Read Falling to Pieces Online

Authors: Jamie Canosa

Falling to Pieces

Falling to Pieces

The Pieces Series

Jamie Canosa

To those who allow others to judge 
your self-worth.

Don’t.

To those who hide who you really are out of fear of what others will think.

Don’t.

Who you are is determined by
your
actions. Not
their
opinions.

Other b
ooks by Jamie Canosa

Dissidence

Vengeance

Fight or Flight

Sink or Swim

Now or Never

Resisting Atlantis

Heart and Soul Series:

Temptation

Devotion

Deception

One

Beep-Beep-Beep

I groaned into my pillow and swatted aimlessly at the offensive piece of technology blaring at me from the nightstand until I finally made contact and silenced the foul beast. The numbers glaring back at me with angry red eyes refused to compute in my sleep riddled brain. An hour starting with a five should only exist in the PM. The lazy sun hadn’t even deemed it a reasonable enough time to rise and shine yet, and here I was dragging my sorry butt out from under the covers.

My body screamed for ‘five more minutes’ on a cellular level, but not today. Today was going to be different. Today was going to be better. Today
I
was going to be better. And that required time to prepare. It was the first day of senior year, and the day I’d been promising myself for months that I would finally get it right.
It
being life in general.

Rolling out of bed, I pushed my dark tangled hair out of my face to look, bleary eyed, into the cracked mirror positioned precariously against the wall above my dresser, and sighed. Maybe I should have gotten up earlier.

Conditioner burned my eyes as goose bumps sprouted across my bare skin being pelted by the icy spray. Even at this unreal hour, the water heater wasn’t strong enough to keep up with the demands of the building’s tenants for more than a few minutes. Rusted metal rings scraped along the curtain rod—a sound far too harsh for my pounding head—as I groped for a towel behind the faded orange plastic curtain.

I was no stylist, but an epic battle with a hairbrush, layer of clear lip gloss, and swipe of mascara later, things were looking up. I’d raided my closet and dresser the night before, digging through every last piece of clothing I owned, and found the selection to be . . . underwhelming. It had taken almost half the night to decide on the outfit currently laid out on my bed. Individually, the pieces didn’t look like much—dark jeans, black
cami, and a three-quarter length purple fuzzy sweater, which had been a birthday gift and was one of the few genuinely nice things I owned—but paired together, I thought I’d done a decent job.

Two-year-old scuffed and worn
gray Converses didn’t exactly match, but my shoe selection was even more lacking than my wardrobe. Faded floral wallpaper reminiscent of the nineteen-fifties—or possibly
from
the nineteen-fifties—peeled and curled away from the walls I ricocheted off of as I hop-stumbled my way down the hall toward the kitchen, trying to pull them on.

"You’re making a racket out here, Jade
,” Mom grumbled, shuffling into the room, running a hand through her thinning hair, while I rooted through the cabinets for some bread.
Bread
. The almighty pantry essential. How could we not have a single slice of bread? “What are you doing up so early?”

“Sorry.” To be honest, I was kind of surprised she’d noticed the time, though I wasn’t surprised in the least that she’d forgotten what today was. “School starts today.”

“Aren’t you done with all that nonsense yet?”

Yeah, science, math, English, social studies, all
that
nonsense. “One more year.”

She made a noncommittal grunt as I abandoned my exploration of the cabinets and turned my attention to the fridge, instead. There was food in this house somewhere
. I just had to find it.

“Make yourself useful and hand me a drink.” At seven in the morning, most normal people would probably reach for the milk, or orange juice, maybe a glass of water, but not us. Oh no, not here. Here we had our own way of doing things.

Vaguely noting that the aluminum mountains had, indeed, turned blue, I passed the can off to my mother without really looking her in the eye.

“What the hell is on your face? Jesus, Jade, if you’re going to look like a whore, at least get paid like one.”

There are those plastic phrases we all say that are drilled into us from the time we’re old enough to speak. Things we say out of force of habit or to be politically correct. Things like ‘it’s nice to meet you’, or ‘nice try’, or ‘thank you’, ‘you’re welcome’, or even ‘God bless you’. Things we don’t always—or even usually—mean. Things that cover a deeper, more sinister truth. Usually, one has to look beneath the words, between the lines, to find their true meaning. With my mother, t
here was no need for translation. She was straightforward and honest. Said what she meant without regard for feelings or appearances. She didn’t care what people thought, so she made no attempt to mask her contempt for the human race in general. Daughter included.

I scooped up the dented metal toaster, scowling at my reflection as she disappeared down the hallway to the hushed pop-fizz of her breakfast being cracked open. Dabbing at my lips with a paper towel, I considered removing all of it, but I didn’t have time to mess with the mascara if I was going to make it to school on time
without raccoon eyes.

***

Some things never changed, like the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. School was undoubtedly one of those things. It was pretty much a given that high school had consisted of the same slamming lockers, clicky groups, and stench of week-old meatloaf since the dawn of time. Craterview High was no exception. It was a well-choreographed ensemble, where everyone had their place—the geeks, the Goths, the athletes, the brains, and the brawn—and there was a place for everyone. Except me.

I skated the outskirts, ducked and weaved between the clearly defined crowds, and did my best to hide in plain sight. But not this year. This year I was going to do the impossible. I was going to
change
things. Or, at least, find a place to fit in. Either way, things were going to be different.

“Hi, Jade. How was your summer?” Susie was busy decorating the interior of her locker with mirrors and
photos of her friends. We’d been locker neighbors for going on four years, and she was always spouting off empty phrases like that, the minimal required interaction between two people forced to share such close quarters for so long.

“Fine. How was yours?” Part of me wished she wouldn’t bother. I could rarely open my mouth without making a fool of myself, so I made it a point to open it as little as humanly possible. My own brand of damage control I’d perfected over the years.

“It was great. Kensie, Ella, and I took a senior trip to Spain for three weeks. We just got back a few days ago. I’m still exhausted from the jet lag.”

She stood there, watching me, and I knew she was waiting for some regaling of my
own amazing summer adventures. Thing is, I didn’t have any. I couldn’t even make up a story like that. And she knew it. Everyone knew it. She just wanted me to admit it.

“Sounds like fun.” I stuffed my extra notebooks on the upper shelf of my locker.

“It really was. Hey, I like your outfit.” That’s what she said.

What I heard was:
You look like you tried really hard and failed anyway.

I glanced down at myself and grimaced. She was right. At home it had seemed relatively great, but here
in the halls of Fashion High, surrounded by name brands that probably cost more than my entire wardrobe put together, I looked pathetic. I looked like the Purple People Eater, for crying out loud.

“Um . . . thanks.” It felt dumb to thank her for making fun of me, but she’d been perfectly nice about it. So I did what I always did, I ducked my head and ran for cover.

I found it in the girl’s bathroom near the cafeteria. No one had lunch until after noon, so all morning it was the ideal place to hide when necessary. I knew this because I found it necessary more often than not.

Sulking
at my reflection in the mirrors lining the wall above the sinks, I ran my hands over the stupid purple fuzz. I wanted to take it off and shove it in the trash bin, but the shirt underneath definitely wouldn’t comply with the school dress code. I could just see it now, being pulled out of class for indecent exposure and forced to wear one of those baggy tees the nurse always had lying around that looked—and smelled—like something a grandmother would wear. No, thanks.

Different
, my ass. This year was going to be exactly as bad as every other year had been and would be for the rest of my natural born life. Why I even bothered trying to convince myself otherwise, anymore, was a mystery even I couldn’t solve.

The warning bell
rang, and as good as hiding out there for the rest of the day sounded, I knew I needed to get to class. My schedule was going to be challenging enough this year without the added obstacle of detention. Casting one last scathing glare at the mirror, I threw open the door and no sooner stepped into the bustling hallway than the strap on my backpack snapped, sending all of its contents scattering across the floor.
Unbe-freaking-lieveable.
I was cursed.

Feeling very much like the butt of some cosmic joke, I chased
my books, folders, and pens around the feet of my classmates, trying hard not to burst into tears as I publicly humiliated myself once again. All of which led to me stumbling into chemistry late. And there he was. Seated in the back row, short blonde hair artfully spiked in all the right ways, black button-up hanging open over a plain white tee and rolled to his elbows, revealing some seriously ripped forearms. Those were new, as was the silver stud in his left ear, but I’d recognize Kiernan Parks anywhere. I should, I’d been crushing on him for twelve years.

Suddenly, I was five-years-old again, standing at my cubby in that horrific pink dress with little white hearts all over it, which might have been cute if it hadn’t been two sizes too small and bordering on indecent for a kindergartener, when Kiernan Parks—the cutest boy on the playground—walked right up to me in front of the whole class and handed me a pink heart Valentine with red doily lace around it. I’d f
allen hard right that moment. But then he’d just up and left, moved away with his family to who-knows-where, and I never saw him again. Until right now. And he was staring at me.

Everyone
was staring at me. Maybe that’s because I was standing at the front of the classroom, gaping like a fish out of water. I could feel the flush spread across my face and down my neck, and I was fairly certain my entire body was fire engine red by the time I plopped into my seat.

Thank you, Jesus, Mr.
Walkins picked back up wherever he’d left off when I made my impromptu appearance and everyone’s attention was drawn back to the front of the room. Well, almost everyone. Flipping through my text, I cast a peek toward the back of the room where Kiernan’s gaze collided with mine. He stared back, completely unabashed at having been caught watching me. I tried to exude the same confidence and failed miserably. Dropping my eyes to the desk in front of me, I forced myself—with no small effort—to keep them glued to the book for the remainder of the period.

The moment the bell rang, signaling the end of class, I scrambled out of my
seat like it had caught fire—possibly from the heat still radiating from my face—barely scooping all of my books up before getting caught in the human traffic jam at the door.

My small size was good for something, at least. I was able to slip through the masses without receiving any serious bodily harm.
Using his much larger bulk to his advantage, Kiernan managed to do the exact same thing and somehow ended up right beside me as I stumbled haphazardly
into the waiting arms of Doug.
Just great.

“Hey, sexy.” Doug slung an arm around my shoulders, dropping a rough kiss on top of my head. “How’s the first day going?”

“Um . . . it’s fine. I—”


Yo, man, what’s up?” Doug broke away from me just long enough to engage in some sort of ‘bro-hug’ with one of the guys from his team. “See ya after school, man. So what was I saying? Oh yeah, my day’s been awesome. Charlie’s in my calc class, so you know that won’t be a problem, and coach said . . .”

He was always doing that, asking a question and then answering it himself. I really didn’t need to be present for most of our conversatio
ns, so I usually tuned him out. Kiernan stood just outside the classroom door, parting traffic like a rock in a river, watching us. Something flickered across his face, but he didn’t stick around long enough for me to figure out what it was. Tossing his bag over his shoulder, Kiernan headed down the hall in the opposite direction. I watched him go, thinking about the last time I’d seen him, wondering if he remembered me, until an abrupt shake drew me back to the present.

“Are you even listening to me at all?”

“What? Oh . . . I’m sorry, Doug, I was just—”

“Not listening to me.”

“I was thinking.”

“Well, don’t hurt yourself.” His words stung and I withdrew further into myself as his arm wrapped tighter around my waist. “Let’s go, we’re
gonna be late.”

I allowed Doug to steer me upstairs all the way to the door of his next class, where he gave me a quick peck on the cheek before following some of his friends inside. Looking at my own schedule, I groaned.
Figured
. My next class would be on the exact opposite side of the building, wouldn’t it?

With a huff, I hefted my books in my increasingly sore arms and hightailed it through
the halls, desperate not to have a repeat of first period. Thankfully, I managed to make it there just as the bell rang and slipped into a desk without anyone noticing. So much for doing things ‘right’. The best I could hope for was to slip by unnoticed. To that end, I was equally relieved to find Kiernan Parks and I did not share English composition.

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