NEVADA LIGHTS RECOVERY HIGH SCHOOL
Ten Minutes Outside Las Vegas, Nevada
They only let Virgo walk to school because she promised to keep her location on. Her phone was barely smart enough for GPS and Google Maps, but she wanted some freedom to her name after all the years she’d spent in lock-up, so she agreed. She was going through her Google Alerts. Big Mistake.
News of her release had been the talk of the True Crime Community for months. She’d read enough in the correctional library to know her parole release wouldn’t go unremarked just because she was seventeen and had apparently turned over a new leaf. A non-murdering, peaceful contributor to society leaf. At least that was what she’d said to the parole board when she’d begged to be let out.
Virgo wanted to be a person again instead of a number in a cheap polyester jumpsuit. She wanted a life and a future. There wasn’t a life to be had in corrections, and certainly not for a girl transferring from juvenile corrections to adult prison. She’d bided her time and played her good behavior cards right. She’d been a ‘positive role model’ for the other inmates and a had ‘assisted the administration’ in making her Wyoming correctional facility ‘safer and more secure.’ In other words, she’d snitched when it suited her. She had the snitches-and the release date-to prove it. 5
She’d lost count of the number of amateur podcasts she’d heard talking about her and her crimes. They hung on every word of her trial transcripts, poring over everything said for meaning Virgo couldn’t give her actions seven years later and this much grown. She’d done a bad thing and was living with it. Didn’t mean she was sorry, but that was nobody’s business but hers. 7
She rolled up on the curb outside Nevada Lights Recovery High School with half an hour to spare. There was plenty of time to grab an early breakfast, maybe even make a friend or two. Virgo wasn’t holding her breath.
She switched to the previous episode of Criminal Insanity, one that wasn’t about her, and climbed the front steps of the high school. There were metal detectors and security guards to go with the security bars on all the windows. Her new home sweet home.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
Virgo Samuels arrived at Nevada Lights High to the kind of fanfare most outcasts dreamed about.
Not the cinematic record-scratching, every head turning when she walked in the place. Real life wasn’t that dramatic and Virgo’s identity was a secret anyway. She was a new face in a sea of the familiar. Lucky for her, she was average height and shorter when she slouched, which she always did. Like a celebrity who’d committed the cardinal sin of being boring on camera, people started to look past Virgo when they realized there wasn’t much to see. And she didn’t want to be seen much at all.
“I like her. She’s mysterious. My kinda girl.” 3
He wasn’t the first person she’d heard talking about her this morning, but he was the loudest yet.
He was tall and dark, and based on his clothes he seemed to think he was born in the wrong decade, with the 80’s being the right one. He looked like the single love child of Bel Biv Devoe and he seemed to think his inside voice was quieter than it was.
Virgo read her class schedule for the seventh time since she’d picked it up from the main office for something to do until the bell rang. An internal debate waged within her: to ask BBD Jr. where she was supposed to and risk being serenaded with Poison five minutes into her junior year or to be wander around like a lost child and risk being late? Decisions, decisions.
“Your kinda girl is every girl that will let you see her tits-which lately is none of them. Besides, she wouldn’t be so mysterious if you’d nut up and ask her name.”
His friend, a girl if Virgo wasn’t jumping to conclusions, was a textbook Alpha Kappa Alpha daughter from her relaxed shoulder-length hair to her pristine ankle boots. Virgo bet her name was right out of a Sweet Valley High novel, too.
“Come on, Quinn sis. I don’t wanna come on too strong.”
“Cool. Don’t say anything. More for me.” Quinn (point to Virgo) snapped the combination lock shut on her locker and executed a perfect about face in the opposite direction. She bumped into a couple of seniors making out, knocking them into the water fountain. She didn’t slow down. She was the kind of girl who knew where she was heading and obstacles were temporary at best. Apparently, she wanted to meet the new girl.
She stopped in front of locker 64B. Virgo’s locker.
“Hi, I’m Quinn Mayfield. Welcome to Nevada Lights. What’s your name?”
Up close, Quinn’s face read class president. Her dress read preacher’s daughter. But her handshake said, ‘Don’t you dare waste my time.’ She was nobody’s church mouse. Virgo’s mind blanked.
“V-Val, but you should call me V. I like that better. I’m new here, but you probably knew that, huh?”
Quinn smiled. “I heard.”
“The deer in headlights look gave me away, didn’t it?” Virgo brushed a brown hand through her browner, almost black curls. She was working hard on growing a ‘fro. Her hair sprung from her scalp is z-curls and spirals that framed her heart-shaped face like an oaken halo. Or so some overwrought reporter had written when she was twelve and being charged as an adult. Her face hadn’t changed much; she assumed the description still applied.
“I know everybody and you’re nobody I know. So what classes do you have? I’ll show you around.”
“I could probably make my way.” She handed Quinn her schedule.
“Why do that when you don’t have to?”
“Won’t your friend mind?”
Quinn didn’t even look back and BBD Jr. made himself scarce like being ignored was his cue.
“He knows where to find me. Come on. I’ll show you the shortcuts.” Quinn beckoned her with a wave and led her through the crowd toward the nearest stairwell. Church girl didn’t seem so unapproachable from the back and it wasn’t just the view that Virgo liked.
Quinn grabbed her hand out of the blue when Virgo started to lag behind. “Come on. Don’t want you to be late already. I might get the blame and end up with detention and I’m not about to ruin my perfect record now.”
“Not even for the new girl?”
“Not even for a girl as pretty as you.”
Virgo’s tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. Quinn turned backward to guide her upstairs, her soft hand wrapped around Virgo’s. She looked like the cat who ate the canary, except the canary was Virgo’s tongue, and this analogy wasn’t helping Virgo get it together. She was going to trip over her shoe laces staring after Quinn and that was attention Virgo didn’t need on her first day.
Oh no, she’s cute. Cute girls were danger personified. Who could ever resist one?