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Authors: Stephanie Faris

25 Roses (6 page)

BOOK: 25 Roses
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To: Mia
From: Your Secret Admirer
You won’t get away with it.

I stared at the words on the card in front of me, blinking several times to see if they’d change. They didn’t, so I looked around to see if anyone was watching. Nobody was.

I got to school early to track down Kurt and talk to him about Sun. But when I’d opened my locker, a chocolate rose had fallen out. It was just like the ones we’d handed out on Valentine’s Day, only it had a card attached—for
me
.

Somebody knew what I’d done and was trying to let me know everyone would eventually find out. But . . . who? My locker didn’t have a lock on it, so it could have been anyone.

I looked around. Nobody was paying any attention to me, but that could be the trick. If the person who had put this
rose in my locker was nearby, of course that person wouldn’t want me to see someone was watching. I decided the best thing to do was shove the rose deep into my locker, cover it up with my coat, and close the door as quickly as possible. I’d figure it out later.

I slammed the door closed and rushed off down the hall. I was halfway to my class when I remembered my mission. Find Kurt and talk to him. I couldn’t go to class until I did that.

I was still looking for Kurt when I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.
No.
It couldn’t be.

Sure enough, it was. Gillianni was just a few feet away. Only her hair wasn’t hanging down in her face and her head wasn’t down. She was looking around with a paranoid expression, but she was
looking
. She usually never lifted her head and paid attention to what was around her.

Her gaze landed on me, catching me staring at her, and she quickly looked down and shuffled off. It was like she suddenly remembered she was supposed to not look at people.

“What’s up with you?”

I’d know Alex’s voice anywhere. He was, after all, my BMFF. Before things had gotten so weird between us, he’d sometimes call just to say hi. Now I was lucky if I got a text from him to ask some form of
What’s up?

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m the same as I’ve always been.”

He gave me a strange look. “Then why are you staring at Gillianni Carter?”

Oh. That was what he’d meant by,
What’s up with you?
I’d thought he was talking about how we hardly talked anymore.

I could have said that. This was my chance. If we
were
BFFs, we should be able to talk about anything. But this weirdness between us was like a big brick wall.

“She looks . . . different,” I said. “She wasn’t staring down at the ground like she normally does.”

My first thought was that now he’d decide he liked Gillianni instead of Sun Patterson. That bothered me too, and I didn’t understand why.

“You’re weird,” he said.

That was it. That was how things had gotten between us. He never spoke more than he had to, and now, it felt like he always worked in some way to insult me. He either called me weird or strange or a dork.

It hurt my feelings, but I knew what he’d say if I told him that. He’d tell me to quit being a dork.

“Gotta go,” he said. “See ya.”

And that was it. That was probably the longest conversation we’d have all day. I sighed and started toward homeroom.
I couldn’t worry about it now. I had too many other things going on.

I was halfway there before I remembered what my original goal had been. I was supposed to be playing matchmaker for Kurt and Sun. Did I have enough time?

I quickened my step and took off toward Kurt’s homeroom. I’d just have to make it work. Luckily, the later it got, the better the chance I’d find him in homeroom.

He wasn’t in homeroom. I paused in the doorway, looking around the class. I saw plenty of familiar faces, but none of them were Kurt’s. I turned and leaned against the wall next to the entrance to the classroom. He’d show up eventually. He had to.

A minute or so later, I started worrying that maybe he wouldn’t show up. He could be home sick today, after all, and there would be no way I’d know it. Nobody even knew I was standing out here waiting for him. But just as I was starting to think about giving up, I saw him off in the distance.

The good news was, he was alone.

I’d considered the possibility that he might come walking up with a crowd of guys and there would be nothing I could do about it. I wouldn’t talk to him if there were people with
him, so I’d just have to walk off and find him later. But he was walking all by himself, a totally serious look on his face. He looked more confident than ever, though, and I swore he looked like he was dressing better.

I bit my lip and stepped forward. This was a lot easier in my head. Face-to-face with him, I suddenly worried he’d think I was crazy or something.

This wasn’t for me, I reminded myself. I had no interest in him. So this should be a breeze. But walking up to a boy you didn’t know to tell him someone liked him wasn’t as easy as it seemed like it would be.

I wasn’t sure what to say as he approached, so instead I did something a little nutty. I stepped into the doorway of the classroom, blocking his path.

Understandably, he was thrown. He blinked at me, not speaking. He didn’t seem to know what to say.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” I blurted. It was the first thing that popped into my head.

I realized as his expression changed even more—to one of wanting to run away—that he thought I was asking for myself. Like I was some kind of crazy stalkerish person who had tracked him down to demand to know if he had a
girlfriend. I could see why that would be a little scary.

“Not for me,” I said quickly. Wait. That didn’t make sense. “I mean . . . someone else wants to know.”

“Oh,” Kurt said. He didn’t look disappointed, just confused. Then he asked the question that more people should have asked when they found out some mysterious person liked them. “Who?”

Maybe it wasn’t so bad that most people didn’t ask who liked them. Should I tell him or keep it a mystery? I wasn’t sure which would be better for making him walk a little straighter.

Then I remembered the point of all of this. I was trying to get Kurt and Sun together. The problem was, Sun was starting to look better—as Alex put it, she looked great. If she could get Kurt to take a long look at her, this could be phenomenal.

“Sun Patterson,” I said. Then I waited for his eyes to light up.

He frowned. “Who?” he asked.

He really had no idea who she was. I thought about it a second. I guess that made sense. Sun had never really stood out like some other people around here. Same with Gillianni and, actually, same with Kurt. The rose had brought them out of their shells. Well, sort of.

“Sun Patterson,” I said. “Long, dark hair and the prettiest eyes you’ve ever seen.”

He looked even more confused. I guess it was good he didn’t remember her. Maybe he’d see her and have no idea how she used to look.

“Oh, wait,” he said. “Sun Patterson. Yeah. I think I know who she is.”

Someone was standing behind Kurt, waiting to get into the classroom. We moved off to the side to stop blocking the entrance, and I considered my next words. I couldn’t tell by looking at him what he thought of her.

So I asked.

“Do you think she’s cute?” I asked.

He made a face; I’ll just say it wasn’t a
yes
face. It was the opposite. This wasn’t helping.

“Have you seen her lately?” I asked. “She looks awesome. And she is a great girl.”

He didn’t look like he believed me. I couldn’t blame him. But if I was going to play matchmaker for them, I needed to somehow get Kurt and Sun in the same place so he could see what she looked like. The question was . . . how?

“I have to get to class,” Kurt said. He was looking pretty uncomfortable. All squirmy. I had to think fast.

“Lunch,” I blurted excitedly. “I’ll make sure you see what she looks like at lunch, ’kay?”

He wasn’t even looking at me at that point. His attention was focused on that doorway. He looked really uncomfortable, too, like he couldn’t wait to get away from me.

I was about to give up and walk away when suddenly I saw her in the distance. Sun Patterson. I didn’t even stop to think about it, just shouted her name.

She was so far away, I had to yell pretty loud for her to hear me. That, of course, caught the attention of everyone in the area. Sun slowly turned, saw me, and waved. She even started toward me, but as she drew closer, she obviously spotted Kurt behind me, because her footsteps faltered.

“That’s her,” I said to Kurt. I spoke quickly, in case she decided to turn and run off in the other direction. “I can introduce you.”

I turned to look at him and found him staring directly at her. He seemed impressed. His eyebrows were arched, and he had a very serious expression. I’d done it. My first match, all thanks to my rose trick. If I’d never sent the fake rose, Sun never would have started looking around at guys to decide she liked Kurt. She would have still been walking around,
slumped over, her hair in her face so no one was able to see her beautiful eyes.

The bell rang, and I turned to start toward class. They’d seen each other. I could introduce them later. Now on to the next problem.

Who had put that rose in my locker?

CHAPTER NINE

To: Ashleigh
From: Mia
It wouldn’t hurt you to be nicer to people you don’t know.

“Loser . . . and
loser
,” Ashleigh said of Kurt and Sun. I’d been telling her and Alex about how I was trying to get Kurt and Sun together. She’d just labeled them “losers” and was taking a deep breath in preparation to move onto the next subject.

“Sun isn’t a loser,” Alex said.

“Neither is Kurt,” I said, a little annoyed that Alex was defending Sun, probably because he thought she was “hot.” Instead, though, they were now looking at me.

“Oh no,” Ashleigh said. “Tell me you don’t like Kurt. You can totally do better.”

She rolled her eyes. Alex just stared at me as if he’d never seen me before. I, meanwhile, was staring at Ashleigh as if I’d never seen her before. Since when had she gotten so mean? What was going on here?

“I don’t like Kurt,” I said. “I don’t like anyone.”

“Mia doesn’t believe in that stuff,” Alex said with a shrug.

I didn’t want to talk about any of that. It wasn’t that I never wanted to go out with anyone—I just hadn’t ever met anyone I liked. Instead of arguing about it, I decided to move on with my story.

“Anyway, I was thinking how cool it would be if I could get people together based on the roses,” I said. “It would be like I’m Cupid.”

Ashleigh gaped at me. “Seriously. Valentine’s Day is over, so why don’t you work on getting someone for you? You have to like someone by now.”

I didn’t, but I didn’t have to tell the two of them that. “Maybe,” I said. “I don’t have to tell you if I do.”

“Yes, you do,” Ashleigh said. “It’s BFF rule number one. We tell each other everything. I tell you everybody I like, and you tell me everybody you like.”

“What about Alex?” I asked. He was watching both of us without saying a word.

“He likes Sun,” Ashleigh said. “He told us that, which means you’re the only one who isn’t following the rules.”

I thought about that a second. I wasn’t a very good friend. A good BFF would never, ever keep her friend from getting the girl he liked. I felt a little sick. I had a plateful of yucky school cafeteria food in front of me, and I didn’t think I could eat any of it.

“I forgot,” I said.

It was a lie. And BFF rule number two was probably that we always had to tell the truth or something. Not that there were actual rules. It looked like we just made them up as we went along.

“Whatever,” Alex said, and he didn’t really look all that bothered by it.

Ashleigh sat up a little straighter. Her eyes were wide, and she was smiling that big smile that told me something must be up. She’d had another one of her great ideas.

“You should focus your efforts on getting Sun to like Alex,” Ashleigh said.

She looked over at Alex, who seemed to be enjoying his cheeseburger. Apparently not caring if
he
cared or not, she continued.

“Think about it,” she said. “It’s perfect. You get to be a
matchmaker, and he gets to go out with the girl he likes. Win-win.”

“It’s no big deal,” Alex said. “I like her, but whatever.”

“See?” I asked. “He doesn’t even like her that much. No problem.”

Ashleigh looked at him briefly before turning back to me. “You’re going to believe that? He wouldn’t admit it if he wanted to marry her and give her a million dollars.”

“A million dollars?” I asked. There had to be some way I could change the subject here. “Alex will never have a million dollars.”

“A family down the street I think has a million dollars,” Alex said.

I smiled. This was the kind of conversation Alex and I were used to. All this stuff about liking people and going out with people wasn’t us at all. I just needed to shift the conversation back to normal stuff—

BOOK: 25 Roses
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