chapter 7 - i'm not doing it

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ACE

I use my fingers to shake through the slick, damp strands of my hair as I grip a soft towel and rub it against the back of my head, soaking up the excess water. I emerge from the ensuite bathroom, only wearing a pair of slate gray sweatpants, and flick off the lights. My bare feet pad against the dark hardwood floor before reaching the platform bed in the center of my room. With a soft thump, I settle onto the gray bedding, feeling it make my muscles instantly relax after the grueling soccer practice. Reaching over to the nightstand, I grab my phone and see an overflow of text messages and social media notifications waiting for me.

I click on the message I've been waiting for and read it, feeling satisfied with the response. While I may have successfully removed that anonymous post about the new girl on the school's social media app, I can't help but feel conflicted. It wasn't really my business to get involved in, but something about Cassie's bullying ways just didn't sit right with me.

It never does.

Still, I took care of it, calling in a favor from the son of the IT company that developed the app. The app was specifically made for the students of Harlock to connect with one another since our generation is big on social media. The virtual hub is a lawless space, with no staff or teachers monitoring the negative content or comments. It's a free for all, with no one to keep order.

I made sure to stress that he tells no one, and as long as it's kept a secret, I'm not going to regret it. It's better that no one knows. It's mostly to keep Cassie off my back; I didn't want to give her any type of chance to talk or bother me. She haunts me like a ghost at school, appearing everywhere I turn. On top of that, her never-ending text messages and phone calls overwhelm me, making it feel like I can't catch a break. I didn't even give her my number myself. She got it from someone else, just like the last couple times I changed my number. Trying to block out her toxic presence takes all my strength.

A sound alerts me to an incoming text message. My attention momentarily shifts to the notification banner at the top of the screen, and I quickly read the text preview before it disappears.

Cassie: I'm so upset they took down my artistic post of Elle 😢😢😢

And so the culprit confesses.

I stifle a dry chuckle at the way she tries to feign innocence with what her true intentions for the post were. It's no secret that she is anything but innocent. For example, I've heard her favorite spot in the school is a tucked-away space via a narrow passage that leads to a hidden nook in the library.

I swipe left on Cassie's contact to hide the alerts and toss my phone aside, turning off the lights to get some sleep. I can't afford any distractions right now, especially with the first game of the season right around the corner.



ELLE

Dinner feels quieter than normal as my mom's patience slowly dwindles while trying to convince Jasmine to try something new. My dad and I sit and eat in silence, lost in our own thoughts.

"I don't want to!" Jasmine adamantly refuses, shaking her head from side to side as my mom tries every trick in the book, including the airplane method, to get her to take just one bite.

"I guess we'll cross that off the list." With a sigh of defeat, my mom places the spoon down on Jasmine's plate. She glances over at me with a weary smile before attempting one last time. "You know, your big sister used to eat everything."

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