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Authors: Stephanie Faris

25 Roses (10 page)

BOOK: 25 Roses
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When he wouldn’t look at me, I got an idea. I ripped out a tiny square of paper from my notebook and wrote a note to him.

Alex,
Please don’t be mad at me. I miss hanging out with you. Just us.
Mia

Before I could lose my courage, I folded it and handed it over to him. He didn’t look at me, so I set it on top of his book. He’d have to read it now. Knowing Alex, he’d wait until he was in his next class, where I couldn’t see him, and open it.

I tried to forget about Alex as I pretended to pay attention to some lecture on a canned food drive. I even took notes. But I was secretly writing a list in the left column of my notepaper, detailing the things I could do to win Alex back.

The bell rang as I was halfway through writing idea number seven in tiny print that nobody could read but me. It caught me unprepared, making me forget I was supposed to walk with Alex and convince him he had to speak to me. I hopped up, scooping my books up with me, but then I forgot my purse, which was hanging on the back of my chair. By the time I returned, grabbed my purse, and left the classroom, Alex was long gone.

But Sun was waiting outside the door.

Ugh.

“You ready?” Sun asked.

I said, “Sure,” as I kept walking.

The last thing I needed right now was to hear how much Sun liked Kurt. I couldn’t help her get him now. I couldn’t even get my BMFF to take a note from me. Strange how, for some reason, I was more upset by Alex being mad than Ashleigh. Ashleigh was my super BFF. What was up with the whole Alex thing? I didn’t get it.

“I need you to help me with a guy thing.”

I gave her a quick look as we pushed our way through a crowd that had gathered around Kaylee. “That’s your emergency?” I asked. I hated to say it, but I was relieved it wasn’t about Alex.

“Emergency?” she asked. She must not have realized how desperate the tone of her voice sounded. “No. I just really need your help. It’s something only you can help me with.”

I headed straight for my locker. My mind raced. What excuse could I give? I had to get away from Sun as quickly as possible. If Ashleigh or Alex saw me talking to her, it would only make things worse.

“I have to get to class,” I said. “There’s this big test—”

My locker pulled open too easily. Frowning, I looked at the door. Something was weird.

Sun said something, but I didn’t hear it because a foil object struck me in the forehead. It took me a second to figure out what was going on, but as I reached down and my hand grasped a familiar plastic stem, I realized what had been left inside my locker.

Another chocolate rose.

It was just like the other one. I could hear Sun talking to me and knew I had to pull out of this trance, but for the longest time, all I could do was stand there, staring at it.

Where were these roses coming from?

CHAPTER TWELVE

To: Stanton Middle School
From: Mia
I am not your personal stylist.

“Hello? Mia? Mia!”

I looked over at Sun. Even with all her babbling, she was staring at the rose in my hand.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“A rose,” I said.

Sun wrinkled her nose. “From Valentine’s Day? I wouldn’t eat it. It’s probably bad by now. Anyway, can you help me?”

“Hmm?” I asked, distracted. I had no idea what I was agreeing to do.

“ ’Kay,” she said excitedly. “I’ll walk with you.”

“Wait. What?” I had no idea what was going on.

“You aren’t listening,” Sun said, looking down at the rose in my hand. “What does the card say?”

My fingers fumbled with the card as I tried to open it. My hands were shaking—I was shaking all over. Just when I’d almost forgotten about the first rose, here was another one. What did it mean?

I leaned against my locker to steady myself a little before sliding the card open. . . .

“Hey, isn’t that your friend?” Sun asked.

I looked up to see her looking past me. I followed her stare. Sure enough, just a few feet away was Ashleigh, walking right in our direction. Alex was nowhere in sight, but he didn’t have to be. Ashleigh’s expression showed me all the disapproval she was feeling at seeing me standing at my locker with Sun.

I couldn’t believe I’d upset my best friend by lying to her. And I was only making it worse by hanging out with Sun. Now she’d probably think I’d decided I’d rather hang out with Sun than her
all
the time.

Before I could figure out what to do, it was already too late. Ashleigh had already breezed right past me, narrowing her eyes at me before looking away. My best friend, the one
who had been with me through so much, was now glaring at me when she walked by.

“What’s up with that?” Sun asked. She turned back around without waiting for an answer. “Anyway, so I need someone’s attention. You can help me.”

I heard Sun talking, but I didn’t really hear what she was saying. To me, it was all babble. How could I worry about Sun’s self-consciousness when my whole world was falling apart?

“Can you help me?” Sun asked. She was definitely a persistent little thing.

“Huh? Oh, I don’t know. I really have a lot going on right now. Everyone wants me to help them look like you. It’s all kind of . . . crazy right now. Not that people wanting to look like you is crazy.”

Ugh. Now I was the one babbling. I was a mess. And I
still
hadn’t looked at the card. I tore it off the rose and shoved it into my pocket. I’d read it later.

“People want to look like me?” Sun asked, surprised.

Tossing the rose into my locker, I closed the door and started walking.

“Who?” Sun asked, chasing after me. “Did they say that, specifically?”

“Not specifically.” Wait, that wasn’t true. “Well, yes, specifically. Trudie said she wanted to look like you.”

“Trudie Kepler?” Sun asked. “The soccer player?”

I knew what she was thinking from the look on her face. Trudie Kepler was about as far from looking like Sun Patterson as she could get. She had the build of a linebacker, and her hair was a frizzball she always wore in a ponytail. There was no way humanly possible to make the two girls look alike ever.

“She just meant that she saw how you looked and it gave her hope,” I said with a shrug. I was looking around nervously, worried Alex would pass by, making things worse. Not that they could get any worse at this point. “She wants me to do whatever it is she thinks I did for you.”

“You did this,” Sun said. She gestured to indicate herself from head to toe.

“Part of it,” I said. “You did the rest. It isn’t really about the way you look. It’s that you have confidence. They think clothes and makeup will do that. Maybe it will.”

With a half wave, I backed toward the classroom. She was seriously about to follow me.

“You didn’t hear what I need help with,” she said. “It’s about this guy.”

The warning bell rang, and people started pushing past us to get to their seats. I figured being quiet was the best way to get her to hurry up and spit out whatever she was trying to say. What else could I do? I’d already told Kurt Barnes she liked him. I’d helped bring out her confidence so he’d notice her.

“He’ll be at the lock-in Friday,” she said. “I wanted to see if you could help get us together.”

“No,” I said.

The word came out before I had time to think about it. It sounded rude, and I wanted to take it back, especially when I saw the hurt look on her face. But if I did one more thing to help get Sun and Kurt together, Alex would really never speak to me again. And I wanted my friend back. If anything, I had to try to keep Sun and Kurt apart.

So why did the idea of getting Sun and Kurt together sound like a good plan after all?

I shook off that thought and said, “I can’t do it all for you, Sun. It’s your turn. You have to do the work from here.”

With that, I turned around and walked into my class. By the time I sat down and looked at the doorway, Sun was gone.

That was when I realized I still hadn’t read my card. I pulled it from my pocket and was about to open it when
Mrs. Templeton started speaking. I swear she was looking straight at me.

The sudden image of her possibly confiscating the card and never letting me see it or, worse, reading its contents out loud in front of the whole class sent me into a panic. I tucked the card inside the front cover of my book and didn’t look at it again until the end of class.

When the bell rang, the classroom emptied out. I opened the book and, finally, the card. I had to know what it said.

I read and reread the words several times before I finally processed them. I’d been right. This message was worse than the first one.

To: Mia
From: Your Secret Admirer
I know what you did. I’m going to tell.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

To: My Secret Admirer
From: Mia
What do you want from me?

“Miss Hartley? Is there a problem?”

Mrs. Templeton was standing nearby, staring me down. Oh, right. I was still sitting at my desk after the entire place had cleared out. The next class was already starting to trickle in. No wonder she was worried about me.

“No, no problem.” I shoved the card into my pocket and stood, sweeping up my books as I headed for the door. I felt like I’d been caught doing something horrible, but really, she wouldn’t know what this card was. It was between classes, so it wasn’t like I was breaking some rule by looking at it.

“Okay, well, time to get to your next class,” she said. “Tardiness is not appreciated at Stanton Middle School.”

Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I sped from the room and headed straight for my locker.

“Me again.”

I sighed before I could stop myself. Realizing that was rude, I held my breath, forced a big smile, and spun around.

“I need your help,” Sun said. “Walk with me.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but she was already walking. I rushed to catch up with her, trying to think of an excuse for why we didn’t need to have this conversation again.

“Fine, I’ll help,” I said.

While we walked, I was looking around. I was paranoid about seeing Ashleigh, but that was only a small part of it. Mostly, my mind was running over the words on that card:
I know what you did. I’m going to tell.

It could be anyone. I watched my classmates walk past. Most weren’t paying attention to me at all, but that didn’t mean anything. It probably meant the person had been watching me when I was selling flowers in the cafeteria. How would they know about the fake list I made? I’d done that in the girls’ restroom before school. Nobody could have been watching me, could they?

I thought about people who might have seen. Maybe
Kaylee or one of her friends had started to come in one of the doors and I hadn’t noticed. Still, all anyone would have seen would have been me writing on the notepad. My sister could be playing a mean joke on me, but she didn’t even go to this school. I doubted she’d go to the trouble of coming here to put roses in my locker or even bribing someone else to do it. It just wasn’t her style.

Something else hit me. I almost stopped walking as the thought crossed my brain.
I know what you did
could mean anything. I’d done a lot of things in my life, and a few of them could be blackmail-worthy, if that was what this was all about. Still . . . none of them involved chocolate roses, which were what the cards with my fake notes had been attached to. There had to be something to that, right?

“I really need you to talk to someone for me.”

This again? “I talked to Kurt,” I said. “I tried to introduce you, but you didn’t come over—”

“Not Kurt,” she interrupted. “Someone else.” She stopped, seeming to suddenly realize what I’d just said. “Wait, did you say you talked to Kurt about me?”

“Yes.” I didn’t have a good feeling about this.

“I wish you hadn’t done that.” She stopped, looking around nervously. “I changed my mind.”

BOOK: 25 Roses
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