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“What did you say your name was, dear?” asked the secretary, looking up from the computer into the girl’s big brown eyes. The eyes weren’t really brown. But the secretary didn’t need to know that.
“Ashley Smith” the girl lied, smoothly, and easily. Because, you see, Ashley wasn’t her real name. She was a completely different person now. New name, new eyes, new hair, and new style-- everything about her had changed.
Before she’d (unwillingly) gone through this transformation she had been AvaGrey Buffalo—ultra-famous teenage triple threat. She’d been a singer, songwriter, and actress. She’d had it all: fame, fortune, friends: the works.
Then her parents had decided, after two years of AvaGrey’s Hollywood life, that it was too much. She was becoming too wild and they were tired of it. So they whisked her away from her life, all the way across the country to small town Hope Mills, North Carolina. And she not only had to give up her home, but also her complete self. She took on a whole new identity and look and had to enter the grubby little middle school as someone completely… normal.
She’d begged and pleaded and whined and pouted and threatened to sue. Then she’d changed from arguing to playing good-girl, hoping they’d take pity and change their minds. But nothing worked. Her parents were firm, and that was why she was standing in the tiny little office in the old middle school now, waiting to start out her new life.
The secretary handed her a schedule, map, and a few other papers. As AvaGrey walked away, the secretary called out to her, “Have a nice day, Ashley!” But AvaGrey completely ignored her and walked away.
The whole morning was pretty much a blur of boring. AvaGrey had been so used to the excitement from Hollywood that it was a massive letdown having to deal with school again. At lunch, though, she met a girl in line for salad bar, and they chatted in line, not really paying attention, so that when they got to the register they realized they hadn’t put anything on their trays. Laughing, the girl, whose name was Nicole, invited AvaGrey to sit with her.
And she did, and she quickly bonded with all of Nicole’s friends-- Heather, Aria, Logan, Carlos, Scott, and Brendan.
By the end of the day she was part of their group. By the end of the week everyone at the little middle school knew this, and knew Ashley as well. And slowly, everything at school became alright…but that was actually the exact opposite of what it was like at home.
From the second her parents had announced their move to North Carolina, her parents had seemed nervous and jumpy, and they seemed to be watching AvaGrey’s every move. It was weird; before the move, they’d basically let her do what she wanted. But now they’d gone above and beyond overprotective. They kept a constant eye on her and wouldn’t stop asking pointless questions. They’d also put in tons of new rules, including one that put her in a sort of house arrest. Except for school she wasn’t allowed out. At all. And it went on like this, until AvaGrey had been in school for four weeks.
She complained about it, but it had as much effect on them as her complaints about moving had. So then she turned to her friends, ranting about it endlessly, but there wasn’t much they could do either.
It was this subject she was going on about, as she walked out of the school with Logan, who she was starting to like as more than a friend. They were just walking and talking, and they weren’t paying much attention to anything else. So, if it weren’t for the sudden scream, they wouldn’t have even seen the massive black Suburban that was hurtling towards them before it hit them.
When AvaGrey came to consciousness, she felt as if her whole body was covered in one giant bruise. She tried to blink her eyes open but everything was fuzzy. Her parents realized she was awake, though, and soon they had her propped up.
AvaGrey had a concussion, three broken ribs, and a sprained wrist. She had gotten lucky, her parents told her, unlike Logan, who was still comatose. AvaGrey freaked out when she heard this, and started crying. Her parents managed to calm her down, but that was when they told her they had some explaining to do…
And they started, telling her of how they lied to her and deceived her, as much as she had deceived the people at school by becoming Ashley. They told her that they hadn’t really moved away from Hollywood to escape the craziness. There was another reason. Then they told her that what had happened, the car accident… wasn’t an accident.
“What??!!” shrieked AvaGrey “What do you mean ‘not an accident’?”
“Baby”, said her dad, speaking slowly, “The person in the car was trying to kill you.”
The next few days were a panicky haze for AvaGrey. She was extremely jumpy-- the smallest things scared her to death, and she cried constantly. She had never cried before. But she was completely terrified now, and it didn’t seem as if it mattered.
She was on a permanent house-arrest now; she hadn’t been outside since her discharge from the hospital. Her parents never took their eyes off of her but…. It wasn’t enough. The stalker had AvaGrey’s number and she was getting numerous creepy texts: “Be planning a funeral!” AvaGrey was plagued with paranoia, so much she couldn’t eat or sleep.
On the third day of this she was in her room emailing Aria when there was a shatter behind her, and she wheeled around to see a broken window, and on the floor several yards away, surrounded by glass was an object--- a bomb! She jumped up with a scream and ran for the door, slamming it behind her! Then she kept running, not looking back.
The house burned to the ground. AvaGrey’s mother was killed. In the rubble, police found a note- written on a knife. It read: “Sweet AvaGrey. I hope your dead now.” Hordes of newscasters were crowded around, and murmurs filled the crowd as they reported the new twist. So the story came out. And within several minutes the whole world new that she was not Ashley Smith, that she was AvaGrey Buffalo.
The police caught the culprit within an hour. His name was Zebediah Clarke. He’d been found lurking near the home, with a bag full of explosives and weapons, and a cell phone with the text messages he’d sent out. He was put under arrest and taken to the jail, where he would be held without bail.
The only problem was, five hours later a miserable AvaGrey got a call. The person on the other end sounded almost exactly like her mother’s killer. In a sinister, ghostly voice he told AvaGrey that he was back. That he was still going to get her. And that he had her friends.
AvaGrey let out a small moan “What do you mean, you have my friends?!” she choked out.
“I mean, that I have your friends, and if you don’t come get them within the next hour, they’re gonna go the same way as poor little mommy…” cackled the man who had to be Zebediah.
“No! I don’t believe you!” she gasped, her voice shrill “You’re lying! You don’t have my friends! You’re lying, I know it! I-“
He cut her off “Oh yes sweetheart. I do have your friends, I am not lying. Listen!”
“Ashley! Ashley! Oh Ashley!”
It was Nicole.
“Oh my God” blurted AvaGrey “No… no, no, no, no! Nicole! Zebediah, or whoever you are, tell me where you are. Nicole! I’m coming!”
Zebediah told her where to go: behind the school gym, in a shack in the woods. She was to come alone, or Nicole and Scott; his hostages would die an awful death. She was to come at once. And so she did.
She parked and chained her bike at the bike rack by the gym; she didn’t know why, after all, it didn’t matter if it got stolen, she would never have any use for it again. She realized it was the same place she’d parked it the first day of school. Nothing had happened yet then… Then she raced behind and into the woods, her feet pounding on the ground, and her heart pounding even louder. She was about to die.
She could picture the headlines: “AvaGrey Buffalo Murdered” shocking people everywhere. And then she froze. AvaGrey Buffalo. She was AvaGrey. Everyone knew that, the reporters at the fire had made sure of that. So why had Nicole called her Ashley??
She realized she had been deceived at the same time she heard the slam of the door, and looked up and saw Zebediah sprinting towards her. Two seconds later she was on the ground, rolling and tumbling, trying to defend herself. But Zebediah had her pinned down quickly. He smiled an evil smile. His teeth were yellow and his long tangled brown hair was grown over his eyes. He pulled out a knife from his back pocket and traced it across AvaGrey’s neck. AvaGrey closed her eyes.
She heard a bang, and felt a heavy weight on her body. And then she felt something warm and wet. Was this death?
“AvaGrey! AvaGrey, AvaGrey! AvaGrey Buffalo!” she heard pounding footsteps and felt the weight ease off of her and she opened her eyes slowly to see thousands of faces, crowding around.
A police officer pulled her to her feet and supported her by the shoulders, which was necessary, she felt faint. Another police officer was bent over… the body of Zebediah Clarke…
As if reading her mind the police officer said “He’s dead. We got here just in time, he was about to stab you, we shot him first. And that’s not Zebediah.
“His name is Niclaus Clarke. He is Zebediah’s brother, their identical twins. Partners in crime too. They’ve been hunting you together for a while now.”
“How did you find me?” AvaGrey stammered, weakly and meekly.
“We had taken the phone found on Zebediah and were looking at his messages for more incriminating evidence. We found the messages he’d sent to Niclaus. We learned of their whole twisted plot up until the bomb. So we already had men out looking for Niclaus, but it turned out that the two had your cell phone tapped. So when you got the call from Niclaus we immediately knew, and heard everything.”
“Omigod” AvaGrey murmured, shuddering. It shocked her to think that they had bugged her phone-- it meant that the people who tried to kill her knew more about her than anyone ever had before. She shuddered again, completely freaked out.
At that point several people pushed through the crowd. It was Nicole, Carlos, Scott, Heather, Aria, and Brendan… and Logan, in a wheelchair.
They surrounded her, hugging and crying and sobbing and shrieking and when they calmed down, AvaGrey finally got to ask her question.
“Nicole,” she gaped “How did that happen? How did he not have you? I heard you! But you’re ok! How is that possible?”
“Those guys really went all the way doing their job” Nicole said (“I’ll say, muttered Logan), “They broke into my house! They stole some of our home movies. When you heard me, it was from when I was Scarlett when we did ‘Gone with the Wind’ as a school play. AvaGrey, they broke into my house!”
“They bombed mine” said AvaGrey.
Nicole’s face fell as she remembered. Then they were all hugging again as her friends comforted her. And then her dad stepped through, and he clung to her holding on, telling her he loved her and how sorry he was. And she said that it was okay, that everything was going to be okay. And she really believed it would.
Three weeks later, pretty much everything was figured out. Niclaus Clarke was dead and Zebediah had been sentenced to life in prison. She and her father had bought a new house, and though they were missing and mourning AvaGrey’s mother more than anything, it was starting to feel okay again. They had decided that the new house was going to be permanent; they weren’t going back to Hollywood.
She was, however, going to be AvaGrey Buffalo again. She’d rinsed out the dye from her hair, and started using her usual makeup. She’d thrown out the color contacts and the nerdy glasses, and gotten rid of the fake freckles and mole. She’d tossed her ‘blah’ wardrobe and brought back her old one. And she already felt like herself again.
School was becoming normal, too. One month exactly after the day Zebediah and Niclaus had hit her with the car she was walking with Logan out of the building. He was out of his wheelchair now and walking, just with a small limp. And even though everything was different now she felt a sort of sense of déjà vu, but it was different. She just felt like something big was going to happen.
When she and Logan passed the large oak tree by the pavilion, something did. He turned to her, slowly, and looked right into her eyes, which were back-to-normal now, big and green.
“You’ve been deceived enough lately” he said, smiling “So I figured that I should go on and stop messing around and admit that I see you as more than a friend.”
Slowly a grin came on AvaGrey’s face. “I feel the same way, Logan. I have for a while now.”
And he reached for her hand and she took it. And she didn’t let go.