“Did you win?” Lexy asked, as soon as Alice and I climbed into her car.
“Start the car,” I said, catching my breath.
“Start the car!” Alice and I shouted together.
“Jeez, calm down.” Lexy started the car, and away we went.
Once out of the parking lot, Lexy pestered us with questions.
“What’s the rush? Did you win? Can we stop at a pet store? Did you see Ms. Gold? We need the bird now!”
“We’re not getting the bird,” I said.
“Emma lost the contest,” Alice said.
Lexy slapped her hand against the steering wheel, narrowly avoiding the horn. “Dammit! Now how are we gonna keep Ms. Gold from finding out?”
“She already knows,” I said.
I opened my mouth to explain, but Lexy came to the conclusion before I could form a word.
“That guy you dated also lost the contest, and he knew why you were in the contest, and thought it would be fun to get revenge by mentioning the parrot problem in front of Ms. Gold?”
“How does she figure this stuff out?” Alice asked under her breath.
“What did you tell her?” Lexy asked.
“You ran away from the scene.” Lexy nodded. “Typical. And you know what else?”
I let out a sigh. “What?”
“You would’ve won that contest, but at the last second, you decided to be noble and let someone else win the $2,000. Because they needed the money more than you.”
“She is good,” Alice said in awe.
“I didn’t let anyone win,” I said. “I just got so caught up in the race, I didn’t see the Nitro crate.”
“It’s a bright green cube,” Alice said. “How could you not see it?”
Lexy slapped the steering wheel again. “I’m out of the play now. I’m probably out of future plays too. I’m gonna get suspended. Ms. Gold hates me now. I hope you’re happy with yourself.”
“She’ll punish me more, given the parrot was in my care when it died,” I said. “And she never liked me.”
We all fell silent as Lexy continued driving us home. The weight of what had happened hit me. I blew my chance at getting away with indirectly causing the death of Molly. All to help a guy with his bills. And because of that, I would have to sit in months upon months of detentions. Or get suspended. Or both. Along with a call home, most likely. Further extending my punishment until the end of the year. Life was gonna suck.
“You did the right thing,” Alice said to me, as we walked to the front door after getting out of Lexy’s car. “And I’m not just saying that because I love Cameron. I’d say the same thing if it were any other person. You did a good thing today.”
I somehow doubted her words, and was pretty sure she was only saying it because she was obsessed with Cameron. “He seemed nice.”
“I know, right? Ugh, he’s so perfect!”
I tuned out as Alice went on gushing about every little detail about the guy. From the stubble on his chin, to the way he held a controller. At least something good came out of this mess. I made a mental note to follow Cameron the next time I logged into Nemesis.
As I walked into my room, my phone rang. Tiffany. I smiled and answered.
“Emma! How’d it go?”
“It went great,” I said. “I made the finalists.”
“Nice! Are you going to get a new parrot? I finished my research paper. Is Lexy there? We could all go together. And maybe have a nice little outing, the three of us.”
I didn’t know what question to answer first, or even how to answer any of them. So I said nothing.
Tiffany sighed at the other end. “I know you hate Lexy, but I would like you two to at least tolerate each other. Especially after all that’s happened. You’re my best friend. And she’s my...”
I frowned. “Your what?”
“Is Lexy there?”
“No. She just dropped off me and Alice. I don’t know where she is now.”
“What about the parrot?”
“I lost the contest.”
“I lost the contest,” I repeated. “I got second.”
“Oh, Emma… Now what are you gonna do?”
“There’s nothing I can do. Ms. Gold found out. She made the finalists too.”
I explained everything to Tiffany. How the finalists came down to me, Cameron, Noah, and Ms. Gold. How Cameron ended up winning the thing, and I got second. How Noah was a sore loser and said out loud how I wasn’t going to be able to replace Ms. Gold’s parrot. In front of Ms. Gold.
Tiffany sympathized with me, even though I knew she was against the idea of replacing the parrot from the start. To be honest, I didn’t blame her for it. It kind of was a terrible idea destined to fail.
I didn’t say any of this though. I also didn’t mention the fact I let Cameron win. Instead, I told her I’d see her Monday, exchanged goodbyes, and hung up.
A few minutes later. I got a text from Lexy.
Ms. Gold wants to meet us in her classroom during lunch on Monday.
Wonderful. I couldn’t wait.
During lunch on Monday, I made my way to Ms. Gold’s classroom, bumping into Lexy on the way.
“What should we tell her?” I asked.
“Lars says the truth.”
“I don’t want to tell her the truth.”
“Neither do I, but we don’t have a choice.” Lexy ran her fingers through her hair as she walked into the room, me right behind her. For good measure, I shut the door behind us.
Ms. Gold was sitting at her desk, and gestured towards the floor. Her room wasn’t like the typical classroom. There weren’t any regular student desks, just a few chairs scattered around. I supposed only acting occurred here, negating the need for such frivolous pieces of furniture. “Sit.”
Lexy and I each pulled up chairs next to each other, and sat in front of her desk.
Lexy studied her fingernails while I studied a poster on the wall that said “hang in there.” With a picture of a cat dangling from a tree, paw in branch. That must’ve been a difficult photo to take. How did the photographer get the cat to stay in that awkward position. What would PETA say? I came to the conclusion it must’ve been Photoshopped.
“Was that boy right?” Ms. Gold prompted me. “Did you kill my precious Molly?”
I winced. “Not exactly. Somebody stepped on her.”
“I didn’t get his name,” I said. “Some man at the school art show. He looked like someone’s father.”
“Why did you have Molly to begin with?” Ms. Gold looked at me while she asked it, but I knew it was really directed towards Lexy.
“After you left, a giant tree branch fell on my car,” Lexy said. “I had to call a tow truck. I asked Emma to watch her for a few hours while I took care of things.”
“A few hours.” Ms. Gold covered her face. “I’m away from her for a few hours-”
A knock on the door interrupted her. Ms. Gold lifted her head a fraction of an inch. “Come in.”
Mr. Rondello stepped inside, carrying an open box. He glanced over at me and Lexy awkwardly, then at Ms. Gold. “Um, Diane. Marvin told me you came back. I have-”
“Don’t remind me.” Ms. Gold returned to burying her face in her hands. “Why did I come back?”
“Is something wrong?”
“Everything is wrong!”
Mr. Rondello flinched at her sharp voice, and ducked his head. “Okay, well, I, uh, brought you something.”
“What is it?” Ms. Gold said, sounding as though she didn’t care.
A parrot’s head popped up from the box.
“Molly!” Ms. Gold leaped out of her chair, and took the box from him. “You found Molly?”
Lexy and I exchanged a look, my shock reflected on her face.
“Marvin told me it might’ve been yours.” Mr. Rondello smiled. “I found her in some bushes after the art show, but she was hurt. I had to take her to the vet.”
“Oh Molly, thank God you’re okay.” Ms. Gold set the box on her desk, at sat back down. “Thank you so much. I don’t know how I could ever repay you.”
“You can start with the vet bills,” Mr. Rondello said.
“Of course!” I had never seen Ms. Gold so happy. Then again, I’d never spent time around her. But still.
“Does this mean we’re not in trouble?” I asked.
Ms. Gold’s cheerful face turned stern again. “Oh no. You’re still in trouble.”
We each got two weeks of after school detention. Lexy and I expected a worse punishment, though I wondered how I’d explain my need for staying after school to my parents. Maybe I’d be honest for once and admit I had detention. But I’d make up a story as to why I got detention. I didn’t want to admit to indirectly injuring a teacher’s pet.
The two of us made our way to the cafeteria, and sat at our usual table. Lexy didn’t need to eat with me anymore, but it was habit at this point. Tiffany and Lars were already sitting next to each other.
“How’d it go?” Tiffany asked.
“Did you tell them the truth?” Lars asked.
“Half of it,” Lexy said. “Our meeting was interrupted by Mr. Rondello.”
“What’d he want?” Tiffany asked.
Lexy’s smile grew. “To give Ms. Gold Molly.”
“Apparently he found her after the art show.” I pulled my lunch bag out from my backpack. “Turns out Molly wasn’t dead. She must’ve been unconscious.”
“Really?” Lars said. “She looked dead to me.”
“A vet was able to bring her back to life then,” I said.
“And everything you did was all for nothing.” Tiffany shook her head in disbelief. “Are you still punished?”
“Yeah, but only two weeks detention. That’s nothing compared to what we expected.” I took a bite of my ham sandwich.
“I’m glad everything turned out okay,” Tiffany said.
Lexy nodded. “Now that it’s all over, I guess Lars and I don’t have to eat with you anymore.” Giving Tiffany an apologetic look, she made a move to get up.
The word came out of my mouth. Why I said it, I didn’t know. Maybe I had just grown used to Lexy’s company. Maybe she wasn’t so bad. Maybe I wanted Tiffany to be happy. She was allowed other friends, after all.
Lexy shrugged. “If you insist.”
“That’s wonderful!” Tiffany squeaked, giving me a hug. “Oh, Emma. I was hoping you’d come to accept her.”
I held up a hand. “This doesn’t mean I accept her. It’s just… I’ve gotten used to her being here. She might as well stay.”
“That means she’s starting to like you,” Tiffany told Lexy.
I grunted through my sandwich. Though I remembered how Tiffany wanted us all to go on an outing together. And that I had $200. Maybe once my punishment was over, I could treat the three of us to something with the $200 I won. I did owe Tiffany, after all.
I popped the final remains of my sandwich in my mouth. “We should have a girl’s night out one of these days. My treat.”
I’d never seen Tiffany so happy. I really should do more for her. I decided right then and there to give her something extra special for her birthday. In addition to buying myself to a headset, to help with adding commentary to my videos. As soon as I was allowed to use my computer for recreational purposes, anyway. Who knew how long my upcoming punishment would last.
I might not have been able to win $2,000 for a parrot, but at least I now had $200 to put to good use. In the end, everything turned out fine.
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