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   Chapter 2 Two

Beauty and the Bad By Aubrey Wolfe Characters: 23137

Updated: 2019-04-10 11:30


You got this Chloe. Come on, you aren't a little girl anymore. It's just a school. It's just a building.

Full of people I have never met, and will never meet me. Or, at least, the real me.

My name is Chloe Byrne. But today, I am becoming Haley Quinn. Today is my first day in witness protection program. My mom and I barely have the house unpacked, and I'm already starting my first day of high school.

The move was sudden, and long. We barely made it before the first day, or else I would be starting a week behind everyone else, making my welcome even more awkward.

I take a deep breath once more and march up to the front doors, trying to keep my head down and away from prying eyes. The school looks rather large, with two floors and stretches the size of at least 2 football fields, seeing as they have one in the back already, and it takes up half the yard.

I make my way to what I hope is the front desk, and see a plump gingerly woman sitting behind a bright screen.

"Hello dear, how can I help you?" she asks me, smiling sweetly.

"My name is Chl– Haley Quinn, I'm a new student." I bite my tongue, silently cursing myself for almost slipping up on my first day, and I've only spoken to one person so far.

The woman, ignorant to my blunder, taps away on her keyboard, humming a small tune. She prints off a few papers and lays them out on top of the desk for me.

"Now, this here is your class schedule with the times written here, and the classroom number and floor number right here, " she says and points around the paper. "This one is a map of the school, it's a little difficult to read at first so don't be shy to ask someone for help, " she says and smiles at me, not knowing how I almost ruined my second life through her.

She has no idea how hard it's going to be even looking at another person here, knowing what I know, having to keep it secret from even my own family. My own friends. The ones I had to up and leave behind, not so much as a good-bye text or Facebook message.

I had to delete everything, every social media account in existence, every blog or online article, every video or tagged photo. Chloe Byrne, to the outside and online world, no longer exists, and never will.

She has been replaced by Haley Quinn.

And Haley Quinn isn't going to be anything like Chloe Byrne.

It's time to reinvent myself. I have to take away something positive from this dreadful experience that I'm forced into. Though I never hated myself before, there was never anything exciting about who I am. I didn't go out very often, unless it was to teach dance at the community center, but that was mainly for small kids.

Most of my time I spent with my mother, either baking or binge watching our favorite shows on Netflix, gossiping about boys and drama from school. That was of course, before she had met Jeremy.

Her abusive, drug dealer ex-boyfriend. The whole reason we are stuck in this situation. After he came into our lives, it was nothing but terror, screaming and fighting. There were few good times, at the beginning, when he was trying to earn his way into the family; more like weasel.

He would surprise my mother with flowers, then turn to me with another bouquet of flowers, and say he has to treat the queens in his life the way they deserve. My mother would gush about how perfect he is, and how wonderful he treats us. I would try and smile, but something would never feel right.

I'm so wrapped up in my thoughts, I forget to pay attention to where I'm going, and run right into a hard body. My papers go flying, along with the books the person had in their hands.

"Oh, God. I'm so sorry, I should've been paying more attention, " the guy I ran into apologizes, throwing me off guard.

"Wait, " I say, and stop him from picking up my papers. He looks up at me, with big, blue eyes, clouded over with concern. I have to blink a few times to gather myself before speaking. "I'm sorry, it's my fault, I wasn't paying attention. Don't worry about it, " I say and give him a small reassuring smile.

"Oh, no, it was me. I was too wrapped up in my schedule, they got it all wrong. I was actually rushing back to the office to speak with the secretary, I shouldn't have been going so fast, " he continues to ramble an apology.

I can see this is going nowhere, so I stick my hand out towards him.

"My names Haley, " I say, taking my time to make sure I get it completely right this time.

He smiles politely at me. "Logan Cameron. I can tell you are new here, haven't seen you around. Been going to this school since the first year, I'd recognize a pretty face like yours."

I clamp my lips together, unsure of how to respond, or if he was hitting on me or giving me a compliment.

Logan snickers beside me. "Don't worry, I bat for the other team, but you are pretty."

"Oh, well, thank you." I let out a small breath, thankful that's cleared.

"Where are you headed?" he asks, peaking down at my class schedule.

I take out the paper and read it over. "Looks like I'm looking for room A4, Calculus, " I say.

His eyes widen. "Wow, that's the Advanced Calculus class, I can already see you're incredibly smart. Looking to take on any tutoring students?" he asks and grins, causing me to laugh a little for the first time since I arrived here.

"Not that smart, but I am really good with numbers. I like how numbers can go on forever, and math is the only known universal language."

Logan gives me a lost look. "How is math a language?"

"It isn't technically, but it is something that is spoken, and therefore considered to some degree a language, and it's universal because it's the same in every country. Though the name and symbols of numbers are different to everyone, the system of math is the same."

He continues to stare at me, eyes wide. "Wow, you really like math, huh?"

I just shrug and smile. "I like the concept of things. Behind the origin."

"Well, whatever you are, I like it. I think we're going to get along great, " he says and beams at me, giving me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. A small sense of belonging, for once, in what feels like a long time.

I follow Logan back to the front desk so he can sort out his schedule, so he can then help me find my first class. Coincidentally, his classroom is two doors down and we all finish classes at the same time.

"I'll meet you back out here after class, so I can help you find the next one. I know every floor of this building like the back of my hand." I nod and he scurries down the hall, just as the first warning bell signals, making everyone else scatter in the hall.

I rush into the class and try to find a desk near the back, not wanting to stand out or be seen by anyone. The more people notice me, the more they ask questions, realizing like Logan, that I'm new. I can barely remember the fake story they fed to us, let alone my own fake name.

A week and I should be solid, at least my story will be. Then, maybe I can start interacting with people, and reinvent my image. Though I haven't moved countries, this city is a lot different than my hometown. Everything just seems bigger, brighter, fancier. There are a lot more beach options, more hangout spots, places to eat.

I can become a whole different person here.

Someone who goes out more, tries different things, experiences new places. I've been to the beach many times, but it was also to relax on the beach alone, or with my best friend Alissa. We would read books or chat, nothing special.

I've never went to a beach party. Or a party in general. I've never been invited to one. I had friends back home, but we were never popular. Never disliked, but never stood out either. We had our little group, and we were fine with it.

But now, they're gone, and it's just me.

Or whoever I want Haley Quinn to be.

* * *

Logan stayed true to his word, and at the end of my first class, was there to greet me and walk me to my next. Turns out, we have next class together; English. A pretty basic class, but another one I love, besides gym. I have always loved learning about ancient literature, hearing the long-forgotten romance and adventure from our ancestor's.

"I can't believe you like that crap, " Logan groans as the lunch bell rings. I chuckle at him as we gather our things up, but I stop when I hear a small commotion by the door.

I look up to see a group of girls has cluttered in the doorway, looking out towards the hallway. They're whispering excitedly, with huge smiles and dreamy eyes. Is Chris Hemsworth down the hall? What has everyone's panties so wet?

I look to Logan, but he just rolls his eyes, as if he already knows what they're ogling over. Or who.

"I suspect you know what's going on over there?" I point to the door and he nods.

"Ethan Sommers is probably walking down the hall. The gym is also down the hall, and gym class is offered second period. Ethan loves gym, takes it every year, so he's probably leaving class, and like always, all the girls are trying to get a good look at him."

"Or they want him to get a good look at them, " I mutter, and join him in rolling my eyes. We share a small laugh before we try and squeeze our way through the crowd. I'm so confused as to where I'm going, I dart through the hall, barely looking.

And run right into a brick wall. My books go flying, and I have a weird sense of deja-vu, thinking back to when this happened to me this morning.

I really hope I'm not making a habit of this.

"Ugh, seriously, " I moan and look down at my scattered papers.

"You're complaining to me? You're the one blindly racing through the halls like a bat out of hell!" an angry voice shouts above me, their tone harsh. I tense, fully aware that I might have pissed off the wrong person.

I slowly lift my eyes up to meet the talking brick wall, and look into the most mesmerizing pair of eyes I've ever seen. They make my heart stop and my head spin the moment I look into them.

Steel grey. A color of grey I can't describe, except for soul-sucking. Looking into them felt like the life is literally being sucked out of me, I can't breathe.

"Are you alright? Did you seriously run into me that hard?" he asks, his tone lighter, and a small, teasing smirk lifting at the corner of his gorgeous lips.

What the hell am I thinking?

"N-no, you just startled me." Smooth, Haley.

"Maybe if you slowed down, and paid attention, you wouldn't be startled like this so often, " he says and bends down to gather my stuff. What does he mean by 'so often'? Wait...did he see me and Logan run into each other this morning?

He stands back up, another ghost of a smile on his face, and hands me my stack of books and papers.

"My name is Ethan, by the way. I can tell that you're new, I'd remember running into someone like you, " he says and winks, shoving his hands into his jean pockets.

"Someone like me?"

He shrugs. "Don't take it in a bad way, " is all he says.

I simply frown and shuffle my books awkwardly in my hands, spotting Logan standing off to the side.

"Well, sorry for running into you, and thanks, " I mumble and shuffle away, but he turns and grabs my arm softly.

"You never told me your name."

I bite my lip, remembering what I promised myself this morning.

I'm going to be different.

"Guess you'll have to find out, if you really want to know, " I say, and quickly turn to hide my burning cheeks. I have never said anything like that to anyone, let alone an extremely att

ractive guy.

I join Logan, and he gives me a, 'what the fuck' look as we walk down the hall. I turn back and steal one more glance at Ethan, shocked to see him still standing in the same spot, leaning against the wall, grinning at me.

He gives me a little wave, before Logan and I turn around a corner, disappearing from view. I can still heart my heart drumming in my ears, feel it pounding in my chest, as we make our way to the cafeteria.

I have a feeling I'm going to like it here.

And the new person I'm becoming.

I smile a little to myself, happy that I'm starting to feel a little at home, or at least a lot more comfortable with my new life than I thought I was going to be, and it's only the first day.

That reminds me of the beach party Logan told me about, and makes me wonder if Ethan is the kind of person who attends those. He seems like the party kind of guy, but looks can be deceiving.

I should know that better than anyone.

It seems Logan knows a thing or two about the gossip of the school, so I take advantage when we finally sit down with our food.

"So, this beach party this weekend, who here is likely to attend? You know, so I'm prepared for who I'm going to meet. Anyone you know?" I ask him, trying to play it off cool, but end up rambling on the spot.

"Oh, for sure! My best friend, Sissy, you're going to love her. She has the best hair ever, she dyes it and styles it all herself, and she can do almost anything with any kind of wig, and rock it like she was born with it, " Logan gushes about this girl, Sissy, just as a high pitched voice cuts in.

"Hellloooo, my love!" a girl with dark, red hair cut in a short bob and curled to perfection at the ends walks up, carrying a small white pack back with bunny ears at the top.

"Sissy, we were just talking about you. Come, sit and meet my new friend Haley, " Logan says and pats the seat next to him. Sissy sits down and smiles at me with her blood red lips, and holds out her black manicured hands, almost long enough to scratch someone's eyes out.

"Hey there, so nice to meet you. My name is Sissy, and no it's not my real name, my real name is Sierra but it's a nickname Logan made for me in middle school and just kind of stuck, " she says and they share a knowing look.

"So, what is it you were gossiping about me now?" she asks him.

Logan rolls his eyes. "Nothing, drama queen. I was actually telling Haley you're going to be at the beach party this weekend. I invited her this morning, so I'm trying to tell her who is all going."

Sissy's hazel eyes light up. "Oh, I know exactly who is going, I can tell you! Well, I can at least tell you the ones who matter. So, of course there is Logan and I, we'll be by your side so you don't get lost or sucked into the wrong crowd. And by wrong crowd, I mean those bitches over there, " she says and points behind me.

I turn to see a table crowded with people; all their attention pointed to a single girl sitting in the middle. She is your classic barbie-doll, the one that oozes confidence and wears her wealth. I fight the urge to roll my eyes.

"I can already tell what kind of person she is, " I mutter, earning a small giggle from Sissy.

"Yeah, that's Athena, her name says it all. But between you and me, that isn't her real name, she changed it this summer. Her name used to be Beatrice, but she hated it because it has something to do with some dead relative she doesn't like, nobody really knows."

My mind stops when she mentions Athena doesn't use her real name. I feel a small amount of comfort knowing that I'm not the only one faking something.

But the difference between Athena and I, is she isn't hiding anything, just faking it.

That small amount of comfort I felt disappears, and I turn my back away from them. Sissy continues to go on about who is going to the party, but I don't pay as much attention, continuing to think about the lie I am living.

Will I ever get to let anyone in? Will anyone ever get to know my secret? Or am I doomed to walk this earth, never returning to who I once was?

My mind in a whirl, I barely touch my food or hear the warning bell that lunch is over. Logan has to drag me out of my thoughts and frowns when I toss my untouched food in the garbage.

He and Sissy walk me to my next class, but my mind is still in the clouds for the rest of the day, going through the motions like a robot.

Like promised, my mother is there to pick me up at the end of the day, the first car parked right out front. I again fight the urge to roll my eyes, and hide my face as I walk to her car. She has a big smile on her face, waving wildly at me from inside the car, where everyone can see her.

"Mum, can you please stop acting like I'm 12-years-old and it's my first day?" I ask and slouch down further in my seat.

"But it is your first day."

"Yeah, but I'm not 12, I'm 18 and this is my last year of high school, where I'm trying to not seem weird." This time, I don't fight the urge to roll my eyes at her.

"Well, how did that go then?" she asks.

I shrug, sitting up when we finally pull off the lot. "So far so good, I made a couple new friends that seem nice."

"That's great, Chl– I mean, Haley, " she catches herself, but lets out a groan. "This is going to be difficult, " she mutters.

"You're telling me, I'm the one who has to interact with people only a few days after we're given our new identities. I almost said my real name to the secretary this morning, " I say and glare at her.

"But luckily, your smart and quick like me, and you caught yourself, " she says and smiles confidently at me. I just grumble and turn to look out the window. I'm debating telling her about Ethan, and the party this weekend, but something tells me she won't let me.

She hasn't let me do much since everything changed. Going to school is the first time she has let me leave the house, and she obviously had no choice.

Looks like I also have no choice, but to commit my first act of rebellion. I could of course just tell her, and maybe there's a chance she will let me, but there's also an even bigger chance she will freak out and say no.

That isn't something I want to go through. I really want to go to this party, I almost need to, if I want to try and fit in, reinvent myself.

Oh, god. I don't have anything good to where, let alone up to the standards of some of the styles I've seen so far. I at least had the whole week to figure out where I can get new clothes, and what exactly to get. My mother does give me a small allowance from the money my grandparents gave us, so I can buy lunch at school. I can use some of it for at least a new outfit and bathing suit for the beach party.

When we get home, I hurry upstairs to my room and pull out my suitcases. I try and rifle through everything to no effort, I have nothing to even call decent in my wardrobe. Just as I pull my laptop out of a box to search up a map of the area, my mother calls me downstairs.

"Hey, honey, sit down, " she says when I enter the living room, patting the couch next to me. She takes a deep breath before smiling and turning towards me. "I have some good news I wanted to share with you, I just got the confirmation email today while I was unpacking."

"Confirmation for what?" I ask. She hasn't mentioned she has done anything to me in the last week, we've both been so focused on the move and change.

Her smile grows. "Last week, just before we moved here, I took a look at the area, and applied to some firms for an intern job, " she says slowly, allowing me to take in everything. I still have to think twice.

"You mean, a law firm?"

She nods. "You remember, I mentioned that just before I met your father, I went to school to study criminology and law? Well I also have a few classes of human rights and business ethics under my belt, but I never pursued a career after you were born, there was no need, " she says and smiles again.

"So, you what? Want to work again?" I ask, still unsure of how I feel about this news. I have never seen my mother work, she has always been around, packing my lunches in the morning, and cooking dinner before I'm even home, always making something new and fresh.

Now what is going to happen? Is she even going to be here half the time?

That could work to my advantage, especially when it comes to this weekend.

"Haley, are you listening?" my mother asks, waving a hand in front of me.

"Oh, sorry. What did you say?"

"I said, what do you think about this?" she repeats, looking at me eagerly.

"Well, I'm not sure, to be honest. We're trying to stay under the radar, aren't we? Isn't jumping right into the law enforcement department, kind of doing the opposite?"

She grins at me. "That's just the thing, this is supposed to help us."

"What do you mean?" I ask, not liking the bad gut feeling a now have.

"This law firm, the one that accepted me, they're working on a case that might be connected to the one we're under. They're looking for a man who works with or for the man who killed Jeremy–"

"Mom, are you crazy? You're going to get us killed!" I cry and stand up, unable to hear what she is telling me. I knew that gut feeling was bad, but this is just terrible. "Are you seriously saying you want to try and help go after the man who is the reason, we're under witness protection?"

"Yes, so we can get out of witness protection, and go back to our normal lives, instead of always living a lie, " she says and frowns, her eyes determined. I have seen that look many times. Whenever I tried to tell her that Jeremy was bad news, and she always defended him.

Until he came home drunk or high, and beat her for money or sex.

"Mom, a part of me thinks this guy did us a favor, " I say and sit back down, taking her hands in mine. I have always looked at my mother as someone fragile, even though she is well beyond my youth.

"What are you saying?" she says, her lip trembling.

"I'm saying, we had a really shitty life when you were with Jeremy, as much as I know you loved him, he was horrible to us, but I know how hard it was for you to escape. As hard as it might be to even imagine, maybe this guy coming in and taking Jeremy away, was some sort of God send, a chance for us to get away and start over, completely, " I explain softly, gauging my mother's reaction.

Tears start to form in her eyes, and I instantly regret saying anything. I knew it would be something hard for her to hear, but in a way, it is how I feel.

I hate that my life was taken away from me probably just as much as she does, but I never asked for it to be ruined in the first place. This is my second chance, my opportunity to start over, and get the life I always wanted, and deserve.

"I know, I haven't been the greatest to you, and that I have forced a lot of terrible trauma on you that I am going to hate myself for the rest of my life for. But do you really not want to go back?" she asks quietly.

I open my mouth to respond, but my mind is blank.

"I-I'm not sure."

My mother wipes her tears away and looks at me more defiantly.

"Well I'm sure, that I want to take this son of a bitch down, regardless if we go back to our old life, or not. He will pay for putting my family in danger, and putting this threat on us."

I can tell there is no more room for argument, she had made up her mind, and even I can't change it. I just nod, and try to ignore the growing, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach.

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