Authors: Eleanor Wood
First of all, let’s get something straight.
This is not going to be one of those stories where the school bitch turns out to have a heart of gold…’
Amie’s the most popular – and the meanest – girl at her exclusive private school, with her trusty second in command Lexy by her side. And she likes it that way. Lexy knows that she deserves Amie’s prized position just as much but dethroning the Queen Bee just isn’t done.
Until mysterious twins Elyse and Melanie arrive mid-term, with a magnetic power that’s impossible to deny, and shake up the school’s social rules. As the twins leave darkness and devastation in their wake, Lexy’s suddenly discovering her own powers of manipulation.
While Amie’s about to learn that it’s not just lonely at the top – it’s terrifying.
A Gemini Rising story
‘Fantastic characters and so much suspense! …
created the perfect balance of fun characters with great senses of humour, drama by the bucket-full and this underlying tension which made it ultra creepy’ –
Total Teen Fiction
‘Nails the essence of intense teenage female friendship’
‘An absolutely gripping page-turner’
‘Different & exciting’
‘Great characters and very believable’
‘A very promising author’
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM ELEANOR WOOD AND CARINA UK:
Amazon reader reviews
lives in Brighton, where she can mostly be found hanging around in cafés and record shops, running on the beach, pretending to be French and/or that it’s the ‘60s, and writing deep into the night. Her work has previously been published in magazines such as
. Her erstwhile lo-fi fanzine,
Shocking Blues and Mean Reds
, won praise from
, Lauren Laverne, and
magazine, among others.
These days, you can read her personal and ill-thought-out ramblings on her blog,
The Perfect Mixtape
or more succinctly on Twitter at
She is also the author of
, published by Carina.
First of all, let’s get something straight. This is not going to be one of those stories where the school bitch turns out to have a heart of gold, or you learn all about the tragic, shocking reasons why she’s the way she is. My mum is not an alcoholic. My dad doesn’t beat me. I’m blonde, I’m a size ten with decent boobs, and I do just fine across the board at school. I may not be the smartest girl in the class – but, seriously, who would want to be?
I know some people think I’m a bitch, but I’m not – not really. I’m just making the most of things. It’s not my fault that I look OK and boys like me, and girls seem to listen to what I say. I’m just doing my thing – which happens to involve hanging out with my equally cool girlfriends, attracting boys and occasionally laughing at the misfortune of others.
That last one isn’t as bad as it sounds; we all do it. It’s just that I usually happen to be on the winning team. Are you honestly trying to tell me that the class music geek Emily Waldron wouldn’t do the same given half a chance? Even that drip Nathalie Al-Omar – the biggest loser in the whole year, with her frizzy hair, pathetic persona and various random phobias – would. Anyway, I refuse to feel sorry for her no matter what, because her parents are, like, Arab billionaires or something.
Hey, I know most of my friends would turn on me if they could. Even Lexy. In fact – especially Lexy. Everyone assumes she must be nicer than me, just because I’m the one in charge, and she works hard at school and has this ‘cute’ little crush on Josh Green. I suspect that Lexy’s the real bitch. I’m always careful to keep her onside, mostly just because I dread to think what would happen if she did ever turn on me.
I focus my attention back on her, taking a sip of my coffee and adjusting my position next to her on the common-room sofa – trying to look like I was listening all along.
,’ I reply, making my eyes big. ‘That’s just…ridiculous.’
‘Exactly! It’s not even so much Josh going round to another girl’s house that pisses me off… It’s just that it was
Lexy lowers her voice and casts an oh-so-subtle evil over at Sorana Salem. Sorana’s just sitting there, reading her book like she does every morning, but even that seems somehow inflammatory. She’s the most annoying girl in the class, possibly the universe – like, she’s so mousy and bookish on the surface, but you can just
that she secretly thinks she’s awesome. It’s as if she goes out of her way to be a freak, just to spite people. I have no idea what point she is trying to prove, but for some reason it really irritates me. Would it really be so hard for her to wear normal clothes and brush her hair once in a while? No. So it’s just blatant awkwardness. I’m secretly convinced she’s so sure she’s going to be this big success one day that she’s determined to be able to say she was bullied at school.
That would be practically impossible, anyway – because we go to this small, strict girls’ school where nothing ever happens. We all have our little gangs and mostly we keep to ourselves. It’s not exactly drama central around here. I have to hang out with boys and go out with my girlfriends every chance I get, or else I’d probably die of boredom. As far as it goes, though, school is pretty relaxing – at least you know where you stand.
annoying,’ I mutter under my breath.
‘Not only annoying,’ Lexy replies, not quite quietly enough. ‘She’s also ugly, freakish and has permanently greasy hair. Oh, and don’t forget no tits.’
Lexy counts these points off on her fingers, looking smugger with each one. She’s right, which must make it all the more gutting that Josh Green has some weird lifelong friendship thing going on with her. Sorana would never be invited to all the parties and nights out with our crowd, but she and Josh always have all these family events together, so she has her own sneaky way in – even though according to social politics he should really have nothing to do with her, ever. Unfortunately for Sorana, Lexy is so crazily crushed-out on Josh that she would be prepared to kill – in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Underneath her semi-wholesome exterior, I sometimes think Lexy might actually be a proper psycho. I do genuinely worry about her sometimes, when I let myself.
However, she’s so hot that Josh – or any other boy – would never suspect a thing. I have blonde hair and all the bits in the right places, so I’m quite good at giving out a general impression of hotness. I’m popular, so everyone assumes I’m pretty. I’m OK, nothing that special – a solid seven-and-a-half. I’m fine with that, by the way. Lexy, at first glance, is way more of a hot mess – bleached hair, slightly feral face with tiny teeth; however, if you look at her closely, you actually start to notice that she’s got the bones of a French movie star under there. Damn her.
Anyway, Lexy can be as bitchy as she likes today. I’ve got a secret, and she’d be furious if she knew.
* * *
In the short time I’ve known her, I’ve learned that the great thing about Elyse is that she just doesn’t care.
I learned early on that the clever thing to do is to pretend not to care about anything – that way no one can ever get you. I’ve got pretty good at it over the years. Hardly anyone except Lexy knows that underneath it all I do care about quite a few things, so I always make sure that I stay just on the right side of the line so as not to risk too much – my parents, my friends, my beautiful Siamese cat Lila Grace, dance classes… Let’s pretend this little list never happened, OK?
But as far as I can tell, Elyse genuinely doesn’t care about anyone or anything. Between us it feels like we’re invincible. I’ve always enjoyed being the most-admired fish in the small, polluted pond that is St Therese’s, but it’s gone up a notch since the twins started in our class a few weeks ago in the middle of term and immediately joined the gang.
Still, all day today, I find myself worrying in a way that is most unlike me. It was Elyse’s idea not to invite Lexy or any of the others tonight – usually with my parents away I’d be having a full-on house party with half of Facebook turning up, but I’m actually looking forward to a night hanging out with just the twins, Elyse and her sister Melanie. I’m glad Elyse is too, but I wish she would be a
bit more subtle about it.
‘Hey, Amie – I brought some
for tonight.’ Elyse turns up in the common room with a suitcase-sized bag and sits down on my other side, ignoring Lexy.
If Lexy is annoyed at being left out, she refuses to show it, even though she’s still sitting there right next to me; so I just about manage to smile awkwardly and shrug it off. Like I said, it wouldn’t kill Lexy to be reminded of her place in the social pecking order, but I still
have to keep the peace. Watch my back, more like.
It continues like this all day.
‘Ready to go?’ Elyse asks as she grabs me back in the common room as soon as lessons finish.
‘Yep, right behind you. Um, Lex, we’re just…’
By this point, Lexy doesn’t bother to say anything. She just rolls her eyes and huffs off. I watch her make a big point of leaving with Alice, no doubt taking every opportunity to slag me off behind my back. Even though I’m happy that Elyse chose me, I’m surprised that it hurts just a tiny bit to see my other friends gang up on me so quickly.
‘Is Lexy all right?’ Elyse asks. ‘She looks kind of…bitch-faced.’
I laugh in spite of myself, instantly feeling better. ‘Yeah, that sounds about right. She’ll be fine. If we’re busy tonight, it will give her more precious time to obsess over Josh bloody Green. Come on, we can walk round to mine.’
As if by magic, within seconds, Lexy and everything else in the world stops mattering. Elyse and I talk non-stop for the entire walk home, just about totally random stuff, and we laugh so much that my stomach actually hurts.
Mel hangs slightly behind us, lugging a massive rucksack. She doesn’t say much, as usual. She’s fine and all, and, being her identical twin, obviously she’s just as beautiful as Elyse — i.e. they both make even Lexy look like a total skank. Still, Mel is kind of weird; in fact, she spooks me out a little bit. For now, at least, I’m prepared to put up with her for the sake of hanging out with Elyse. I’m sure at some point there will be something I can do about it; I’ll think up something.
‘Cool.’ When we get back to mine, Elyse confirms her general approval and wanders off into the house before I’ve even finished disarming the burglar alarm. I’m pleased to note this must mean my brother is not at home – he’s all right, but it’s obviously way better when I have the run of the house myself.
‘Go on through into the family room,’ I instruct Elyse, with a wary smile at Melanie as she passes. ‘I’ll go and get us a drink; I’ll be there in a minute.’
Thank God, unlike so many people, I have nothing to feel embarrassed about when I have friends over. OK, ‘family room’ is to separate it from my mum’s formal sitting room, which has hard sofas and cushions up on their points that we’re not even allowed to sit on. My house isn’t an über-mansion like that poor little rich bitch Nathalie Al-Omar’s, but it’s modern and quite big, and it
have two living rooms – this means that the comfy one with bean bags and the Xbox basically belongs to me and my brother. It also means that at least I’m not some scholarship charity case like Sorana Salem. We might even all go out in the hot tub later.
My parents are away a lot, which is obviously awesome, but even if they were here, they’re fine. Just normal parents. I get the best of both worlds – all the perks of home, with a free house on a regular basis.
I kick off my shoes as I wander into the kitchen, and grab a bottle of white wine out of the fridge, along with three glasses and a massive bag of Kettle Chips that I clamp in between my teeth before heading to join the others.
I can only have been about three minutes, tops, but by the time I reach the family room Elyse already seems to have made herself at home. The TV is blaring, her belongings and clothing
are scattered about the floor, and she is sitting cross-legged at the low glass coffee table surrounded by a surprising array of stuff.
‘Hey.’ She looks up and smiles. ‘Ooh, give me a glass of that. By the way, where did you say all your family were?’
Before I even sit down next to her on the carpet, she has grabbed the wine out of my hands.
‘My parents are in Dubai and my brother’s… well, I dunno – my brother’s probably at the pub with his mates and hopefully won’t be back for ages,’ I explain.
‘Really – is he hot?’ As she asks this Elyse hands me back a glass of my own wine and also shoves one in Melanie’s direction.
‘No way! He’s nineteen and he’s…my
. He still lives at home and he’s always stoned and being stupid with his mates.’
An unexpected voice comes from the other side of the room.
‘Sounds like just Elyse’s type…’
I nearly snort wine out of my nose with shock at Melanie’s voice piping up from nowhere. In a semi-funny joke, no less. Before I can even respond, she’s already huddled back into one corner of the sofa and is concentrating on whatever is in her giant rucksack.
‘Shut up, Mel,’ Elyse snaps unnecessarily. ‘She’s only being a bitch because she disapproves of me and older stoner boys in general – right, Mel?’
Melanie, unsurprisingly this time, remains silent. This gives me the chance to focus on what I had originally noticed when I walked into the room – the weird range of crap on the coffee table.
‘Hang on a minute… I love this song!’
She turns up the TV and starts singing along, doing a crazy sitting-down dance from her position on the floor. The TV screen is filled with some random guys in tight jeans and a lot of black, with messy hair to match their guitars. It’s not my usual kind of thing but I’ve actually been enjoying getting into Elyse’s music.
It’s not like I’m suddenly trying to be just like her or anything, but it’s interesting. She’s been talking about lending me some books about stuff she’s into, and she’s shown me how to do my make-up like hers – not because I want to copy her, but because I never realised until I met her that so much black eyeliner could look so hot on a blonde.
‘OK, no, seriously – what’s going on?’ I ask again, after a few minutes have passed and she still hasn’t responded, pointedly looking at the pile of stuff she’s got on the table in front of her.
I grab the remote control from Elyse and mute the TV, giving her my official don’t-mess-with-me look. It’s funny – with all my other friends, the power balance was decided long ago and I always know I’m going to get my own way; Elyse and I are still working it out, and I feel a tiny flutter in my stomach as I realise she might not do what I say straight away. I’m not used to it; I find I kind of like having a bit of competition for once. Within reason, obviously – after all, it
‘Listen, it’s kind of a surprise I brought round for you,’ she says. ‘Just humour me, OK?’
‘Look,’ Elyse begins, ‘I know this is going to sound really cheesy, but it’s just my way of saying thanks. You know, we really weren’t sure what it would be like starting at this weird new school in the middle of term, but so far it’s been really cool. I’m really glad Mel and I met you. I’ve just got this feeling that we’re going to be really good friends, you know?’
‘Yeah, I guess so…’
‘Hey, do you want me to do your eyeliner for you again? Mel can take some pictures and we’ll put them up on Facebook. Is there any more wine?’
I’m having fun but it’s weird how things can happen in a whirlwind with Elyse. Before I know what’s going on, she’s opened a second bottle of my mum’s wine and I am pinned in a chair while Elyse does my eyeliner, and then my hair while she’s at it. The TV is blaring again, but I can hear it when my phone beeps – I see it’s Lexy and ignore it.
‘And…my work here is done,’ Elyse finally announces. ‘Check it out: we could practically be triplets.’
I look in the mirror above the fireplace and see that she’s right. Just for a second, it’s like three identical faces are staring back at me – blonde, blue-eyed, blankly pretty, matching make-up and school uniforms – and my brain practically short-circuits. I can hardly tell which reflection is mine. It’s a relief when I blink, focus my eyes, and I can see clearly that I am me. However, I have to admit that the heavy eyes and mussed-up hair are a hot look – most importantly.