Natalie and Brooke have had each other's backs forever. Natalie is the quiet one, college bound and happy to stay home and watch old movies. Brooke is the moviethe life of every party, the girl everyone wants to be.
Then it happensone crazy night that Natalie can't remember and Brooke's boyfriend, Aiden, can't forget. Suddenly there's a question mark in Natalie and Brooke's friendship that tests everything they thought they knew about each other and has both girls discovering what true friendship really means.
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|Age Range:||13 - 11 Years|
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End of January, Senior Year
I heard her before I saw her. Music blasted from inside her car despite the fact that she was in a quiet neighborhood. I climbed in, and she turned down the volume.
"So fucking cold outside," Brooke said as I buckled my seat belt.
"It's winter, it's supposed to be cold outside."
She rolled her eyes and turned around in my driveway. "I'm moving to, like, California or something. I can't stand this. Okay, so," she said. "Justin continues to not notice me, despite my employment of slutty tank tops."
"Who cares about Justin? He's a junior, for one thing, and he's related to Reed, which means he's likely insane."
"And I really thought this bra would do the trick, too." She ignored me and pushed up her push-up. "My tits look totally awesome-there is no explanation for how he has not dropped to his knees in obsession yet. I mean, look at me, I am, like, an adorable fucking snow bunny."
She raised her eyebrows at me, and I surveyed her pink cheeks, pitch-black mascara, ribbon-blond hair and absurd fluffy white coat.
Only this girl could pull that off.
I sighed as she looked back at the road.
"Well," I said, "he is also friends with Aiden. Maybe he's got some kind of ..integrity?"
"Hah! That moron? Come on." She shook her head, no doubt in the world. "He's not picking up on it or something."
I doubted that.
"All right, so he's not aware that you're trying to get him to want to bang you-"
"I want him to want to bang me. I would never actually do that with him. Ew."
"Okay so you want him to want to bang you. Maybe you shouldn't be doing that."
"I mean, I know that? But this isn't about cheating on Aiden. Or breaking up with him or anything. I need to know Justin wants me, and that he would have me if he could."
"You know that's insanely selfish, right?"
"It is not."
"Oh no, it is."
"It's an attention thing! Aiden and I have been together for what, like a year?"
"More than that, but go on."
"So, I mean, it has gotten a little stale. And I don't know I totally don't want to not be with him. But sometimes a girl's got to get some attention on the side. I mean, come on. This is the last semester of high school that we will ever have. Shouldn't I be living it up, being young and all that?"
"I still don't understand why you want to stay with him if you need that."
"Do you really not?"
"No, I don't! You're not even eighteen yet, and you're in a relationship you clearly don't want to be in. I'm just saying-"
"You wouldn't understand."
"I am pretty stupid."
"I'm sorry but you wouldn't!" she said. "You've never really even had a boyfriend, Nat!"
"Yeah, that's because when I know it isn't right, I don't stick around because he's hot or because I wish I had those feelings."
"Can we not argue about this?"
"We're not arguing, we're discussing." Things were tense for a split second before we both started laughing. "I'm just saying, I don't think you should feel trapped into something that's not right. You know your options are endless, and no one can blame you for wanting to-"
"You're the one that we should be talking about."
"Because! You're a freakin' hottie with a body and yet you spend all your time at home nowadays."
"A hottie with a body? What decade are you from? And hey, I'm not at home right now!"
"You know what I mean, Natalie. I don't get why you do that. I'll never understand it. You get asked out by guys more often than makes sense for how little you talk to people, and yet you choose to spend time all alone."
"I choose me, Brooke!" I quoted the public service announcement on unhealthy relationships we had recently been forced to watch. Apparently none of the rest of the video had affected Brooke much.
"As I was saying, if you could not interrupt-everyone's all about you, and you ignore them and don't do anything. People still ask where you are at parties. How many events do you get invited to that you don't deign to go to, or that you instantly decline on Facebook?"
She pulled onto a street a few blocks from "our" Chinese restaurant and parallel parked.
I watched the tires in the side view mirror. "What is your point exactly?"
"My point-oh, shit-" she rolled up on the curb and then fixed it "-is that everyone knows you're awesome. What girl in her right mind doesn't bother using her popularity?" She turned off the engine and stared at me.
"I'm not into the partying stuff so much, and that's all anyone does anymore. I'm sorry! I know you like it, but hanging around drinking disgusting beer that tastes like sewer water and taking shots of raspberry-flavored nail polish remover while someone's mom is out of town is not fun to me. Neither is sitting in someone's basement watching a bunch of guys in knitted hats smoke weed, or getting hit on by scumbags who aren't even sure what I just said my name was."
"First off, everyone knows your name. But you know what, you're right in a way. I'll admit it can be like that on occasion. But it can also be really fun. And when it is, it's worth it. I have some fairly epic stories. And, yes, Nat, you are happy. But you won't have anything crazy to look back on if you carry on like this. When I'm old and haggard, I'll have so many ridiculous stories. I'm afraid of your biggest regret being that you didn't live it up."
We got out of the car and-no surprise to me-she was distracted from her bad-influence-best-friend monologue by a cute guy playing a guitar under a heater.
He looked a couple years older than us and was Urban Outfitted from loose knitted hat to moccasins. His case was open and filled with the pocket change of passersby. Brooke snaked her way to the front of the small crowd shivering around him.
"And you were so cold a minute ago!" I yelled after her. I groaned and then followed her.
The singer's eyes locked on hers, and he smiled as he sang the next few lines directly to her. She smiled coyly back, looking from his puppy-dog eyes to his khakis and back again. Good ol' Brooke. She turned and gave me an excited shrug. She pulled a twenty from her purse and tossed it into his battered guitar case before walking demurely back to me. What I would give to have a twenty-dollar bill I didn't mind tossing to the wind.
"He's really hot, isn't he?"
I looked at him. He was cute. But it was cuter that she thought he was superhot. Something about him wasn't mainstream attractive.
"Come on, Miss Casanova," I said, looping my arm through hers. Brooke was, as my dad put it, "boy crazy."
"Thank you, you're gorgeous!" he shouted after us-well, after Brooke-as we made our way down the street face-first into a gust of chilly, wintry wind.
"Do you think I was meant to meet him? Like fate and all that?"
"Him? My God, Brooke." I laughed. "No, no, no. Let's go get our food."
"Fine. But he was really cute. And so good!"
"Yes, he was practically Paul McCartney."
She sighed, her attention and gaze already moving on to another subject. "I want to be twenty-one." She gestured at the people sitting in a nearby bar. "Look at them all-drinking and hanging out, not a care in the world. No school."
My ADD best friend. She wanted one thing badly, then wanted another even worse two seconds later.
"Uh-huh. Because as everyone knows, drinking is the universal sign for not having any troubles."
"Whoa," she said, halting completely. "Is that Reed in there?"
We both stepped closer and peered through the window. "God." I shook my head. "I can't think of someone to better demonstrate my point."
James Reed was our local bad boy. There was something about him that made seemingly sane girls lose their minds. He was good-looking and extremely charming when he wanted to be. But he was also an obnoxious and contemptuous, self-obsessed douche bag. Here are the top things said about James Reed:
1. "I thought he really liked me!"
2. "One minute everything was fine, and then I never heard from him again!"
3. "Fuck him! No seriously, fuck Reed."
4. "What a jerk. I wonder if he likes me."
Here are the top things said to James Reed:
1. "I hate you, do not ever talk to me again."
2. "You're an asshole."
3. "Fine, one more time, but that's it."
It could be argued that I was biased, since I might have been one of those seemingly sane girls that fell for a charming line and a boyish dimple. I'm a smart girl, but I wasn't smart enough fast enough to escape his grasp unscathed.
"Look at him, leaning on the bar, surrounded by dumb girls," said Brooke. "Of course he's doing that. Of course he is."
She bit her lip, shaking her head but still staring at him. I sometimes feared that she was one bad choice away from becoming another girl burned by him. I didn't object on a jealous level, just because I had hooked up with him. Once I was away from him, I never again was able to see why I had been fooled by his whole shtick. I cared because he would burn Brooke, and she would be humiliated. And then I would probably have to kill him.
"How did he even.like, does he have a fake ID or."
"Probably," I said. "Whatever, it's his felony."
"I bet we could get in. I look like I could be twenty-one, don't I?" She adjusted her clothes. "We should try."
"I am in leggings and a sweatshirt, and I'm wearing my glasses. For one thing."
"Exactly! You're being ironic. And you're wearing thick-rimmed tortoiseshells! You will blend right in with all the hipsters! You'll snag some guy who would probably be cute if he didn't have a handlebar mustache, and I'll kick Reed in the balls for you. It'll be fun!"
"I'm wearing these so I can see, not so I can look trendy. And no need to kick him in the balls. I'm pretty sure someone else will do that for us tonight. Come on, let's go order our food."
She let me lead her away, her focus stuck back on me.
"I think I've got something here, though. That's who you need-a slightly older guy who can understand your love of the Mamas and the Papas and who will watch your Hitchcock movies with you. That-" she pointed back at the hipster bar "-is where those guys are! Them, and a couple of skeezeballs like Reed, who somehow finagled their way in."
"I don't need a guy to do those things with!"
She threw her head back and groaned. "Okay, you're right. You don't need a guy who can necessarily do that. But you need a boyfriend, Nat. Or a boy toy at least. You are seventeen and hot, and you haven't done, like, anything."
"Shh!" I looked around.
"Exactly! It's embarrassing. You should be embarrassed."
"I'm not a virgin, Brooke," I whispered.
"Basically you are. Because it was James 'the Dickwad' Reed, and I'm pretty sure anyone who hooks up with him is entitled to be in denial about doing so."
"Truth. But still. I'm not looking for someone to hook up with. And even if I was, I am not going to meet him at a Bethesda bar. Plus it's creepy. If a guy is old enough to drink legally and wants to hook up with me, he's weird already. I'm not into pedophiles."
"Oh, really, you're not into-Natalie, come on. This is a three- to four-year difference I'm talking about here!"
"Look, I know you're into being all independent and everything, with your reading and listening to records while you knit scarves or whatever you do instead of having a social life-"
"I don't knit. I just can knit."
"In an argument where you're trying to say that you don't need to be more social, do you really think the sentence 'I just can knit' is going to win?"
"I am social! I'm out right now!"
"Nat.you know I don't count. It was only about a month ago that I invited you to a party and you said you couldn't come because you were busy, and I came over to force you, and I found you in an apron, cooking.. whatever it was called."
"Coq au vin. It was delicious, thank you very much. And as you pointed out, winter is cold. Coq au vin is hot."
"You're basically a middle-aged woman. Worse than that, you're like a middle-aged woman suffering from empty-nest syndrome. You are too young, Natalie, to be spending your nights working your way through Julia Child's cookbook."
I shrugged. "What do you want me to say?"
"I want you to say that you will make an effort for the next few months. Not only is it senior year, but it's our last opportunity to do this stuff together. I don't know where either one of us is going to be next year for sure-I'll probably be in stupid Pennsylvania-but I know we won't be together. And I really miss my partner in crime."
I had nothing to say back. Brooke was rarely affectionate or sweet, and these were not the moments to argue with her.
"Especially prom," she added, grabbing my wrist and shaking it. "Prom, prom, prom. You haven't been to homecoming or prom since sophomore year, and I admit that it was lame that year."
"Brooke, are you asking me to prom?" I smiled wryly at her. "The answer is yes, a million times yes!"
Instead of laughing, she looked sad. "Look, it's not only about you having the high school experience. It's also that mine isn't complete without you there. Please come out more."
In a way, I knew she was right. I should go to events like prom and all that but I never fit in at any of those must-do high school events. I used to go to big parties, and for me the experience was uncomfortable. All the girls waltzing around in too much makeup and crop-tops they couldn't pull off because of the beer gut they already had, and the guys flexing their arm muscles and puffing out their chests. People either acted drunker than they were, or they'd had way too much and were trying to seem sober. Any conversation you had would likely be forgotten by the morning, and any hookup you had you'd hope to forget by then. There had been a brief moment where I didn't hate it, but I'd walked away from my Reed mistake and suddenly had seen it all with new eyes.
The top five things you hear at a party:
1. "I am so fucked up."
2. "Who brought her?"
3. "I think I'm gonna vomit."
4. "I am way too high right now. No, seriously, I think I'm having a heart attack." a) Fun subcomment: "Can I get in trouble if I'm high and go to the emergency room?"
5. "Ugh, I'm gonna be so hungofer."
And then a lot of happy squealing matched only by weepy couple-fights.
But I did miss hanging out with Brooke. We used to have fun at some of those parties together. "Fine."
"You mean it?" Her face lit up.
"Yes, but you're not She's All Thating me and taking off my glasses, straightening my hair and putting me in your clothes."
"Of course not."
"And you're not going to then stand back, cross your arms and nod while the guy of my dreams double-takes at how gorgeous I've become."
"I know," she said, patting my back and leading me into the restaurant.
"Because in the end, it will turn out he liked me best before I got the makeover, anyway, so it's really a waste of time."
She shook her head, smiling. "You're lucky you're so attractive already, because you are a freaking weirdo."