Authors: Mari Mancusi
Tags: #Divorce, #Science & Technology, #Sports & Recreation, #Cartoons and comics, #Fantasy games, #People & Places, #Comic Books; Strips; Etc, #Massachusetts, #Schools, #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Love & Romance, #Comics & Graphic Novels, #United States, #Children of divorced parents, #Games, #Marriage & Divorce, #Fiction, #School & Education, #Role playing, #Family, #General, #New Experience, #High schools, #Moving; Household
hard, knowing she was perfectly able to make good on the threat.
I muttered. "I'm listening."
"Look, Maddy. I'm sorry I blew up earlier. When you mentioned
your father . . . well, it's a sore subject, as you can imagine."
I stared down
at my hands. "Yeah. I know. I shouldn't have said that."
I know your father and me separating and your
switch schools has been really tough on you. It has for all of us.
But you can't let it turn you into someone you're not. You're a
wonderful girl. Beautiful, smart, creative. Yet all I see these days
is someone who's mad at the world and wants revenge. You just can't
go around punching other kids, no matter how angry you are at your
squeezed my hands into fists. So, like everything else, she was going
to blame this on Dad. "I'm not angry at Dad," I informed
her. "I'm angry at Billy."
Who's Billy?" demanded Mom, obviously baffled that anyone could
be mad at anyone else in the entire world besides my father.
"The kid I
hit, Mom. Try to keep up." I knew I was being bratty, but I
couldn't help it. "He destroyed my drawing on purpose. He's a
he destroy your drawing?" She sounded confused. Of course.
he's trying to make my life a living hell." I squeezed my hands
into fists. "You want to know the truth, Mom? No one likes me at
school. They all think I'm a freak."
Mom gave my
black-dress and black-and-white-striped-tights outfit a look. "Well,
I did warn you about dressing that way. . . ."
see. So it's all my fault."
"No, of course not. But you go to a smaller school now. And kids
aren't going to be as diverse as in Boston. But that doesn't mean
they're bad people. You've just got to give them a chance. Get to
know them. Let them
You're a wonderful, beautiful girl. I'm sure in time the other kids
will realize that."
"I want to
go back to my old school. In Boston."
Mom slumped her
shoulders. "Maddy, you know we can't do that. I can't afford
just got back together with Dad--"
we've had this discussion."
I wanted to
press her further, but I knew it would do no good. "Fine,"
I relented. "I promise to work harder to make friends. And I
won't fight and . . . stuff." I knew my promises sounded flimsy
and lame, but I'd say anything at that moment to get out of the
Mom stared at
me for a moment, then shook her head. "Let's talk about this
later when we're both less upset, okay?" she said. "It's
dinnertime anyway. Grandma cooked a lovely pot roast and I've made my
famous green bean casserole."
longingly back at the computer, wanting nothing more than to log back
into the game to find Sir Leo and explain what happened. The last
thing I wanted was for him to think I was some total flake who got
his character killed. After all, he was my first new friend in
forever, even if he was virtual, and I wanted to play with him as
much as possible.
But Mom had put
the smack down and I knew better than to cross her. Better to let her
win this round and get back on her good side--even if that did mean
digesting Grandma's cooking.
roast?" I said, smiling my widest, fake smile. "Sounds
delish. Let's eat!"
days of detention sucked. Having detention fall on a Friday sucked
worse. Not that I had a hot date or anything. Though I was anxious to
get home to log into Fields of Fantasy. I wanted to find Sir Leo
online and beg his forgiveness for abandoning him to the wolves the
But I had no
choice and so on Friday I sat in Mr. Wilks's otherwise empty
classroom, watching the clock tick down the minutes to my freedom. I
was supposed to be doing homework, but I just didn't have the energy.
And Mr. Wilks made it clear there would be no drawing during
detention, so I couldn't even work on my manga.
I looked up and
my eyes widened as I realized that none other than Chad Murray had
walked up to my desk and was actually calling me by name. How did I
not notice the god himself wandering into the room? And how did he
name anyway? I
thought I was permanently "Freak Girl" to the Haters.
skipped a beat. He was dressed in a gray T-shirt and a pair of
slouchy jeans. He looked gorgeous as always. I mean, if you were into
that sort of thing. Which I wasn't. Well, okay, fine, I was still a
girl at the end of the day and it was hard not to notice, but it
really didn't matter, did it? Chad was one of the Haters. The ones
responsible for sticking me in detention to begin with. This Billy
lackey was not a guy to have a crush on.
you want?" I demanded, narrowing my eyes. "Come to keep me
company?" The sarcasm dripped from my voice. So much for my
promise to Mom to be nicer and make friends.
Chad took a
step back, as if struck. "Um, nothing, really. It's just . . ."
He reached into his book bag and pulled out a piece of paper. He held
it out to me. "You left this in the cafeteria."
I looked down
at the paper. It was my drawing. The one Billy had destroyed.
"What do I
want this for?" I asked. "It's ruined. Your friend Billy
made sure of that." Against my better judgment, I smoothed the
paper out on my desk, looking at it longingly. My Gamer Girl, Allora,
smiled back up at me through the crinkles and paint smears. It had
been such a good sketch. . . .
He shuffled from foot to foot. "But I thought
maybe ... I
don't know . . . you could, like, copy it or something. If you
wanted. Then maybe it wouldn't be a total loss."
I looked up at him, surprised by the gesture. He really was a lot
nicer than his friends. "Yeah, that's not a bad idea. Thanks."
he said, still standing there, awkwardly. He paused, then added,
"Sorry about Billy. He can be a real jerk sometimes."
just like the rest of the Haters," I muttered, putting the
drawing in my bag. "Haters?"
Hadn't meant for him to hear me. "Oh, just a nickname I have for
your crew," I explained. "The Haters. You know, since you
hate most of the school."
appreciatively. "The Haters," he repeated. "That's
funny. And probably pretty accurate, too. I mean, at least for Billy
and the girls."
I looked at him
skeptically. "And you're different?"
Now it was his
turn to blush. "Well, yeah. I mean, I don't mess with people
like they do. I hate that kind of thing. I'm more of a
live-and-let-live kind of guy."
"So why do
you hang with them then?"
He shrugged and
looked embarrassed. "I don't know. Billy's been my best friend
since kindergarten. I can't just ditch him."
That made sense. In fact, in a weird way, it was kind of like Caitlin
and me. We'd been best friends forever,
and when she'd
jeer at the Aberzombies and poseurs back at our old school, I'd
always laugh, even though sometimes I felt bad for them. Now the
tables were turned. Maybe Chad and I were more alike than I realized.
I realized he
was still staring at me. "Uh ..." I tilted my head. "Did
you want. . . something else?"
yeah," he said. He shoved a hand into his pocket and pulled out
another piece of paper. He unfolded it and dropped it on my desk. "I,
um, found this in a magazine. I thought, well, your drawings are
really good, maybe you'd like to enter or something."
I stared down
at the paper. It was a contest for young artists who wrote and drew
manga. My eyes widened as I read the rules. Create an original
graphic novel and send it in. First prize was publication and ten
So cool. A
chance to have my drawings seen and graded by a professional editor.
And if I won--actual publication! My story would be published in a
manga magazine. How cool would that be?
Not to mention
the cash prize. Ten thousand dollars would be enough for tuition back
at my old school. I could go back to my friends and never think of
Hannah Dustin High School ever again!
I said, my eyes shining, putting aside for a moment that the contest
entry form had been hand delivered by Billy's lackey. "This is
he said with a self-conscious shrug. He ran a hand through his
beautiful wavy blond hair. "You should
enter. You're really good. The elf totally reminds me of--"
Chad froze in
his tracks at Billy's command from out in the hallway. He shot me an
apologetic look and backed away.
he said. "I'll, um, see you around."
And with that,
he turned tail and ran. I watched him go, shaking my head. Such a
waste of cuteness. It was nice of him to tell me about the contest,
though. And he said he liked my drawing. That was cool.
But at the end
of the day, I knew, none of that mattered. He was and would always be
one of the Haters. And thus, would always be the enemy.
I ARRIVED home
from detention to a wild, raging party. Okay, it was a wild, raging
slumber party for eight-year-olds, but still, the noise level alone
should have gotten the cops to the door. Emily and ten other giggling
girls were taking up the entire living room, watching a Disney film
on Grandma's ancient television. There was a sick amount of food
strewn everywhere--pizza, chips, M&M's, chocolate cupcakes.
Enough to make all of them go into cardiac sugar shock. Something I
hoped happened sooner rather than later so I didn't have to hear the
giggles at two a.m. when I was trying to sleep.
guys," I greeted as I walked into the room. "Having fun?"
had twenty-two eyes fixed on me. They ranged from curious to
suspicious to downright annoyed. Emily paused the movie, jumped up
from her seat, and marched straight over to me. She folded her skinny
little arms across her chest and glared at me with her ice-blue eyes.
said you would stay in your room and wouldn't disturb us," she
informed me. "Don't
me call her downstairs to remind
Nice. After a
long day at school and detention, I got to come home and get pushed
around by an eight-year-old. "Uh, sure, Em," I retorted,
refusing to let her get the best of me. "But let's look at the
house layout here for a moment. You see, I
room to get to
room. . . ." I
paused then added, "I hope that my momentary presence doesn't
screw up Your Highness's evening too greatly."
looking as annoyed as if I had told her I was planning to plop down
on the couch and spend the next five hours sharing stories about her
thumb-sucking years with all her friends. "Fine. Make it quick,"
she said, storming back to her seat and grabbing the remote control.
She pressed Play and turned up the volume to a nearly deafening
the volume didn't drown out the giggles of the other party
princesses. Nor did it prevent me from hearing their whispers as I
passed through the room, stepping over bowls of popcorn and bags of
she doing here?"
it's Friday night, way after school. And she's, like, old. Doesn't
she have a date or something?" "Look at her. Who would date
what about Frankenstein?" Ah, to be judged uncool by a bunch of
kids who watched
on a daily basis. Not
that they were far
off the mark.
Though I wasn't sure at this point whether even Frankenstein's
monster would consider me a worthy date.
I paused at the
other end of the room before heading upstairs. "Have fun,"
I said in an overly sweet voice. "And don't eat too much or
you'll all grow enormously fat and have faces full of zits."
The girls all
screamed and gasped.
Emily cried, throwing a pillow at me. I easily dodged it and ran
upstairs, feeling the tiniest bit better. I entered my room, shut my
door, and turned up my stereo, blasting My Chemical Romance's
album. I'd heard it a gazillion times, but I still
loved Gerard's passionate voice. It was as if he totally understood
all my pain. If only he went to Hannah Dustin. We'd be soul mates,
I threw myself
down on my bed, exhausted and annoyed. My eight-year-old sister had a
full social life and I was a total outcast. So not fair. How did she
find it so easy to fit in? To make friends? She would be one of the
Haters someday, most likely. Ruling her school with her haughty
glare, ridiculing poor innocent people like me for breathing the same
air she did.
I glanced over
at my computer. Maybe Sir Leo was online. I owed him a major apology
after Mom pulled the plug on the game last night. After all, he was
the closest thing I had to a developing friendship. I didn't want to
So I logged on.
A few moments later, my character, Allora, smiled up at me. I smiled
back at her. "Ready?" I whispered, though of course she
couldn't hear me. "Let's go play."
I realized my
hands were trembling as I typed in "FIND SIRLEO." I tried
to steady them, annoyed. After all, I didn't even know this guy. I'd
played with him once. I might never run into him again. And if I did,
he would probably be annoyed at me for abandoning him anyway.