A/N: I must have forgotten the image size i uploaded the older pictures as, because the new ones are slightly bigger. Ah, well. Also, Faye is our heir, but each sibling has some story of their own.
“Hey buddy, mind if I join you?” James asked, sitting down in the sand pit without waiting for any agreement. Kane could imagine Jessica looking out the window and rolling her eyes, muttering about her husband being a big kid. He smiled at the thought. James was cool. Faye was perpetually embarrassed by her family, but Kane not-so-secretly liked them. They were laid back. They were friendly.
“You looked deep in thought,” James went on, patting the sand into a vague mound shape. “Where’s Faye?”
“Oh, she left to go meet up with Constance and that.”
“Right, the girls.” (James had no idea who these girls were and could never keep track of all their names, but he liked to pretend). “You’re not going along?”
Kane snorted and gave James a disbelieving look. “They’re the popular girls. They are terrifying.”
James nodded seriously, eyes wide. “You’re totally right. Vicious is the word I’d use.”
James picked the sand up and let it slip through his fingers. “I remember back at the beginning of high school, jeez, I was this lanky awkward lad with no coordination – so sports was off the table until I got used to my suddenly long legs – and everyone knew I played video games which wasn’t cool back then.” He snorted. “How times have changed.”
“You weren’t popular?”
“Oh God no,” James laughed. “Absolutely not. It got better in the last three years of high school, when people started to grow up a bit, and I started to bulk up rather than just growing taller. School isn’t a great time for a lot of people, Kane, but it’s not going to be like that forever. Some people don’t grow up, and remain mean and two faced, but the majority do. It’s also easier to choose your friends when you go off to uni or whatever.”
Kane wrinkled his nose. “I don’t think I’m going to go to uni. My sister says you have to be really smart.”
“You have years to decide,” James shrugged. “It’s not for everyone, and that’s fine. There are loads of other options.”
Kane bit his lip and shoved his sand pile over. “I just want to move away to a city somewhere far away. Where no one knows me.”
James smiled kindly at Kane. “Having a new leaf after school is the best thing. Just hold out until then. Ignore the popular girls and all the drama. It’s not worth your time.”
Kane sighed. “Was Jessica a popular girl?”
“It was a small place she grew up in. Everyone knew everyone. I think she and Courtney were just a duo rather than part of a group.” James began to brush the sand off his jeans and realised he’d have to take his shoes off before he got in so that he didn’t track sand into the house and have to hoover around for days trying to get it all. “Are you coming for the birthday party in a fortnight’s time?”
Kane shrugged sullenly. “Faye never really invited me?”
“Well, I am. It’s about the same time as your birthday right? We’ll get you a cake and everything. It’ll be cool.”
Visibly perking up, Kane nodded and stood up, shaking the sand off his clothes and squeezing his eyes shut when the wind blew it back at him. “I better go home. But I’ll make sure to come for the party.”
James nodded and waved him off as he scampered over to where he had abandoned his bike earlier. He was sure the birthdays would come around quickly, and then his girls would be off to high school. It was almost enough to make him feel old..
Well, James was right. The party came too quickly, and suddenly guests were descending into the house. Summer and Skye hadn’t wanted to invite anyone around, and Faye had turned bright red when James said she could invite the Carol girl (”It’s Constance, dad, and no, I don’t want her to come here and see my embarrassing dad who doesn’t know her name…”). The triplets had been excited to have Courtney, Aja and Aiden around, and then it turned out that a few of their other university friends were in the area who promised to turn up. Summer wanted to hear about all the romantic stories from when their parents met (even Faye couldn’t protest to that).
“Faye!” Kane called, eyes bright, when he saw her. She waved back but sat on the long chair and began to eat the party food (before the party had even started, but she had complained she was hungry until Jessica had relented). Kane fidgeted from where he had been admiring his cake. “Do you want me here?” he blurted out suddenly. “Your dad invited me. I hope that’s okay.” Kane had sensed their relationship changing as high school approached. Faye spent less and less time with him, and was reserved and withdrawn whenever they were together, with a faint expression of awkwardness.
“Yeah, of course,” Faye mumbled. It was hard to know if he was overthinking it, or if Faye really did sound like she was lying. Kane waited to see if she would say something else, but she continued to eat. He frowned back at his cake. Why were girls so confusing?
There wasn’t much time to dwell on the question: all of James’ and Jessica’s old university friends were arriving, ready and more than willing to share all the embarrassing stories.
“There was this one time when Jessica had to go to the A&E because a certain someone dropped her when she had been trying to do a keg stand, where you’re held upside down to drink. Courtney was convinced that she had given Jessica a concussion…” Connor smirked, folding his arms over his chest.
“Better to be safe rather than sorry,” Courtney intoned, maintaining her wise voice well.
“Why would you be held upside down to drink?” Summer asked, mystified.
“We can drink upside down,” Loxley said. “Because of the way our throat muscles work. I think it’s why geese can’t eat without water and craning their necks up, ‘cause their throat doesn’t work the same way.”
“Is that true, mum?” Skye asked, and suddenly three pairs of eyes were trained on her.
“Um… I think so? Something like that, anyway…”
Loxley nodded, because of course he was right.
“You missed one of the kids quizzing us about geese,” Courtney said, watching Ashley walk towards them.
“Well thank Christ, I hate them.”
“Kids or geese?” Connor asked, glancing up from his phone for a brief moment.
Jessica pouted. “My kids are the best kids,” she protested, though it was a waste of breath because Loxley was currently demonstrating to an amused Aiden how Liam could climb like Winnie the Pooh, only the resulting squeal from Liam as he failed and slid down the trunk had distracted her friends. (It was true, though, her kids were still the best kids; she wasn’t biased).
Eventually, the kids didn’t have to wait any longer – Jessica and James gave into the whines and lit the birthday cakes. With a group of slightly tipsy adults cheering them on, they began to blow out their candles.
“Aren’t you going to blow your candles out, Faye?” Kane asked softly.
“Huh? Oh, right.” Faye turned away from her sisters, who had blown out their candles with a big breath, and looked at hers.
“Don’t forget to make a wish,” Kane reminded her.
Faye shrugged and blew out her candles, wondering when she’d feel like more of a teenager and less like an awkward, embarrassed kid. There was no great change when the smoke cleared from her candles, no great change when the cakes were cut and eaten, no great change when she woke up the next day and looked at herself in the mirror. In fact, the only change Faye noticed in the following days was a growing red spot, and that wasn’t the kind of change she’d wished for.
Change didn’t happen overnight, according to her mother, which meant she’d have to wait it out until she was a cool, elegant and pretty teenager.
It was weird how quickly high school became familiar, part of the routine, no longer something looming on the horizon but part of the everyday life and, ultimately, boring.
Faye didn’t have the same aptitude for school that her siblings did. Summer, who excelled at English and art, and Skye, who was infuriatingly decent at all subjects, and even Liam, who was proving to be great at maths despite still being in primary school, all outperformed her in her parents’ eyes. And it wasn’t worth saying that Loxley was good at school, because saying that was like saying Bolt was good at running.
She had, however, found something she was good at.
Coming from primary school as the girl on the outside of the popular group, awkwardly trying to fit in and keep up with the inside jokes that were forever changing or growing, she had performed impeccably to steal a spot in the safety of the inner circle of the new popular group in high school, where she didn’t have to worry about catching up with the jokes. She was the one who made them.
The sudden change was not unnoticed by her primary school friends, Constance and Zoey. Now, instead of Faye and Zoey flocking around Constance in the hope that they would receive her attention and, by extension, her popularity, they hung onto Faye’s every word.
The change was nice. It was a relief, and she finally felt safe from the nasty remarks her so-called friends made – because she had been on the outside, she had been a target.
“I can’t believe how quickly the first month of school has gone,” Faye sighed, resting her pretty bookbag on the table next to her. Everyone had already filed out of class for break, but Faye wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to rush. Constance and Zoey, who were in her class by coincidence alone, waited for her patiently. The knowledge that they were waiting so they could follow her out sent a thrill through Faye. This was what she had been missing out on.
“I know,” Zoey enthused, wide eyed. “It’s so weird.”
“So weird,” Constance agreed quickly, before she was left out.
“Everything has become so familiar already. And so boring. Ugh, I wish we could just hang out all day and not learn.” Faye flicked her long hair over her shoulder in a move so smooth it was clearly practiced. She wondered if her make up had smudged at all. She’d have to go into the bathrooms to check.
“Right?” Constance nodded. “I hate it. The teachers are so dull.”
“Especially Miss Simpson,” Zoey gave a nasty laugh. “She’s so embarrassing, too. I can’t bear to watch her talk in front of her class.”
“And she really needs to chew some gum or something,” Faye rolled her eyes and made a face. Miss Simpson was Skye’s favourite teacher, and Faye had no idea why. The woman was always telling Faye off and asking her, in a stiff voice, to pay attention.
“Is my make up okay? I can’t be bothered going to the bathroom and fixing it,” Faye said, fiddling with her hair so it lay perfectly. She looked at both girls in turn, expectantly.
“It looks fine,” Zoey said quickly.
“On point,” Constance smiled.
“Oh, good. Let’s go to the canteen for five minutes. We’ll see if the others are there yet.” By hanging back, Faye had guaranteed her entrance would be noticed by the rest of the group, and they would spend the next couple of minutes welcoming her and catching up with her. It was only a month into high school, after all; she still had to make sure to keep this sacred seat on the inner circle until her position was well and truly solidified.
She couldn’t risk going back to the painfully awkward and embarrassing kid she’d been in primary school. No one liked a hanger on.
Very quickly, Faye found herself relaxing in high school. She wasn’t sure what she had been worried about. She had a large group of friends, and there was no doubt that she was one of the girls, and she did everything to keep it that way. No one brought up her embarrassing and large family, and Constance or Zoey didn’t dare talk about primary school in case Faye brought up their own awkward stories. Being popular, she quickly realised, was more about having people unwilling to be your enemy than about having those people as your close friends.
She and Constance shared French together, which was the only subject Faye could do well in without trying. Her dad may well be a constant source of embarrassment, but at least he was a bilingual one. She’d picked up on enough to get by, for now.
They walked towards the canteen together, Faye filling the silence with meaningless rambles that even she wasn’t really paying attention to. Constance nodded along, though, so at least someone was.
She saw Kane leaning against the open archway to the canteen with arms folded tightly across his chest, circles under his eyes. He blinked at her as she passed, maybe waiting for a reaction, but Faye only turned her head towards Constance and continued her babbling.
Faye heard him sigh. It was a long, slow sigh, the kind that she had heard from him before – when he had been talking about his family, or the people around town that avoided him because of his family, and later, when Faye had started to distance herself from him so that she wouldn’t be dragged down to the social outcast level with him.
She did feel a bit bad, sometimes. Kane had been nice, and fun, and he wasn’t at all like his criminal family. Still, the others in high school didn’t know that, and Faye could bear to risk her status in an attempt to bring him into the group.
So she walked past him and ignored him, and didn’t dwell too much on it. It was just the way things had to be.
Kane watched her walk into the canteen without a backwards glance at him. She was talking about some vacuous shit that all popular girls seemed to talk about, and maybe he wasn’t so sad that she blanked him. Maybe he didn’t want to be friends with that Faye after all.
That didn’t mean he didn’t miss the old Faye, though.