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Authors: Rachel Vail

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BOOK: Unfriended
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to post that photo to show who was invited to her house tomorrow. She didn't need to post what their plans were. She just didn't need to post anything about it at all.

If she was going to post it, maybe she could have proofread it.

Wait. Truly
proofreads. She proofreads to-do lists. When she grows up, for her job she could be AutoCorrect.

Which means there was no mistake. She did it on purpose.

She posted a picture of me, her, Brooke, Evangeline, and Lulu (with my eyes half-closed—thanks) and tagged us all. She titled it:
Can't wait for 2morrow!!! History will be made (Up)!!!

And then ten minutes later, as a comment, she wrote:

And then she posted a new picture, except this time one without me in it.

She commented under that:
Shoot me now I am such an idiot
A good suggestion. Followed by a correct fact.

I “liked” the
shoot me now I am such an idiot
comment. That is the only thing of hers I “liked.” In fact I went through everything else of hers that I had ever “liked” and “unliked” it all. Every last thing.

Before I even finished unliking everything, Truly had taken down the posts. But I had screen shots. Nothing goes away without leaving a stain, as my mom has said.

People think I'm mean. I know they do. Fine. Maybe I am. Or maybe, like Daddy says, it's just that I'm tall and have blonde hair (whatever, dirty blonde), so they're jealous.

That day Daddy said they were all probably jealous of my hair was one of the best days of my life.

All my friends had been acting obnoxious to me for like a week last year, and I was starting to kind of buckle under. Daddy took me to a diner that Saturday just the two of us for a change, no bimbo, and he was like
Would you stop moping around what is the matter with you?
So I was like
, My friends are all, like, picking on me lately
and he was like,
Well, they're probably just jealous that's how women act when they're jealous.
And I was like,
Yeah right jealous of what?
Because I was feeling like crap. But Daddy was like,
I don't know—maybe that you're a blonde and dress hot so the boys can't keep their eyes off you?

When I got home and told Mom, I thought she'd say yeah well your father is an idiot, but she didn't. She said, yeah that's probably true and then went out back to smoke a cigarette.

It changed everything for me. I went from mopey and depressed to on top of the world, just like that. Yeah, they're just jealous of my hair! I had to be patient with them, and forgiving. I was almost in shock that there was something good enough about me that people would be jealous of it. Usually Mom is all about why am I so annoyingly LARGE.

The next day she was back to
Didn't I tell you to tone down what you're wearing?
your father is a sexist jerk who should not be making gross comments about what women are like because most women are not awful jealous toddlers like he imagines.
But she had let the secret out: She thought my hair was jealousy-worthy and I looked hot in what I wore.

I felt much more confident after that. Mom sounds mean sometimes, but I know inside she's a total softie. The most popular celebrities are always that type: tough on the outside, but sweet deep down.

Truly is the opposite.

People think I'm all tough and she's all sweet. But the fact is, we're both the opposite
on the inside. Where it counts.
I would never do something as mean as what (supposedly) sweet innocent Truly did, posting stuff and then taking it back, just to publicly humiliate me.

I really wouldn't.

And Brooke can believe that or not. It's so hard to tell what she thinks. I am so done trying. There's nothing more I can do to convince her.

Or at least nothing I can think of yet.

Maybe I should just go ahead and post that picture of me and Brooke and Lulu all jumping up in the air together last June. That is such a fun one. We were having such a blast that day. Where was Evangeline? At that basketball camp maybe? And of course Truly didn't exist, then.

Or maybe I should post the one with me and Brooke sticking out our tongues. That might be my best photo of all time. Mom said she can't stand how grown-up I look in that one. It's why she didn't want me to post it right away, even though she said I look really pretty in it, way prettier than Brooke even.

Clay thought I looked good that night, too. He must have. That was the night he asked me out, and then later we kissed behind the couch in his basement.

There was a good shot of me and Clay, from that same night. Brooke took that one and sent it to me. For two days I considered making it my profile picture. When he dumped me, I was so relieved I hadn't posted it anywhere. I deleted it from my phone and my computer, even my hard drive. Now I almost wish I hadn't. Sometimes my eyes in pictures look like somebody just jumped out from behind something and shouted
but not in that picture, the one with Clay in front of his couch. I looked nice and relaxed.

But now it's gone. Kind of sad how such an important and pretty moment of a person's life can be deleted like it never happened.

I guess that's what Brooke wants to do to me, now. Delete me. How is Truly not being deleted instead, though, if being “mean” is the hugest crime in the world? I so don't get it. I did
to her. I offered a little advice is
. And what did
just do?

Yeah. She just posted that I was part of a group of my apparently former best friends and then,
lol, jk, obviously YOU are not invited, Natasha! Just thought the world should know that!

How is that not WAY meaner than any mean thing I ever did? To anybody?

Oh well. Great, whatever. As Brooke would say. Because nothing ever freaking bothers her.

Or me.


Seriously, I am so over everything. I told Brooke my side of it today, again, and there's nothing more for me to do now I guess. I don't even know if I'm still in the Benedict Arnold play anymore. Am I supposed to do my own project all of a sudden, now? I don't even know. It sucks. When Mom stopped being friends with Truly's mom, she just avoided her. But how am I supposed to deal? I am still in a History Day group with all my ex-friends. I still sit next to them in assigned seats in class. I can't escape, ever.

Well, neither can they. They can kick me out of their table but I don't think they actually can kick me out of a History Day group once it's been okayed.

I pulled up the picture of me and Brooke again. The one with the tongues. We really do look like we could be sisters. At least cousins. Really cute cousins. Or, like, best friends. So happy.

And Truly is nowhere to be seen.

I think maybe I will just go ahead and post that one. What's Brooke going to do, untag herself? Unfriend me online, too, because I posted a photo where she looks super pretty?

(Even if maybe I look for once a tiny bit possibly prettier?)



Okay, okay. I'm answering.
Chill. Seriously. Don't text me fifty times.
Hold up.

No not everybody hates you.
I doubt anybody hates you.

I like you fine, but here's the thing: I just don't want to be going out with anybody right now. It was better anyway when we used to be friends and we would talk about actual stuff. Like how you want to be a scientist. Was it a botanist? Biologist? Instead of whether I like you, or Brooke likes you, or if I like Truly.

I hardly even know Truly. She seems nice enough. That. Is. All.

And yeah, okay, I agree, that sucked of them to kick you out of the lunch table. And it was mean for Truly to post who was coming over
and include you and then dump you.

So maybe she's not that nice. I don't know.
Don't care. Gotta go play some Xbox and
blow off algebra. #YOLO.

My advice? Just step back a bit. Chill. Be nice and smart like I know you are deep down, and stuff will work itself out with the whole friend . . . situation.


to Truly's house to work on the History Day project, since we have done approximately zero on it so far and History Day is a week from Friday. We took the school bus there. I sat with Lulu, who was texting with her dad to let him know where we were heading and what time she'd be home. He keeps pretty close tabs on her.

“All good?” I asked her.

She nodded. “You?”

“Great.” Lulu started playing some game of shooting zombies on her phone. “Keeping the world safe for us?” I asked her.

“You know it,” Lulu muttered. “I'm just . . . hold on.” Lulu jerked her phone around, then dropped it into her lap. “Sorry, zombies won.”

“Story of my life,” I said. The bus whined to a stop.

“This is us,” Truly said. We followed her off.

Walking up the street, we passed Big Pond. It freezes over in the winter sometimes, but a few years ago some kids went out to mess around on the ice and fell through because it wasn't solid enough yet, so they had to get rescued. They all ended up in the hospital, and one kid's finger had such bad frostbite it got partially amputated. The kid has nine and a half fingers now. My older brother Otto saw it.

Anyway, since then, nobody is allowed to skate on Big Pond or go too near it even in the summer. A bunch of parents keep trying to get the town to build a fence around it but so far, no. It's just there, open and waiting for more kids to fall in and get parts of their fingers chopped off.

You're supposed to touch each finger with your thumbs as you pass it, is the tradition. Or superstition. I did it, of course, and watched Lulu do it, beside me. Up ahead of us, Truly and Evangeline were tapping away, without probably even thinking of what they were doing. Everybody just does it.

After we passed, Lulu whispered, “That was pretty crappy, don't you think?”

“What was? The finger chopping?”

“Ew,” Lulu squealed. “No! Not that! How Truly tagged Natasha and then untagged her! Natasha's eyes were all red this morning. Did you see?”

“Yeah,” I whispered back. “Truly took both posts down right away, as soon as we told her to.”


“I know.”

When we got into her house, Truly kicked her shoes off with opposite toes on the heels. So we all did the same. Some houses are shoes off, some are shoes on. You never know until you go in.

Her house is pretty normal, more like mine and the rest of ours than like Hazel's. I'd been wondering, since she used to be really close with Hazel. It's funny they were friends, because Hazel seems so much wackier than Truly. But maybe I just haven't gotten to know Truly yet. Maybe everybody is nuttier, down deep, than anybody realizes.

Even those of us who seem full-on normal might be secretly odd.

I keep thinking about that day at Hazel's. It wasn't boring, that's for sure. I usually just do the activities in front of me and don't think that much. I just basically have fun with whatever I'm doing. But since that day at Hazel's I've been kind of
more. Bird flu, I guess. Hahahaha. Too soon?

“Hi, True!” her mom called, coming toward us from the kitchen. “You all must be . . .”

We introduced ourselves. Truly's mom had kind of a gravelly voice, too, like Truly's. She promised to keep Molly and Henry out of our hair while we worked on our project. I had kind of been hoping to meet them, actually.

Oh, well.

We followed Truly into the family room. There were two couches and a chair, all covered in blue plaids and swirls. Contrasting pillows, loads of them, leaned against all the arms. No papers or piles of stuff crowded around, like in my house, where there's sports equipment and books everywhere.

There was a navy blue rug in the middle of the room, with the front legs of both couches and the chair on it. A big square wood coffee table in the middle of the rug held two stacks of plain white paper, a jar full of markers all from the same set, a matching jar full of sharpened colored pencils, and a glass bowl full of M&M's. Everything looked brand-new, just bought. It seemed more like a photo of a family room in a catalog than an actual room.

“This is awesome,” Lulu said.

“Thanks,” Truly answered. “My mom likes when people come over.”

“Lucky you,” Lulu said.

Nobody said anything. I wasn't sure if Truly even knew about Lulu's mom.

“I guess,” Truly whispered eventually.

We sat down to work on Benedict Arnold and also the M&M's. Truly was reviewing the story with us about how Benedict Arnold had betrayed George Washington. It played out, she said, over breakfast at Benedict and Peggy's house, when George Washington surprised them a day earlier than expected, exactly at the moment he was trying to turn over West Point to the British.

We all agreed that was awesome, and that we should have breakfast foods as props.

“So what about Natasha?” Evangeline asked, arms crossed. “Is she still my wife?”

Lulu chewed on a marker cap. Probably Truly's mom bought the fresh pack of markers, a jumbo pack, special for this project. What were we going to use all those markers for? “Ms. Canuto said we can't change the groups,” Lulu said.

They all looked at me. “So she'll be in it,” I said. “Whatever.”

“Do I still have to be the slimy French guy who gets Benedict to betray his country?” Lulu asked.

“Yeah,” Evangeline said. “And you have to have an affair with Natasha.”

“I have an affair with her?” Lulu asked. “While she's married to you?”

Truly started to shrug but changed to a nod. “I think so, yes.”

“I suck!” Lulu squeaked.

“Yeah, you're pretty evil,” Evangeline agreed, scooping a handful of M&M's into her mouth.

“I think Natasha is really the evil one,” Truly said.

Truly's mom came in right then with a plate of homemade cookies and one of dried fruit. “Why is Natasha evil?” she asked.

“Oh, not actual Natasha,” Lulu said agreeably. “Her character in our play.”

“Peggy Shippen,” Truly explained. “Benedict Arnold's wife. She's the evil mastermind, I think.”

“Truly, may I speak privately with you?” her mom asked.

Truly stood up quickly and followed her mom out of the room. And didn't come back for a long time. A boy came in, his hair spiking out in every direction.

“Hi,” I said to him.

“I'm not interfering in your project,” he said, staring into my eyes without blinking.

“We're not doing anything, really,” Evangeline said. “Truly's the only one who's done any research, so we're basically just looking at cookies.”

“You're supposed to be doing a project on Benedict Arnold,” he said. “I know a lot about Benedict Arnold.”

I held up a few blank sheets of paper. “Us, too.”

“You do?”

“No,” I said, feeling bad, not meaning to tease him. “Practically nothing.”

“You were joking,” he said.

“It's hard to tell,” Evangeline said. “Brooke has a terrible sense of humor.”

“So do I,” the boy said as I threw a bunch of papers at Evangeline.

“Think we can start on these cookies?” Evangeline asked him. “I'm starving.”

“Yes, you can,” he said. We each grabbed some. He stood in the doorway watching. I held out the plate to him. “Those are for you,” he said. “Truly's friends.”

“You're her friend, too,” I said. “Aren't you?”

“No,” he said. “I'm her brother. Henry.”

“Is she in trouble, you think?” Lulu whispered to him. “Did we do something wrong?”

“Truly doesn't get in trouble,” Henry said.

“They're good,” I said. “These cookies.”

“They have a lot of butter in them,” Henry said. “If you have questions on Benedict Arnold I could answer them. Or on butter. I know a lot of facts.”

“Cool,” I said. “Thanks, Henry. Any facts you've got would help because . . .”

Truly came back in, then, her eyes on her feet as they crossed onto the rug. Their mom called Henry into the kitchen. I wasn't sure if she was Mrs. Gonzales or Ms. Something Else or a first name mom. She hadn't said.

“See ya,” I said to Henry's back. He didn't respond.

“Everything okay?” Evangeline whispered to Truly.

“Natasha's mom just called,” Truly whispered.

“Oh,” Lulu said.

“My mom thinks I . . . she doesn't believe me, that I didn't post that stuff saying who was coming, leaving Natasha out. And she thinks I was saying that Natasha is evil. She thinks I was being purposely cruel to Natasha, now.”

“Maybe Natasha deserved it,” Evangeline said. “What you did online. You don't have to make excuses. Natasha does a lot of—”

“But I
post it,” Truly said. Her eyeballs were practically jumping out of her skull.

We looked at one another briefly. Why was she insisting on that obvious lie? Denial was only making it worse. People should just own what they do, and who they are. That's what Margot says, and even though she was torturing me that I should admit to liking Clay at the time she said that, I still think she was right. Own it. Mom and Dad failed at owning our store. Not their fault—they tried adding coffee and dad's homemade muffins and late night hours on Thursdays with author readings, but still it's hard to make a bookstore stay in business these days. So they owned up to it not working out and they're trying to sell, start over, try something else. No shame in that. A lot to respect, in fact.

The reason I was keeping it to myself was for privacy, not shame.

“Maybe you posted it by accident on purpose,” I said to Truly.

“But I didn't,” Truly said.

Why would she keep denying it when we all saw it? If my friends asked about my parents, I wouldn't flat-out deny it. I wouldn't lie. Why would I? They'll all find out eventually anyway. The truth always comes out. Doesn't it?

“You took them down,” Lulu said to Truly.

“As soon as I saw them,” Truly said. “When you called and asked me, that was the first time I—”

“But if you didn't post it, how could you . . . you know what? Whatever, it doesn't matter. It's no big deal,” I told her. “Natasha will get over it.”

“Her mom told mine that she's crying,” Truly said. “She won't come out of her room.”

Evangeline rolled her eyes. “What a drama queen.”

“Maybe she's really upset,” Lulu argued, bouncing around in place. “Should we call her?”

“And say what?” Evangeline asked.

“We could say, come on over,” Truly suggested. “Maybe. If—I mean, it's fine with me, if you guys don't mind.”

“How is that not incredibly awkward?” Evangeline asked.

Truly was chewing on her fingers, and flicking her eyes up to my face, as if I were in charge somehow over who could come to her house or not.

“Do whatever you want,” I said. “We don't care. It's one afternoon. Whatever. Sure. So. Henry seems like a nice guy.”

“Henry? Yeah, he is nice. Not everybody realizes that. It's . . . anyway. So you think I should call Natasha?”

“Maybe you should,” Lulu said, leaning forward. “What does your mom think?”

“That I should call her.”

“Okay, then,” Lulu said. “You probably should.”

Truly popped up and rushed in her tiny steps down the hall, I guess to get her phone or use the one in the kitchen or whatever. I took my phone out of my pocket and texted Clay:
Remind me to be partners with you next time. Too much Drama here.

I put my phone away, and also my thoughts about what my sister would say about why I really wanted to be partners with Clay and what a hypocrite I am for thinking other people should own their feelings, while I refuse to, myself.

But I have a good reason: what I feel is irrelevant. So owning my feelings is pointless. I'm not confident like Hazel, flying my freak flag without caring what anybody else thinks, if they like me or don't, or like me but
not in that way.
Or people judging me about my family's failure. I try to believe I'm strong, brave, cool—but the fact I never really thought of until now is, I'm actually none of that. I'd rather play it safe than take a chance of Clay friendzoning me. It would get so awkward if he found out anything, and he'd be nice about it, sure, but something would be lost, between us. Ease.

It would be like having nine and a half fingers. Not fatal, not horrible, but something would always be off, missing, wrong.

BOOK: Unfriended
12.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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