Unearthly Page 12

“I like Chinese,” I say.

Christian hops up from the chair. Kay tucks her arm in his and smiles at him from under her lashes and starts to lead him out of the cafeteria.

“Nice to meet you,” he calls back to me. “Again.”

And then he’s gone.

“Wow,” remarks Wendy, who’s been sitting right next to me the entire time without making a sound. “Impressive attempt at flirtation.”

“I guess I was inspired,” I say a bit dazedly.

“Well, I don’t think there are many girls here who aren’t inspired by Christian Prescott,” she says, which makes the other girls titter.

“Freshman year I had this fantasy that he’d ask me to the prom and I’d be crowned queen,” sighs the one I think is Emma, who then flushes bright red. “I’m over it now.”

“I’d put money on Christian being prom king this year.” Wendy scrunches up her nose. “But Kay’s the queen. You’d better watch your back.”

“Is she that bad?”

Wendy laughs, then shrugs.

“She and I were good friends in grade school, had sleepovers and tea parties with our dolls and all of that, but when we hit junior high, it was like . . .” Wendy shakes her head sadly. “She’s spoiled. But she’s nice enough when you get to know her, I guess. She can be really sweet. But don’t get on her bad side.”

I’m pretty sure I’m already on Kay Patterson’s bad side. I could tell by the way she’d kept her voice light, friendly, but beneath it was an undercurrent of contempt.

I glance around the cafeteria. I notice the black-haired girl from English, Angela Zerbino. She’s sitting by herself, her lunch untouched in front of her, reading a thick black book. She looks up. She nods, just the tiniest bob of her head, like she wants to acknowledge me. I hold her gaze for a moment, then look away. She goes back to reading her book.

“What about her?” I ask Wendy, tilting my head to indicate Angela.

“Angela? She’s not a social reject or anything. It’s like she prefers to be alone. She’s sort of intense. Focused. She’s always been that way.”

“What’s the Pink Garter? It sounds like a . . . you know, a place where . . . you know . . .”

Wendy laughs. “A whorehouse?”

“Yeah,” I say, embarrassed.

“It’s a dinner theater in town,” says Wendy, still laughing. “Cowboy melodramas, a few musicals.”

“Oh,” I say, finally getting it. “I thought it was strange when she said in class that her mother owned a whorehouse and she didn’t know her father. A little TMI, if you know what I mean.”

Now everyone at the table is laughing. I look again at Angela, who has turned a bit so I can’t see her face.

“She seems nice,” I backpedal.

Wendy nods.

“She is. My brother had a crush on her for a while.”

“You have a brother?”

She snorts like she wishes she could give a different answer.

“Yes. He’s my twin, actually. He’s also a pain.”

“I know the feeling.” I gaze over at Jeffrey in his circle of new friends.

“And speak of the devil,” says Wendy, grabbing the sleeve of a boy who’s passing by our table.

“Hey,” he protests. “What?”

“Nothing. I was just telling the new girl about my awesome brother and now here you are.” She flashes a huge smile at him, the kind that says she might not be telling the whole truth.

“Behold, Tucker Avery,” she says to me, gesturing up at him.

Her brother resembles her in nearly every way: same hazy blue eyes, same tan, same golden brown hair, except his hair is short and spiky and he’s about a foot taller. He is definitely part of the cowboy group, although toned down from some of the others, wearing a simple gray tee, jeans, and cowboy boots. Also hot, but in a completely different way than Christian, less refined, more tan and muscle and a hint of stubble along his jaw. He looks like he’s been working under the sun his whole life.

“This is Clara,” says Wendy.

“You’re the girl with the Prius who almost rear-ended my truck this morning,” he says.

“Oh, sorry about that.”

He looks me up and down. I feel myself blush for probably the hundredth time that day.

“From California, right?” The word California seems like an insult coming from him.

“Tucker,” Wendy warns, pulling at his arm.

“Well, I doubt that I would have done any damage to your truck if I’d hit you,” I retort. “It looks like the back end is about to rust off.”

Wendy’s eyes widen. She seems genuinely alarmed.

Tucker scoffs. “That rusty truck will probably be towing you out of a snowbank next time there’s a storm.”

“Tucker!” exclaims Wendy. “Don’t you have a rodeo team meeting or something?”

I’m busy trying to think of a comeback involving the incredible amount of money I will save this year driving my Prius as opposed to his gas-guzzling truck, but the right words aren’t forming.

“You’re the one who wanted to chat,” he says to Wendy.

“I didn’t know you were going to act like a pig.”

“Fine.” He smirks at me. “Nice to meet you, Carrots,” he says, looking directly at my hair. “Oh, I mean Clara.”

My face flames.

“Same to you, Rusty,” I shoot back, but he’s already striding away.

Great. I’ve been at this school for less than five hours and I’ve already made two enemies simply by existing.

“Told you he was a pain,” says Wendy.

“I think that might have been an understatement,” I say, and we both laugh.

The first person I see when I come into my next class is Angela Zerbino. She’s sitting in the front row, already bent over her notebook. I take a seat a few rows back, looking around the classroom at all the portraits of the British monarchy that are stapled to the top of the walls. A large table at the front of the room displays a Popsicle-stick model of the Tower of London and a papier mâché replica of Stonehenge. In one corner is a mannequin wearing a suit of chain mail, in another, a large wooden board with three holes in it: real stockades.

This looks like it could be interesting.

The other students trickle in. When the bell rings, the teacher ambles out from a back room. He’s a scrawny guy with long hair pulled back in a ponytail and thick glasses, but he somehow comes off as cool, wearing his dress shirt and tie over black jeans and cowboy boots.

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