Better off Friends

Page 4


Or maybe she feels sorry for you, the negative me said.
She doesn’t know, the positive me spoke up. This wasn’t the same thing as a non-friend suddenly paying attention to you or offering a shoulder to cry on, or bringing over a casserole that was nothing your mother would have ever, ever cooked for you.
Uncle Adam and I got into his car. He always made sure I was buckled up properly before he turned on the ignition.
“Everything okay?” He looked at me intently.
“Yeah,” I said, even though I had no idea how to feel about what had just happened. I didn’t really like unexpected turns. I’d had more than my share by that point.
Adam looked so sad. “Your mother loved picking you up from school.”
I nodded, which was pretty much the only response I had whenever anybody brought her up.
A tear started trickling down his face. “You look so much like her.”
I’d been getting used to this. I loved that I looked like my mother. I had her big hazel eyes, heart-shaped face, and wavy auburn hair that turned strawberry blond in the summer.
But I was also that mirror girl, the walking reminder of what we all had lost.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and promised myself: In fifteen minutes, you can work on algebra homework. In fifteen minutes, you’ll have a reprieve. Get through these next fifteen minutes and you’ll be fine.
Do you really think my mom offered to give you a ride out of pity?
Not anymore. Now I know your mom is the definition of incredible.
Like mother, like son.
Oh, please.
But you admit you only invited me to sit with you at lunch out of pity.
See, you’re supposed to lie and say you wanted to hang out with me because you thought I was beyond cool.
So you want me to lie?
Um, yeah. Friends lie to make each other feel better. You didn’t know that?
Have I told you that you look really cute today?
Thanks, I — Wait a second.
I was upset when my parents first told me we were moving to Wisconsin. Like, why did I have to totally give up my friends and my life because Dad got a big promotion? Why couldn’t we have stayed in Santa Monica, where the weather was sweet and the waves were sick?
But then I realized I could have a fresh start. I always used to be jealous when a new guy came to our school. He’d get all this attention. He was a mystery. He could be anybody. So maybe moving would be good. I’d be the stranger from a strange land. What girl could resist that?
Then I arrived.
First I was excited and nervous when the principal introduced me to Macallan, because she was pretty. Then she made it known within, like, 2.5 seconds that she had no interest in me whatsoever. You could’ve seriously given her a glass of milk and it would’ve been frozen in less than a minute. She was that cold.
So I figured we’d never talk again and I concentrated on the guys at school. Guys are always way more chill than girls anyway.
Right before lunch on my first day, I went up to this group of guys, introduced myself, tried to be calm, cool, and collected. But I’m pretty sure I stank of desperation. I was able to tell right away that Keith, this beast of a guy, was the alpha in our grade. He always had a group of three or four other guys around him, and they were all wearing some sort of Wisconsin team T-shirt. Keith had on a Badgers hoodie and jean shorts. He was close to five foot ten and he towered over everybody, including most of the teachers. He wasn’t skinny and he wasn’t fat; he was just big.
He studied me as I approached him, and said, “What’s your deal?” before I had a chance to introduce myself. I made some small talk and felt like I was on a job interview.
Then I made a fatal error. I should’ve known better.
I admitted to being a Chicago Bears fan.
I’m pretty sure I heard actual hissing.
I figured whatever, they’d tease me, like guys do. That was what I was expecting, hoping. Because if guys teased you, you were kinda in.
But after I grabbed my lunch, not one person would look at me when I went to sit down. They were all too busy catching up with each other to notice the new guy standing there by himself. Instead of being this person everybody wanted to know more about, it was like I had leprosy or something. I kept being told that everybody in Wisconsin was so nice, but that wasn’t the feeling I got. It was more like I was an intruder on their turf. I was only halfway through my first day and I was miserable.
Then Macallan came along.
She totally saved me from the public humiliation of having to eat alone on my first day of school. From then on, I ate with her and her friends.
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Macallan coming over on Wednesdays after school. The second we got to my house, she opened up whatever homework she had and would sit there and study until her dad came and got her. She only lightened up when I put on Buggy and Floyd. After a few Wednesdays, we started talking some more.
She was pretty cool. Like awesome cool, even though she could sometimes be cold.
One Wednesday, about a month in, she had to stay longer than usual. Mom came back from the store and said, “Macallan, sweetie, your dad just called me. He’s running late, so you’re going to join us for dinner. Hope you like stir-fry.”
Macallan studied Mom from our place at the dining room table as Mom went into the kitchen and started unpacking her groceries. I tried to not laugh as Macallan’s face scrunched up. She always did that when she was studying, be it math or my mom. It was pretty adorable.