The girls had about 15 seconds before the boys would reach their place.
Quick on her wit, Alex snatched the folder away off Lauren’s hands and hid it in her bag. Her breathing grew heavier as what happened sank into her mind. Someone had planted a trap. Someone knew who she was but she had no idea what could be the person’s intentions. Was she spotted back when she dropped the phone? How could they have known to bring evidence here? At this moment?
Alex checked on Lauren, easily crossing her off the list of potential suspects. She sat still and frozen as the seconds ticked by. Alex could only plead with her eyes that she wouldn’t say anything. This expression seemed to wake up Lauren as she blinked repeatedly.
“Hello, peeps” Max greeted them, taking the seat next to Alex, “Found anything good? Jae and I have different tastes so I don’t even know why I’m here when I’d probably just check out the girls I like.”
“Then, leave” Jae told him, sitting at the head of the table, while Colin chose the free seat next to Lauren.
“Why does it seem like you two saw a ghost?” He asked, switching glances between Lauren and Alex. They appeared to be in the middle of a staredown.
“We, uh…” Alex started to answer but Lauren beat her to it.
“We saw a photo that looked a lot like Max if he was a female that is.”
“What?!” Max gasped suddenly.
Jae chuckled, “This I gotta see!”
As they took the yearbook that Lauren pointed out, the librarian from earlier walked over to their table. She had angular body proportions, giving her an authoritative demeanor. Her ginger hair was wrapped in a bun behind her and her hazel eyes were framed by a pair of black reading glasses.
As she looked down at their table, her glasses slid on her elf-like nose, “Boys, if you can’t keep your voices down, I would have to ask you to leave.”
All three boys turned their attention to her and gulped, mumbling, “Yes, Ms. Allie.”
“Good” Ms. Allie smiled, delighted by their cooperation. With that situation cleared up, she left the table to make her rounds throughout the library.
“So where is it?” Colin asked, flipping the pages. Lauren described where the page was located and how it looked.
As the guys distracted themselves for the hunt of Max’ doppelganger, Alex handed Jae the list she and Lauren made, “This is what we have so far. We’re not sure exactly how this person looks so this all we can do for you.”
Jae looked at the list and nodded his head, impressed by the amount of detail in it. Since they couldn’t really take out photos from the books, Alex left little notes on where to find a person’s photo reference plus random things she and Lauren remembered about them like their club activities.
Upon seeing his satisfied look, Alex got up and grabbed her things, “I can’t stay long. My aunt called me for something. Good luck, guys! Hope the list helps to make the search easier.”
She quickly headed for the exit before anyone else could say anything to stop her.
“Actually, I need to go too” Lauren said suddenly, leaving the portfolios she brought, “You can just give these back to me when you no longer need it. See you!”
Alex could hear her footsteps from behind. No doubt that Lauren would be asking her questions about the folder. Some of which she didn’t know the answer to just yet. Who could possibly do such a thing? Could it be a faculty member? The staff? Where did Lauren get it anyway?
They passed by an empty classroom and Alex pulled Lauren inside. She stayed in front of the door, her hand on it. Her head ached as if she stood up too fast and her lips began to turn blue. With the adrenaline gone, her mind now focused on what almost happened.
“I… I…” she said. This made Alex realize how labored her breathing became. She didn’t need to look at Lauren to know the girl stared at her back, “I… won’t make the same mistake twice. I am through with lies.”
Alex turned around slowly, her face said it all. She was tired. The consecutive events for the past few weeks have drained her too much. Two people had an idea about her secret.
She didn’t plan on having one person to know but now, there were two.
The second being the whole secret.
But… exposed or not, she will fight with everything she had left.
“Lauren, please keep an open mind while I explain things to you. Please don’t jump to conclusions before you hear everything I have to say. I’m going to explain this as best as I could. Some points might not make any sense but feel free to ask once I’m done.”
Lauren merely stood as she began to tell her story. The words flew out of her mouth like vomit, everything she kept spilling out.
“Like what you just saw, my real name is Alexandra Greenwood” Alex pressed her lips together and took a deep breath but her voice remained shaky, “I’m the sole heiress of Parthenos Corporation.”
Shock aside, astonishment filled Lauren’s mind.
Parthenos Corporation had the most and the biggest chain malls in the country. During their rise, the malls gained so much popularity that other shops started to rent out spaces for the amount of foot traffic they had as well consignment contracts for smaller deals. Not only that, they had expanded into other business sectors such as grocery retail and other real estate businesses.
This was how Ethan Greenwood became the title holder for the wealthiest man in the country.
“I know it sounds like I was born into a fairy tale or a Chinese translated web novel. Take your pick. But I’m here to tell you that it is far from it.”
As Alex continued, she trembled less and placed more power into her words, “My parents are responsible for thousands of jobs. With it comes thousands of families’ main source of income. They do the best they can to keep this from deteriorating whether quantity or quality. The upper class is almost as dirty as politics. There’s a lot of deceit, a lot of blackmail and a lot of tricks.”
Sympathy swelled in Lauren’s heart. She didn’t need evidence to believe it. She had witnessed it before and had also heard stories from Jae. It came as no surprise to see Alex’ expression become unhappy.
“Growing up, I’ve never really had friends. Most kids were either envious or intimidated by my status. It was because I supposedly had the better life. Maybe even the best life. I supposedly had the latest toys, the latest clothes, the latest anything. I never thought of it that way before. As my parents’ only child, they loved to spoil me whenever they saw something new and I used them because I know they got it for me out of love. And whenever I do ask for things, it was because I genuinely liked them. Not for bragging rights or for gaining friends.
At this point, Lauren could see a Alex’ eyes turn a bit watery, “Some kids thought the other kids would choose me to be their friend over them because I had better things to offer. It had happened several times but the truth was that it had actually been their parents who would force them to talk to me. I didn’t even know unless my mother would pull me away.”
Lauren stepped closer to Alex who bowed her head. She didn’t think Alex noticed just how much her body shook at the moment. Her earlier state couldn’t compare to this one.
“Those kids didn’t actually like how I was treated, either by other kids or adults. My personality already differed a lot from them, my net worth only made it worse. They picked on me. They threatened me as well. That marked the point when I completely shut myself off. In my head, it sounded like the perfect solution to end it all.”
As Alex closed her eyes tightly to prevent the tears from pouring out, she attempted to raise her voice as a way to steady her tone, “I hated how fake everything was. I hated how shallow they were. For a while, I hated who I was. I hated how I was born into that world. I hated how kids didn’t like me because I was well-off. I hated how the other kids only talked to me because of it.”
She paused and opened her eyes, realizing that she had half-shouted by the end of her speech. She didn’t dare peek at Lauren, not because she believed Lauren would look at her with hate but because she feared she’d find a sad eyes on Lauren ‘s face, a look of pity.
Another thing she grew to despise.