Chapter 12: Change Sucks

Mike Newton has a serious case of hairography going on from too much gel. If he’s not wearing it smooshed against his scull Bieber-style, then he wears it two inches above his forehead. I think the Bieber-style looks stupid, but it’s probably the safer option.

We’re in gym class and I just mistakenly smacked the volleyball against Mike’s head, and I swear I heard his hair crunch. However, his being hit in the head by my ball wasn’t my fault because he tried to do some kind of superhero move to save his fly ball. His team is beside ours.

This is something Jessica Stanley doesn’t understand. She thinks I wacked him on the head on purpose, that I must be out to steal her man or something. Her blue eyes are flashing at me as she holds on to Mike’s forearm with both hands. “You’re really dangerous with that ball, Bella.”

I nod and toss the ball up and down lightly. “I am. Especially if people’s hair get in the way.”

Mike grins at me, then turns to smile at the blond girl at his side. “I’m okay, Jess. I’ve got a pretty hard head,” he says suggestively.

She giggles and takes a step closer to him. Marking a territory I could care less about.

I gag.

Once she’s walking away from him, Mike turns back to me and gives my body a quick once-over. “Looking good, Bella.”

“Asshole casserole,” I mutter. Ever since Alice invited him to the pool a few months ago, he’s been acting overly-familiar with me. It has to stop. I have to come up with a plan or something.

“Bella!” Rose moves her head like a black girl with attitude. “You gonna serve or what?”

I flip her off. It’s our new sign for I love ya like a sister.

. . .

Lunch time this year is a sad affair, as is riding the bus. Edward, Emmett and Alice go to high school now. Nothing feels the same, and it’s not a good difference. Especially when I see Ben, Tyler and Mike carrying their lunch trays to our table. Well, Ben is okay, especially since Angela and he are friends, but Mike and Tyler can go poop up a rope.

I write Angela a note to give to Ben.

Dear Ben,

Please don’t bring Mike and Tyler to our lunch table. No maggots allowed.

Bella, Rose and Jasper

I add a skull and crossbones so he’ll know I’m not kidding.

Turns out, though, that Angela likes and wants Ben at our table, and he just so happens to come with the package deal of Mike and Tyler. And Jessica comes with Mike. And Lauren comes with Jessica. Pretty soon, Rose, Jasper and I feel like outsiders at the table we’ve eaten at for years.

Change sucks.

. . .

The good news? It’s Saturday night and we’re all watching movies at Alice and Emmett’s place because they have the best … everything. Well, we’re waiting for Emmett and Edward to bring home the bacon. Edward gets off work in half an hour, and Emmett should be here any time.

The bad news? Emmett and Edward are bringing girls.

This sucks on numerous levels, the most important being that two new people are going to upset our established dynamic of six. We don’t need anyone new. We already have:

Valley Girl Barbie (Rose)
Flower Girl (Alice)
Bella Jellybean (Me)
Dudley Doo-Right (Edward)
Fruit of the Loom (Emmett)
Happy Meal, No Onions (Jasper)

We don’t need Goth Girl Leah or Red Lips Vicky.

Rose finally confided that she’s kinda-sorta interested in Emmett, but she’s also interested in some guy who lives a few houses down from her—Riley. He’s like two years older than us and smokes cigarettes and pot. She doesn’t want to like him, but she can’t help it. So Emmett’s like second in her mind when Riley is around, but when Riley’s not around, she wants Emmett’s undivided attention. Which … she isn’t going to get tonight, seeing as how Goth Girl Leah is going to have her black-painted nails all over his biceps.

I already don’t like Red Lips just on principle. I don’t know her, but she wants Edward, and I don’t want her to get him. Plus, her vivid red mouth makes my skin crawl. Who’d want to kiss that? Yuck. I can’t believe Edward called her. And! That after nine months, she agreed to meet him. She must be desperate. So must he, if he kept her number all those months. Maybe they deserve each other.

No. He’s too good for her. I’m almost sure of it.

Emmett and Leah show up just after I’ve creamed everybody in Bowling on the Wii. I’m amped up from my win, and feeling feisty, so I run and jump into his arms.

“Emmett! I actually won at something!” And I place a noisy kiss on his cheek.

He giggles and tosses me a foot in the air, making me squeal like a pig and ruining my moment because winners don’t squeal.

“You guys know Leah, right?” he asks us.

Leah looks a snooze away from dead boredom as she meets my eye. I grin as I imagine her falling asleep during the movie, because that would mean no kissing for Emmett. Maybe I should make her some chamomile tea.

“Do you like tea?” I ask.

She wrinkles her nose, killing that idea. “I’d rather have a Coke.”

“Let’s go get her a Coke,” Rose says and hooks arms with me and Alice.

When we’re in the kitchen grabbing Cokes and chips for everyone, Rose turns to us and says, “I hate her.”

I play devil’s advocate. “Yeah, but Emmett likes her. And you don’t even know her.”

“I don’t need to know her to know that I don’t like her. She’s totally wrong for Emmett. He’s like … day. And she’s totally night.”

“Opposites attract,” Alice says and pops a chip into her mouth.

“They won’t last,” Rose mutters.

“Probably not. Statistics say that we’re going to fall in and out of love a bunch of times before we even graduate from high school.”

“He’s not in love with her,” Rose tells Alice. “Geeze.”

And then she gives me a fierce look. I put my hands up. “8 Ball says: My sources say no.”

Jasper and I are playing thumb war when Edward shows up. He uses the distraction to his advantage and smooshes my thumb.

“Ow!” I yelp and tug his ear.

He yelps back and releases my thumb. Victory!

My stomach falls when I see Vickie, who indeed still has vibrant red lips, with Edward. She’s hanging behind Edward and clasping his arm with both of her hands, acting like she’s shy. I don’t know her, but I know this much: that girl isn’t shy.

“Edwarrrrrrd,” Emmett says suggestively. “Who you got there?”

“Everyone, this is Vickie. She goes to Elmhurst?” And he pulls her in front of him, leaving his hands on her shoulders.

The boys talk smack about Vickie’s school, which is a football and track rival, but I don’t hear anything but the roar of the ocean in my ears. I am not prepared for the twinge of pain I feel inside at seeing Edward fawn over a girl. Is it just because I don’t like Vickie? I didn’t like the other girls, either, but they were easier to ignore. They weren’t … here … in my world, only at school and in Edward’s world.

“So you’re Edward’s sister,” Vickie says to me. Am I the only one who hears the emphasis on the word sister?

I stick my hands down my back pockets. “Yep. That’s me. Edward’s sister.

Behind Vickie, Edward frowns at me.

“I’m so glad,” she says and giggles.

I bet. I remember that icy look she gave me.

“I remember you,” Rose says. “You were hitting on Edward at the hockey game we went to last year.”

Vickie flushes and Edward sputters. I burst out laughing.

“Everyone hits on Edward,” Emmett says in falsetto voice and bats his eyelashes at Edward.

“We were about to watch the movie,” Alice says. “Emmett, dim the lights!”

I settle back onto my piece of the couch beside Jasper, and Alice sits on the other side of him. It’s a little tight because it’s a love seat, but we’re used to it.

“What are we watching?” Edward asks. He and Vickie sit in the double-wide chaise at the corner of the room. I turn away and focus on my chips and the TV.

“Ouija,” Emmett says.

I roll my eyes. Of course. I trade a look with Rose, who’s sitting on the couch opposite us with Emmett and Dead Goth Girl Leah. Why the frell is Rose sitting there with them?

“Trade seats with Rose,” I tell Jasper and shove him up. He grumbles and goes to her, and she races across to us.

“You’re the best,” she says and kisses my cheek.

“I am,” I say. “But so are you. You were hitting on Edward,” I imitate her tone. “Priceless.”

Rose, Alice and I snicker and whisper until the movie begins.

“It’s not nice to whisper,” Edward tells us, but he’s really only looking at me.

I shrug and grin, then ignore him for the rest of the evening.

. . .

“You weren’t very nice to Vickie and Leah tonight,” Edward says as he follows me up the stairs to our rooms.

“I wasn’t there to entertain them,” I say and race for the bathroom. He sees what I’m doing, though, and grabs me. The world spins and then I’m facing back the way I came and Edward is standing in the bathroom doorway.

“You suck.”

“You take too long,” he tells me. “And besides, you didn’t answer my question.”

I lean against my bedroom door and cross my arms. “What question, Lip Smacker?”

He repeats the name I’ve called him silently and grins, then gives me a serious look again. “The girls. You weren’t nice. Why?”

“I didn’t think you or Emmett came up for breath long enough to notice,” I laugh. “Anyway, I don’t have to like Goth Girl or Red Lips. And I don’t.”


I pretend to think about it. “I don’t know. I just don’t. Same way that you just don’t like peanut butter.”

“Whatever. You don’t have to tell me.”

“There’s no raging reason, Edward,” I lie. “Now go take your shower so I can take mine. And don’t take forever, or else I’ll know what you’re doing.”

He looks surprised, and then evil. “What do you think I would be doing?”

Woops. Walked into that one. “Picking your nose.”

. . .

Sometime in the middle of eighth grade, boys finally start to notice that I have boobs. And a butt. It kind of happened overnight, because I don’t remember waking up one day and looking in the mirror to see that I finally had something that filled my bra’s cups. I just knew that one day, boys started snapping the strap of my bra and squeezing my butt cheeks.

It was flattering and embarrassing. I was used to being ignored that way by boys. I was used to feeling like one of the guys. The attention was great … until it wasn’t.

“You don’t have any falsies in there, do you?” Mike asks and tries to peel the collar of my t-shirt away from my skin.

Rage and embarrassment fills me from head to toe, and I punch him right in his big nose. Ohmigod, does it hurt! I don’t know who’s hurt worse, him or me; we’re both doing the owie dance. I never knew hitting someone would hurt this bad. Maybe if I did, I would have kicked him instead.

I get sent to the principal’s office and Dad has to come and pick me up because I am suspended from school for three days. Dad’s so mad that he grounds me from TV and my phone for two weeks, no matter what I say.

“Violence is never the answer,” he just says.

I’m pouting in my room, because I can’t go to the basement (there’s a TV) and I can’t go to the living room (because there’s a TV) when Edward comes in.

“You’re supposed to knock,” I say to the ceiling, because I’m just laying on my bed feeling sorry for myself and my sore hand.

He goes back out the door and knocks.

“Come in,” I say tonelessly. I’m so bored.

“What’s happening, Mike Tyson?”

“Shut up.”

“No really, what’s going on? Why did you hit some kid?”

I sit up and face him. “He didn’t tell you?”

Edward makes himself at home on my bed, crossing his arms behind his head and laying on one of my pillows. I giggle and lay beside him in an identical pose, but only with the one arm. This is perfect! Now I get to tell my story.

“Mike tried to look at my boobs, so I punched him. Nobody cares about the boob part, though. They’re just upset that I hit Mike,” I snorted.

I’m expecting Edward to laugh or respond in some way, so when he does neither, I look over at him and see that his face is getting red.

“He what?” he asks in a soft voice.

I frown at him. “Did I stutter? I said he tried to look at my boobs, so I hit him. Principal Greene suspended me and—”

“He tried to look at your boobs? Did he see anything? Did he touch you?” Edward’s looking dangerous. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look this way before.

“No, he didn’t see anything. He just pulled my t-shirt collar away from my skin and leaned forward—”

“He’s dead,” Edward says in a steely tone. The look on his face makes me glad I’m not Mike.

“I got him good,” I bragged. “He had a bloody nose and everything.”

He sits up and gives me searching look. “Are you okay?” And he takes my right hand in his to examine my bruises.

“No, I’m not okay. I’m bored and pissed that I get suspended and grounded, and Mike’s getting diddly squat.”

His fingers are warm and gentle against my sore hand and arm. “No, Mike’s definitely going to get diddly.”

I shiver. “What’s he going to get?”

“More than just a fist in the face,” he tells me, and the look in his eyes scares me. “He’s made one too many stupid remarks about you around me. Touching you is the last straw.”

“Don’t hurt him too badly,” I say. “I don’t want you getting in trouble.”

He raises my hand to his lips and my breathing stops. “I won’t get in trouble,” he says and kisses the worst of my bruising.

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