Kaylee checked her hair in the mirror one last time before leaving. She had to look great for the class picture today. Not that she didn’t always look great. She had been homecoming queen in the fall, and it looked like she may be prom queen as well. Putting on a little more lip gloss, she grabbed her bag, yelled goodbye to her parents who were still sitting at the kitchen table enjoying breakfast, and ran out to where her best friend, Natasha was waiting in her car.
“Hey.” Kaylee squeezed in the car, trying to fit her huge tote bag on her lap. “Love your skirt.”
Tasha was the second most popular girl in Kennedy High. She was tall and thin; her hair was a shiny dark brown that reached the middle of her back. Tasha and Kaylee had been close since middle school, and now, as seniors, they ruled the school together.
After parking, the two of them entered the school as usual. Kaylee was used to the stares of guys and jealous girls; she strutted though the hall without taking any notice of them. They weren’t worth it.
Getting in their classroom, Kaylee saw her gorgeous boyfriend leaning against her desk, talking to André and the other guys. When he saw her, he got up and they shared a long kiss. André whooped, but the others were used to their show of affection and didn’t take much notice.
“Hey, Chad. Miss me?” Kaylee smiled into her boyfriend’s big blue eyes.
“Hello, Beautiful.” He said, smiling his crooked smile that made just about any girl die from heart attack.
Kaylee turned her head and caught her friend Lindsey’s eye. Lindsey looked away quickly, pretending she hadn’t been watching them. Kaylee had never really liked Lindsey, even though they hung out a lot in the same group. She’d always had a feeling that Lindsey hated her for dating Chad who’d been her crush since seventh grade but tried not to show it. She was also really loud and got on Kaylee’s nerves sometimes, so Kaylee tried to stay away from her.
The teacher walked in with a guy carrying camera equipment-presumably the photographer- and told them to be quiet. “We need three rows.” The camera guy said. “One row will be sitting in front, tall people stand in the back, and medium in the middle.”
Kaylee grabbed Tasha’s hand and dragged her over in front of Chad and André who’d already claimed the back row. Lindsey and Britt scooted in next to them, brushing by two of the nerds who didn’t have any idea where to stand.
It took the camera guy forever to get everyone in the right place, and it took even longer to get them to stop laughing. “Do you think Jen stuck her hand into the light bulb socket especially for this occasion?” André whispered, and the girls couldn’t stop giggling.
“Hey, Leo’d better take off his glasses or we’ll be blinded again!” Chad said, referring to last year’s picture, where Leo’s glasses had reflected the flash and shone like spotlights on all the pictures.
“Chad, could you please shut your mouth for two minutes!” The teacher was getting tired of their good mood, and the photographer looked frantic. “I was supposed to be in another class ten minutes ago.” He muttered to himself.
They finally calmed down, and the pictures were taken. Right after the last flash, Britt attacked the camera guy and made him show her the photos to see if she looked good. Kaylee had never seen anyone so relieved to get out of their classroom as the photographer when he finally managed to escape.
After school, they headed over to Tasha’s house. Her parents were hardly ever home and didn’t mind if people hung out there all day. They usually went to Tasha’s two or three times a week, and Kaylee got home pretty late those nights.
That day, when she finally got inside her house (Chad had brought her home and it took them a while to say goodbye), it was after 11. Kaylee’s mom was sitting in the living room in her redbathrobe, reading a book.
“You’re late again.” She said, putting the book down. “How many times do I have to tell you, curfew is 10.”
Kaylee rolled her eyes. “Sorry, Mom.”
She dragged herself into her bedroom. Her parents always got onto her but never punished her for anything, as long as she got good grades. She climbed in to bed, still laughing to herself about what Britt had told her about how Eric, the annoying history geek, had asked her out after helping her study for a history exam. Poor looser.
Kaylee woke up tired but managed to get ready before Tasha was honking outside her door. She hopped into the car, and Tasha stepped on the gas.
“Where are we going?” Kaylee asked when she noticed they were turning right at the light where they usually went straight toward the school.
“Lindsey asked for a ride.” Tasha said, pushing up her sunglasses to look in the mirror to see whether her eyeliner was smudged or not.
“Since when do we take anyone else?” Kaylee slouched down in her seat.
“Her car wouldn’t start and there’s no way she’s taking the bus; I mean, that’s totally understandable. Who’d ever want to ride with them? I’m just helping her out, that’s what friends are for.”
They stopped in front of Lindsey’s house. She was already waving at them from the curb. “Hey girls.” She said in her high-pitched voice, as she climbed into the back seat.
“Thanks for the ride, Tasha. Guess who texted me last night…”
Kaylee tried not to sigh. “Oh, this is my favorite song!” she said, turning up the radio.
Tasha looked at her strangely. “I didn’t know you liked Mitchel Musso.”
“My new favorite.”
Kaylee could hardly wait to get out of the car. Lindsey could get on her nerves so easily. As they strode into their classroom, they could hear loud laughter. Kaylee and Tasha looked at each other.
“The pictures are here.” Tasha said. Kaylee nodded.
The girls and some of the guys were all hunched around the photos, laughing, or, in Britt’s case, shaking their heads about how “awful” they looked. Tasha and Lindsey hurried over to see. Chad was lounging in his seat with his feet on his desk, chewing gum. Kaylee hopped up on the desk and pushed his legs over.
“So, what are we doing tonight?” Chad asked, sitting up and putting his elbows on her lap, looking up at her with big eyes.
“I promised Tasha I’d go shopping with her today,” Kaylee said. “and I have to study for that math test tomorrow, or Mom’ll lock me in my room forever.”
Chad groaned. “You study too much. What good is all that knowledge doing? Meanwhile you could be spending time with your wonderful boyfriend.”
Kaylee smiled. She loved how obsessed he was with her. “Tomorrow, okay?”
Britt pressed a picture in her hand. Kaylee looked at it. She snorted. “Looks like Leon did it again.”
“He’ll never learn.” Chad said leaning back again.
André walked over, a photo in his hand. “Looking pretty good here, Kay! If you and Chad happen to break up anytime soon, let me know.”
Kaylee rolled her eyes at Chad. “Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know. What happened to that girl from the party last week?”
“She was getting on my nerves. I knew I shouldn’t have given her my phone number. She texted me at least ten times the next day. Like, I know I’m hot, but that’s a little too much.”
Kaylee shook her head with a grin, and headed over to her seat. The pictures were the main subject for the rest of the day, and the teachers were getting pretty annoyed by the constant laughter while they were trying to teach.
When she got home, Kaylee took out the class picture and decided to put it up beside the many other pictures on her wall. When she was done, she stepped back and compared it to last year's. Lindsey had a new hair color again; this time it was red. André had grown at least an inch since last year. Kaylee leaned in closer. Chad's face had a smudge on it. She wiped the picture with her thumb, and in that moment, something strange happened.
She heard voices. It sounded like they were in her room.
She spun around.
No answer. She knew her mother shouldn't be home for another hour. Kaylee shook her head. She must have imagined it.
She turned back to the picture and rubbed Chad's face again. The voices rushed around her, and this time she could make out what they were saying.
"Those jeans look amazing on you." the voice sounded a lot like Lindsey's.
"Thanks, I've lost like five pounds last month." Britt said, because it was without doubt Britt's voice.
"That’s awesome. Don't you think Kaylee's gained some weight lately?" -Lindsey
"Hmm, yeah, maybe she has." -Britt
"She was like the skinniest person in the school our junior year, and now look at her. She's really let herself go since she started dating Chad." Lindsey spit out the words. "She thinks that just because she's dating the hottest guy in school, she can get away with being fat."
"She's not fat..." Britt said.
"Not yet. Just wait a few months and you'll see. She won’t be Miss Popular forever."
Kaylee dropped her hand. The voices stopped. What had just happened? She reached out and touched the picture again. The voices returned. Kaylee yanked her hand back, as if she'd been burned. How could this be? Was she going crazy? How was this possible? And why would they say those things about her? Was it real? Or was she imagining things?
She plopped down on her bed, head spinning. She didn't know what was going on. She was probably just tired.
She got out her books and tried to study. Bur she kept thinking about what she had heard. She had a bad feeling all evening and found her gaze keep being drawn to the picture.
Before getting in bed, she had to know if she had imagined the voices or not. She slowly walked over to the wall, and touched the picture.
"... Yeah, I bought this dress with Kaylee today. Totally cute, right?" Tasha’s voice.
Kaylee jumped back. It was real. This was really happening.
She had to know more. Her finger touched the picture again.
“… That’s really cute, honey, but did your teacher called me today about your grades.” That was Tasha’s mom. “I usually don’t care about the grades you get, as long as you pass, but he said you were failing English and Math.”
“No biggie, Mom, Kaylee’ll help me. She always lets me copy her notes.”
“That’s great, but I would like to see you finish high school. Get Kaylee to help you after school if you have to.”
“Don’t worry, she’ll be happy to help me. She always does.”
The voices died, and Kaylee let go. Did this mean she could hear what other people were saying about her? Normally she’d think that’s cool, but after what she’d heard two of her so-called friends say, she wasn’t so sure. What if other people thought the same thing? What if her friends weren’t really her friends? At least Tasha would never betray her like that… would she?
She lay in bed and found it hard to fall asleep. She didn’t know what to do with the picture. It could be dangerous, couldn’t it? She knew she should tell someone, but who would believe her? They’d think she’d gone crazy, which was probably true.
Was she getting fat?
Read part 2 here.