Excerpt from the Crystal Grove

Chapter One

The Setup

The cold, dreary rain mingled with her hot, furious tears as she sat huddled and shivering on the old stone bench. She licked the moisture from her cheeks with the tip of her tongue. It tasted of salt. The stone bench was hidden behind a large bush. Hopefully, no one would notice her.

Kyle. I’m such an idiot. I thought I was special to him.

She clenched her fists and punched her backpack in anger and frustration, as a fresh set of tears spilled from her eyes and silently coursed down her face.

Shawna. She didn’t have to say those awful things…and Sophie… Sophie is MY friend, but she laughed at me too.

Now Emma was all alone and feeling miserable. Her chest hurt as if there was a huge rock on it, making it hard to breathe.

The girls had cornered her when she had gone out of the school earlier.

“So, you think Kyle really likes you,” said Shawna, her eyes narrowed and a nasty smile on her face. “What on earth would ever make you think HE could possibly like a dweeb like YOU? Maybe you should go to the auditorium and find out the truth.”

The rest of the girls all joined in Shawna’s laughter. Emma was shocked and hurt by their teasing. She didn’t say a word to them but turned and ran into the school.

“Emma, come back,” called Sophie. “Don’t go in there.”

Yeah right, like I’d stop for you. That’s so not gonna happen.

She walked down the hallway to the auditorium, thinking about what had happened. Kyle had given her a small heart bracelet as a present and told her she was special to him. She believed him, didn’t she? Shawna had always been a bully and a liar. She didn’t really believe what she said, did she? She hesitated as she approached the room.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” she muttered to herself as she paced up and down in front of the door fingering the bracelet. “There’s probably no one in there. Shawna is just trying to upset me.” She took a deep breath. “Ok, I’ll just take a quick peek and then go home.”

Emma put her hand on the door handle, gradually pushing it open as she peeked in. It was dark and quiet. Emma realized that she had stopped breathing and blew out a huge sigh of relief. Thank goodness. Shawna had been lying.

Her eyes got used to the darkness and she glanced around the room. She heard laughter from the far side of the room. Her heart leapt into her throat and started to beat a little faster. Opening the door a little wider, she slid through. Wearing her sneakers, she tiptoed across the floor to the corner of the stage. Her eyes widened. Emma gasped. Her stomach flipped over and she felt sick. She didn’t think her legs were going to hold her up. Kyle was there and what’s more, he was laughing and talking with Cindy.

Chapter Two

The Betrayal

At the sound of her gasp, Kyle lifted his head and looked at her. Cindy turned around and when she spotted Emma, gave her a slow triumphant smile.

“How could you?” cried Emma. “You said I was special.”

She ripped the bracelet off her wrist and threw it at him. As she turned and ran out of the room, she could hear him calling to her.

“Wait, Emma,” he called. “You don’t understand……let me explain.”

Not in this lifetime, jerk!

She kept running until she reached the girls’ bathroom. She turned on the taps and splashed cold water onto her face. Taking great gulps of air, she tried to stop shaking.

How could I have been so stupid? Why would Kyle think I’m special? I’m nobody. He’s so hot. No wonder he likes Cindy better. I don’t fit in with them. I hate my life. It sucks big time.

Kyle was older and really cool. He was the star of the basketball team. All the girls were trying to get him to notice them. Charlie, her BFF, said he was a jerk, but she thought he was just jealous. A few months ago Kyle had asked her to help him with his homework and tests. Excited, she’d said yes. Then he gave her a bracelet. She had been so happy, thinking that he really liked her. Now she knew he had been using her.

I’ll bet they’ve all had a good laugh behind my back.

The bell rang to signal the last period of the day.

I just have to get through this and go home. I won’t let them see they’ve hurt me.

She washed her face, straightened her shoulders, clenched her fists and marched to the classroom. She sat at her desk and stared at the blackboard. The other girls came into the room. Peering at them from the corner of her eye, she saw they were giggling to each other and pointing at her. Her face flushed a dull red. She could hardly wait for school to be over so she could go home. As soon as the bell rang, she sprinted from her seat and ran out into the rain.

Discovering the old stone bench, she sat down and began to cry in great, gasping sobs.

A twig snapped. Emma sprang up, her heart jumping out of her chest. Charlie’s face appeared over the bush. “Whew,” she sighed with relief as she slumped back onto the bench.

“Em, I’ve been looking for you everywhere. What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” asked Charlie.

Between sobbing and hiccupping, she told him what had happened.

“That sucks,” shouted Charlie, slamming his backpack down on the ground. With a heavy sigh he sat down on the bench and put his arm around her. Emma stopped crying and put her head on his shoulder.

“Yeah, well, you did warn me he was a jerk. What I don’t get is why he would pretend to like me in the first place.”

“I figure it’s because you’re so smart. His marks have tanked this year and his folks are really steamed. Coach says he won’t be on the team unless he pulls them up, so he needed your help with his homework, tests and stuff. Let’s get you out of this rain and then we’ll talk. You’re shivering and you looked like a drowned rat…although, I don’t suppose I look any better,” he teased.

“I am pretty cold,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t know what to do. It really, really hurts inside and I feel so miserable.”

“We’ll think of something.”

He grabbed her hand and splashing through the icy puddles, they ran to Emma’s house.

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