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Authors: Stephanie Faris

25 Roses (5 page)

BOOK: 25 Roses
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CHAPTER SIX

To: Alex
From: Mia
Sun Patterson? Seriously?

I had just sat down at the lunch table when Ashleigh broke the news.

“Alex likes Sun.”

I stared at her a second before I realized what this was all about. “Oh, that,” I said. I slid my napkin from under my fork and set it off to the side. “He just was surprised how different she looked.”

“No, he likes her,” Ashleigh said. “He just told me.”

“He
likes
likes her?” I asked. “But . . . why?”

“Shh, here he comes,” Ashleigh said. “Are you going to eat your apples?”

“Yes,” I snapped. I didn’t mean to be moody with Ashleigh,
but what was this about Alex liking someone? Anyone? He wasn’t supposed to like girls. I didn’t know why, but he wasn’t.

As he plopped down next to me and acted like nothing at all had changed, I thought about that for a second. Everyone else in school had a crush on someone, so how fair was it to not allow him to? But of all people,
Sun Patterson
?

The only reason Sun Patterson was even the slightest bit appealing to Alex was that she’d gotten a rose and it had given her some confidence. She thought some boy, somewhere in this school, had a crush on her, and she was right. Now Alex had a crush on her and no telling who else.

“So I hear you like someone,” I said.

Ashleigh gave me a harsh look. “Mia!”

“Alex tells me everything,” I said. I looked over at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

He was staring down at his lunch, and he looked really embarrassed. I felt bad for a second, but I felt even worse that he hadn’t told me he liked someone.

“I told you this morning,” he said.

“You said she looked great, but you didn’t say you liked her,” I pointed out.

“What’s the difference?” Ashleigh asked.

“Lots of people are pretty,” I said. “Liking someone is a
whole other thing. It means you think about that person all the time and . . . stuff.”

I’m sure that sounded as fake to everyone else as it did to me. I looked down at my food to avoid seeing them staring at me like I was making no sense.

“You’ve never even thought a guy was cute,” Ashleigh pointed out.

“Yes, I have,” I said. Although I hadn’t, really. But even if I had, I might not have told Ashleigh and Alex about it. They didn’t have to know everything.

Ashleigh looked at Alex, a big smirk on her face. How annoying. I wanted to think someone was hot at that very minute, just to prove her wrong. I knew her next question would be,
Who?
and the truth was, I had no answer for that.

She opened her mouth. The question was coming and there was nothing I could do about it.

A shadow fell across her face, and she looked up. Her mouth stayed open, gaping, as she took in whatever was creating that shadow. Happy that something was interrupting her from asking that question, I spun around to see what she was looking at. Kaylee and crew were standing right behind me, glaring down at me.

I knew that look. They wanted answers, and they wanted them now.

“What’s up?” Ashleigh asked casually. She’d always had more courage than I had. Or maybe it was just that she had no idea why they were standing there, looking all determined.

“We’re here for answers,” Kaylee said. Her hands were on her hips, her eyes narrowed as she glared at me. “And we’re not leaving until we get them.”

As if to prove her point, Kaylee and her group of friends sat. They scattered, sitting down on either side of me, Ashleigh, and Alex.

“Who sent the rose to Kaylee?” Claire asked.

“We want a name,” Faith blurted.

“What are they talking about?” Ashleigh asked me.

I mirrored the annoyed look I saw on Ashleigh’s face. Alex might be sitting there staring at Kaylee all goopy-eyed, but not me. I wasn’t impressed by the little fashion model wannabe and her friends.

“Kaylee got an extra rose on Valentine’s Day,” I explained. As if Ashleigh didn’t know. Ashleigh knew exactly who’d sent it.

“You’re still on that?” Ashleigh asked. She rolled her eyes.

“What do you mean, I’m ‘still on that’?” Kaylee asked.
“Of course I’m ‘still on that.’ I have a secret admirer out there somewhere. I want to know who it is.”

“We don’t know,” Ashleigh said. She had to be lying, but it was her lie, not mine.

I couldn’t help but wonder why she was lying, though. What was the big deal? If Ashleigh knew who had sent the chocolate rose—and she had already said she did—why didn’t she just tell Kaylee?

“You have to know,” Kaylee said. “Mia said you knew.”

“Who do
you
think it is?” Alex asked. He still had this silly starstruck look in his eye, but at least he could talk to her.

Kaylee glanced over at him then. She gave him a look that seemed to make him shrink back in his chair.

“Was it you?” she asked.

The question was put harshly. Of course it wasn’t him. Even if it had been, though, he wouldn’t tell her. I knew him.

“It’s a secret admirer,” I said. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to help him out. I wanted to save him. “That’s what the word ‘secret’ means. It’s supposed to be kept a secret.”

Kaylee turned that stare on me now, but I refused to shrink back in my chair. I sat there, staring back at her without flinching.

“There are no secrets about me,” Kaylee said. “I know everything.”

Ashleigh snorted. I shared that feeling. This was silly, this whole thing. Why didn’t Ashleigh just tell her who sent the rose and make her leave us alone?

“I want to see your lists,” Kaylee said. She looked from me to Ashleigh and back again. “I want to look at every name until I find the person who bought my rose.”

I looked at Ashleigh, who just rolled her eyes and picked up her sandwich and took a bite of it. Kaylee nodded to her friends, and all of them stood at once. They didn’t even look back at us as they pranced back to their table in one big group.

“Just give her the list,” Alex said. “She’ll leave you alone.”

“I don’t have the list anymore,” I said. And that wasn’t a lie. I’d thrown it in the trash after the committee gave it back to me.

Ashleigh shrugged. “She can’t order you around.”

“No, but she can keep bugging us like this until we agree,” I said. “I don’t think any of us want that.”

“I don’t mind,” Alex spoke up to say. When we all turned to look at him, he gave us a sheepish grin. “What? They’re cute.”

“You think everyone’s cute,” Ashleigh said.

That was exactly what I’d been thinking. “Not everyone,” Alex said without looking at either of us.

“Not you,” Ashleigh said.

My eyes widened. Not me? What kind of thing was that to say?

“Not me, either,” Ashleigh said. “So don’t feel bad.”

Alex was suddenly very, very quiet. He didn’t want anything to do with this conversation.

“You’re frowning,” Ashleigh said to me. “Do you like Alex or something?”

Silence. One of those long, awkward silences that made you wish you could just disappear out of sheer embarrassment. Even worse, Alex looked up as though he’d just snapped back to the present and realized what was going on.

“Does who like Alex?” Alex asked.

“Nobody,” I said quickly, before Ashleigh could speak up. Maybe he hadn’t heard. Maybe he couldn’t piece two and two together and figure out I was the only person here she could have been asking, now that Kaylee and all her friends had taken off.

Then he looked at me. His eyes widened just barely. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been looking
at him so closely. I suddenly realized I was staring at him closely and quickly jerked my gaze away.

“I was just kidding around,” Ashleigh said. “Come on. Time to go.”

I hadn’t realized it, but the cafeteria had started clearing out while I was staring down at my lunch. The bell must have rung and I hadn’t even heard it. Whatever. I used the excuse to get out of there before Ashleigh could embarrass me further.

For the first time that I could remember, Alex didn’t follow us.

CHAPTER SEVEN

To: Kurt
From: Mia
Someone likes someone who likes you.

I didn’t mean to walk out of school with Kurt Barnes. Really, I didn’t. He was walking through the exit right ahead of me, and he held the door for me. It was totally random and surprised me, but what surprised me more was when Sun Patterson cornered me about it on the bus.

She actually got up from her seat and came back to sit next to me. This was after she’d gawked at me while I strolled past.

“Hey,” she said.

I looked around, even though I knew there was no way she could be talking to someone else. She hadn’t spoken to me since fourth grade, though, so it was weird she was suddenly
sitting next to me like I was her longtime best friend or something.

“Hey,” I said.

“I wanted to ask you something,” she began.

I groaned, not even bothering to hold it in. I rolled my eyes, too. I knew exactly what this was about.

“I don’t know who sent the rose,” I said, exasperated. “There were a lot of people, and I was just trying to collect enough money for us to win the competition.”

The whole “secret admirer” thing was something I’d done to be nice, but this was getting ridiculous. If I’d known everyone would be bugging me about it for the next few weeks, I might have thought about it a while longer.

“Huh?” Sun asked. She was looking at me like I was crazy or something. “No, I don’t care about that. I wanted to ask you about Kurt Barnes.”

Kurt Barnes. He’d gotten a rose too. Was she asking who sent
him
the rose? Because I didn’t have an answer for that, either.

“Do you like him?” she asked.

That caught me off guard. I tried to figure out where she was coming from with that, but I couldn’t. Maybe she’d
noticed my handwriting on the card attached to his rose and thought I was his secret admirer or something.

“Why would I like him?” I asked. I wanted more information before I gave an answer.

“I saw you with him a few seconds ago,” Sun said. “I thought you guys might be going out.”

The weird thing about all this was the look on her face. She had this hopeful expression, like she was desperately clinging to everything I said.

She liked him. Wow. Sun Patterson liked Kurt Barnes.

“I’ve never even talked to him,” I said. “But do
you
like him?”

I guess I expected Sun to deny it, but not even close. She looked down, a big, silly smile on her face.

The really strange thing about this conversation was I was relieved that she liked someone who wasn’t Alex. Why was that? I didn’t get it. Shouldn’t I be happy that Alex might find someone he liked who liked him back?

“What are you doing about it?” I asked.

Her head snapped up. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean, are you talking to him? Do you even know him?”

“I’ve never met him,” she said. “I’m too shy.”

“He might like you back, though,” I said. “I don’t know him, but I could introduce you if you’d like.”

Her eyes lit up for a second. Then, seeming to realize something, she looked down again. “I don’t think so. I’d just make a fool of myself.”

So she was just going to keep liking him without talking to him . . . ever? What sense did that make?

I thought about it. That was what everyone did. They all seemed to get some crush on someone and never, ever talk to the person, going months and even years without getting to know the person they were thinking about all the time. It was an incredible waste of time. There had to be a better way.

They needed a matchmaker. And who better . . . than Cupid?

CHAPTER EIGHT

BOOK: 25 Roses
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