Chapter One – Pretties and Panthers

Oh innocent victims of cupid,

fRemember this terse little verse:

To let a fool kiss you is stupid,

fTo let a kiss fool you is worse

E.Y. Harburg

"So there we were and he started to kiss up on me as if he wasn't the one who had wanted us to slow down. Thing is he didn't even start slow or anything so I told him to stop because I really wasn't ready for where he was going with it," I informed the room as I sat braiding Bridget's hair. I looked up from my part just in time to see Chloe and Julianne exchange meaningful glances.

"You are, without a doubt, a lousy date," Bridget proclaimed from the floor in front of me. I stopped what I was doing and stared at the top of my best friend's head in shock.

"How is she the lousy date?" Tiffany asked from her corner of the room. Like usual she was sort of separated from the rest of us who were all on or near the bed while she was sitting beside the desk.

"Yeah, how am I the bad date? It wasn't even supposed to be a date date. We were just going to watch a movie or something since we'd decided to be friends again," I added as I started to braid again. They all, minus Tiffany, made noises of disbelief and I gritted my teeth focusing my attention on getting Bridget's hair done as quickly as possible.

"Ow! Not so tight Judi. You couldn't have really thought that was all he wanted. Honestly, even you can't be that thick," Bridget sneered.

"Yeah," Chloe added, "I mean, you're going to watch a movie at his house, on a day you know both of his parents are working late? Come on now, think. So how'd he react when you went and ruined the mood?"

I waited before speaking since I know if I didn't I would say something that would get them all mad at me.

"If by mood you mean him trying to grope me on his mother's plastic wrapped couch, which is just gross by the way, then not very well. He got all stiff and then said he just remembered he had to do something and did I need a ride home," I said tightly. Just remembering it brought back the feeling of embarrassment that I had felt when he had said it.

"Trey's a real asshole isn't he?" Tiffany said disgust in her voice, I nodded feeling better that at least someone saw it from my point of view. Bridget turned her head and gave Tiffany what I assumed to be a look of disdain.

"Can the girl who's never had a boyfriend mind her own business?"

"Why? Technically this is none of your business and yet you're all up in it," I snapped annoyed with her. As my best friend she should've been the one defending me, not Tiffany.

"Well you're the one telling us," Julianne said quickly.

"Because you guys asked," I said almost yelling.

"Relax Judi, honestly, you get so upset up over nothing," Bridget said dismissingly. I opened my mouth to defend myself then shut it again. They would gang up on me no matter what I said so why say anything?

"Anyway, what are you going to do?" Julianne asked.

"About what?"

"About Trey." Her tone of voice implied that I was an idiot for not catching on to what she was saying.

I shrugged.

"So you're not even going to try and fix this?" Chloe asked. I didn't even answer her.

"Why should she try and fix something she didn't break?"

"Tiffany, shut up, what do you know about relationships?" Bridget snapped. I decided it might be time to change the subject before they started to pick on Tiff and made her cry, like they usually did.

"Tiff, do you still want me to do your hair tomorrow?" I asked before she could answer Bridget.

"Well, I need it done before tomorrow night you think you can do it at lunch?" She asked. I nodded.

"Eww," Chloe said, "because I really want your hair in my food. That's so unsanitary."

I looked into the mirror to stare at her. What was she talking about?

"I know,' Julianne said her braids flying as she nodded her head in agreement, "you're so gross Tiffany."

"Julianne, I did your hair at lunch," I pointed out incredulously. Over quite a few lunches and into a few classes since she had wanted micro braids. We always braided hair at lunch. People actually paid me to do it for them since I didn't know where they lived or we weren't close enough for me to go over to their house or them to mine.

"That's different," she said giving me a dirty look. I shook my head in disbelief.

"Done," I told Bridget tersely standing up.

"Where are you going?"

"Home, I have to start my part of the English assignment that I'm doing with Missy."

"I still can't believe you chose her as your partner," Julianne said disgusted.

"Yeah well, I couldn't partner up with any of you could I?" I said through clenched teeth. Bridget and Julianne were both in my English class and had partnered up. What annoyed me was that they could've had a group of three since our teacher allows them but they chose not too.

"What, you're mad now?" Bridget asked amused. I didn't answer, just grabbed my things and headed for the door.

"You're so moody, that's why you and Trey are always having problems," Julianne said with a grin. Chloe laughed and I gave her a dirty look.

"Tiffany, can you give me a ride?" I asked as I realized that if I left she'd be left with them and from the way they were acting they would definitely gang up on her.

"Hey, if you're leaving then leave, Tiffany doesn't have to drive you anywhere," Chloe said as if I was forcing Tiffany to do anything. I bit my lip but ignored her.

"Um, sure I guess, it's not a problem. Later guys," she said standing. They said half-hearted byes back and we left.

As I was getting into the car I heard Bridget call my name. I sighed.

"I'll wait here," Tiff said already seated in the driver's seat. I nodded and climbed out to see what Bridget what.


"Judi, you know we're just playing with you right?" She asked leaning against the doorway. I shrugged.


"You take everything so personally, relax, learn to take a joke."

I nodded even though I hadn't seen what was so funny about them all taking Trey's side

"Later," I said not even waiting for her response before turning and heading back to the car. She really got on my nerves sometimes.

I turned the music on in Tiffany's car as she pulled out of the driveway. I turned on the radio to deal with how quiet it was in the car.

"Can you do my hair anytime before lunch or after?" Tiff asked as I fiddled with her stations. I thought about it. I tried not to skip any classes since I was the type of person who would get caught instantly. But I did have Mrs. Grayson tomorrow and she adored me. I could probably get her permission to work outside of class.

"What class do you have right before lunch?" I asked as she switched lanes.

"Um… math or art. What week is it?" She asked without looking at me. Our school alternated weeks and depending on what week it was your schedule varied.

"Two, and how did you make it to Friday if you don't even know what week it is?"

"Well I figure it out during school but before and after everything's a bit of a blur. That means I have art. We're working on finishing our first assignment. I can skip it if that's what you're asking."

"Yeah, okay then meet me at my locker, or better yet in the library. There are always seniors on spare there so no one will question us and I could probably finish your whole head there. You only want the top braided right? Like Bridget's?" I asked. She nodded.

"Yeah, but it won't look anything like hers. I wish I had hair like hers. It's such a cool rust colour and all those curls and then with her golden skin colour it's really eye catching you know. Especially with her green eyes," Tiffany gushed. I stifled a groan. Now I remembered why I didn't really hang out with Tiffany. She had an almost physically nauseating girl crush on Bridget. And she seemed to think that as her best friend I would see Bridget in the same light she did, meaning I was the only person she talked too about it since she didn't want anyone to think she was 'weird'. Yeah, right.

"Well, she's mixed her hair would be curly. And don't let her hear you call it rust coloured if you love your life," I informed her. She nodded.

"I know but what other colour is it? It's like paprika-ish I guess but who really wants to have paprika coloured hair? And you're mixed and your hair isn't like that. It's more like Julianne's but I guess it is a bit lighter," she said looking over at me speculatively.

"Yeah well that's more of a result of a really good hot comb then any mixed blood," I said sidestepping the fact that 'technically' I wasn't mixed. She laughed and patted her own head.

"My mom won't let me put any chemicals in my hair, remember when Bridget talked us into ironing it straight?"

I smiled even though just the thought of it made me feel slightly sick to my stomach. We'd been so close to setting her hair on fire. If my mother hadn't smelt burning hair I don't know if Tiffany would have found it so amusing. For that matter I don't know why I didn't stop Bridget when I had seen that that iron was too hot.

"Julianne probably has the straightest hair out of us all though."

"She's Korean or Filipino or something, of course her hair is dead straight."

She snorted, "Yeah, you're confused about what she is too right? Not that it's important but I've never met someone so anal about keeping her race a secret."

"She just likes to be in control. It's irritating. Oh and thanks for seeing my side of the story today," I said feeling a bit awkward. She shrugged.

"No problem. They were right though seeing as how I have no personal experience with that sort of thing I should've just kept my mouth shut."

"What does personal experience have to do with using your goddamn common sense? And they've never had personal experience with this type of thing either. Julianne and Bridget are talking to at least five different guys right now and Chloe's been seeing Jacob, Jonathon, or is it Joey? What is that boy's name? Anyway she's been seeing Jay for about three months now. And there's been no off period yet so I'm guessing everything's cool there." I sounded bitter even to my own ears so I stopped myself from adding anything on to it. I really didn't understand how they could hop from guy to guy without getting seriously hurt.

Trey was my first real boyfriend and already I was confused and frustrated and generally didn't feel good about myself when it came to him. Unless he was being nice then my life couldn't be better. And I really hated that about myself. Especially since I'd been feeling mostly frustrated and hurt ever since he decided we needed to take a break.

"Yeah. You know what I've been wondering, when they get on your case why don't you turn your hearing aid off? I know that when they hate on me sometimes I wish I was deaf. No offence." She glanced over at me and I shrugged. Since they ganged up on her at least once a day and made her cry at least once a week I could understand.

"None taken, I know what you're saying. I just don't like not being able to hear anything. I can read lips and all but it's just disconcerting not being able to hear. And one time I took it out in front of Bridget and she hid it from me until I started to cry. Never again."

She nodded understandingly.

"Is that why you always have your hair covering your ears? Because if I hadn't known from before I never would've guessed."

I nodded feeling abit self conscious about my not quite shoulder length hair. Like Julianne my hair was chemically straightened but it was nowhere near the length of hers. As I caught myself putting my hair behind my ears and then moving it back to hide the hearing aid I tried to think of someway to change the subject before she started asking how I became deaf.

"You weren't born deaf right?"

"Nope, ruptured ear drum, so do you like anyone?" I asked cheerfully. She seemed confused at my sudden change in subject. She shrugged as she turned on to my street.

"Not really."

I let it go since a) we were in front of my house and b) that probably meant he was already off limits or was someone that would lead to her being made fun of.

"Thanks for the ride Tiff, see you tomorrow."


I watched her drive away then entered my house to start on my homework and stay by the phone just incase someone called.


"Judy! Over here!"

I turned to see Bridget waving me over to where she and the others were seated. Paying for my lunch I made my way through the crowds to sit down in the seat she had saved for me.

"We called you over here to sit with us and eat lunch," Julianne said solemnly. I looked at her confused. Chloe giggled and Bridget smiled which led to Tiffany mimicking her.

"What else would we be doing at lunch?" I asked her as I added salt to my fries. She shrugged.

"I don't know. You just seem to have difficulty seeing the most obvious of things so I just wanted to make sure you didn't think we were going to watch a movie or something," she said her face one of innocence. Chloe snorted and I forced a smile. I guess they weren't going to let that go for a while.

"Oh, speak of the devil. There's Trey."

I glanced over to where she was pointing then looked back at my food quickly.

"Trey!" Julianne called waving and smiling like she hadn't seen him this morning. I knew for a fact that they had the same T.A.P class.

"What are you doing? Stop it," I hissed hunching down in my seat in the hopes that I would be invisible. Chloe smirked and took a few of my fries.

"Grow up Judy honestly."

I straightened but didn't say anything as Trey came over to say hi.

"Tiff, Bridget, Julie, Chloe, how are you ladies doing?" he asked with a smile. I pretended not to notice that I had been left out or that Chloe and Julianne were looking at me to see how I would react to the fact that he was ignoring me. I kept my face blank and my eyes on my plate.

"Trey, love your braid-up," Julianne cooed. I shoved another fry in my mouth annoyed.

"Yeah, it's hot," Chloe added, "I heard you went to the movies on Wednesday how was that?" I choked and lifted my head to stare at her. I gave a little shake of my head. What was she doing? Why was she doing this? What was wrong with her? I began to chew on my lip my eyes back on my plate my ears straining to hear his response.

"Really?" he said sounding a bit amused, "Well it wasn't like I expected. A bit too childish for my tastes to be honest," he drawled. I bit down too hard and yelped as the metallic taste of blood filled my mouth. I stood up without waiting for them to ask what was wrong with me and tried to make my way outside. It might be cold out there but at least I wouldn't have to hear people talking about me as if I wasn't there or too stupid to catch on to what they were saying.

"JUDY! My girl over here! JUDITH!"

I looked around shocked. I had no idea who could be calling me since al my friends were currently buddying up to stupid, 'I can't pick up a phone', Trey. There standing up and waving was Missy. I swallowed hard and gave a small wave of my own. I didn't want to talk to her. She was nice enough but as leader to the Pink Panthers, an all girl gang at my school, she was not someone to mess with.

And I know, Pink Panthers doesn't sound all scary but they are the only female gang in our school. And this isn't a high end school either so a lot of girls should've been coming in with their own gang signs and everything but every time more than three girls from the same gang came to our school stuff happened, people were hospitalized, Panthers were suspended and apparently there were huge off school fights with the Panthers always emerging victorious.

"Why you standing there? Get your ass over here girl," She yelled with a grin. Feeling slightly sick to my stomach I walked over to where she and a bunch of girls all wearing something pink or gray were seated.

"Hey girl," she said with a grin reaching over to give me a one armed hug. I quickly put down my tray to hug her back.

"Hey," I said nervously feeling self-conscious thanks to all the eyes staring at me. Girls had apparently come over when they had heard Missy call me over.

"Alright, ladies this is Judith," Missy said indicating me. I waved and wondered why the hell was I feeling like I was being presented at court for the first time?

"And Judith, this is Monique, you know her right? Naomi, Kaia, Dahlia, Shanai, Shawna…" I lost track and just gave everyone a vacant smile and wave.

"You know what she's thinking right now?" A girl with silver hair and eyes asked in a mean little voice. I knew it was Kaia since she'd been dying her hair that colour since grade nine, maybe longer and wouldn't tell anyone where she had gotten the dye to make it actual silver and not gray.


"How the hell do they expect me to remember those ghetto ass names," she said flatly. I blinked. Oookay. Someone didn't like me.

"Um, I actually was thinking that. Minus the 'hell' and the 'ghetto ass', I think everyone has some pretty and unique names here. Better than Judith," I said with a tight smile. She glared at me but I didn't really care. I had learned how to take people's nonsense from the best and they did it because I was their friend.

"So, why aren't you sitting with the other Pretties? With an 'I' not a 'y'" she said in this fake chirpy voice while flipping her hair over her shoulder. I bit my lip to stop myself from telling her where to go. Which I would do if I wasn't a wimp who has an aversion to having whatever was the hottest in shoe wear imprinted on my face. And you know how I said that there were no other female gangs in the school? Well, technically that's not true.

See, in Grade 9, Bridget heard about the Pink Panthers. But she didn't know they were an actual gang, she just thought they were a group of girls calling themselves Pink Panthers. So, Julianne, Chloe and herself started calling themselves the Pretties. With an I. Yeah, that didn't go over well but unlike the other girls the Panthers fought, Bridget comes from a well off neighbourhood so as a result when some people had backed her up she'd gone straight to the principal. Not a good time to be known as being a friend of the Pretties. You see why I might be scared shitless of sitting at a table with a bunch of girls who've wanted to bust my best friend's ass for the past two years.

"Well, first I'm not a Prettie, and second I had something that I had wanted to do, you know, before Missy called me over here so yeah, I'm going to go and do that now, nice meeting you all. Really," I said with a fake smile starting to stand up. Missy grabbed my wrist and pulled me back down.

"Oh, about that. You know that assignment we have due on Wednesday? Yeah well we need to meet up to work on it or nothing will match up," she said snagging a fry from me. I nodded.

"Um, since its due Wednesday you want to get started on Saturday? Or we could start on Monday," I said with fake cheerfulness.

"I'm not going to eat you, you know. Stop acting so nervous. Why don't we start after school today? You could come over to my house or I can go to yours doesn't matter."

"My house is cool. Is eight a good time for you?" I asked her starting to stand again. I was really not comfortable there.

"Is eight a good time for who?" A deep male voice asked from behind me. My skin broke out into goose bumps as his voice washed over me and I began to chew on my lip again. This was not good. I knew who it was of course. Alejandro Mendez, more commonly known as A.J. He was one of the scariest guys I have ever had the misfortune to have to go to school with and I tried to avoid him as much as humanly possible.

Which wasn't that difficult since he hung out with the 'bad' crowd and I was too much of a wimp to even walk through their hall. Yeah, you heard me there is a hall in the school that I don't go through. I've been late to many a fashion class after lunch since I've had to go outside, around the school, upstairs and then down again where if I had just made a right from where my locker was and then walked straight I would've been there in under a minute. I had almost cried the year I switched T.A.P.s and learned that my locker would always be just on the edge of that hall.

"Hmm?" I asked a bit startled. Kaia smirked at me and Missy repeated herself.

"I said, tonight's not that great of a time. There's a party that starts at nine and I'm not missing it. School might have only been going for two months but I'm tired of it already," she said with a sigh. I nodded keeping my own sigh to myself.

"Oh, well then, I guess I'll see you Monday?" I stood up when a warm hand was placed on my shoulder and I was pretty much forced gently back into my seat. I'd gotten goose bumps after the initial contact and while I inconspicuously rubbed my wrists, the one spot of my body I could rub without being obvious I cussed myself off in my head. That's what you got for wearing a wife-beater in October in Canada with only a thin zip-up hoodie over it.

No one else seemed bothered by the sudden drop in temperature so I decided it was probably in my best interest to keep it to myself. The warm and slightly ominous presence at my back moved until he was standing beside Missy. As his cold, green-brown eyes took me in I wished that he had stayed behind me. When he looked at you it was like he could read your mind and his eyes were a sort of shock since they contrasted sharply with his golden brown skin tone. You'd think that he'd have nice dark, melt in your mouth, chocolate brown eyes. Instead he had freaking Puss-in Boots greenish gold eyes.

"Why can't she go with? Bring her to the party and then she can crash at your place and then you have the whole of Saturday to work on it."

"But A.J. love, she's a Prettie" Kaia said giving me a dirty look while managing to coo at him. I nodded my head then realized I was agreeing with Kaia, and not only that, it was a lie.

"Well, I'm not a Prettie actually, but anyway, isn't it sort of wrong to invite someone to someone else's party?" I added quickly. Kaia rolled her eyes and Missy snorted and leaned over to give my shoulder a soft shove.

"Aww, she's so polite, isn't that cute? It's a house party hon, everyone's invited. It's going to be sick. Like crazy good. I heard they managed to get three sound systems so you know they're going to be playing the sex jams in the basement. Girl you should come. You have to pay five dollars though since it's my girl's birthday jam but it's going to be ridiculousMissy said grinning at me. I nodded uncertainly. I knew sick meant good but I wasn't sure when 'crazy', 'ridiculous' and 'sex jams' meant that you wanted to go to that type of party.

"Look at her she's not going to come. Girl's scared of us, being in a room with a bunch of loud real black people might be too much for her," Kaia sneered. I started to glare at her but cast my eyes down when I realized she was staring at me with what seemed to be unreasonable hatred right back.

"Yeah, I'll come. I need to get out anyway. And for the record, I'm darker than you are and race is not something I let bother me," I said quietly annoyed that people assumed that just because I didn't act all wannabe gangster I was 'washed' or afraid of real black people. Missy's laughter pulled me out of my fuming.

"You tell her girl, so we'll pick you up at eight alright? What's your address?" I told her and we made the arrangements with people making comments about how crazy/sick/out of this world the party was going to be. I finally stood careful not to look at the creeper they call A.J. He hadn't taken his too-light eyes off of me since he had reached the table.

"Well, I really got to go nice talking to y'all, see you later Missy," I said with a forced smile. I picked up my tray and noticed that my fries were all but finished. I couldn't remember eating them all and inwardly I sighed. Another nervous habit that I didn't know about, soon I'd start plucking hairs out of my head or something else weird and unexplainable.

I hadn't moved more then two feet when my arm was grabbed and I was spun around to see Bridget staring at me.

"Hey," I said nervously. There was no way she wouldn't know that I had just spent the majority of the period talking to 'the enemy'.

"Hey, sorry about what happened over there," she said hooking her arm through mine and beginning to walk. I nodded automatically even though I was surprised. I had expected to be cussed out, not to receive an apology.

"No big."

"That's not true, and I'm sorry. To make it up to you want to sleep over at my house tonight? We can go shopping and everything," she said smiling at me.

"Don't you have a date tonight?" I asked slowly. I knew she had because I had offered to do the exact same thing earlier that week and she had turned me down because of it.

"Oh that? Well, you can wait for me right? I mean, my family adores you. Come at nine and we'll hang out when I come back. Or better yet I'll pick you up when the date's over," she said as if that made perfect sense. Under normal circumstances I might've said yes, but I was more frightened of having to cancel on Missy then I was on fitting into Bridget's schedule.

"That sounds fun and all but I have plans for tonight, sorry," I said insincerely feeling angry for some reason. I knew the type of person Bridget was, it wasn't her fault that it hadn't occurred to her to cancel her date to spend the evening cheering me up.

Instead of looking taken aback she snorted.

"Yeah, I'm so sure. Are you still mad about what happened at the table? Because I said I was sorry and you know I don't like to apologize just because someone took something the wrong way," she said amused while looking at me as if daring me to tell her that I was the one who couldn't take a joke. I frowned. The fact that I had plans that didn't involve her didn't strike me as amusing.

"No, I really do have plans."

She looked at me with annoyance and disbelief evident on her face. We had stopped walking a while back but now she removed her arm from mine.

"Really now? Where are you going and with who? And don't say Trey 'cause I know he's still mad at you. Honestly, if you don't want to spend time with me just tell me don't lie."

"I'm not," I gave up and turned my head away so I wouldn't have to look into her hurt face. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Missy talking to A.J. without thinking I called her over. She looked at me surprised and when I motioned her over she came although she was a bit hesitant. Sadly A.J. didn't seem to have that hesitance as he followed her.

"What are you doing? Are you stupid?" Bridget asked gripping my arm as Missy neared. I almost nodded. Because only an idiot would purposely bring those two in the same room much less include them in the same discussion.

" Yeah?" She asked ignoring Bridget completely.

"About tonight what time are you coming for me again? I forgot."

She looked at me confusion on her face and I felt my face begin to heat up as the silence grew. Great she had forgotten about inviting me already. Bridget snickered and then comprehension seemed to dawn on her.

"Oh, you mean for the Jam? Eight, nine at the latest."

I nodded and looked over at Bridget who looked shocked. I turned back to thank Missy ignoring the gold-green eyes that were looking at me over her shoulder.

"No problem, later."

I nodded and waited until they were out of earshot before turning to Bridget with a shudder.

"That guy really freaks me out. Why are his eyes so cat-like? That can't be normal, and he's always watching me. I am not the Cineplex, you did not pay ten dollars for admission so stop watching me," I said giving one last shudder as I looked over my shoulder to see that he was indeed still staring me.

"You're one to talk about eyes," she spat out. I looked at her taken aback. Ookay. That was unexpected. I mean, I had known she would be irritated but a personal attack was not something I was prepared for.

"Your eyes are two different colours."

"No, they're both brown."

"One's swamp brown and the other is normal boring brown. And anyway, that's what you get for being a traitor. I can't believe you're going to drop me to spend time with those poor examples of humanity. Some friend you are, and let's not forget they are the enemy. They can't stand our group," she hissed throwing my arm away from her causing me to step back.

"Um, excuse me? Do I have to remind you that I'm not a Prettie? So they may be your enemies but they're not mine."

"Some friend you are."

With that she actually spun on her heel and flounced out of the cafeteria. And you may think I'm exaggerating but I'm not. Flouncing is the only word to describe what she did. Her hair, well the part that was loose, had swung out prettily and had bounced as she had stormed away. If I'd tried something like that I would've smacked myself in the eye or done some other form of damage to myself. I stood there as the bell rung stunned that she was going to be mad at me because instead of waiting for who knows how many hours for her to come and pick me up I had decided to go out and meet new people.

And this might be a bit sick, but I was sort of glad that she was mad. Because that meant in her own little way she actually cared about what I did. Of course that didn't mean that she shouldn't see someone about learning how to share.

Hola lovelys! Long time no see, school is beating the crap out of me. Not sure how often I'll be updating this but it's been bouncing around and I wanted to try and write a character who isn't as sure of herself as my characters tend to be, which will be quite frustrating but passive aggressive is fun too :D. On the plus, even though I'll probably update this sporadically, my chapters will always be decent sized or long.

Note: this will be very cliched. Hopefully it be a well written cliche, a fun little romance (my first real romance since WDC was about the friendshsips first and foremost.) with a bit of drama thrown in, nods hope you guys like it and much love to everyone who has added me to their author alerts/favourites and WDC to their favourites, it's much appreciated. hope you liked it :)