PART 27: FLASHBACK
It was hate at first sight. Or maybe that was too strong of a word – it was mistrust? Before Corry Veniti could think any more about it, his thoughts were interrupted by his sister.
“Golly, isn’t this exciting?” Laurie said, clasping her hands together. “High school! A brand new school, with new teachers, new friends, new everything, even a new school notebook for me, I hope I don’t misplace it or get lost in the halls for that matter and oh what about classes, how hard do you think they’ll be I’m a bit worried about that but I can probably ask for extra help if I have to, or you could help me out if I run into real trouble I mean that would be all right, wouldn’t it, Corry? Corry?” She tugged on his shirt.
Corry sighed softly. “Laurie, not right now. I’m trying to size up the crowd.”
Laurie sighed back. Here they both were, finally high school freshmen, standing out in front of the only secondary public school in the small Canadian town where they lived. They even looked similar – at least in terms of their heights, their shoulder length red hair and freckles, and the fact that they were both wearing red shirts and dark pants.
The similarities ended with appearances. Inside, the twins were so very, very different… to the point where Laurie simply had no idea how the both of them could have ended up with such different outlooks on this pivotal moment in their lives.
“Geeeezzz Corrrrrryyy,” she retorted. “If you’d stop your resizing for a minute or two maybe you’d realize how cool this moment is, I mean why are you getting all wrapped up in recruiting followers already, we haven’t even made it to homeroom yet to see who’s there, why don’t you relax and have fun for once??”
“One can’t start too early,” Corry explained tersely, even as he turned once again to scan the crowd of students milling about the high school grounds. “Being in grade nine at the bottom of the social order is already a disadvantage. Add to that the fact that our middle school isn’t the only one with students coming here, and I can’t take anything for granted any more. Besides, I saw someone…”
“Corry, there’s more to life than position and statues!”
“Status,” Corry corrected absently.
“Ugh, whatever,” Laurie said, gesturing dismissively. “Look, this is our youth, we’re supposed to enjoy… oooh, golly, there’s Chartreuse, I recognize the green hair! Look, I’m gonna leave you to your moping and go say hi before the bell rings and all that, ‘k?” Without even waiting for her brother to respond, Laurie hurried off to talk with her friend.
Corry took a moment to watch his sister go, smiling despite himself at her enthusiasm before he resumed his inspection. “Okay, that guy looks influential, could be someone to have in my corner,” he muttered to himself. “While the girl there with the glasses could be roped in once I’ve gained some prestige. The guy heading for the doors looks to be a senior – I’ll deal with them through music extra curriculars, at least at first…”
Corry stopped abruptly as he caught sight of THAT girl once more. She had long curly brown hair, and was wearing a conservative looking sweater. Again, he felt the sense of mistrust. There was something about her that he didn’t like. When he finally put his finger on exactly what that thing was, the answer surprised him: she appeared to be sizing up people in the same way that he was. Even as he realized this, she turned, and their eyes met. For a split second, it was as if they were the only two people standing in the area.
‘Who are you?’ Corry thought. He took a step towards her, but a group of people chose that moment to disrupt his line of sight. By the time he reached her former position, she had disappeared. Again. Corry pursed his lips. He decided he didn’t like this turn of events.
“Yo, Corry! High school, how about it?”
“Tommy, I have a job for you.”
Tommy blinked. “What, already? Man, don’t you ever relax? We haven’t even started classes yet!”
“There’s a girl, a brunette with curly hair down to about here,” Corry said, turning to his former middle school ally and motioning partway down his back with his hand. “I think she’ll be in our grade. I need to you find out everything you can about her. But make sure no one knows I’m the one asking!”
“Uh, okay,” Tommy agreed. “She some new love interest?”
“Just do it, please,” Corry sighed. He glanced quickly around at the crowd of high school students once more, hoping to pick her out again. ‘Where did you come from?’ he wondered. ‘More importantly, what’s your angle?’
Julie turned to regard the red haired boy, who was leaning up against the side of the school building, right next to the door she’d exited. “Corry,” she said simply. It was his name, after all.
Corry pushed himself away from the wall. “You’re quite the mystery, you know that? All I’ve got after a week of asking around is that you’re part of the rich family who moved into the area about a year ago, after buying that mansion from old Linquist. A year, during which there’s never been any mention of the LaMilles having a daughter. Yet despite that, here you are!”
“Are you coming to a point?”
Corry shrugged. “Maybe.” He walked slowly around Julie, allowing her about a metre of space. She simply stared back at him, coldly, impassively. “Forgive me,” Corry said at last, “But as far as I can tell, you haven’t had the opportunity to make many friends around town yet. Now, I can help you out in that respect. I know people. I’m hoping to know more people. If you sign on with me, my friends can be your friends. We might even make a pretty good team, the two of us.”
A corner of Julie’s mouth quirked up. “Why Corry, are you proposing some sort of camaraderie between us?”
Julie cocked her head to the side slightly, to make him think she was actually considering it. “No,” she said at last. “You see, I’m afraid our motivations are fundamentally different.”
Corry blinked. “Different? How so?”
“Mmmm, that would be telling.” Julie now took the opportunity to pace her own circle around Corry. “Corry Veniti,” she began, upon completing the circuit. “Fraternal twin to Laurie Veniti. Former student of MacKenzie King Middle School, with a reasonable number of followers, though most known in musical circles. Instrument of choice, the flute. Birthday, May 21st. Parents’ names…”
“Stop.” Corry’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve been busy.”
Julie allowed herself a small smile. “Being enigmatic is not without it’s advantages,” she explained. “People seeking to resolve that sort of a mystery can be coaxed into talking.”
“So it would seem.” A silence descended upon the two teenagers. As their eyes met, they practically dared the other to blink first. “You realize that if we cannot be friends, we will become enemies,” Corry said.
Julie lifted an eyebrow. “A threat?”
“An observation. You know, you have no dependable followers here yet, Julie. I do. I strongly urge you to reconsider my offer of partnership. I won’t make it again.”
“In that case, we have nothing further to discuss. You might as well run along home.”
Corry shook his head. “You’re making a mistake.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Julie remarked, mouth tightening. “However, you may find me a more formidable opponent than you think.”
“What, because your family is rich? I wouldn’t pin all your hopes on that.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t.”
Corry turned away first. “Fine then, have it your way,” he concluded, a sour expression on his face as he walked off.
“Until next time,” Julie said, continuing to watch Corry’s retreating form without so much as batting an eyelash. “Until next time.”
Julie tapped her foot absentmindedly on the floor as she leaned back against the row of lockers. Much as she hated to admit it, Corry had been right about something during their encounter the previous week. She didn’t have any dependable followers yet. And sooner or later, people’s interest would wear off. Meanwhile, Corry had taken the opportunity over the last seven days to start planting hints, if that boy Clarke’s remarks to her earlier today were to be believed. Phil Clarke had seemed a candid guy too, so she had no reason to doubt his word… being someone else not from this area, he could even be a good person to win over in the future.
However, in the here and now, Julie needed to find herself a more devoted follower. Someone others in the school would know, perhaps trust, hence someone who had lived in the area for a while. Someone who was also reasonably intelligent, thus could take direction, yet at the same time be sufficiently self absorbed so as to not to pick up on everything that Julie was doing. If that someone was of questionable conscience it would be all the better.
Julie had spent her first two weeks at school keeping an eye out for just such a person, and she now believed she had located a girl who fit most, if not all, of her requisite criteria.
“Hello Carrie,” Julie said with a half smile as the blonde with the long hair walked up to her.
Carrie Waterson stared back. “Julie?” She glanced up and down the hall before looking back to the brunette. “Why are you at my locker?”
“Because I have a proposition for you.”
“Yes.” Julie stepped aside to allow Carrie to work her lock. “You seem surprised by my being here.”
“As far as I know, this is the first time you’ve ever approached anyone of your own volition,” Carrie admitted.
Julie allowed her half smile to become a full one. “I’ve been thinking of changing that. Moreover, I’ve been thinking of doing that with you at my side.”
Tossing her books into her locker, Carrie slammed the door shut. “Why me?”
“Because Carrie, I believe you’re a relatively intelligent girl who has as much interest in status as I do. You already have some admirers, I have some ideas. By combining our efforts, well, let’s just say good things are sure to come our way.” There was no point beating around the bush – her best approach here was the truth.
Carrie gave Julie a wary look. “What exactly would I be getting out of this deal?”
Julie spread her hands out. “What do you want?”
Carrie laughed. “No, seriously, what would I get?”
“I am being serious, Carrie. Right now, what do you want?”
Carrie pursed her lips. “Right now? Revenge.”
“Revenge?” Julie repeated, not having quite anticipated that.
Carrie nodded. “Someone broke into my room late last Friday night and broke a crystal swan I keep on my desk. I’m not sure who it was, but they seemed familiar somehow.” Her mouth twitched and her hands briefly curled and uncurled. “I want revenge against whoever it was for what they did. I want them hurt, and hurt bad. Ideally without them ever knowing what hit them. Can you do that?”
Inwardly, Julie laughed. Carrie was even more perfect for her purposes than she’d first suspected! Still, better to play things cautiously, at least to start. “Well,” Julie began. “That isn’t much to go on, but I’ll see if there’s anything I can do. In the meantime, I assure you that if you join forces with me, steps can be taken to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.”
Carrie worked through a few choice expressions on her face. “What if I don’t like the way things start working out?”
“Two week grace period,” Julie said easily. “If during that time you don’t like the situation, you can walk away. However, I would hope that we can deal with any problems that arise together, resolving them to our mutual satisfaction.” She winked. “Come on now, Carrie. What have you got to lose?”
Carrie sized Julie up one last time. “All right,” she agreed. “I’m in.”
(ASIDE: If you came here from part 1, you can now see their friendship back in the present with this link to part 7.)
Corry paced in front of the two other people in the empty classroom. “So,” he began at last. “It’s been two days. What have you turned up on this Carrie Waterson? Sue?”
“Bits and pieces,” the brown haired girl replied. “As you know already, she’s from the other major middle school that merges with ours at this high school. Casual inquiry has revealed that in many ways she’s your typical, shallow, blonde airhead. Unfortunately, the exception here is that her head isn’t filled with air.”
“She knows how to use what she’s got to manipulate people when she wants,” Tommy chimed in. “Bit of a flirt too.”
Corry leaned forwards, placing his hands upon a desk. “Popular?”
“Athletically, yes,” Sue confirmed. “Fast runner and fair gymnast. However, her social life outside school is erratic at best. She’s got attitude, and the few people I spoke with indicated that the only parties of note Carrie’s ever been invited to were ones thrown by guys hoping to get to first base with her. What followers she has are at least 80% male.”
“I don’t think she even gets out that much,” Tommy added. “Her mother is gone, either dead or divorced, which could be indicative of an unstable home life. That may be carrying over into her personality. Appearances are a bit deceiving around Carrie.”
“I see,” Corry concluded. “To sum up, a lively, yet somehow vulnerable person. Julie chose well… she’s obviously not about to go down without a fight. As a team, how much of a threat do you think they’ll pose?”
Tommy and Sue exchanged a glance. “It’s too soon to tell, really,” Tommy admitted. “I mean, they may bond instantly or Carrie may decide to move on next week… our data on Julie is just too sparse to make any accurate predictions.”
Corry grimaced. “Well, you two have been at my side the longest. I trust you implicitly. If anyone can turn up more about Julie, you’ll find a way. Don’t worry about Carrie for the moment either… I’ll deal with her tomorrow.”
“Waterson!” Corry said as he approached her locker the following day. “Just the person I wanted to see. A few words?”
“We’ve got ten minutes before the bell.”
Carrie hesitated, then shrugged. “In that classroom then,” she said, gesturing. The two of them entered the vacant room.
“So, you and Julie have hooked up together,” Corry remarked.
“Could be,” Carrie said noncommittally.
“I strongly advise you to reconsider that decision,” Corry continued. “There is a lot we don’t yet know about her. She may well prove dangerous.”
Carrie laughed. “What, you leap to that conclusion merely because you don’t know much about her? Paranoid much?”
“I’m being serious,” Corry said, trying to keep the annoyance out of his tone. “I’ve been getting some bad vibes about the whole situation. Now, in contrast, I am willing to be perfectly candid with you.”
“I’m sure you are,” Carrie said, nodding. “Mr. Corry Veniti, fraternal twin to Laurie Veniti, former student of MacKenzie King Middle School, well known in musical…”
Corry slammed his books down onto a nearby desk. “Look, Waterson, Julie LaMille cannot be trusted! I’m sorry I didn’t get to you before she did, but believe me when I say it’s not too late to disassociate yourself from her!”
Carrie smiled. “Why Corry, are you proposing some sort of counter offer to me?”
“Well… yes, I guess I am,” Corry admitted. “If you’re willing to become another one of my backers, I’ll give you the associated benefits and speak out on your behalf once I’ve gained enough of a voice around here. Given time, I may even be able to advocate for you with more than mere freshmen.”
“Let me see your books,” Carrie countered.
Corry raised an eyebrow. “My books?”
“I want to make sure you’re not concealing any sort of recording device that you’ll play back to Julie later.”
“Oh, please. Now who’s being paranoid?” Corry retorted. Carrie simply looked up at the ceiling and began whistling idly, twirling a strand of hair around her finger. Corry sighed. “Fine, fine, here,” he grumbled, shoving his books in her direction.
Carrie grabbed them and quickly flipped through the pages of his two texts, as well as his binder. Corry took the opportunity to lean back up against the wall. “Satisfied?” he said irritably once she’d finished.
“Sure,” Carrie agreed, reaching out to hand his stuff back. The textbooks slipped off the binder and fell to the floor.
Corry sighed again. “Are you trying my patience deliberately??” he asked, stooping down to retrieve the fallen texts.
“Not really. But about this deal of yours… you say follower. What about a partnership?”
“It may be possible someday,” Corry yielded, adding under his breath, “assuming you’re not always like this.” He stood and grabbed his binder back, stacking his texts on top of it.
Carrie regarded Corry quietly for a moment. “But Julie’s offering me partnership. And – correct me if I’m wrong – you did offer HER a definite partnership, didn’t you?”
“Hmph. Yes, of sorts,” Corry admitted. “But Julie is a unique case.”
“Because you’re worried about her,” Carrie said.
“She has qualities of which I’ve taken some note, that’s all.”
“It’s all right, Corry. It is understandable, fearing the unknown,” Carrie soothed.
“I wouldn’t go as far as fear,” Corry asserted crossly.
Carrie pressed a finger on her chin. “Oh no? Funny. If I were you, I might go that far. After all, she has your reactions predicted down to a tee.”
“But she… wait, what do you mean?” Corry said suspiciously.
Carrie smiled again. “I mean this conversation is going almost exactly the way she predicted it would. You know, it’s fascinating, Corry. I did have some reservations about Julie. But now, looking at how well she can handle someone like you, well… I think my friendship with her just might work out after all!”
Corry grit his teeth. “You’re making a mistake. If you’re with Julie, you’re against me. Are you sure you want that?”
Carrie flashed a patronizing look his way. “It’s okay, Corry. I think we girls can handle you.” She then produced a number of papers from behind her back, and unceremoniously dumped them into the garbage. “Bye now!”
As Carrie walked out of the class, Corry moved to see what on earth she had discarded. Lying on top of a few dirty Kleenex and a banana peel, he recognized his homework assignment for the day. Eyes widening, Corry flipped open his binder, looking at the pocket where his assignment should have been. In it’s place was a small yellow card which read simply: ”Your move now. –Julie”
“All right,” Corry seethed, clenching his hand into a fist. “Then if it’s war you want… it’s war you get!!” Grabbing his assignment from the trash, he wheeled and stormed out of the classroom.