This story of based off of the prompt by blackflamingo777. I know that this is extremely late in coming. I actually wrote two versions of the story and realized that the first one needed an entirely different beginning. Hence the delay and a second version.

Not This Title

What have you lost down the gaping hole where your heart used to be?

Greetings are pretty standard around here.

Alright, I should back up: my name is Joyce; I am somewhere between thirteen and twenty; I live in a tiny town at the edge of Nebraska; I despise ketchup and fish; and my life is defined by what people say about me.

To be honest, I think everyone’s life is defined by what people say unless they have to sense to not let it bother them. But that’s beside the point.

People say a lot of things about me; and most of them are not very nice. It doesn’t bother me as much as some people want it to. I guess you could say that I have a way of letting things roll off of me. It’s a skill that comes in handy.

I suppose you’re wondering what I meant by the sentence I started with…. I used to be known as the flower girl around school. It’s not because I’m always happy or because I dress I bright colors. I’m neither of those. It’s because I earned a reputation as one of the worst kids in school a few years ago. Apparently people wanted to give me an ironic nickname that they knew I would hate.

Anyway, the other people in my small group of friends say that I earned my nickname because I’ve broken more hearts in school than most of the popular kids. They might be right. Tearing people’s hearts apart was never something that I wanted to do; I played with dolls and wished that I was a princess like everyone else when I was little. I even convinced some of my schoolteachers to call me Snow White for a few months when I was six.

The first heart I broke was that of one of my best friends. She moved out of town for a few years, and then she came back with a new set of ideals and an entirely now idea of who her friends should be. I didn’t intend on breaking her heart, but I think it was inevitable.

She spent a few weeks with my group of friends, and then one of the popular girls offered her a place in their gang. She accepted and spent a few months as an armrest, before deciding that she wanted to rejoin my friends and I. The popular kids had blamed us for every single thing that went wrong in their lives since their new recruit joined them, and we were tired of it. We said no and I told my former best friend that I never wanted to see her again.

Her family moved out of town a few weeks later and we have not talked since.

I only know I hurt her because one of my other friends saw her a couple of weeks later and confirmed my suspicions.

I suppose you could say that things picked up after that. So, there I was. I had the newly anointed nickname of the flower girl, and school was finally becoming interesting. I admit that I had fun for a few months. But things quickly went downhill.

There are very few things that can destroy assumptions the way a divorce can. After my parents decided to move into their own houses and keep their conversations to themselves, the nickname ‘flower girl’ became my way of holding onto things. I turned heartbreaking into a bit of a profession. And I am pleased to say that I was quite good at it.

A profession such as that can only last for so long before people catch on. And catch on they did. My business of breaking hearts quickly fell down the stairs. But I had other things to do and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Until one day when a new kid caught my attention.

Let me make one thing very clear: I am not a slut. I dislike romanticism and relationships don’t interest me. I fell in love with someone in middle school, and I decided not to make the same mistake again. Thankfully, it was a few years before I started high school and I quickly got over it. Actually, the person I fell in love with back then is now one of my best friends. And he is entirely gay; which is good because I don’t have any interest in him and we came have strange conversations without anything becoming too awkward. But I’m getting off topic.

I knew I was in trouble when that new kid walked into the room. I started a conversation over lunch and things went relatively well from there. We became compatriots and the new kid became part of my group of friends.

Don’t waste your breath asking the question I know you have: I was not falling in love again. But I desperately wanted to be good friends. I could see and this new kid and I having sleepovers and gossiping about what was said in school the week before. I could see us walking down the street and joking about all of the things we saw. And those images were so tempting.

Unfortunately, my reputation of breaking the hearts of ‘could-have-been-lovers’ had spread to friends. Despite the group of friends I had, people at school seemed to think that anyone who joined my group of friends would end up with a broken heart before the most popular girl in school could flip her hair over her shoulder.

Naturally, the morally correct people in school warned the new kid about me. My perfect visions of friendship fell down the stairs far more quickly than my career in breaking hearts had.

The new kid and I dodged each other for a few weeks, but a meeting was inevitable. I can’t stand leaving things alone when I know that something needs to be done. I snuck a note into the new kid’s backpack with instructions to meet me at the coffee shop after school.

I waited for about an hour before the new kid walked through the door. We sat across the table from each other and had a polite conversation. I tried to dispel the new kid’s beliefs about me and was as honest as I have ever been.

I thought things were going extraordinarily well until I walked into school the next day. The new kid had not only explained everything to the most popular group of kids on school, but the new kid had been ostentatious enough to record our conversation at the coffee shop and put it in front of the loudspeaker. Well… things could not be the same after that.

I am going to skip forward a few miserable months: my friends repeatedly tried to convince me that the school was now a battlefield and we needed to launch our own attack. I refused and tried to stay as far away from the new kid as possible.

Unfortunately for me, the new kid finally decided to believe what I had said at the coffee shop and wanted to become friends again. After what had happened with my former best friend those years earlier, I was slightly tempted. But I knew that it would be a bad decision and I said no.

If high school was a battlefield before, it was now a galaxy of burning comets crashing into each other. That might be an overdramatic image; but seriously, have you ever been in high school?

I had started a war. Even the teachers were swept into it. This was not a war of people ignoring each other in the hallways, or even a war of bullies tormenting each other. This was a war that encompassed the entire school. I was right in the middle of a mob of 479 kids, and I was the one the blame for all of it. Actually, I think that the new kid was the one who started it. The entire issue could have been resolved with a simple agreement.

I admit that I am the reason why it escalated so quickly. But even that blame could be parceled out. For the sake of time, I’m not going to try and hand the blame to anyone else in my group of friends. I was to blame. I was entirely, completely, at fault.

The war lasted for what was left of the semester and picked up again after summer break. It ended when the principle finally stepped in and had police officers posted in each of the classrooms. Even then, another war was rumbling underneath the floors.

Everyone could hear it, but the hallways were silent until the police officers decided to leave and everything appeared to be normal.

Well, normal is the last thing the next many months were. What had been a war fought only on the school campus became a secret network linking the houses of every student. Cryptic letters were left on doors; candy correlating to each faction of the school was left on enemies’ doorsteps. And I was the golden apple that would win the race.

The extraordinary thing is that no one outside of the high school students seemed to notice that a war was happening around them.

This stage of the war lasted for a few weeks, and there was a new thing to worry about each day. Letters that contained threats regarding gum and tacks on chairs disguised in homework questions became trip wires in hallways and fake blood smeared across bedroom windows.

Pages from diaries were copied and left in school lockers; people would even steal small amounts of acid or other dangerous materials from the science labs and bake it into brownies that were left on chairs. It is not long before threats became actual actions.

No one was poisoned; but it was impossible to have a conversation with anyone without hearing about an increasingly dangerous prank that had occurred the night before. I continued to try to stay out of most of it, but that was impossible when I would find one thing or another waiting on my windowsill when I went home.

The threats passed through the hallways in school started to fade. And then people started to disappear. Everyone who was a student knew the names of all of the culprits; but we were at war. Parents started to call the school to say that so-and-so never came home the day before, the police started to look around, and the war continued on.

The rate that people disappeared grew and the police station appointed policemen to areas around the school and bus stops. Of course, it never did anything because the perpetrators of disappearances were the students themselves. I will not point to anyone; and I most certainly will not tell you if I was involved in any of the kidnappings.

I can tell you that the police started to see me as a source of information. One of my friends disappeared and I was pulled into the principal’s office almost every day to speak with one detective or another.

A few weeks later, one of the girls that had been kidnapped by a rather potent faction of students was found dead. Let me tell you that no one at school was surprised. And anyone who might have been didn’t show it. We were fighting a war and everyone knew that someone was going to die. The only questions were who and when.

We had a who, a when, and a funeral. Parents and teachers started to freak out and the school became more silent than it had ever been. The detective’s stopped talking to me as often as they had. And my friends and I finally began to plan a way to end the war.

To be clear: my group of ‘friends’ had expanded exponentially as everyone in school chose their sides. There were about forty of us by then; and we knew that it was finally time to make a move that would shock everyone else.

So that is what we did. Our plan was probably the worst tactic that we could have come up with. We rigged the school with various booby traps from the early days of the war; we made a map with all of our enemies’ houses and separated them into sections of attack; and then we broke the one unspoken rule of our war: never get any adults involved.

By this time, everyone knew where the kidnapping victims were. But no one had directly attacked any of those places for fear of starting something that they couldn’t control. We threw that fear away and quickly taught each other how to pick basic locks and build conveniently sized bombs.

The plan was relatively simple: each of us would be assigned to a different section on each of our maps. The first stage in our plan involved kidnapping one of our teachers without revealing who we were and leaving pages from one of the diaries that was copied when the war started. The second and third stages were combined: we would leave a small smoke bomb at each of our enemies’ houses, and then we would attack all of the buildings with kidnap victims at the same time. We never came up with a forth stage for the plan, but we really should have.

The first and second stages went as well as we could expect them to. The third created utter chaos.

It turned out that we were not the only ones with a plan to end the war, and everyone seemed to have slightly similar plans. Either that or no one had ever learned the true definition of ‘hero’.

What resulted was a fight between everyone at school. By the time the sun rose the next morning, everyone who supposed to be at school was fighting in one of the hidden battlegrounds in town. Parents found the smoke bombs in front of their children’s windows and the police walked into the school to find hundreds of booby traps.

My friends and I were spread across the many battlegrounds, but we still had a teacher locked in an old van in the parking lot of a graveyard. As the sun continued to rise, everyone in the war tried to find as many secret places to fight as possible. Maybe it was a realization that swept across all of us, or maybe it was the sheer ridiculousness of what we were doing, but the battlefields slowly grew quiet.

My friends and I had tried to come up with as many alternate plans as we could. One of the smallest kids in our faction tied a note to our teacher and called 911. The police found our teacher with the note and the phone that they friend had used, and the new kid who had officially started to war stood up to end it.

Everyone gave their speeches, fingers were lifted, and the entire school decided to return to the high school campus and keep our mouths shut. The next few hours were soaked with each tears to fill the school hallways. The police spent the next few weeks trying to uncover what had happened, but they were never able to.

School returned to what it used to be. Mostly.

My nickname of flower girl was dropped after one of my friends secretly told everyone in school what my plan had been.

So, there it is. Was it the story you expected to hear? I hope not. You must be in deep shit if it was.

I should tell you that I left most of what happened out. I might get around to telling someone everything that happened at some point, but I honestly don’t see a reason to right now. And I think it’s better if no one outside of school knows.

Despite the fact that the social circles in school went back to what they used to be, no one could walk down the hallways without joking about everything that had happened. No one’s view on life was the same. Over the course of the war each of us had gone from being whatever-we-were-labeled to pranksters, bullies, gang members, criminals, fighters, and back again. And no one could be the same.

Everyone pretended all right, but whispers continued to move across the classrooms.

I am not sure about anyone else, but I know that I started to see everything in my life differently. And I earned a new nickname. I will not repeat it here because it has become a slogan for the entire war, but I will tell you that the sentence that I started with is something that I now hear at least once a day.

Those who hate me use it as an insult; and those who are friends use it as a serious joke that always brings a round of laughter.

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