Authors: Amelia Whitmore
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2015
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Chapter One Family, Carnivals, and Best Friends
Chapter Three Miscommunication and Coffee
Chapter Four What a Small World
Chapter Nine Awkwardness and Invitations
Chapter Eleven Friends with Feelings
Chapter Thirteen Returning the Favor
Chapter Sixteen What Just Happened?
Chapter Eighteen Unaccepted Apologies
Chapter Nineteen Isn’t She Lovely
Chapter Twenty Which Side Are You On?
Chapter Twenty-One All Mixed Up
Chapter Twenty-Two On a Pedestal
Chapter Twenty-Three Making Amends
Chapter Twenty-Four The New Year
Chapter Twenty-Five Valentine’s Day
Chapter Twenty-Seven Making Up
Family, Carnivals, and Best
My bedroom has always been something of a sanctuary to me.
It’s where I go to escape from the real world. Where I can swim in my own
thoughts, listen to music, do my homework, read . . . anything
really. It’s decorated perfectly for my tastes too. Which is good considering that
I started redecorating three years ago, when I turned fifteen. I began going to
swap meets, antique shops, yard sales, Goodwill, and other secondhand stores.
My family is only middle class, so, although we aren’t too tight for money,
redecorating a room would be pushing it.
After years of hard work, I’ve finally turned a space that
was once filled with pink and butterflies into a bedroom any eighteen-year-old
would be proud to call her own. The walls are a dusty, pale gray-blue. The
floor is the same white wood it’s always been. A shaggy rug that matches the
walls lies by my bed. The white, cushioned headboard is tall enough for me to
lean against it comfortably and my sheets are white with a green quilt on top.
A purple crocheted blanket that Mom made for me while she was pregnant goes
over the quilt. When I get cold, there’s a white and gray patterned duvet that
is folded at the end of my bed until I kick it to the ground at night. Beside
my bed, there’s a green nightstand that matches my quilt, and on it sit flowers
I replace every week, a candle, and a clock. A lamp hangs down over the
nightstand like a chandelier. My room is simple but pretty. I love it. Another
thing I absolutely adore about my room is the slanted ceiling. The wall across
from my bed, where my dresser and desk rest, goes up about three-fifths of the
way before tilting inward. It makes my rather spacious and empty room look
I’m lying on my stomach, reading a book for English class
and listening to my iPod, when I feel somebody tap my foot. I jump and scream,
turning to see who just tried to scare me to death. It’s my older sister, Lena.
She’s nineteen and goes to a local art college. Even though it irritates me, I
can’t even be mad at her when she starts laughing hysterically. I know how
ridiculous I just made myself look, but I’ve never been good at handling
I sigh impatiently when she doesn’t stop laughing. “Did you
come here for a reason, or were you just trying to scare me?” I ask, pulling
out my headphones.
Once she can breathe properly again, Lena says, “Mom and Dad
want us in the living room. I think it’s time for the carnival again.” I nod
and follow her downstairs.
Mom works at an elementary school teaching third grade.
Every autumn they have a Fall Fun Fest and Mom always volunteers us kids to
help. We’re usually happy to, until Mom gets anxious under the pressure, goes
crazy, and acts like the carnival will fail if any of us are even a minute late.
But eventually she cools off and realizes how insane she is.
“Hey, guys.” I say, sitting down on the opposite side of the
couch from my brother, Matthew. He’s fifteen, almost sixteen, and thinks he’s
way too cool to have me as a sister. He’s probably right, but I don’t care that
“Hey, Anna.” Matt murmurs, concentrating on the TV. There’s
some sports event on. Football, I think, but I’m not sure if it’s college or
professional. Does actual football even start in October? I wasn’t built to be
athletic, so I wouldn’t know.
Mom walks into the room with a few sheets of paper and hands
them to us. They’re consent forms, basically telling the school that if we get
injured, we won’t file a lawsuit against them. Everyone that works the carnival
has to sign one.
“Okay, guys. The carnival is next weekend so I need to know
what booths you’re planning to work on.”
“Well, Smith and I really liked working the ring toss last
year,” Lena says. Her boyfriend, Smith, helped her last year. The stand has
about two hundred two-liter bottles of soda laid out on the floor, and children
use swimming rings to try to catch a bottle around the nozzle. If they hook
one, they get to take it. The game is a big hit for little kids.
“Ro and I can take the bottle toss,” I offer. My best
friend, Aurora, has no idea that I’m signing her up to help with the carnival,
but she probably won’t mind. The bottle toss is a bunch of tin cans or glass
milk bottles, stacked in a pyramid, and kids throw balls at it. They get three
tries to get all ten bottles or cans down.
Mom’s been nodding along with us, making notes. At the
mention of Ro, Mom grins a bit and hands me an extra consent form. Mom is all
about self-expression and loves Ro’s outgoing personality and flaming purple
hair. She says Aurora’s got charisma. I’m not sure my mom’s ever been more
proud than when she found out I’d made a friend like Ro.
Mom’s been teaching at the elementary school since I was
little. She absolutely adores children. When she sees babies or toddlers, she
instantly devolves into a jumble of baby talk and silly faces.
Dad is Mr. Fix-it. Our cars never get taken to a repair shop
because he can do it all himself. He seems rough on the outside, but as soon as
you get close to him, you know that he’d do anything for you. Matt and Lena
tell me I’m his favorite, but I’m not. We just communicate better than the
Like I said earlier, Lena goes to a local art school. She’s
always been in love with photography. I wish I was half as good at anything as
she is at taking pictures. Lena met Smith in her junior year of high school and
they’re coming up on their second anniversary. They make such a beautiful
couple. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. Lena’s always had everything I
wanted: beauty, friends, and talent. Maybe it’s sibling rivalry, but I feel
like I never compare to her.
Matt is your typical little brother. He can be totally
obnoxious and eating at my last nerve one moment, and then my sweet best friend
the next. He doesn’t realize his full potential. He could do so much more with
his life, but he’s fifteen and convinced he knows better.
Last year, some things happened at school. Suffice it to
say, by the end of it, I was lonelier than I’d ever been before. That’s when I
met Ro. She completely turned my life upside down and, for the most part, I don’t
care what others think now.
“Do I have to help?” Matt asks, still staring at the TV.
“Yes, Matty,” Mom replies in her “I’m not arguing about this”
“Fine, just sign me up for something easy.” He pauses for
only a moment. “And that doesn’t mean watching over the kids playing Duck,
Duck, Gray Duck like last year.” We all laugh, remembering how Matt whined for
days after getting that station at last year’s Fall Fest.
Mom stands up, walks to the kitchen, and says, “All right,
well I guess we’re done here. Before any of you go back upstairs, I want chores
We all groan but we know better than to argue.
“Hey, Ro,” I say, walking up to the purple-haired girl I
call my best friend.
“Hello, Anna,” she says, laughing at me.
“So, guess what you’re doing this weekend?”
She gives me a look. “Going to work and then going home to
chill on the couch?”
“Nope! You’re helping me out at my mom’s Fall Fest!” I
proclaim, trying to make it sound way more fun than it really is.
“No, I am not.” She narrows her eyes at me.
I bite my lip. “I may have already signed you up.”
“Anna!” she practically yells. “Why would you sign me up for
something like that?”
“’Cause I wanted to do it with you!”
She gets a salacious smile on her face. “Everybody does.”
I burst out laughing when she wiggles her eyebrows at a guy
walking past us.
“I think that kid just pissed his pants,” I say, watching
him do a running walk to get away from us.
“Eh, what can I say? Sometimes the excitement gets to be too
much for the young ones.”
She shrugs modestly as she loads more books into her
I purposely waited until now, at the end of the day on
Friday, to tell her about this weekend, but I’d spent the week making sure she
wouldn’t be busy. I’m just sneaky like that. I knew that if I told her about it
before now, she’d make plans to get out of it.
“Anyway, please help out. It’s really not that bad and we
got a pretty easy booth,” I say, pouting a little.
Her nose wrinkles and a sigh escapes her lips before she
nods. “Fine. I’ll go, but I’m not looking forward to it.” I squeal and throw my
arms around her shoulders. “You owe me cookies or something,” she adds.
I laugh and nod before backing up and heading down the
hallway. “I will see you tomorrow morning,” I call out.
“Yeah, yeah. Just go!” she yells back, laughing.
I think my greatest pet peeve is waiting. I hate having to
be patient for people. And yet, I’m sitting here, tapping on the steering wheel
of my cherry-red Toyota Corolla, waiting anxiously for Ro to come downstairs.
She lives in a little two-bedroom apartment with her alcoholic mother who
regularly has strange men over. Which I guess is why Ro spends a lot of time at
I called her twenty minutes ago to meet me downstairs and
she told me to give her five minutes. Ro’s never on time, no matter what. I
know that, her professors know that, her boss knows that. Everybody knows to
depend on Ro showing up late. I think most of us have learned to tell her
things a few minutes, or hours, early in the hope that she’ll be ready by the
real deadline. That clearly wasn’t happening this morning.
After another ten minutes, I honk my horn. Finally, a flash
of purple darts out the door and into my car. “Oh my god, you were supposed to
be out here, like, an hour ago,” I complain, pulling away from the curb.
“Oh hush, it wasn’t that long,” she says, pushing down the
visor to look in the mirror.
I roll my eyes.