Gossip. That single word has destroyed reputations, ruined lives, and shredded friendships beyond repair. It is a subtle, unlikely sort of bullying. It is a betrayal of trust and a really, really rotten thing to do.

So why is it so damn fun?

A knock on her door interrupted her thoughts. Kiki shoved her notebook under her pillow and smacked the OFF button on her radio before shouting, "Come in!"

The door creaked open, and Milo padded inside, leaving a trail of sweaty, bare footprints behind him. Kiki eyed the two-and-a-half feet of pure annoyance with contempt. "What, Milo?" she said flatly, raising an eyebrow as she fixed him with her famous Glare.

"Winns is here," Milo said in his serious tone, marred by the speech impediment from which all three-year-olds suffer.

Kiki smiled stiffly, seized his shoulders, and turned him around to face the door. "Get out of my room," she told him, eager to get back to her latest story.

He ducked out from under her grip. "Winns wants to see you now!" He stamped his little foot for emphasis.

"Tell Lindsey I'm busy," Kiki ordered.

Milo screwed up his little face. Kiki sighed. She knew what was coming next. "Winns wants to come in!" he shrieked, hot tears leaking out from the wrinkles in his beet-red face.

Kiki rolled her eyes. "I know that, Milo," she said in her most persuasive voice. "But I'm busy right now."

"WINNS WANTS TO COME IN!" Milo screamed at the top of his lungs.

Kiki closed her eyes for one, two, three seconds. "Fine," she said as she opened them wearily. "Tell her to come in."

Milo's tears immediately stopped flowing. He smiled angelically at his older sister. "Oh-tay," he said sweetly, pulling the door closed as he padded back out to the foyer.

Kiki growled under her breath as she turned the radio back on and slid the notebook further beneath the pillow, where Lindsey would have no chance of uncovering it. She looked around her room sullenly. Despite the Christmas tree lights her mother had strung up in an attempt to brighten the mood, the bare walls and cold, hardwood floor still reflected Kiki's moody personality. A row of mirrors stood along one wall, strategically positioned to make the room look bigger, but it only succeeded in doubling the gloom. The heavy curtains refused to let in any light, but Kiki didn't mind. She preferred her room this way; it was a cave, a fortress, a dark place where she could be alone with her dark thoughts.

The door slammed open, making Kiki jump, and suddenly, everything was different. The dim atmosphere, lit only by the glow of Kiki's vast collection of lava lamps, felt like a thrillingly dangerous night club instead of a pile of junk. The stick-on stars seemed to glow a little more brightly from the ceiling. Even the radio began blasting a song that wasn't country or 20 years old. Kiki didn't have to turn around to figure out why this change had occurred; she knew perfectly well that Lindsey Sawyer had just entered the room.

"Hey," Lindsey said, shoving the door out of her way as she entered Kiki's room. The door didn't bounce off the wall and rebound into Lindsey's face, the way it always did with Kiki. And why would it? What door, or anything else, for that matter, would dare try to hurt the beautiful blonde with the long legs and intriguing violet eyes?

"Hey, Lindsey," Kiki mumbled. "How was New York?"

"Boring," Lindsey replied, painfully oblivious to her friend's bitterness. "Mom and Cameron didn't stop making out the whole time, and all Liam wanted to do was ride the subway back and forth all day." Kiki offered a small smile of sympathy. She knew better than anyone else how obnoxious younger brothers could be. Lindsey didn't seem to notice the gesture, because she launched right into, "And those NYC guys? So not cute."

Boys. Kiki wasn't surprised. With Lindsey, everything was about boys. "How disappointing," Kiki said coldly.

"We just got back an hour ago," Lindsey continued, sitting down on the bed beside her friend. "I checked the lake on my way over here, and guess what? It finally froze over! We should totally go skating!" Lindsey grinned and ran a hand through her hair. It settled in sexy tangles around her face. Kiki noticed how perfectly the lavender scarf she was wearing matched her eyes, and how tightly her jeans clung to her curvy hips, and knew this was about more than just skating—it was about a guy.

"I'm kind of working on something," Kiki said vaguely.

"Like what? Homework? It's winter break, Keek!" Lindsey insisted. "Come skating with me! It'll be fun! I'll bet there are guys out there right now, having a snowball fight, just waiting for two pretty girls to come skating on the lake. . . ." She winked suggestively.

Why was it always about boys with her? "One pretty girl," Kiki muttered under her breath. "Just one. Just you."

"C'mon, Kiki! I can't go by myself!" Lindsey's eyes were wide and pleading as she tugged Kiki's arm. Her lower lip trembled very, very slightly, the way Milo's did when he was about to burst into tears. Lindsey knew her well; Kiki's only weakness was tears.

"Fine!" Kiki said in exasperation. "Let me get my skates!"

Lindsey flashed a glittering, No-I-never-had-braces-my-teeth-are-just-naturally-perfect smile. "Meet you out there in five," she said, sweeping out of the room and slamming the door behind her. The bedroom's night club atmosphere left with her, and once again, Kiki was alone in a room full of lava lamps and heavy curtains.

The door creaked open, and Milo poked his little head inside. "Winns weft," he informed Kiki.

"I know that," Kiki said, doing her best not to snap at her brother. "I told her to leave."

"Oh-tay." He closed the door and padded away, his heavy footsteps fading as he went back to wherever he came from. Kiki shook her head, wondering how someone could be so cute and so annoying at the same time.