What's up with Jessica?
Elizabeth doesn't get it. Lately Jessica wants to hang out with her all the time, 24/7. She doesn't mind--Jessica is her twin and her best friend. But when Jessica asks if Liz wants to wear the same outfits to school, it's too weird. Wearing the same clothes is so...fifth grade.
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Jessica! Breakfast! my mom called up the stairs on Monday morning.
Ugh. Maybe I can pretend to be sick, I thought.
I rolled over in bed and stared at the ceiling. It's not like I'm usually psyched to go to school, but today I was positively dreading it.
My twin sister, Elizabeth, and I had just transferred into a new school, Sweet Valley Junior High. So far, I hated it. The people there were totally unfriendly--especially the It crowd. Not that I expected everyone to just rush up to me, wanting to be my friend, but . . . well, why hadn't they? I mean, people at my old school, Sweet Valley Middle, had been dying to be seen with me. I wasn't used to having to make an effort to get people to like me. I wasn't used to not having any friends either.
What I needed was a crowd to hang with--quick. So last week I'd spent all of my time trying to hang with the most popular girl in the eighth grade, Lacey Frells. And she'd treated me like the plague.
But wait--it gets worse.
Last Saturday, I ran into Lacey at the movies. She was with her boyfriend. And when my brother, Steven, came to pick me up, she assumed he was my boyfriend-- and I let her! Ick--I'm feeling queasy just remembering the whole scene. I don't know why I did it. I guess I wanted Lacey to think I had an older boyfriend so she would figure I was cool and welcome me into the popular crowd.
Now the more I thought about going to school and facing Lacey, the worse I felt. I was actually breaking out in a cold sweat when my mom called up the stairs again.
"Jessica! You'd better get moving!"
I threw back the covers, sighing. I showered, got dressed, and went downstairs.
I was running late, and my mom had left me a plate of eggs that were already growing cold. I sat down and picked up my fork.
Steven sat across the breakfast table, reading the comics and laughing. Every time he laughed, he spit a tiny bit of scrambled egg on the table. He looked so completely mindless that I could barely concentrate on his brown eyes or thick brown hair or any of the things that would make Lacey think he was a cool boyfriend. I shuddered at the thought. Oh, how had I ever gotten myself into this situation? Lacey was going to find out the truth--and I was going to be dead meat.
"Jess, are you okay?" my mother asked, coming out of the kitchen.
I gave her a weak smile. "I'm fine, Mom."
"Are you sure?" She looked concerned. "You look a little pale."
The temptation to say, "Well, actually, I do feel kind of fluish," and crawl back in bed was almost irresistible. But it was only the second week of school--I couldn't pretend to be sick for the rest of the year. So I said, "I'm fine, really," and carried my plate, untouched, over to the sink.
I totally zoned as Elizabeth and I walked to the bus stop. She didn't seem to notice anything was wrong--she just kept chattering. Obviously she doesn't hate SVJH as much as I do. Elizabeth had settled down right away. She has this pair of dumb friends, "El Salvador" and Anna, and together they've all joined the school newspaper--boring! That's pretty much all Elizabeth ever talks about now.
I studied my twin as we slid into our seat on the bus. Elizabeth fits into the SVJH scene so well, I thought, maybe I should ask her advice. I felt kind of strange about asking, though. Elizabeth had never been more popular than me before. I took a deep breath.
"Hmmm?" Elizabeth scribbled something in one of her notebooks.
"Have you ever--" I paused. "Have you ever told someone a lie or, well, not a lie, but a half-truth--not even a half-truth, but a misunderstanding that, um, got out of control?"
Elizabeth looked at me with a tiny line between her eyebrows. "What is this? A homework question?"
"No!" I said, exasperated. "This is my life we're talking about."
"Oh." Elizabeth looked thoughtful. "Well, just go to your friend and explain the misunderstanding."
That was such typical Elizabeth advice. I rolled my eyes. "It's not that easy," I told her. And this isn't about a friend, I thought.
"Well, what else can you do?" Elizabeth asked.
Switch schools, I thought. Enlist in the army. Join the foreign legion. Run away with the circus.
"Nothing." I sighed as the bus pulled up in front of the school. "I guess you're right."
As we walked up the sidewalk, I examined the sprawling, two-story, brown-brick building with small windows. The inside was kind of grimy, and the walls were painted a really obnoxious shade of yellow. I wished I were anywhere but here.
SVJH is pretty big--bigger than Sweet Valley Middle--so I figured it wouldn't be hard to avoid Lacey during the passing periods. This was a comforting thought. Maybe she would forget all about my "boyfriend" before I ever saw her again.
I said good-bye to Elizabeth and headed to my locker. I had planned to pick up all my books so that I could just slink from class to class during the day. But halfway down the hall I saw something that made my stomach practically fall out of my body: Lacey leaning against my locker, sneering at my locker partner, Ronald Rheece. He's the school's biggest nerd. Or smallest nerd, if you want to get technical.
I was just about to turn and run away when Lacey suddenly looked over at me . . . and smiled.
Gulp. I willed a smile to my lips, squared my shoulders, and walked up to Lacey. "Hi."
"Hi, Jessica," Lacey said. Her sun-streaked brown hair fell to her shoulders in waves. She wore jeans and a pale blue T-shirt that brought out the icy color of her eyes.
"Hi, Jessica," Ronald squeaked. He looked kind of breathless. I'm sure he never thought Lacey Frells would be hanging out at his locker. Well, I never thought so either.
"I'm so sorry," he said to Lacey, "but I have to go now, or I'll miss my bus." He took a few steps backward, as though he could hardly bring himself to tear his eyes away from this vision. Then he turned and ran for his bus. It was a real Hallmark Hall of Fame moment.
Lacey looked after him with a frown.
"He takes a special bus over to the high school," I explained. "For some brainy math class."
"Oh," Lacey said, without much interest. Who could blame her?
I figured I'd better tell her all about Steven before I lost my nerve. She's going to find out sooner or later, I reminded myself. I opened my mouth to explain everything, and the bell rang.
"Come on," Lacey said. "Grab your books, or we'll be late for class. I can't wait till lunch!" she went on excitedly. "Then we can really talk."
I almost dropped the books I had just pulled off the shelf. Lunch? I'd been dying to sit at Lacey's table from the minute I got here. Eating lunch with Lacey could be enough to change my whole life. I could be as popular here as I was at the middle school, maybe more!
I must have been staring at Lacey with my mouth open because she said, "Kristin's out sick, so you and I can sit together and talk about our boyfriends."
Boyfriends! I felt ill. I didn't want to dig myself any deeper into this lie.
Now is the time to tell her, I thought.
"I didn't see your boyfriend too well, but he looked pretty cute to me." Lacey smiled.
If I tell her, then she won't eat lunch with me, and I can kiss being popular good-bye. I didn't know what to do, so I just shrugged. I knew that Lacey could make things easier for me at SVJH. I also knew that she could make them harder.
Lacey swung my locker shut. "Let's go."
I swallowed. "Okay," I said weakly. I can't tell Lacey the truth now, I reasoned. The halls are too noisy and crowded. I'll tell her at lunch, when it's just the two of us. Yes, at lunch, definitely.
Without a doubt.
Or at the very, very latest by the end of the week.
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