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Authors: Stephanie Faris

25 Roses (8 page)

BOOK: 25 Roses
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Eager to hear what this was all about, I headed down the hallway, cell phone pressed tightly to my ear. “What’s up?” I asked when I was far enough away that no one could hear.

“I need your help,” Sun said.

“Okay,” I said. I needed to sit down. I headed into my bedroom and flopped down on the bed.

“I need a makeover,” she said. “I have to do something to get Kurt’s attention. I have money, but I don’t know anyone else with, you know . . .”

“Free time?” I asked, figuring anyone else she’d ask would be busy. She probably had already asked seventeen people or something before she even thought of calling me.

“Taste,” she said. “You always wear cute clothes and stuff. I want to do that too.”

This was all very, very weird. Maybe someone was playing a trick on me.

“I just need you to meet me tomorrow at the mall,” she said. “Do you have plans?”

Tomorrow was Saturday. I was hanging out at Ashleigh’s
house tonight to get out of Kellie’s game, but I had no plans for tomorrow.

This was my chance. I’d messed things up with Alex, and now, hanging out at the mall with Sun, I’d be able to put in a good word for him. “Let me talk to my mom and call you back,” I said.

I walked back to the dining room and asked if I could go to the mall with Sun tomorrow.

“No,” Mom said. “I’m not comfortable with you hanging out at the mall without an adult to supervise.”

“Mom,” Kellie said, rolling her eyes. “She’s old enough. Plus, the only people who hang out at the mall are old ladies and people Mia’s age.”

I started to feel offended by that, but Kellie was actually on my side. I kept my mouth shut while I waited for Mom’s answer.

“Old ladies?” Mom asked her. “I beg your pardon. I’m not old.”

Kellie seemed to realize she’d said the wrong thing. Before she could make it worse, I jumped in.

“I’ll get Sun’s mom to take us and pick us up,” I begged, looking directly at Mom now. “You won’t have to do anything.”

She said yes.

Of course, that meant I had to get Sun to talk her mom into doing all the work. I sent her a text this time. Texting was the best way to deal with people you didn’t know all that well.

Sun texted back,
. Of course, Mom came to my room later that night to tell me she had to meet Sun and her mom before I could go.

Totally embarrassing. I wanted to invite Ashleigh along, but I knew better. Even if I could get her to agree to go, she’d take all the fun out of it.

During movie night, I kept my mouth shut. I listened to Ashleigh talk about Sun and Alex and how we could get them together and said nothing, even though it was bothering me for reasons I didn’t understand. All I knew was that it bothered me that it bothered me.

Sun’s mom was picking me up at one o’clock. Late enough so we wouldn’t have to eat lunch together but early enough that we wouldn’t have to worry about dinner together. I was no dummy. I knew how all this worked. In fact, I probably would have done the same if I was the one planning things.

At one o’clock on the dot, they pulled up in the driveway and honked the horn. Mom gave me a look, then tossed the
front door open and gestured for me to head out ahead of her. She didn’t like the whole “honk the horn” thing when someone picked me up. She’d made that clear more than once. But I didn’t really have control of what Sun Patterson’s mother did.

Mom followed me up the driveway, stepping up next to me at the driver’s-side window of Sun’s mom’s car. Her mom had one of those nice little sports cars that looked like it wouldn’t seat more than a couple of people, but it had a backseat, way back there. It was small, but I’d fit.

Out of the corner of my eye, though, I could see Mom’s frown. She didn’t like tiny backseats, either. Mom needed to learn to be more flexible.

Speaking of flexible . . .

Sun stepped out of the car and held her door open. She looked like she always looked. Her hair was straight but frizzy. Tiny little hairs flew all over the place—

“I’ll just hang out at the food court until they’re finished,” I heard Sun’s mom say as I climbed into the backseat.

What? She was going into the mall with us?

Not cool. Not cool at all.

As I settled in and Sun sat down, trapping me in my seat, I realized that I was doomed if someone from school was at
the mall anyway. They’d see me with Sun and tell everyone else. Ashleigh would flip out and maybe even be too embarrassed to be seen with me. The only good thing was that we were going to a dead mall that nobody went to anymore. Everyone I knew shopped at the Forever 21 in the fancy part of town these days. But the mall was the only place someone could get a haircut, makeup, and clothes in one place, and all of those were things Sun needed.

“Keep your cell phone on,” Mom said as Sun’s mom kicked it into reverse and started backing out of the driveway. “Be home before five. Pizza.”

She yelled that last part out, which was humiliating, to say the least. I shrank down in the seat a little, trying to hide behind Sun’s dinky seat. There was no hiding in a car like this.

Sun’s mom sped off. I winced and looked out of the back window. Sure enough, Mom was standing there, arms crossed.

“It’s so nice of you to do this for Sun,” her mom said. “I know how much it means to her.”

“Mom!” Now it was Sun’s turn to shrink down in her seat.

“What?” Sun’s mom looked over at her daughter, and the car swerved to the right slightly. I covered my mouth to keep
a gasp from coming out. “You haven’t been out with friends since last year. I think it’s good you’re finally starting to meet people.”

Wow. Awkward. I rushed to change the subject.

“Mrs. Patterson—” I began.

“MacDowell,” Sun interrupted.

Sun’s mom must have seen my confused look in the rearview mirror. “My last name is MacDowell,” she said. “That’s Sun’s stepdad’s last name.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t known Sun’s dad wasn’t her dad. I wondered when they’d gotten divorced. There were a lot of kids who’d been through their parents divorcing when we were in elementary school, but nobody I hung out with. I wondered when they’d split up and if that was why Sun was so quiet.

“Mrs. MacDowell,” I corrected. “Can Sun get a haircut?” It was the first thing I thought of, inspired mostly through spotting Sun’s flyaway hairs in front of me.

But Sun sat up straight in her seat. “Not my hair,” she said. “No.”

“I think that would be a great idea,” Mrs. MacDowell said. She addressed this to me, completely bypassing her daughter, who was now staring at her with her jaw hanging. “You’d
look really cute with a bob. In fact, I’ll make an appointment for you now.”

While Mrs. MacDowell spent two minutes trying to force the voice activation in her car to dial mall information, Sun spun all the way around in her seat to glare at me. “
What are you doing?
” she whispered.

“You said you wanted a makeover,” I whispered back. “We should start with your hair.”

“I wanted some cute clothes. That’s all.”

“Trust me,” I said. I gave her a big smile, which she, of course, didn’t return before spinning back around to face front. Her mother, meanwhile, had managed to get the nice lady who answered at the mall to connect her with someplace called Express Hair and Nails.

“Express,” Sun said. “Doesn’t that mean fast? I don’t think that’s a good quality for a hair place to have.”

I laughed. Now that I heard her actually talk, I found I was starting to like Sun. She wasn’t some weird person who never spoke. She was . . . nice. Even maybe a little cooler than other people at our school.

“I’d like to make an appointment,” Mrs. MacDowell shouted up at the roof of her car. That was where the microphone
was, right above her head. I wondered if she realized she didn’t have to yell to be heard. “Two o’clock for Sun Patterson. Throw in a cut for Mia— What’s your last name, dear?”

“Hartley,” I said quietly.

“Hartley,” Mrs. MacDowell yelled.

So there we were, with two appointments. I tugged at the ends of my hair—probably split—and wondered what kind of haircut I’d get from a place whose biggest marketing tool was announcing it was “express.” Like a fast-food drive-through.

Mrs. MacDowell let us off at the food court with a promise to be back to get us at three thirty. I followed Sun through the big automatic-open doors and caught up with her inside.

“I thought she planned to wait for us at the food court,” I commented.

“Huh?” Sun was looking around like she’d suddenly been released into the wild. “Oh, that. She just said that to make your mom happy.”

What? My mom would have a freak-out fit if she found out Mrs. MacDowell lied. I didn’t know how she’d ever find out unless she randomly showed up here to stalk us, but still it was risky. Plus, whose parents lied? Mine didn’t do
things like that,
to other parents or teachers. I thought there were rules against things like that.

“My mom has a busy schedule,” Sun said. “She’s a real estate agent.” As if that were supposed to mean something to me. “Ooh, accessories.”

Accessories were not what we needed right now. Cute earrings and clinky bracelets would be useless if paired with a zipped-up hoodie and baggy men’s jeans. I couldn’t tell her that, though. She was in the store before I could catch up with her.

She headed toward a rack of rubber bracelets, but I steered her back to something more feminine. I only had to use the words “trust me” seven or eight times before she finally agreed to buy a bunch of silver bracelets, some pink crystal earrings, and a cute sparkly hair tie for holding her hair down.

We were about to deal with that, anyway. But first we stopped off at the only teen clothing place I could find. It wasn’t Forever 21, but close enough.

“Trust me,” I said, holding up a short-sleeved pink shirt. The color brought out the natural highlights in her hair, and I had a feeling it would look even better once she got a haircut.

“It’s cold outside,” she said.


She looked at the shirt. “That’s short-sleeved.”

“So?” I wasn’t deliberately being difficult. I really didn’t know what her point was.

“So I don’t wear short sleeves when it’s cold,” she said.

“You wear a jacket over it.” I turned around and, spotting a hoodie a few racks away, ran over to grab it. As I rushed back to her, she stared at the hoodie in horror.

“That’s not a jacket,” she said. “That’s a hoodie.”

“It’s a jacket. Trust me. Try it on.”

I thrust it out to her, and she tentatively took it. I then pointed to the dressing room and continued looking for more tight short-sleeved tops while she skulked off. I knew exactly what she was thinking. Sun was one of those girls with a great figure who hid behind big, bulky coats and baggy clothes all winter. While that kept her warm, it didn’t flatter her. The goal here was to get her out of the background and up where everyone could see how awesome she was. First steps were cute clothes and

“I’ll freeze,” she said when I returned to her dressing room, knocked on the door, and demanded she show me the
outfit. She wore the shirt and jacket with her baggy jeans, so it was hard to tell.

“You’ll be fine,” I said. “Try these on.”

I handed her a stack of cute skinny jeans in every size I thought might fit, along with a stack of shirts, and stepped back. This was kind of fun.

My cell phone rang the second after Sun closed the dressing room door. It was Ashleigh. I stared at the screen for a long time, debating what to do. If I answered, I’d have to tell her where I was. She’d freak out if I told her I was with Sun Patterson, but I couldn’t lie to her.

Could I?

Turns out, I could.

“Hello?” I whispered. I was walking away from the dressing room, but I was still afraid Sun would hear me.

“What’s up?” she asked. “I’m bored.”

“Just waiting for my mom at the grocery store,” I said, wincing. I hated lying to my BFF. I felt like she could see me through the cell phone signals. “You coming over tonight? It’s pizza night.”

“Sure,” she said. “I was wondering if I could come over a little early, though. We could hang out and chat before dinner.”

“I’m not sure how long we’re going to be,” I said. Even as
I said the words, I was hoping with all I had that she wouldn’t creep over to my house early. If she saw my mom’s car in the driveway, she’d know I was lying. “Mom has a lot of errands to run.”

If we really were at the grocery store, we’d have to go straight home. We’d have ice cream and frozen peas and milk—all of which would have to get to the refrigerator and freezer instead of being carried around town in Mom’s trunk while she went everywhere. But luckily, Ashleigh didn’t seem to think about any of that.

“Just call me when you get home,” she said. “Alex may come over.”

Alex lived a few streets over from Ashleigh, but they never, ever hung out without me. I felt a pang of jealousy at the thought of him going to her house and me not being there. But I couldn’t blame her. I was hanging out with someone completely different, after all.

BOOK: 25 Roses
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