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Chapter 1 I never sleep before the first day of school, ever. I always convince myself I’m going to sleep but it never happens. Instead, I toss and turn all night, overthinking every little thing that could possibly happen the next day. When I say every little thing, I do mean every little thing. Is the outfit I picked out cute enough? Will it send the message that I was trying too hard? What if I don’t know anyone in my lunch well enough to sit when them? Will I have to go to the library and pretend I have work to do? On the other hand, no one ever has work to do on the first day of school, so everyone would totally know I was only in the library because I was a loser and had no one to sit with. What if I don’t have any classes with Alexa, my best friend since freshman year? The list goes on and on and by the time I have to get up in the morning I’m in worse shape than the night before. This is because now not only am I extremely tired from being up all night but I have a knot in my stomach the size of a large rock from all the worrying I’ve been doing. The night before the first day of my junior year however is way worse than any year I can remember. Not only do I have the normal things to spend all night worrying about, but somewhere deep down in the bottom part of my soul, in the very very back of my mind, I know I’m sure to be seeing Austin. Now, as I sit in homeroom the next morning, I can’t help but still worry about it. While a tiny part of me is excited, most of me is just absolutely terrified. Should I go up to him? Should I text him and ask him to meet me somewhere? Will he text me? The sound of someone slamming a notebook down hard on the desk next to me snaps me out of my thoughts and I turn to meet my best friend Alexa’s sharp blue eyes. “Oh my god!” she gasps as she takes her blonde hair and twirls it up into a loose bun. “It has been the morning from hell!” “Shhhh!” I whisper as I look around our homeroom at the few people who are now looking at Alexa like she might be a little crazy. “What happened to you this morning? You were supposed to meet me in front of the office, I texted and called you.”
Alexa lets out a little bit of a sigh and flops her body down in the chair next to me. Well, flops as much as she can considering she’s only a hundred pounds. “I know! I’m totally sorry, I could not decide what to wear this morning, then I had to stop for a Starbucks and the line was totally long and then when I got here well… there was a whole Karli situation to deal with.” It takes me a minute to fully wrap my head around everything Alexa just shot out of her mouth. She’s talked this way ever since I’ve known her. I always tell her to breathe in between sentences but she just laughs like I’m joking. “A Karli situation?” I fake shock, but I know what’s coming before Alexa even starts to explain. Karli is Alexa’s little sister. She’s a grade younger than us, and is always getting herself in trouble with girls in her grade. This is because Karli is just as little as Alexa with dark blonde hair and the same intense blue eyes. Anyway, someone’s always thinking Karli is looking at their boyfriend or flirting with their boyfriend or liking one of their boyfriend’s pictures on facebook. This really wouldn’t be a big deal, since girls will be girls, except that Karli cant seem to let anything go. Which means she has no problem going up to whatever girl is upset with her and saying things like, “I don’t like your boyfriend at all, so maybe you should work on your insecurity issues.” Then walking away like nothing is wrong. Which in turn usually means the girl ends up wanting to kick Karli’s ass, and Karli never seems to be scared or worried about this even if the girl is twice her size. This is usually around the time that Alexa steps in. “Yes!” Alexa screeches. “No way was I letting her get into a fight on the first day of school. I mean really, I tell her to lay low this year so she doesn’t get herself into another situation like last year with that Tina girl and already on the first day...” She must see the look on my face, though, because she trails off. “Well anyway, you look totally cute today.” I look down at my Old Navy Jeans and light blue tank top. What looked cute and simple this morning, somehow seems boring and childish next to Alexa. She’s wearing black leggings, Ugg boots, and an oversized white sweater that’s decorated in some sort of silver and gold tinsil. The best part about her outfit, however, is how effortlessly it seems to be thrown together. “Me?” I ask her as if she’s blind. “You make me look like Nikki Hilton. And you’re Paris.” Alexa looks confused. “Who’s Nikki Hilton?” I sigh. “Exactly.”
“This could be a movie..” I give her an annoyed look. “but you need to be careful. I mean if it was he was wearing this awful green shirt that just did not…” “Alexa!” I gasp.“Haha. relax. “Best friends do not lie to each other. Austin.” I laugh and push her playfully. “Are you honestly telling me you don’t like him even a little?” “Yes.and you end up spending almost every day together and become like super close.” she wails. Did I? Hmm. it does look a little red now that I think about it. because out of the corner of my eye. you need to stop worrying so much. I didn’t even have that tight of a grip. totally kidding. He never answered the few texts I’ve sent him since I got home. “You two are totally gonna end up dating.” Alexa smiles.” Alexa laughs and glances around the hallway before speaking. please. you look great. his last name doesn’t even start with an A. Like three kids from the basketball team are in our homeroom and could easily tell him some crazy girl was talking about him. “Owwww. Oops. “SHHHHHH!” “What!?” She looks around quickly.” I whisper. and it turns out h is mom and your mom are in the same book club. “I’m sorry. faking hurt as she rubs her arm. “Its just I don’t want to be overbearing.” Alexa puts her hand on her hip..” I sigh. “Ash. “Oh. that’s what im honestly telling you. He’s about twenty feet away from us walking down the hall with a couple of senior . Oh. you’re gonna see him. I can’t speak even. shut up.” I grab her tiny arm and practically drag her out into the hallway.” She laughs back and says. “Me and Austin Givens are just friends. I mean Ash--you can’t make that shit up. So have you seen Austin yet? I thought I saw him walking in but now that I think about it I’m not sure it was him. I mean.” Alexa laughs. it’s classic. Lex.” Only I can’t answer her..” Alexa raises her eyebrows. I see him. “Its not like he’s in this homeroom.” “I know. “Ashley. He’s in our grade so its kind of unavoidable. One of the most popular boys in school ends up in the same hotel as you over summer vacation.
Like about my parents divorce or how I like to write short stories. like how he only played soccer because he knew it made his dad happy. I feel like this is going to be the best first day of school I’ve ever had. I knew he had. I started to let myself believe it was more than that. It was true that at first I’d figured he was just being nice to me because his mom and my mom were friends. As he nears I can feel the knot in my stomach growing even bigger. but I wasn’t stupid. Me and Austin sneaking out after our parents went to sleep to sit in the hotel lobby and just talk. but I’m pretty sure I’ve been having one for the past half hour. The thing is though.” She tried to comfort me. Then. Austin’s eyes meet mine. I did need a friend like that. After Austin blatantly ignored me in the hallway I felt like I was going to throw up and ended up spending the rest of homeroom in the bathroom with Alexa. My heart is beating so fast that I’m afraid it might explode in my chest. you don’t need a friend like that anyway” tactic. And he told me things too. Me and Austin going to get ice cream. though. Or so I’d thought. We would text each other even though we were only a few floors apart at the hotel. and his sister Miley would even stay up late in one of our rooms watching scary movies and ordering food. Me and Austin going to get lunch together when no one else was around. and neither does the feeling in my heart. Things you don’t tell someone just because you’re being nice for your mom’s sake. not to mention my heart’s beating a mile a minute. but as the time passed. Things it was hard for me to even talk about with Alexa. Austin. Without so much as a smile Austin looks away and walks right past me like I don’t exist. sometimes me. I told Austin things I didn’t tell anyone. . Because something awful happens. I mean. Chapter Two I’m not sure I know what a panic attack is.boys. The look on my face doesn’t last. she moved onto the “Austin’s such a jerk. After I assured Alexa that I was neither blind nor that naïve. and how he wanted to be a journalist someday. me and Austin had gotten so close over the summer. it turned into a lot of just me and Austin. and for one quick moment. I’m sitting in my first period class and I feel as if the walls are slowly closing in around me. “Maybe he just didn’t see you. Our families would do things together almost every day.
” Karli continues. So luckily it all worked out. I had her for homeroom last year and she used to make me spit my gum out every morning before I was allowed in the room. “A mix up.” She waves her new schedule around as if to show Mr. She’d make me open my mouth even!” Karli delivers this statement as if a teacher asking her to spit out her gum is a violation of her human rights and not just a teacher enforcing school policy. Karli looks anything but upset about being the center of attention. but no way was I allowing that. I’m just about to admit that I don’t really know what I’m up for when the door flies open and Karli stumbles into the the classroom.” our teacher says. What type of mix up Miss Greenwood?” “Well. “Well anyway. Unlike me..So what went wrong? What’s his deal? I’m so busy trying to figure out what Austin could possibly be thinking that it takes me a second to realize that everyone in the classroom is staring at me. this is great news. “Mr. Why don’t you take a seat?” Karli smiles sweetly and stomps to the back of the room and takes a seat a few rows away from me. mumbling something under her breath. they tried to put me in Miss Gleeson’s class for Spanish II. Preston trails off as if he knows anything he could possibly say would go in one ear and out the other with Karli. I guess Karli’s presence distracts Mr. I mean. Preston she isn’t lying. Preston gives a little bit of a sigh before he answers “Well . well she moved me right into your class for Spanish II. “Well. “Once I explained to my counselor how I failed Spanish I in both 7th and 8th grade and I only passed last year ‘cause of you. Miss Gleeson? I can’t take her class. Ha! I knew his name started with a P! “Mr. Mr. Preston!” Karli declares loudly. “Young lady. Preston. Preston from whatever he wanted from me because . Something that starts with the letter P? Nor do I have any idea what he is talking about. technically.” Karli says. his eyes locked on me. this time a little bit less forcefully. gum isn’t supposed to be chewed during school hours…” but Mr. but not to worry. Relief washes over me as all eyes in the room turn away from me and onto her.” Mr. Preston seems to have a pained expression on his face when he answers. you’re up. I went right to guidance and got it straightened out. “There was a mix up with my schedule. I can’t seem to remember exactly what his name is.
however. What a jerk!” I look around quickly to make sure no one’s looking at her before I answer. Preston waves his hands as if to say he doesn’t want to hear anymore and tells Karli to go to the nurse and quickly. “Thank God we have a class together!” Karli exclaims much too loudly. her whole entire body is turned in her chair as she looks at me. and I’m in the clear. seems to be oblivious to what Karli is doing.” Karli whispers to the girl. but I cant say for sure. Then.“Mr. Preston gets a grossed out expression on his face before he looks at the clock. more telling her than asking her. “Lex texted me and told me about what Austin did to you this morning. “Psttt. “I think it might be cramps!” Mr..suddenly he’s going over the course outline he passed out at the beginning of class. Preston!” Karli’s partially jumping out of her seat. . way too loudly. Suddenly she’s taking her pencil and forcefully poking the girl who’s sitting next to me.” she says to the girl.” “I wont make it!” Karli clutches her stomach for emphasis. you’re going to get me in trouble. “Karli. “I feel sick. really sick. Preston. “We only have a few minutes left before the bell rings.” she hisses. Mr. her face lights up. “I need you to switch seats with me. She’s tiny and clearly nervous about Karli poking her with a sharp object. She isn’t even pretending to be subtle in talking to me. before the girl can answer. She’s may even be a freshman. Mr. and when she does. I lock my eyes on Karli and wait for her to notice me. The girl (who is clearly too shocked to speak) just sort of nods and then gets up and moves to the seat next to her. We can talk about it after we get out of here. which is just fine with me.. I sigh and look away quickly because I fear a scene is about to unfold. mortified at her actions as she continues to speak. “Excuse me. who’s looking at Karli like a deer caught in the headlights. now shhh!” Karli looks annoyed and within two seconds her hand is up in the air flapping back and forth. Karli’s up out of her seat and transferring the girl’s belongings from one desk to the other. Preston! Mr. like I might throw up all over at any moment!” The boy sitting in front of her slides his chair a few inches away from Karli. I look on.
I mean it. To my utter shock Mr. “What’s your name? Can you come with me? Please??” I look at Mr. You have to find out what his deal is.” Then before I can say anything she turns and starts walking down the hall.” she says matter of factly. She rolls her eyes and looks at me. “Whoa. Chapter 3 I stumble as I run after Karli as fast as I possibly can.” I let out a sigh of relief and take a step back from her. I’ll talk to him. whoa slow down there.” Karli says smugly. You left your mind somewhere back there. “We aren’t going to ambush him in his first period class. looks at me. not that he actually believes she needs assistance to go to the nurse’s office.” I’m talking slowly now. To knock it off and either go or stay. I swing my body around and look Karli in the face. make sure she gets down there safely. and says “You’d better take her. and I end up getting kicked and I need help? You!” She declares loudly. still shocked at what she just got away with. How is this situation fair to you?” Karli asks. crazy. Ashley.” He says it more in a way like he doesn’t trust Karli to be out there alone. that he knows the two of us are friends. Preston waiting for him to jump in. “What are you thinking?” I demand. trying to make her understand exactly where I’m coming from. you need to stop. to tell Karli she’s ridiculous. still walking down the hall.“I might not make it on my own! What if I pass out on the way there and no one sees me on the ground. I will. Preston nods. “I’m thinking. “that I’m saving your life. “Karli. then place my body in front of her. Once we’re out in the hall and the door is safely closed behind us. looking right at me. I run to get a few steps ahead of her. “We’re going to find Austin and tell him exactly what we think of him. But I don’t think ambushing him in the middle of his first period class is the right way to go. . forcing her to come to a stop in the middle of the hall.” “Haha very funny.” “How could you possibly do that?” “Because.
“Yes!” She’s talking so loudly that her voice is echoing through the hallway now. “You do?” “Yeah. Karli sighs.” Karli laughs. “Yes Ash. then because her tone softens.” I tell her softly. This stops Karli dead in her tracks. in the west gym. “Don’t be silly.” “You didn’t! Do you have any idea how much trouble you could get in for that?” Karli rolls her eyes. “We pounce on him!” “KARLI!” I shout. How do you even know where his second period class is?” “Well…” She looks away. I mean. “this changes everything.” I say. “Hey. “I might have glanced at his schedule while I was in guidance this morning. and I only saw his first and second period.“We’re going to his second period class.” “Hey!” I say. gym. Suddenly I feel a little lightheaded. Which is so gross. still trying to keep up with her. please. not cats. not a mouse. BOOM!” She claps her hands for emphasis. “Ashley. that shit is practically public knowledge. “His second period?” I ask in a small voice.” “I have second period gym. hoping to snap her out of her crazy rant. second period gym…and maybe a few others but I mean. I mean he’s totally gonna be all sweaty the rest of the day. “Well” she says. “Then we wait for him outside and when he least expects it. Good! Now you have the chance to see what his deal is without it looking like we’re stalking him.” She starts walking down the hall again. First period English. it was two seconds really. just promise me you’ll stick up for yourself okay?” . looking down. really. And we’re girls.” “Second period gym?” I cut her off. “You made it out like it would seem totally normal. it could have totally fucked everything up! Haha!” But I think she sees the look on my face. we’ll never make it to his first period before the bell rings. “He’s a boy.
“Ashley. This is it. “Hi. He’s standing in the middle of the gym looking just as lost as I feel. ******** I know no one in my second period gym class. almost like his eyes can’t meet mine. I’m just going to march right up to him and ask him why he avoided me this morning. how have you been?” He’s nervous. And in the mist of all this. but his eyes land on mine. climbing on the bleachers. then gather up all the courage I have left and start to walk over to him. Austin. “I saw you this morning. but it’s me who speaks first. I can tell by the way he’s stumbling over his words a little.” he responds. The perfect time. Ask him why he hasn’t talked to me since we got back from Florida.” Then the bell rings and her face is lost in the string of people coming out of nearby classrooms. I breathe in a few times. “How. “Good. but maybe you didn’t.” I say quickly.” Austin says and for the first time he’s looking at me the way he did over the summer.” . I do not see one face I am comfortable enough to approach. anyone to talk to when I spot him.” She nods.” It’s a lie. and even some fist pumping. Ash. and I thought you saw me.” “No. but he shouldn’t be. “Hey.” He runs his hand through his dark hair and looks down. Busy. “Yeah? Is that why I haven’t heard from you?” I ask him. It’s me. I’ve been good but not like amazing or anything. I do mean no one. Neither one of us says anything for a moment. And they don’t leave me until I’m right next to him. I mean. really good. And I’m alone with nothing left to do but go to second period. “Yeah. and hand clapping. searching for someone. and when I say no one.I smile. I figure there’s no point in holding anything back. I saw you. taking in his surroundings. I think. They’re hugging. me too. uh. He’s busy looking around. Just like average. You’re too good of a person to let people walk all over you. really really busy. “Good. looking for their friends. “I promise. so I add. I’m scanning the crowd. The gym is covered with kids scrambling around.
Melissa Petron who’s on the varsity cheerleading squad and almost too perfect to handle. but when I turn around to meet his gaze. “Ashley. But mostly I’m angry at Austin. Austin. um. Well fine. and he’s letting her. like trying to figure out why someone I thought was my best friend wont talk to me.“Then what happened?” I ask him now. A girl with long dark brown hair and a dress much too short to be jumping on anyone like that.” I say. however. in the middle of something?” I want to say that yes. then screw him. Melissa Petron.” Austin’s voice echoes through the gym above all the talking and so I hear him loud and clear. All the things we told one another over the summer. He opens his mouth but before he can say anything he’s knocked forward by what seems to be a large object someone has thrown on his back.” she says. I feel angry. very angry. Angry at myself for not telling her to go away.” And then I turn on my heel and start to stomp away. “Were you. all the things we did together. Austin who? Never even heard of him. Austin for not saying one word to me that made it seem like he cared even a little bit about our friendship. It takes me a second to realize it’s a girl. looking me up and down. actually we are in the middle of something here. and it’s that easy for him to pretend it never happened. and to go back to how we used to be over the summer. who’s so tiny she makes me look like a giant. “No. don’t need anyone but myself. Like we were never even friends at all. Once she gets off his back and wraps her tiny arms around his waist. Angry at Melissa and her stupid black dress. Since it’s pretty clear I’m not going to find anyone that I know in here. And after what seems like hours. Melissa Petron who has hated me ever since seventh grade when I got student of the month over her. I figure it’s better to be away from everyone so I can be miserable alone. “Oh. . I realize it’s Melissa Petron. La la la. not an object. Asking him to just stop being weird. I realize he isn’t going to say anything. Melissa’s rolling her eyes and pulling him by the hand after her. “we weren’t. if that’s how he feels. and my eyes are pleading with him. I stomp up the bleachers and take a seat at the very top. When we were best friends and it was so simple and not complicated. seems to be at a loss for words.
Ashley?” The way she spits it at me is so conniving and so annoying that the words are out of my mouth before I even realize what I’m saying.” I move my clipboard further away from her give her a nasty look. I lean forward a little bit and catch a glimpse of Melissa and Austin sitting together a few rows away from me. Melissa?” . well. I concentrate hard on listening to every name he says. Good thing I don’t care about him at all or anything or I might be upset right now. I’m just starting to print my name when Melissa smacks her clipboard down hard on the wall next to me.” “What’s your problem. “One thirty-five? Yeah. “I am actually. sick days. It’s just you’re supposed to be as honest as possible on these forms. praying that I’ll recognize a name or a face that I somehow missed in the crowd. and you. like the thought of me starting to get angry is funny to her. calls the gym to order and everyone becomes quiet as he starts to call off names for attendance.” Melissa looks me up and down like she’s honestly considering this. I roll my eyes and look away. Mr. I mean your legs alone are probably like seventy pounds. then shakes her head. White. one by one.Our gym teacher. who I had last year and is actually really nice. make up classes. and we’re handed clipboards and pencils with the same blue forms on them. Melissa laughs. White spends the rest of the period going over all the basics (proper dress code. Melissa?” I snap. the girls start to file down. Why are you a liar. Mr. right. After the boys are done and go back up to their seats. I find a spot on the far wall and start to fill out my form so I can go back to my seat. Then he has the boys come down and fill out a little blue card for him to keep on file and gives them a bunch of forms to bring home for their parents. “I don’t have a problem. thank you very much. “No way. Address: 156 Sheldon Lane Height: 5’6” Weight: 135 Melissa snickers loudly next to me. you’re lying. I roll my eyes but I’m determined to not let her get to me so I go back to concentrating on my form. There’s about thirty of us. blah blah blah). much too close for comfort. “Why are you such a bitch. La.
now. I do the best I can to tell him the events of last period exactly as I remember them happening and when I’m finished he just looks at me for what seems like forever before he speaks.” Chapter 4 The chairs in the lobby of the office are about as comfortable as a lock. is on the phone when I enter his office. you felt like acting out. Ashley. I sit down in the chair across from him. “So. so quick that it takes me a second to realize she just pushed me. he sighs aloud. “What type of problem?” “You and Melissa have a completely different version of what happened.” “A problem?” I ask him. She says you provoked her. well now you can sit in these hard chairs while you wait to get yelled at and punished. When he finally hangs up the phone a few minutes later. were taunting her really. “Well. a little nervous now. Our principal. “you can go on in now. office. Morgan. and wait. “You two. White is between us and I can tell by the look on his face that he is not happy. I wonder if it’s some type of indirect punishment for being in there to begin with. Mr. Something about a student missing the bus and the school refusing to send it back to get him. Melissa comes trotting out of the office with a yellow form in her hands and smirks at me as she walks by.” . “Ashley. Maybe the school will even get sued.Her shove is hard and my back contacts with the wall quickly . Yikes. the joke’s on them because someone will probably end up getting back problems from these chairs. Mr. why don’t you tell me what went wrong this morning?” His voice is kind and unintimidating.” the secretary tells me. since the people who are in the principal’s office are usually in trouble for doing something wrong. “we seem to have a little bit of a problem then. Like ha-ha I’ll teach you. Well. Before I have a chance to react.” She’s a plump woman with a sweet smile and somehow being out here with her wasn’t that bad compared to whatever waits for me beyond those doors.” he says finally. and she only pushed you because you got in her face and she was scared you were about to hit her. but forces a half smile when he looks at me. fold my hands in my lap. Lucky for me the chairs in here are a little more comfortable because it takes him a few minutes to wrap up whatever he’s taking care of.
Morgan tells me. That. “Ashley. “Look.” Mr. closing the file that’s on his desk and handing me the same yellow form I saw Melissa heading out of the office with before. I didn’t even touch her. Is.I gasp aloud. Morgan shakes his head.” ******** I don’t even make it halfway down the hall before Alexa flings her entire body on top of me and I almost fall over. Morgan sighs. “Hey!” I exclaim detangling her from me. Monday and Thursday of next week you will stay after school until five o’clock and go through anger management classes. I know this is out of character for you. and the last thing I need to do is cause her anymore stress. Not.” Mr.” “All right then. and somehow when I call your parents to explain the situation I think that this is going to sound a lot better to them than suspension on your first day back to school. Anger management classes? I didn’t even touch her! “I don’t have an anger problem. What. You’re almost never in my office. “Here’s what’s going to happen. “You’re a good kid. You can go back to class as normal and finish out the rest of the day. Fuck.” Of course Melissa would stick to the old self-defense theory. Unfortunately. and we have a very strict policy about fighting at school. The last year has been really tough on my mom with the divorce and everything. “Why don’t you head back to class then. I sigh. Ashley. The alternative is two full days suspension.’ you’re going to receive an alternative to suspension.” I’m so annoyed that I can barely speak. I should have known better. at this point it’s your word against Melissa’s. Happened.” “But I wasn’t fighting at school!” I tell him. Morgan says. “I understand. or give her and my dad something else to fight about.” Mr. “I’ve been pushed enough times for one day!” “What. “I didn’t even touch her!” Mr.” The threat of my parents brings me back to reality and I start to relent. this is the best option that I can offer you. The. Morgan. because she doesn’t have the backbone to take the consequences of her actions. “Mr. Since it’s only the first day of school and you aren’t what we refer to as ‘troubled. Happened?” Alexa’s practically jumping up and down in front of me. “The whole school is talking about you!” .
“The whole school! Everyone’s saying that Melissa like totally laid your ass out in gym in front of everyone!” “That Melissa laid my ass out?” “She said you totally went crazy with jealousy because her and Austin were sitting together and she had to like totally put you in your place. “You did. Ha! Take that Melissa! The lie she told the principal must have traveled all over the school by now. what the FUCK happened?” Alexa’s talks so fast that I’m starting to get lost in her words. begging me to not hit her! How’s that for karma? “Yes. “I should go.“They are?” I ask. how it was so easy for him to be such a jerk after spending almost the entire summer with me. my heart can’t handle being this close to him right now. I don’t blame you. Chapter 5 The whole thirty seconds that it’s silent between us feels like the longest period of time in the history of the world. Everyone is probably talking about how I was screaming in her face and she was so scared of me that she pushed me. Now once again. I see why. “Well.” Alexa says. He speaks first. “I deserved that. And I am not obsessed with Austin. It takes me about twenty seconds to realize something must be wrong.” “Yeah.” I say simply. . about what happened last period. The pain still stings too much. Austin’s standing about four feet from me.” “Look Ashley. I could care less about the kid. Quiet is not something that Alexa does. NOTHING!” I’m so filled with rage over this whole situation at this point that the words fly out of my mouth. “Melissa? Are you honestly talking to me about Melissa right now?” How could he possibly think that what happened with Melissa was the most important thing on my mind right now? Melissa who? She doesn’t even matter.” Then she sprints off down the hall. because Alexa’s just standing there with a blank expression on her face and not saying anything. He’s nothing to me. I hate being this close to him. I know Melissa can be a little bossy sometimes…” he trails off and suddenly every single bone in my body feels hot. what I care about is why he was acting like we weren’t even friends anymore. not that even a little. and when I turn around.” Alexa says. “Not that. confused.
“Why have you been ignoring me since we got home? And why did you look away from me this morning? Why?” “Ashley. and for a second I think he might not answer. No one. No friends of mine act like that.” He looks at me then and sighs. I’m sorry. its not. its stupid. what happened? Tell me. Ash. okay?” His face softens when his eyes meet mine “It’s complicated. I thought we were friends. “What happened?” I ask him.” “We are.Austin looks everywhere but at me when he continues. It wasn’t about you.” “And then what Austin?” He pauses. I don’t know exactly what happened. He looks away from me again and I say his name.” I steady myself and try to get my emotions under control. so I ask the question I’ve wanted to know the answer to all day. And then…” he trails off. or if it was about me or whatever…” I laugh aloud. don’t flatter yourself. I mean. “Mike Foley had this party a few days after I got home. “Austin. so what are you saying--that I’m not worth getting into a fight for?” he snaps. “Nothing. “No we aren’t. and everyone was there. the whole thing was just a little intense. because friends don’t ignore one another for weeks or look the other way when they see each other in the hallway.” “No. “Look I was up on the bleachers. “Can you calm down? You’re like shaking. you know. “I guess I just got freaked out once I got back. “And then what?” I press him to continue. but he does. “We are friends. and they were all asking about my vacation.” he tells me. So I started to talk about some of the stuff we did…and . Austin. You need to relax. Austin.” He takes a step closer to me. I’m not about to get into a stupid fight over how big his ego is. especially not a girl. “Oh please Austin. It’s not complicated at all.” I say. I’d never told anyone the stuff I told you in Florida.” “No.” “Oh.
and he’s so close to me now that I can feel his breath on my face. . and look at him.” I shake my head and hold back the tears that are beginning to form behind my eyes.” For a minute I almost believe him. right?” “No. “Not right. I don’t know what I was thinking and I guess I started to treat you differently after that. I swear it’s like set in the stars or something that my first day of school will always suck. muster up my strength. You should have known me better than that. You’re a coward. And the truth is that I’m way too hurt to forgive him. “It’s too late for that. I’m so mad and upset about everything that’s happened today that there’s no way I can face going to class right now. As soon as I left Austin standing in the middle of the hallway.” He’s looking down at the ground now and I can tell he’s ashamed of everything he just admitted to me. It’s not like I miss out on any learning on the first day. I might as well just start staying home. and she appears to be limping or something. Her hair is all disheveled. but so far no Alexa.” Then I turn around on my heel and leave him standing there alone in the middle of the hall.” he says. I took out my phone and texted Alexa 911 telling her to meet me here. But somewhere deep down inside of me is the truth. “We spent everyday together over the summer. and that’s not the type of friend I want to have.your name came up. Chapter 6 This is the worst first day of school I’ve ever had. I almost believe that he really is sorry. really sorry. I don’t know. that he still cares and wants to make this right. I’m in the second floor bathroom now pacing back and forth like a crazy person.” he says forcefully. “And you believed them? Because whatever Melissa and all her friends think must be true. she’s completely out of breath. I take a step away. especially with what everyone’s apparently already saying about me. but at the time. I’m just about to give up on Alexa altogether when she finally comes busting through the bathroom door. Only Melissa and her friends started making this big deal. since nothing worth remembering is taught on the first day of school anyway. “And I’m really.” “I know. I’m not strong enough to deal with the looks or questions that are sure to come after the events of this morning. saying all this stuff about how weird you were and about how you probably planned to run into me down there and…I just…I don’t know.
” I say. that he went to a party and people we’re talking about me. A.. Pig. like really. as I could. “Well. “What. then realize what she just said. Tell me this instant!” “Well. OMG.” Alexa gasps. not mine!” “Yeah!” Alexa says now. and it freaked him out. “If he cares so much about what Melissa and her friends think. as fast.“I…got here. “Jeez. he can be their friend. “he’s a jerk!” She considers this carefully before answering “How so?” “The reason he hasn’t been talking to me is because he went to a party after he got home and Melissa and all his friends were making fun of me. which lets face it. “And to say he cares more about what people think than he does about you. ” I announce “And he cares what people think more than he cares about what I think. at this point is actually starting to make me feel better. “Yes! They deserve each other!” Alexa’s kind of yelling now. “You don’t look so good.” she tells me in between gasps for air. “Yeah!” I say back just as loud. how pathetic is he?” “Yeah!” I say. Where were you? Canada?” I ask. but she just looks at me kind of blankly.” She shoots me an annoyed look. “Well…he didn’t say that exactly per se…but close enough!” I wait for Alexa to keep up with the back and forth chanting..” “I know!” Now I’m starting to pace back and forth again. “He’s just as bad as them!” “He is isn’t he?” I say it more like a statement than a question. what exactly did he say?” “Just what I said...” “And did he feel bad?” . “That’s almost like a thank you for rushing to your rescue! Now tell me what happened after I left. “Screw them!” “Yeah!” Alexa says.
“He said sorry?” She asks and suddenly she looks kind of thoughtful.” She takes out her makeup bag and starts reapplying her makeup like maybe this conversation wasn’t as intense as she once thought. “You don’t know what’s going on in my head. I guess. “Deep down you do. like I’d ever forgive him! HA!” I say. I mean Alexa’s my best friend.” “How do you know what I want?” I demand.” “Well not really. I don’t want to. shouldn’t she be like ready to hunt him down and tell him off or something? “But it’s pretty much the same thing. They can be so over the top and convincing in what they say that sometimes you can’t help but get wrapped up in it for a little while. what he did was wrong. why don’t you tell me exactly what happened. and we both know more than anyone how manipulative they can be. “Hmm.” “You’re right. we’ve known Melissa and those girls since middle school.Ash.“He tried to say he was sorry. I gasp aloud. But I know you’re my best friend and I know that you were happier this summer than you have been in a really long time. “Oh yeah?” she says and she’s digging around for something in her purse. “No. Maybe you should hear him out.” So I replay to Alexa the exact conversation as I remember it and when I’m done she’s quiet. no doubt--but I don’t know. but it sounds unconvincing even to me. I do not. I don’t.” She says matter of factly.” “I can’t even believe you’re sticking up for him right now. but Alexa doesn’t seem to be having it.” Alexa says . “I’m not sticking up for him.” She smiles a sad smile.” She sets the eyeliner in her hand down and turns to look at me.” “Well. “I mean.” I’m a little annoyed now.” “No I wasn’t. You’re my best friend. .“He didn’t really say all his friends were talking about you? He said it was mostly just Melissa and her friends?” “Well. Alexa stares at me a second.” I say.” I tell her stubbornly. “Well?” I ask her. “Can you believe him?” “So. “Yes you do. Then I throw in a Tthe JERK!” as a last effort to start our ranting back up again. A few seconds later she retrieves her cell phone and starts scrolling through her texts.
even if it was totally stupid. who can I trust? So I nod instead.” “No. It’s one I sent Alexa over the summer one night after me and Austin had just gone mini golfing. you’re not going to get anywhere. but I know deep down that she’s right. Alexa starts reading off another text. You weren’t stressed out about your parents’ divorce. “I never thought I’d say this Lex—ever-but I’m really glad Austin ended up being here.” .” I recognize the text immediately. Then suddenly she starts reading aloud from her phone. Is that weird?” “Where did you get those?” I demand. I’ve never felt as close to a boy as I do with him. “I don’t. “Want me to read you more? I have plenty. I do. this is just getting ridiculous. I do like Austin. for the first time in a long time. I mean honestly. “I know. “you were happy.” I don’t say anything and she continues. “I saved them. Austin helped do that.” I snap.” Alexa says.” She puts her phone behind her back. You weren’t worried about things that are completely out of your control.What is she thinking? Can’t she see I’m going through a crisis here? Who could she possibly need to text at this exact moment? She should really start to take best friend lessons or something. A lot.” “And what’s that?” “You don’t send texts like this about someone you don’t care about as more than a friend. And if I can’t trust my best friend with that. you were just happy. “Or we could just stop all this pretending and talk about what’s really killing you right now. about telling her she’s crazy. Ashley. But it’s okay to admit that you like him. And why would you even save those?” “’Cause. and you like him a lot. “I feel like I can tell Austin anything and he would never laugh at me. Ash. Before I can react.” I think about denying it. and it’s easy to forget that when you’re upset. or about things that you shouldn’t be worrying about. reaching for her phone. You’re upset because you got close to him. which I get. locked them right up. Until we address that.
‘cause you’re my best friend. Fight for him. .” I slide the fabric over my head and I feel beautiful. Don’t let Melissa and her snobby friends ruin the first real thing you’ve had in a long time. “He probably hates me now anyway. “You can never be too prepared. and I love you no matter what. my cheeks are bronzed. amused. not because I’m mad at her. if things could never be the same. “Perfect.” I look away from her. I get it. But if any of this was real. “Here.” She looks at me. “I respect you enough to not push it. handing me her sweater. even before she wraps up her speech. “Lex…” I start to protest but she shoves the sweater in my hand. “then I’d give it a chance. now come here. You can’t get him back looking like that.” “Almost perfect. If you can’t do it. The sweater was oversized on her short frame but on me its just right and it hugs my body in just the right way. Ash.” she says. and my eyes are perfectly lined with a light gray glittery eye shadow.” she says.” she says.” She knows she has me. That’s all I’m saying. “But if you can’t do that.Alexa smiles “Then tell him. She hands me her oversized white hoop earrings. and they’re the perfect final touch.” she told me. which still looks amazing with her outfit. “He doesn’t hate you. I look at myself in the mirror and I cant help but admit to myself that I look pretty good. but because everything she just said to me is really hitting home.” Alexa pulls her sparkly sweater over her head so all she’s left wearing is a long black tank top.” Chapter 7 Twenty minutes later my foundation is freshly applied. “Take it. thanks to the million hair products Alexa magically pulled out of her bag. I can tell by the look on her face. My hair is now full of volume and falling in bouncy layers around my face. waving her phone in the air. I’d fight for it.” “For what?” “So I can do your makeup.
“What does it say?” Alexa hits the power button on her phone and the screen goes black. pulling out her phone. “Now all we have to do is figure out where he is. Me and Alexa both stop turn to each other. okay? I promise. “Oh no!” Alexa cries. I’m so close behind her.I feel a lot better.’” Me and Alexa stare at each other for a second and then both take off running down the hall towards the cafeteria. your sister’s in trouble. “One new text.” we say at the same time..” I say. Karli and Melissa standing face to face and whatever words they’re exchanging do not seem to be pleasant. I mean really. “What’s wrong now? You look gorg!” “No nothing. and let her pull me into the hallway. then rolls her eyes.” Alexa announces. Suddenly I feel like I might start crying. “I’m just really glad you’re my best friend. “We can totally have a Disney channel moment later. “It says ‘get to the café now. “I’ll text her. But right now let’s go find the guy of your dreams. It’s because I have a best friend who would skip class just to sit in the bathroom with me and do my makeup and talk to me after I had a really horrible day. I mean it was so last season. and I don’t see Karli anywhere.” I turn to look at her. everyone’s laughing and eating. “Ugh. Then Alexa grabs my arm and points down to the very other end of the caf. ****************** Alexa swings the doors of the cafeteria open and I practically trip over her heels. and how was I to know I wasn’t supposed to put it in the dryer. and I see it. shakes her head. its from Shannon Fuller. “What?” I ask her..” Alexa smiles. yay!” Alexa says as she unlocks her phone. “Karli. At first I think Shannon must have made a mistake because everything appears to be normal.” but then she stops in mid sentence and the look on her face is one filled with worry and anxiety. The door slams shut after us and I scan the room for any sign of Karli. either. . trying to get closer to her screen so I can see what it says.” I smile. And it’s not just because I look amazing. She’s still chasing me around about that sweater I borrowed at the beginning of summer.
Finally. “Um. Ashley? News flash. uh. I compose myself and shrug. The look on her face now is one of shock and annoyance but I’m laughing and I can’t help it. I mean.” “No!” Karli says. “What battle is that. and I can see people stretching their necks a little to see what’s going on. let’s just go sit down. a voice that even to me sounds like a voice of reason. “Trust me when I say it’s not worth the battle. But if I were ugly and if no one cared if I ever showed up at this school again. “She keeps throwing stuff at me.” I look to the table next to where we’re standing and notice that it’s all Melissa’s friends. whats going on?” Alexa asks in a calm voice. “Come on Karli. Suddenly I start to feel nervous. His presence is enough to send butterflies shooting through my stomach. I know everyone in the caf has probably just heard what she said and part of me wants to run out of the room crying. “So I came over to tell her to knock off her shit. but because this isn’t even my lunch period. and another part of me wants to slap that smug look off her face.” She’s talking loudly and people are starting to look at us now. isn’t that why we have teachers? To. I know it’s the first day of school. and if you disappeared. I find myself laughing. “Come on. A few seats down I can see Austin out of the corner of my eye. I just laugh. I can’t help but wonder where the teachers are that are supposed to be monitoring lunch. I’d still rather have either one of those things than be like you. and the last thing I need is my parents getting a phone call saying I’ve been in the principal’s office twice in one day. I just can’t stop. “I KNOW it was her. but come on. so maybe she should stop ACCUSING people of things that aren’t true. monitor things like this? I sigh and nudge Karli away from Melissa a little. AND I want to HIT her!” The caf’s getting quiet. “that I didn’t throw anything at her. “You’re wrong. I’m not ugly and I have people who care about me. “And I was just saying. not only because Austin’s here. Take a look around.Me and Alexa rush to Karli’s side. but I don’t stop talking.” Karli says. You’re ugly.” Melissa snorts. Alexa sighs.” Melissa’s voice pulls me out of my thoughts and back to reality.” I tell her. I highly doubt anyone would notice. “I’d rather be able to look at myself in the mirror everyday and . Melissa.” I can feel everyone’s eyes on me. no one in this room really cares if you exist or not. I don’t do either though.” The words are sharp and humiliating. you lost.
you’re just so annoying. And that’s on me.” “Oh. And that must get really. “She’s not a freak. or ignore one another. just because of what people say.” Meliss’s mouth drops open like she can’t believe what he just said. Austin. “are so…so.” I tell him. or the smile that appears on my face. Melissa’s response is so loud that it echoes through the entire room. I want to be your boyfriend. “I don’t want to be your friend.” I turn and meet Alexa’s eyes for a second before starting to walk out of the cafeteria.” With every word out of his mouth he’s taking another step toward me. I don’t even want to look at you. stopping in front of Melissa. “I don’t want to be your friend Melissa. “That’s the thing.” I can’t help the warmth that comes over my body when he says it. “All the makeup in the world doesn’t change the fact that you’re a freak.” A few of the boys sitting at Melissa’s table laugh and she shoots them a dirty look.” It’s a simple statement and if it had come from anyone else I wouldn’t have even stopped. Even without the makeup.know I’m a good person than turn out like you. really lonely sometimes. I think she looks beautiful.” Melissa says “but you want to be HER friend?” Austin turns and looks at me. and somewhere in the back of my mind I’m aware that the whole lunchroom is still staring at us. It’s the voice of the person who talks next.” He’s so close to me now I can feel his breath when he talks. “Austin…” . I haven’t been her friend.. But Austin keeps talking. You make other people’s lives miserable to make yourself feel better. But for the record. I take a step toward him “Friends do stick up for one another when someone’s hurting them though.” Its not her voice that stops me in my tracks.God. Friends don’t leave one another. though. but the sound of his voice makes me turn around to meet his eyes.. “So we only have one problem then. He’s getting up from his chair now and walking around the table “And you…” he says. Ashley. he smells like cinnamon and vanilla. “If I have to hear another stupid story about how you manage to never wear the same outfit more than once I’m going to literally go crazy.
” And then in the middle of the cafeteria with everyone watching.“Don’t. Austin kisses me. Table of Contents Chapter 1 Chapter Two Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Table of Contents Chapter 1 Chapter Two Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 .” he says. Only look at me. because you’re the only person I see. “Don’t pay attention to everyone looking at us. And somewhere in the deepest part of my heart I realize that this is the best first day of school ever.
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