Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcastand nearly got someone killed.
Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silenceto learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.
But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way. People she never noticed before. A boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.
|Product dimensions:||5.29(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.72(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Keeping secrets isn't my specialty. It never has been, ever since kindergarten when I found out Becky Swanson had a crush on Tommy Barnes, and I managed to circulate that fact to the entire class, including Tommy himself, within our fifteen minute recessa pretty impressive feat, in retrospect. That was ten years ago, and it still may hold the record for my personal best.
The secret I have right now is so, so much juicier than that. I'm just about ready to burst at the seams.
"Will you stop the teasing already?" Kristen says. We're in her bedroom where I'm helping her decide on an outfit for tonighta drawn-out process when your wardrobe is as massive as hers. "It's annoying. Just tell me."
Kristen is not a patient person. I realize I've been pushing it by alluding to my newfound information over the past twenty minutes without actually divulging anything. Of course I'm going to tell her; she's my best friend, and I can't keep it to myself much longer without truly pissing her off. A pissed-off Kristen is not a fun Kristen. Still, it's rare for me to have the upper hand with her, so I can't help but hold it over her head just a little.
"I don't know," I say innocently. "I'm not sure you can handle it____"
She turns around from where she's digging through her closet and chucks a black leather sandal at me. I shield my face with both hands, laughing as the shoe bounces off one arm and onto the mattress. Kristen props a hand on her narrow hip and cocks her head at me, her glossy, shoulder-length blond hair swaying with the motion.
"You're building this up way too much," she says. She yanks out a shimmery red top from her closet before facing me again. "I bet whatever it is, it's completely lame."
"Well, in that case, I'll keep it to myself." When she glares at me, I just smile in return and say, "Don't wear that. That baby-doll cut looks like something out of the maternity section."
She hangs the top back up and comes over to the bed, flopping down on her stomach next to me. "Spill," she whines, the previous iciness dissolving into borderline desperation. This is as close as Kristen ever gets to groveling. "Otherwise I'm uninviting you from the party."
The threat can't be realKristen knows I've been looking forward to her New Year's Eve party for over a month now. She even helped concoct the cover story necessary to convince my mother to let me come over to her house despite the grounding I received after my parents saw my latest report card. Like I'm ever going to need geometry in real life anyway.
Even though Kristen can be touchy, she wouldn't uninvite me from the party over something like thisbut I decide it's better to cave already than to test her on it.
"Okay, okay," I relent. "I'll tell you."
She breaks into a grin and scoots closer to me. I like having her attention like this; Kristen is easily bored, so when I do get her full focus, it makes me feel like I'm doing something right. She is, after all, one ofif not themost popular girls in the sophomore class, if you keep track of that sort of thing, which I do. She's used to people fawning all over her to get on her good side. I've been on her good side for almost two years now, and I intend to stay there. I'd better make this good.
"So I met up with Megan today because she wanted me to help her pick out new shoes, right?" I start. "She also wanted to bitch to me about Owen, because he totally blew her off last weekend and they've been fighting a lot, and she's wondering if she should break up with him."
Kristen's mouth tugs into a frown. "Um, yawn. I already know this."
"I'm not done yet," I assure her. "Anyway, so Megan brings along Tessa Schauer, which whatever. She's annoying, but I can deal. We shop for a while and everything's fine, and then I remember I need to call my mom about picking stuff up from the dry cleaners, except I'm an idiot who didn't charge my phone and the battery's dead. I ask Tessa if I can borrow hers since she's right there, and she hands it off and walks away. I call my mom, and then I'm about to give it back, but I decided to look through the pictures on the phone because I'm nosy like that, and " I pause for a moment, just to draw out the anticipation.
"And ?" Kristen prompts. She's totally hanging on to every word.
"And," I say, "the first one I see? It's of Tessa. With Owen. Looking very shall we say friendly."
Her eyes widen. "How friendly?" she asks.
I dig my phone out of my pocket and toss it at her. "Look for yourself."
I watch in amusement as she fumbles with my phone, scrolling through my text messages. "Shut up," she gasps, looking back up at me. "You forwarded the pictures to yourself?"
"Won't Tessa know?"
I'm a little insulted by the question, to be honest. Of course I thought ahead. I'm not an amateur. "I deleted the sent texts," I explain. "She'll have no idea."
"That is " Kristen pauses, and then grins up at me. "Totally brilliant."
I take the phone back and look at the screen, where the high-angled self-portrait of Tessa and Owen midkiss stares back at me. So tacky. Not just the picture, or how Owen's mouth is open so wide I can actually see his tongue entering Tessa's mouth (gross, gross, gross), but making out with your alleged best friend's boyfriend behind her back? That's just classless. I would never in a million years hook up with Kristen's boyfriend, Warren Snyder, while she's dating him. Okay, I would never hook up with him, period, because he's a sleaze, but that's beside the point. The point is, some things are sacred.
"She's a shitty friend," I tell Kristen. "I can't believe she did that to Megan." There's no way Megan will forgive her when she finds out. She's dated Owen for over a year, and Tessa's been her best friend for longer than that. An entire friendship down the drain, all because Tessa couldn't keep her hands off Owen. No boy is worth that. Not even Brendon Ryan, whom I would do a number of immoral and insane things for, and who is quite possibly the love of my life, even if he doesn't know it yet. We've been caught in a wildly passionate, completely one-sided affair since freshman year.
"Tessa Schauer is a slutty bitch. I hope Megan kicks her ass," Kristen says. "When are you going to tell her?"
"Tonight, probably." Megan and Tessa will both be at the party, so I'll have to find a way to corner Megan alone and break the news. Tessa will know it's me, even if I erased my tracks, but whatever. Who cares? Snooping on someone's phone is a far more minor offense than slutting around with your best friend's boyfriend. No one will have sympathy for her.
Kristen rolls off the bed and stands in front of her full-length mirror, fiddling with the ends of her perfect hair. "You know, you could have some fun with this," she muses.
I sit up. "How?"
"If you tell Tessa you know about her and Owen, I bet she'd do just about anything to keep you from sharing that with Megan."
"Like blackmail?" I frown. "I don't know "
"I'm just saying," Kristen says, "I know for afact that she has a fake ID. She was attention-whoring like crazy, showing it off to everyone who would listen in Econ last week. Maybe you could convince her to hook up the two of us with our own."
Interesting idea. Except
"What would we do with a fake ID?" I ask. Buying booze is the obvious answer, but while Kristen might pass for twenty-one with the right push-up bra and a pair of heels, there's no way I could. I am much less developed than her.
"Well, I could go to Rave with Warren, for starters," she says. "You only have to be eighteen to get in."
Rave is this nightclub in Westfield, the next town over. Warren turned eighteen last month and went there to celebrate, and wouldn't shut up about it for two weeks. I have to admit, it would be interesting to see what all the fuss is about.
And if it's important to Kristen, then it's important to me.
"I'll see what I can do," I tell her, and by the way Kristen smiles at me, I know that was exactly what she wanted to hear. Six hours later I don't know how I'm going to talk myself out of this one.
My phone buzzes insistently in my hand, like it knows I'm trying to avoid it. A glance at the front screen confirms my impending doom: MOM flashes there like it's mocking me. Crap.
Kristen nudges me in the rib cage with her elbow. "Who the hell is calling you?" she demands. "Everyone worth knowing is already here."
It's true; the party is in full swing, the room filled with half of Grand Lake High's student bodywell, the half that matters, anywayand loud music. It's no secret Kristen Courteau throws the best parties. Absentee parents, an older brother who has no problem supplying minors with alcohol, a big house with a top-notch stereo systemit's everything a group of rowdy sixteen-year-olds could ask for.
On this couch I'm packed in tight like a sardine, stuck between Kristen and Brendon Ryan. Brendon Ryan, the last person I want knowing that my mother is calling to check up on me.
"It's my mom," I explain, leaning my head close to hers to be heard over the racket and praying that Brendon is too absorbed in downing his beer to pay attention. "She'll be pissed if I don't answer."
"Then answer it," Kristen says, like it's that simple.
"And have her hear all this?" I shake my head. "She'll kill me!
"Fine, then don't answer it." Kristen rolls her eyes and knocks back the rest of her drink. Somehow she manages to look good doing even that. "I'm getting more beer," she informs me, peeling herself off the couch and dancing her way across the room to the cooler and abandoning me to resolve this problem on my own. Sometimes Kristen can be such a bitch. If she wasn't my best friend, I'd probably hate her.
Next to me, Brendon curls his hand over the cap of my shoulder and leans in close to my ear. Normally I'd be thrilled because a) Brendon Ryan is touching me, b) his near proximity means I can smell him, and c) BRENDON RYAN IS TOUCHING ME OH MY GOD (!!!), but I can't even savor the moment because I'm too panicked. Also, tonight he reeks too much of beer and cloying cologne. This is a disappointment because I always assumed that a perfect creature such as Brendon would smell of spring rain and mountain breezes and other heavenly aromas.
"Hey," he says, his breath warm against my ear, and oh, yeah, that's enough to send my already racing pulse into overdrive. "I bet if you go down the hall it'll be quieter."
It's a no-brainer suggestion, really, but in that moment, I feel like Brendon is a certified genius for coming up with it. Maybe it's due to the fact that when I'm anywhere within a six-foot radius of Brendon I lose all ability to think coherently. Well, okay, the Jell-O shot I kicked back ten minutes ago probably isn't helping matters.
"Yes," I finally choke out once I realize I've spent the last several seconds staring into his brain-melty hazel eyes with my mouth hanging open like the love-struck idiot I am. "Good idea."
I push myself off the couch, stumble past the cluster of barely clothed freshman girls writhing to some electro dance remixnastyand don't stop until I've reached the end of the hallway. Of course, even down here I can feel vibrations from the stereo's pulsating bass. My phone stopped ringing a while ago. Great. Now I need to come up with an excuse to explain why I didn't answer Mom's call right away. One that does not involve divulging that I'm at a New Year's Eve party with a bunch of intoxicated minors.
It's so stupid. One lousy grade and my parents act like it's the end of the world. A D- in geometry is not going to ruin my entire life. But of course they don't see it that way. The only reason I was allowed over to Kristen's at all was under the pretense that we'd be babysitting her younger cousins. If Mom finds out what's really going on, there'll be hell to pay.
I open the hall closet and lock myself inside; at least the door blocks some of the sound from the raging party. My phone starts ringing againMom, of course. I push aside a broom handle and answer it with the most nonchalant hello I can muster.
"Chelsea," she says, and by the way she says my name alone, I can perfectly picture the pinched expression on her face. "Why didn't you pick up before?"
"Um " I rack my brain for the first believable excuse. "My phone was at the bottom of my bag, and I couldn't find it in time. You know my purse it's like a black hole."
"Uh-huh," she says. I can't tell if she's skeptical or if I'm just paranoid.
I perch awkwardly on the edge of a cardboard box, keeping one eye on the door. "So, what's up?"
"I just thought I'd ask if you could pick up a gallon of milk before you drive home tomorrow morning." She pauses. "How is the babysitting going?"
"Fine," I say, though of course as soon as the word leaves my mouth, something crashes in the hallway. I cringe and press a hand to my forehead. This is just perfect.
"What was that?"
I recover without missing a beat. "Oh, just one of the kids causing trouble," I say. "Probably should've skipped the candy after dinnersugar overload." I let out a laugh and hope it doesn't come out too forced. "Actually I should probably go help Kristen wrangle them before they destroy the house."
"All right," Mom says, so oblivious I feel kind of bad. But only for a second. Then I'm just relieved that she actually buys my story. "Just make sure to pick up the milk tomorrow."
"Right. The milk. Got it." I need to wrap up this call ASAP before someone gives me away. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"