“I think I should have told you this yesterday, but I invited two more people.”
“I don’t care,” I lied.
“Yes, you do.”
“Who did you invite?”
I heard her take a deep breath and then she belted out, “Grace Adams and Rachel Lopez.”
My jaw clenched. When I didn’t answer she asked, “Still coming?”
We were almost sophomores. I was thinking I should’ve just told her we were too old for sleepovers, especially if we were “inviting” people. But it was Grace Adams and Rachel Lopez. Clarissa needed back up.
“Definitely,” I said running up the stairs to my room.
“I mean I know you hate them, but…”
“It’s fine. I’m coming.”
“Okay, see you around 5?”
“Yep.” I hung up the phone and buried my face in my pillow.
They were friends with Clarissa, because their mothers were best friends. And I never liked them. They never did anything to me personally, but that’s mostly because I was Clarissa’s friend.
It was a well-known fact that Rachel Lopez had an obsessive crush on Chris Patterson. She was pretty, too pretty, and too old for her age. There was no way I was going to sleep well, knowing that she would be within ten feet of Clarissa’s house. So I was going, even though I would’ve rather nailed my hand to a moving truck.
My dad dropped me off on his way to watch some preseason football game somewhere. I all but ran to the door praying that I made it there first. Jimmy answered the door with a phone attached to his ear.
I smiled. He stuck his tongue out at me and walked away.
Then Chris froze in the doorway of the kitchen with his mouth full of something. He smiled and started walking toward me, but detoured to the left when Clarissa came running down the stairs yelling my name.
“Hey, Clary,” I said.
She grabbed one of my bags and I followed her to the living room. To my relief it was empty. “They called right before you came,” she said watching me from the side of her eye, “They’ll be here in an hour.”
I looked at the clock on the book shelf. “Of course,” I thought out loud, “Fashionably late.”
Clarissa rolled her eyes. “You know my mom made do it. Invite them, I mean.”
I nodded. I refused to believe that my best friend could truly like those people. I had assumed a long time ago that their relationship was purely for the benefit of their mothers.
I fell on the couch as Clarissa switched the TV on.
She sat down next to me. “Know what? My mom’s hormones are starting to kick in. She’s worse than when she was pregnant with Natalie.”
“You don’t remember that.”
“I do, because that’s when she started making me and Jimmy do chores.” She shuttered at the painful memory.
I laughed. “Well, there’s only a little over six months left.”
She squeaked a little and let herself fall into the couch pillow next to her.
“Where’s you’re mom now?”
“Baking a fifth batch of oatmeal cookies.”
“Yum,” I said realizing that was what Chris was eating.
“No,” she sat up, “Not for you. Only for her. We’d have to set up an elaborate battle plan to sneak one out of the kitchen.”
I was disappointed. They smelled so good.
We talked about the new clothes we bought for school. I sounded more excited then I thought I could pretend to, and Clarissa was definitely convinced. Surprised, but convinced. Being deep in conversation, I had forgotten about the arrival of evil and a knife shot up my back when the doorbell rang. Clarissa and I exhaled at the same time as she went to the door.
“Clare!” I heard Rachel say. Almost simultaneously I heard Mrs. Patterson rush to the door saying, “Girls, girls, how are you?” I imagined a huge grin on her face. “How are your parents?”
“They’re fine,” Grace said, “And how about you and the baby.” Her voice hit a note that no human being could hear.
“We’re perfect,” Mrs. Patterson answered laughing.
“Alright, let’s go to the living room, shall we?” Clarissa had put on the phony voice she was accustomed to using when Rachel and Grace were around.
I stood as they entered, plastered a fake smile to my face, and turned around to the open arms of Rachel.
“Hello, Jamie,” she greeted shaking me gently back and forth in her embrace.
“How are you,” Grace said imitating Rachel’s hug.
“I’ve been better,” I answered quietly.
“I know what you mean,” Grace sighed dramatically, “With school starting and everything. It’s a lot of stress.”
“A lot of stress,” I repeated as I watched them spread themselves onto the couch.
After Mrs. Patterson had a short talk with Clarissa by the front door, she smiled at us one last time and returned to her cookies, humming.
“I hope you weren’t watching anything,” Grace said taking the remote from the side table.
“Of course we weren’t.” Clarissa sat on the floor next to the couch. “My mom said the pizza will be here any minute.”
“Vegetarian?” Rachel questioned.
“Vegetarian,” Clarissa repeated. “And pepperoni,” she mouthed when she saw my face. I smiled.
“So what’s on the agenda?” asked Rachel as Grace flipped through the TV channels.
Clarissa looked like she hadn’t even thought about what we were doing. “Um, whatever you want.”
I shook my head in disbelief. How could she not have something planned? Clarissa should’ve been planning a parade or something.
I laughed. A parade wouldn’t even be sufficient.
“What’s so funny?” Grace said.
“Nothing,” I replied as plopped on the floor next to Clarissa.
“That’s okay,” Rachel finally answered, “We can find plenty to do here.”
My stomach twisted. I knew she was thinking about Chris just then.
I had managed to remain quiet and to refrain from hurting anybody all the way through three movies, one pizza, and two games of Clue. The toxic twins were relatively behaved. That shocked me a little until they started talking about a couple of my friends from school during the last movie. I looked at Clarissa and grabbed one of my books from my bag. She nodded indicating that I could leave if I wanted to. Yes, I felt guilty for abandoning her there, but they weren’t my friends to like and I couldn’t pretend anymore.
When I passed Natalie’s room, I noticed Mr. Patterson sitting on the floor in the middle of a pile of unassembled bookshelves. I pushed the door open further and saw the frame sitting in the once empty space by Natalie’s closet.
“Hey, Jamie,” Mr. Patterson said smiling; only removing his eyes from the instruction manual for a brief second. “What’s up?”
“Nothing. Where’s Natalie?” I asked noticing I hadn’t seen her.
“She’s with Kathy right now.”
“Do you need help?”
He looked up finally. “Yes, but I can’t ask you to help. Find Jimmy or Chris, please.”
“Okay.” I didn’t know whether he was being polite or if he just didn’t want a girl helping him.
Jimmy’s room was next on the left side. His door was opened, so I walked in casually. He stared for minute as if he couldn’t believe I had entered unannounced. Then he returned his eyes to whatever cartoon he was watching. “What?”
“Your dad needs help with the bookshelf in Natalie’s room.”
“It’s not supposed to be a bookshelf. It’s a crib.” He groaned a little as he stalked out of his room and across the hall.
From there I walked to Clarissa’s room, eyes straight ahead. I got ten minutes alone before Clarissa walked in chattering with Rachel and Grace about something stupid. I closed my book as loudly as I could to show my irritation, but as I expected I was ignored.
“Jamie, do you wear make-up?” Rachel asked lying down on the bed nearly pushing me off.
“No, I don’t.”
“Well, you should let us do it for you tonight.”
“It’ll be great. I brought everything.”
“Let’s change into pajamas first,” Clarissa said pulling me out of the bed and pushing me out of the room. “We’ll wait.” She closed the door behind her.
“They are not putting make-up on me.”
“Please, Jamie. If not for me, then for my pregnant mother.”
She poked her lip and lowered her head slightly, eyes pleading. I walked around her, glad I still had my book, and I went back to the living room. I couldn’t stay though. Mrs. Patterson had taken over.
“Jamie, what’s wrong?” she sounded genuinely worried. I can’t imagine what my face looked like.
I shrugged. “I just need my bag.”
“Oh,” she replied, her mood lightening, “Having fun?”
“Tons of it.”
“Good.” She continued watching TV. I stomped up the stairs pouting.
After I changed, Rachel locked us in Clarissa’s room and all but duck taped me to a chair. They piled it on thick. Lipstick, eye liner, blush, mascara, everything. It might as well have been a mask, because when I looked in the mirror I didn’t know it was me.
“Perfect,” Grace whispered as Rachel applied the finishing touches to my eyes.
“We’re done?” I asked.
“Yep,” Clarissa said taking a picture. I heard her laughing.
“Okay, I’ll be back.”
“Jamie, you look so nice. Do you really wanna wash it off?” Rachel said.
I bit my lip. “Uh…I think I’m allergic.” And I slipped out of room.
I didn’t make it to the bathroom. Chris pulled me into his room by my pajama shirt. I pulled my shirt up to my eyes to hide face before he could see me.
“What do you want?” I demanded, my voice muffled.
He stared for a minute frowning. “What are you looking at?” I said.
He didn’t answer. He began to tear my arm and shirt away from my face. I fought him trying really hard not to make noise. Eventually he pinned me to the bed and held my arms down. When he saw my face, a smile spread across his and laughter poured out. He let me up, but only because he couldn’t laugh and nail me to the bed at the same time. I threw a pillow at him knowing he wouldn’t stop.
“They made me,” I whispered.
“I know how I look,” I said replacing the shirt over my face.
He left, still laughing.
“Wait,” I called after him, but it was too late.
I put my ear to the door to make sure no one was in the hallway before I followed. What I heard was a door open and close and footsteps that stopped right in front of Chris’s room. Another door creaked open and then practiced gasp.
“Hi, Chris.” Rachel. Oh no.
“Hi,” he said awkwardly. I imagined her hair flipping.
“Is this your room?”
“Yes,” he answered clearing his throat.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Oops.” I heard something small hit the floor.
“I got it.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. She was touching him. I knew it. I bit my fist so I wouldn’t scream.
Thank God for Jimmy. He was coming from wherever making vomiting noises. “Get a room.” After that I had to jump back from the door.
“You were listening,” he said. I nodded. “Here.” He handed me a wet paper towel and a dry one. He pointed to his face when he saw the confusion on mine.
“Oh yeah,” I said wiping off the goop.
“Where’s Jamie?” I heard Grace saying very, very loudly from next door.
“What do you want?” I repeated. He walked to his closet. He pulled a shoe box from the top shelf.
“What’s in the box?”
“Yeah right.” He grinned. “Stuff for you to learn before Christmas.”
“Why specifically before Christmas?”
“Because that’s a good amount of time to learn.”
“Jamie!” I heard Clarissa call from the top of the stairs.
I stared at the door, and then at Chris. He motioned for me to move to the other side of the bed. He opened the door and told Clarissa to stop yelling.
“No!” I whispered ducking behind the bed, “You can’t bring her in here!”
“Yeah? Hey, have you seen Jamie?” Clarissa said standing outside of the door.
“Why don’t you give her break?”
Clarissa coughed and said, “You’re right, but I don’t know what to tell Rachel.”
“Tell her that I’ll see her at breakfast,” Chris replied curtly closing the door.
“Does she know I’m in here?”
“Yes, she does. This is so bad.” I sunk onto his bed and buried my head in my hands.
“Calm down,” he whispered. In spite of myself, I smiled, all too grateful for my freedom. “Thanks for saving me.”
“Now how long do I have to stay here until they fall asleep?
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