Hate Me (Black Mountain Academy) by Ashley Jade

9th grade


Aspen





Fuck this.

I rub my sweaty palms on my skirt and inhale a shaky breath that fails to calm my nerves.

Not only did I get my period for the first time ever this morning, it’s my first day at Black Mountain Academy.

Looking back, it should have been a sign.

Stepping out of my dad’s car, I hike my backpack onto my shoulder. I hate that he’s forcing me to go to this elite private school with a bunch of rich kids, instead of the public school across town that I was attending.

Then again, it wasn’t like I’d be here for long, since my family’s financial situation was unstable at best.

One month we’re eating filet mignon and lobster for dinner, and the next we’re lucky if we can afford a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread for sandwiches.

Every time I asked my dad what was going on and why things were so weird, he’d quickly assure me everything was fine before changing the subject.

And now here I am.

About to enter what I’m positive will be the tenth circle of hell.

My legs feel like jelly as I glance around the empty parking lot.

School started fifteen minutes ago.

“Come on, Aspen,” my dad says. “You’re late.”

Stomach knotting, I spin around to face him. “I can’t do this.”

His brown eyes soften. “You’ll be fine, kiddo.”

I shake my head, the bad feeling in the pit of my stomach growing. “I don’t think so.”

Sighing, he chuckles. “It’s just nerves.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out what appears to be a jewelry box. “I was going to give this to you after you came home, but I think now might be a better time.”

Raising an eyebrow, I reach through the passenger side window and take the box from him. “What is it?”

“Open it and find out.”

I stare down at the necklace in confusion. “Pearls?”

It’s not that I’m not grateful for the gift, but I’m fourteen…not eighty.

“Not just any pearls. Real ones,” he declares proudly.

That only makes me feel worse. Unlike my mother, who only cares about her wine and that my dad buys her nice things all the time to keep up appearances, I don’t want or need any of that from him.

“Dad, this is too much—”

“It’s fine.”

“But how can you afford—”

“Don’t worry about it.”

I level him with a look. “Dad—”

“Your Uncle Leo and I got a few more investors for that retirement home I was telling you about.” He waves a hand. “Now quit drilling me and put them on.”

Uncle Leo was my dad’s best friend, and the lawyer for my dad’s company. However, he was also the one person I could turn to if I had any problems.

Unlike my dad, Leo never kept me in the dark or treated me like a little kid.

He treats me like I’m special.

Stifling the urge to drill him, I fasten the string of pearls around my neck. Given we’re required to wear uniforms consisting of a white button-up shirt and a plaid skirt, I’m positive I look like even more of a preppy nerd now, but I don’t care.

It was sweet of him to get me this necklace, and I don’t want him to think I’m not appreciative.

I wave goodbye and turn around, but his next words halt me.

“Aspen, I didn’t make you change schools to be mean. I just want the best for you.” He darts his gaze to the giant building behind me. “This is the top high school in the state and with your grades…” his voice trails off, but I know what he’s getting at.

While I was used to the public school I attended, it wasn’t the best one for a student like me.

At this point I knew more than most of the teachers did and I was so far ahead of the curve, classes were becoming boring.

Not only did Black Mountain Academy have the potential to advance my education, it looked great on college applications.

Not that I could afford to go to a decent college.

Well, not without a scholarship.

Dipping my head through the open window, I kiss his cheek. “Love you, Dad.”

“Love you too, kiddo.” He holds my stare. “Now go in there and show them what you’re made of.”

“I will.”

I start to turn around again, but he snaps his fingers. “Oh, by the way, Leo said his nephew goes here.”