Author: likelemondrops PM
New school. New friends. Mission to break up the school's "It" couple. And I don't even get the guy. HIATUSRated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Family - Chapters: 7 - Words: 39,480 - Reviews: 81 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 50 - Updated: 08-13-10 - Published: 12-25-08 - id: 2612908
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
He's Just a Boy
It all started when my parents decided that they wanted to get a divorce.
At first, I was a little relieved. Do you know how hard it is listening to your mom and dad yelling at each other every moment of every single day?
But then I realized what that meant: either my mom or my dad was going to have to move out. And that meant that we would have to split up. We meaning my siblings and I.
My twin brothers, Jeremy and Adam, were only 4 years old. My sister, Felicia, was 17, and I was 15. Mom had her first child, Felicia, when she was just 16, and then decided that she wanted to be a real mother a few years ago, not just some teenager who had a little too much to drink at one of her first high school parties, turning it into an 'almost-one night stand' with our dad. (It's kind of complicated.)
Okay, so she didn't really say that, but I know—and I'm pretty sure my sister does, too—that Felicia was the result of a...'fun night.' So anyway, that was why Mom had the twins. And she had had me when she was 18 simply because she was 'old enough to have a kid.' Makes Felicia and me feel pretty great, huh?
Anyway, so long story short, my dad decided that he'd leave, taking two of us with him. My mom, of course, claimed that she needed to be with her sons at their young age. She apologized to Felicia and me millions of times for not choosing to have custody of us. She promised us that she would visit us so much that we'd grow tired of her.
So there we were, at the airport, getting ready to leave. My mom was in tears, hugging and kissing us over and over again. And then there was her famous departing line:
"Felicia, Clarissa," she'd said, holding each of us with one arm, "you girls can't forget about us, okay?"
We had just nodded and said our good-byes, heading over to our dad on the other side of the airport security. The rest of the time passed in a blur, and soon we found ourselves on the plane from Riverton, Utah to Iowa City, Iowa.
"Welcome to Iowa, girls."
My dad's cheerful voice rang out and Felicia and I looked out the window to see that we were landing in, well, Iowa.
It was a half an hour before we finally got off of the plane, and then another thirty minutes before we were actually leaving the airport. My dad drove us through the busy streets in a rental car that he was planning on returning as soon as he bought a car for himself. He had sold his old Ford back in Utah about a week before we had left.
"You girls excited?" Dad asked us, sounding hopeful.
My sister answered him. "Yeah, of course we are, Dad," she replied mechanically.
I wondered if there was a slight tone of sarcasm I heard in her voice. Probably not, though, because Felicia was always the adult. She'd try to make Dad happy, not make him feel worse.
"Good." There was a pause. "We're almost there. I got us a house near the airport."
Why, Dad? Because you want to flee as soon as possible?
I mentally reprimanded myself. This wasn't his fault. His marriage had gotten messed up, and that wasn't anything any of us could help. Not his fault. Not his fault.
But it was so hard not to blame it on someone. I mean, I had to leave my whole life behind to come here! The only reason I had agreed to come was because I myself had been sort of ready for a change. But that didn't mean I was happy having to hop on a plane and leave my house, half my family, and the people I had called my best friends for the majority of my life.
"Hey," Felicia whispered to me. "Your phone just buzzed."
I snapped out of my thoughts, reaching for my cell phone. She was right: ONE NEW TEXT was flashing on the screen.
I flipped it open, wondering who would have texted me already. I mean, I had only been here for, like, an hour and then some, and I already had a text?
Marilyn: hey. are you off the plane yet?
Speaking of best friends. Of course Mari would text me.
Marilyn Henderson had been one of my best friends since, I don't know, the first grade, or maybe even before that. We'd always hung out, gone to parties together, went to McDonald's after every middle school dance...yeah. We go way back.
When I told Marilyn that my parents were getting divorced, she offered me a shoulder to cry on. (Which, by the way, I didn't use. I refused to cry about it then and still did now.) When I told her that my dad, Felicia and I were all moving to Iowa, she was the one crying. She hugged me and told me she'd miss me so much and that I had to call her every day—she was basically just a younger version of my mother.
I texted her back:
Me: hi. we're almost at our new place. i'll text you later.
I really wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone, even my best friend, at the moment.
"We're here," Dad informed us, pulling into a driveway in front of a house that looked pretty similar to the one we had lived in up until this morning. The driveway curved, however, and there was an evident—at least it seemed that way to me—lack of plants surrounding the front of the house. But other than that, the wide windows and the brick front and the light blue shutters and rooftop made me miss home already.
"Let's go," Felicia sighed, opening the door and stepping out of the car. I did the same and got my luggage from the trunk.
My dad led the way into the house, and my new life began.
"Welcome home," Dad said when we had set all of our suitcases down and begun to look around. "What do you think?"
My eyes took in the marble countertops in the kitchen, the wooden floors that soon turned into beige carpeting, the emptiness of the living room and walls, the spiraling staircase that led to a clean yet boring looking upper level with closed white doors and polished doorknobs. Everything seemed so awkwardly nice, as if somebody had tidied up their new home for us to visit. But no, this was our house, and I knew it would take some time to get used to thinking like that about this...seemingly perfect home.
"I like it," my sister said after a moment, a hint of wonder in her voice. Maybe she was thinking the same thing that I was. Maybe I wasn't the only one who suddenly felt sick to my stomach because I wanted to go home. "It's, um...nice."
I nodded in agreement, and our dad looked relieved.
"Great. Let's get settled in."
I was sitting in our new room next to the small window, doodling in a notebook and glancing outside every few minutes, but mostly trying to get over the nerves of starting at a new school. Hey, at least I'd have my sister with me, right? It'd be fine. I was just getting worried over nothing. Or so I tried to convince myself.
"Dad says we can go check out the school."
I looked up to see Felicia standing in the wide doorway, looking down at where I sat on the empty floor.
"'Kay," I answered plainly.
She looked away for a second. "Do you want to?"
I stood up and followed her down the steep staircase and into the garage.
"You know how to drive this thing?" I asked her, looking pointedly at the rental. Mainly I just wanted us to talk about something, anything, to make things seem normal again.
She shrugged. "It's a car. How hard can it be?"
"Whatever." I got into the passenger's side and Felicia slid into the driver's seat. She started the car and reversed slowly, then pulled onto the road.
Iowa City High School was, well, just another high school. Like most regular schools, it didn't make your jaw drop or your eyebrows raise, or any of that. It was regular, normal—something that seemed impossible at the moment. But I still found it hard to believe that my sister and I would be coming here every weekday starting in about three days, since it was Friday and we'd be going to school on Monday like all the other kids.
"It's kinda nice," Felicia commented, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was also struggling to make conversation.
I nodded. "Yeah," I agreed. "It kind of is."
Getting up early had never been my thing.
My sister, however, found it 'refreshing' to wake up at 5:00 AM and get ready for school. And, seeing how we shared a bedroom now, this woke me up, too.
"'Licia?" I muttered, fumbling for the lamp switch, since she had left the blinds down.
"In here," she called from the bathroom.
Her blow drier didn't stop or turn off, making it impossible to fall back asleep. I dragged myself into the bathroom to see her doing her makeup.
"Hey!" she chirped.
I frowned at her. "Pipe down, it's not even six in the morning yet."
She rolled her eyes at me and continued with her mascara. I pushed past her and brushed my teeth. When I was done washing my face, she already had her backpack on.
"What?" Felicia asked innocently with a sweet smile when she saw me staring.
I shook my head. "You're unbelievable."
I did my hair, changed my clothes and grabbed my backpack, all in less than ten minutes. When I ran downstairs, we had only five minutes before it was time to leave.
"Hurry up, Claire," Felicia said. "I don't want to be late for my first day at a new school because my little sister decided to sleep in."
I rolled my eyes and picked up a bagel from the bowl in the middle of the table. "I'm ready."
"Okay, you got your schedule and everything, right?"
Felicia was, naturally, fretting over whether or not I had absolutely everything I needed to help me not get lost in the new school.
"Yes, I do. Calm down, 'Licia, I got it under control."
"You have it," she corrected. "Geez, it's a good thing they're teaching you English."
"What are you, my mother?" I asked teasingly.
It was already February 11th, so it wasn't like everybody was freaking out about the first day of school or anything. The year was already half over, and that was what had my sister worried: the fact that we might not fit in.
"I have to go," she said. "You know my number. Call if you need anything, okay?"
I nodded. Felicia waved and hurried off.
I turned around and looked at the clock: 7:22 AM. Eight minutes to first hour.
Okay, I told myself, Let's do this.
And then I swiftly bumped into someone in the hallway.
"Oh my gosh, I am so sorry," I apologized immediately when both of our things fell to the floor.
A girl my age looked up at me and smiled. "It's okay, I never watch where I'm going in these halls."
The girl bent down to get her papers and I did the same. Her brown hair was tied up in a pony tail that bounced around as she looked up.
"You know, I haven't seen you around," she noticed. "Are you new here?"
I nodded, blushing. "Yeah, my sister and I just moved here. I'm Claire."
"Nice to meet you, Claire," the girl said with a friendly grin. "I'm Meredith."
I smiled back at her and we both stood up. Then, all of a sudden, the hallways went quiet and everyone, including Meredith, turned their heads. I looked, too, to see what was going on.
A dark-haired guy with bright green eyes was walking around the corner and down the hallway. His looks were almost stunning—impossibly perfect body, amazingly gorgeous face, and great features. As he passed a group of freshman girls, he flashed one of them a smile, and she nearly swooned.
I looked back at Meredith and found her blushing and almost giggling.
"Who's that?" I asked her, thinking maybe he was her boyfriend or something.
"Who?" she said, pretending not to notice the hot guy who was walking down the hall like a god. "Oh, him. That's Mitchell Jacobson."
She said this as if I should have known who that was.
"Do you like him or something?" I pressed, something telling me I needed to know this.
She blushed again. "Kind of," Meredith admitted.
"You might know his brother," she continued, seeming reluctant to leave the topic. "Drake Jacobson?"
Drake Jacobson...Drake Jacobson...Drake Jac—
"No way," I gasped. "The Drake Jacobson?"
Meredith nodded, enjoying my amazement. "The one and only."
"Does he go to this school, too?"
"Yep. They're easily the two most popular guys in school."
Drake Jacobson was, to put it simply, famous. He'd been in movies and released albums and guest starred in shows—pretty much everybody recognized the name and face. Which was why I found it so hard to believe that he went to this school.
"Nuh-uh." I gave her an incredulous look, then realized that she was probably telling the truth. I had heard that Drake Jacobson lived in Iowa...
Whoa. I went to the same school as a celebrity. Nice.
"So, are you going to ask Mitchell Jacobson out?" I asked, still marveling over the fact that Drake Jacobson was currently in the same building as me.
Meredith looked at me, surprised. "Of course not! I'm not that stupid!"
"Um." What? Didn't she just say she liked him? "Why?"
Before she could answer me, Mitchell Jacobson's arm slid around a slim girl's shoulders. The girl had long blonde hair that was straightened perfectly, tan skin that would make anybody jealous, and was dressed in a miniskirt and a slightly revealing t-shirt. She was, well, really pretty, from what I could tell. She hugged him back and kissed him on the cheek, shooting him a flirty look and, at the same time, managing to give the group of freshman girls that were standing by their lockers a look of utter disgust and triumph.
"That's why," Meredith answered, pointing to the blonde. "That's Lindsay Collins. Biggest bitch you'll ever meet."
I raised my eyebrows. This school was getting way cliché.
Lindsay Collins turned around and snapped her fingers, and two other blonde haired girls—except these two clearly dyed their hair—leapt to her sides. One of them started fixing Lindsay's hair and clothes and the other immediately asked her, in a high-pitched, near-desperate voice:
"What can I get you, Lindsay? Do you want anything? I'd be happy to help!"
Lindsay rolled her eyes and slapped the first girl's hands away from her. "I don't want anything, and get your filthy hands off me. Good. Let's go, girls."
She marched with her little posse through the halls, as if she was queen of the world followed by her little maids. Which, judging by what I'd just seen, was probably pretty close to the truth—at least in this town.
"Wow," I said. "That's..." I trailed off, not knowing what to say about her without seeming like a bitch myself, but Meredith seemed to understand.
"I know," Meredith replied grimly. "I've been wanting to break them up since they first got together."
It took me a moment to realize that we were back to the Mitchell-and-Lindsay topic.
"You should," I suggested. "I mean, the poor guy really doesn't look like he deserves such a slut for a girlfriend."
"Of course he doesn't. But how can I? The Matchmakers would kill me if I broke them up. They're the ones that set them up in the first place."
I was lost. "The...Matchmakers?"
"Oh, right, you don't know about them. See, our school has all different kinds of groups and cliques, like any school. There's Jocks, Populars, Skaters, Drama Club, Band Geeks, Nerds, Invisibles and, last but not least, the Matchmakers. The Matchmakers are a group of snotty girls who think they're all that just because they get paid to set up couples around the school," she explained.
"See, we should totally contradict them by making a new group to break up couples around the school," I joked.
Meredith rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like...the Matchbreakers, or something."
"Or the Heartbreakers," I said, grinning.
She laughed. "Yeah, even better. Bet that would be quite the way to clear the halls—'Look out, it's the Heartbreakers'."
Before I could reply to that, a bell went off, and it was 7:25. The warning bell.
"Oh, I should get to class," I told her, since I barely even knew where my class was. "It was nice meeting you, though."
"Yeah, you don't want to be late on your first day of school," Meredith said, only half kidding.
I smiled at her before walking away. "See you around."
I walked into the cafeteria after 6th period, looking around for a place to sit. Was I supposed to eat with Felicia? Would it be weird if I sat down with Meredith and her friends?
Buzz. ONE NEW TEXT.
Felicia: how is school so far?
My sister. Where was she, anyway?
Me: i'm surviving. you?
Felicia: same. make any friends?
Me: not really sure.
I went to the lunch line, deciding to get my lunch and then worry about finding a place to sit.
"Hey!" a cheerful voice behind me said. I instinctively turned around and saw a familiar face.
"Hi, Meredith," I replied gratefully.
"You wanna sit with us?" she asked me, and a wave of relief washed over me.
"That would be great. Thanks," I added.
"Awesome," Meredith said. "This is Cassidy, Marisa, Lyss, Derek and my brother, Evan."
Felicia: hey, you wouldn't mind if i sat with some new people, would you? you can come, too, if you want.
Me: no, that's fine. perfect, actually. i just found some kids to sit with, too. talk to you later.
Felicia: great! see you after school.
I looked up to see six anticipating faces.
"Hi," I said, "I'm Claire."
Meredith led the way to the lunch table after we all got our lunches. They sat at a table in the very corner of the cafeteria. I sat down at the end, next to Meredith and across from Evan.
"Where did you live before this?" Marisa asked me curiously.
"We were in Utah," I told them. "I lived there my whole life."
I tried not to think about my friends and my mom and my brothers that I had left behind there, and failed, leaving me stiff and nostalgic.
"Why'd you come here?" Lyss blurted out. I laughed nervously, trying not to take that as an insult.
"My parents got divorced," I explained, trying to get used to saying that. It wasn't something I ever imagined having to tell people. "My mom still lives in Utah with my brothers, and my sister and I moved here with our dad."
"That must be hard," Evan commented, "leaving part of your family to come here."
I shrugged, trying to act nonchalant about it. "I guess."
He didn't push it. Though he did watch me for a few seconds after that, as if he were expecting an emotional breakdown. But I had a pretty good hold on my self control, at least for the moment.
"What the fuck!"
The whole lunch room fell silent, just like in the hallway that morning, and turned to see a very, very pissed off Lindsay Collins.
Lindsay was standing up by her seat at her table, which was in the middle of the cafeteria. She had her hands up and was looking down in horror at her now soaked t-shirt and miniskirt.
"Oh no, Lindsay, let me—" one of her posse members, the one that was trying to 'help' her earlier, began.
"Shut up!" Lindsay interrupted furiously. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
At this point, Mitchell Jacobson—who had been sitting next to her—had stood up and started to quietly calm her down.
"Ugh!" Lindsay screamed, then turned and stomped off.
Everybody watched her until she was out the doors, and then our gazes all were back on Mitchell, as if everyone was awaiting his reaction. He turned uncertainly, and then was off the way Lindsay had made her marvelous exit.
As soon as Mitchell left, the cafeteria seemed to come back to life. Some people returned to their conversations as if nothing had happened, others decided to discuss what had happened. I was one of the latter group of people.
"What was that about?" I asked, turned back to the rest of the people at the table.
"Yeah, what even happened?" the girl with the blonde highlights, Cassidy—or, as she said she preferred, Cassie—wanted to know.
Derek spoke up. "I think I saw Katie—that's the girl that stood up and offered to help her," he added, looking at me. "I think I saw her accidentally spill her soda all over Lindsay."
Marisa laughed. "Accidentally? If I were her, I'd have done it on purpose."
Meredith nudged me after the rest of them started talking again.
"You know that break-up thing we were talking about?" she whispered.
I nodded. "What about it?"
"It is so on."
"Hey, how was your day?" Felicia asked me excitedly after school.
I smiled back at her, trying to remain calm. "It was good. Hey, listen—"
I flipped it open and read the text from Marilyn.
Marilyn: hey! you never texted me back. :( how are things at the new school?
I decided to answer her. I couldn't stay away forever, could I?
Me: sorry, we're getting really busy doing up our house. school was fine. how about you? how was school today?
I flipped the phone closed and tried to concentrate on telling Felicia that I wouldn't be riding home with her.
"Was that Marilyn?" my sister asked.
I nodded. "'Licia, you wouldn't mind if I—"
"Felicia! See you tomorrow!" a loud voice called. I looked over to see a girl with long red hair waving at my sister.
"Okay, bye," Felicia replied with a grin, waving back.
"New friend?" I guessed.
"Yeah. That was Anna you just saw. Anyway, what were you saying?"
"Would you mind if I went to a friend's house today?" I asked, the words almost jumbled, because I was trying to say it before I was interrupted again.
"A friend's house? Right now?" she asked. I nodded. "Of course not. Why would I mind?"
I shrugged. "I don't know."
"Do you need me to pick you up?"
"No, I think she said she lives pretty close to us. I'll walk home," I said.
"Okay, but call if you need me, alright?"
I nodded again. "Thanks."
She smiled and hugged me. "I'm glad you're making new friends already."
"Same," I said, rolling my eyes. I suddenly spotted a girl with a brown ponytail. "Oh, there she is. See you at home."
Felicia smiled, then took off in the direction of our dad's rental car. He had decided to stay at home for the day, and Felicia and I both suspected he was planning on going out with a friend to get a car. Which was pretty convenient for her, because then she could have her own vehicle.
"Hey," Meredith said when she came up to me. "Your sister's cool with it?"
"Yeah, she's fine. I just don't think that we should—"
"Great. Let's go," she interrupted, ignoring me.
It took me a moment to realize that Meredith was most likely 15, like me, and couldn't drive.
"Is your mom driving us or something?" I asked her as she led me away from the school buses.
"Of course not!" Meredith exclaimed. "You think I'd let my mom drive me to and from school?"
I shrugged. I wouldn't mind my mother dropping me to and picking me up from school. But, of course, I didn't dare say this.
"So...who is driving y—uh, us?"
"Yeah, my brother. He's a junior. Turned 16 last summer."
That worked. "Well, okay then."
When we got to Evan's car, he was already in it, waiting. He looked pretty surprised to see me get in the back seat with his sister.
"Hi," he said, his hazel eyes watching me curiously in the rearview mirror.
"Claire's coming with us," Meredith informed him.
"Okay." Evan seemed a little bewildered, but started driving anyway.
"Sorry," I added quickly. "I should have had some notice—"
He cut me off. "No, it's fine." He had that sort of leave-me-alone teenage boy vibe, so I shut up.
"Can you drop us off at the library?" Meredith asked her brother.
Evan shrugged. "Sure."
"The library?" I questioned.
"Don't worry, it's pretty close to our house, and probably yours, too," she assured me, even though that hadn't been my main question: What were we going to the library for?
In a few minutes, Evan stopped in front of a huge, cream-colored building. Meredith opened the door and jumped out and I followed. Her brother drove away, and for a second I just stood there, looking at the library.
"Welcome to the Iowa City Public Library," she said. "Come on."
We went inside and Meredith led the way to the back of the library. She went into a small room that had shelves of books on one side and couches on the other.
"This is the central area—most of the teens that actually come to the library go straight to this place."
I looked around at the many different vibrant colors that painted the room into a bright yet comfortable place.
"Cool," I said. "But what are we doing here?"
She sighed. "I had to improvise. If I went home, there's no way we'd be completely alone. And, well, I wasn't sure if I could ask to just be dropped off at your house..."
I shook my head. "Oh, well. We're here now."
"Yeah," she said, "and we're going to find out how to break them up."
"Meredith, I really don't think we should do this."
"Why the hell not? You've seen how Lindsay treats him. I don't even care if I get to go out with him or not, I just can't stand watching him follow her around like she's got steak all over her and he's the dog," she snapped.
I laughed. "You sure have thought about this."
"A little bit. So will you do it?"
I bit my lip. It was obvious that Lindsay Collins thought she was the head of the school, but I didn't even know her yet. Did I really want to break up her relationship without knowing a thing about her personally?
But...if I said no, then what if Meredith didn't want to be my friend anymore? Where would I go then?
Ugh. This was getting complicated.
I sighed in defeat. "Yeah, okay. I'm in."
"Thank you!" Meredith clapped her hands and smiled at me. "Now. What do we have to do to make Mitchell break up with Lindsay?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I interrupted. "Hold up. Who said Mitchell had to break up with Lindsay? Why can't Lindsay break up with Mitchell?"
I really wasn't prepared to be hated forever by the most popular girl in school.
"Mitchell has to break up with Lindsay because Mitchell is the more decent half of their so-called 'relationship.' Lindsay is, quite simply, a bitch, and so she's the one who has to get her heart broken." She said this as if it was a fact that everybody knew.
"I don't know..."
"Why are you so hesitant about this?" she asked me. "You're the one who thought of it."
"Well, yes, but I was just kidding!"
Meredith sighed. "Are you scared that Lindsay's going to ruin your life when she finds out that we were responsible for her downfall?"
I was surprised that Meredith had realized that. "Sort of."
"We could make it a secret club," she proposed. "That way, nobody but us would know what was going on. And the Matchmakers wouldn't hunt us down for ruining their perfectly-made couples!"
I couldn't argue with that, could I? As much as I wanted to make this year a normal one, I was also tired of being myself. My life was always boring, and this 'club' that Meredith was planning suggested that all of that could change. Even if Lindsay Collins did hate me forever after this, even if the Matchmakers would skin us for taking their spotlight, I realized that all of that would be okay. At least it would be a change, right? So I looked up, determined to become a different person, and said, "Okay."
"So anyway, we have to make sure Mitchell knows every bad thing about Lindsay. We'll find out everything about her and find a way to show him all of her bad sides."
"How are we going to do that?" I asked, realizing that she really did have this whole thing thought out.
Meredith pondered that for a second. "We could stalk Lindsay."
"Yeah, I didn't think that was such a great idea, either," she laughed.
"Wait," I said suddenly, "I have an idea!"
"Well, one of us could track down Lindsay's 'bad sides,' as you call it, and the other one could try getting on Mitchell's good side. That way, if we were friends with him when we told him that he should break up with her, then there'd be a better chance of him actually listening to us." I winced when I realized that I would probably have to be the one stalking Lindsay.
Before she could respond to my idea, we heard a voice:
"Meredith? Claire? What are you guys doing here?"
Meredith froze. "It's Cassie!" she hissed.
"Maybe she could help us?"
"I don't know..."
Cassie stepped into the room. "Hey, guys!"
"Hi," I said boldly.
"We were just, uh—"
I cut Meredith off. "Wondering if you wanted to join this group we're starting."
"Uh, okay. What's the group about?" Cassie asked, shooting me a look that dared me to go on.
"Well, we're making this break-up club type thing. We break up people around the school. And, well, we were just trying to make a plan to split up—"
"Mitchell and Lindsay," Meredith finished confidently
Cassie looked surprised for a moment, then grinned at us—
"Sure, why not?"
You know how some days, you just know something bad's going to happen? You just know that you should stay in bed and not go to school, or work, or wherever it is you have to be that day?
Yeah. It was one of those days.
I woke up at 6:54 AM, not realizing for another two minutes that I was going to be late. Then I got mad at my sister for not waking me up, but that was before I saw that she was still in her bed. I shook her awake, wondering what happened, and she immediately ran to the bathroom and threw up in the sink. My dad was slightly unhappy when I told him that Felicia was sick and he'd have to drive me to school since the bus was probably already long gone.
"Your sister's not feeling well?" he repeated, frowning. "Are you sure?"
He had been on the phone and was now holding his hand over it.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure, Dad."
He sighed and spoke into his cell phone. "I'll call you back. Yes, I'll be there. Okay. Bye."
I didn't really have the courage to ask him who it was he was talking to.
About 20 minutes later, we were in front of the school. I got out of the car and looked back at him.
"Thanks," I tried.
"Yep." He didn't sound like he cared much. As soon as I shut the door, he drove off.
I walked into the school, trying not to think about Meredith and Cassie's excitement over our new 'group.' What if we got in trouble? What if it didn't work? What if Lindsay ripped our heads off when—fine, if—she found out that we did it?
So much for trying not to think about it.
Anyway, back to my terrible day. After I got to school, guess who I ran right into? If you guessed Lindsay Collins, you were right. Yay! Woo hoo! I get to meet the girl whose heart I'm supposed to tear to shreds!
Um, yeah. NOT.
She turned to look at me, her eyes aflame at first. Then she seemed to realize who I was and smiled broadly.
"Oh, hi! You're the new girl, right?" she chirped. I gaped at her. Was this really the same girl who had freaked out at her posse just yesterday afternoon?
"I guess so," I said, still stunned.
And then she did something that completely threw me off—she hugged me.
"Welcome to Iowa!" Lindsay said to me just about as cheerfully as my dad had when we had arrived here, then walked off as if the world were still turning at its regular speed. Which I was almost 100% sure was not happening anymore.
"What was that?" Cassie asked me when I got to my locker.
I shrugged, trying to snap out of it. So the school's biggest priss hugged me and welcomed me here. That wasn't unusual, right?
I checked my schedule to see what my 4th hour class was, and saw that I had English next. I was still a little lost in the new hallways and had to carry the school map with me. Imagine how embarrassing that would be.
"Hey." Meredith hurried over to me as I walked to the door of the classroom. "I heard you got a royal welcome from the Queen Bee this morning."
I looked at her, surprised again. "You heard? Where did you hear?"
She laughed. I guess I must have looked pretty scared. "Cassie told me. Calm down."
"Oh. Yeah, I don't know what that was about," I said.
"Don't worry about it," Meredith assured me, "Lindsay feels it's her responsibility as president of the student council to act as a welcoming committee, too."
Well. That was a relief.
After the bell rang and my English teacher, Mrs. Martinez, started talking about some role-playing thing we were going to work on, I began to wonder what it was that I was worried about. Why did I freak out when Lindsay hugged me? Had I hoped to stay invisible from her or something? That was nearly impossible, seeing how popular she was here. She probably heard about everything way before anyone else did.
I came back to reality when I heard the words 'Romeo and Juliet.'
"—to start off our Shakespeare unit," Mrs. Martinez was saying. I wanted to kick myself. Why hadn't I been listening?
She picked up a very thick manila file off of her desk and faced the class again. "We will practice a few scenes from Romeo and Juliet with each other. Since we have one new student starting here this week,"—she looked at me, and so did many others, causing me to blush and wish a hole would open in the ground so that I could jump in—"so we now have the same number of people of each gender. Perfect for partner arrangements."
At the word partner, a lot of kids looked around and pointed at each other, setting up their groups. The buzz was switched to a groan at the teacher's next words:
"I have your partners picked out at random for you."
I wondered if this was a good or bad thing. I didn't know any guys yet, so it was a good thing that I didn't have to pick. But what if I got stuck with some kid who didn't do anything? I remembered a project like that at Riverton High, where I had to be with a boy who spent all his time playing video games and eating chips, leaving me to do the whole thing. Great. I crossed my fingers under the desk for someone good.
"Here are your parts—Yes?" Mrs. Martinez was looking at a girl sitting in the front row, waving her hand in the air.
"We don't have to like, make out or anything, do we?" she asked with a disgusted expression.
Mrs. Martinez laughed. "No, I won't make you kiss your partner."
"Good." The girl looked a lot more relaxed.
"Okay, now that that is cleared up, here are your partners."
She started reading names off of the piece of paper that was clipped to her manila folder. It went in order of girls' last names. I patiently waited for her to reach the Ms, but it was hard to do as the people around me started to become narrowed down.
After a few seconds, I heard her say my name.
"...Andrea Marcus with Greg Price, Clarissa Martin with Mitchell Jacobson, Maggie Neilson with..."
I never heard who Maggie Neilson was with, thanks to the sudden intake of breath that went around the class that, thankfully, Mrs. Martinez was oblivious to.
Suddenly everyone's gaze was on me, including that of a very amused looking Mitchell Jacobson.
See what I meant about wishing I had stayed in bed instead of going to school?
"Really?" I said sarcastically. "Because I was thinking that it was horrible. Really, really horrible."
"Horrible? It's perfect, Claire!"
I sighed, still not believing my bad luck. Why? How could this happen to me?
Cassie, who had caught up with us and was ready to go to Geometry with me, patted my shoulder. "It'll be okay. It's not that bad, you know. At least you don't have to kiss him."
She was right about that. I'd probably transfer schools again if I had to kiss him. I wondered for the millionth time what Lindsay would do to me, now that I was Juliet and her boyfriend was Romeo. Oh, crap. There went my life.
"Why is it perfect, Meredith?" I sighed, trying to get my mind off of my impending doom.
"Because! Now your plan can work!" She grinned at me, as if she expected me to jump up and act all excited.
"What plan?" I felt exasperated.
"Your plan to become friends with him! Now that you guys are working together on a project, you can be his friend, and then after a while just casually start to push him toward the bad side of Lindsay!"
My head snapped up. That was my plan?
"But...didn't you want to do that?" I asked her.
She looked surprised, then shrugged. "Oh, I don't care. You can be his friend. As long as you don't, you know, start seducing him or something."
I laughed. "Yeah, right. You don't have to worry about that."
"Okay, so you're going to try to convince him to dump her," Cassie said to me. "What will we do?"
"We'll sabotage Little Miss Not-So-Perfect," Meredith told her.
I almost groaned as I watched her walk into her next class.
"Is he really that amazing? I mean, why can't we just leave them alone?" I asked Cassie, hoping for some sort of explanation of Mitchell's personality.
She stiffened for a moment, then spoke quietly. "You're about to find out. See you in class."
She was off before I could protest. What had happened? That's when I felt the tap on my shoulder.
I spun around and found myself staring right into Mitchell Jacobson's bright green eyes.
"Uh," I said, sounding so intelligent. "Hi."
He looked pissed off. I couldn't imagine what I had done to make him this mad already. "You're Clarissa, right?"
"Yes, but I go by—"
"By what?" he interrupted. "Clarisse? Larissa?"
I shook my head once, starting to get annoyed. Why the hell should he take out his apparent anger on me? "Claire."
"Okay, Claire. We have to work out a schedule type thing to practice that scene from that play for English."
That scene from that play?
"The balcony scene from 'Romeo and Juliet,'" I supplied.
His irritated look became more pronounced. "Whatever. So you wanna come over after school one of these days or something? Or I could go to your house."
I shrugged. "We could switch off, I guess."
"Okay, that works. Can I have your number?" he asked me.
For a second I just stood there staring at him like an idiot.
"In case I need to call you," he clarified with a smirk.
"Oh. Oh, right. Sorry." I wrote down my cell number on the slip of paper he gave me. When I held it out for him, he tore off another piece, scribbled down his own number and handed it to me.
"See you at your house tomorrow after school, then," he said simply, then walked off.
Whoa. Wait. Wait!
Mitchell Jacobson is going to be in my house in a little more than 24 hours, practicing a part of Romeo and Juliet with me?
Felicia was outside on the phone, but when I walked in, all of the lights were off. I flicked the switch on in the kitchen, spotting a note taped to the fridge:
I'll be out late. There's some food in the fridge. I left some money on the table for you in case you want to go out or order something.
I'll be back at around 9:30. See you then.
My sister was suddenly beside me, reading over my shoulder.
"Out. Out doing what?" She sounded exasperated.
I rolled my eyes. "I don't know. He's probably at the car dealer's, or whatever."
"Until 9:30?" Felicia shrugged it off. "Whatever. Want pizza?"
"Sure," I said.
She picked up the phone and dialed a number. I waited until she started to speak to the person on the other end before running upstairs and freaking out.
I threw my backpack on the ground of our room and tried to calm down. Okay, so what if the second most popular guy in the whole school was going to be coming over tomorrow? He was just a normal person. I should just be glad that it wasn't his brother.
Strangely enough, that helped calm me down more than anything else.
"What's with you?" Felicia asked me, walking into the room and seeing me hyperventilating.
"N-nothing, I'm fine," I assured her. She didn't buy it, though.
"Right. Hey, you guys are doing that Romeo and Juliet thing in English, right?"
I jumped up and grabbed her shoulders. "How'd you know?" I cried.
She staggered back. "Uh, people were talking about it at school and I was just wondering who you were partnered with...Is something wrong?"
"I'm with Mitchell Jacobson," I whimpered, sitting back on the bed. "What am I going to do?"
To my surprise, she laughed. Laughed!
"Wow, Claire," Felicia said, sitting next to me, "I know you can be a little shy sometimes but I never thought you'd be afraid of a boy!"
And then I realized she was right. Why was I having a panic attack all because I was paired with him? He was just another guy, and I was not going to let him take advantage of me. "He's just a boy," I said out loud.
"Better?" she asked, noticing my calm looking expression.
I nodded. "Yeah, actually."
The doorbell rang, and she jumped up.
Felicia ran down the stairs to get the food and I leaned back against my pillow, trying to relax. I picked up my cell phone and decided to actually talk to Marilyn this time.
FOUR NEW TEXTS:
Marilyn: hey, sorry, my phone died earlier, so I couldn't talk to you that much.
Marilyn: well, text me back whenever you can. if you want to, that is. bye.
Mom: hi honey! how are you? I miss you guys soo much already!
Mom: anyway, tell your sister and dad I said hey...call me when you can, kay? I love you!
I decided to reply to Marilyn first. I hadn't been very fair to her the past few days, and now she had begun to catch on. I hoped it wasn't as bad as it seemed.
Me: hey! I'm sorry, I've been so busy lately. text me back? :)
The response came sooner than I expected it:
Marilyn: you're actually going to talk to me this time?
Oh, crap. So it was as bad as it seemed.
Me: I'm really, really sorry about before, I know I said I'd text you a lot, but you know how it is! so what are you doing?
Marilyn: I was doing my homework. how are you? it seems like it's been so long since I saw you!
Me: I'm good, you? how are things back home?
Marilyn: things are...good. I bet they'd be way better if you were here, though.
Me: aw. hold on, I'm getting a call.
I looked at the somewhat familiar number, my brain not quite registering whose it was. I pressed 'Talk' and held it to my ear.
"Hello?" I said.