Kelsy finished tying her hair back and checked her make-up in the mirror one more time. Sure, she hated the stuff, but she had to wear it when she went out for volunteering days with her parents. The press always ended up showing up, no matter how much no one wanted them there. Her parents were waiting for her in the front foyer along with Douglas, Dad’s bodyguard.

“Don’t worry, Kels, we’re gonna have a good time today. And, we’ll get some ice cream after, alright?”

“Yeah, sure, Dad.”

It took a lot of effort for Kelsy to hold in the responses she wanted to make. Didn’t her father realize she enjoyed helping? She wasn’t some little kid who needed to be rewarded for being a decent human being. She had always understood that his political career hinged on her ability to behave herself in public. Soon, they were piled into the car and buzzing along down backstreets through the bad parts of town, the parts of town she was only allowed in so long as she was with her family. There was one thing she could say for the day, it was largely uneventful. Hour upon hour of serving people food and talking to the people who came here. Everything was going great. That was…until the door opened and two people she recognized walked in.

Oh no. Oh no. No no no no no. It would be Darcy. If anyone was going to catch me, it would be Darcy.

Niall Darcy led his younger sister into the line, looking sullen. The last thing he wanted was to be here yet again, but there was no other way to make sure he and Maeve were getting enough food, at least not without a lot of stealing. And wasn’t that what their father was in prison for in the first place? Yeah, that wasn’t happening. He didn’t notice right away who was handing him the tray, so focused was he on his own thoughts. Then he looked up to ask for extra milk for Maeve when he realized he was looking into the brown eyes of Kelsy Cloudsinger from school. Only…she was wearing make-up and…

“Uh…hi Niall.”

“Hi.” His words were curt and she pulled back a little. “Can I get a second milk for her?”

It wasn’t a question, not really.

“Uh…yeah, sure.”

“Hey, Kels,” The tall charming man who was helping out came over to see what she was doing and then he smiled broadly. “Did you say Niall? Your friend from school, right?”

“He’s um…not exactly my friend, Dad.”

Dad? Niall blinked a little, This guy’s her dad? Isn’t he that congressman from the news? Cunningham?

“Yeah. Not exactly.”

Niall took the second milk carton and made sure Maeve took it before walking off to find a table. Maeve gave Kelsy a smile with far too many teeth and nothing in it that seemed friendly before following her brother.

“Not a friend? Funny, you’ve mentioned him enough.”

“He’s a troublemaker, Dad…It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Walking to her locker Monday morning, Kelsy felt something odd in the air. People were paying far more attention to her than usual and she wasn’t entirely pleased about it. Especially not with the whispering and the muttering. Then she noticed that there was a picture from the paper taped to her locker and groaned. So much for normalcy.

All the World’s a Stage – Part 1

Mr. Williams passed out the scripts and then went up to the front of the room.

“Alright, folks, we’re going to be putting on the classic Romeo and Juliet this year.”

For a long moment, there was nothing. Dead air. Then a boy in the back started laughing, a sharp noise that cut through the silence. As if that was a sign, the rest made their thoughts known in either groans or cheers in their turn.

“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad. We’ll be having try-outs in a week, so make sure you read through so you can decide what parts you’d like to try for. And be glad I gave you the full script! The original actors only got a roll with their lines on it!” The bell rang and as everyone scrambled to grab their bags, Mr. Williams gave them a big smile. “See you tomorrow!”

RomaMontanari burst onto the stage with all of her usual dramatics.

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name!”

Mr. Williams just sighed inwardly. He was used to her antics by now, after all, she was usually the female lead in the end. Every theatre had its diva, and Roma was theirs. A few more lines and she took a bow. The dark haired actor leaning against the wall groaned.

“Yes, Mr. Capello? Can I help you with something?”

The boy strode forward.

“This is ridiculous, Mr. Williams. Every single girl that’s come out here has done the same scene, rolling out the same tonality and the same manners. This isn’t some rom-com, this is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies!”

“You think you can do better, Juan?”

Roma shoved him slightly and he grinned back at her, dark eyes flashing.

“Oh, you better believe I can, Montanari.”

Mr. Williams stood and walked towards the stage.

“Both of you cut that out. Let me get this straight. Juan, you’re objecting to Roma’s interpretation of the scene?”

“Yup, that’s about right.”

The trio of giggling girls had them cornered, the two freshman boys knew that quite well. They had been trying to check the prop room for a few things to help Duncan plan for the set build.

“Look at the pair of them.”

“Duncan’s little lap dogs.”

“But are they?” The middle girl, a blond like the other two and ever, it seemed, chewing on her gum, leaned in to grin. “Have a look at this one. Ken MacFinnley.”

“Mercifully?” The girl on the right giggled again and Ken took a half-step back and nearly back into his best friend, Benji. She was still staring at him. “ The Ken MacFinnley who’s going to do the set design for the next play? The Ken MacFinnley who’s going to be the next drama club president?”

“That’s…that’s not right. No, Duncan’s president. And he’s the one doing the set design. And I’m only a freshman…”

The girl on the left patted his cheek and smiled sweetly.

“Oh, but dear little boy, you will take his place.”

Finally, Benji spoke up.

“Um…what about me?”

All three girls turned to him and spoke.

“You’re next.”


That was the only word that went through my mind as I watched her step out of the thrift store dressing room. God fucking dammit. This is the part where, normally, our fashionista cheerleader heroine would be thinking check plus for your hard work, your frumpy best friend is going to get the useless jock of her dreams and ride off into the sunset as prom queen. Well, except for one pretty major detail. I did not want her to go riding off anywhere with Darren McAndrews, scum lord extraordinaire. I wanted us to be the ones riding off into the sunset together. Yep. One makeover later and the cheer captain is pining desperately over her formerly fashion-challenged best friend since kindergarten.
“Holy shit.”
The words slipped out of my mouth and Lily’s shoulders slumped.
“Does…does it not fit?” She sighed a little and looked so sad. My mind was racing in five thousand different directions. “I really thought we had it that time.”
“No, no. Lils. It fits. Perfect. Great. Amazing. You look amazing.”
The words were tripping over themselves in a jumble to get out of my mouth and I felt like there were spotlights trained on my face. I knew from the heat rising to my cheeks that I must be blushing. Oh yes, this was rapidly entering worst-day-ever territory.
That was when the floor dropped out from underneath me. Okay, not really. Lily walked over and touched my arm, a concerned look on her face. I tried to be relaxed, calm, not buzzing with some stupid pile of hormones I only half remembered from biology. She must have said something else because she was looking at me like she was waiting for an answer.
“Y-you shouldn’t go to prom with Darren.”
For a moment, we both stood there and I wondered if this was what going crazy felt like. Like I didn’t have control over what was coming out of my mouth.
“He’s an asshole and a lech and a creep and…and…”
No, I was wrong before. This was what it was like to lose control. I grabbed my best friend and I kissed her right there in the back of the thrift store with tears in my eyes and my hands shaking. She looked startled but then her expression softened.
“You never said. Not a word. Not the slightest hint.”
I flailed. I honestly flailed.
“I didn’t know!”
Then she took my hand and her little smile nearly killed me.
“I’d love to go to prom with you, Kat. Assuming you’re asking.”


Silent halls are never a good sign. Halls that go silent just as you appear are far worse. General silence means something has happened, something bad enough to rattle the entire student body. It had happened the year before when the homecoming king got drunk and drove himself and the homecoming queen into the lake. But that had been too-quiet hallways and tears and memorials and grief counselors for the cheer squad and the football team. This was different. This was a directed silent, weaponized exclusion, and a splash of bright red paint to shape a single, damning word on her locker. Her shoulders slumped and she wondered if the janitor would clean it off or if she had to. She opened her locker and pulled out her books, deciding in that moment to fight back the only way she could. Sure, they could turn the social structures of high school into a weapon and turn it against her, but she was armed with the one thing they couldn’t tolerate: her own happiness.