Chapter One - That Pesky Best Friend
“Please, please, please, oh Gracie, please,” my best friend Annie begged, clasping her hands in front of her and giving me the puppy-dog eyes she knew melted my heart.
I sighed and pushed my notepad off my knees, knowing no more Advanced English Literature homework would be completed this afternoon. I looked at my other best friend, Matt, with a pleading look.
“Matt, help me out here,” I said.
He shrugged good-naturedly, a small smile dancing around his plump pink lips. “Not a thing I can do. You know she won’t stop till she gets her way, so you might as well give in.”
I turned to Annie with a levelled gaze and repeated in a determined voice, “No, Annie. We are not going to Jonathan Richard’s party Friday night.”
“Why?” she whined, bouncing up and down like a five-year-old in a shopping cart who wasn’t allowed to get a toy they wanted. “Come on. We never go. It’s only once…”
“Annie, you know I hate these parties. Come on. The only thing that goes on at these parties is loud music, lots of alcohol, demoralised teenagers and people passing out everywhere, vomiting all over people and generally doing things that they’ll regret in the morning, usually resulting in teen pregnancies.”
“You’re such a pessimist.”
“No, I’m a realist,” I argued, throwing her a pointed look that told her I wasn’t falling for it.
“You may be a realist, but you’re also pessimistic. But please, you’ve never been there! It could be fun. Just once, for your best friend.”
I cast one last begging look out to Matt, but he just shook his head, knowing that he couldn’t stop Annie when she wanted something. She was like a dog on a bone.
“Grace, please. I don’t ask for much. Just one party. I’ll be on my best behavior. I’ll love you forever.”
“You’ll love me forever regardless of what I decide.”
“Yes, but I’ll be grateful. So, so grateful. Come on, if you come with me, I’ll even go that animal cruelty convention in two weeks with you!”
Annie and I had been best friends since my first day, green-stained blouse and all. She knew me so well, and I entrusted her with all my secrets. She was pretty, graceful and so optimistic. She was born Annabel Louise Fisher, to two professors and published poets, and she had short blond hair, a willowy figure and pretty green eyes. She was also scarily smart. She wanted to be a doctor one day, and knew everything there was to know about medical conditions, chemistry, physics and basically any science. While I was more of a geography, history, English kind of gal, she took the more scientific side of things. Hence why we worked so well together. We helped each other out in our special areas. But she also loved loud music, partying and, well, boys.
Matt was a football jock, tall and muscly and also gorgeous. For a small amount of months I crushed on him, and we bonded in study hall, and eventually he left the popular table to hang with Annie and I. He was still on the football team, still popular, and had brown eyes, dark-brown hair and sun-kissed skin. But I knew he just thought of us as friends, and didn’t think he reciprocated my feelings, and eventually I grew out of my feelings for him. Now we were just great friends. He didn’t seem to mind hanging with girls that much. He still got boy time with training and games and after-parties, and he normally attended these Friday parties. He had tried telling Annie when she first cottoned on to the idea of going to the after-party this Friday that it wasn’t that great, but she was like a dog on a bone. You couldn’t distract her. She was stubborn, like her mother. I, however, was a push-over. And everybody in this room was aware of that fact.
“Grace Marie Holland, I, Annabel Louise Fisher, formally beg of you to please go to Jonathan Richard’s party with me. Please?”
I sighed and banged my head against the bed frame, then groaned at the slight pang of pain that rocketed through my skull at the contact with the white, thick wood. “Fine, Annie, you win. I’ll go. But I expect you to join me at that animal convention in two weeks.”
She clapped her hands in delight and threw her arms around me, pinning me in a bone-crushing hug that almost sent me falling back and sprawling on the ground. “Thank you, Gracie! You are the best friend ever.”
She drew back, one arm still around my shoulder, and pulled Matt into the hug too. “My two best friends,” she declared. “Whom I would die for.”
“You know, Annie, I really appreciate that, but if you don’t mind, I would really like to back out of this hug now. Because I’m still a man, and I still get awkward over this kind of thing.”
We all laughed and the hug was split. Matt was awesome, but he was such a guy. He loved partying, watching wrestling, pulling pranks on his younger sister Izzy and watching football and baseball just like any other guy his age. He had also left quite the trail of heartbroken girlfriends in his wake. He loved the ladies, but one day when he had been half-drunk after a particularly raucous after-party, he had confided to Annie and I that there was one particular girl he was in love with.
When we had tried to coax it out of him, he had chuckled and told us that his mouth was shut.
I looked at that same boy now, the way his eyes glinted as he grinned and looked over at me. Matt and I had this thing, kind of like a psychic connection I guess, where we could have conversations with just facial expressions. We did that now.
He tilted his head to the side inquisitively. What?
I narrowed my eyes. Thanks for the help, Matthew.
He grinned. I wouldn’t have been able to do a thing.
Finally I made one last facial expression, effectively ending our psychic conversation. I’ll get you back for this.
Even though he knew I never would.
The rest of the week passed mercilessly quickly. Friday night loomed ahead of us, and it was all Annie was able to talk about through lunch and all of our subjects together.
The way it worked at Alderidge High is that if you plan on attending the after-party and you aren’t a complete loser, you are entitled to go to the football game. Annie and I usually went anyway, just so we could show our support for Matt. Once the football game is over you get an hour to go home, shower, get changed and get to the party.
Annie and I quickly paid Matt a visit before he went onto the field, and as always he grinned at us, excited for the upcoming game.
“Hey, Matt,” I said, leaning over the sides of the concrete blocks that barricaded the crowd from the tunnel that the footballers ran through that connected the changerooms to the football field. “You ready?”
“Yeah, we’re gonna kick the Beaver’s butts!”
I grinned. “Another win for the Tigers, you think?”
I was so glad they had decided to call the team the Alderidge Tigers. It would’ve been devastating if they decided to give the team a name that alliterated. A name like: The Alderidge Aardvarks, The Alderidge Ant-Eaters, The Alderidge Antelopes, The Alderidge Albatrosses….
You get the picture.
Matt just grinned. “Hell, yeah we’re gonna win. Any team that calls themselves the Beavers are bound to go down. You haven’t even seen the mascot yet!”
I could only imagine.
“So…are you coming with us to the party or with your football buddies?” I asked, inspecting my salmon-pink fingernails.
“Football buddies. Sorry, Gracie. They insisted.”
“No problem. We’ll meet you there. Hey, Coach Simpson is calling you over. We’ll see you later, Matty.”
He frowned. I knew he hated the name. That’s why I always used it. He decided to ignore it and turned to Annie. “Hey, remember to get a seat up the back, alright? I got Marissa to save you a seat behind a really tall guy so that you can read without me being able to see you. Adios, ladies.”
And with that he ran over to the coach, leaving Annie standing there dumbfounded. She always read at the football games, but always did it up the back behind a tall guy so that Matt wouldn’t see. We had arrived later than usual, and she had worried that we wouldn’t get a seat up the back and she would be subjected to watching the football game. Apparently Matt knew a lot more about it than we had expected.
We located Marissa, a girl with fiery-red hair and brown eyes, and she patted the two spare seats next to her. I took a deep breath and buckled down, ready for the next two hours of footballing.
During half-time, I looked over at Annie, who was immersed in her battered copy of some poetry book. I looked over the other side to see Marissa intensely making out with her boyfriend, a cute boy I had science with, who had mahogany-colored hair and light brown eyes.
I looked around for someone I could talk to. I needed someone to help me pass the time. Of course, everyone was busy. So I pulled out my earphones from the satchel I always brought along and stuck them in. I watched the rest of the game without the nasty sound effects, the sounds of cheering and groaning and people being savagely brought to the soft earth.
Matt always made it out fairly unscathed, but during a particularly brutal tackle I stood up and bent over the seat, checking if he was okay. He stood up thanks to the help of his friend—none other than Cole Adams, naturally—and then looked straight to me, giving me a thumbs up. Hundreds of jealous girls turned around and pinned me with a glare. Let’s just say that if looks could kill I’d be six feet under right now.
The rest of the game passed uneventfully, and finally everyone packed up and started to move home to prepare themselves for Jonathan’s party.
Already I could tell that soon my night was going to be filled with Annie’s incessant chattering.
Here we go…
“Oh, my Gosh I can’t believe I didn’t pick my clothes beforehand. I have no idea what to wear! Should I wear jeans or dresses or skirts or denim shorts? Should I wear those cute new kitten heels I bought, or those stilettoes that make me look an inch and a half taller? Should my makeup be dark and seductive or bright and cheery? If I wear foundation will the lights make it look gaudy? Oh, I know! I’ll wear the skinny leg jeans and the ripped t-shirt dress. Or would that make me look too edgy? Should I wear my London off-the-shoulder dress coupled with the Birds-In-A-Cage tote bag?”
This is how my night has been going so far. Annie has not stopped and it is starting to drive me to insanity. After the football game we went straight back to Annie’s house. I had already prepared my outfit and had put it on, done my hair and makeup, and put on perfume.
Annie wore nothing but a camisole and bike-pants, and she paced back-and-forth urgently, ruffling her hair as if she wanted to tear it out.
“Annie, calm down,” I said gently, stepping out from the bathroom after applying the last layer of gloss and approaching her, being careful not to tread on any discarded articles of clothing.
“Oh, my god you look beautiful. How do you do that? Wait, don’t tell me what the secret message is. I’ll figure it out.”
Everything I wore stood for a message, though no-one ever got it. Annie tried every day and always failed. It was fun and stimulating and creative.
She surveyed my outfit, my four-inch peep-toe stilettoes that were a sparkly black, my dress that fell a few inches above my knees with pink roses and light-green leaves adorning the black fabric, and the tan belt under my chest to complete the outfit.
“Let’s see… Underlining your adoration for pretty roses?” she guessed hopefully.
I twirled in front of the mirror, checking my appearance and making sure I looked decent. “No. Wanna guess again?”
She sighed and flopped down on the bed. “If I don’t get it the first time, I never will.”
I grinned. “It’s my way of showing how beautiful nature is.”
She sighed. “I wish I had your fashion sense. You’re so good at this.”
I went to her closet and within seconds had her outfit. A white tank top, black, white and pink tartan skirt, and a pink cardigan with long sleeves that reached to just above the navel. With dangly pink earrings, a few flower hairclips and some pink gloss later, Annie was ready for the party.
She stood in front of the mirror and said, “Is your message that pink, black and white go really well together?”
It was natural that she would be confused. It would be hard to guess what exactly the outfit meant, but as I pulled the comb through her hair one final time, I said, “No, it is just showing the elegance of natural beauty.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding surprised. Then she looked at the clock and said, “Come on, we gotta go we’ll be late!”
She grabbed my hand and pulled me out the door, towards the party that I had been so dreading all week.
Here goes nothing…