It’s Friday now, and Emily has still barely talked to us. Amaya still insists that we should wait for her to say something, but I just want to confront her already. It’s crazy. We’ve been friends since first grade and now she just randomly decides to push us away? I just want to know why. Both Amaya and I have texted her just to say ‘hey’ these past few days and she just responds with those one-word answers that just screams ‘I don’t want to talk.’ If her boyfriend hurt her in any way – if they broke up – I will hurt him. It’s just weird. We talk about a ton of shit all the time. Both Amaya and I practically just got out of relationships. She knows we’re here for her! What Charlotte said keeps creeping back into my mind, no matter how much I want to believe it isn’t true. There’s only so many reasons Emi would stop talking to us – but if her problem is with me, she would still talk to Aya, right?
I slid my Algebra 2 textbook back into my locker and pushed my locker’s door back closed until I heard it snap into place. Algebra 2 is shit – but I have to get my grade up in that class. Like come on, we already had to take Algebra 1 in ninth grade, why do we need a repeat in eleventh?! Math classes only seem to exist for one reason – because you ‘need’ to take the next one. And you ‘need’ to take that one because… the next one exists. That doesn’t mean it’s useful! Luckily, I only have one other class after it – art. I really like art and painting, but the teacher is absolute shit, which is why I have a B in the class, which used to be a C, but I’m actually somewhat trying right now. Anyway, yeah, the teacher is almost never satisfied with the work you turn in because ‘creative liberty’ is dead in that class, but you will always have to put some creative liberty into any piece of art you make, so it just doesn’t make sense at all. I personally think she should be fired because you have to be a total suck up to her to get an A, and I don’t suck up to anyone, so she can kiss my ass. I made a heck lot of good paintings for that class, though, so it wasn’t a total waste of time, even if the teacher thought they ‘weren’t good’ in her personal opinion. Like… come on! Grade us for how good the painting actually is, not for what you think of it! Amaya slid up next to me, getting her books for her next class. Amaya, Emily, and I made sure to get lockers near each other at the start of the year, which only makes it weird right now when Emi gets her stuff without even talking to us.
“Hey, so are we still going to the Ellipse?” Amaya asked me, closing her locker door.
“I guess, right? Unless you don’t want to…”
“I want to…” Amaya sighed, watching as Emily walked up, and trailed off into a whisper, “but it would just seem weird.”
We quickly changed the subject to start talking about something that did not include Emily as she opened her locker right next to ours.
“…and that’s my favorite lollipop flavor,” Amaya finished, eyeing me in a way that meant it was my turn to go on about some random thing.
I went through anything exciting that had happened recently, grinning as I remembered what the rest of the theater cast and I had learned yesterday. “Oh, did I tell you that we were able to get the school to approve us to get new costumes for our play?”
Amaya’s eyes widened. “No! Are they going to be all fancy?”
I laughed. “The school budget is not that big, but I wish.”
I felt a tap on my arm and turned my head slightly to see Emi looking at us both hesitantly. I glanced at Amaya and she mouthed ‘I don’t know.’
“Can I talk to you guys after school?” Emi asked quietly, biting her lip.
“Uh, sure,” I replied, looking to Amaya, who was nodding.
“Okay.” Emily exhaled slowly, giving us a faint smile before she walked away.
“I told you she would talk to us,” Amaya said, pausing, “but I’m worried now.”
“I’ve been worried since Wednesday, Aya.”
“I know – but there’s just something in the way she said it that makes me think something’s really wrong.”
The bell rang and I closed my eyes, leaning against the lockers. I could feel the handles pressing into my leg, and I pushed myself back off of them. “I guess we’ll find out after this period,” I finally said quietly.
Amaya nodded as the second warning bell rung. “Guess we better go,” she said.
I looked to the clock, eyes wide as I turned back to her. “You need to literally run.”
“Oh shit,” she groaned before rushing off. Her last class was on the opposite side of the building from here, while mine was like three steps away.
I looked at my teacher expectantly. “What? The last bell hasn’t rung yet.”
She sighed. “Fine. Get to your area, then.”
I’ve been working on this painting for the last few weeks and I’m really happy with how it’s turning out. We’re doing a still-life style painting of a setup our teacher put up around the end of February. I love seeing it come to life and adding all the little details to make it pop. I can get into painting just like I can get into my music. It’s not exactly the same thing, but it’s the same feeling. It’s amazing and at the end, I’m just like – wow, I did this. I know I’m good at painting and music and acting, but there are times when I’m still like – wow. I stood back, looking at my painting and back to the still life.
I’m going to be finished by next week, definitely. This class always flies by, but the sharp sound of the dismissal bell brought me back to reality. Sometimes I can get really sucked into the moment when I’m painting. I tucked my paintbrush back into my bag after cleaning it off, sitting down with the rest of the class. The girl in front of me, Genesis, turned and whispered to her brother beside me, “When do we get out of this class?”
He leaned back, thinking to himself. “Um… three…” he paused, looking to the poster behind us with the bell schedule and back to her, “three forty-nine.”
She nodded, turning back. I glanced up at the clock that read 3:48 as everyone began to stand by the door. The bell rang and I – along with everyone else – quickly walked out. I whipped out my phone, quickly texting Amaya and Emily.
‘Where are we meeting?’ – Vali, 3:49 pm
‘Yeah, Emi, where?’ – Amaya, 3:50 pm
‘Just at the front of the school.’ – Emily, 3:50 pm
‘Ok.’ – Vali, 3:50 pm
‘Okay.’ – Amaya, 3:51 pm
I got outside and Amaya instantly waved me over to the fountain, but there was no sight of Emily. I raised my eyebrows and Amaya shrugged, pulling out her phone to Blickblok Mobile 4.
I leaned over, watching her play for a few minutes. It actually felt warm today with the bright sun beating down on us.
“Dang it,” Amaya groaned as the ‘game over’ screen popped up.
I squinted, trying to read the small numbers that said her level through the glare. “You’re level 58?!”
“Uh, yeah,” she laughed, “I play it every day on the bus.”
Emi sat down next to her, seeming to come out of nowhere, and Amaya clicked off her phone, turning to her.
“So…” Amaya started, watching Emily expectantly as the word trailed off.
Emily closed her eyes for a few seconds, running her hand across the old marble fountain. “I know I’ve been kinda a bitch this week to you guys…”
“Yeah,” I agreed, nodding.
“I – um – ” Emily sighed, rocking side to side uncomfortably.
I took a deep breath, thinking about all the pieces that didn’t add up before blurting out, “Is it about my mom?”
“Wha – what?” Emily blinked, looking shocked.
“Is it because my mom’s apparently a socialist?” I wanted to know why. Emily’s one of my best friends – I didn’t even want to think about Charlotte being right about her.
Amaya nudged me and shot me a warning look as she whispered forcefully, “Vali!”
I sighed, leaning back cautiously as to not fall into the fountain. I’d already had my time in the fountain – at the end of ninth grade, I’d gotten a bunch of people to jump around in the fountain to celebrate the end of school. The best part was since school was technically over, they couldn’t do anything about it. Emily stayed silent and I pressed my lips together, letting out my breath. Silence almost always means yes.
“Can we – can we just talk somewhere else?” Emily shut her eyes as I realized she was trying not to cry.
“Yeah, we can go to Vali’s house, your house, or I can get my mom to take us to Uptown since she’s already going to San Myshuno today,” Amaya suggested.
Emily shook her head, looking even more distraught. “Not my house.”
I looked over to the bus loop where the first round of buses were nicely lined up and back over to Amaya. “Uptown sounds nice.”
“Okay then,” Amaya nodded, looking over to Emily, “Uptown work?”
“Yeah,” Emi replied.
“Okay, I’ll get my mom to pick us up,” Amaya said, getting out her phone to text her mom.
Her mom got here about 25 minutes later – twenty-five whole minutes of Amaya, Emily, and I just sitting there awkwardly, playing random games on our phones.
Her mom had one of those new, fancy-ass cars that screamed money. It even has a holographic tv screen in the back and all that – which is great, because once we got in, Amaya turned on some new movie with mega-famous actress Londyn Chisholm. We all just locked our attention onto the movie until Amaya’s mom finally dropped us off at Uptown’s lounge, Million Lights. Good thing that movie was three hours long, I don’t know if we’d have been able to get through the drive without it. Londyn is such a skilled actress and I hope that I can someday act as well as she can.
“Okay, guys, I’ll pick you up at 11,” Amaya’s mom said, waving, and drove off. The elevator up to where the lounge was located seemed to take forever, but the lounge is on the 48th – top floor. It’s better than walking up forty-eight flights of stairs, that’s for sure.
“Okay…so…” Amaya leaned back, looking over to Emily.
Emily twisted her hair around her pointer finger, sighing. “I – um – look…” she paused, closing her eyes as she finally started to say clear words. “Vali… it’s not about your mom.”
I had been thinking that it was more and more, so I just stared at her in surprise, silently, as she went on.
“Look, I didn’t even know about your mom being socialist or whatever until you told me. Something happened on Saturday and things have been really tense in my house. Like cut-it-with-a-knife kind of tense.”
I let out my breath, insanely relieved that it had nothing to do with my mom. “Oh.”
Emily sighed, twirling the piece of hair she had been earlier. “It could just be cause my brother’s moving out this Sunday and my parents are freaking out, but I feel like it’s something more.”
“I’m sorry,” Amaya whispered.
I nodded. “Yeah, me too.”
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t feel like talking with anyone this week,” Emily explained.
“Understandable,” I sighed, “so did you want to change the subject, or…”
Emily nodded vigorously. “Yes. Uh, schedules for next year are coming up. What are you guys think of doing?”
“For my classes, or for after high school?” Amaya asked her, and I felt the tension in this room melt away.
“Um, after high school. That’s more interesting than scheduling,” Emily laughed softly, relaxing back into the sofa.
Amaya let out a breath, looking to both of us. “I want to be an interior designer.”
“That’s so cool,” I smiled. Amaya had been deciding between a few different things, but I think that’s really her. She was always the one to arrange and decorate our dollhouses when we were younger.
“People will beg you to design their rooms, Aya,” Emily grinned, “you even did mine.”
Amaya smiled faintly. “Yeah, thanks guys, but I don’t think my parents will approve. They’ve always wanted me to carry on their business.”
“Do what you want! Just get a manager for the business,” I replied.
Amaya nodded. “Yeah, I know. They’re just going to be pissed. What about you, Emi?”
Emily grinned. “Architectural engineer, same since seventh grade.”
Amaya laughed, nudging her. “Of course.”
I sighed. Of course, they’re actually going to go into respectable and legit jobs… and then there’s me. “Well… I don’t even know if I want to go to college,” I admitted, and my friends’ eyes widened.
“Dude, I thought you were joking when you said that before!” Emily exclaimed, and Amaya nodded.
“Same,” Amaya said.
I shook my head. “Nope. I really might not go. Honestly, I’m still not sure what I want to do, which is just great since I’m about to be a senior next year. I’m thinking maybe something music or theater related, but everyone’s jut going to say it isn’t a legit job.”
“It is legit,” Amaya insisted, looking to Emi, “isn’t it, Emily?”
Emily nodded. “I mean, yeah. Besides, Vali, you don’t give a shit about the haters.”
“I know, but still. My moms won’t stop me from doing what I want, but I feel like I’ll just be the shitty daughter that wasn’t realistic while my sister becomes an astronaut and my brothers do other great stuff.”
“Nah, if anything, you’ll become some famous actress while they’re left in the dust,” Emily laughed.
I laughed too, looking at her skeptically. “Yeah, alright.”
“Now, what else can we do here?” Amaya asked, glancing around.
“Sing karaoke,” Emily snickered, pointing to the machine on the back wall.
“I can’t sing for shit,” Amaya giggled, “but yeah, let’s do it.”
“I can’t sing, either!” I protested, but they were already laughing, pulling me over.
“Okay, you start, since it was your idea,” Amaya said to Emily, pushing her up to the machine.
Emily pouted jokingly before picking up the microphone. “Fine. Here goes!”
Amaya and I were doubled over laughing from the first word she sung. Emily was laughing too and when the song was over, Emi shoved the microphone into Amaya’s arms. “Your turn, biatch.”
Amaya stuck out her tongue, walking up to the stand and began to sing.
Emily snickered, laughing. “I see why this is so funny now.”
Amaya bowed as the last note faded away, walking over to me. “Valiiii, it’s your turn.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I laughed, walking up and pressing on some random song. They really should update this thing, I don’t recognize any of these songs – which is why the words show up on the screen. I didn’t sound as shitty as I thought I would, probably because we do some singing in theater, but it wasn’t amazing by any means. I sat back down next to Amaya, looking over my shoulder to where her mom had sat down in the middle of my sing.
“What up with your mom?” I asked Amaya, “she’s been looking at me weird since she came over.”
Amaya laughed, but I could see a flicker of something else in her eyes. “Are you sure it’s not because of your singing?”
I shoved her playfully, giggling. “Come on, Aya! No, it’s got to be about something else.”
Amaya glanced over to her mom, taking a deep breath. “Right. Well…this time it is about your mom. My parents are entrepreneurs and ardent capitalists… so if your mom’s policies pass… they’re going to move us to San Myshuno.”