The Problem With Riley Fey

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No one at my school likes Riley Fey.

She lives in a little house at the edge of town, for one thing, with peeling blue paint and slanted steps that bear the weight of generations of people who never left our town.

For another thing, she has this black-jean work-boots back-off-or-I'll-kill-you-approach that isn't compatible with the dripping attitude and ballet flats that adorn other girls at Rimwick High. Most students here hang out with friends in their free time, but not Riley. She digs trenches in the woods behind her house. Most kids don't take pocket knives to school and throw them at the math teacher, but Riley does. Most of us wouldn't consider it socially acceptable to wrap the tires of Jay Atkins' pick up truck in barbed wire. Riley did it anyway.

He still hasn't forgiven her for that.

Anyway. On the first day back from winter break I stroll through the front door, ignoring the kids who are having a snowball fight by the bike racks. I don't want them to get me wet with the slush that stubbornly litters the ground. Winter won't go back to sleep for another couple of months.

Inside, Poppy Clark and Lynn Andrews are leaning against my locker.

"So, yeah," Poppy says, brown curls bouncing as she talks. "I told him that I knew what I wanted, and he could just-"

Her voice breaks off when she sees me. I wave, and Lynn tugs Poppy in the opposite direction. Rude.

I sling my backpack off my shoulder- it's an old leather messenger bag, a family heirloom my dad once told me not to take out of the house- and grab what I need for the day. After sticking a pencil, bird feather, and small knife into the oversized pockets of my navy peacoat, I head to math. My old teacher requested that I switch classes. As usual, everyone ignores me.

There's no seating chart. That's good, and the room is empty. Maybe I can snag a corner. I go to the back, thunk my binder on the desk, and-

"Name?" Lady Math Teacher of Despair asks.

I sigh. "May I please just sit here?"

"I need your name for the attendance list," she explains.

I mentally groan. She's going to move me to the front. Teachers always do, ever since Jay's truck got that flat tire.

"I'm really okay here," I say.

She frowns, peering at me through silver-rimmed glasses. "Don't I know you?"

She does. Everyone knows me.

"Wait."

It's coming.

"Aren't you Riley Fey?"

I sigh and move up to the front seat.

It's bound to happen, anyway.  

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