Read 25 Roses Online

Authors: Stephanie Faris

25 Roses (9 page)

BOOK: 25 Roses
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“Okay,” I said . . . because there was nothing else I could say. If I was going to help the population of Stanton Middle School, my friends’ lives would go on without me. What else could I expect?

“Can I stop trying on clothes now?”

Sun had snuck up on me so suddenly, I didn’t have a
chance to prepare. I spun around to find her standing there, empty-armed, wearing the clothes she’d been wearing when this whole shopping outing had started.

“Who’s that?” I heard Ashleigh say through the earpiece of my phone. “I thought you were at the grocery store.”

“Um . . . yeah,” I said. “That’s . . . my sister. We’re at Mega-Mart.”

Mega-Mart was the big grocery-store-slash-department-store in town. It was totally possible we’d gone shopping with Mom and now were trying on clothes.

“That’s not your sister,” Ashleigh said. “Whatever. I’ll talk to you later.”

I still had my mouth open to argue with her when the phone went silent. I looked at the screen and saw
on the screen right above the photo I’d taken of her so her face would flash whenever she called. I’m not sure how long I stood there, staring at that flashing photo, before Sun waved her hand in front of me.

“Hello?” Sun said. “You in there?”

I looked up and nodded numbly while pocketing my phone. I’d just have to find a way to deal with Ashleigh later. We had a hair appointment to get to.

“Where are your clothes?” I asked Sun.

“In there.” She pointed at the dressing room she’d just exited. I followed her pointing finger before looking back at her again.

“You aren’t buying any of them?” I asked.

She wrinkled her nose. “They aren’t me,” she said. “I think I should stick with the clothes I have already.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. Oh no. I was not going to waste an entire Saturday on this and possibly make my best friend mad for her to walk away with the same horrible wardrobe she’d been wearing forever.

But then again . . . if she didn’t change her clothes, she wouldn’t look better. If she didn’t look better, Alex wouldn’t like her more.

That thought flew through my mind so fast, it shocked me. I stopped, thought about it a second, and frowned. Whoa, that was harsh. I immediately felt bad for even thinking that.

“I see,” I said, not budging even though I could tell she was practically jumping out of those boy clothes to rush around me and get out of here. “Humph. I guess I was wrong.”

She stopped eyeing the exit anxiously and looked at me. “Wrong about what?”

I shrugged. “You. I thought you wanted a makeover. I thought that was what this was all about.”

She looked down. I saw all the happiness go out of her and felt really, really bad.

“I just don’t think I can wear that stuff,” she said. “It’s just not me.”

What was she talking about? Every shirt and pair of pants I’d given her would look good on her. I just knew they would. Surely that wasn’t what she was talking about.

“You look great,” I said. “But buy the jackets, too. Then if you feel self-conscious at first, you can wear the jacket, right? Eventually you’ll feel comfortable leaving the jacket in your locker.”

She lifted her head and looked thoughtfully off to the side. I was getting through to her. Hallelujah!

We sorted through the stack and found five shirts and a great-fitting pair of jeans for her to buy. I would have bought more, just to have more than one pair of pants to switch out, but it was her money, so I couldn’t tell her that.

While Sun paid, I nervously fumbled with my cell. I could call Ashleigh while we were waiting, but what would I tell her? I had to come up with a good excuse for why I was trying on clothes with someone who wasn’t my sister . . . or her.

Ashleigh would believe me and get over it. She had to.


To: Mia
From: Ashleigh
Friends don’t lie.

“What’s with your hair?”

I was standing on Alex’s porch, trying to get to Ashleigh. I’d rushed Sun through her haircut and mine to get here faster. I didn’t even really care about my new, shoulder-length hairdo that the stylist had curled with a dryer and round brush until it was sticking up high from my head like someone from the eighties.

I patted the top down with my hand as I rose up on tiptoe to try to see past Alex.

“Is she here?” I asked.

“She’s busy right now,” Alex said.

When I lowered back down, I saw he wasn’t meeting my eyes. I knew he was lying.

I could take Alex, though. I pushed past him and into the house, where Ashleigh was camped out in the kitchen, surrounded by junk food.

I felt a pang. This was what I was missing. This time with my BFFs, eating junk food and talking about people at school. I was giving it up . . . for what? To help some girl who wasn’t even grateful for her new, kick-butt hairstyle that I’d talked her into getting?

“I’m here,” I said, trying to keep my voice light. Maybe if I acted like nothing had happened, she’d forget about everything and we could go back to the way we’d been last night.

“Right,” she said, turning her back on me to open the refrigerator door. “Who were you shopping for clothes with?”

I paused. “Sun Patterson,” I said. Best to be honest.

Ashleigh let the refrigerator door slam shut and turned to look at Alex. “Really.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head. Finally she turned to look at me. “You’ve been with Sun Patterson all afternoon?”

I nodded. Why did I have a bad feeling about all this?

“And you didn’t invite me.”

Ashleigh looked at me now, right in the eye. I felt like shrinking back against the wall.

“I—I didn’t really have time—” I stopped. I was stuttering. It wasn’t helping my case at all.

“When did she invite you?” Ashleigh asked. “Because I heard she called you yesterday to ask.”

I stopped to think. How would word have gotten out so quickly? Sun. Sun must have told people. But who? And why?

“She told me she was going shopping with you today,” Alex said. “We talked last night.”

I’m not sure how long I stood there, staring at Alex like I’d never seen him before. He and Sun were all the way to “phone” status? That was huge. That was, like, one step away from dating.

“She asked for my help,” I said, still staring at Alex. “She wanted to look better. I didn’t think you would want to go.”

For that last part, I turned back to Ashleigh. I didn’t have to say it, did I?

I leaned forward, speaking in as low a voice as I could, even though Alex could probably hear. “I was trying to make her look better for Alex. It was a surprise.”

“Stop,” Ashleigh interrupted, holding up her hand, palm
facing me. “I don’t care if you have new friends. That’s fine. But if you don’t want to hang out with us anymore, you can just tell us. You don’t have to lie.”

“Ashleigh—” Alex said. He looked at me. “She’s just hurt because you didn’t invite her. I’m sure—”

“I think we’ve said all we need to say to her, Alex,” she interrupted. “Come on.” She marched toward Alex, stopping just in front of him. He looked at me apologetically before turning and walking from the room ahead of her. Somehow, in one afternoon, I’d managed to lose my two best friends in the world because of my lies. And they didn’t even know about the biggest lie of all—the roses.

If I was worried about having someone to talk to at school Monday, I didn’t have to worry long. I was standing in the hallway outside homeroom, hoping Alex or Ashleigh would happen by, when suddenly I found myself surrounded.

Trudie Kepler and her friends had ambushed me. And they were making zero sense.

“We just saw Sun Patterson,” one of the girls said. She put a hand on each hip. “We want that.”

“I want mine blond.”

“I want pink lipstick. The glossy kind.”

As her friends carried on nonsensically, Trudie said absolutely nothing. She just stared at me, studying me with her beady brown eyes. It was making me more than a little nervous.

“What?” I asked her, shutting out all the other chatter around us.

“I want what you did for Sun Patterson,” Trudie said. She stepped a little closer to me. I would have backed up, but my back was already against the wall. “Except I don’t want to change my hair.”

Interesting. Because her hair was one of the first things I would have changed if someone asked. There had to be a better way than wearing it in a ponytail every day.

“Me too.” One by one, each of her friends expressed their desire for a Sun Patterson–style makeover. I just continued to stare at Trudie in the hopes that they’d all give up and go away.

“Oh, and I don’t have money for new clothes,” Trudie said.

I waited for the round of “me toos” on that one, but none came. Instead they each started offering to let her borrow money. Someone said she could go to a used clothing store, and someone else said she could get diseases from wearing
someone else’s clothing. Meanwhile, people were trying to push past them to get into the classroom. It was a mess.

“You’ll need new clothes,” I said. Then I realized that wasn’t a very nice thing to say. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Trudie said. I was shocked she was okay with that. “I know I don’t have much to work with here, but we don’t have the money for thousands of dollars in new clothes.”

“There’s a great discount clothing store in the shopping center where the thrift store is,” I said. “There’s a ton of cute stuff. You’ll love it, and it won’t cost a fortune.”

“Great,” Trudie said. She smiled. Well, what passed for a smile on her face, anyway, which was more like a look of pain. “So you’ll come with?”

“Come with?” I asked. She was missing an object in that sentence, as I knew from grammar class. I kind of knew what she was asking, so I was hiding behind grammar to avoid it.

“Come with me,” Trudie said, shaking her head slightly as if I should know that already. “I can’t do this alone.”

I couldn’t do it with her. I mean, I could, but my two closest friends were already mad at me for helping someone out with her wardrobe, hair, and makeup. I couldn’t spend every spare second I had following people around to shopping centers
and handing them clothes over dressing room doors.

“I can’t,” I said. “I have plans.”

“I didn’t even say when,” Trudie said.

Oh. Oops.

“I assumed you meant today after school,” I said. “I have plans. It’s a . . . homework thing.”

“No,” Trudie said. “I have soccer practice after school. It’ll have to be this weekend. You name the time.”

Just as I was forming some big, detailed story about how I had to go out of town this weekend, one of the “me too” people spoke up.

“Or any weekend after that,” the girl said. “You name the time and place. We’ll be there.”

We’ll be there?
Did that mean all these people were coming to the store too? I didn’t know about that. I wondered if I had the right to speak up and say no to that plan.

“Just us,” Trudie said, flashing a dirty look at her friend. “I think Mia can handle this.”

I was so grateful Trudie had called off the hounds, I blurted, “Okay” before I realized it. Trudie accepted it, said, “Thanks,” and spun on one heel to stalk off.

Suddenly Sun Patterson appeared by my side. “You have to help me,” she said. The warning bell rang and people began
rushing off to class behind her. Sun looked up anxiously at the speaker that carried the sound. “I’ll be back here after homeroom and we’ll walk together.”

I didn’t have time to argue that I had no extra time between homeroom and first period. Basically, I could only just get to my locker, get my books, and run to my first class before the bell rang. I’d just have to rush and Sun would figure it out.

I plopped down in my seat, which was next to Alex’s empty desk. He was supposed to be here. I was going to talk to him and smooth things over between us before class. Where was he?

The final bell rang and still no Alex. Had he stayed home sick today because of what happened with all of us this weekend? Had Ashleigh stayed home too?

I got my answer a few seconds later when he came rushing in. He slid into his seat but didn’t look at me. He stared straight ahead, unblinking, even as I refused to look away. I had to be able to get his attention somehow so I could talk to him.

BOOK: 25 Roses
12.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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