sat on the ledge of her window, she could hear her laptop chiming. People were still spewing hate. Something they wouldn’t have the balls to do to her face. Her face stained, possibly mirroring a clown, but nobody saw her that’s all that mattered.
Her father was ashamed, to say the least, she had two jobs when going to school. She had kept good grades and kept her nose out of trouble. She failed and was now alienated at school and home. He barely looked at her and when he did it was to shake his head. Her Mom, on the other hand, understood what she was going through a little better, but when she wasn’t home the shameful looks kept coming. Gretchen made a mistake, a very small one.
The screenshots were out for everyone to see, they came out three months ago, but there was no taking it back. She didn’t mean any harm, it was a meaningless conversation.
She wasn’t Gretchen anymore, she was Liar, Slut, Wannabe; Slut was really popular though. As the Principal’s daughter, she started the scandal of the century. Of course, she knew who released them.
Ashton Davenport. She was head cheerleader, Gretchen had been her right hand. As her friend, they both got what they wanted all the time. Admittedly, Gretchen had trusted her a little too much. Everything seemed fine until they were at cheerleading practice and after it was over Ashton was giving her the cold shoulder. The next morning, she released the screenshots. Gretchen knew very well how Ashton felt about her friends flirting with her brother, Cam. She was paranoid, but for good reason.Some of her “old friends” used her and went after him, stringing her along.
At least, it didn’t land into the hands of Mackenzie Delatorre, the school’s source of gossip, she thought.. Ashton knew how to hurt people, it’s what she did for a living at Nixon High. Gretchen didn’t know that at first, but now that she was an outsider she did.
Tuesday morning Gretchen arrived at school early as usual. As to avoid the staring eyes that made her wrap her arms tight as if their eyes peered at her chest. Ashton’s poster for class president hung on the wall, she won along with Mackenzie, who took over as running mate following the fallout.
She thought she’d be alone like any other morning, “Gretchen, you decided to show your face today,” Ashton said. A mocking tone, eliciting an eye roll forcing Gretchen to start her daily cardio early.
Snapping her fingers Gretchen dives further into her locker, “What the hell are you doing?” Ashton asks, she could see her nose wrinkling up on her face.
“Looking to see if you stole anything else,” Gretchen answered, “You took everything from me, so you can leave.”
Defiantly Ashton stayed there, “I thought you would like to know why I did what I did.”
Now she wanted to talk. “Does it really matter Ashton? I’m off the squad and I’m an outsider now, you won.”
“You really thought I wouldn’t find out, didn’t you? Had it all figured out, but you were outsmarted.” Gretchen threw her a confused glance. “You were talking to my brother, and didn’t plan on getting caught.”
Her brother, Cam. He’s about to graduate in a few months. He and Ashton are close for a brother and sister. However, it wasn’t Gretchen, her phone was stolen beforehand, but the truth didn’t matter anymore.“That’s ridiculous, plus I gave you my word.” Over the years Ashton had been used by many people she thought were friends to get to her brother. So naturally, she made Gretchen promise that those weren’t her true intentions, and she wasn’t lying then or now.
“When will you stop being a lying little slut and tell me the truth?” She shoved Gretchen into her locker. As she started to walk away, all hell broke loose and for once someone fought back against Ashton.
After getting a few slaps in a teacher she’d never seen before pulled Gretchen off Ashton and they went to the office. The Vice Principal had to step in, it didn’t make much of a difference. Almost immediately, Ashton got to leave, she received a slap on the wrist. She would work concession stands at Friday’s game, but would still lead the squad. Gretchen, on the other hand, had one week in house suspension. That’s what happens when Mommy buys a new scoreboard. Her parents bankrolled a lot of stuff at school, new computers, books, if someone mentioned it they bought it. The system was rigged and would always be rigged as long as Ashton was on her high horse.
As the day crept on, it was all but peaceful. Ashton rallied everyone together to make things worse for her. When she was leaving the cafeteria, she was pelted with food. Jeers and insults flying, “Slut, Loser, Whore!” She braved on knowing if she could just get out, she’d leave campus to calm down. They wouldn’t get a rise out of her. Just when she reached the door she got a slushie to the face.
The grape concoction clouding her vision, she staggered out to the nearest bathroom and locked herself in a stall. And she let it flow, everything she’d felt. Drenching herself in tears, she stopped when someone knocked on the stall.
“Here, in case you’re interested.” An invitation slid under the door. It read This offer is good for tonight only. I only want to talk, Mackenzie.”
Throwing the stall door open, she, or whoever it was had left. She knew she had to go to Rosie’s tonight, to find out what Mackenzie wanted.
Arriving in fresh clothes, Mackenzie was already in a booth waiting for Gretchen. Her hazel eyes snapped up from her laptop, “I didn’t think you would come.” Standing up, she held her hand, carefully Gretchen shook it and took the seat opposite of her. “I’m glad you came and I’m sorry for what happened today, I know it’s not easy dealing with Ashton.”
Curiously she asked, “How would you know?”
She sighed, “I’m not proud of this, but I’ve been friends with Ashton before too. When we were thirteen we’d gotten into a fight over her missing bike. She was sure I stole it and uninvited me to her sleepover that same night,” she paused, “Ashton had a lot of nasty things to say, particularly about my family.”
“All your friends, rallied behind her too?” Mackenzie nodded her head.
“I moved schools for a year and came back the next year. No one ever does anything to stop her. Don’t you think we should start now?”
“We need to talk about the election, remember Katherine Beckett?” Mackenzie raised her eyebrows, egging her to go on. Thirty minutes turned to an hour, and then four. As Gretchen told her everything. She knew what Mackenzie had planned and wasn’t afraid anymore.
Wednesday rolled around and Ashton was still celebrating from her win the week before. Gretchen knew what others didn’t. Her win was a fluke, in fact, she cheated. Katherine was favorite to win, she’s fair, one of the best students in school, minus the brown nosing, and actually gives a crap about people.
Ashton knew this and wasn’t going to lose, at any cost. So, on election day, everyone voted during third hour. Gretchen knew what the key was, but Katherine needed to know. Katherine was after all someone who kept her nose out of trouble, a bit shy and very smart but nice nonetheless. Speaking of, “Hey Katherine,” Gretchen called out. Her blond hair whipped as she was caught by surprise, “We need to talk, walk with me.” Hesitantly she joins her.
They went to Mackenzie’s office, where Mackenzie herself was waiting. Looking between the two scheming girls. Katherine piped up, “What’s going on here?”
Mackenzie took the lead, “There’s some information you need to be aware of, please shut the door.” Then they talked and after getting Katherine’s permission, they attacked.
Fast forward to Friday morning and the tables have turned. After getting Katherine’s permission, they finished the first issue of Nixon's Rag, the expose on the election scandal. The night they came back and stuck an issue into every student’s locker. Katherine became Class President as she rightfully earned. And Ashton’s dirty secret was out, her brother was in charge of the list for voting. Before he could send it off, Ashton made two copies of the list herself and changed the order on one. She didn’t see Gretchen watching from the doorway.
The original list- the answer key, was given to the classes where Ashton held the majority. In the classes that favored Katherine, they were given a list with their names swapped. They believed they were voting for Katherine, but voted for Gretchen.
Ashton was now off the squad and banned from participating in student government, or any groups that would help make student decisions. Now, she was the outcast, and no one would acknowledge her. As the cheerleaders passed, she scoffed in utter disbelief, the life she’d known was no longer.
Her brother Cam, came over to the three girls, “Katherine,” he put his hand out, “I’m sorry and congratulations on your win.” Always the Golden Boy, Gretchen thought.
Gingerly she took it, “Thank you for apologizing.” Making eye contact with Gretchen he nodded his head, wanting to talk in private.
Hesitantly, she followed, “What do you want?”
“I wanted to apologize for not telling the truth sooner, I knew your phone was stolen. I was too scared to tell Ash the truth.” He seemed sincere, but she hesitated.
“We’re alright for now, Cam.” With that she walked away, Cam went on to tell Ashton the truth. Gretchen was no longer Liar, Slut, or Wannabe anymore. She was slowly becoming Gretchen again.
That role was no longer her’s, but it wasn’t cold for long. Ashton was running out to the bathroom when she ran into Gretchen.
She didn’t know whether to be happy or sad, but there was one thing she needed to get off her chest, “Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.”
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