Authors: Hillary Homzie
“Are you making me choose?” asked Maddie. “That's not fair. I'm not going to do it.”
“Fine,” I said.
I felt like I could freeze-frame this moment. That from here on out everything would be different. What was mine was no longer mine. Maddie and Sophie were no longer Maddie and Sophie.
I was being spread around like I was a jar of peanut butter, all over the courtyard. Making the whole place sticky and deadly.
Yes, deadly, as I'm allergic to peanut butterâone taste and I break into hives and my breathing gets all wonky. I can't get my full breath until someone jabs me with my EpiPen. If not, I will die.
The peanut butter was spreading. Maddie was spreading itâ¦.
And that was that. That was the day, the moment that our friendship ended, in the rain, after me eating half a chicken Frisbee sandwich.
â¢Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â â¢
The first thing I did when I got home was to throw away the scarf that Maddie had given me as a birthday present when she went to Barcelona again last summer. Her whole family goes every year because of her dad's work. I had been psyched to see Maddie when she had come back since she been away for weeks, and we had a lot to catch up on.
“Are you mad at me for not calling?” Maddie had asked. “Of course not. I got the postcards and the e-mails,” I said.
That's when she handed me the blue-green scarf. “I bought it on Las Ramblas, a marketplace street. Everyone was wearing them. Do you like it?”
It sparkled and was gauzy, almost like something Nia would wear, but I loved it.
“Smell it. It still smells like Barcelona. Olives, fried potatoes, and those sausage thingies they plop on toasted bread. All of it. It's just like mine, except mine is lavender. See?” She pulled hers out of a bag.
“I knew you would just LOVE it!”
I stood there and hugged her. “Soul sister power,” I said.
“Soul sister power,” she whispered back.
I remember she had signed all of her postcards like that.
Soul sisters, Maddie
. I went through my drawer and got them out. I intended to put them in the trash too. But I couldn't help reading them.
I'm in love with all of the cool museums and stuff in Barcelona and the human statues and the cute guy from England who I rode the boat with and who gave me his e-mail. But my mom threatened me that if I ever e-mailed him she would ground me for a thousand years and then she ripped up the paper that he wrote it on. Only I memorized part of the e-mail. It was eclipseson@something but I couldn't remember the second part of it. I tried AOL and some other ones but they didn't work, which is terrible because maybe we were meant to be, but because I can't remember a few letters we will be separated for eternity.
And there was one that came four days later from Costa Brava, which is the gorgeous cliffy coast outside of Barcelona.
I think it's weird how at the beaches the girls wear no tops, even like really old ladies who were all wrinkly and I thought there was just no way I could ever do something like that â¦ and how my mom got her wallet taken in the park when she put it down to buy lemonade at a stand and how irritating it was that we didn't have cell reception and my dad wouldn't stop at the Internet cafÃ© because we had “an itinerary.” More castles today!
After I read the postcards a couple of times, I tossed them along with the scarf in the trash. I was going to throw away the journal, too, but my dad walked into the room.
He peered at me curiously. “Is everything okay? At school.”
“Yes,” I snapped. “Everything's just fine.”
“You can express how you feel in a normal tone of voice.”
“Okay,” I said. “I'm using a normal tone of voice now. And I'm telling you I just have a ton of homework. And that's all.”
When I went to school the next day, it was horrible, especially since Maddie and I had our lockers so close
together. I couldn't look at her, and she wouldn't look at me. And during lunch, I could see Nia and the rest of the crew glancing at me and whispering.
I ate with Heather and Nicole, only it didn't go so well. As I went to sit down with them, they both glared at me. “Are we suddenly good enough to eat with now that you and Maddie had a fight?”
“You were always great to eat with,” I said weakly.
“Didn't seem like it last week,” said Nicole. “Or the week before, right?”
“Well, I didn't want to seem rude. Nia is pretty persuasive, and Maddie really wanted me to sit with her.”
Nicole stabbed her broccoli spears. “But, basically, you have no place to sit because you and Maddie aren't talking anymore. And we're convenient.”
“No, that's not it. I've always liked you guys.”
I could see that this wasn't working, so I picked up my tray to go.
“Stop.” Nicole put her hand up. “You can eat with us.” So, like a pathetic loser, I stayed because I didn't know where else to go. I couldn't have eaten with girls from my soccer team because I play club and they're mostly at different schools. And the girls who do go to my school are in eighth grade and have a different lunch period.
So I ended up eating with Heather and Nicole, but it
was awful sitting there without Maddie and enduring their stony silence. I felt like a third wheel. I kept waiting for Maddie to come over to be me, but she didn't. Everywhere I went it was hard to avoid her because we have so many classes together. And each day was pretty much torture because I felt like I didn't have anyone to talk with other than just acquaintances. Maddie, of course, continued to sit on the other side of the cafeteria with Nia and her clan. If I were a cave girl I could drag her back to my table. But I wasn't a cave girl. I was Sophie, a regular seventh grader, without a best friend.
fter the slowest month of my life, another Hot List
came out on the first Monday in October. It was so weird because our Hot List had come out the first Monday in September. And somehow, it was once again written up with the same sparkly pen and all caps. I figured someone must have definitely recovered the pen out of the garbage when I buried it into the trash. Who it was, I wasn't sure, but I thought it could be someone from the drama club since they had been practicing those one-acts. Although it might not even be one person. There was a rumor that it was a group who called themselves the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen and that each month someone different in the group would be responsible for creating the List.
But it was just a rumor.
Anyway, the whole school went crazy talking about the
new Hot List. The names were almost the same but there were some changes. The biggest one was that Maddie was now on the Hot List, number fourteen.
It was probably because Maddie was now wearing contacts, cut out the lavender look, and was wearing layered, flowing tunics with stacked necklaces and lots of bangles, like another clone in the hippie-chic clan. Auggie moved down to third place and Hayden stayed on first. And a couple of guys were knocked off. The same stuff happened with everyone making a big deal out of the whole thing. They thoughtâespecially Niaâthat the whole thing was mystical practically. Like the List created cuteness in people, which was so weird.
I figured that Maddie and Nia and the rest of them had written up the new Hot List. It made me so mad that, when I saw Maddie by her locker during the break between first and second period, I had to say something.
“So you did the Hot List without me?” I said to Maddie. “And put yourself on it.”
Maddie tried to shut her locker, but a few notebooks were sticking out, so she couldn't. “Oh, you're talking to me now?”
She tried to slam her locker, but I didn't budge. I didn't go to stack her books neatly on her shelf. Maddie eyed
me, stood on tiptoe and did it herself. “I don't know who did the List, which is kind of cool. Magic, even.” She shrugged, and I thought that “magic” comment sounded like Nia. “Nobody knows who's doing it.”
“C'mon. You and Nia must have done it.”
Maddie held up her hand. “I swear. You don't have to believe me. But it's not my handwriting anyway.”
And she was right. It had definitely been the same ink, but it wasn't her handwriting. She couldn't help but make things a little too perfect-looking.
“Anyway,” said Maddie. “It's kind of cool. Isn't it?”
No, it really wasn't cool. Nothing to do with the Hot List was cool. At least to me. Not anymore. Not when Maddie was becoming a whole other person I hardly recognized. She had started to curl her hair, so she could capture a little of the flowing rock-star-locks look. Her hair was still short, but I could tell that she was growing it.
I regretted the day I ever started the Hot List. Really I did it all to impress Maddie, but that definitely didn't work. I thought about that morning when it had all began and wished I could take it all back. That moment when I created the concept of the Hot List in the first place.
And it wasn't just me who felt that way. Between second and third period I passed Brianna Evans, the flirt
and gossip from homeroom. She was blowing her nose. “What's wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said.
Her eyes were red and she stared absently into space.
Then she blinked like she was missing her contacts and she couldn't see.
“What's wrong?” I repeated. I could tell that something was really bothering her.
“Oh, it's just that Bear wasn't being his usual flirty self today in homeroom.”
“Okay, maybe he was tired. Or overslept.”
“No, that's not it.”
“So, he was, like, being a jerk to you?”
“C'mon. Tell me.”
“It's because I'm not on the Hot List, and he got on. He stared all morning at Amber.”
She sniffed and the tip of her nose was as red as Rudolph's.
“Okay. Sounds like it's not a real problem. It'll blow over. It's just the freshness of it all.”
She shook her head. “And what â¦ if I'm not ever on the Hot List.” She shrugged. “What can I do? There's nothing to do.”
Brianna's incessant flirty peppiness with Bear sort of
made me sick, but they were always so pully, grabby, and happy. It really made me feel bummed to see her all sad. It was against the laws of nature or something.
During lunch, I told Heather and Nicole all about Brianna. And for the first time eating with them didn't suck. Heather was a good listener and Nicole made me laugh with her comments about Brianna. Now that she was unable to flirt with Bear, we'd be spared watching them tie each other's shoelaces together all of the time and doing that mock-growling thing. So just as I was feeling almost happy, on the way to fourth period, I spotted Maddie and Nia arm-in-arm skipping down the hall. I couldn't help listening in on their conversation.
“Maybe we can decorate Hayden and Auggie's lockers after the leadership meeting. No one will be around,” said Nia.
“Absolutely,” agreed Maddie.
“I'm thinking lightning bolts. On
they're all about lightning.”
“Count me in!” said Maddie.
“Today is a good day. I feel good!”
“I feel good too!” said Maddie.
“I feel gooder!” Nia said even louder.
“I feel gooder bestest,” said Maddie, laughing.
And there was no doubt about it, I felt the worst.
After school, I threw myself on my bed and listened to mostly depressing songs on my iPod. I didn't do any homework, I didn't get dinner started. I just stared at the ceiling with a sad soundtrack going.
Of course, when my dad came home, he noticed me acting like a slug. Without knocking he barged into my room, sat on the edge of my bed, and said he wanted to talk to me about something. “Are you upset with me dating Mrs. Tate?” He seemed so happy that I didn't feel like saying anything, so I shook my head. Of course, I didn't love the idea of my dad dating, but I did understand. They had been seeing each for a solid month now, and Mrs. Tate couldn't help that she was Nia's mom.
Then Dad cleared his throat and started asking me why Maddie wasn't coming around anymore, and I broke down and told him that we had a fight. I didn't give him any more details than that. “I'm sorry, honey,” he said. “I really am. But that happens to friends sometimes. Even”âhe cupped his mouth confidentiallyâ“to administrators. There are a couple of curriculum developers in the superintendent's office who are not on speaking terms right now. Even your mom and I used to fight.”
I smiled a little. Dad hadn't spoken about Mom in awhile. I liked it when he did because it brought her back a little. I had been in preschool when she had died, so my
memories of her mostly come from our family albums and videos.
“Mom and I fought about dumb stuff,” said Dad, as he picked up my soccer ball and twirled it in his hand. “The laundry. Who was supposed to pay a bill.”
“Well, it's not dumb stuff between me and Maddie. I can't trust her anymore.”
“You guys have been friends for so long. Can I call her parents? Maybe we could bring you guys together to work this out?”
“No, don't you dare do that, Dad! No. Please.”
“It might be good for me to check in with Maddie's parents. We could help. I do have a counseling degree.”
“Don't do it! You can't!”
“Okay, okay. I just hate seeing you so miserable.”
Get used to it,
Texts received on Nia Tate's Phone: 14
Travis Middle School