She wasn’t any good at spying.

Ezra and Maryelis’s were the ones who excelled at deception, not little Cecily who tripped on air and preferred to write in her journal. If they hadn’t been in dire times, Maryelis would have taken this particular job, seeing as these were her friends.

Cecily’s stomach churned at the thought, and also the fact that Tristesse Videl was right around the corner. She heard the other girl’s laughter, along with that of her followers. It was a wonder to Cecily why Maryelis had maintained her friendship with them.

“Are you guys going to the counseling session?” asked Tristesse.

“We didn’t get an invite,” replied one of the three girls surrounding her.

“But I thought anyone was allowed to go?”

Cecily peeked around the corner, trying to glimpse the other girl’s expression. She’d always wondered about what made Tristesse Videl so popular–what made anyone popular, really. She watched as the short brunette opened her locker to deposit her books. There was an inexplicable sadness in her dark eyes that bewildered Cecily.

Seeing her reflection in Tess’s locker mirror, Cecily quickly turned away. Her heart raced at the thought that she had been seen. Frightened, she tucked her notepad in an open pocket of her backpack, and considered quietly leaving to lunch. She would meet Haru empty-handed, but he wouldn’t be disappointed. The most important thing for all of them, for Ezra and Haru and herself, was to not be caught, for they had committed too many wrongs against the school. The student body would be almost too happy to see their downfall.

“I think they asked her closest friends,” explained another groupie. “We didn’t know her too well.”

Cecily was only vaguely aware of where she was heading as she stepped away from the corner. Her mind was still focused on the conversation between Tristesse and her group of girls, hoping she would catch some useful snippets. The slam of Tess’s locker in the relatively silent hallway jolted Cecily out of her reverie. She knocked into a trash can that fell with a loud crash. Thankfully, the lid stayed on as it went down, saving her from a messy way to spend her lunch period.

It was as Cecily was picking up the trash can that Tristesse and her friends strode past her, their arms filled with decorations for the upcoming Winter Formal. Early that morning, Ezra had informed her that the Winter Formal Committee would be spending their lunch time in the gymnasium for the next two weeks, preparing for the dance. Originally, he was going to be the one who would spy on the girls, but he hadn’t been in school for most of the month. The last time Cecily had spoken to him face to face had been during the funeral, when she’d seen him cry for the first time. We’re all in pain, she wanted to tell him, but she knew that wouldn’t help.

As she walked down the hall, opposite the way Tristesse had gone, Cecily thought about the first time she had met Ezra Hermann. Haru, somehow understanding her insecurities in a few months, had abruptly arranged the meeting, leaving her no time to wear her best clothes. She had felt inadequate the moment that the gem of their high school had laid eyes on her t-shirt and jeans. Despite Haru telling her about Ezra’s unfailing kindness, she had been slightly terrified to meet the popular boy. To Cecily, the populars were like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy; their magic was ruined when you came close enough to realize how fake they truly were.

Ezra Hermann was different.

He was everything that was whispered in the hall and even more than that, thought Cecily as she entered the cafeteria. Amidst the hundred or so students shouting to be heard over each other, she spotted Haru in their usual seat at the back of the room. She went straight over to him, knowing it was crucial she reported back and asked for advice. She also knew he would have some food that was better than anything that the lunch ladies could cook.

On her way, Cecily spotted Michel Russo and Emmanuel Rivera in a heated argument at the back of the lunch line. Ezra had informed her that the two athletes were embroiled in a love triangle with cheerleader Felicity Flores. From what she could remember from their profiles, Michel and Emmanuel were childhood friends, inseparable since the age of seven.


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