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The Original Crowd
Author: Tijan

PROLOGUE


I never knew who my parents were; all I know is they gave me up and walked away. I grew up feeling unwanted. I filtered from foster home to foster home, spent some time in group homes here and there. I had to grow up quickly; I never had time for a childhood. I had to learn to take care of myself, because I was the only one I could count on.

But I survived.

I learned how to survive on my own and some lessons were hard—fucking hard.

One of the skills I picked up early on was figuring out what role people took in cliques or groups—I learned who was who by watching people. I could tell who had the power in any dynamic. I tapped into that system; I made myself invaluable to them. I completely manipulated everyone, but it’s what I had to do. And I was damn good at it.

When I was in the fourth grade, I started hanging out with Brian Lanser. He was gorgeous (okay, he was cute; fourth graders aren’t gorgeous). I know in that when you’re in the fourth grade you’re not supposed to even know that the opposite sex exists, but I did. I was always boy crazy and in the fourth grade, I had a crush on Brian Lanser. He introduced me to cigarettes, beer, condoms (not that they were ever used, I wasn’t like that), and I picked up my addiction—stealing.

In the fifth grade, I switched foster homes again and left town. I noticed that there were the same cliques everywhere I went. The same kids. The same habits. The same behaviors. You had the God blessed ones—the rich and spoiled; the nondescript—the bland and invisible; and then my crew—the kids who all the other kids were scared of.

By the time I was in the sixth grade, I learned how to steal. I was addicted to it. During a heist, I felt invincible; I was stronger, my senses were sharper, and it made me feel alive. After each theft, I fell more in love with it. I could get into anywhere, undetected, in the blink of an eye.

I made friends fast by showing off my skills: pickpocketing a teacher, stealing from the popular dick or too-peppy cheerleader that everyone hated. It was a talent that everyone loved and it made me valuable in return. Plus—the guys liked me. I had a body they wanted (yes, boys were already getting horny at that age), but none had touched me, not then anyway.

By the time I got to eighth grade, I had circled back and found myself in the same school as Brian Lanser and he remembered me. He reacquainted me with cigarettes, beer, and condoms (these still held some mystery to me).

And I taught him how to steal.

We were a match made in heaven. He was my first boyfriend, my first love. We were each other’s family.

Then something happened. I was adopted in the beginning of my junior year. I had to leave the only family I’d ever known.

And it all stopped.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 


“Taryn.”

Yep, that’s my name. I just rolled my eyes, not pausing as I made my way down the school’s hallway. My sister could screech all she wanted—I wasn’t going to help her. Ever. At least not in the way she wanted me to.

“Taryn,” Mandy shouted again, pitter-pattering her way to me. No one should run when wearing high heels, at least those high heels—they arched halfway up to her calves. That was my sister—she wore high heels, clingy tank tops, miniskirts, and on some days, a cheerleading outfit.

My new sister was a cheerleader. I had been adopted into a family that raised those kinds of kids—the God blessed, rich kids. And Mandy was the epitome of the golden child. At least she thought so—blonde, petite, smart and popular by all accounts. She wasn’t the head of her clique, but she was one of them. You know the crowd. The highest of the high. The crowd where only a handful actually hold the power. The rest of the popular crowd just drooled to get into their circle.

“Taryn, for God’s sake—stop!”

I ignored her, opening my locker as I heard her stumble to a halt, panting slightly beside me.

Eyebrows arched, I whistled. “Thought you were in shape there, sister. All those late night activities with Devon, right?”

“I’m not here to talk about Devon,” she snapped. Ooh, Mandy was on a mission. I knew what she wanted, which meant I needed to distract her.

“I heard Devon hooked up with Stephanie Markswith at Brent’s party,” I commented casually, grabbing my calculus book.

“Not gonna work, sister dear,” she said scathingly, but it had. I saw the twitch in her eye. Oh yeah, she knew I was trying to distract her, but she couldn’t let it go. “There’s no chance in hell that he would hook up with her. No way in hell!”

“Not what I heard.”

“She’s not suicidal.”

“She was drunk. Don’t think she was thinking all that clearly,” I remarked, shutting my locker and moving away.

Mandy latched to my side and I could see she was seething from the corner of my eye. “The girl’s dead!” she said.

“Better tell her that.”

I saw Stephanie turn the corner up ahead, along with her mini-Stephanie-wanna-be friends tagging behind: Jackie, Slappy, and Curlie. Of course those weren’t their real names, that’s just what I called them. They were little anorexic bubbles with air inside. They had no personalities and their only mission in life was to get popular. Stephanie was their first rung on the ladder so that’s where they started.

Stephanie wasn’t quite where my sister was in the social status, but she was almost there.

Mandy saw her at the same time I did. She immediately veered off in her direction.

I couldn’t stop a faint grin. Stephanie was about to be knocked down from whatever standing she had achieved and it was all because of me. I’m such a bitch, but the thing is, I had a reason to sic my sister on Stephanie.

Yeah. I had lied. Stephanie hadn’t hooked up with Devon. I have no idea who she had hooked up with, but there was without a doubt something—note that I said something, not someone, she was just that nasty. I smiled knowing she was about to be knocked down; she deserved it. The first week of school—my new life in place with my new resolutions firmly in place—she spread a rumor that I stole our biology exam. She only spread that rumor because her boyfriend hit on me.

Yeah, it might’ve been something that I’d have done in the past, but this time I was innocent. All of my history had been pulled up, making me look guilty as hell and didn’t help my innocence in the situation. They couldn’t prove it was me, but it didn’t matter.

Instead of being suspended, I received detention for two months. But Stephanie had tarnished my name and all my intents and purposes to be a ‘good’ kid had gone down the drain.

So I served my sentence, got pretty close with Mr. Hollings, the unlucky teacher who had pulled the detention straw, and I set about trying to reclaim my ‘good’ name again.

After that incident, I declared war on Stephanie, but for the past few months things have been quiet…guess that’s over now.

I could still hear Mandy’s screech as I ducked inside my classroom. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

*

Glancing up from my lunch tray, I saw Tray Evans drop into the seat opposite mine. Grinning, so self-assured, he drawled, “Your sis preaches about some of your skills.”

“Skills that are firmly stocked and locked. Go away,” I said coolly. I didn’t care who he was, I wasn’t going back to my old habits. No way in hell.

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