For teaser tuesday I thought I'd do something different, and post the whole first chapter of YOU WISH. Hope you like it! :-)
People say I’m a glass-half-empty person. I guess they’re right, because I’ve never understood why anyone would see it as half full, when clearly there’s something missing. But then again, maybe that’s because I spent last summer working at a diner, and a half-empty glass meant I was falling behind.
So maybe it’s my pessimist nature, but as I sit in biology, two rows behind my best friend, Nicole, I can’t stop thinking about the secret she is so obviously keeping. I’m holding my bite-mark-covered pencil in a death grip as I watch her, when I should be using it to copy down the cell diagram on the front wipe-off board.
See, Nicole, in all her glass-half-full glory, is not good at keeping a secret. At the moment, she’s completely avoiding my looks, instead taking biology notes like they’re going out of style, the toe of her trendy gray-suede ankle boot tapping on the tan linoleum more rapidly than a hummingbird’s heartbeat. She’s playing with her long blonde hair, pulling it in front of her face so that I can’t see the expression in her blue eyes
I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to ask her what it is, either. Because my birthday party is tonight, and her secret might be something amazingly spectacular, which means it would be better as a surprise.
Although this brings me back to the glass half empty and the fact that I highly doubt it’s something spectacular. Nicole is one of those people who reads like an open book. And right now, that book is open to the definition of nervous. The rest of the classroom looks half asleep, leaned over their desks and notebooks. In fact, I’m pretty sure the guy in the dark-blue hoodie in the back row actually is asleep.
But not Nicole. Nicole is exuding more energy than a two-year old on a sugar binge. She finally lifts her head and glances back at me, and those startling blue eyes widen when she catches me staring.She returns to her notebook, scribbling furiously. Either she’s taking some serious notes or she’s writing the next War and Peace. I sigh and turn back to Mr. Gordon, who is now labeling the components of his cell drawing. The faded red words are smashed and crooked, barely legible. His red-and-blue-plaid sweater-vest is
slightly askew, and he’s sweating already, periodically wiping his bushy gray brow with the back of his hand.
I stopped listening somewhere around mitochondria, so now I’m hopelessly lost. Biology as a first-period class should be outlawed, because there’s no way my brain is up to full speed at 7:50 a.m. I bite back a yawn and stare out the window, willing something crazy to happen, like the big, bare willow tree in the courtyard falling over. Or maybe the freshman scurrying across the space will slip on one of the dew-covered orange fallen leaves, and I’ll have to rush out there and make sure she is okay. Anything would be better than sitting here. We’re only a month into our sophomore year, and already each day is going by more slowly than the last. And Mr. Gordon’s monotonous voice and squeaky whiteboard markers aren’t helping matters.
I reach down and scratch at the fishnet stockings I’m wearing. There’s a seam on the inside of my knee, and it’s driving me batty. I’ve never worn these things before, and I’m already regretting it. I think I might take them off in the bathroom.
t’s not that I’m trying to be full-on goth or emo or anything, either. I just enjoy being a little less like the sheep at the top of the social ladder, if you know what I mean. Last spring, when Old Navy started airing those sundress commercials, they all showed up in a rainbow display of femininity. I can predict their clothing as if I have an actual tide table of it. All I need is a Gap ad and an issue of Seventeen, and I’ll have all their outfits mapped out for the next week.
On occasions when I’m feeling particularly brave, I even bleat at them like a sheep, though none of them seem to understand what I’m doing. Nicole usually hides behind a locker bay or the trophy case and laughs hysterically, egging me on. So I bought these stockings to wear with my Old Navy dress, except I bought the blue-and-white-striped sailor dress, the one that was 50 percent off after two weeks because no one was buying it. And there’s definitely a reason no one was buying it, because whenever I wear it, I feel like someone is going to shout at me to “swab the decks, matey!”
Plus, since it’s now September and not May, it’s, like, forty-six degrees out. I probably should have worn leggings, not fishnets, especially not scratchy, annoying ones.
I open my binder and find my paper hall pass. I almost made it a whole month without using it, which is worth ten extra-credit points, points I could really use. But comfort is worth, like, fifty million points, so I’m going for it.
I walk toward the door and slide my pass into the box and then head in the direction of the bathroom, my black Converse sneakers silent on the carpeted hall. My feet are the only part of me that are truly comfortable, but I’m about to rectify that little problem. I know people say you’re supposed to make sacrifices for fashion, but I’m sure that only counts if you’re actually trying to be fashionable.I’m just reaching the thick wooden door when it swings out at me, nailing my shin. It feels like my whole leg just shattered.
“Ow!” I jump back, sure that blood will gush at any moment. My calf pulses with pain as I jump up and down, howling a little bit. I know I’m prone to melodramatics, but dang, that really hurt. Janae Crawford, queen of the Old Navy dress clique and most evil person I’ve ever met, emerges from the bathroom and gives me a bored look. I guess stomping all over her classmates fails to get her excited anymore.
Today she’s wearing jeans that are so tight I think she must have used a shoehorn to get into them (is there such a thing as a butt horn?) and two layers of lacy tank tops with a pink cardigan over the top. Then she has a strand of pearls so long they reach her belly button. As if the pearls were going to make her whole outfit seem classy or something.
Her sneer morphs into an amused smile as her eyes travel down my legs and take in my fishnets.
I groan inwardly, though I totally don’t let her know I’m worried about what she’s going to say next. The key to being a black sheep is acting as if you love every minute of it, even when the whitest of the white sheep is about to rip you to shreds.
“I’m sorry, is it Halloween already?” She waggles her head in this totally annoying way as she speaks. Like she’s on a daytime talk show saying, “Oh no, you didn’t.”
“Ahoy, vapid wannabe.” I do a mock salute and walk right past her toward the sink.
She rolls her eyes. “You’re so weird.”
I slap my hand over my heart, trying to look as theatrical as possible. “Ay, it be the scurvy,” I say, screwing my mouth up to the side and crinkling one brow so low my left eye is almost closed.
That sentence probably doesn’t even make sense, and Janae makes a noise that sounds like a combination of a snort and a gurgle and then pushes past me, ramming into my shoulder and making me bounce off the cinder block wall.
I holler after her, “Does this mean tonight’s pillow fight is canceled?”
I’m not even sure where that came from, but by the look she gives me as the door swings shut, I figure it’s a victory. Even with the door closed, I can hear her thick wedge sandals as she stomps away, making enough noise to rouse the dead. I laugh to myself as I enter a bathroom stall, but now I know that I can’t take the tights off. There’s no way I’m giving her the satisfaction, even if changing had nothing to do with her. Damn. Now I’ve wasted my extra-credit points and my legs are still going to itch all day. This is shaping up just perfectly.
Did I mention that today is my birthday? Well, it is. I’m officially sixteen. Sweet? Not exactly. I stopped being sweet when I stopped eating a dozen gumballs a day, back in elementary school.
Every birthday seems to be worse than the last one. By the time I’m seventeen, I’ll probably be having an eighth-life crisis. I finish in the stall and head to the sink. I have no desire to get back to history, so I spend what must be a full five minutes washing my hands. A few mousy-brown strands of hair have escaped from my still-damp-from-the-shower ponytail. I’m wearing zilcho makeup, because even designer mascara wouldn’t make my plain brown eyes any more alluring, and my thin lips aren’t going to get any bigger no matter how much I spend on plumping lip gloss. My dress sort of hangs off me, because I’m probably a little too thin and a lot too boobless to pull it off.
Before I can decide that I hate my ears, too, Nicole walks in, her cute little ankle boots clacking on the white bathroom tiles.
“Oh, good!” she says when she sees me, as if she didn’t spend all of biology ignoring me.
“Hey,” I say, grabbing a couple scratchy paper towels. “What’s up?”
Nicole heads to the sink and starts washing her hands, even though she hasn’t used the bathroom yet. Very suspect. Then she leans forward far enough that her blonde bangs fall into her eyes and she doesn’t have to look at me. I watch the silver bangles on her wrists flutter around as she runs her hands under the water. Nicole got really tall over the summer, so she has to sort of lean over. She’s still working her way through her gigantic new fall wardrobe, and today’s jeans look like two hundred dollars’ worth of perfection.
“Not much.” She starts pushing the soap dispenser over and over, until the soap begins to drip from her hands.
I stop watching her and pretend to fix my ponytail. “I am really, really not looking forward to tonight. I wish I could get my mom to cancel it. It’s going to be so lame.”
She looks up at me in the mirror. I notice her skin looks really nice today, almost glowing, with only a few blemishes on her chin and one on her nose. Her mom probably dragged her to the dermatologist again, part of her never-ending quest to fix Nicole’s acne. “About that,” she says.
I meet her eyes and wait for her to finish.
“I kind of forgot your party was today. I mean, just for, like, a second. Ben and I went out last Saturday and he told me about this great idea he had for our three-month anniversary and I kind of agreed before I realized it was the same day as your party,” she says, all in a rush, and then flips the faucet on full bore, so that the water hits her hands and starts splashing big sudsy drops all over the black-freckled counters.
My heart twists around and drops to my stomach. Just before school let out last spring, Nicole got her first-ever boyfriend. For a while things were just as great as ever, but then August hit, and it’s like now there’s not enough room for a best friend and a boyfriend. That shy girl I’ve been best friends with for the last six years has finally been coming into her own, and I’m really happy for her . . . but I don’t know what that means for me, if she’s going to outgrow me, move on, forget me. Because I’m the same person I’ve always been, and she’s not.
And something’s gotta give.
I grip the edge of the countertop, even though it’s all wet. “You’re kidding, right?”
She shakes her head. “But I’ll only be a little late, I swear.”
“Where are you going?”
She probably has a really good reason for this. Like she just found out she won the lottery and she has to be there tonight to claim the check in person.
“He thought we could go to Anya’s, that place on the waterfront, and do you know how cool that place is supposed to be? It will be my first real anniversary ever and it’ll be super-romantic. I totally won’t go if it’s a big deal, though.” Nicole is talking really fast, the words flowing out like they’re falling over the edge of Niagara Falls. “But he’s been at the track a lot lately and now that school has started, we haven’t had as much time together, and I really want to go. I don’t want to let him down.”
All I can do is stare. It just seems so wrong that she’s asking permission to ditch me, as if there’s any way to refuse her without being a total brat.
I take in a long, slow breath, rubbing my eyes. “You know I’m dreading this party, Nicole. I mean yeah, I would ditch my own party too, if I could. But how am I going to survive the torture if you’re not there to make fun of it with me?”
Here’s the thing about my sweet sixteen: My mom is the one who wants it, not me. She’s an event planner for a living, and she’s been talking about my sweet-sixteen party for oh, a thousand years. When I was little, it sounded like great fun, and we’d sit around talking about how cool it would be.
But things change, and so do people, and the idea of a frilly party revolving around yours truly is now my worst nightmare. I’ve been telling her for over a year that I don’t want my party anymore—that I’d prefer a quiet dinner—but it doesn’t help. She’s throwing me a party whether I like it or not.
The worst part is that Nicole is the only person I invited. I figured with her to goof off with, even a Miley Cyrus concert could be bearable.
My mom, on the other hand, invited every relative we have, plus some we don’t, like the neighbors and my bus driver. Seriously—she invited my school bus driver. So the entire place is going to be filled with people I don’t want to be around. And there will be games. Oh, there will be games.
“We wouldn’t miss the whole thing, I promise. Just the first hour, tops. But only if you’re cool with it,” Nicole says. We stare at each other for a long moment, the faucet still running in the background, my hand still gripping the countertop. My evening begins to stretch out in front of me, like a never-ending desert. I can make it through an hour, right? No biggie. Nicole will get there before everything gets unbearable, we’ll laugh at the silly decorations, eat ridiculous hors d’oeuvres, and it’ll be like she didn’t miss a thing.
“Okay,” I say. “I can handle an hour.”
“Okay? Really?” she says, her voice rising an octave. It’s almost so high pitched only cheerleaders could hear it.
I nod, my stomach sinking. She springs forward and hugs me, smearing her soaped-up hands all over my sailor sundress.
“You’re the bestest best friend,” she says. “I promise, I’ll be there by seven.”
I just nod. I’ll have to suck it up and grin and bear it until she arrives. My birthday is just one night.
The real problem is I know that Nicole is spending more and more time with Ben, and less and less time with me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
That’s not even the worst part.
The worst part?
I’ve been completely and utterly in love with Ben Mackenzie for three long, agonizing years.
And she has no idea.